|So menacing is he, that no one will sit near him|
Board President Don Wagner harassed by bumble bee
That’s the bad news, I suppose. The good news is that today’s “Chancellor’s opening session” was the best such session to be seen in many years.
It really helped that Fuentes and Williams were absent. No sulfur stink. No milk mustache.
Lang, pretending not to be the kind of guy who will sell out his friends for career opportunities, gave an "invocation" that seemed to be entirely unreligious. So it really wasn't an invocation, if you ask me. Is that good? Not sure.
Wagner was on hand, of course, looking pretty strong for a guy who’s been through hell. He even managed to be funny (albeit still a bit dark; he provided the only rays of darkness during the 90-minute event; he can't help being just a tad menacing).
Marcia Milchiker, Dave Lang, and Wagner were the only trustees to show, which is a first. It’s been a while since Williams has missed one of these things. He’s seriously into milk and cookies, I guess.
Here’s a quick rundown of what happened today. I missed the first minute or so. Don’t know what happened then. Like I said, Lang gave an invocation that didn’t seem to invoke anybody, but it was nice, if bland. (To the extent that it was an invocation, it was non-nice.)
Mr. Bob Bramucci did his usual whizbangery in what he called a “Tech Check.” We’ve been upgraded to Blackboard 9.1, he said, and it is packed with fabulous prizes. If you’ve got an iPad, you can connect to all sorts of things of importance, district/college-wise, said Bob.
He showed us some “IVC aps” for the iPhone that seemed pretty cool. You can look up anybody and get their contact info. You can search the schedule of courses; you can get directions—complete with GPS that tracks you like some kinda perp.
There’s something called PUSH BI, which seemed pretty good, if you’re into WSCH and that sort of thing. Evidently, our district, along with the usual suspects (Ivy League colleges, UCI) were honored for being really good at something. Tech stuff I guess. Not sure. Big applause.
Bramucci did his usual thing with funny pics from off the web: cats, dogs, drunk people. It was all in good fun. No Elvis sightings.
Then he strapped on his eeelectric guitar and did his schtick, which is pretty schticky, if you ask me, but still pretty dang entertaining. He managed to find excuses to play riffs from “Seven Nation Army,” “Day Tripper,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Walk This Way,” “Purple Haze,” “More Than a Feeling,” and so on. He was like one of those old K-Tell commercials. A cavalcade of super-hot riffulosity!
He must be a seriously hammy guy. The audience gobbled it up. The jokes were corny and the audience loved that too.
Prez Burnett and Prez Roquemore took turns introducing new faculty. All in all, about twenty-five of ‘em got up there to take their bows and get their grin 'n' grips. They didn't drag it out, which is good. Nice pacing.
Next came Vice Chancellor of Business-Whatever David Bugay—seems like a great guy—and another one of his eccentric-yet-homespun but highly entertaining showlettes. He called it, “Going to the top: a living mosaic.” That didn’t sound good.
But I think it was good. In his odd way, he is a bold fellow.
He started with images concerning the issues of our day, our worry and uncertainty, etc. He moved on to issues in the district: What’s with ATEP? Facilities funding. The Chancellor search.
But then he offered a series of “encounters” with clusters of students, faculty, classified, administrators, et al., as a janitor swept in the background and the screen displayed big letters and goofy images.
Bugay is good at this sort of thing. He puts on a good show.
The running gag was his asking students, as they walked away, “Where you goin’?”, and the kid always says, “Why, I’m going to the top!” Then said kid walked over to some stairs to nowhere on the right side of the stage.
“It’s about students going to the top," chirped the Vice Chancellor, repeatedly. That sounded uncomfortably close to one of Mathur’s mantras. But the series of charmingly fake encounters (including one with his own son, who asked for twenty bucks) seemed to work very well anyway.
Wagner then came up to speak, and he was a little menacing (it’s a subtle thing), as he always is, but he was funny, too. (You don't need to be menacing, Don.) He started off with a dig at Raghu Mathur: “Remember when the Chancellor’s opening session was all about Elvis? What do you think of this?”
Don and Co. pulled it off, I think. It was indeed a new kind of opening session. A friendly one. A “great step up from Elvis,” as Wagner put it. And it was.
Wagner was keenly aware that this was his last opening session (what with his big Assembly race and likely victory in November). He made a point of thanking everybody. He said it was an “honor and a priviledge” to be involved in a “small way” in what the district does. I think he meant it.
That’s when David Bugay kept gesturing at Wagner, annoying him (you know Don). I almost ran over to do a body block, but, finally, it became clear that the Wag-Man was being investigated by a persistent bumble bee, who had lit on his shoulder. The bee soon took flight, but then commenced buzzing around Don’s head. He/she seemed especially interested in Don’s hair. The dang thing seemed intent on buzzing the fellow--just like those old planes surrounding the Empire State Building in "King Kong." It was way cool.
But Don rolled with the punches. “It didn’t happen in rehearsal!” he joked, good naturedly. The bee finally went off to bug somebody else.
Next, we were entertained by a fake live conversation with Acting Chancellor Dixie Bullock, vacationing in St. Petersburg, Russia. She filled the screen, standing on the banks of a river. It looked like Russia all right. Pretty dreary. We could hear traffic noise. Dead Russians floated by.
Naturally, the whole thing was taped, but Wagner (and Bullock) did a pretty good job seeming to have a live conversation, just like on CNN. “Yes,” said Dixie to Don’s first question, “I started as a faculty member.” But he hadn’t asked a yes/no question. Pretty funny.
What are your plans?, asked Don.
Stability and civility in the district, said Dixie.
There was a big technical snafu. Don ad libbed: “No, Dixie, go on, really!”
Fortuitously, the signal was then restored, more or less. She talked a bit about the value of civility, a theme touched on earlier by Bugay. She said we oughta so hello when we pass people on campus. “A pleasant verbal greeting will make our day going right!” she chirped. (She sounded exactly like Sue-Ann Nivens.)
Just then, the technical glitch returned, and, for a brief second or two, she sounded just like a freakin' chipmunk. She’s already a very popular gal, but, owing to this chipmunk episode, her popularity will no doubt reach new heights.
Don smiled a winning smile.
We can be Number 1. We’re not far from it now!, said Dixie.
Well, then came the “issuing of pins,” an absurd ritual the premise of which is: the longer you maintain your job in the district, the more impressive you are. I don't get it. Some people seem actually to enjoy this exercise, including the recipients, who often beamed with pride.
And that was it. —RB