Monthly Archives: December 2010

Not Exactly Administrative News: Ten Great Albums of 2010

The following post is not even close to an administrative update, but for the past couple of years Matt Jennings and I have blogged about our favorite albums of the year (for instance, see this and this).   Because we do a radio show on WRMC every Friday afternoon, we get to pretend to be authorities on pop music.  And we have fun.

We ‘re doing it again this year, and share the following recommendations in the spirit of the holiday season.   We invite readers to post their recommendations as well.  The more, the better . . .

Matt’s Choices

Astute listeners of 68 Degrees and Holding will not find my list particularly surprising (nor will they be surprised by what will surely be a snarky response from my friend and co-DJ, the author of this blog).

Some really good music was produced this year, but to my admittedly quirky ear, this five albums represent the best of the best:

  • Mumford & Sons, “Sigh No More”

A brilliant debut from this West London quartet. From Marcus Mumford’s passionate vocals to Winston Marshall’s banjo pickin’ (yes, Spears, banjo pickin’!) to Ted Dwayne’s mastery of the stand-up bass, this band manages to sound both refreshingly original yet appropriately reflective of their musical roots in bluegrass, folk, and eclectic rock.

  • The National, “High Violet”

I enjoyed “Boxer” so much that I was both eager and anxious about this album’s release. Eager because “Boxer” just left me wanting more, more, more and anxious because I fretted that “Boxer” was so good that anything that followed would be a letdown. Well, I wasn’t disappointed.

  • Frightened Rabbit, “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” [Insert Spears eye roll here]

I’m well aware of the heresy of comparing the Irish to the Scottish, but this band reminds me of the Pogues–without Shane MacGowans drunken (and ultimately destructive) antics. “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” is the perfect follow up to 2007’s “The Midnight Organ Fight”; it’s fun, catchy, and addictive.

  • LCD Soundsystem, “This is Happening”

A trendy pick, I know, but to ignore James Murphy’s latest work would be a flagrant omission, especially if we were to look back on this list in a year’s, two years’, ten years’ time. Aggressively original and fascinating to listen to.

  • Treme Soundtrack

From the traditional (Dr. John, Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty, Kermit Ruffin) to the original (Steve Earle’s “This City, which was written for the show) to the hilarious (“Shame, Shame, Shame” by Steve Zahn and friends) this soundtrack from the HBO original series is a must have, both for fans of the show and folks who love great, authentic music.

Tim’s Choices

No snarkiness here.  All sweetness and light!

  • Cee Lo Green, “Lady Killer”

Cee Lo Green has a storied career in the hip-hop world, but this is a full-out R & B record that traditionalists will love.  It includes the infectious and infamous “F– You,” which can be seen and and heard in all its glory on YouTube.  But there is nothing gimmicky about this album.  Fans of Michael Jackson, Al Green, or Beyoncé should take note.

  • Janelle Monáe, “The ArchAndroid”

At times, this sounds like another entry in the R & B sphere, but the album is so diverse and international in its offerings that it really can’t be categorized (though I don’t think it includes any banjo).  Style-wise (check out her videos), Monáe gestures to 1920s (the album cover art is apparently inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, Metropolis), but her genre-mashing encompasses hip-hop, jazz, Afro-punk—you name it.  A virtuoso performance, and Monáe, who is from Kansas City, is only 25.

  • Bruce Springsteen, “The Promise”

The outtakes from Springsteen’s 1978 album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” the songs here will please long-time fans of the Boss.  This album is not entirely new, since Springsteen has been performing these songs for decades and they’ve appeared on bootlegs.  But it is great to have them all in one place.   And it’s also worth listening to these songs along with “Darkness” so you can see what sort of sound and statement he was going for on the original album, which is more stripped down than “The Promise.”

  • Robyn, “Body Talk, Pt 1”

The Swedish techno-pop star hits the sweet spot with songs about dancehall love, gender bending, and cyber culture.  She keeps it light, witty, and danceable—not so heavy as Lady Gaga.   And, believe it or not, she will be performing at Higher Ground in later January.  I already have my tickets.

  • Jamey Johnson, “The Guitar Song”

This is country music about the useful themes: heartbreak, crummy jobs, alcoholism, and the little pleasures of everyday life.  Johnson is a compelling storyteller, and his Alabama-tinged bass voice gives the lyrics a sense of gravitas and depth.  I don’t listen to a lot of country music, but I keep returning to this album, trying to understand why I like it so much.  There are also just enough guitar riffs here to satisfy rock fans.

Juice Bar Competition Update

A selection committee convened last week to review the nine proposals we received for a student-managed food and drink service in the Juice Bar. As we have mentioned before, proposals were evaluated on the following criteria: feasibility, economic viability, vision, and simplicity. We also took into consideration the numerous comments readers left on the last update post, so thank you to all who contributed.

After much deliberation, we have narrowed the field to three proposals. We have notified the students and we will be conducting interviews in the first week of January. We hope to make a final decision shortly thereafter. If we are unable to reach a decision after the interviews, we will reconsider the other applications.

In the meanwhile, please feel free to continue chiming in on what you’d like to see at the Juice Bar.

Five Questions for Gary Margolis and Karl Lindholm

Gary Margolis  is Executive Director of Counseling and Associate Professor of English.  Karl Lindholm is Dean of Cook Commons and Assistant Professor of American Studies.  Both are Middlebury graduates from the class of 1967.

1. You have worked with literally thousands of students over the years.  Is there one student experience in particular that stands out for you?

Gary: How often our students, with support, humor and goodwill, can move from despair to resiliency.

Karl: It’s a tie between (1) the night of Winter Carnival in the 80s when I went to the Slug barn to help Public Safety (then Campus Security) close down a frat party at 2:00 a.m. that was infuriating its neighbors and when the house president said over the band’s microphone that the Dean was here and he says the music has to stop all in attendance chanted, “F___ the Dean!” and poured beer on the Campus Security officer- and (2) the occasion on a cold snowy Saturday morning of another Winter Carnival weekend when Dean of the College John Spencer and I called in an enormous earth mover (from a nearby construction site) to destroy the obscene snow sculptures (anatomically perfect) in front of the DU house first and then the Chi Psi house next, the earth mover rumbling up Main Street amid the cheers of the frat boys bedecked in bathrobes and u-trou. Ah the good old days. Then there was the raft race on Otter Creek, and the demo derby in front of one of the frat houses, and, oh yeah, the time Erica Wonnacott and I . . . .

2. What is your all time favorite Middlebury College sports memory?

Gary: If memory affords me: beating Plattsburgh in triple-overtime on their rink and driving home in a snow storm; winning our first lacrosse national championship at the University of Maryland and driving back to Midd with Mickey Heinecken; bus rides with my basketball teammates; seeing Karl on the mound.

Karl: April, 1965, Middlebury 5 – RPI 1, in baseball, the one good game I pitched in three years. Went the route, all nine innings. After the game, my new college girlfriend Anne and I went with friends down to Green Mountain Park in southern VT and enjoyed the thoroughbred races at that time  – that was a good day.

3. In one sentence, what advice would you give a newly arriving first year student?

Gary: Asking questions of your professors and deans is a strength; keep the phrase, “progress not perfection” close to your heart.

Karl: Work hard; have fun; enjoy your friends; make new ones; don’t drink too much; spread out; grow; relax; take a deep breath; enjoy your surroundings (love those semi-colons – one sentence!).

4. What influence have students had on your style as an advisor and counselor?

Gary: To listen carefully for what is said and unsaid. To being open to the unique experience of each student and the wisdom they bring.

Karl: Are you kidding – a short answer? My job(s) has been about students. I have enjoyed my constituencies. My limitations have been in administering systems. I like it when students talk to me. I try to listen and respond honestly.  At the outset, I remember what I felt as a student and what I needed so I have tried to be someone that I might have been able to talk to then, who I might have listened to, who didn’t condescend, but who leveled with me, and seemed to enjoy students, and life, who had some enthusiasm for the enterprise.

5. What is the most significant positive change you have seen at Middlebury since you graduated from the College in 1967?

Gary: That as the “Strength is in Our Hills,” it is also in the changing landscape of our contemporary students, from across the country and around the world, and in the ways they urge, require us to take each background and way of life into account.

Karl: The increased diversity in the student body, which has been the hallmark of the school’s effort and concern in all the years I’ve been here.

On Staffing, Mission, and the Challenges of Reorganization

To illuminate one aspect of the staffing changes the College has experienced during the last two years, we asked Jeff Cason, Dean of International Programs and a faculty member in the Political Science department, to describe the benefits and challenges of reorganization.


As everyone knows, we have been going through a great deal of change on campus lately as we have dealt with a reduction in staff, changing expectations about what staff should do, and reassessing what we all do, in many ways.

I have found it particularly interesting—as well as challenging and rewarding—to work with staff in the “international” area as we have dealt with the need to readjust our expectations over the last year and a half, and as we have consolidated operations in the area. In this international area, we’ve seen a staff reduction that mirrors the overall staff reduction at Middlebury, which is about 15%. This has not been easy—how could it be?

In the consolidation, we have brought together staff in the International Programs and Off-Campus Study office, the International Students and Scholar Services office, and the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs. Bringing these three areas together makes a great deal of sense, given their affinities and related and cross-cutting purposes.

The consolidation has brought both challenges and opportunities. Since we are an area of the college that has certain “non-discretionary” service requirements (we can’t stop providing services for international students who need visas to come to Middlebury, after all!), we have to figure out how to do things more efficiently, and figure out what we have done in the past that we no longer need to do.  And in some ways we are doing more.  For instance, over the last few years we have been increasing the number of students from other colleges and universities who attend Middlebury’s Schools.  This makes both financial and reputational sense for the College, so we know we will continue in this direction.

A key component of our reorganization effort has been to make sure that communication happens throughout our area and the entire organization.  We have done this by making sure that everyone is at the same table every two weeks, in a general staff meeting. While this might be seen by some as a new time commitment, by bringing colleagues together, we have been able to learn from one another and save time in other ways. At these meetings we have also increased cross-campus dialogue by inviting colleagues from other departments (most recently, the office of Student Financial Services) to meet with our full staff and discuss topics related to the entire group’s work. The individual units also continue to have their standard meetings to discuss nitty-gritty and routine work in their areas. This is still a work in progress, but we have made progress.

Very importantly, this consolidation has led to colleagues doing new things, which almost everyone has found beneficial. As one colleague put it to me in an email, responding to a query about what I might include in this post: “I think the thing most worth mentioning is how the consolidation has forced us to think differently about ‘our jobs.’ We have people who have traditionally always done certain tasks/projects, but as we consolidate, different people have been given the opportunity to dabble in areas of interest where they may not have had experience before.” Noting that there are different needs (and different crunch times) in the different offices, this staff member concluded: “The challenge is identifying these needs and availabilities and matching them with staff interests enough in advance to capitalize on the opportunities, but we’ll get better at that.”

I do think we’re getting better at that, as our staff knows more about what everyone in the broader area—and outside the area—does. It is not a simple process, of course. And it’s interesting, to say the least.

Juice Bar Competition: What Do You Want?

The deadline for submitting proposals to establish a student-managed food/drink service in the Juice Bar area of the Grille has come and gone. The competition has yielded nine outstanding proposals demonstrating the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of our students. A committee of faculty, staff, and students will convene shortly to review each proposal and select a final candidate by Monday, December 13. Proposals will be judged on the basis of their feasibility, economic viability, vision, and simplicity.

Having read through all of the proposals, I have noticed that several common (and uncommon) themes have arisen. In the beverage arena, smoothies, hot drinks (espresso, brewed coffee, and tea), beer, and wine are clear favorites among the submissions. Several proposals include a desire to also serve niche drinks, such as kombucha, bubble tea, and butterbeer (a la that bespectacled boy-wizard). As for food, there seems to be a tension between healthy fare and comfort food. Submissions include everything from Asian-inspired light meals to afternoon snacks to just desserts.

In terms of the appearance and ambience of the restaurant, students widely acknowledged the need to counterbalance the “Work Hard, Play Hard” mentality of our campus. Whether advocating for the feel of mom’s kitchen counter or a 1930’s-style jazz café, students want to develop a venue where patrons can hang-out, relax, and unwind.

There was also no shortage of ideas for what sort of entertainment should be available. Poetry readings, improv shows, classic movie screenings, theme nights, coffee tastings, board games, and especially live music top the list.

Given the array of proposals before us, it would be helpful to have a sense of what the greater community would like to see in the former Juice Bar. Even if you did not craft a proposal, you likely have an opinion about the beverages, food, entertainment, and overall atmosphere that should be offered. If the new venue is to be successful, what should be included and what should be left out?