Friday, December 31, 2010

Should auld acquaintance be forgot ...

“What a long strange trip it’s been ...”

And in case it wasn't strange enough, we present this sufficiently bleeped-out puppet theatre production. Just relax and enjoy the show.

This is also the occasion for us to look back upon a year that has passed. This time last year, we looked upon a decade that had passed. For this entry, we look back at two significant events this past year, the stories of which have yet to be told.

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This year, the Boy Scouts of America celebrated their centennial. The National Jamboree which would have fallen the previous year was moved to this year. I wanted to be on the Staff this year, but it costs well over a thousand dollars, which is a lot to be spending a week or more helping to park cars. And let's face it, parking cars for free is beneath me. So I settled for visitor status. I spent the day at Fort A P Hill, Virginia, visiting people I knew from around the country, and Scouts I had met at the Centennial Parade a few days before. In this clip, David Morgan and Andrew Bell interviewed Eagle Scout and host of the television hit Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe. From favorite campfire songs to a new Dirty Jobs Merit Badge, Rowe talked Scouting with these two young reporters.

Whether at the national or world level, jamborees are not the occasion to "rough it" too much. There are places to go, things to do, and people to see. The outdoorsmanship activities, especially rappelling, are always a big favorite, and the most skilled adults in the country help these kids have the time of their lives, as they do here at the rappelling tower. There was also a lot of patch trading going on, and designated sections along the roads were filled with one blanket after another of multi-colored patches laid out, and guys ready to do business. The cardinal rule, of course, is that youth only trade with youth, and adults only with adults. I left my rather modest collection at home.

There was one memorable event in which I was able to take part, I'm pleased to say. There was a nationwide webcast, as the jamboree arena stage was hooked up with contingents from various parts of the country, other Scouts and Scouters who couldn't make the trip. As is always the Scouting tradition, every effort was made to make this event as "boy-led" as possible, with youth members acting as emcees and announcers. The high point of the evening was a concert by San Diego-based quintet known as Switchfoot. Ostensibly a "Christian rock" band (but not the kind that gets in your face about it), they put on quite a show.

The climax was the “Shining Light” event, as singer Jonathan Foreman left the stage to mingle with Scouts leading them in a group photo that lit up the sky. It actually happens at 0:53, but the whole thing is worth watching. He made the boys the stars of the evening, and that they were. How I envied them, the ones I met at the parade, and the ones I saw at the Jamboree. This extravaganza will stay with them for years. They will tell their children, their grandchildren, how for one single night in history, they could not have been more proud to wear the uniform, and be a part of the movement, that is Scouting.

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I stayed in Cincinnati for a few extra days after I took Sal to the airport, to attend an event at my alma mater, the University of Cincinnati; in particular the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Three of the professors from the Graphic Design Department were retiring -- Gordon Salchow, the man who built the department into one of the world's finest; Heinz Schenker, the man who taught me everything I know about typography; Joseph Bottoni, my mentor and a pal o' mine, who more than anyone on the faculty helped me to put college life into a certain perspective.

The main event was on a Friday evening, with a dinner. I sat with designers whom I had not seen since I left in 1978, including those who had gone on to critical and international acclaim. And to think I only knew them as fellow-students, as colleagues. This was followed by Professor Salchow's "final lecture." The three retirees -- left to right, Bottoni, Salchow, and Schenker -- appear in the photo below.

I was pleased to be able to speak briefly with Professor Salchow, and encourage him to finish the book he intended to write, a comprehensive text of instruction on visual aesthetics. It was a rare delight to speak with an esteemed colleague on matters of professional import. We actually hugged, sort of, as I believe this was truly an emotional night for him, which is a side of him that few get to see.

I told Heinz that, because of all I had learned from him, I was able to talk the web design department at the Art Institute out of making me fulfill the Typography requirement, and had summoned the resolve to claim that I could do a better job of teaching the class than anyone there. He reacted kindly, if only as a man who, after forty years, still hadn't quite gotten used to English as a first language -- God love him.

I got a kick out of giving Joe a hard time, just like the old days. We were both a couple of Catholic school boys from Cincinnati, and shared that common vernacular that is often unspoken. I'm going back to visit him next summer, and I'm going to try to bring Paul. (Oh, yeah, I also loved bragging about how my son was doing at another equally prestigious school.)

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This year has been a very challenging one, with highs and lows of a certain magnitude, and a realization of how, given a natural course of events, how short my time is left in this world. Can I know, love, and serve my Maker just well enough, to call on his Divine Mercy when I face Him, that I may remain with Him forever in the next world?

As one may ponder this notion, this writer will leave the finale to Gordon himself, in one of his uncharacteristic moments. It only goes to show you, that anything that can happen, just might after all.

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