A Rogue Campaign for NWC

Here’s a couple drone videos I produced with Northwest College in mind. In particular, the ideal audience would be for those beyond Wyoming and Montana (where the majority of our students come from)—and especially for those to the farther outreaches that are east and south of our little campus.

My funky music via Garage Band.
Winter finally arrives at Northwest College in 2020.
A gorilla billboard for Interstate 80 just beyond Laramie.

Littering misdemeanors and/or felonies

A “prairie mattress” north of Powell, Wyoming.

Littering is littering, but when it shows up in those sublime places, I believe the crime is more severe.

Not far from the Powell Municipal Airport, I can across this gem… this “Wyoming Reststop.” When I come across such overt littering/dumping like this, I always try to picture the person, and of course the first image that comes to mind is some toothless White Trash dude and his cousin. But then, I start considering a couple of college-age students who just need to get out of their apartment ASAP. Regardless, I suspect whoever is guilty of this probably is rationalizing that someone will come along and pick it up and dispose of it properly. Nevertheless, if caught in this crime, I’d like to see these people serve some jail time and booked as a felony rather than a slap-on-the-hands misdemeanor.

I might have to go up there and be the one who removes it knowing that whoever did this is likely from my home town—and God forbid I know them. So, shame on you, Powell, shame on you Wyoming for such ugliness to curse your sublime landscapes.

Everyday Dissidence: Reboot

“You are in a continuous cycle of renewal, where all you comprehend doesn’t stay unchanged for long.” 

Steven Redhead, Life Is a Dance
Drone image of Sheep Mountain Anticline near Greybull, Wyoming

This is the first post on my revamped blog. Perhaps you’ve visited the original site at everydaydissidence.blogspot.com. If so, you’ll find that all my older posts from blogger will eventually be migrated over to this site (so no content is lost), and I’ll be adding new content as well—hopefully on a more regular basis.

Same Material, New Location

Field Trip to Apollo 15 “Laboratory”

This site has at least three objectives. First, it is a laboratory for this author to learn WordPress. Although I have been dabbling around for years with various web-site-building tools, I’ve decided to jump completely in to the world of WordPress given its wide level of acceptance and usage in the profession of web design.

Secondly, in my current position as a junior college instructor of graphic design, we have revamped our web design course with WordPress as the primary tool for web design. I will confess here that the first offering of this class Spring of 2020 will be downright rough given my limited experience working with this particular software. But, I’m the only qualified instructor available at this time, so forward I go. Hopefully my design and technical background will aid somewhat in taking on this task.

Thirdly, as I come to learn more about WordPress, ultimately I will be migrating my content from Blogger to WordPress—or some other provider via the WordPress interface. In this particular case (site), my Everyday Dissidence blog. Ultimately I will also migrate my other blog on small town high school football in the same way, except that is probably even further out. For now, you can still view that site here.

But, again as far as the content of this particular site goes, it will involve quite a bit of migration and some new content related to all things suitable for “Everyday Dissidence.”

My Air Disaster Nightmares

Final Approach at San Diego.

The recent controversy and mystery involving the safety of the Boeing 737 Max jetliners had me thinking the other day. I’m unsure how many years it’s been happening, but if there has been one reoccurring dream in my life, it has to do with plane crashes—big plane crashes.

These nightmares of aircraft disasters are never the same. Sometimes I’m in the plane, other times I watch one go down just over the horizon and then see the bright light of the explosion just above the tree line with a big plume of smoke rising after. When I’m in the plane, there’s never any question about what is going to happen. A wing or engine becomes detached and the plane will slowly roll over into an inverted nosedive. I don’t recall ever hitting the ground in this scenario as I always seem to wake myself up.

I often wonder if these dreams are premonitions to something about my future, or are they simply a reference to my childhood—where I was always watching the planes fly over our house on their way to the Akron Municipal Airport—a little over a mile away. Often it appeared that the various overhead aircraft would barely clear the trees on Wirth Avenue (the last high point) before the airport. The Goodyear Blimp was a frequent overhead visitor in those days too.

I’m writing this now just in case I should perish in this way. Maybe someone will come across this writing and say, “See, he knew he would go this way!” Maybe I should have written this years ago. That said, it’s never felt as if my demise is certain in this particular manner either. 

For the record, I first flew on a plane in 1978—traveling from Columbus to Phoenix via TWA on their 727s and 707s back in the day, with a stopover in St. Louis—and have flown numerous times since. I always get a bit nervous a few days before getting on board, but once I’m in the plane and we are taxiing hard down the runway for takeoff, there’s no sense of fear. It’s just exciting and fascinating, especially if I have a window seat.

A Case Study in Higher Education Ambivalency

A small modification to NWC’s current logo.

While Northwest College wrestles with all things related to the problem of diminishing state funds and enrollment, several ideas are being tossed about the campus designed to offset these critical times of financial crisis. Almost every proposed solution has to do with cutting or merging positions by means of reorganizing or diluting in such a way that cutting and merging are facilitated.

Sadly, as we consider how to keep on doing what we’ve been doing with less, one idea that hasn’t received serious consideration (to my knowledge) is the idea of renaming/rebranding the college—a college with a name so ambiguous, so easily forgettable that it would never be missed.

The idea of “Northwest” in its name for the college came from a time when the school (or any of the other junior colleges) never looked beyond its own state’s borders—a time when the target population was mostly Wyoming based. But, as we know the times have changed, and relying on a student population that is Wyoming based is extremely short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible.

Think about it, “Northwest College.”

Is that in Washington somewhere?

No, it’s in Northwest Wyoming.

Anything else in the area that would be more unique, more recognizable in terms of association?

Well, there’s this place called Yellowstone National Park.

Is there any other institution of higher education using that moniker?

Nope.

This has innocently turned out to be a ripe textbook marketing-identity case study (or nightmare). The current school name is so timid regarding its location that when the college updated its logotype back in 2004, they added “Wyoming” underneath the school’s name. Might as well have attached the zip code too.

Even people in our own state often refer to us as “the college in Powell.” And, when they do use a name, they still get it wrong in saying “Northwest Community College.” Hell, one of my students used that old name in a short essay he wrote the other day.

Yellowstone College. It’s a slam dunk, a no-brainer, but you know, that would cost money in rebranding and whatever else associated with such a deliberate and obvious change. Nevermind that when the college moved it’s website and email address from www.northwestcollege.edu to www.nwc.edu, there was plenty of reprinting of various forms, letterheads and business cards to keep our printshop busy in the year that followed. Basically, we’ve gone through dress rehearsals like this before and barely blinked.

Saddest of all, the college used to be called Northwest Community College up until 1989. As near as I can tell, sometime before that a movement evolved (clearly “movers and shakers”) and managed to get the school renamed to Northwest College (sans “Community”). Supposedly that made things a lot better. Talk about failed rebranding testimonies.

As gutting of the institution’s public relations office continues—from nine staffers in 2010, down to six in 2018, nothing would boost enrollment numbers more than a name associated with one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. What other institution of higher learning is more entitled given the East Entrance is just over 70 miles from our campus. Instead of explaining to the whole world where and what Northwest College is, Yellowstone College would wipe away all of that unnecessary, utilitarian, and no-one-is-listening-anyway language.

Nevertheless, like all of my ideas, this one is also a bit too bold for our milquetoast institution of higher learning. So, as long as we’re keeping “Northwest College,” perhaps we can at least poke a little fun at ourselves by printing up some of those bumper stickers that ask, “Where the Hell is Northwest College?”

Postscript: Along with the gutting of the public relations office, just over a year ago the financial crisis was also the rationale stated for the sinking of the student newspaper which did as much—if not more—to promote the college.

Success in the arts: it’s more than just downright talent.

Art patrons stand before Seurat’s famed “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” in The Art Institute of Chicago.

Struggle. I’m no different. I have a good job, but I can’t take it for granted. And, many (so many) struggle much more than me… and you might not know even though you interact with them everyday. But, worst of all are those who don’t struggle, but put it out there as if they do. They seem to have plenty of leisure in their life, but avoid talking about how they do it. And, when pressed about how their lives are abundant with leisure, their answers are often rather vague or convoluted. Sometimes they’ll even throw in a smokescreen of complaints for how some things are so unaffordable. Yet, if things get bad enough wherever they are or in whatever they’re doing, they always have the ability to walk away without any repercussions. Most bothersome to me is that they aren’t nearly as self-made as they project—more like they’re just damn fortunate, but will make every attempt to claim otherwise hiding behind labels like “successful artist.”

The phrase “successful artist” (“successful photographer,” or “successful designer”) is extremely commonplace but, as of late, strike me as ambiguous and questionable. Attend an artist reception or photo lecture and you’ll likely have one of these descriptions thrown at you during the introduction of the artist/photographer. In such cases, I always wonder, what do they really mean by “successful?” Is this something that is measured in financial gain or is it simply a form of recognition for an impressive body of work?

My suspicion here is that most folk think the term “successful” used in this context is that of financial success or at least making a living from their works, and for that reason I believe such introductions or use of this term need to be more specific. Will we ever see a day when a “successful” artist or photographer provides some kind of proof (copies of their tax returns, billed accounts, etc.) that back-up such claims?

With the opening paragraph in mind, I suspect that many of these “successful” individuals are simply backed by some kind of big money—typically coming from wealthy families, or have tight connections to such families that can fund their expenses. I believe the proper term is “trust-fund baby.”

This will likely make me unpopular, but—for illustrative purposes and to fortify my last paragraph—I have wondered often about the success of the late and highly-touted Cody photographer Bobby Model. Reading his obit, he seems pretty straight-forward in terms of his dedication for photography and no doubt, he was a decent guy who had his heart in the right places. Yet, I’ve often wondered did his photographic work truly keep him afloat given his world travels as a freelance photographer? He has often been wrongly associated as a National Geographic photographer. Even in his father’s Wikipedia bio, it says, “He was the father of the late Bobby Model, who was an internationally known photographer for National Geographic.” However, Bobby Model was only published in National Geographic and in 2006 was selected by the magazine as a top “emerging explorer”—I’m pretty sure he was never on NG’s payroll.

So then, just how did Bobby Model actually fund his photo gigs if he wasn’t employed as a regular shooter for some major media outlet? Search the internet and you have to dig a little to find out that Model’s father is Robert Model, son of Faith Rockefeller Model. That’s right, Rockefeller… and not just any Rockefeller. Bobby Model is the great-great grandson of the Standard Oil tycoon, William Rockefeller. For whatever reason, this little gem of family information isn’t included in any of the glowing biographies about the talented photographer. Do you suppose that some of this family money might have assisted Model in his world travels when the paying photo assignments were thin? Think of what you might do if Rockefeller money was backing your artistic endeavors.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe Bobby Model really did gut it out on his own without any assistance from the family trust. But let’s face it, when one is an heir to a family called Rockefeller, such doubt will always exist.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably concluded that I don’t have much love for someone like Bobby Model, or those who have financial resources to back their projects whether they’re successful or not. I’d admit to jealousy more than simply disliking such individuals. But the truth is, such scenarios have existed for ages. Influential and history-changing names like Gutenberg, Columbus, Du Pont, Kennedy and Bush had financial backing from the beginning without having to do much scrapping to access the cash they needed to get their projects off the ground. And many of these individuals did great things from their financially-privileged status. So, I’m not here to condemn such lives. I just don’t think misleading the public about one’s “success” is cool. There’s nothing wrong with being a recipient of such wealth, but at least own it. I certainly would.

I suppose being some kind of “recipient” is relative. I may not be receiving financial backing from the Sam Walton family, but whatever merits I would receive as a “successful” artist (should that day come), I would be obligated to at least acknowledge my income as an educator because that has allowed me to be active in the arts, while it has also provided me far more art contacts than if I was a stocker for the local grocery store.

In short, if financial backing was their from the get-go, a “successful” artist should acknowledge it rather than project an image as if they are cut from the same cloth as a self-made success like Phil Knight (the guy who started Nike).

Considering all the great, undiscovered artists and photographers that are out there right now, surely any one of them could be a household name if they had the financial backing from someone like the Rockefellers.

This kind of thing happens at all levels of affluence too. A few years ago, there was a young photographer working the sidelines at local sporting events. He paraded around at these venues with camera equipment that matched or exceeded what other professionals carried around on the sidelines. Yet, his classmates on the yearbook and school newspaper staff were shooting with very modest equipment. Why did he get the nice equipment while his classmates were limited to the low-end equipment? Simple, because he is from an affluent family—one that owns a newspaper and is relatively wealthy. Is he a better shooter than his peers? Maybe. But, until his peers have the same opportunities to work with the same equipment, we’ll never know. Yet, because he was given the “inside track” during his development, I’m sure he’ll be promoted as a fine shooter and in time, even take his place as a photographer for his family’s newspaper (if he so desires).

To take this subject-matter one step further, even fame from other areas can benefit an aspiring artist. Actor Jeff Bridges (the son of a the self-made, famous actor Lloyd Bridges) comes to mind for his photography and music. Prince Charles, George W. Bush, along with actors Jim Carrey, and  Steve Martin are also known for their paintings. Yet would we know of their artworks if not for the initial fame?

You hear a lot about White privilege these days, but what we’re talking about here is quintessential privilege.

Even in our smallest communities, there are many talented and worthy artist out there that we may never know only because they aren’t famous for something else, or they’re not trust-fund babies.

Related: Confessions of a Trust-Fund Baby

Remembering Mrs. Brazil

Morgan in 2nd grade, a year after learning to read and write from Mrs. Brazil.

What a time to be alive in America—to believe in America.

Having just celebrated Dr. King’s 80th birthday, swelling in the background for the entire week was the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about the business of celebrating on that pseudo-double-barrell holiday. Dr. King and President Obama reminded us about the importance of public service, but I couldn’t help but reflect on those of African-American descent who have touched my life over the years. Too bad for me that such individuals are so few. Yet, I’m the only one to blame for such an abbreviated list.

It was only a couple weeks ago that I remembered Mrs. Brazil, and because of these recent events, for the first time I saw her in a new light.

I never gave much thought about her as an African-American. And, to be sure, no one in my family let it be known to me that (in 1966) my foundation for reading and writing were being shaped by an African-American woman. Yes, I owe my humble beginnings in reading and writing to my first grade teacher, Mrs. Brazil.

Up until now, I’ve been rather oblivious to the unique scenario that had shaped my early years—especially in light of those tumultuous times. Only three years earlier the racial atrocities were recorded regarding the 16 Street Baptist Church in Alabama and not long after 1966, Dr. King was gone.

So, folded in between all of this racial strife, a bunch of young White kids growing up in an all-White neighborhood of East Akron, Ohio, were given the first tools of reading and writing by an African-American woman—tools that have defined the inner core of any civilization.

What a contrast from Kindergarten with Mrs. Scheatzle to the first grade with Mrs. Brazil. Mrs. Scheatzle was a petite and attractive Anglo woman who spoke calmly and evenly. When I walked into Mrs. Brazil’s class on the that first day of the first grade, I knew I had graduated. She was a smart dresser, but she was big enough to play linebacker with Ray Nitschke of the Green Bay Packers (or so it seemed). In short, she was no Mrs. Scheatzle. Mrs. Brazil was gentle with us to be sure, but her voice was capable of booming across the room and she had a great, uninhibited laugh. Occasionally, when we started to become unruly she would settle us down by reminding us that we weren’t in Kindergarten anymore. She conducted that class as if she were holding court.

In reflecting on that time, the other day I called my mother to see if there was anything she remembered that may have been too harsh for a first grader like myself to comprehend. She only remembers the surprise to hear about Brazil’s assignment as a teacher at Ritzman Elementary where I was entering the first grade. Both of us suspect that she may have been the first non-White to teach there—and long before any African-American children attended as students. Regardless, my mother couldn’t recall any controversy regarding Mrs. Brazil at Ritzman and only remembers her as a caring and friendly teacher who would call the house to check on my status when I’d been sick and away from school.

I hold a certain sadness today in that I don’t know what became of Mrs. Brazil, nor do I know how many years she actually taught at Ritzman. I suspect it wasn’t very long because I don’t recall being aware of her presence by the time I was in the fifth grade—the last year I attended Ritzman. Like many of my former teachers, I truly regret not knowing what paths she pursued after sharing the 1966-67 academic year with her. I never learned her given name either.

Today, I find myself wondering what pressures and anxieties she experienced as a teacher working at a school that was 100% White way back then? I can’t imagine it was as innocent and uneventful for her as it appeared from my first-grade perspective. How did such an assignment even come about? Whatever racial tensions she may have experienced, tolerated, suffered, it never showed. Yet, I have to wonder what would a first grader really notice? For me, she was competent, effective and influential as a first grade teacher. What more has ever been required?

Perhaps even more perplexing is that I don’t recall any of the kids from the other classes saying anything about Mrs. Brazil while on the playground or in route to and from school. And the kids attending Ritzman were hardly angels—many used the various inappropriate and offensive names for those of colour and other nationalities. In fact, I remember hearing more jokes about Poles than any other race or nationality.

The fact that my first grade experience with Mrs. Brazil was racially uneventful is probably a credit to my parents who never demonized Blacks or used any of the derogatory, popularized-by-Whites terms for African-American people, although several members of our extended family did—and probably still do to this day.

I’ve told many people over the years about Mrs. Brazil—not because she was African-American, but because she always called me “Tyree”—my surname. I thought that was cool because my brother and his friends in high school always called each other by their last names and suddenly, my teacher was as cool as they were.

As it turned out, sometime later in the year, she pulled me aside and apologized when she realized that my given name was actually “Morgan.” I’m pretty certain I told her it was OK, but had I a little more courage, I would have told her I preferred to be called “Tyree” all along.

On this week when we’ve celebrated the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the swearing in of Barack Obama as our 44th President, I’d like to look her in the eye and thank her for being such a powerful and influential force in my early years. Maybe I could even have her read this essay and offer me a little feedback on my writing one last time.