I dread hearing that nasal voice in the morning, interrupting the pleasant newscast of Morning Edition. “Hi, this is Alan,” he says. We’re all on a first name basis, apparently, with Northeast Public Radio’s resident megalomaniac, Dr. Alan Chartock.
Chartock is the President and CEO of WAMC Public Radio, which is based in Albany and comprised of eleven radio stations across a large swath of the Northeast. For some of this area, WAMC is the sole NPR affiliate within listening range. In the age of smartphone apps that allow us to listen to any station across the country, maybe this matters less than it once did, but I’m reasonably confident that many people, like me, still listen to the actual radio at least in the car. I’m saved from the WAMC monopoly by the small section of Williamstown that receives Vermont Public Radio—wonderful, unbiased VPR. Unfortunately, this area does not include my bedroom, where my morning listening habits give rise to my dread of that voice.
I strongly believe that everyone should have access to impartial public radio coverage, the antithesis of what WAMC provides. Continue Reading →
I cleaned the Governor’s nose today. I teased a small piece of cotton off a large sheet, rolled it around a stick, and dipped it into a solvent that is slowly, very slowly, removing the layer of shellac from the Governor’s face, turning it from a John Boehner-esque orange to a relatively naturalistic shade. As part of my art history degree, I am working on a conservation project at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. The object I have chosen to rehabilitate is an 1863 portrait of Edwin Morgan, then the governor of New York State. Over the past few months of work, he has come a long way from the condition in which I received him, though he remains far from exhibitable. We have spent a lot of time, together, the Governor and I, and I have come to think of him as a friend.
I have already gone over nearly every inch of the canvas—which measures about 3.5 x 4.5 feet—with cotton swabs and various solvents, cleaning off layers of grime and the aforementioned, tenacious shellac. I have spent hours alone with the governor, guiding my swabs in tiny, gentle, circular motions across the surface to liberate the brushwork of the assumed artist, Asa Twitchell. Until last week, however, I have left his face alone, not wanting to disturb his distinguished looking sideburns, his authoritative stare. Continue Reading →
I am spending the day at “Thesis Boot Camp”—organized by Williams College mostly for seniors, but also open to the scant grad students to whose ranks I belong—in hopes that it will knock me into some form of productivity. In the past days and weeks, I have fallen into a routine wherein I sit all day in my library carrel, kept toasty by my space heater, and pretend to work. I read a few pages, take a few notes, then check the New York Times and a series of blogs. Perhaps Twitter. I find an interesting article, then another, maybe not so interesting; I promise myself that I will start working in earnest at 10:00…10:30…11:00.
I had hoped that being surrounded by hardworking college seniors, away from the unsupervised isolation of my carrel, would guilt me into working, at the very least because they might see my computer screen. With this in mind, I have disabled my wifi, but not before loading a PDF of David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” I’ll just read this before I start writing, I say, ashamed that I have never read it before. I argue to myself that reading some exemplary prose will help my own creative process, and besides, the other students around will have no idea the scholarly-looking text on my screen pertains in no way to my Qualifying Paper, the deadline for which is sneaking up on me with frightening rapidity.
Typing this post in my word-processing software, too, appears work-like, and I am even now amazed at the lengths to which I will go to thwart my own self-imposed restrictions. Some boot camp this is, with only me to serve as my own drill sergeant. Surely, now that I’ve finished writing this, I think, I will get down to work, and the brilliantly formulated sentences will fly out of my fingertips like so many locusts plaguing the Egyptians.
 I had optimistically assumed that the building housing “Thesis Boot Camp” would be uneconomically warm inside on this day the NPR weatherman described as “bitterly cold.” But I’ve ruined that for everyone; early in the morning, when I was the only person occupying this back room the woman in charge asked me if the temperature was acceptable. Still adjusting from outside, I said it was fine before realizing it was in fact not, and now I am shivering in my down coat, fingers crossed that someone else will note the frigid temperature to her.
 Are they, though?