Calling out the Shadows

An editorial in the Cavalier Daily, UVA’s student newspaper, yesterday called one of the University’s secret societies on the carpet over past actions. The outcries are getting louder over this society, ranging from allegations of racism to statements that the Shadows were formed to “stop the integration of women into the University, to uphold a dress code, and to maintain the honor system’s single sanction.” It’s hard to prove the first two, though I’m anxiously awaiting more Cavalier Daily back issues coming into the UVA Library’s CD archive so I can check out some of the formative stuff that happened from 1963 when they were founded through 1967 when the current archive starts.

But based on reports of interactions between the society and students (and administrators) over the years, the society’s intentions don’t seem particularly benign. The two episodes of failed attempts to call the group to justice through UJC cited in a recent editorial are particularly egregious, especially since one cites breaking and entering on the part of the society (back in 1982). So is the tying shut of the door of the University’s first female Assistant Dean of Students back in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

I think the Purple Shadows aren’t doing themselves any favors by dressing up in Klan robes, either.

I think, like the writer of yesterday’s editorial, that calling on the Shadows to explain themselves and step out of the … erm, shadows is called for at this point.

Lou Bloomfield, TV star

A quickie for tonight: just saw in my alumni newsletter that Lou Bloomfield, UVA Physics professor famous for his “How Things Work” class and textbook (as well as for developing algorithms to bust plagiarized term papers) is going to be co-hosting the TV show “Some Assembly Required” on the Discovery Channel. Some star professors are born famous, some achieve fame, and some have fame thrust upon them, I suppose. Or thrust themselves upon fame.

Shades of Soering: UVA undergrads arrested for kidnapping

As if the loss to Va Tech wasn’t bad enough, now this: University students charged with abduction (see also WaPo article). This is the definitive proof that curriculum standards at UVA are relaxing; back in my day toolies wouldn’t have had time to go to Northern Virginia, much less to kidnap someone and hold them for ransom!

I note also, with some amusement, that the students managed to find the one sketchy motel in Falls Church in which to keep their victim. The Stratford was just across Rt 7 and a little down the street from the apartments my wife lived in before we got married, so I know the area pretty well. It’s totally the sort of place you’d expect to show up in an episode of Law & Order.

Hat tip to Greg Greene for the initial email alerting me to this development, which also provided the Jens Soering connection (Google him, but make sure to look at some of the results that aren’t actually written by him).

Boston Globe Good Will Hunting retrospective omits Elliott Smith

Which, you know, kinda sucks, since Elliott’s music was pretty pivotal to the whole movie, and it really launched him past hipster obscurity to a wider audience. So let’s do the retrospective:

  1. Elliott Smith left the band Heatmiser in 1994 because he was tired of having all his songs played like big rock songs, and went on to become a solo act specializing in whispered lyrics and acoustic arrangements as harrowing as anything Heatmiser ever did.
  2. Gus Van Sant tapped Elliott for the soundtrack, presumably based on familiarity with his work from their joint residence in Portland.
  3. The movie was a surprise hit and Elliott ended up playing “Miss Misery” at the Oscars.
  4. Elliott released two albums on Dreamworks.
  5. Elliott got addicted (or his addiction worsened) to alcohol and other hard drugs (heroin, crack, you name it). He went into a downward spiral, and ultimately was found dead stabbed through the heart. The death was ruled a suicide.

Not as cheery as talking about Matt Damon, but just as significant a follow-up to the movie. I don’t know if Elliott would have burned up as fast as he did without the sudden fame the movie brought, but it seems pretty clear that it contributed to his issues.


There were two spectacularly wonderful things that I found online yesterday:

The return of Onalaska

It’s been a while since I checked in with many of my Seattle friends, so I received a positive surprise when I checked Tom Harpel’s Flickr site and found information about the new Onalaska album, You and the Fishermen. Released something like five years after To Sing for Nights, the new release came out in October and features final versions of some songs that have kicked around in demo form for years, plus some brand new stuff. I can’t wait to check it out.

Fun while it lasted

Well fought, Virginia, but in the end we were outmatched. Someday I want to play against Virginia Tech and have enough TDs to post the rest of the tracks from that 1947 album, but not this year.

Now what I want is for Virginia Tech to steamroller Boston College. Why? Because it’ll make a whole lot of people here a lot less smug, and because it would be nice to have an ACC champion in Virginia—even if it’s not in Charlottesville.

Back in reach, 23-21 in the third quarter: “From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill”

Well, that took a while, but what a series of plays by Virginia! And that was one time that “run it up the middle,” that old George Welsh standby, paid off for the team.

The song for this touchdown is a colorful one, and the 1947 Glee Club omits most of the colorful verses, but you can Google for some of the more fun ones. Can you imagine a student group today cutting a record with the chorus, “I think we need another drink”?

From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill, Virginia Glee Club and the UVA Band – Download 4.6 MB MP3

Virginia gets on the board, 10-7 in the first quarter: “Hike, Virginia”

First UVA score of the game with just a few minutes left to go in the first quarter. Here’s another track from that 1947 album in honor of UVA getting on the board: “Hike, Virginia” is another fight song, and it looks like Virginia could use the encouragement.

Hike, Virginia, Virginia Glee Club and UVA Band (1947) – Download 1.5 MB MP3

Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, with a soundtrack

I need to watch the UVA–Virginia Tech game. Nice that ESPN is already giving the Cavs no respect; we’ll see how it goes. I’m afraid to make a prediction, though; I’ve been wrong too many times before this season.

In honor of the game, here’s a little team spirit from 1947. This is ripped from that LP reissue of the 1947 Virginia Glee Club/University of Virginia Band album, and it’s an MP3 of the 1912 fight song that the Glee Club was still performing when I was there. I’ll post another song each time we get some points on the board.

Yell Song, Virginia Glee Club and UVA Band (1947) – Download 1.8 MB MP3

Update: The downloads have been temporarily pulled to reduce my bandwidth consumption. Sorry, folks.

Post-turkey haze

I’d love to be able to blame a caloric coma on my posting drought, but of course that would only explain yesterday and today, and not Tuesday or Wednesday. What can I say: work, like sand, piles up against the breakwater of a vacation as though it is determined to fit the same volume of labor in half the time.

We have had a nice holiday with Lisa’s folks. The meal (turkey a la Alton with brown gravy, sausage and apple stuffing, mashed potatoes, Swiss chard smothered with onion and bacon, green beans with a little olive oil and sea salt, and the requisite cranberry sauce) is by now approaching familiarity, which is by no means bad. For instance: this year the stuffing wasn’t bone dry!

So, what am I thankful for? Many things which I will not list in this space, and some I will:

  • That our forebears had the first Thanksgiving feast in the new world 388 years ago, in Virginia (take that, Plymouth!)
  • That a more perfect cell phone has been created, even if I don’t own one yet
  • That the Democrats control Congress, and, even if they can’t scrape up enough political courage among themselves to pass gas without fear of the President, that at least they are better than the clowns who were in there before, and that none of them have been indicted yet
  • That I’m slowly learning not to eat everything on the table at Thanksgiving

There are more things, but that will do for now.

Prologue to Beowulf

And no, not that Beowulf, though I confess the release of the movie got me off my duff to start this project. And not even the Seamus Heaney translation. No, I’m talking about the real thing—the original Old English poem, as it was meant to be experienced—read aloud, in this case, by the great Old English scholar Kemp Malone.

I found a four-record set of Malone reading the whole bloody poem about seven years ago, in a now-vanished record shop in Central Square in Cambridge. The recording, on the once great Caedmon label (now an audiobook label for Harper Collins, with no sign of its back catalog reappearing anytime soon), was made in 1967 and, if the first side is anything to go by, probably drove every undergrad who listened to it completely nuts. Malone’s delivery is even-keeled, and he doesn’t attempt to sell the text, so little moments like the description of Scyld Scefing as a “good king” for his giving of gifts don’t get the reinforcement that the rhythm of the text would seem to indicate. But it’s still a great window onto the roots of the language.

I have a little bonus for this post: a clip from the recording, constituting the Prologue of Beowulf as read by Malone. I digitized the clip from my copy of the record; to date, I’ve only digitized one side of one LP, owing to the time required to do it properly (unlike CDs, vinyl has to be ripped in real time!) Hopefully it’s interesting to at least one person out there.

Prologue to Beowulf, read by Kemp Malone (Caedmon) – Download 2.6MB MP3