Category Archives: Valparaiso University

“Airplane!” is 35 years old

Airplane!, the gut busting, hilarious send-up of airplane disaster movies, turns 35 this year. For a long list of reasons, I’m not sure that a similar kind of movie could be made now, but especially for Gen Jonesers who grew up with the movies and television shows poked at and parodied in the film, it doesn’t get any funnier.

The IMDb.com profile gives you a list of the awesome cast, reader reviews, a list of classic quotes from the movie, and more.

In a great interview with co-producer David Zucker conducted by Yahoo’s Jordan Zakarin, we learn some of the backstories that led to the casting of the movie, including that of Peter Graves as Captain Oveur :

Peter Graves famously didn’t want to play the aspiring-pedophile pilot at first. Was he reluctant to deliver lines like “Have you ever seen a grown man naked”?

Peter Graves’s reaction [to the script] was, “This is the most disgusting piece of garbage I’ve ever read.” His wife and his daughter read it and they laughed all the way through and they said, “Dad, you have to do it.” So he was ready to do it when we shot.

Across the pond

My first experience of watching Airplane! was odd and memorable. It was the spring of 1981, and I was spending my final undergraduate semester at Valparaiso University’s Cambridge, England, study abroad center. I went with a group of fellow VU students to a local movie theatre. Amidst a somewhat sparsely attended screening, we were the only ones laughing uncontrollably throughout, while the rest of the (presumably British) audience chuckled politely on occasion.

How could our British moviegoers have understood how LOL funny this was! If you’re not familiar with Barbara Billingsley’s role as suburban housewife June Cleaver in the TV sitcom Leave It to Beaver, then you have no idea how hilarious it is to listen to her speaking jive to a couple of black passengers.

Of course, perhaps the Brits that night didn’t fully appreciate Airplane!‘s over-the-top, un-PC American-style humor, done in such rapid-fire, equal-opportunity target style that you don’t have time to become mortally offended.

I only know that my stomach was sore from laughing so hard.

If you’ve got some time to kill…

As some of you know, I’ve been writing a professional blog, Minding the Workplace, for over six years. A lot of the material is heavier stuff, looking at employee relations, workplace bullying, employment law, psychological health at work, and so on. But on occasion I’ve written pieces with a lighter touch that may be of interest to readers here. I thought I’d dig into the archives of that blog and share a few of them:

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Taking stock at midlife: Time for reading assignments? (2014) — “So, in the absence of these colleges for 40-year-olds (and beyond), how can we think and reflect upon our lives to date, our lives right now, and our lives to come? For those who, like me, sometimes turn to good books for guidance, let me introduce a thick anthology, Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be (2006), co-edited by Mark R. Schwehn & Dorothy C. Bass, both of Valparaiso University, my undergraduate alma mater.”

What now, not what if (2013) — “Currently stored on my DVR are a PBS program and a National Geographic docudrama about President Kennedy, both produced to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Although I’m a devotee of history, I have a feeling that I won’t be watching them….That lesson was reinforced to me in Stephen King’s 2011 time travel epic, 11/22/63, which takes us back to the years leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy.”

The perils and pleasures of nostalgia, even about work?! (2013) — I get especially nostalgic about two work experiences. The first was my initial year as a Legal Aid lawyer in Manhattan, following my graduation from NYU’s law school….My second nostalgic focus: Returning to NYU after six years of legal practice as an instructor in its innovative first-year Lawyering Program….Both clusters of memories, however, gloss over the fact that I was years away from discovering my true passions as a teacher, scholar, and advocate. I was clueless about a lot of things, and not exactly on the leading edge of emotional maturity.”

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August 1982: Next Stop, Greenwich Village (2012) — “This month, I find myself particularly nostalgic over events of 30 years ago, when I moved from Hammond, Indiana to New York City to begin law school at New York University, located in the heart of Greenwich Village. This was a pretty big deal for me. Although I had benefited greatly from a semester abroad in England during college at Valparaiso University, I was far from worldly and had never been to New York City before applying to NYU….Within a few days of my arrival, I would start classes in Vanderbilt Hall, the main law school building, on the southwest corner of Washington Square….”

Collegiate reflections: Studying the liberal arts (2012); Collegiate reflections: Working on the campus newspaper (2012) — “With Commencement season coming to a close at colleges and universities across the nation, I beg my readers’ indulgence as I use a short series of posts to reflect upon my own collegiate experience….”

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Ch-ch-ch-changes: Some books to guide toward good transitions (2012) — As we turn the calendar to a New Year, I wanted to gather together some recommended titles for those who are engaged in or contemplating a major work or personal transition….If you’re in the midst of big changes, these books may prove a worthy investment in terms of your livelihood and well-being. I hope you find them helpful.

Does life begin at 46? (2010) — “Conventional wisdom, according to research, is wrong. True, we start off our adulthoods pretty happy and become increasingly disenchanted as middle age approaches. However, our outlook then gets better as we age. The Economist cites research studies to back up its proposition, overcoming the presumption that this is more Boomer-inspired babble about how 60 is the new 40.”

Embracing creative dreams at midlife (2010) — “Dreams die hard is something of an old chestnut, but having entered the heart of midlife, I am thankful that this often is true. I think especially of creative energies waiting to be tapped and unleashed, perhaps after some of life’s other priorities and responsibilities have been addressed, and pursued with the benefit of experience and maturity. Two long-time friends come to mind when I ponder this. Hilda Demuth-Lutze is a friend from college days at Valparaiso University (Indiana) who is the author of historical novels for young adults. Mark Mybeck is a friend going back to grade school in Hammond, Indiana, whose band, Nomad Planets, is creating a niche for itself in the Greater Chicagoland indie rock scene.”

I’m still writing about (drum roll, please) snow

Sunday a.m., looking down my street

Sunday a.m., looking down my street while the wind gusts

Dear readers, you’re about to be treated to another entry about the weather here in Boston. We’ve got our fourth consecutive weekly Big Snowstorm, two of them blizzards. Winter Storm Neptune (snowstorm 4/blizzard 2 if you’re counting) has been unfolding before our very eyes this weekend.

I wish I could claim that I’ve turned the snowbound days into productive work activity, but it’s only partially true. The weather geek in me keeps an eye on the TV weather coverage, even if it’s becoming repetitive. Snow here, snow there, snow everywhere — and plenty of wind gusts, too. This is, after all, a weather pattern of historic proportions, and we’ll be talking about it for years. Hey, this ain’t nothin’ compared to the big ones back in ’15……

Neighborhood snowmobiles

Sunday a.m., neighborhood snowmobiles

The local transit authority announced that the subway, buses, and commuter rail will be operating on, to put it gently, adjusted schedules on Monday, after being shut down completely today. My university decided to hold classes, which means that a lot of students, faculty, and staff will be having somewhat adventurous sojourns into downtown Boston. I’ll be among them!

I’ll also have a little soreness in this middle aged body tomorrow, thanks to my largely futile efforts at snow shoveling today. Fortunately, I was able to hire a couple of guys who were earning extra cash with a snowblower and a snowplow truck. They did in a few minutes what would’ve taken me…never mind…I wouldn’t have finished. That said, even the snowblower had trouble pushing through mounds of snow where the sidewalk was supposed to be.

Sunday a.m., corner intersection

Sunday a.m., corner intersection

I did manage to watch some TV, including the latest episode of The Americans, one of the best one hour dramas around right now. I also watched an ESPN streamed college basketball game featuring my undergraduate alma mater, Valparaiso University, overcoming a half-time deficit to beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the latest win in a surprisingly strong season. VU’s basketball team wasn’t much to speak of while I was a student. But its fortunes have improved considerably since then, to the point where VU now ranks among the better mid-major Division I hoops programs.

As I finish off this blog post, I’m missing a 40th anniversary special for Saturday Night Live. It realize that it’s an iconic Generation Jones television show, premiering in 1975. SNL has had its moments — for me “Da Bears” skits and Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impersonations are brilliant — but overall I find its humor misses as often as it hits. Maybe I’ll catch it another time, perhaps during a future snowstorm.

Throwback Thursday: Math 14 and my pursuit of mathematical genius

Brilliantly anticipating the Digital Age: My final project for Math 14

Brilliantly anticipating the Digital Age: My final project for Math 14 (Photo: DY)

As a political science major, my bachelor’s degree program at Valparaiso University included a set of distribution requirements covering basic liberal arts subjects. Among other things, I had to choose three mathematics and science courses, with at least one math offering among them. Heading into my senior year in the Fall of 1980, I had already managed to take a pair of science courses to cover two of the three, but the dreaded math course still loomed in front of me.

You see, I hadn’t taken any math courses since my junior year of high school, and I was happy to be done with them back then. Although I’ve tended to be a pretty good logical thinker, that aptitude or affinity has never quite extended to the field of mathematics. Indeed, I was a living exception to the stereotype about Asians and math.

And so I reviewed the math course listings in search of something palatable, or at least passable. At VU, they were numbered in the 100s, 200s, 300s, and so forth, to signify their relative level of complexity. But mixed in with the three-digit numbered courses was one offering, Math 14, a/k/a “Mathematical Ideas,” with a description free of scary terms like “proofs” or “calculus.”

With a sigh of relief, I enrolled in Math 14. In the class, I saw a few students I knew previously, including a fellow political science major or two. However, by far the most notable cohort was comprised of members of the VU football team. VU was refreshingly short on “rocks for jocks”-type courses, but this was an apparent exception.

Math 14 was taught by a friendly senior professor who actually cared about stoking some enthusiasm for the subject matter among we math-phobes. He also adopted a textbook equal to our skill sets; I can’t recall the exact title, but it was something like Mathematics for Everyday Life or close to it. And yup, inside the book were a lot of story problems.

Hey, I’m not meaning to brag here, but I kicked butt in that course. Our final project was to assemble a set of 3×5 index cards using hole punchers to simulate a simple digital computing function. (Keep in mind that the personal computer era was a few years away.) Boom, I pulled off that baby without a hitch! And thanks to my penchant for not throwing anything away, I can now proudly share a photo of that project above. (Go on, tell me this isn’t like gazing at the collegiate notebooks of a young Stephen Hawking.)

Despite this rousing success, I did not attempt to switch my major to math at that late juncture, tempted as I was to continue on this newfound path of excellence. Instead, I stuck with the political science major and would go on to law school, as I had planned. But at least my index card computer remains operational; some exhibitions of raw brilliance must endure.

My mortifying slip-and-fall near Stonehenge and the stoking of curiosity

College chums helping to fuel the eventual roping off of Stonehenge from tourists (Photo: DY, 1981)

College chums helping to accelerate the eventual roping off of Stonehenge from tourists (Photo: DY, 1981)

I can thank a British sheep or two from 1981 for stoking my interest in this story:

In a piece for the Huffington Post, science writer Macrina Cooper-White reports on a potentially significant discovery near Stonehenge in Britain:

Archaeologists studying Stonehenge and its environs say they’ve unearthed the remnants of an untouched, ancient encampment that dates back 6,000 years–a find that could rewrite British prehistory.

“This is the most important discovery at Stonehenge in over 60 years,” Professor Tim Darvill, a Bournemouth University archaeologist and a Stonehenge expert who was not involved in the new discovery, told the Telegraph. And as he told The Huffington Post in an email, the discovery overturns previous theories that “Stonehenge was built in a landscape that was not heavily used before about 3000 B.C.”

It’s pretty cool stuff, yes? But I might’ve passed on the story had Stonehenge not made its own indelible mark on my life decades ago.

During my 1981 semester abroad in England via Valparaiso University, one of our weekend group trips included a visit to Stonehenge. (As the photograph above indicates, we were ultra-serious about these mini-sojourns, giving new meaning to the term “visiting scholars.”)

You see the comely lass waving to me in the photo below? That’s my long-time friend Hilda, now an English teacher and novelist in Northwest Indiana. You can visit her book sites here (Kingdom of the Birds) and here (Plank Road Stories).

Near Stonehenge (Photo: DY, 1981)

Near Stonehenge (Photo: DY, 1981)

Anyway, if memory serves me well, just a few minutes after snapping that picture of Hilda, I would take a short slide down a hill. Although it was damp and cold that day, it wasn’t precipitation that precipitated my fall. No, I had slipped and scooted down on a big pile of sheep droppings.

Yup, really, really gross. And kind of mortifying.

I won’t dwell too much on the odoriferous aftermath, but suffice it to say (1) thank God our bags were packed in the bus nearby, so I could change; and (2) although my wardrobe was sparse — most of us did our best to pack light for our semester abroad — I removed those trousers and quickly threw them away.

Now, you rightly may be asking yourself what the heck this has to do with a potentially significant archeological discovery near Stonehenge, and I agree the connection seems weak.

But here’s one thing I’ve learned about travel and education: Simply being there plants a lot of seeds. (No jokes about fertilizer, please.) I was not anything close to being an Anglophile when I opted to spend my final undergraduate semester abroad. But I got sooo much out of that experience, despite my remarkable immaturity at the time. In fact, I’ve returned to England at least a half dozen times since that collegiate semester, and each visit has been rewarding.

So when I read about this exciting discovery near Stonehenge, I thought to myself, cool, I’ve been there!, and then checked out the article with great interest.

Of course, it’s not necessary to have visited a country in order to appreciate it. I’m fascinated by ancient Greece, for example, but have never visited there. In my case, however, it does help to have walked around a place.

And who knows, maybe that location is close to where I did my slide down the hill!? Talk about deep-seated connections….

Throwback Thursday: Dorm living

End of semester: Packing boxes in Brandt Hall, Valparaiso University, 1980

End of semester: Packing boxes in Brandt Hall, Valparaiso University, 1980

This morning I clicked on a Facebook posting from New York University, my legal alma mater, to a short piece about dorm living for law students. A photo of one of the NYU Law dorm rooms (see below) reminded me once again that many universities have upgraded their residence hall accommodations considerably since back in the day, especially in terms of private rooms and bathrooms. (Of course, this has contributed significantly to rising tuition costs, but that’s for a more serious post….) In any event, the article sent me into a brief trip down nostalgia lane.

Valparaiso University

In many ways, dorm living tends to look better mainly with the passage of time, at least when it comes to furniture, décor, and creature comforts. During college at Valparaiso University in Indiana, I lived in dorm rooms throughout my stay, first in Wehrenberg Hall, and then in Brandt Hall, two rather plain vanilla buildings built sometime during the 50s or 60s. The VU dorms were typical of undergraduate dwellings of their era, offering small shared rooms with pullout beds and bathrooms down the hall. During my last year of college, I qualified for a shared Brandt Hall first-floor room with a private bathroom, a nod to the fact that I was a good student who managed to stay out of trouble.

In the photo above, I’m standing in front of my desk. The boxes and papers to the right obscure the mattress of the pullout bed. I was packing my boxes at the end of the fall semester of my senior year, in anticipation of departing after the holidays for a final semester in England. My roommate Chris’s furniture configuration was exactly the same, the main difference being that he was a very disciplined and neat pre-med student who periodically and politely would push my growing piles of books and papers to my side of the invisible Mason-Dixon Line, as we jokingly called it. Every evening, when Chris would dutifully turn in after watching the Johnny Carson monologue, I would gather my books, papers, and — if necessary — typewriter to join other more nocturnal students in the cafeteria, which served as a nighttime study hall.

NYU

When I got to NYU in 1982, I had a much fancier address, Hayden Hall at 33 Washington Square West (yes, that Washington Square). The toney Greenwich Village exterior masked the spare accommodations similar to those of my collegiate days, with a few New York cockroaches tossed in as free bonuses. At the time, Hayden Hall was the primary dorm for first-year law students. A converted old hotel, it had a few interesting nooks and crannies in addition to the drab rooms. Its first floor cafeteria and TV room provided opportunities for breaks and socializing.

Modern view of NYU's Hayden Hall (photo: DY)

Modern view of NYU’s Hayden Hall (photo: DY)

I would spend my second and third years of law school living in NYU’s Mercer Street residence hall, a (then) brand-new building featuring small apartments with individual bedrooms and kitchenettes. While I didn’t do much cooking, the fridge and stove made it possible to store and heat up Chinese take-out and delivery morsels. With some physics-defying moving around of beds and furniture, apartment units could host pretty decent parties, replete with room for dancing to Michael Jackson, The Clash, and other 80s music artists. We also had waifs’ Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for those of us too far or too broke to return home for the holidays. The Mercer dorm provided my nicest accommodations during 12 years in New York.

In fact, they remained among my nicest digs ever until I moved into my Jamaica Plain, Boston condo in 2003. For the longest time, I was satisfied with a sort of enhanced “grad student” standard of living. It took me until well into adulthood to do an upgrade!

College graduation day, May 1981: Long ago and far away

Lucerne, Switzerland, May 1981

Lucerne, Switzerland, May 1981

Over the weekend, one of my college classmates (that’s you, Jon!) posted on Facebook a quick little remembrance of our graduation day from Valparaiso University on May 17, 1981. Of course, the mere mention of that time triggered a bout of nostalgia, a chronic condition that is both my blessing and curse.

Now, I wasn’t actually at our Commencement, which is how the seemingly random inclusion of this grainy snapshot of Lucerne, Switzerland figures into the story. I had finished up my undergraduate career with a spring semester abroad in Cambridge, England, and I was spending three weeks traveling on the European continent with my friends. My graduation day was spent with fellow VU sojourners David, Joanne, and Liana in Lucerne, where we took a boat ride and finished up the day with dinner at a waterside café, from where I snapped this photo.

Study abroad was a very different experience back in the day. No Internet, e-mail, or smartphones. Our primary connection to friends & family back home was the postal service, which made the daily mail delivery an important event. As study abroad sites go, England is about as safe & secure as they come, but we truly felt like we were on a foreign adventure.

My biggest technological novelty was an ATM card from a local British bank. I didn’t own a credit card. In the house designated as the residence for men, our music system was a small portable cassette player that my friend Don had “borrowed” from the office of the school newspaper back at VU, where we both had spent many hours as collegiate news scribes.

As I noted last fall in a remembrance of my years at Valparaiso, that semester abroad was the most formative educational experience of my life. I know I’m not alone with this sentiment. Since 1991, our study abroad group has held reunions every five years, and each time over half of our group has attended. (In addition to the aforementioned study abroad classmates, they have included Anne, Hilda, and Kathy, who also subscribe to this blog!)

Looking at that photo and applying rose-colored glasses, it’s easy to lapse into thinking of those days as being carefree and without anxiety, softened by images of vagabonding around Europe. Truth is, I was full of uncertainties and very much a work in progress. I had sufficient wisdom back then to know that I was very, very fortunate to have that study abroad experience, but my inner focus was impatiently and continually on the future and what it might bring.

I’ve reached the age where the fading old Kodak snapshots from my semester abroad look like something from another era, and for good reason. It really was long ago and far away when I celebrated my college graduation with friends at that Lucerne café. For nostalgic beings like me, I’ll take it as a memory to be treasured.

24: Virtually reuniting with college chums to follow the power of Bauer

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If you recognize the name Jack Bauer, then you’re undoubtedly familiar with 24, the Fox espionage and terrorism drama that ran from 2001 to 2010. If Bauer’s name doesn’t ring a bell, then here’s a piece of the Wikipedia entry on the series:

24 is an American television series produced for the Fox network and syndicated worldwide, starring Kiefer Sutherland as Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) agent Jack Bauer. Each 24-episode season covers 24 hours in the life of Bauer, using the real time method of narration. Premiering on November 6, 2001, the show spanned 192 episodes over eight seasons, with the series finale broadcast on May 24, 2010.

24 gained something of a cult following, with its fans taking apart the many twists provided in each episode. Every hour served up a civil libertarian’s nightmare, as the, uh, goal-oriented Bauer stopped at nothing (er, almost nothing) to get the job done. With its fixed time frame and claustrophobic sense of contained reality, 24 created a compressed world of terrorist threats and violence.

For many fans of suspense TV, including this left-of-center one, 24 was a guilty pleasure.

Jack’s back…

Well folks, after a four-year hiatus, Jack Bauer has returned to the small screen in 24: Live Another Day, a 12-episode mini-series on Fox that premiered this past Monday.

The two-hour opening episode is vintage 24, with plenty of Bauer-inflicted mayhem, some of it so over the top that I couldn’t decide whether to laugh, cheer, or grimace. Putting on my law professor hat, I saw countless violations of the law, not to mention grounds for a personal injury suit or three.

In other words, I’ll definitely be following the rest of the season!

…and so is the gang

Plus, I have an added incentive to watch. With the return of 24 comes the revival of a small, super-exclusive 24 e-mail discussion group made up of three of my college schoolmates and me. We’re all graduates of Valparaiso University, today dotted across the country: Sheralynn in California, Don and Myk in Illinois, and yours truly here in Massachusetts.

For the better part of the show’s long run, we debriefed each episode and engaged in deep speculation on how the story lines might develop before the end of the “day.” Now we’re virtually reuniting again to pick up on this abbreviated season.

With apologies to Don and Myk, Sheralynn is our best reviewer. She digs into the details and typically writes a sharp summary that competes favorably with the entertainment blogs. But we three guys aren’t slackers either.

And so, through e-mails, we’ve created a sort of Web 1.0 equivalent of watching a favorite show in our dorm rooms and then kicking around the details later. All that’s missing is the pizza delivery.

Jonesing for the Eighties

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I’m now into a slightly extended binge viewing of Season 1 of “The Americans,” an FX drama series featuring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as a Soviet couple operating as deep cover spies in Washington D.C. during the early 1980s, the decade leading to the end of the Cold War.

It’s a great series, and a vivid reminder of U.S.-Soviet tensions of the era. But irrespective of its dramatic quality, I was won over by the opening scene, a bar in which Quarterflash’s “Harden My Heart” is playing in the background.

Yeah, it pushed my Eighties nostalgia buttons, and I was hooked.

If you’ve followed my posts here, you know that I get nostalgic even for historical eras I am too young to have experienced. But the Eighties are very much my time, and I regard the decade fondly.

Okay, so it may not have been the best years for America. This was the decade of trickle-down economics, “greed is good” (a philosophy popularized by financier Ivan Boesky, who landed in prison for overdoing what he preached), the emergence of the Middle East as a dominant hot spot, and a lot of political corruption. Many of the challenges we face today have their roots in those years.

Personally, however, I think of the Eighties as a comparatively innocent, wide-eyed time of my life. It covered the heart of my 20s, starting with my last year of college at Valparaiso University, then through law school at NYU, and finally post-law school life and work in New York City. Though I was barely masquerading as an adult during that time, I experienced a lot of growth and memorable times during the decade.

Moving to New York was a big deal, for I was a pretty sheltered Midwesterner. (To clarify, not all Midwesterners are sheltered, but I sure was.) I fell for New York completely, and during those years it was possible to explore the city on a tight budget. To be young and broke in New York wasn’t a terrible thing back then; there was a sort of gritty romance about making it on a shoestring.

Anyway, back to the “The Americans”: Season 1 opens in 1981, right after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. A few episodes into the series, we see American and Soviet intelligence operatives scrambling madly to respond to the March assassination attempt on the President. Although the would-be assassin, John Hinckley, turned out to be a mentally ill man whose actions had nothing to do with Cold War politics, neither side knew that in the immediate aftermath of the shootings.

I recall that time well. We all lived under the nuclear threat. It was part of our existence.

Yesterday it was about the Cold War, the nukes, and the Soviets. Today it’s about terrorism, airport security, and Al-Qaeda. And the economy and jobs, always. The beat goes on.

Bloody politics

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I just finished reading Mark Leibovich’s This Town (2013), a bestselling “insider” look at political life in the nation’s capital. It’s bitingly funny at times, as one might expect such a book to be, and it provides a fix for recovering political junkies like me.

It’s also a reminder of a path I chose not to take.

You see, reading about politics is a far cry from my aspirations of decades ago, when I was an ambitious student government pol in college and planned to go to law school as a springboard into the real thing. As an undergraduate at Valparaiso University in Indiana, I was elected to various student senate positions, and I volunteered regularly for political campaigns. I managed a successful upset campaign for a town board seat in northwest Indiana, and I served as an area coordinator for the 1980 independent presidential run of John B. Anderson.

Of course, I also was a political science major, and it so happened that the poli sci department at Valparaiso was comprised of dedicated teachers who stoked my fascination with politics. In particular, Professor James Combs, quite the political junkie himself, was teaching and writing up a storm about political communications, which played right into my obsession with campaigns and elections.

My interest in politics continued through law school and beyond. As a young lawyer during the late 1980s, I was an officer in a reform Democratic club in Brooklyn, and it served as a very on-the-ground introduction to the gritty realities of New York politics. (I recall discovering pages and pages of forged ballot access petition signatures filed by one of our opponents, marveling at their sheer chutzpah.)

But some 23 years ago, I stumbled my way into teaching. I returned to my legal alma mater, New York University, as an entry-level instructor in its innovative Lawyering skills program for first-year law students. I knew immediately that I enjoyed being an educator, and that experience turned out to be the start of an academic career. In fact, I’m now in my 20th year of teaching at Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

Today, I’m hardly removed from politics. My work in drafting and advocating for workplace bullying legislation puts me in regular contact with legislators and their staffs. Two years ago I finished a term as board chair of Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal policy advocacy organization based in D.C. And though my politicking these days is limited primarily to occasional campaign contributions, I follow electoral politics fairly closely.

But the world portrayed in Leibovich’s This Town, however embellished to attract more readers, is not for me. There are a lot of good, honorable people in politics, a fact we dismiss too easily in this cynical age. But politics is a bloodsport, and it requires a certain dispositional DNA to play the game for the long term without it becoming debilitating. When I think back to my collegiate ambitions, I now understand that I enjoyed reading and writing about politics more than being in the thicket of political life, even as the latter appealed more directly to my ego and insecurities at the time.

Okay, so the world of academe is hardly apolitical, and it can get as petty and nasty as any political brawl. (I sometimes quip that the real untold Biblical story is how God banished Adam & Eve to a faculty meeting as punishment for their transgressions.) That said, the focus of academic work itself is more on teaching, writing, and public education, and that’s more to my liking than the day-to-day work of political life.

Still, please do excuse me if I get a little charged every four years over news coverage about the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary. It remains neat stuff to me, albeit from a distance.

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