Monday, October 31, 2011

Cool mountain ride

The full majesty of what I saw and felt Sunday afternoon driving back to South Carolina from East Tennessee and through the N.C. mountains can't really be captured on video or in pictures.

I can still see those magnificent autumn colors and feel the crisp mountain air. The images are from Highway 181 between Jonas Ridge, N.C., and Morganton, N.C.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nude photograph by Winthrop professor gets acclaim

Mark Hamilton, a Winthrop University associate professor (and colleague of mine) recently made the news for having one of his photographs selected for inclusion in a prestigious national exhibit in Oregon.

A brief news blurb (about Mark and his photograph) appeared a few days ago in Rock Hill's daily newspaper, The Herald. It's interesting that The Herald would not publish the actual photo, explaining to readers that the picture featured "adult content."

It will be interesting to see how the Winthrop University public relations machine publicizes Mark's recent photography recognition.

I've always wondered who makes the call at Winthrop on such potentially earthshaking decisions?

Is it a committee of Ph.Ds? (Dreadful thought to imagine such!!)

Is it a nameless and faceless censorship guru of some sort?

Incidentally, I blogged on Feb. 17, 2009, about Mark Hamilton and one of his photographs. At the time, Winthrop took the position that it would post a news release about Mark's photo achievement but would NOT run or publish or publicize the actual photograph in question. (The old blogster went ahead and posted it on his blog anyway.)

Will our hyper-image sensitive "Live, Learn and Lead" Winthrop publish or distribute Mark's photo this time?

(Mark Hamilton's mugshot appears with this blog post by the way.) You can access his photo that I blogged about in Feb. 2009 by clicking here.)

And, in case you missed it, here's that recent story in The Herald:

Winthrop teacher's nude photograph in Ore. Exhibit

From staff reports - The (Rock Hill) Herald, Oct. 15, 2011
ROCK HILL -- A photograph taken by a Winthrop University professor has been selected for a national exhibit.

Mark Hamilton, an associate professor of fine arts, is one of 20 photographers to be included in the Re:Nude Exhibition: The 21st Century Nude in Photography exhibition at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Ore.

He produced the image this summer as a result of a Faculty Research Grant for a series of images in a project titled "Yearning."

Photographers were asked to show "a body in question, in transition, peril."

The juror for the exhibition is T.J. Norris, a multidisciplinary artist, independent curator and writer living in the Northwest. He has curated original exhibitions for the Smithsonian, among others; studied with international photographers and had his work included in public and private collections; and written for art magazines.

Hamilton joined Winthrop full time in 1999 and in addition to teaching, works on fine arts projects, collaborative projects with photographer Jennifer Hamilton and commercial projects for select clientele.

Earlier this year, his "Introspection" photograph won one of the Renaissance Photography prizes in London and was also on display at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colo.

Note: Hamilton's photograph includes adult content and cannot be featured at

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dirt track field trip for Winthrop class...

Winthrop students accompanied yours truly to a dirt track last Friday night just outside of Gastonia, N.C.

It was a memorable, fun, ear-blasting evening.

Hope you enjoy my slideshow:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs was one lucky human being

He found what he loved in life and stuck with it--even when he got fired and had to start over.

And starting over--freshly anew--when someone has pulled the rug out from under your feet can be a good thing.

It can actually be liberating and give you a chance to spread your wings like you've never done before.

Steve Jobs exhorted us to "stay hungry and foolish."

Don't know what that means?

The man who co-founded Apple, and who died yesterday at age 56, put it well in his commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005.

Here's what he told those graduates:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Would Nikki Haley have been elected if she were heavy?

Can a fat woman get elected to high public office in America today?

Not likely, if Ruth Marcus is right.

Marcus wrote a column--published in today's Charlotte Observer (and copied below)--that says obese women don't cut it in American politics.

If the obese but very popular and well respected N.J. Gov. Chris Christie were a woman, he wouldn't be where he is today, let alone be mentioned as a potential candidate for the presidency of the U.S.

That's again according to Ruth Marcus' take on women and men running for office in the U.S.

She's probably right.

Consider, for example, the attractiveness of South Carolina's female governor--Nikki Haley. She's for sure nothing to sneeze at. Some would call her a head-turner.

Nor is Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann lacking in the looks department. (The woman is an idiot but quite fetching physically.)

Even Hillary (I stood by my man even though he was a dog in heat) Clinton is a catch. I've always thought her husband Bill must have been brainless in pursuing Monica L.

Sarah Palin?

Well, okay, she doesn't read newspapers but she's Alaska cute. That's an indisputable fact.

So why is it that Americans have such a low opinion of fat women vis-a-vis fat men?

You tell me.

Meanwhile, here's Marcus' column:

Obese female pols seeking presidency? Forget it

Ruth Marcus
National Columnist
Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 05, 201

WASHINGTON On the subject of Chris Christie's weight: if he were a woman, we wouldn't be talking about it.

You might think that's because it would be too dangerous to go there, mentioning a female politician's weight. No, although that's true too.

Rather, we wouldn't be having this discussion because corpulent Christine Christie, if you can imagine her, probably wouldn't have been elected governor of New Jersey in the first place. Party leaders and wealthy donors certainly wouldn't be beseeching her to run for president.

Appearance matters in politics, for male and female candidates. But it is an inescapable fact of political life that for female candidates, appearance matters more. Successful female politicians needn't be model-thin, but cringe-at-the-thought-of-sitting-next-to-them-on-an-airplane levels of obesity are rare among women in politics. In a potential presidential candidate, being as heavy as Christie would be unthinkable for a woman.

It is no accident - although bad political manners to mention it - that the two most prominent women in the Republican Party today, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, are trim and attractive.

Christie's weight is no doubt unwanted political baggage. After all, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee lost more than 100 pounds before his presidential race. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, when he was, sorry, weighing a presidential campaign, joked that people would know he was running if he lost 40 pounds.

But those examples also demonstrate a certain comfort level among male politicians with their extra poundage. There is an Everyman aspect to a pudgy male pol. He can lament his weight without being humiliated by it.

Christie's obesity offers a regular-guy contrast to Mitt Romney's chiseled chin and perfect hair. "I weigh too much because I eat too much," he confessed after being treated for an asthma attack this summer. "And I eat some bad things too." Who can't identify with that?

Realities of gender politics

It is hard to imagine a female politician talking about her weight with that degree of equanimity. When Vogue interviewed Kirsten Gillibrand after the New York senator lost weight, she initially demurred about saying exactly how much. "Can I tell you off the record?" she asked the Vogue writer, before eventually allowing that she had dropped 40 pounds.

Gillibrand's Missouri colleague, Sen. Claire McCaskill, bravely took to Twitter to embarrass herself into losing weight. "I'm tired of looking and feeling fat," she tweeted in May. "Maybe talking about it publicly will keep me on track as I try to be more disciplined."

And then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, at a forum on faith during the 2008 presidential campaign, told how she sometimes sought divine intervention. "Sometimes I say, 'Oh Lord, why can't you help me lose weight?'" Clinton confided.

None of these women are close to Christie-esque proportions.

Sure, Christie's weight would have been a topic if he had run. If he were a woman, though, it would have been the end of the discussion. That's not a complaint, just a simple observation of reality when it comes to gender politics.

Ruth Marcus is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Reach her at

Monday, October 3, 2011

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley visits our campus

Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina--and maybe its best looking governor ever--is quick on her feet, handles herself well in a town hall meeting and seems to really like being chief executive of the Palmetto State.

Even if our state is reeling from 11 percent unemployment and seems--if you take all the headlines seriously--to be perilously close to staying mired in a recession.

The message from Gov. Haley tonight at Winthrop, where she spoke to and fielded questions from about 250 students, faculty, staff and others, was that yes, South Carolina has been through hard times, but things are getting better.

Since January 2011, she said her administration has had the pleasure and honor of announcing 13,000 new jobs in South Carolina.

And $2.6 billion has been invested in South Carolina by companies since that same month, she said.

"So things are looking good," the 39-year-old governor with shoulder-length dark hair reassured the Winthrop audience.

She pledged that her administration's number one priority is "Jobs, jobs, jobs!"

Haley, born in Bamberg, S.C., seemed unfazed by some of the criticism and sarcasm she's heard about her recent directive that S.C. state government employees answer their office phone with: "It's a great day in South Carolina. How may I help you?"

That because she said it IS a great day in our state, and those same employees are only reminding folks (and themselves) that they work for the taxpayers of South Carolina.

She said her directive is meant as a means to help change the culture of state government.

Several folks asked Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, about what state government's role should be in funding the arts in South Carolina. Haley responded that while she and her family love the arts and theatre and such, her priority right now is getting jobs for South Carolineans. The arts community in our state should lean on the business community for financial support, just like other charities and nonprofits do.

For retirees in the audience--or soon-to-be state government retirees--she offered a bit of a damper, saying that a S.C. state employee wanting full retirement benefits will soon have to work 30 years instead of the current 28 years of required service. (Ouch, this old blogger will get his 28 years of state government service in, effective May 15, 2012, when he plans to start living the more relaxed life of a retiree.) "We have to do this. We have to bite the bullet for the good of state employees," Haley said.

But please don't make that 30-year mark apply to yours truly! 28 years is long enough for me!

Overall, I think Haley did a commendable job handling herself and those who shot questions at her tonight. She's at ease and confident and seems sincere about devoting a lot of her energy to getting more jobs for South Carolineans.

She wasn't on time--taking the stage at the DiGiorgio Student Center about 25 minutes AFTER she had been advertised to start. But when she did speak, she was poised, smoothe and intent on winning over her audience with her message of jobs and optimism for the future of our state.

Our state's first female governor ever reminded us that just because someone is a politician doesn't make him or her a bad person, although "you do have to hold legislators' hands to the fire...It's a tough job they have in Columbia, but when they do something good, we should praise them."

The graduate of Clemson University and the youngest current governor of any state in the U.S. spoke and answered questions for about 45 minutes. I managed to get fairly close to her with my camcorder. Here are a few frames of video from immediately after she spoke tonight.