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Driving him bananas

Oh, they still do that

Finding presence

We're sorry, what were you saying?

The kids are all right

Wickwire saves the day

Another dismayed reader

Seeing is believing



I found the article on Johns Hopkins' traditions [ "In the Finest Tradition," September] most interesting, especially the part about the lacrosse traditions, since I played a bit of lacrosse in the early 1960s. There was one Hopkins lacrosse tradition that was omitted that actually caused the official NCAA lacrosse rules book to be rewritten.

During the 1950s and '60s and into the '70s, it was a Hopkins tradition to bring a cannon to all home games. The device was a small but functional black cast-iron cannon about knee high.

A couple of members of the booster club would set up the cannon directly behind the opposing team's goalie and as close to the end line as the refs would allow. When the teams switched goals at the end of each quarter, the cannon was hastily wheeled across the field to follow the opposition's goalie. The cannon was charged with a generous supply of black powder, and each time Hopkins scored a goal, a string was pulled, and the cannon, aimed directly at the opposing goalie, went off with a very loud bang and a puff of smoke. Needless to say, this could be quite distracting, if not intimidating, to some opposing goalies.

Over the years, opposing coaches began to protest, and eventually the NCAA lacrosse rules committee prohibited such loud noisemaking devices so close to the field of play. The rule was generally written, but everybody knew that it was specifically directed toward the Johns Hopkins lacrosse cannon.

Iver Mindel A&S '66
Cockeysville, Maryland

Driving him bananas

Tsk, tsk, tsk — seems like the magazine has lost some institutional memory and/or research skills: See, question 10:

1. It is NOT "Banana Bunch," a stupid name if ever there was one. The proper moniker, as displayed on the T-shirts, is "Blue Jay Bananas."

2. Bananas are NOT brought to games to reward "stars" or even players in general. That happens to be an after-thought. The bananas are to celebrate a victory, one hopes la Red Auerbach's victory cigar.

By the way, all games within 200 miles of Homewood are home games.


Christopher Tsien, A&S '74
Columbia, Maryland

Oh, they still do that

One tradition that may still exist, but perhaps hasn't been relevant for several years: When the lacrosse team would score its 20th goal of a game (Hopkins used to play a much weaker schedule than it does today), the band would not play "To Win," but rather "Ach Du Lieber Augustine," and the crowd would not have to count to 20 and call for more goals — enough was enough.

Stan Katz, A&S '66
West Windsor, New Jersey

Editor's note: The Hopkins Band has maintained its tradition of greeting 20th goals with a little German oom-pah music. But Stan Katz is right: 20-goal games have become more rare. In the last five years, there have been only two, a 21-5 thrashing of Canisius in 2004, and a 22-6 defeat of Marist in the first round of the 2005 NCAA championship tournament.

Finding presence

Teaching writing to Hopkins undergraduates, Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson noticed that her students acted bizarrely, appeared to be distracted, and seemed not to be rooted in the moment [ Ruminations: "Multitasking State of Mind," September].

By chance, just after finishing Simpson's article, I started reading Ralph Harper's On Presence, reissued this year by the Johns Hopkins Press. (Ralph Harper, 1916- 1996, was an adjunct professor of humanities at Johns Hopkins. I studied philosophy and literature with him.) Early in the book Harper writes: "When I am moved by a painting or by music, by clouds passing in a clear night sky, by the soughing of pines in early spring, I feel the distance between me and art and nature dissolve to some degree, and I feel at ease ... I am content."

Philosophers and literary critics call this state of mind and body presence, which comes with accepting some invitation of the world, allowing one to find a metaphysical home there. Presence is what Simpson's Homewood students seem to lack. Ironically for these students, the raison d'étre for the vanishing liberal arts is freeing people to live with contentment in a world where they could feel presence.

We have created a culture that does not support healthful living, much less promote the state of presence. "Greed is good," the movie Wall Street assures us, and for most people there are no contravening values strong enough to challenge that declaration. Often now to answer the invitation of the world means to act pathologically. It is becoming harder to live in this kind of world.

Simpson notes that students sit in her class in a "zombie-like state," resembling the "frazzled fallout of addiction." One can wonder how many of them use illicit drugs — or, diagnosed with mood or other mental disorders induced in part by a pathological culture, take prescription medication, which can attenuate attention and lead to depersonalization (psychiatry's term for the zombie-like state), the antithesis of presence.

René J. Muller, A&S '75 (PhD)

We're sorry, what were you saying?

Simpson's "Ruminations" was right on target. There seems to be a major communications problem seen among university students. I totally agree with her statement that "students are experiencing life secondhand" — through e-mailing and text messaging. I see it with my own children. But, in all fairness, I also see it in today's society among adults, both personally and in business. In the office, workers will e-mail each other instead of walking over and conversing. My husband is stuck to his BlackBerry, and I find it extremely rude to carry on a conversation with someone who is reading or texting their own messages while I'm talking to them. What's worse, we are all trying to do a hundred things at the same time, and rarely does anything get completed or done well. It kind of makes one nostalgic for the "good old days."

LB Weinstein (mother of a Center for Talented Youth alum)
Miami Beach, Florida

The kids are all right

Reading Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson's article on multitasking college students saddened me somewhat, as it seems like she is overlooking many of the positive traits this generation of students brings with them.

I have been out of college for over eight years, but I wonder if some of the things she mentions, such as lack of formality with professors and being sleepy in class, are healthy and evolving behaviors for the future, rather than just the negative consequences of being too distracted. Informality with professors may be the result of growing up in a non-hierachical world where, because of technology, more people are empowered, able to participate, and able to express their opinions regardless of their age, social status, ethnicity, etc. Students may truly see their professors as their peers and equals, and if professors listen, they may actually learn a great deal from their students. Many young people have had very high-quality educational and life experiences before reaching college — such as international travel and the opportunity to form their own organizations — that other generations were not commonly exposed to. And perhaps the sleepy-eyed students in class do not symbolize a lack of a desire to learn, but rather that students are also very busy learning in new ways — from residential life, internships, and clubs that are a powerful part of their informal education and an early sign of lifelong learning. The flatness of the world and the need for people to become lifelong learners in our society are two things often commented upon as typical of all of our futures, and perhaps these young people are guiding the way.

Darlene Damm, SAIS '05
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Wickwire saves the day

A recent article in Johns Hopkins Magazine abut Dr. Chester Wickwire [ Wholly Hopkins: "Forever Altered," April, p. 25] made me realize that it was about time to tell my little story about Wickwire, who taught Living Religions of the World.

In 1968, I was working on my United States citizenship and, at that time, you had to bring two witnesses before taking the oral examination. The evening before the big day, I called both of my witnesses to remind them of the commitment they had made to me. One told me she was busy and would not be there — no explanation given. I was devastated. What now?

In desperation, I called Mrs. Wickwire and explained my predicament. She was most sympathetic and promised to have her husband call as soon as he got home. Dr. Wickwire called late that night, asked when and where, and said he would be there.

Both witnesses showed up the next morning, and everything went smoothly. I will never forget Dr. Wickwire's kindness.

Helga Dajani
Manteno, Illinois

Another dismayed reader

I am dismayed by the two letters regarding President Bush [ Letters: "Dismayed and Demoralized," September, p. 11]. Did you have NO letters agreeing with the article and praising our president? Please don't tell me JHU has become another liberal mecca?

Reading the letters caused me once again to reflect on the future of this country. If intelligent people can be so terribly misguided, then yes, this country is in trouble. On this, I agree with both of them.

I teach active-duty military personnel who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, and every single one of them blames the academic community and the media for misinterpreting and twisting the truth of what incredible work our forces are successfully doing there. A student stated to the class that he had a better chance of getting shot in Washington, D.C., than in Baghdad — sad but true.

This president is a strong and steadfast leader who will go down in history as someone who had the guts to say "no more" to terrorism. Maybe the readers will change their minds when a major United States city is nuked?

Why is it so difficult to believe that when someone says, "I want to kill you," they actually mean it?

AnnaMaria Preston, EdD, Bol '90
Honolulu, Hawaii

Seeing is believing

Thank you for bringing the sobering information contained in "Preservation's Crumbling Future" [June] to the attention of the JHU community. The Sheridan Library System is custodian to a huge range of rare and important materials. It is distressing to realize that reduced staffing in Preservation has put much of the collection — and consequently, the work of students and academics worldwide — at risk.

I am happy to learn of Winston Tabb's commitment to preservation support. I suspect that a major reason for Preservation's funding and staffing reduction is its low public profile. The department was once located in the MSEL building, where library patrons

could see some of the workspace and activities in the department. I imagine that MSEL moved Preservation out to free space for collection growth. An unintended consequence of this decision was to remove the work of preservation from the average patron's understanding of library services.

I consider my student employment experience to be at least as formative and inspirational as my coursework at Hopkins. I was trained by Preservation staff to carry out repairs to the general collection. Since graduating, I have applied those skills in various library and museum settings and in my work as a cartoonist and illustrator with an interest in bookmaking and book arts. In August, I began working toward a master's in library science with a specialization in preservation management at the University of Pittsburgh. Preservation decisions are complicated; they require an understanding of library patrons' needs, chemical processes, and a level of foresight bordering prognostication. I have tremendous respect for JHU Preservation workers and faith in their ability to act skillfully and make wise decisions. Academic library patrons, trustees, and managers owe a debt of gratitude to preservation departments for the continued existence and accessibility of the essential material for their work.

Rachel Masilamani, A&S '99
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


In a September headline, we incorrectly identified Jeffrey Sharkey as the new dean of the Peabody Institute [ Wholly Hopkins: "New Dean Lays Out Vision," p. 22]. As the story itself correctly states, Sharkey is Peabody's new director. The magazine regrets the error.

Return to November 2006 Table of Contents

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