Santa Clara Mag Blog
Santa Clara Magazine's blog, updated whenever the writing goblin visits the editorial staff of the magazine.
Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011When The Way opens, the gruff Tom Avery (Martin Sheen) is driving his adult son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) to the airport and tells him: "My life here may not seem like much to you, but it's the life I choose.""You don't choose a life, Dad," his son responds, as if trying to forgive him for their estranged past. "You live one."Thus begins a wonderful, quiet little movie directed by Estevez and starring his father. It's about taking a journey, vigorously walking a road toward an ill-understood destination.And it travels a path familiar to readers of Santa Clara Magazine. In the essay “Pilgrimage” (SCM Summer 2010), Martha E. Stortz describes her journey along the Camino and the lessons learned: about big questions, saints, direction, and feet.
"You do walk your own Camino; you can’t walk someone else’s,” Stortz writes. “Nor can you let anyone else set your pace, carry your pack, or deal with your demons."As for the Sheen/Estevez journey: Sheen’s Tom, a grouchy, golfing ophthalmologist in Ventura, Calif., learns of Daniel's death in Europe in the film's first minutes. Daniel has been killed in a storm after traversing only one leg of a 500-mile pilgrimage through the Pyrenees along St. James' Way. A grief-stricken Tom decides to abandon his former life after receiving Daniel's ashes. Carrying the remains of his son in a silver box, Tom vows, "We will walk the way together."Tom learns Stortz's lesson quickly. Wishing only to wallow silently in his grief, he soon has companions on his journey. As the box containing his son’s remains is lost first to a river, later to a thief, Tom's fellow pilgrims bring him, in turns, misery, understanding, and joy.—John Deever
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
For the print edition of Santa Clara Magazine, we adapted this much longer essay by Peter Ross. You’ll also find memories of his Peace Corps experience in the new collection Even the Smallest Crab Has Teeth: 50 Years of Amazing Peace Corps Stories—Volume Four: Asia and the Pacific, due out in November 2011 from Travelers’ Tales.
SATURDAY MORNING, NOV. 23, 1963. Calingapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India.
“Rossgaru, Rossgaru, Mrs. Kennedy shot! Mrs. Kennedy shot!”
Ramamurthy had scrambled what he heard over the all-India 8 a.m. news broadcast. It wasn’t Mrs. Kennedy who had been shot.
Several other teachers and I squatted by the short-wave radio in the high school library, with many students peering in the windows, to hear the even more shocking news: John F. Kennedy had been killed in Dallas.
The headmaster K. Krishnarao suggested canceling the half-day of school, in memory of the slain president. We settled on having several minutes of silence at the flag-raising that morning.
Saturday afternoon I bicycled the 18 miles to Srikakulam, where Tom, another volunteer, lived. Two more Peace Corps Volunteers came as well and we shared our grief. JFK was not just our President; he had promoted the idea of a “peace corps” early in his 1960 Presidential campaign, and he instituted it by an executive order the following year. Moreover, Kennedy truly inspired hope among the poor and disadvantaged of the world. They felt that he, and America, cared.
At Tom’s bungalow in Srikakulam we spent the weekend moping around, listening to the radio, and wondering if the United States had gone mad. However, it was very therapeutic to be with other Americans, especially Peace Corps volunteers who understood what Kennedy meant to our country, to the Peace Corps, and to us personally.
All that weekend many people, including strangers, came up to me to offer their condolences. Sunday evening one of the 10 boys who studied on my bungalow porch, because of its electric light, suggested that we stand and have a minute of silence for Kennedy. And that night we heard of the bizarre shooting of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.
Most students didn’t really know who JFK was, but I think that most teachers at least knew that he was President of the United States. And in general there was intense interest in anything and everything American. Rightly or wrongly, we were the role model for the world. In those pre-television, pre-Internet days in India, perceptions of America were wildly unrealistic, being based on movies and, among the literate minority, newspapers or old novels. The most educated teachers at my high school, including the headmaster, knew of our civil rights problems in the South, for example—but their understanding did not lead them to make any comparison with India’s caste system, which was more entrenched, and worse.
The road from Calingapatnam
I lived in Calingapatnam, a village of about 4,500 people. In those days, phone calls to other Peace Corps volunteers were not feasible. Sometimes it took the better part of an hour at the village post office and telegraph office just to get through to Srikakulam, and it was expensive. In fact, during my two years in India I could never afford to talk with my family in Wisconsin, halfway around the world.
Except during summertime, the 18-mile bike ride over flat terrain between Srikakulam and Calingapatnam was usually pleasant and not strenuous, even on my sturdy one-speed Indian bicycle. But the first time I rode the bus on that road I nearly had a heart attack. There was a tiny Hindu temple at the edge of Calingapatnam, at one of the few bends in the road. As we approached the bend, the bus driver, without warning, took both hands off the steering wheel in order to acknowledge the god of the temple with clasped hands and a slight bow. I was certain that we would run off of the road and crash. But at the last second, the driver grabbed the wheel—and of course I’m alive today to write of this memory.
A bicycle built for three
Although Calingapatnam was considered a large village, it lay where the road from Srikakulam dead-ended in the Bay of Bengal. I was its only native English speaker, and no meat was available there. So once or twice a month I would bike to Srikakulam, to speak normal-paced English with Tom and to enjoy his cook’s “burgers,” made of water-buffalo meat. One Saturday I gave another teacher a ride there on the rack above my rear bicycle wheel, as he wanted to save on the bus fare.
The ride was almost fun, as we conversed the whole way and he answered my questions about the countryside and the small villages we passed through. When I picked him up the next afternoon in Srikakulam at the town square, we came upon our young school clerk, Vasulu.
Vasulu was always a bit scatter-brained. That day he had come to town to see movies all day long and had just missed the last bus to Calingapatnam, so he was going to sleep on the sidewalk overnight and catch the first bus in the morning. Feeling compassionate and also a bit macho (or whatever we called it in those days), I offered him a ride on my handlebars. I recall much laughter among the three of us on the ride, and fortunately no one fell off—nor were we gored by a water buffalo.
Water buffalos were called “brake-testers” by car drivers. Normally gentle, they occasionally turned their heads unexpectedly to look at something. And if you were too close to them when they did, you’d pay for it.
Several times during our 18-mile ride the teacher offered to swap places with me and pedal for a while. I declined, as I was sure I could do it myself. I was also concerned about crashing, due to the tricky balancing act with three bodies on a single bicycle. Needless to say, all of my students—and perhaps most of Calingapatnam—knew of our expedition by the next day!
One Indian bike-riding custom was a bit unnerving: that of riding next to someone else on another bicycle and holding the others person’s hand as we rode. Most of us Peace Corps volunteers got used to the limp handshakes that some sophisticated Indians used in greetings. Holding hands with someone while walking took more getting used to. But I never felt comfortable doing this while biking, even at a slow speed and on a deserted road. It just seemed like a recipe for disaster. (However, I’ll confess that I never witnessed nor even heard of a crash because of it.)
The headmaster’s village
The Calingapatnam–Srikakulam road was the starting point for another memorable weekend for me. My headmaster Krishnarao invited me to join him, several other teachers, and a few older boys in walking to his “native village” 15 miles away, after Saturday morning classes. We walked eight miles on the road, then took off perpendicular to it, traveling the last seven miles through rice paddies, where we walked barefoot on the ridges made of built-up dirt. At one point a woman working ankle-deep in water saw us walking and called up to Krishnarao with a question. He answered, then turned to me with a smile and translated: She wanted to know if the British had taken over the country again! (I never got used to being called a “European,” and despite my correcting it dozens or maybe even hundreds of times, the designation never completely disappeared.) I also recall that during that trip several people who had obviously never seen a white person gently pinched my skin to see if it was real.
The headmaster’s small native village had no electricity or running water and probably looked much the same as it had centuries earlier. I heard not long ago that 300,000 of India’s half-million villages are still not electrified. Krishnarao and two other Brahmin teachers did all the cooking of the evening meal, so that everyone, of all castes, could eat the food.
Lessons in language, barbers, and cobras
One important question was overlooked in our three months of Peace Corps training in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: that of when to greet others with a namaskaram, the south Indian equivalent of a namaste. Indians, at least those in rural Andhra, never used this greeting with servants or students, for example. But my egalitarian spirit led me to decide right away to namaskaram everyone, regardless of age, status, or caste. In my first few weeks, children would go out of their way to greet me, breaking into spasms of laughter when I responded with my greeting of respect. I sometimes even encouraged this by adding the honorific suffix –andi, which usually was used only with superiors. But after some time the amusement died down, and I felt I had made the right decision.
My first village haircut was another matter. The afternoon I returned from visiting my headmaster’s village, I hired the village barber to come and cut my hair on my bungalow’s porch. It cost only the equivalent of about 7 cents. But the barber used a very dull hand clipper, and I decided that would be both the first and last haircut he would give me. A knowledgeable Indian later shared some wisdom with me about rural barbers: “They don’t cut, they pluck!”
One weekend when fellow Volunteer Brent Cromley was visiting me a bizarre incident happened on the porch. As Brent was about to leave, a cobra dropped from the porch roof onto my cook’s head, about tenfeet from us. It fell to the floor without biting him, then took off across the yard toward some bushes that contained dirt mounds with snake holes in them. We all backed away at first, since we were wearing sandals. Then Brent and I lobbed heavy rocks at the cobra. We missed.
That evening Krishnarao dropped by to see if I wanted to hire the leading Brahmin priest to walk around my bungalow, chanting a protective prayer. My cook, who was an untouchable, said he felt no need for it, so I politely declined. I later found out that the custom of saying a mantra in such a situation was not based purely on superstition. Cobras typically live in pairs in their holes, so if one is killed or badly wounded, its mate would come out looking for it, making that a dangerous time for humans to be about. A month after the cobra incident there was a religious festival where villagers poured milk down the snake holes, since one local Hindu god was a snake. Needless to say, I decided not to participate!
Lessons in geography
My bungalow porch was used most evenings and some mornings as a “study center,” one of several set up by the headmaster with my help. When I first arrived in Calingapatnam, Krishnarao and I would brainstorm each day after classes at tiffin (sort of an afternoon tea, with some sweets). Once he mentioned that many students couldn’t study at night as they had no light, especially those whose fathers were fishermen and went to sleep at dusk in their huts. I casually suggested that maybe some of the few places with electric light, like my porch, might be used for studying at night. I was somewhat shocked the next day at school when it was announced that a bunch of such study centers were to be set up, and Krishnarao and I spent the next week setting them up in elementary schools or large houses in the different hamlets, each occupied by a single caste, that constituted Calingapatnam.
At my own study center, during the first week I discovered how little geography my high school students knew. When I happened to bring out a map of India one night, they couldn’t find the capital, New Delhi. Nor could they show where Calingapatnam would be! After that I rarely had a free period at school. During the first or second period the headmaster would send a boy with a chit to me, saying that, for example, the teacher Subramanyan had taken casual leave that day, and would I take over his fifth period class? I kept my world and India maps at school, and would spend such “free” periods simultaneously teaching geography and conversational English. Both geography and world history had been sadly neglected, perhaps in reaction to the pre-Independence system of teaching too much British history and European geography.
These spontaneous geography classes were much easier to teach than my math or physics classes. When I first started teaching physics, the students did not know how to use simple rulers, since science and math involved only rote memorization of blackboard work or text material. And my math texts were all in Telugu, as Calingapatnam’s “Higher Secondary High School” had just started the conversion from an ordinary high school, so the English medium for math was being phased in only a year at a time. While our project as the fourth group of Peace Corps volunteers in India was to teach math and science in English, no Peace Corps or Indian official involved with it had ever visited Calingapatnam and discovered the discrepancy. Needless to say, the Peace Corps training dictum to be flexible rang especially true for me that year!
A portrait on a mud wall
Six months after Kennedy’s assassination, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s disciple, died. The country didn’t appear to go into shock as it had when JFK died, probably because Nehru was 74 years old and had died of natural causes. Almost two years after JFK’s death I was again reminded of his importance to the world while I was traveling home overland from India, with several other Peace Corps volunteers who had served in India. When we stopped to eat at a small café in an Iranian village on the Caspian Sea, there were only two portraits on the otherwise bare mud walls: a mandatory one of the Shah, and a larger one of President Kennedy.
I remember vividly the time that he came to Berkeley, Calif., in March, 1962, the year before I joined the Peace Corps. Kennedy spoke in the football stadium at the University of California to about 100,000 people, the largest audience he ever addressed. Although he was speaking at the height of the Cold War, Kennedy proposed a joint exploration of space, including “a cooperative Soviet-American effort in space science and exploration.” He also rejected “over-simplified theories of international life,” among which was the idea that “the American mission is to remake the world in the American image.”
But I was a busy graduate student in mathematics at Berkeley, so I skipped Kennedy’s speech. I told my friends that I’d catch him the next time around. Well, there was no next time.
Of course, JFK was far from the saint portrayed by the media in the early 1960s. But when I meet with former Peace Corps volunteers from that era, we sometimes wonder what the world would have been like if Kennedy had lived. And now every year when November 22 comes around I feel a certain sadness, for the loss of vision he gave and the optimism he aroused.
Monday, Oct. 17, 2011
Economist Tomas Sedlacek has shaken the study of economics as few have. How? By arguing a simple, almost heretical proposition: Economics is woven of history, myth, religion, and ethics—and ultimately it's about good and evil. In making his argument, Sedlacek ranges from the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament to Adam Smith, Fight Club, and The Matrix.
Sedlacek served as an economic advisor to Czech President Vaclav Havel, is a member of the Czech National Economic Council, and lectures at Charles University in Prague. He's been invited to speak to the World Bank and the House of Commons on taking economics out of a purely mathematical realm and putting it back into a human one. His book, Economics of Good and Evil, has been a best seller in the Czech Republic, was adapted for the stage—and now is out in an English language edition from Oxford University Press. This will be his only lecture in Silicon Valley.
The lecture is sponsored by the Civil Society Institute of Santa Clara University. It's free and open to the public. A PDF flyer is available here.
Wed., Oct. 19
Daly Science 207
The talk is sure to be wide-ranging, energetic, and engaging. Don't speak Czech? No worries, the talk will be in English. And you can check out Sedlacek (in English) on YouTube here.
Steven Boyd Saum
Monday, Oct. 10, 2011
Take a walk -- with the fall Santa Clara Mag, now making its way to readers via USPS and yours for the reading online.
"Walk the Walk" says the cover -- and you'll find that phrase in one of the stories of the mag, too. Where? Read the mag to find out who said it. Then send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org by Oct. 20, 2011, with your answer (who says it in the mag? in what story?) and you'll be entered to win a $25 iTunes gift card.
Monday, Oct. 3, 2011
It was 30 years ago this fall that then-President William Rewak, S.J., enlisted the assistence of a talented editor by the name of Peg Major to launch a new publication: Santa Clara Magazine.
That inaugural issue included an essay by Fr. Rewak, "Saints, diamonds, and bears," on the changing nature of higher education. In it he observed: "We are here for that human interchange where wisdom is born, to serve intellect and to touch the human heart."
To commemorate the occasion, we've posted the entire Fall 1981 edition of SCM online. You'll find articles by faculty and alumni on the media and mass psychology, love and the (then) new Catholic marriage law, the high-tech boom, and "Santa Clara Potpourri"—a visual quiz of campus landmarks.
Thursday, Sep. 22, 2011
President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order creating the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, but the order wasn't official until Congress approved the legislation. That event occurred on September 22, 1961—50 years ago today—and formally authorized the Peace Corps, whose stated purpose was "to promote world peace and friendship."
Since its creation, more than 340 Santa Clara alumni have served in some 80 countries. At times, the number of Santa Clara grads heeding the call has put SCU in the top 10 for Peace Corps schools of its size.
In the Fall 2011 issue of Santa Clara Magazine, we feature the stories and images from some of the Santa Clara alumni, faculty, and staff that have served in the Peace Corps. Look for it in your mailbox soon!
Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2011
Have you ever read a class note in the magazine and wondered about the rest of the story? That sensation came over me when I saw that Michelle Dezember ’06, a past Fulbright recipient, was part of the team behind Mathaf, the first modern art museum in Qatar, as well as the Gulf region. Mathaf opened its doors in December.
Dezember’s work in art museums has taken her from the de Saisset at Santa Clara to Brooklyn, Barcelona, and now the Middle East. She took some time to respond by email about the role of art in a part of the world that's rapidly changing. She also discussed her transformation from “a clueless freshman” to working on a project at the frontiers of modern art.
Q: How would you describe Qatar to someone who has never been there?
Qatar is very uniquely positioned. They are at a sort of crossroads of the MENASA region (Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia) so it is an extremely diverse society. And in addition to their wealth drawn from their oil and gas reserves, they have used this diversity to build up a knowledge based economy with projects dedicated to arts, culture, and sports—as we can see with their win of the 2022 world cup bid.
Q: How did you find yourself at Mathaf? What do you do there?
After I graduated, I moved to New York to work at the Brooklyn Museum, where the current director of Mathaf was also working at the time. We stayed in touch and she called me when she was looking for someone to put together an education department for the museum. Moving here and working at Mathaf has been the most amazing opportunity I have received, and I still can't believe the types of projects I'm able to develop. When I first arrived, it was before we opened so I was involved in a lot of different areas to get the strategy and logistics in place for our opening. Now I've settled into my role as the Head of Education, in which I'm responsible for leading a team of educators who design and deliver the museum's programs and resources to the public.
Q: Is Mathaf the first modern art museum in Qatar, or the Middle East in general? Could you describe the museum’s goals?
(Mathaf is the first modern art museum in the Gulf, and has probably the strongest collection of modern Arab art in the world, which is a rather untold story in the field of art history. The museum's vision is to tell that story through being a preeminent platform for thought, discussion, and exchange of art on a local and transnational level. We aim to serve our diverse communities by providing innovative programs and exhibitions that will hopefully encourage our visitors to use the artworks that we feature as a springboard to learn more about art, themselves, and the world we live in.
Q: What are some of your impressions of modern art and art education in the Middle East? Can you recommend any artists that SCM blog readers should Google?
We definitely face some challenges here with regards to art education, especially when it comes to modern and contemporary art. The value of art isn't really something that is widely known or accepted, which is something I grew up with in the US as a problem also, but was surprised to see that it is even more challenging here. So we're trying to work on finding young people who don't know about or haven't had a chance to explore the transformative powers of art. With this really exciting time in the Arab world of change and a new sense of agency, it has been really interesting to see how art is a vehicle to create conversations that perhaps won't always happen in the media or elsewhere.
There are a lot of really interesting artists to check out, but I couldn't play favorites! I'd recommend looking at some of the images featured on the Mathaf website or looking at a great website called Nafas for more information on artists and initiatives working in non-Western contexts.
Q: After teaching in the U.S. and Spain as well, are there common threads that tie art students across cultures together? What are some of the most interesting differences?
There are definitely some basic experiences that I see people make regardless of where or how they were raised, and that's mainly a need to make sense out of what we see, and somehow find a place in all of it. Art has this amazing quality of being able to offer multiple interpretations and possibilities, which other areas of our lives don't. For kids, this is a natural thing to be comfortable with. But as we grow up, life puts more and more weights of responsibilities, anxieties, and distractions so that we become afraid of exploring this unknown space. So I can't say that this is any different in any of the places I have worked. Teaching in a museum setting in Doha has definitely given me a new challenge, though, of being sensitive to some major cultural differences that are coexisting in this rapidly changing place while at the same time pushing people to even have a basic sense of what modern art is and how it can help make sense of these differences.
Q: When you look back on your time at SCU, what experiences most impacted your life and career?
(I definitely wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the mentorship I found in my art history professor, Dr. Bridget Cooks. I didn't even know what jobs existed in museums, or that I even liked art until I took a class called "African Americans in Photography," which I took on a whim as a clueless freshman fulfilling core credits. I was surprised to fall completely in love with thinking and talking about images, realizing that they offered a sort of mirror onto myself and the people around me that I was never able to articulate. I ended up working as her research assistant, and she encouraged me to seek a job at the de Saisset. There, I held a couple of different jobs that were really fun, but ended up picking up the coordination of the "Explore with Me" student docent program, which was really my first time feeling confident and overwhelmingly energized by something. I also loved the way that the Sociology Department let me explore my sociology degree for what it would mean to me and these interests.
In retrospect, I don't think I was aware of how open and personalizing the faculty and staff were to me. You might have to make an effort and take some risks, but I found through the reinforcement of these mentors that any challenge—when embraced—is the key to growth.
Friday, Sep. 9, 2011
Remembering student Deora Bodley and Lawrence Getzfred '71 — two of the thousands killed on Sept. 11, 2001
Deora Bodley was 20 years old and was flying home to begin her junior year at Santa Clara. She was aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when al-Qaida terrorists hijacked it. The plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Penn., killing all aboard. She was studying French and psychology and hoped to be a child psychologist.
Bodley was actively involved with community service from high school on, and she tutored at St. Clare’s parish school across the street from campus. One of those children wrote on her memorial: “Deora made the sun brighter.”
A rose was planted in her memory near the Mission Church and a fund established to benefit the children of St. Clare’s. “We see the face of God in Deora’s love for family and friends,” said President Paul Locatelli, S.J. ’60, “in her service to the community, in her concern for others, and in her smile and laughter.”
Capt. Lawrence Daniel Getzfred ’71 was a no-nonsense Navy man: “Get it done, get it done right.” But he was much more than that.
A Nebraska native with four brothers in the Navy and 38 years of service around the world—including active duty in the wars in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf—he was awarded numerous decorations and he was on his second tour of duty in the Naval Command Center in the Pentagon when terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the building, killing 125 people on the ground and all aboard the plane.
Getzfred was 57 years old and was taken from his loving wife, Pat, and two daughters, ages 11 and 12, for whom he enjoyed building marvelously intricate dollhouses in his spare time.
His younger brother Mark, a deputy weekend editor for the New York Times, has written a moving tribute—which also offers some insightful personal reflections on the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and all that has happened since. Read that here.
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011
Over the last week or so the Silicon Valley Business Journal has polled readers on what things best symbolizes Silicon Valley: Netflix or Tivo? The Google campus or eBay HQ?
On Tuesday the universities squared off, SCU vs. Stanford. Imagine the Cardinal's surprise when our plucky Broncos took the lead. Unfortunately, like that old saying goes: When the going gets tough, the tough turn to automated voting bots.
We'll let Cromwell Schubarth at the Journal's BizBlog take it from here:
Santa Clara had a comfortable lead until late Tuesday afternoon when the programmed voting for Stanford began. When the plug was pulled, it had built up a 99 percent to 1 percent lead with nearly 200,000 votes cast.
Much as we would like to believe our challenge has generated that kind of traffic, those votes were generated by only about 5,000 visits to the polling site.
A winner will be declared by the time the next round begins in September, perhaps after a call to the Markulla Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara ...
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011
We like to think we know a beautiful thing when we see it. The photos in Life cycle (Spring '11 SCM) by Susan Middleton '70—like the Brittle Star above—enchant with a lumunous beauty and offer a delight of discovery in the world around us.
And we're pleased when other folks—like the judges at the University and College Design Association—single out such marvelous images with an award for excellence, as they've done this year. See the photo essay in its entirety here and read an extended Q&A with Middleton here.
As for Susan Middleton, she's in Hawaii at present—at a conference where she introduced U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin (who's written introductions for her work, in fact) and offered presentations on art, science, and conservation. Read about that in the Washington Post here.
Steven Boyd Saum