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Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — WHOT

WHOT Good Guys

Classic “Gangster” Poster of the WHOT Good Guys

“Yes indeedie-doodie-daddy.”

You know you grew up in Youngstown in the 60’s or the 70’s if you recognize that classic greeting by disc jockey Boots Bell on WHOT, the home of rock and roll in Youngstown during those years. Boots Bell not only was popular on the radio and at local dances but was also a communications professor at Youngstown State during the years we were in college.

Boots Bell was part of a team of disc jockeys collectively known as “the Good Guys” and included at various points Johnny Kay, Jerry Starr, Allen Scott, Johnny Ryan, “Big Al” Knight (the “all night” disc jockey), Dick Thompson and Smoochie Causey among others during this period.

Early mornings I would get up to Johnny Kay reading school lunch menus and shave and wash up to the upbeat tunes coming over my transistor radio. My wife remembers her mother turning him on just in time to play the Monkees “Day Dream Believer” at full volume with the line, “cheer up sleepy Jeannie” (her middle name is Jean and this was mom’s way to try to get her out of bed!).

Many of us would go to bed at night listening to “Nights in White Satin” with those haunting closing lines “breathe deep the gathering gloom”. In between, during the day, we would listen for the “cash call” amounts and try to be the right caller to win the jackpot. We would listen for the top 40 tunes each week and the top 100 countdown at the end of each year that seemed to take a good part of the day.

WHOT Days Ticket courtesy of my wife

WHOT Days Ticket courtesy of my wife

The Good Guys were fixtures in the Youngstown community, taking there turns appearing at dances all over the area. I remember watching them play basketball against the teachers at Chaney High School. One of the most remembered community involvements of this group was at WHOT Days at Idora park, where there was a special admission to the park for the day and they broadcast live.

Youngstown was a rock and roll town with a garage band in every neighborhood. WHOT captured and magnified our love for this music during what many of us think was the greatest era of rock and roll–from Buddy Holly and the Drifters in the 50s through the Beatles and the British invasion to the psychedelic music of the Doors and Cream in the late 60s. I listened to all of these late at night with a headphone plugged into my transistor radio so that my folks would think I was sleeping (and indeed they learned to check because I usually fell asleep with the radio on and the earphone still playing).

Most of us grew up listening to WHOT on the AM dial at 1330. Later they had an FM station at 101.1 (still known as Hot 101 in Youngstown). Eventually the AM station moved to 1390, which later became WNIO.  But back in the day, all of us had our transistor radios or car radios tuned to 1330, which was the voice of rock and roll in Youngstown.

What were your memories of WHOT?



College Whys

Nassau Hall, Princeton "Nassau Hall, Princeton" by Smallbones, cropped by Inabluemn - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nassau_Hall_Princeton.JPG. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nassau_Hall,_Princeton.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Nassau_Hall,_Princeton.jpg

Nassau Hall, Princeton “Nassau Hall, Princeton” by Smallbones, cropped by Inabluemn –  Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Inside Higher Ed, an online website of news, articles, op-eds, and position postings, has an amusing post today on 50 Questions About Higher Education all of which begin with “why”. You will get a chuckle out of many of them, and if you work at all around the higher education world, you will say “yep”.

One that probably evokes a chuckle but also masks what I think is a serious issue is:

Why don’t we conclude that if it takes 10 months to fill an important administrative vacancy and the place doesn’t fold in the meantime, then perhaps we could do without it?

The issue that this masks is the explosive growth of administrative positions at most universities that far exceeds the growth of full-time faculty positions on these campuses. One study shows that between 1976 and 2011, employees in the full-time non-faculty professional role grew by a whopping 369 percent while the number of full-time tenured and tenure track faculty grew by a mere 23 percent. Student enrollment in this same period grew by 52.3 percent according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

What’s going on here? Some of this reflects a trend toward “student services” which includes everything from enhanced academic advising to state of the art recreation centers with a variety of student “wellness” professionals to address both the physical and psychological wellness of students. A good part of this also reflects a growing number of deans, associate deans and a variety of other administrative levels between faculty and university presidents. Another article pointed out that the central administration of the California State University system has a larger budget than three of its twenty-three campuses.

Plainly, the bulk of rising university costs are have nothing to do with the academic mission of the university. In fact to control these costs (remember the 23 percent growth of faculty vs. 52 percent growth in students?), we have seen a 286 percent increase in part-time faculty and a 259 percent increase in full-time, non-tenured faculty. What is most troubling are the extremely low wages and lack of benefits many of these people receive, earning $2500 to $4000 per course and often having to cover any health care plan they are on out of these wages.

Another of the questions asked in this article was:

Why do adjuncts adjunct under such conditions?

I think the reason most do is that these people both love their subject area and love teaching. Many really care about students but often are more or less invisible within their own departments. One adjunct I know meets students at a local Panera. Many have nothing more than a shared office. Most of these adjuncts hold Ph.D’s in their field and aspire to tenure track positions, which may be one reason they don’t give up on teaching in universities. But as adjuncts or lecturers it is very difficult to continue to do the research and writing necessary to compete for these few positions. This week, for the first time, adjuncts staged a National Adjunct Walkout Day to protest these conditions.

Very simply, I would argue that American higher education is a broken and unjust system. What strikes me is that the most powerful, those in top administration in universities, while saying they are controlling costs, are protecting the privilege of high salaries among their own kind. Sadly, cost-cutting in higher education has tended to be at the expense of research funding and the hiring of the best of our crop of Ph.D’s to teach our children.

What is to be done? I do not consider myself an expert in these things but it seems several things follow:

1. State boards of regents and the university boards of trustees must tackle this problem and figure out how academic bureaucracies may be streamlined while hiring more full-time tenure-track faculty (while rigorously monitoring excellence in teaching). If we do not do this, we risk losing the best minds in this country from higher education and research.

2. If I were considering grad school in an academic field, I would seriously consider not entering this crazy and exploitative system until it gets its house in order. If one still decides to go to grad school, I would have an alternative plan for work other than adjuncting after graduation if you do try to pursue one of the scarce tenure track positions. The fewer people out there “enabling” this unjust system, the more it will be forced to change.

3. To some degree, universities and colleges are consumer-driven and this bureaucratic bloat reflects to some degree a sense of what students and parents “want”. Students and parents should realize that a significant portion of their ballooning debt loads have nothing to do with quality academic training in the student’s chosen field.

We have had one of the top university systems in the world. But other countries are rapidly gaining and other models are arising that do not indulge in this administrative “bloat”. Since it is time, and past time to address these questions, my concluding question is “why don’t we?”

How I Choose Books to Review

(c)2015, Robert C Trube

(c)2015, Robert C Trube

I ran into a question yesterday I hadn’t thought about before. Not one of those big, meaning of life or the universe type questions. Rather it was one related to this blog and the books I review. It asked me how I chose the books I review and came with an attachment of an e-book the person had written that it was hoped I would review.

Free books to a bibliophile are kind of like a Starbucks card for a coffee lover (hint-hint!). But no matter how quickly I read or how many books I read, the old axiom on one of my favorite t-shirts is becoming ever truer: So many books…so little time. So I thought it might not hurt to share, as best as I’ve figured it out, how I choose books to review:

1. First of all, I like to choose! Most of the books I read are ones I’ve chosen. Even those which are free review copies are ones I’ve chosen to request. I don’t tend to like the idea of reading books others think I “should” read, unless I would have chosen them anyway.

2. I choose books to read for the same reasons most readers do: they are by an author, or on a topic, or tells a story I think I would be interested in and think I will like. Friends recommendations help, particularly if I perceive our interests match up well or they’ve made good recommendations in the past.

3. Similarly, I want to review books I like. I respect the work a writer puts into researching and writing a book. It is a laborious process whether done well or badly by someone who aspires to this work. While I will give my opinions and sometimes critiques of works I read, I want, on balance to affirm the writer’s effort and help connect that effort to readers who will appreciate it.

4. Requesting and receiving review copies of books also means being strategic about reading choices because publishers and authors like reviews in a timely manner, ideally close to the publication date of the book. So when I have a queue of several of these books, I feel obligated to read those and not others.

5. On occasion, I will review the works of personal friends (real personal friends, not simply those who are virtual friends on social media). I will do this if I’m genuinely interested in their book and think I can give a review that will help them.

6. There are several things that tend to drive my choices of books: my interest in thoughtful or even scholarly works exploring the intersection of Christian faith, culture, and higher education, the arena in which I work; a love for science, contemporary issues, history, biographies of those in public life, science, and industry; and a love for well-written, thoughtful fiction, which can include literary fiction, science fiction, mysteries or even spy thrillers.

7. Here’s some suggestions of what I won’t choose: “inspirational” Christian fiction or non-fiction, motivational books, works that trade on “conspiracy theories”, and work that uses excessive violence and/or excessive and graphic descriptions of sexuality as a substitute for a good narrative. This is not a judgment on either the writers or readers of these works but simply what I’m not interested in.

I realize authors really do need others to talk about their books in this internet driven age of book publicity. I want to do that as well as someone who thinks reading can be life enriching and perspective-enlarging. But of all the books out there, I will probably, in a good year, get to about 120 of them, most which I’ve chosen because of personal interest. If you want to send me something, I really appreciate the thought but honestly won’t hold out hope that I will read it unless it’s one of those serendipitous moments where your work and my interests and perception of the book’s worth magically line up. I hope you won’t take it personally if I don’t. It is simply a case of “so many books…so little time.”

I’d be curious how other reviewers deal with this question?

Should STEM Become STEAM?

STEM_logoDo we really need more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors and graduates? Yes and no according to an op-ed by Loretta Jackson-Hayes, associate professor of chemistry at Rhodes College. She contends that what we really need is STEM grads with liberal arts training. She gives examples of people from Leonardo da Vinci, to Steve Jobs to Carly Fiorina, who combined scientific or technical excellence with training in the liberal arts.

In addition to relatively standard arguments about the value of the ability to develop technology that is aesthetically pleasing and to communicate scientific knowledge with verbal and written clarity, she also equates the training of people in STEM fields to that of artists. STEM training is not simply about the transfer of knowledge. It is about apprenticeship, similar to an apprentice working with a master artist or music teacher. Someone who has been an artistic apprentice may make a much better teacher and mentor.

Most telling in this article and one of the main arguments often raised for the liberal arts is that they remind us of the big picture of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Jackson-Hayes argues this in terms of employability, that this kind of training makes people more nimble thinkers and whole people. I think that, while true, this is unfortunate because it concedes that the most important function of the university is job-training, and that the ultimate achievement in life is employment.

More troubling to me is the implication of the emphasis on STEM that not only do schools and universities exist to serve our high tech economy, but also that the human beings who are enrolled in these institutions also exist as cogs in our high technology machine. For this reason, I wonder if one of the most dangerous things one can do for those headed into these fields is expose them to a liberal education. A liberal education leads us to question the reasons for and purpose of and value in the things we do.

I can’t help but wonder if one of the reasons dystopian literature holds such a fascination for young adults is this intuition that giving ourselves heart and soul to what Neil Postman called the technopoly can end very badly for the humans all this technology supposedly serves. For example, we are increasingly networked–our computers, phones, banking and even our cars–and basically all of us should assume we are hacked and we live under the constant cloud of credit card fraud and identity theft. We have done all this because we could, but without asking bigger questions of whether this is really a good thing and without consider whether having our lives so open to the world makes sense given human nature. Those are the inconvenient questions literature and philosophy and history and religious studies help us explore.

My own hope is that those in higher education will stop justifying their existence merely in terms of preparing people for jobs. Jobs are only a part of a whole life, necessary but not all. Many jobs aren’t simply to help other people do their jobs. So much of our commerce, our research, and other endeavors focus around the non-work parts of our lives: our spirituality, our health, our life in communities, our enjoyment of the arts and entertainment, our pursuits of justice and the good society. STEM may aid us in these endeavors but should never dictate what we do and why we do it in these realms. For that we need something more…

Review: Protege': Developing Your Next Generation of Church Leaders

ProtegeIt would be an understatement to say that there is a super-abundance of leadership books in both Christian and general publishing. One wonders if it reflects a perception that there is a dearth of the real thing in our churches and culture, or that if it exists, it is often done very badly. So the question is, what separates Steve Saccone’s book (co-authored with his wife Cheri Saccone) from all the rest?

Very briefly, it is that it is more description, than prescription, of the work Saccone has done in developing leadership through his Protege’ Program, a two year leadership development program. This book is an attempt, without being a program manual, to distill the basic contours of his work.

Saccone begins with the question of what kind of culture leaders are to embody and establish. For him, these are kingdom cultures, cultures that reflect the character of Jesus lived out in churches, organizations, and entrepreneurial efforts.  This leads him to focus on five critical elements in his work:

1. Character. What is most striking here is that Saccone identifies four deadly sins that can bring down emerging leaders: envy expressed in imitating others rather than embracing one’s own unique call, self-reliance that emphasizes performance over a life of prayer producing fruit from the inside out, foolishness expressed in over-confidence rather than the seeking of wisdom, and greed which reveals itself in a spirit of entitlement. It is good that Saccone begins here, I think. I’ve seen few leaders really fail for lack of skill. For most, it comes down to questions of character.

2. Relationships. Here Saccone focuses on three tensions in relational leadership: overcommitment versus underdelivering on commitments, avoiding or evoking conflict, and overattaching versus detaching. There was much that was helpful here concerning learning to say no versus letting your yes be yes. His diagnostics for each of these tensions are very helpful to see where one falls.

3. Communication. This was a section that had some intriguing ideas of learning through everything from TED talks to poetry slams about effective communication in 21st century culture. He describes Learning Labs where he challenges people to give five minute talks (Five Good Minutes) and to practice improvisation.

4. Mission. To start, he sees mission not as something we do but something that flows from our relationship with Christ expressed through the uniqueness of each person in the context of local communities of believers in mission. He calls for several shifts in evangelism: 1) From inattentiveness to attentiveness, 2) From monologue to dialogue, 3) From invasion to invitation, 4) From individual conversion to communal conversion, and 5) From temporal understanding to eternal awakening. These last two call for a bit more explanation. Communal conversion is not whole communities coming to faith but the recognition that the community in which one comes to faith crucially shapes one’s life. Eternal awakenings happen when converts connect their lives to the big eternal questions addressed by the gospel–how the gospel lastingly changes everything.

5. Entrepreneurial leadership. His last section focuses on the quality of risk-taking and developing cultures where there is a freedom to fail, where the ultimate value isn’t control and where they develop new structures to unleash the gifts and creativity of those they lead.

Throughout, Saccone provides numerous examples and personal stories of how he works these ideas out in practice. At the conclusion of each chapter are ideas for mentors, and a mentor tip (not always directly related to the chapter content).

The only thing I might make more explicit in this book is that a crucial work of mentors is to help proteges become protege’ developers themselves.  Young leaders need to be coached to reflect on their own developmental process and to learn from it how they might in turn develop the next generation of proteges.

What Saccone has given us is a kingdom-oriented, character shaped, and missionally driven account of leadership development that offers, not a program, but a vision for the essential elements of any serious effort at protege’ development.

Review: The Ghost Brigades

Ghost BrigadesJohn Scalzi’s first science fiction novel Old Man’s War was widely acclaimed. He created an interesting world where 75 year olds volunteer to fight for the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), defending colonists on other planets. They go thinking their bodies will be rejuvenated, only to find that what actually will happen is the transfer of consciousness into a robotically and genetically enhanced clone of themselves. We also learn of this shadowy group of Special Forces known as the “Ghost Brigades” because they are clones of volunteers who never made it to 75, trained from birth to fight. One of these was a clone of the wife of John Perry, the central character in Old Man’s War, named Jane Sagan. She plays a key role in this second novel, where The Ghost Brigades play a central role.

Sagan appear in the opening scene, capturing a Rraey by the name of Cainen working on an Eneshan base and through him the CDF learns of a triple alliance of Eneshan, Rraey, and Obin against the CDF. The news gets worse. Charles Moutin, thought to be killed, in fact has escaped to the enemies, with all his knowledge about consciousness transfer. It is urgent to discover what he knew, why he defected and how he is helping the enemy.

A copy of his consciousness exists in his lab. So in desperation, they decided to grow a clone into which they attempt to transfer the consciousness pattern. The clone has all the enhancements of a Special Forces soldier. But the consciousness doesn’t appear to “take”. He is like any other new born Special Forces clone with only a BrainPal to instruct him as his own consciousness develops. He is given the name Jared Dirac and turned over for training as part of the Ghost Brigades.

But there are some who are not so sure that he is just another Special Forces clone. So he is put under Sagan’s command and watch until the fateful day when on a desperate mission to kidnap the heir to the Eneshan throne, he loses a comrade he loves and witnesses a gruesome killing, and Moutin’s memories begin to emerge.

Meanwhile Special Forces crews have vanished with their ships on seven occasions in Obin space. It is suspected that Moutin has something to do with this as a prelude to war. So Jared/Moutin becomes an increasingly important part of the equation. But who, in the end, will he help? Will he have a choice, and if so, how will he choose?

Once again, Scalzi explores the brave new world of cloning, robotic and nanobotic enhancement, and consciousness transfer. The most interesting question to arise surrounds Jared and his fellow special forces: what are the ethics of breeding a race of soldiers trained from the moment they were conscious to be soldiers, and never given a choice?  There are also larger issues of the justification of war on an interplanetary scale that parallels the wars of colonial expansion in our own history.

My one criticism of the plot was that I thought I saw from the get go what the nature of Boutin’s treachery would be, and I was right–but everyone in the story was clueless. Too many bread crumbs and not enough mis-direction it seemed.

That aside, Scalzi combines a riveting plot, the potential of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde character in Jared Dirac that actually turns out quite differently, and an exploration of the implications of science going on in research labs around the world. Scalzi helps us explore a world that may not be the best of possible worlds.


Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Pierogies

By Silar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Silar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I was eating dinner with some grad students last night at Sloopy’s Diner in the Ohio Union at Ohio State when one of the dishes ordered brought back memories. Pierogies. Considering that it is Lent and there are so many students from Youngstown and northeast Ohio at Ohio State, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

It’s actually a funny thing about pierogies with my wife and me. I didn’t grow up in an eastern European or Catholic home and so we never had pierogies. I would hear about all the churches in the area who had pierogie sales but it wasn’t a dish we had in our house. (I wonder if my mom didn’t like them.) On the other hand, my wife grew up with pierogies as a regular dish on Fridays, especially during Lent. She described to me how she and her mother would spend a good part of a day making pierogies. Her mom also helped on occasion making pierogies when her church had sales.

Pierogies are a kind of dumpling that originated in eastern Europe made with an unleavened dough that is rolled out. My wife tells me that they used a water glass to cut out the pierogi dough. Theirs was usually a relatively simple recipe, with boiled and mashed potatoes for filling. The dough was folded over and the edges wetted and pressed together. Then the pierogies were first boiled and then fried in butter or oil. While some recipes use other ingredients for fillings including cheeses, meat (not during Lent), sauerkraut, or fruit and could be topped with fried onions or other toppings, they kept it simple. In her family at least, this was a form of fasting and usually a meal was simply of pierogies and boiled cabbage. It was hearty and filling without being extravagant.

The other oddity of our story is, having discovered pierogies only as an adult, I like them. On the other hand, my wife would say that at best, she tolerates them. Needless to say, if I get pierogies, it is not at home! But, as they say, opposites attract, and it must work since we are going on 37 years of marriage.

Recipes of Youngstown 2Here is a recipe from Wikipedia for pierogies that covers the basics. There are a couple of recipes for pierogies in Recipes of Youngstown found on pages 63 and 170. I’ve also learned that there is a second Recipes of Youngstown coming out soon, the proceeds from which will benefit the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. I’ve pre-ordered mine and you can order yours through the Mahoning Valley Historical Society website, which also has instructions for ordering by mail or phone. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there are additional pierogi recipes along with lots of other great Youngstown dishes!

Pierogies are a hearty and sustaining food made from simple and readily available ingredients. Working class families on a budget could make them for a meal and freeze them for another time. They are work intensive as are many good foods and assumed there was someone in the home who could devote the time to that work. I suspect there is probably a special reward in heaven for all those women who made pierogies for those countless church sales! And maybe they finally get someone else to make dinner.

Read all the posts in the Growing Up in Youngstown Series by clicking the “On Youngstown” category link either at the top of this page or in the left column of my home page.



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