Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kicking the kickback culture

Three or four years ago, I required my journalism students to subscribe to The New York Times print edition, which they received at a special student rate. As it turned out, the Times gave me the same special rate too, even though I was a regular subscriber.

That made sense, just as textbook companies provide teachers with “desk” copies of required texts.

But as my students turned more and more to the web for information and because the Times offered its content free on-line, I dropped my requirement that they subscribe to the print edition. I did require them to read the Times on-line.

I still get the Times at a reduced rate, as a “professional courtesy.”

Today in the mail I got a notice encouraging me and my fellow college teachers of “politics, economics, communication or freshman English” to make the print edition “part of your course.” The flier suggests requiring students to subscribe at the education rate of $2.25 per week. If the Times weren’t available on-line, the subscription looks like a deal, at least to those of us who still prefer to hold paper in our hands. That’s less than the price of a latte a week, and less fattening.

But here’s the eyebrow-raising part of the flier: if we require the print subscription of our students, we teachers get a free “complimentary” copy of the Times on weekdays.

All we have to do is send the Times a copy of the course syllabus that shows the Times as required reading.

Strange, but visions of “health care reform” and drug company junkets for doctors came immediately to mind. Requiring the Times subscriptions seemed like prescribing medication that isn’t needed or is more expensive.

In the case of a many students, the requirement would be seen as an unnecessary, added cost to their already financially burdensome college years.

How can the New York Times fault health care in this country, when the newspaper itself is willing to cut deals with teachers that are not that far removed from what Abbott Labs, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline do with doctors?

The Times should help eliminate our kickback culture — through example.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Bomber's Beaverton Brand

Memo to Phil Knight:

What goes around comes around, or are Tiger Woods and Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, aka "the Lockerbie Bomber," both on Nike's swoosh-brandishing endorsement payroll?

And you thought you had a problem with Michael Vick.

Or is Abdel working undercover for Adidas?

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Silent Gateway

As a Quaker, I’m well acquainted with the silence of worship.

Not surprisingly, silence takes strange forms when we try to describe it, when we break our silence about it and use words to define its content.

We talk about the “depth” of silence. But why not the “height” of silence? Do we not transcend in the silence? Or, as Quakers say, do we “settle” into silence?

As someone who is hearing impaired, in the world of noise and speech, I’m at a clear disadvantage. But in silence, my “hearing” is as good as anyone’s.

Silence is the great equalizer.

I find that my “silent hearing” takes place at various levels. I try not to think of the levels as “up” or “down” although they do have a spiritual hierarchy.

The first level is “thought hearing.” The thoughts are similar to those that get me through the day except that they aren’t stimulated by my immediate surroundings. What I “hear” are reflections. Reflections on my life.

The next level is “feeling hearing.” That’s something akin to “getting in touch” with my feelings, or the feelings of others. The phrase links the sensation of touch/feeling with that of hearing. Clearly, when we get beyond words and thoughts, we begin to do more than “hear.” Indeed we are often “touched” by what we “hear” when we allow ourselves to feel. It might frighten us at first, but we should be open to being touched by what we hear/feel in the silence. It may move us to tears of sadness or joy.

Beyond feeling, is “being hearing.” It can be defined in terms of the opposite of the first two kinds of hearing. It is utterly free of both thoughts and feelings. Practitioners of Zen will recognize it immediately. It is the “hearing” of “is-ness.” It is all and nothing at the same time. And it, too, expands from the single sense of hearing. At this level our entire beings become one, all-encompassing sense organ.

I could stop there, because I know these levels and have, to a greater or lesser extent, experienced them.

But as I grow older and ponder what might lie beyond this existence, it seems to me there is a realm of “hearing” beyond thinking, feeling and being. For lack of a better word, let’s call it “non-being hearing.” Put that way, it seems to be simple “egoless-ness,” but I think (and feel and “be”) that it is more than that. It is all-encompassing. It beyond all and nothing. It is out of time and out of place. It is perceived by a “sense” beyond any senses that we know or conceive of.

Can we experience this last form of “hearing” while we are alive? Does it require the death of “being”? Can we experience that “death” while still alive?

I am certain there are those who believe they have had such an experience. It may have been drug induced. It may have been during a near-death episode. Or it may have been the result of a mystical experience.

Whatever or however it has happened — or will happen — its gateway is silence.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kate Davis: True to the Music

Young Kate Davis really means it when she sings, “I’m old-fashioned.”

The 19-year-old Portland jazz vocalist and bass player performed for an “old-fashioned” audience at Washington Park last Thursday evening.

I was fortunate enough to be at the free concert with friends, kettle corn and a bottle of merlot. My colleagues could have been Kate’s parents. She’d have to call me “gramps.”

She’s made our music hers and, on this special night, she was lovingly giving it back to us.

Accompanied by Portland jazz stalwarts, drummer Ron Steen and pianist Tom Grant, Davis stuck to the standards she clearly loves. She was joined along the way by vocalist Rebecca Kilgore.

Steen, Grant and Kilgore have all played important roles in snatching Davis out of time and putting her in synch with music that goes back before hip-hop and rock.

Davis says her parents, who gave her a start with a violin, also imparted their love of jazz. She switched to upright bass because singing and playing violin don’t mix.

As a singer, Davis' strength is in her bending, sliding vocal interpretations of the old tunes. Her changes are fresh and innovative, winningly right and respectful of the music.

Her bass playing is simply superb — deep, rich and lyrical.

So here under pewter Portland skies was this recent West Linn High School graduate. As I write she's moved on to New York City, jazz central, and the Manhattan School of Music. Whatever jazz's future is, Kate Davis promises to be an important part of it.

On this farewell night in the park, how moving it was to see and hear this young musician so enthralled and enthusiastic as she celebrated a mid-Twentieth Century play list: “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues,” “Little Girl Blue,” “Lush Life,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and, of course, “I’m Old-Fashioned.”

You can hear and see Kate HERE.

Labels: , , , , ,