Open Mic Night at Ohio University’s Front Room — 1 October 2021

Dan Canterbury
Riley James
Tim Pfaff
Joshua Corbett
Bruce Dalzell, emcee

David Bruce’s Spoken Word, More or Less:

In the 1970s, OU President Claude Sowle decided to hold public meetings at which college deans would argue for money for their departments. Of course, these were spectacular events at which college deans wore caps and gowns and argued passionately for money. At one such public meeting, Dr. Henry Lin, Dean of Fine Arts, began his remarks by saying, “Ni hao, Dr. Sowle.” Of course, he was speaking flawless Mandarin Chinese, and he continued to speak flawless Mandarin Chinese — which Dr. Sowle did NOT understand — for the rest of his remarks, occasionally using a Chinese abacus to emphasize a financial point. At the end of Dr. Lin’s remarks, President Sowle told him, “Henry, you know I don’t understand Chinese, but I’ve never understood you more clearly than right now — you need big bucks!” (By the way, Dr. Lin is the father of Maya Lin, the genius who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.) 

Artists frequently work with nude models. OU art professor John “Jack” Baldwin and his wife, Bunny, once took a vacation in Mexico, where they went to a clothing-optional beach. Bunny pointed out a particularly beautiful naked woman to Jack, who told her, “Bunny, I am here on vacation. I am not here to work.” 

An OU art professor once wrote a letter in which she used as many words beginning with the letter F as possible. She called it her F-word letter. 

Margaret “Peg” Cohn, Dean Emerita of the Ohio University Honors College, remembers carpooling with other mothers. On one occasion, she had a carload of children when they came across an intersection in which someone had written in large letters a four-letter word beginning with “F” and ending with “K.” Ms. Cohn’s seven-year-old carefully said each letter aloud, then asked, “Mom?” Ms. Cohn braced herself, afraid that she would have to give a sex education lesson to a carload of children, but fortunately her seven-year-old asked merely, “How did they do that without getting run over?” Ms. Cohn answered that question, happy that she had remembered “a cardinal rule for parents: Be sure what the question is before you give the answer.” 

Women’s sports and women athletes have not always been respected. For example, in the 1960s (well before Title 9), Catherine L. Brown used to teach field hockey at OU on a field that was also used by ROTC cadets. Sometimes, the ROTC cadets would act as if the women athletes were invisible and march onto the field — even during games. On one occasion when this happened, the ROTC cadets were standing at attention — meaning that they could not move — so Ms. Brown ordered the game to continue, and she rewarded each woman athlete who managed to hit the legs of an ROTC cadet with the ball. 

Ohio University sports publicist Frank Morgan occasionally talked at elementary schools about sports. Once he explained that baseballs are made of horsehide, and a horrified little girl exclaimed, “You mean they kill horsies to make baseballs!” 

A student once wanted to interview Ohio University zoologist Scott Moody for a term paper on herpes simplex after learning that Dr. Moody taught herpetology. However, herpetologists study amphibians and reptiles, while virologists study viruses such as herpes. Still, the student’s mistake was not as bad as it may sound. Interestingly, “herpetology” and “herpes” share a common root word, “herpo,” which means crawling. As Dr. Moody explains it, “‘Herpeton’ means creeping, crawling creature. The earlier naturalists used this term for the slow sprawling terrestrial vertebrates (lizards, snakes, turtles, salamanders) in contrast with the more active terrestrial vertebrates (mammals and birds). The first herpes described scientifically was ‘herpes zoster’ or shingles. The way a shingles infection manifests itself is as an outbreak of skin rash and blisters that then spread in a linear fashion, hence crawl in one direction. The Greek word ‘herpes’ was chosen as the genus name for this group of viruses.”

Here is a story that Scott Moody tells his friends: “When I was a graduate student living in Germany collecting data for my doctoral dissertation, I often used the public bathroom at the Berlin Train Station. One of the ‘sanitary engineers’ who happened to be an older woman got her jollies by waiting until there was a long line of men urinating in the contiguous urinal stand, then she would flush real hard, spraying water everywhere, causing men to jump backwards while urinating on the floor or on themselves, displaying their shagadelic [fans of the Austin Powers movies will recognize the reference] tools, and so forth. I witnessed this several times, and it was always the same ‘putzfrau.’” 

Philosophy professor Warren Ruchti studied under the famous philosopher Nelson Goodman, author of Ways of Worldmaking and other important books, at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Goodman’s intelligence was awesome, and Dr. Ruchti tells several anecdotes about him. A visiting lecturer once was busily writing numerous premises for his arguments on the chalkboard before his lecture when Nelson Goodman walked in. Dr. Goodman glanced at the columns of premises, and then told the visiting lecturer, “You have contradictory premises — look here and here.” The lecturer said, “Oh my gosh, you’re right!” Another time a visiting lecturer gave a long, involved talk at a colloquium. At the end of the talk, Nelson Goodman looked at Warren Ruchti and said, “He hasn’t got the answer,” and then walked out of the room. Nelson Goodman moved on to Harvard, from which he retired, but he has not been forgotten. The Ruchtis’ family pet was named in honor of the eminent philosopher: Nelson Gooddog. 

Many people don’t regard reading, writing, and learning as working. Philosophy professor Robert Wieman decided to clean his office one day, so he got sweaty moving furniture around and throwing away heaps of old, outdated files. A maintenance worker passed by and said, “You’re the first person I’ve seen working around here.”

By the way, Dr. Wieman once told his students, “I have more children than I have fingers, and all but one of them totalled a car by their eighteenth birthday.”

Also by the way, Dr. Wieman was my main advisor when I was working on my Master’s thesis in philosophy. At a volleyball game between philosophy professors and philosophy students, I managed to score a point against him. I noticed that he didn’t look too happy about it, so as soon as I could, I let him score a point against me. I could have blocked the ball, but Mama Bruce didn’t raise her little boy Davy up to be no fool. 

David Bruce

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