Provocative Interpretive Signs?

July 2, 2014

Provocative Interpretive Signs?

A popular comedian states, “Here’s your sign.” when indicating that the obvious is staring one in the face. Often we are uncomfortable in stating we see the sign and other times we are so engrossed in so many other thoughts and distractions we are oblivious to the apparent sign staring us in the face.

In this troubled time of budgetary constraints and depletions I find myself working at an antique store owned by good friends. This is patently a distressful situation for an historian and professional interpreter to find himself; handling, talking about , educating, interpreting, and selling of the materials of bygones years. (I shall not state of bygone cultures as so many items within the store are items I am familiar through personal use or association).

My interaction with the potential buyers begins at the door, a greeting is given, eye contact is made, inquiries are made if there are special needs or desires, (as with so many sites I have worked, better than 50% immediately ask for the restrooms), and the offering of further assistance is insured. The door locale is also the last aspect of the visitors experience, whether through sales, information of other like sites and places to eat, camp, sleep, or to visit.

And though this sounds like any other service industry, that locale by the door, allows me my first opportunity to observe and better interact with each person who enters Rocky Mountain Antiques.

It is here I become aware of many visitors’ backgrounds, interests, and personal lives.

Various T shirts with numerous logos provoke conversations; “You ride motorcycles?” , “ When did you visit Mount Rushmore?”, “Is this you first time to Estes Park?”, &c. All common openings we have been taught to utilize in better knowing who we are meeting and to make the visitor feel at ease.

Occasionally we are posed with ‘signs’ that many are reluctant to use; not me.

Recently a gentleman enter with his wife. Each sported a T shirt with the following statement plastered on the back of the shirts, “Get your Butt Rubbed in Milliken”. Now that’s provocative. It grabbed my attention and drew us into a quick conversation. The simple explanation, they own and operate Rubbin Buttz BBQ in Millikin, Colorado. I expressed I thought it was a grand slogan and we started talking about how the town of Milliken supported their use of the slogan and how they sponsored a great many activities in the town. As the gentleman walked away I spotted another ‘sign’ that really caught my attention. The gentleman had lost his left leg, not an unusual thing for me to see these days, but it was his remaining leg that transfixed me. There, on his calf was a large arrow pointing to his artificial limb with some writing above the arrow. I had to ask, “What does the tattoo say?”

“I’m with stumpy.” was the reply.

Excellent!

A full hour ensued with inquiries about the loss of the leg (Stumpy), when it occurred, and how he came up with the very interesting ‘sign’ he posted on his right calf. That is how I met and learned that the gentleman lost his leg in service to our country, his recovery aspects at the field hospital, Germany, Walter Reed, and here at home, his humor in dealing with a difficult physical issue, and how he was tired of seeing folks staring and not taking the time to ask about his injury. So, the resultant tattoo, “I’m with Stumpy”.

Not only did I get a good chuckle I gained a new friend and an invitation to the restaurant. Not bad for asking about the use of three words, “I’m with Stumpy”

We get trained, train others and retrain on how to use ‘signs’ , physical and intangible, to initiate conversations, relationships, and deep interactions with visitors, but too often we are too shy, too PC, too hesitant to utilize all that is offered us.

When we take to the field we need to better train ourselves to take chances, to better ourselves in recognizing the gifts that our visitors offer and to better ourselves through recognizing our mistakes and improving ourselves with our foibles and strengths. Even when overwhelmed with numbers of visitors, it is our obligation to not think of them as a horde, but to note each as an individual so that we might better serve them, our sites, and our fields.

So, “Here’s your sign…”

John C.F. Luzader
Vice President of Programs

To Honor…

To Honor …

I wish to go off my normal tract this month.

June 6th Marks the 70th. anniversary of the Normandy landings. Seventy years since so many men went bravely onto the beaches and dropped into the back lands of Normandy to do battle. Seventy years since thousands stood and defended the Atlantic Wall that those Allied soldiers, sailors, and airman attacked.

There will be thousands going to the site to honor those that fought and hundreds that will be there as living history interpreters that wish to illustrate the conflict, its tools and combat techniques, as well as to lead tours and answer questions.

My father was an I & R (Intelligence and Reconnaissance) soldier attached to the 2nd Rangers (of “Finding Private Ryan” fame), that climbed the cliffs of Pont Du Hoc. I will allow you to take the time and effort to seek the history of these brave men. He had trained, lived with, partied, and knew so many of the young men that did not come back from that part of the battle. He has never fully recited his experiences on that section of the battle field. When consulting with the aforementioned film, he had a break down that caused him to seek mental and spiritual aid for many months. During that time my understanding of what one man experienced in such circumstances increased a thousand fold, both through sessions with him and research through speaking with others who served with him and official records.

Those patch work explorations provided a better understanding of the ‘whole’ that his one man lived through that day. Nearly all were moments of fear, distress, adrenalin rushed moments, sorrow, anger, fatigue, and relief. There were moments of humors as well; the moment father swallowed his plug of tobacco, which, ironically, he was chewing to relieve him of seasickness, his remembering the German soldier who was manning his machine gun in his underwear, (father has stated he kept wondering if the man was getting his legs burned by the expelled and hot shells as they fell around the soldiers feet, and the moment father and two others found a bottle of wine in a bunker that, in the middle of the battle they tiffed over in who now owned the prize.

There were far too many moments of battle strung horror that still haunt my father’s dreams.

He is but one of thousands, Allied troops and defenders who had stories to tell and memories to keep.

Most are now gone and those that remain soon will join their brethren in the place of peace reserved for all warriors who have already seen purgatory.

How do we interpret those stories? Do the complete narrations come through with a costumed interpreter? How does that person truly tell the whole story when the concentration only covers that specific moment in time and does not tell the aftermath, good and bad. Do static displays truly convey the personal emotions experienced at that moment in time. Do we need more interpretations of the families of both sides as they receive word that a loved one died on that day? Do parades, celebrations, expressions of gratitude express enough of the tale? Will the public who walk those shores and cliffs, truly better understand the lives of those involved?

These are questions I have examined through 50 years of living history costumed interpretation, whether I am presenting my field of study, the American Civil War, or daily life in a new Colorado town in the 1880′s. I have many opinions but not full concrete answers. I do know that it goes far beyond entertainment or, if you will, “interpretainment”. I know that , as interpreters, we are obligated not to forget those that went before us, or to make a mockery of their lives.

Above the beaches of Normandy sit numerous graves, graves of thousands from a multitude of nations who did not leave the battlefields of Europe. There are many such sites throughout the world honoring men and women who have given “ the last full measure and who are slumbering among their comrades.

At these sites are many who interpret, guide, and assist those who come to honor those who rest beneath the soil.

It is hear I have witnessed some of the most impressive interpretation of the conflict of war: complete contemplative silence.

These moments have been some of the most provoking and impressive moments I have seen in interpretation. And whether it is above Normandy, Sharpsburg, Grafton, West Virginia, Auschwitz, Dachau, the Arizona, Omdurman, or any of the conflictual sites and cemeteries I have visited, I have seen amazing moments that honor the past and the men and women who lived those moments.

So I offer you, the reader, a moment to reflect on what this single date offers us to remember; the moment that changed a world’s history.

To my father, thank you and to my eldest daughter, Heather, I can not express to you how much it meant to your grandfather that you were born on that date, when his years had been filled with dread in recalling what he had witnessed at Normandy, and how he could celebrate the 37th anniversary of D-Day with your birth and look forward to the day, June 6th, without fear.

In honor to all who sacrificed that day, on both sides. In honor to those who were there and survived, contributing so much. In honor of all their families.

John C.F. Luzader

Vice President of Programs

A Strong Foundation

A Strong Foundation

This missive needs a bit of a preface.

On the night of September 12/13 of last year we experienced a major flood throughout the front range of Colorado. The property that I live on lies along the Thompson River and we endured , like so many others, the affects of the flood on the Thompson. Though we keep our house the structure suffered roof damage from the accompanying storm and we fought the issue of black mold, loss of electricity, loss of acreage, trees, a well house, and since our return in January, water that comes from the rebuilt well house that is the color of strong tea.

There have been other issues that have kept us from our home these past few months as well, but that is another story for another time.

The reconstruction and rehabilitation that has taken place, and continues to take place, along the river changes the entire dynamics and ecology of area creating a new evolving ‘normal’ to the arena. Beyond the physical remains of debris, the damages from the flood, the sand and silt and rocks, and the continuous sounds of reconstruction from heavy machinery, there is the emotional rehabilitation that occurs in living in what is, in effect, a disaster zone.

I am far from being the only person that has suffered so and as the news continues to report new calamities of flooding, fires, tornadoes, war, earthquakes, et al, it is obvious that many will have similar experiences and tales to relate as I.

It is difficult to find one single aspect that I can address in relating any aspect of the past seven and a half months that might reflect the turmoil that any go through under these circumstances. However, this past weekend offered an example.

The property I live upon was bought and built upon by my wife’s grandfather. He built here when he was the minister to the woman’s facility across the river that was owned and operated by Cotner College, so many decades ago. He and his wife cleared the land, built the house, and established a family ‘homestead’ here. It is now owned as family property to be maintained for generation after generation. The facility across the river was purchased by one of his former employees and became Sylvan Dale Dude Ranch in 1946. It is still a dude ranch owned by that same family. Upon these properties a number of fruit trees were planted in the 1920′s. Most are now gone with the few remaining tress acting as sentinels to the past. One such tree is on our property.

One of the changes that took place with the flood and its aftermath was the loss of a number of trees along the river basin that protected properties from the very high winds that flow down the canyon. These winds regularly reach seventy to eighty miles an hour during periods in the Spring and Winter. One such wind storm came through the canyon this past week and struck our property and tore that sole surviving heritage apple tree that sits near our home. The two main branches that came up from the trunk were torn asunder from the trunk.

Five generations of my wife’s family have picked fruit from that tree. Squirrels, birds, and five generations of my wife’s family, including my wife, my children, and my grandchildren, have played among its branches, sat on its man frame, posed for pictures, swung from its branches and had it as part of heir lives.

Now all that remains is a single section of its trunk, a trunk that sits on a good foundation of soil and stone that resisted the gale force winds.

That sound so final and sad.

But, the story continues. Much like the foundation that my wife’s grandfather established for his family on this land, a foundation of a center, of faith, of ‘homestead’ and of continuance of family lives, the trunk of the tree still lives. It has gone through trauma, trauma that many would consider cause for its destruction, but it lives. Spouts and shoots already were started on the trunk and they are in flower promising renewal.

With care and attendance we are hoping that those indications of renewed life will thrive and grow allowing future generations to once again play among its branches and garner fruit from its limbs. It will be a different tree, maybe stronger, or weaker, but it will be from the same foundation of that planting from the 1920′s that has been a part of this family’s lives for nearly 100 years. More than likely my wife and I will never sit again on an outreaching limb from that trunk, nor will we set a swing on a branch to swing any child. However, my grandchildren might do so, and their children’s children and so forth. All because it sits on a strong foundation.

Here’s the lesson part; so much of what we do as interpreters and administrators and consultants is to build a strong foundation for the future. We should expect; no, we should desire evolution, change and growth from any program, event, site, and organization we create. It is not important that everything stays the same, but only that we establish a strong ethical foundation that future generations may look to and thank us for creating.

John C.F. Luzader

Vice President of ProgramsImage

Passion! : A gift and a curse.

 

When I was being trained by Freeman Tilden he emphasized and re-emphasized the importance of passion in the fields of interpretation. But what happens when passion becomes a detriment, or blockage in productivity.
As a historian my primary passion is the past. As the son of a historian, that passion was infused in me through osmosis by my father and his associates. I was mentored that history is important to all societies in order to better understand ourselves, the processes of how we became what we are and to set the foundations of what we will become. It is important that we maintain as true a recitation of all perspectives of our pasts as is possible in order to better know ourselves.

However, the process can also be detrimental to us when we become stuck in an unchanging and
un-reassessing view of the past. In programming we see it when events, displays, and ideas are consistently static; the same presentations and demonstrations being performed year after year without change with the common remark, “ but the people like it.”
Too often, it is just easier to not put the effort forward to better research and present the interpretive materials and programs.

In structural aspects of agencies and organizations we often find ourselves stuck in the history of the system, citing and re-citing the manner is which the organization was founded, developed and brought into action. We often witness ourselves becoming bogged down in the past of how things have “always been done” when we examine the needs of administrating and creating policies of an association in rapidly changing times.
We are an association caught in the flux of dynamical modification. We are needing to reexamine the ‘how and whys’ of what we are and how we can improve ourselves each and every day. The development and recreating of our strategic plan and how the organization functions is part of that change as are how we fund ourselves, conduct business, and provide services to our membership.
We can expect changes in workshops, how we communicate, what services NAI provides and how we recruit and seek new members.
It is a time not to get stuck in the history of the past; to remember it and understand it, yes, but to be flexible enough to understand how to evolve for the future of the organization, its fields, and its life. Let’s use our passions for the love of the fields of interpretation and NAI to better ourselves and not allow impassioned responses deter our growth.

John C.F. Luzader, Vice President of Programs

Fixing NAI’s Past Failure

It was 60 years ago this year when the first group of our elders came together to talk about forming a group that would organize to represent this thing called interpretation. Rey Carlson of Indiana University was the host, and Bradford Woods was the location. This initial meeting led to other gatherings that eventually led a few years later to the founding of the Association of Interpretive Naturalists. About this time, a group of like-minded interpretive siblings on the west coast of the U.S. had similar desires and founded the Western Interpreters Association.

By now, most heritage interpreters, NAI members or not, have likely heard various stories of those early years. Faded photographic images make their rounds in related textbooks, videos and other historical venues giving us an idea of what it looked and felt like in the beginning. So many great names have been associated and identified with those old meetings. So many more names are not so well known, but their contribution to our evolution is real. The reality is that there have been so many that have been a part of our “Tribe”. So many stories about so many adventures exist in our rich history. So many in our past have done so much in this thing called interpretation, which is usually both a vocation and an avocation.   So many good people before us have and so many good people currently are “doing” good, and some great, interpretation.

And yet, looking at our 60th year, and looking at all we have done as an organized group of interpreters, we may have ultimately failed in our effort. We may have done great things “at” our profession, but how have well have we done things “for” our profession? I am afraid, that question might not yield a very gracious picture.

In our 60 years, tens, perhaps hundred thousands of the tribe have motivated, provoked, excited, and advocated for our universe’s historical, cultural, natural and physical resources. We have connected many people with the inherent stories of existence on this earth and emboldened many to broaden their perspectives on their lives.

But what have we done for our profession? Have we elevated the status of our Tribe in our respective work places? How much more are heritage interpreters respected in agencies or organizations? Is heritage interpretation in the mainstream of management objectives of resource agencies? How much in the public lexicon do we find “heritage interpretation?” Do members of the Tribe feel more secure about their status because of NAI?

Here is the question I raise – should we not be better recognized, compensated, or appreciated after 60 years of organized existence? Reality seems to indicate that, despite all of our apparent success, organization and growth, NAI has not been a forceful enough voice for the Tribe.

Do not fret as all is not lost. We can still build on the foundation established by our predecessors. We can and we must take the initiative now and elevate the global status of heritage interpretation. But we must do it now! I propose that we look at the next 60 years and direct our efforts to excel our professional progeny to better the status of the Tribe. We do not want to look back and make the same assessment we are making now. It is time to change.

Here is how we can do it. NAI is actively mapping out the strategic future of our Tribe. I suggest that NAI make a focused, purposeful and directed effort to develop, advance and promote heritage interpretation into the mainstream of everyday life. For this, we must establish NAI as the voice to advocate for heritage interpretation and heritage interpreters. It must be NAI’s purpose to empower interpreters to become a stronger voice as advocates for our cultural, natural and global resources. NAI itself must be empowered to be the advocate and activist source for interpreters and interpretation.

The time is right for us to pull the pin on the proverbial grenade of growth and prominence to enter a new era of what our elders came to imagine in 1954.  It is time to raise our voices! 

May the Tribe increase…. no… May the Tribe Evolve!

  

Cem Basman, PhD, CIT, CIP

NAI Vice President for Administration

Past and Present

Past to Present

Last week one of my heroes passed from this world into another.

In the 60′s and 70′s I was a “Folkie”; a listener and follower of the Weavers, the Mitchell Trio, New Christy Minstrels, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, Paul and Mary with a sprinkling of Three Dog Night and Crosby, Stills,Nash, and Young. Leading the pack was Pete Seeger, ‘apprentice’ of Woody Guthrie and mentor to so many of us.

Pete Seeger was a leader in our emotional and actual participation in proactive challenges to the ‘norm’ and instigator and mentor to peaceful protests. I was fortunate in seeing him not only in concert, but in protests actions, not as a ‘star supporter’ but as one with the masses. 

His music transcended beyond just music and into the realms of political and environment activist, humorous, historian, lecturer, and , in my opinion, and interpreter.

I can not adequately describe the emotions and excitement of being in a mass of people, marching on Washington and singing in a syncopated unison, “We shall over come” inspired by the song’s Creator. It is a moment that can never be adequately recreated for the simple fact that we can never clone the emotions involved in the participation of public protests when being watched and surveyed  by law enforcement and the media: fear, excitement, the feeling of being part of a greater whole, and camaraderie.

I shall miss him.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the entity that represents public media: Facebook. I am still amazed at the ability that organization provided and still provides in reuniting and introducing people, organizations and ideas to people worldwide. It is a resource that I have regularly utilized and that made me better prepared in using other newer media resources. It seems so new and yet now has a decade of history behind it.

Through Facebook I have promoted sites, organizations, and events, and, been reunited with friends four decades after I last saw them. It is something I never thought I would witness.

Both these past and the present experiences offer grand interpretive moments. Each provoked new thoughts, new actions, and new visions. Each proved that there are no real ‘norms’ in the world, but that the world can be changed dramatically by just one person.

“We shall overcome…”.

 

John C.F. Luzader  Vice President of Programs

 

 

What do you know – iChanged!

As the hype and circumstance of this season’s Super Bowl slowly engulfs our lives, I am taken aback by the fact that it was 30 years ago that the legendary and iconic Apple Computer Company aired its one-time commercial introducing the Macintosh computer. It was also the year I recall having hovered over the Macintosh display at my local computer store, harangued by friends who already owned one, until I could no longer resist and caved in to the pull of the cult. I purchased my first Mac. It was 1984 and I knew what I had become an unmistakable Mac-o-phile! 

 

For thirty years I unabashedly spewed the virtues of anything Apple and eschewed anything associated with a “PC” identity. The latter were infidels to my cozy and familiar iWorld. Being an “early adaptor” type, I pooled available, or at times unavailable, resources to keep up with the latest innovation my brothers and sisters at Apple had newly designed for me. It wasn’t often that you caught me with a past version (v.) or previous model of any Apple related soft or hardware. Once, I even wrote a grant that allowed me to purchase the very first Mac laptop – right off the fabrication line. It cost over $5,000 and had 20 megabytes of storage, 2 megabytes of memory and weighed as much as a toddler. I knew I had the world by its tail. In fact, that laptop was actually faster and more powerful than the mainframe computer at Colorado State University for the first few months I had it. University technicians would visit my office to lust and drool over this piece of masterful machinery.

 

I went through generations of Mac computers (the short-lived iCube is still the favorite), including the experiment with the third-party manufacturers. Then came the other “i” craze: the iPod (my first generation one still sits in my desk drawer.) By my calculations, my iTunes adventure has now cost me more than a round-trip ticket to Europe. All this was followed by the insanity of the iPhone revolution. With this one, I stumbled a little. It took me a few months to comprehend why Stephen Jobs (Apple Co. founder, genius & CEO) would want to waste time with cell phones.  After purchasing one though, I came around quickly.  Of course, then came the tsunami of the iPad.

 

I was thoroughly pickled in the serum of Apple’s essence. My snide retort to any non-Apple heathen was “I don’t even know how to turn on one of those PC’s…” I was, in truth, a poster-child of the Apple elite, the ultimate Mac snob.   Then the unthinkable happened…

 

It started with my daughters Emma and Erica going to the Dark Side. I couldn’t conceive why and how they could be happy with their Android powered cell phones. To my astonishment, they even did things I wasn’t capable of doing on my iPhone. I was puzzled. They weren’t having more fun with their machines, were they?!

 

Then came iPhone’s new operating system, which felt completely counter to any of their loyal old-guard followers like me, especially those with failing vision issues. Even after writing the Apple CEO and speaking to someone in their executive offices I was unimpressed with their desire to take care of us “original soldiers”.  I felt abandoned. To cut to the chase, after reviewing operating systems, screen sizes, operating options…..I bought my first non-Apple instrument, a Samsung phone!  To my astonishment, I have found it to be a worthy device. My Apple cocoon has been breeched. Today, I am spending countless hours relating to a different world and language with my new hand held friend.

 

So then, how does this relate to the world of heritage interpretation? Very simple.  I wonder how many of us prevent ourselves from expanding to views, experiences and opportunities outside of our set comfort zones? How many of us keep doing the same programs we have always done, whether they have progressed with the times or not? What was once cutting edge – is it still? Do we ask ourselves if there are adjustments or changes that we could make to keep up with today’s audience? With the evolving boomer audience, have some of them aged out of our old program formats –  due to mobility, vision or hearing loss?  Have we adapted for them? On the other hand, are we reaching today’s younger audience with their swift technological adaptability?

 

It is always easiest to stay within one’s comfort zone. We all do it. Do we really relate and respond to the needs of our audience? That is the important question. Are we asking ourselves “what can I do to update, change, or energize my programs?” Sometimes, we even have to take a look at what we think as the Dark Side to see new ideas. Don’t be afraid to make a change.

 

As for me – don’t worry.  At this year’s Superbowl, I still enjoyed being surrounded by my Mac Mini, iPad Air, iCinema Display Monitor. They are still glowing examples of iTechnology that is working for me. But an addition to my iLair  I now have my new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, just in case someone wants to call, text, or air drop a message about the game. And in the meantime, I’ll be ever vigilant and controlling my emotions to any potential cult-effusing commercials.

 

Cem M. Basman

NAI Vice President for Administration

Expanding Our Vision of Ourselves

 

Interpreters, Interpretation, the terms provoke confusion outside the profession. Many of us have joked and commented about how many times we have been approached by folks and asked “what language do you translate (interpret)?” My often stock answer is, “the language of history”. That often as not creates a very perplexed expression on the questioner’s face and then a lengthy explanation on my part. However, we in the field, are often as naïve, (I hope that is the best word for expressing my thoughts) as to who are interpreters and in what fields we might find the same techniques in practice.

When I was first introduced to NAI a number of people expressed that folks in my field of historic costumed interpretation had our own organizations and did not need to be in NAI. I expressed my thoughts on this to Cem Bassman, who was the person who asked me to examine the organization. I argued that if NAI was the ‘national association of interpretation’ and did not include the historic and cultural aspects of the field then the organization had best change its name to the ‘Natural Association of Interpretation’ ( a name change took place later that replaced  the word ’of’ to ’for’). His blunt response, “ Change it.” I took the challenge and did my little part in having historic and cultural  interpretation included in the folds of NAI.  That challenge occurred better than twenty years ago.

Through the years I have been ‘exposed’ to numerous job fields and nearly each utilizes many of the same techniques and tricks of the trade that we, as interpreters use. From teachers to cab drivers, retailers to auctioneers, grocers to contractors,  any and all I have met and dealt with use so many of the practices we, ‘interpreters’, are taught, practice, utilize and teach in our respective specialties. The unique aspect each practitioner has is the fact we all work and serve the public and must learn how best to meet their needs and wants in order to be successful in our own right.

As NAI enters is next generation we are exploring how to better ourselves, how to increase our numbers and how to share the knowledge we have. It behooves us (I love that word) to explore many different facets and fields to invite to share our journeys and our professional knowledge.  It may well be time to truly expand our vision of ourselves.

What is interpretation and who are` interpreters needs to be examined and investigated. Are we limiting ourselves and our organization by only recognizing the ‘traditional’ aspects and fields of interpretation with which we are familiar? Are we ignoring and missing out on a vast amount of potential knowledge and resources by being stuck in our own mindsets, and possibly biases, as to what interpretation and interpreters are and represent?

 

As we enter the next generation of NAI maybe we each need to reexamine ourselves, our goals, and our definitions of what we do. In the past few months and continuing into the new year a task force is reexamining our strategic plan. They will be regularly requesting input from the membership. It is a process that will bring progressive changes to NAI. My challenge to all of us is, contribute; look for the requests from the task force and allow us all the chance to ‘change it’ for he better.

John C.F. Luzader

Vice President of Programs

Improvise

 

Improvise

 

First, I wish to apologize for not having provided a blog last month. I had just arrived at the Reno workshop and, as usual, I found myself neck deep in responsibilities and activities that lasted throughout the workshop week.

The workshop did provide the theme for this month’s blog.

I was scheduled to do three sessions throughout the workshop; one as a panel member with two other people, another as a co-presenter and the other as a sole presenter on Saturday morning.

The Saturday morning session proved my most difficult.

I regularly prepare my presentations and the PowerPoint that augment an address no less than two weeks before the actual event. Then I repeatedly run through the material four or five times before a session with the last ‘rehearsal’ taking place usually an hour or two before the scheduled presentation time. Thus it was for my Saturday morning workshop appearance; up at six, a quick breakfast, and then to my computer to check the session file, PowerPoint, and notes, as well as the backup thumbdrive of my session. On went the computer, in went the thumbdrive, quickly I pulled up the file and opened it and then… then my computer crashed. AI quick removal of the thumbdrive took place and then I hastily turned on my mini laptop and stuck in the thumbdrive to check it and to download it to my mini. No files. Not a single file was to be seen, found, explored, cried over at all on the thumbdrive.

Now a new dilemma arose; I had a presentation in less than two hours and all my notes and the program PowerPoint were skittering through the ether of computer lost files and lands unknown. My brain, slow as it is now with age creeping through its gray matter, realized I had but a few options: cry, ( an option that really appeared good at this point), cancel the session, (a poor option for a professional and very discourteous to those who had planned on attending my presentation), or improvise.

Improvisation has been a standard tool in my interpretive ‘tool kit’ for better than four decades. From my earliest programs and activities to , obviously, my most recent endeavors, having an ‘improvisation tool’ tucked away has been a skill I had mentored to me, forced upon me, and accepted by me as an essential skill that every interpreter, no matter the field of expertise, must acquire and maintain. So, here I was, the time clock counting down and I needed to assess the damage I was experiencing with the lack of my electronic support and what skills and materials I had available to me in the hotel room.

First, I had the primary tool, myself. My knowledge of the subject, the preparation I had done for the presentation application, the powerpoint (now dead or lost to the ages), and all the experience I have on the theme. Next I had the workshop booklet with the written material advertising my session. This would ensure I had a foundation which to work from in creating a plan and some viable notes. Lastly, I had a responsibility to provide my audience the best presentation I could, no matter the circumstances.

With panic gripping my internal organs I set

 

down to begin my task. Now I should explain, on top of the crisis I had with my early morning session I also had the knowledge that I had another session with Dr. Istre immediately after my presentation. This meant I would have to also improvise in that session, blessedly knowing she had that programs visual component tucked safely in her computer, but, I had no notes or images to review beforehand.

A quick program came to mind, notes were written on the mini laptop, a plan devised, and a rehearsed run through conducted the hotel room. I had found the primary ‘tool’ for my presentation: the participants. This would be a session with full audience participation. I gave the session, not my best, I will admit, but, according to the review sheets left by the participants, I had presented a 4+ program that provoked some great comments and suggestions.

So, why do I bring up this bit of my life’s trivia?

With the condition of the economy, the budget cuts found in both national and local agencies, and the proposed further cuts to training and interpretive resources we are going to face in the future, we are in fields that will regularly call upon us to improvise. The standards of support and the resources we now have at hand will be constantly stretched and depleted within the next few years. The formats that we work within will need constant review and , yes, we shall be improvising a great deal, because our audience still deserves the best we have to offer, no matter what our budgets might be or whatever might befall us.

Improvisation still requires accuracy and authenticity. It is not an excuse to just entertain. Our collective missions regularly specify that our sites and agencies are dedicated to conserving, preserving, protecting and providing our themes to the public. It is important that when we find ourselves having to extemporize we still work within the missions we have promised to fulfill.

It will be difficult at times, and it will call upon us to be innovative and dedicated to our fields. NAI may well see more ‘improvisation’ as well. Trainings and workshops may need to change as we see more and more constraints on our membership. It will be a time for us to look at how we can be inventive and still provide quality, ground breaking materials.

It will be a time to improvise.

John C.F. Luzader

Vice President of Programs

SEEING PINK

 

While I wouldn’t be able to name a single active player on a current baseball team (sorry Paul Caputo, the biggest baseball fanatic I know…), I certainly can own up to my addiction to American football.  With the current college and National Football League schedule, it is difficult to find time to tear away from a television set. Fortunately, my wife Vicki is understanding of my seasonal obsession and allows for my pigskin indiscretions. Oh yeah, I should also own up to having a maligned proclivity for yelling at the officials for perceived bad calls. Yes, I am a caricature of a football fan that actively engages the television screen as a sentient participant in my sports experience. I am exceptionally vulnerable when Chicago is playing, and yes, I am one o’ doze da Bearz guyz. Yet even in my gridiron hysteria, one thing has continually snapped me back to my social scientist self during October. What is going on with all this pink stuff? Everywhere the players, coaches and the officials are washed in pink garments.

 

Fighting breast cancer is a very – very – important and relevant cause. Having lost friends to this awful illness, I am very cognizant of the necessary fight against this terrible and serious disease. While I am in absolute support of funding efforts for fighting breast cancer, my academic training tells me that the pink campaign is a bad idea. First, I keep thinking of the cost of all the pink towels, wristbands, shoes, mouthpieces, and all the other accouterments on which the National Football League spent big money. Why not make a direct donation equal to the cost of all this stuff to the cause? Second and foremost, all the research that I know shows that these campaigns do not help a well-known and established cause such as fighting breast cancer. People wearing pink or purchasing pink marked merchandise feel they have supported the cause and are not likely to send any additional funds to support the fight. A basic tenet of persuasion theory asserts that if one thinks there are many others around them that will likely to act on an object, they will likely hold back. Of course there is much more to this that cannot be covered in this blog. I wish the cost of dying items pink would be spent on fighting this awful cancer. It is also another support of Marshall McLuhan’s supposition (medium is the message.)

 

Don’t get me wrong; I am all about letting people know the valuable causes that one supports. A campaign as the pink deluge is very useful for a cause that is in need of being made a salient identity of the public. An example is the plight of the high volume veterans that are suffering from PTSD. An awareness campaign of this illness, as well as how to help those brave souls who have served in the past and current wars, is a critical need. It is still misunderstood and not a salient issue with most people in the U.S. Having dealt with several students who are suffering from this awful byproduct of their service to their country, I know first hand the lack of familiarity of this illness by most people. A promotion effort on the level of the “pink” campaign could be very useful in attending to those suffering from PTSD.

 

As interpreters we must be aware of the value and end product of our efforts – and we often do. I know of several programs that present a patch, pin, hat, or jacket for accomplishing a task. Whether completing a volunteer project or identifying a set number of birds, these baubles of achievement are earned after completing a specific task. Perhaps we should only be allowed to wear pink items after we have donated a specific amount to the cause of fighting breast cancer.

 

In the meantime, I will lament the loss of my Chicago Bears to the Washington Redskins… Redskins – that’s another topic of discussion for later…

 

Cem M. Basman, PhD, CIT, CIP

NAI Vice-President for Administration