Day 59, May 14, 2020


So, to catch you, dear reader, up with the Pandemic Blog, after a particularly fruitless night, I decided to give myself an assignment to meditate on the Seven Deadly Sins... and now I'm up to gluttony. 

One of my pandemic purchases was a set of wireless headphones. They are a wonderful upgrade from the tether of earbuds, and for my phone, searching for the damned dongle. Plus, the sound is much more encompassing and whether I am outside grilling while listening to the collaborative video I had the honor of participating in to support the Northampton Arts Council's COVID-19 Artists Relief Fund, or listening to my Spotify jazz guitar mix while raking last fall's leaves from the perimeter of the yard, or as I've done the last few nights, listening to full concerts of the Grateful Dead on YouTube while working on my blog. 

Circa 1989
I have to admit, I'm a little wary to admit that guilty pleasure here. For a small period of my life, the Grateful Dead were such a powerful draw that, at the drop of a hat (a wide brimmed floppy hat), I would hop in a car and drive or ride absurd distances to see the band perform live. Dead shows were rich fermented grounds for excess and pleasure. To be completely enveloped in the music by a sextet performing on a scale that seemed otherworldly was an experience I could not replicate by any other means. So, a few nights ago, when I stumbled onto a show from the late '70s, I was a little skeptical that watching and listening to the band on a computer screen would evoke anything other than disappointment. But to my surprise, it was stellar. The musicianship and charisma of the band transcended my dodgy wifi, and as happens with the rabbit holes of the internet, I started pursuing that path continuing to watch several other shows while writing, until two nights ago the first thing on my YouTube feed was a show from July 2nd, 1989 in Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts. And somewhere in the thousands filling the stadium, a young Leo is out there, freshly minted from high school and getting ready to leave for college in Tennesee. I remember when they broke into "Tennesee Jed," I felt like the song was just for me.

It is pretty amazing to see the show in such clarity. I can't quite remember how far away from the stage I was, but it is shocking to see the show from the care vantage points where you can see the stickers on the racks of gear and catch all the little side glances and conversations that were missed from the audience. Watching the show again after thirty years, it becomes evident that this was a truly wonderful show with each of the band members performing fantastically. For a band that toured almost constantly, it is incredible to see the energy, they put into every performance. In the years after this performance, there would be a few more high points, but addiction would start to take its toll and by the time I saw my last show, also in Foxboro, the band felt like a hollow resemblance of the best shows I had seen. But maybe that doesn't really matter because, one of the marvelous things about these shows was the ability to transcend the idea that you were in a giant stadium with thousands of other human beings, but that you were intimately in tune with the musicians, that you could feel the rhythmic flourishes of Bobby's guitar, Phil's thunderous bass wove its way into your torso, and to see Jerry smile made it seem like Bill and Mickey were doing something magical that he wanted you to notice, and Brent's vocal interplay with Jerry belied their shared passion. 

Going to Dead shows showed me to the kind of musician I wanted to become. Not that I ever really played like the Dead, but I wanted to embody that sense of collective collaboration. I wanted to play in an ensemble that experimented with structure, that improvised, that took music rooted in a sense of community, shared experience, and played with it, deconstructed it, took it on creative tangents, and made new discoveries along the way. 

I suppose, beyond music, that same sprit of exploration, creativity, and discovery has driven many of my exploits, from writing, to scholarship, to love, even my work at the college. When I am at my best, those are the things I embody and share. My whole extravagant, gluttonous, self. 

Sometimes, I guess, it is glorious to be sinful.
Love to you all,

Hambone is a sweetie.

From Our Friends:

From the AAC&U:

"How Resilience and Hope Can Shape a New Normal for Learning and Teaching" Friday May 15, 2PM The ongoing disruption of higher education has provoked significant anxiety in students and faculty. It has also presented new challenges and opportunities to support students’ and faculty members’ social-emotional learning and psychosocial needs. As campus leaders at all levels anticipate the implications of the “new normal” for the fall semester, how should they be thinking about the intersections of learning, well-being, and resilience? What are the mechanisms for encouraging hope and resilience inside and outside the classroom, and across stakeholders? This discussion-based webinar brings together national and international experts to explore ways campuses can support students and faculty not merely to survive in challenging times, but to thrive.

From HigherEd Jobs:

"How to Become Indispensable by Thinking Like a Scientist:" Amid this global pandemic, there's no question that higher education professionals fear a domino effect. If enrollment, state funding, grants, or endowments all begin to dwindle, that will cause hiring freezes, furloughs, additional burdens on the employed, and fewer opportunities for job seekers. However, instead of waiting for something to happen to you, why not make something happen for you? Think like a scientist, position yourself the right way, and you'll become indispensable.
The lawn in all its glory... looks like I'll have to mow this weekend!

Today's Online Teaching Tips:

From the Massachusetts History Alliance:

Getting Good Programs Online Fast

Talking it over with Susan Grabski and Stacen Goldman

Museums and historical seems to be pulling content out of a hat and putting it online faster than you can say "corona."  What's their secret? What's your secret?

The Commons team will will be joined by Stacen Goldman of the Framingham History Center and Susan Grabski of the Lawrence History Center. They will tell us what they are up to, we'd love to hear what you are doing.

Friday May 22, 1:00-2:30 pm


From Diverse Issues in Higher Ed:

"Online Education Offers New Ways to Identify and Support At-Risk Students"After colleges hastily moved online in response to the coronavirus, higher education leaders worried for low-income students and students of color. Research shows that underrepresented students experience performance gaps and lower retention rates in online courses under the best of circumstances, let alone in a global pandemic.

But remote education experts have highlighted a possible silver lining. Online education provides new ways to identify students at risk of dropping out and opportunities to offer targeted supports.

From Inside Higher Ed:

Tuesday, May 19th at 2:00 pm ET In this interactive presentation, academic and technology leaders from a range of colleges and universities discuss how their institutions and instructors kept students on their educational paths as COVID-19 shut their physical campuses, and how what they’ve learned from those experiences will shape their plans for instructional delivery this fall and beyond. 

From HigherEd Jobs: 

"Priorities, Questions, and Challenges of Teaching Online:" The unexpected demands that many faculty are facing now are as novel as the virus that created them. For some faculty, it may be the first time that they've been asked to deliver their course remotely. For others, even including those with online teaching experience, the underlying stress of balancing competing demands in uncertain times can weigh on them. This month we talk to John Oppenheimer, an instructional designer/technologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who provides advice on how faculty can successfully navigate the transition. 


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