The World Is Our Oyster, We Shall Not Want

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I feel overprivileged, sometimes, when I consider the way the world comes to the Davidson  campus. There is just something about seeing and hearing eminent speakers, thinkers, artists and other cultural luminaries up close and personal that engages me more deeply and broadly than even my favorite magazines and Web sites, let alone TV news. (Definitely let alone TV news….)

The 2010 Wearn Lecture: Smile when you say that.

On Dec. 1, for instance, Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senator from South Dakota and former Senate Majority Leader, will deliver the 2010 Joseph T. Wearn Lecture.

In January, Nikki Giovanni, a former McGee Professor at Davidson, will be back on campus to speak at the Martin Luther King Day Community Convocation. I have hobnobbed with amiable astronauts and tipsy Royal Shakespeare Company thespians, famously erudite authors and infamously cranky pundits. Writers have ranged from debonair Michael Cunningham and edgy Michael Chabon to gruff Annie Proulx  and dead-on deadpan Margaret Atwood. It’s not all highbrow’n’egghead fare, either. Why, at the beginning of this very semester, I rocked out in the Wildcats’ Belk Arena with sexy V.V. Brown and Maroon 5. Sophisticated yet accessible, subtle yet bold. Flicked my Bic, I’m sayin’.

In May, I’ll yank a tie on and meet the newly named, seventeenth United States Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin. The two-time Pulitzer winner will visit campus in May as the Joel Conarroe ’56 lecturer. Joel, who used to head up the Guggenheim Foundation, is a luminary in his own right, with a fresh bag of Big Apple after-hours tales of that city every time he hits town.

And it’s not just on campus, where luminaries shine. That’s a two-way… um… light beam, or something.

• Tonight on PBS, for instance, my erstwhile JYA Montpelllier buddy Mary Olive Smith ’86 has a show on: “I had the privilege to be the director of photography and producer on a fun project this summer:  a one-hour special called ‘Fixing the Future: NOW on PBS‘ with David Brancaccio [PRI's Marketplace].  It airs nationwide Thursday night, Nov. 18 (check local listings as times and days differ from place to place).  It’s a new take on the old series with cool animations and indie music…. ‘Fixing the Future’ documents Brancaccio’s travels across America, uncovering innovative community and small business projects that are creating jobs and building prosperity for a sustainable future.” Tune in.

Classics sports story, clickable

• Peter Krentz, W.R. Grey Professor of Classics and Professor of History, continues his whirlwind publicity tour related to his new book, The Battle of Marathon. The book, just in time for the 2500th anniversary of the famous battle, has generated online and broadcast lectures and interviews  in the U.S. and Europe. And now, a Sports Illustrated article, “The 2,500-year-old man,” which leans heavily on Krentz’s perspectives to explore the role of renowned runner Pheidippides, who, writes SI scribe Michael Farber, “becomes a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma tucked into phyllo dough.” Sweet.

  1. Jim Murray
    Jim Murray11-20-2010

    Dear Mr. Syme,

    Your piece in the recent Davidson Journal (Threads from a Rich Tapestry) did indeed pull out some odd ones. First their was the curious Senior Smoker Committee. Johnny Kelton must be having a memory lapse. In our day, the Smoker was the standard form of social get-together, especially to allow people to get acquainted with one another. You signed up for Smokers with fraternities that you might be interested in joining. Thus the Smoker took the place of today’s cocktail party.

    Second thread is Ted Jones ’80 report of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (not string, Ted, twine). I have indeed seen it in Cawker City, Kansas. Should you wish to follow that thread, I can supply a photograph.

    Finally a complaint. You probably don’t have charge of the typography of the Journal, but using white (or rather buff) type on a salmon background just about makes the text unreadable.

    Good issue, this one. Cheers, J. J. (Jim) Murray

  2. John Syme
    John Syme11-22-2010

    Thanks for posting, Jim. These days, smokers have to stand 20 feet from any entranceway to indulge. The times they are a-changin’! I’ll be sure to pass along your DJ concern in our next meeting. We keep tweaking it, and all feedback is welcome! JSS

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