Televised Olympics

By Karen Zhang

Although London Olympics has ended in a full stop, I still have regrets about this year’s games. This is the first time I’ve watched the Olympics outside of China, yet it’s also the first time I’m full of disappointment. It’s not because my mother country China did not top the gold medal count as she did in 2008. It’s also not because the opening or closing ceremony was eclipsed by the Beijing Olympics. My regrets come from the one network in America covering the Olympics—NBC.

NBC has undoubtedly performed its exclusive televised rights in America with a perfect score from their sponsors —but sadly, not from their viewers. I felt angry when I saw the caption of “previously recorded” every night before the prime time show. Only a fool will not understand there’s a time difference between London and the U.S.. So why does NBC still pretend they are the “first” to release the already-stale Olympic news? Why can’t the TV station broadcast the live game during the day and rerun the essence of a day’s games in the evening?

I think in this regard China’s TV stations have done a better job. Not to mention that four years ago Chinese audience could pick up the Beijing Olympics televised by major TV stations—national networks or local channels. The previous Olympic Games were guaranteed a live broadcast regardless of time differences.

If it wasn’t for the public’s outcry over NBC’s jingoistic Americanism, I probably wouldn’t have been able to watch athletes from China or other nations. In China, I would see non-Chinese athletes standing on the podium and hear various national anthems. But in America, I can see only a big American mug on the TV screen when “the Star-Spangled Banner” rose at a medal ceremony. Where are the other competitors?

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Magnus Rex

by Katrina Otuonye

When I was six, I dashed through the house with a beach towel draped across my shoulders, a scarf wrapped around my kinky braids like a bandit. I wanted to be Batman, a part of some imagined dimension, as my brothers and I skidded across the linoleum floor, humming theme songs and fake punching the air, yelling, “POW! WHACK! ZOWIE!” Then, last August, I was an extra for The Dark Knight Rises.

Explosions rattled the football stadium and turf flew into the stands. In the midst of heavy flurries, thousands of people dove behind their seats as their beloved football team vanished in a cloud of smoke. The explosions continued and screams reverberated around the field. Fans rushed to the exits, past fleece-clad, bearded men with rifles and ammo strapped across their chests. The explosions stopped, the screaming subsided and everyone froze. They turned towards the field, aghast, as a masked man strutted past the fallen, uniformed bodies.

“Alright, cut!” The silence warped into cheers and we ripped off winter coats, hats, scarves, and wiped the sweat of the August afternoon from our faces. The fallen players jumped out of artificial turf-lined pits and got ready to repeat the shot. My friend Abby and I had shown up at six that morning to get in line for the bat shuttles — repurposed school buses — to take us to Heinz Field. We were decked out in black and yellow, not for a Steelers game, but for the Gotham City Rogues. They played the Rapid City Monuments for two minutes of gametime.

The Heinz bottle of ketchup got to stay on the scoreboard, augmenting my view of Pittsburgh from the stadium. I’d only been in the city a year, but everything about the place, a jumble of small-town personas making up the family that is Pittsburgh, coupled with the view of all those bridges, made me realize I could stay here forever.

I dusted dirt and pretzel salt from my jeans and my friend Abby rubbed at her knee. A splotch of blood, nearly as bright as her hair, leaked through her denim from when she’d hit the cement.

“Ooh,” I said. “A Batman injury.”

She laughed. “Yeah. I kinda like the idea of a battle wound.”

The assistant director was distracted by a scratch of his own, just below the tattered cuff of his Bermuda shorts. He rushed to a megaphone and pulled off his Aviators for dramatic effect.

“Great job, guys. Like, really, really awesome.” He scratched some more. “Five minutes and we’ll do it again.”

We all groaned at the thought of shrugging on our black winter coats. After a mild, drizzly morning, the sun had reappeared to make it a true August afternoon.

“Here’s the thing: you have to remember, when you run into a mercenary with a gun, you don’t run them down. You’re scared.”

We high-fived our friendly mercenaries as they called, “Excuse us, sorry!” to get back into position. They were bravely clad in fleece jackets with ammo strapped across their chests for the winter scene. They pretended not to sweat, as if method acting could make August turn into January, so in a mix of pity and jealousy, we tossed them half-frozen water bottles out of coolers. I tightened my yellow bandana. I might be in a movie, I thought (along with 10,000 other geeked-out fans). As we rested in the stands with our coats off, we shaded ourselves with umbrellas. No one cared if those guys won or lost. I was really aiming for a t-shirt. I opened the 5-Hour Energy a bubbly leader had handed out as we filed into the stadium. I eyed the tiny bottle carefully. The next morning, as I watched dawn slide through the blinds on my windows, I would remember the moment before I cracked open the seal and curse myself.

My brothers and I used to race home from school and curl up on the couch to watch Batman: The Animated Series, as Batman beat the Joker one more time. When B:TAS wasn’t on, we could always count on “old-school Batman,” the 60s version with Adam West as Batman and Eartha Kitt’s luxurious voice birthing nine lives into Catwoman. I never finagled a way to convince my mom to approve a Catwoman costume for Halloween, but I made an appearance as “The Kat” for all of elementary school. She bought a pair of cat ears and stuffed a black stocking with rough brown kindergarten paper. She pinned my tail to black stirrup pants, and I shimmied around the house, letting my new appendage swish behind me. Mom stopped me to draw whiskers on my face with eyeliner.

“Alright, let’s see it,” she said. She had final approval of my snarl and press-on nails.

“Purrrfect,” I said.

Now, I try to keep the whole Batman thing to myself. I have a master’s degree; I want people to take me seriously. When speculation started about the new Batman villains, I interrupted strangers’ conversations in the library, at coffee shops, as they thumped lumpy melons at the grocery store.

“Who’s that bad guy? Brine?” they asked their bored counterpart.

“No, it’s Bane,” I jumped in. “He was in a small, silly part of Batman and Robin, but he was kinda badass in Animated Series.” They eyed me carefully, as if I were strange. I explained I grew up in a small town where strangers freely interrupt personal conversations.

Warner Bros. masked the movie with the fake title, Magnus Rex, to distract from too much unwanted attention. They circulated press releases throughout the city to alert businesses and patrons when they would shut down streets to make way for one of their six Tumblers (for the uninitiated, the revamped Batmobiles), snow machines, cranes, and batpods.

A tiny T-Rex attacked from the top of the press releases, tail extended, with a disarming smirk to match his pair of glasses. He had a devil-may-care attitude, as if to say, “What? I’m a dinosaur. A dinosaur can’t be an intellectual?”

Abby signed up as an extra and asked if I wanted to join. I told myself I was too cool for Batman, but I said “Hell, yeah,” all the same. I drove through the city during filming, pretending I was just out running errands. I acted as flustered as my fellow drivers when we were unexpectedly detained in traffic. I ogled the potatoes piled behind a food service truck near St. Paul’s Cathedral, near-impossible to get to with a batpod settled right across the street. As I started to wonder if my afternoon excursion might be a bad idea, I noticed a destitute-looking extra in a “GOTHAM D.O.C.” orange jumpsuit. He crouched on the grass, sucking on a cigarette as if he’d been denied one every day for his entire life. I had to stop. I rolled down my window and waved in his direction. He looked up.

“Are you a bad guy?” I yelled.

He tilted his head and made a face as if to say, “You can’t be serious.”

Back at the stadium, after moving from one section to another to make Heinz Field seem packed, we cheered as Hines Ward rolled in atop a Tumbler. We grew restless once our complimentary energy drinks wore off, and the sun beat down on our winter clothing. Regardless, we all had the same question: Where was our director, Christopher Nolan?

The acclaimed director of Inception, Memento and the other revamped Batman films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, specializes in enthralling and confusing his audiences. He’d made a few appearances in a blazer in the morning. In the afternoon, he’d walked off the field during the shoot, only to reappear with a tan fishing hat to shield his fair skin. He may not have anticipated this group of fans, though. There’s no more organized group of people than at a football game. As the assistant director set up another shot, directing us with the microphone they’d used for the adorable boy who sang the national anthem, we whispered amongst ourselves. When Nolan walked by, we coordinated our movements and bowed to him in unison. People called, “Hey Chris, explain the end of Inception!” And he, all English politeness, beamed at us and gave a tiny shake of his head.

Abby and I sweat it out for the rest of the day, pretending we were just kids again, playing dress up, jumping through the house with superhero dreams. I went home without a t-shirt, but one of my friends had several, so I guilted him into handing it over. The shirt is a bit baggy, but Batman’s in style again. I wear it with pride, pose for pictures and send them off to my brothers. When I double-checked with them to make sure that Batman really was their favorite superhero too, I got series of texts in a row: “BOOM! WHACK! KA-POW!” and I know that we’re all still connected.
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Sex and the City

by Publius

Together with his parents, Malcolm watches reruns of “Sex And The City.” He comes-in talking about how “the girls” last night did this and that. Though I don’t say it, of course, I know that show. I love it.

I remember the very scenes he’s discussing. These scenes were quite stimulating and, indeed, arousing. But the difference is that I just turned 52 and am happily married. Furthermore, I love the show because it’s sexy, yes — but I also love its touching portrayal of mature relationships, its witty dialogues, its brilliant characterizations, and what it says about friendship. Most of which I think is quite lost on an eleven year old.

So what kind of parents think it’s a good idea to watch with their kid “Sex And The City”?

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Genius Loci

By Eva-Maria Simms

The bluff on which my neighborhood sits is surrounded and carved up by water: the great streams of Ohio and Monongahela Rivers, Saw Mill Run, and a multitude of creeks and runoffs. For eons they ate away at the rock. Water created passages through the wilderness, and when people settled here they used the watersheds as template for the course of roads. Like an island we find ourselves separated from the rest of the city – but so do many of the other hilly neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. We are a city of islands connected by beautiful spans of bridges which cross water everywhere.

A landscape has its own dreaminess as it lies under the sun and the stars. Ours is a ‘romantic landscape” as the architect Christian Norberg-Schulz calls it, because its hills, folds, watersheds and dense green forests gives it a sense of interiority and intimacy. In a romantic landscape an air of mystery pervades everything. There are very few places from which you can see the whole expanse of the land. Mostly, vistas open up and then withdraw. You climb the hill, but the land behind the next hill cannot be seen. Straight roads do not work, because the terrain resists the formal line. In the woods you see only so far, and as soon as you get to the next curve on the deer trail, a new landscape opens up before you – and conceals itself behind the bend or the thicket or the clump of trees a few paces away. It is a landscape of absence and shadow, but also of brilliant displays of lighted clearings and briefly illuminated hilltops as the clouds race by in the morning sunlight.

A landscape speaks to the soul. Its spirit of place, its genius loci, consists of the ineffable web of geology, flora and fauna, weather, water, light and shadow, earth and sky — and also of the uses human beings have made of these elements over time. The voice of Pittsburgh’s genius loci has as its base note the strong figures of the rivers and the smaller trills of their tributaries, which have carved and shaped this landscape with the force of water. It resonates in the protected bowls of valleys, it rises up to the hilltops and the promise of distant hazy vistas, and then returns into itself to get tangled in roots and hollowed out coal beds underground. Neither sparse and essential as the desert, nor lush and exuberant as the tropics, neither serene and clear as the classical landscape of Greece, nor rugged and majestic as the Rocky Mountains or the Alps — it never gives its all to you, but it offers what you need.

I saw Pittsburgh for the first time in 1987. The taxi picked me up from the airport and we were funneled through the trough between hills for a few miles and finally into the darkness of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. And suddenly, at the end of the tunnel, the river valleys and the bridges and the city lights exploded into my view and poured themselves out into an open landscape. It was breathtaking.

Our genius loci has a strange sense of humor: it is a magician who with a sleigh of hand reveals something by concealing something else. It lulls you into sensory underload and boredom, and then jolts you awake by giving you an unexpected, delightful gift. It fragments itself into a diversity of micro-places with their own distinct moods and histories, but the sides of the bowl, which hold the rivers’ confluence, embrace and center it all and keep the one and the many in balance. It is a generous place to live.
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Mr. Thomas

by Publius

Mr. Thomas died last night. Shot dead in the alley behind his house. He was out for his customary evening walk, and some punks robbed him and shot him. He had taught here for sixteen years, and in the school system for, as I recall, close to thirty years. He was a painter.

He was much loved.

I read to my kids the story in the newspaper.

Dolan just stares out the window for an hour or maybe two.

I let the kids draw on the chalkboard pictures of Mr. Thomas, messages, “RIP Mr. Thomas/We miss you.”

Outside my door, they hang a drawing, a tombstone with Keith Thomas’ name, his dates, then all their signatures, messages, prayers around the stone. It’s touching.

Not one kid cries.

These are children who know a lot about loss. Indeed, they expect it.

I use the opportunity to have the kids write letters to Mr. Thomas’ family.

It is the first and only time that I have 100% participation in any writing endeavor.

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Dance Review: Youth Moves at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater

Reviewed by Adrienne Totino

Friday night at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) came as a wonderful and relieving surprise. It had been a long time since I’d seen anyone under twenty take the dance stage. In the day and age of Dance Moms and So You Think You Can Dance, watching children and teens perform has become an all and out spectacle – mostly tricks and sexy outfits, without depth or artistry.

Thankfully, the pageant feel was non-existent in East Liberty over the weekend. YouthMoves, a program the KST began four years ago, brought to the stage five young companies from the Pittsburgh area, in an effort to give young dancers a professional performance opportunity.

To open the show, resident choreographer of the theater, Staycee Pearl, presented her pre-professional company, SPdp2. The group performed three short pieces, all in the contemporary style, with Pearl’s signature, but very subtle, infusion of hip-hop. Each dancer had their moment of solo material, and displayed impressive technical integration that often comes much later in a dancer’s career. The movement ranged from slow and deliberate, to more high energy, and included simple partnering and interesting gestures.

Elena’s Dancers Elite, a company located in North Huntingdon, PA, performed twice on the program. The group studies dance styles more typical of kids – tap, jazz, hip-hop, and ballet. Although competition companies oftentimes emphasize performance over technique, these young girls had both. Their first work was a high energy, jazzy routine without a “showboat” feel. The second was more lyrical, sweet without the sugar coating.

Visionary Dance Academy also presented two works. Their studio emphasizes technique, while allowing each student to recognize his/her own unique style. That individualism showed. In brightly colored costumes, this large group excited the audience with hip-hop, contemporary and African movement. The kids’ lively confidence imbued the theater, and their message of positivity uplifted everyone in attendance.

The second half of the show brought two distinctive styles, ballet and musical theater dance, to round out the program.

Mid-Atlantic Contemporary Ballet Company featured a trio of young girls. Their technical mastery was evident from the moment they began. Bathed in deep red lighting, they effortlessly moved from classically long lines, accentuated by pointe shoes, to more modern parallel legs and flexed feet. The piece was dramatic, solemn but not glum. The dancers were sophisticated performers without any of the shyness that comes with being onstage at that age.

To close the show, Alumni Theater Company wowed the audience with scenes from the hit musical, Rent. The troupe had just performed the full show at the New Hazlett Theater a week earlier. While the bigger group dance scenes were impressive, it was hard to ignore the talent of the three featured singers. The scenes “Out Tonight,” and “Tango: Maureen” were particularly animated. The performers proved that the lost art of singing and dancing simultaneously is still possible.

The energy in the audience left the theater buzzing with enthusiasm. A dance party broke out on the stage. A new wave of young dancers received their congratulations. And another successful dance event at the Kelly-Strayhorn came to an upbeat end.

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Sweet Talk

By Karen Zhang

Often, I’m greeted endearingly at an American restaurant. The minute I sit down, a middle-aged Caucasian woman comes to me, menu in hand and says, “How’re you today, honey?” The first time I heard it, it caught me off guard. Why would a stranger call me “honey”? My Chinese parents would hardly call me “honey.” The second time I heard it I was still in shock. The third time, the endearment stuck out annoyingly but I began to accept it. The fourth, the fifth and more times onward, I must have grown into the ultra-friendly American culture.

The longer I stay in a restaurant, I realize all customers are called “honey” or “sweetheart.” It really depends on the servers how to differentiate one endearment from another. By the end of the day, I wonder how many sweethearts the waitress will have served.

“How’s everything, sweetheart?” a server comes to me and inquires in the middle of my meal, with a lusciously rising tone on the last word. A flat “fine” is often the most genuine reply I can give. Her passionate diminutive will not cease.

“Do you want more water, sweetie?” she asks, a pitcher of ice water in hand.

“No,” I say plainly, adding “thanks” as a sudden reminder.

After I pay the bill, she probably will throw me one last juicy farewell—“Thank you very much, sweetheart! I hope you have a wooon-derrr-ful day.”

I certainly will—after hearing a sugar-coated voice chanting throughout my meal. Imagine if I were a lonely customer, how much more those endearing words would mean to me. At least, I’m someone’s sweetheart!

But I’ll never have the guts to translate word for word the sweet greetings to my family in China. My dad may find the diminutives offensive, and my cousin will get jealous of the server calling her husband “honey.” Despite Chinese society becoming more westernized, it’s still not easy for many Chinese couples to say “I love you” in public; whereas in America, I’ve heard these three words too many times out of the mouths of strangers. Are Americans too loving, or are Chinese too discreet about sweet talk? Whatever it is, I hope I don’t need to call my server “sweetheart” to get her attention.

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Live Music

By Karen Zhang

Summer has arrived! From Bangor, Maine to Austin, Texas, from Berkley, California to Asheville, North Carolina, outdoor musical scenes spring up everywhere across the country. No kidding. Americans enjoy outdoor activities in summer. Attending live performances in the open air seems to be a favorite American pastime.

I had never been to a live outdoor concert until I got to America. Concerts in China regardless of genres are usually held indoors or in a stadium. When I watched American movies in China, I didn’t understand the joy of swarms of Americans carrying lawn chairs, portable ice-boxes and blankets towards the same direction—a gig. Now I see why after my visits to several musical venues including Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York, Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, and Wolf Trap in northern Virginia. How convenient it is that a concert is held just around the corner in a neighborhood! (For instance, Wolf Trap is only 15 miles away from my home in Virginia.)

I also notice that the lawn tickets are usually much cheaper than those in house. For thirty bucks on average one can have a gratifying evening—both acoustically and through the taste buds. People usually bring along snacks and beverages, picnicking on the lawn prior to the concert. Or simply, just bring dozens of bottles of beer and binge. That’s the point! I wonder if the music or the drinking brings people together. I have an impression that Americans consume lots of alcohol—youngsters go for beer while the sophisticated for Chardonnay. During the concert, the clinking of bottles occasionally accompanies the live rendition of a masterpiece. Or the booze has taken effect in the wild cheering from the fans.

The outdoor gigs provide the performers and the audience with the most casual platform to appreciate music. Musicians seem to be more improvised and playful in an outdoor setting. The audience of course feels more at home, at least the attire for outdoor concerts is more casual. Can you wear a baseball cap, a home team jersey and sandals to an indoor symphony? Or can you flip your glaring cell phone every twenty minutes during the concert? Or even taking off your shoes and stretch your feet while listening to the music? Apparently, you can have all this freedom if you appreciate a gig on a lawn.

There is no boundary in the music world. The outdoor concerts certainly have spoken for themselves. This is how epidemic music can reach individuals in America. If someday this form of performance is popularized in China, I think it’ll be a relief for tens of thousands of smokers and serious drinkers who love music but feel restricted by the dos and don’ts at an indoor concert.

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Virgin territory

By Eva-Maria Simms

As soon as a path has been built, the natural landscape changes. The path creates the kind of forest that is accessible and friendly to humans. Someone prepared this landscape by choosing the easiest passage and by clearing and widening the walkable surfaces. No tangled roots or fallen trees impede our progress. The runnels and mudflats can be crossed via stones or smoothed out logs and our feet stay clean and dry. The forest has been tamed and is impressive and sweet to our senses: the web of leaves above, the blue ridges in the distance, the scent of mushrooms nearby, the rustle of a towhee in the leaf mold. Nature along the path conforms itself to our bodies perceptual abilities and mobile needs and reinforces a romantic vision of what nature ought to be: ordered, predictable, confined in its niches, grand, sublime, beautiful and almost safe. The peaceable kingdom.

But the trail has its limitations. It is only a few feet wide, and next to it the wilderness starts again. By its very nature the trail cannot tame the whole landscape and it “civilizes” only a small part of it. The nature we see is surrounded by the nature we do not see: the landscape that folds itself into the next ravine, the forest that does its own thing just beyond the horizon of our experiential field. Most of the woods are not traversed by trails. They are still virgin territory. In virgin territory, however, nature is impassable, convoluted, confusing, confounding, muddy, wet, prickly, full of obstacles and indifferent and dangerous to us — as I found out when I got lost in the woods. No trail leads into the wild – it leads only into a wilderness we can bear.

This does not mean that we should not build trails. Trails lead into an altered, humanly arranged, tamed nature, and if we can accept that, trails are wonderful. They allow us to get a glimpse of a world which is not completely ordered, conceptualized, and controlled by humans and they lead past things and beings not human-made. The tamed quality of the nature trail, however, is always dialectically related to the untamed quality of the virgin territory around it. Its sweetness is has faint undertones of bitterness and danger. Beyond the line of influence the trail exerts on the landscape virgin nature still stretches out in all directions. It is not confined to the line, as our path is. It is everywhere. The path is the figure, but the virgin territory is the ground. It is below our feet in the layers of fungi who live as one symbiotic organism throughout the whole forest’s roots; it is in the shale, coal, sandstone, and redbeds hundreds of feet under our city; it is in the wind that blows through the leaf canopy and stirs the flag a mile away; it is in the sunlight which shines on everything and in the shades where things hide from the light and heat; it pushes up the wing feathers of the peregrine as it palpates the invisible air currents above the river valley; it is in the breath I draw into my lungs, and in the sweet raspberry that I found in the brambles, swallowed and took into myself; it is in my blood and my bones because they, too are virgin territory, and one day they will give out and nature will kill me. Our paths can tame it only so far.
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Hershey Park

By Karen Zhang

When I studied in Pittsburgh, I had heard of Hershey Park in eastern Pennsylvania. I had always wondered what a theme park looked like in America. This early summer my dream finally came true. I went with family to Hershey Park—my first theme park experience in America.

We were greeted with a parking lot so gigantic that we had to walk a mile or so to the entrance. That was quite different from the theme parks in China, where visitors can usually get to the door by public transportation. I was disoriented in the parking lot until I got a map at the entrance. From carousel to roller coasters, every game is marked in the map by numbers subject to its risk levels. I was amazed how the architects pack more than 60 rides together with a water world and a zoo in such a confined space. The high roller coaster tracks crisscross the low ones, circling the perimeter of the park. From every corner in the park, you can hear shrilling cries from the cars zipping by on these rides, haunting the farming country nearby.

Hershey is a town of tourism. The local businesses seem to be all related to the chocolate empire—even the street lamps on the Chocolate Avenue are in the shape of Hershey Kisses! I didn’t have the guts to take on the head-spinning-adrenaline-rushing rides, nor did I want to get wet in the pool. Sounds like I’m pretty dull, aren’t I? I thought so and didn’t expect to get much on this trip. But it turns out the trip to Hershey, PA is as much for education as it is for fun. The history of a town is always fascinating. Built on the vision of Milton Hershey, the founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company, that his workers ought to live well in a complete community around his factory site, Hershey Park has been a favorite recreational venue.

American entrepreneurship is much more mature than that of China. Or I should say the legacies of the private enterprises are better kept in America. An old Chinese saying says, it’s easier to start a business than to keep one. In the long river of Chinese history, there were once many domestic entrepreneurs in China at the turn of the 20th century, at the same period of the Second Industrial Revolution in the West. However, their legacies can only be found in historic records in China today. Few of them exist at a physical site like the town of Hershey in modern days. In the backdrop of rapid construction all over China, the historic enterprises will be forgotten, replaced by new models of business.

If it were not because of the preservation and expansion of the Hershey legacy—from the amusement park to the factory, from the museum to the botanical gardens, from the hotel to the boarding school, I wouldn’t have known how Hershey chocolates were manufactured, how Hershey Kisses got their names, how Reese’s peanut butter cups joined the Hershey chocolate family, and how modern people continue the philanthropic mission of the corporation by providing Americans and foreigners like me with education, recreation and tons of fun.

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Kevin

by Publius

This week we’re giving yet another standardized test, one of many.

Kevin can’t stay awake. He’s angry when I force him awake again and again. Finally, he gets rude, disrespectful. So I keep him after class.

I want to talk with him, because this rudeness, this disrespect, this sleepiness is becoming more frequent. Indeed, there’s a disturbing pattern from nice quiet kid last semester to irritating brat now.

So after class, I set him down and say, “We have to talk.” He’s resistant. Finally I say, ‘Kevin, I don’t understand why you’re pushing me away. You know I like you and I know you like me.’

“Yea, you’re OK, I guess,” he says.

‘So, let’s forget the rudeness for a second. And I’m not mad at you. I just want to know why are you so tired?’

“Noise, I guess.”

‘Like stuff from outside or the TV or what?’

“Nah, my parents.”

‘What, they stay up late?’

“Yea, they fight all night”, Kevin says.

‘Till?’

“Last night till five in the morning?” I just let him talk about it, and, when he was done, told him to come back anytime he wanted to talk again.

The next day, he’s OK.

There are students who just need to leave information with me. ‘Leave things on my desk,’ I like to say. They expect nothing in return, nothing other than an uncritical ear from someone they know to have standards and limits.

In truth, the needs of my students are much more clinical than educational. And this is what standardized tests don’t examine.
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