BRIEFLY: Positively Final Appearance

22 February, 2011 at 10:38 am (benjamin)

I should have folded the previous post into this one, but in the heat of excitement about seeing my name and the feeling that I need to explain what on gods’ green Earth BSATCOP was, anyway, I forgot that I had been planning a short list of my recent appearances in media. After all, what’s the point of having one’s own website, except for it to be a clearing house for the results of one’s own ego-surfing?

LIFE Magazine: Springfield, VT - July 21, 2007Oldest first: whilst cleaning up the blog after the transition from Melbatoast to SmartOvercoat, I found the remnants of a promised second post about the Springfield, VT premiere of The Simpsons Movie. After having checked the saved links from the time and found that some were no longer valid, I did a little searching for alternate sites. And found myself hiding in the background of an image archived by a Life magazine photographer. This was surprising for two reasons, the first being that it’s always a little odd to be included in a real, professional publication. The second was that I was rather under the impression that Life had shuttered its doors in 2000. I’d read the press release about its deal with Google, which had only confirmed its defunct status in my mind, but had no idea it still had a print presence, or even reporters and photographers.

Somewhat more recently, I attended w00tstock at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston on Halloween in 2010. It’s getting harder, as I get older, to find occasions to dress up for Halloween. Working at a high school, I observe that the elementary school tradition of wearing a costume dies hard with some students, and it’s always good to find an opportunity to show teenagers that their teachers have pasts and tastes and enjoy their fair share of popular culture. So I like dressing up at work. This year, however, Halloween fell on a teacher meeting day — I can’t prove that this happened because the superintendent is a stick-in-the-mud who finds Halloween costumes both frivolous and unprofessional, but I maintain my suspicions. In any case, I wanted an outlet for my cosplay urges, and wore a Cameron Frye outfit to w00tstock, gratified that other nerds would surely be dressed up at well.

Gordie Howe, represent!w00tstock, being w00tstock, was fairly well digitally documented, and at one point someone came ’round with a camera asking all of the people in costume to identify themselves — or, more importantly, the nerd-references they had clothed themselves as. I knew I had been filmed, but it was still a surprise to see my face staring back at me from the preview screen of a playlist of videos taken at the scene.

(There’s also a picture of me in the fan photo album in the Wilbur’s Facebook page, where my face clearly shows that I suddenly got uncomfortable with the prospect of having my picture taken, and my mouth and eyebrows tried to quickly get out of shot, leaving my skull behind. No, I rather think I won’t be linking to that one.)

A month before that, on September 30 of last year, I was asked to be stand-in coach for the school’s Granite State Challenge team. I assumed that what this mostly meant was that I would ride the bus with them to Durham for the taping and make sure they all returned home relatively uninjured. However, it turns out that New Hampshire Public Television is aware of the fact that a team might return for a couple of episodes if they win, and so staggers the interviews with the participants. For a given first episode, the students who will be competing are interviewed, and for a second engagement after a successful first round, the coach and the alternates are interviewed. As stand-in coach, that meant that I got to go on camera and talk about the team, their prep, their strengths, and their chances… despite having never helped them prepare in any way, let alone watched an episode.

The team thought that this was all highly amusing, and looked forward to seeing what ludicrous stories I would spin. I chose to go all-in in terms of bluster, and claimed that victory was all but assured.

We lost 250 to 305.

It was some months before the show aired, which gave me time to be vague about our loss and let people forget about it. But eventually footage of me waving awkwardly and manically at the TV camera made its way to both public television and the internet. The entire episode is available on YouTube and iTunes (episode 15), or you can skip straight to me making a tousle-haired ass out of myself. ‘Cause what is the internet for, except keeping instances of one’s idiocy preserved for all time?


EDIT: Okay, I’ve now completely abandoned the whole “BRIEFLY” concept of trying to generate quick posts, but I knew there was a reason to not include all this in the Benjamin Sniddlegrass post. I needed to wait for one last thing:

I started working as the librarian at Belmont High School in the Fall of 2006. At the end of that school year, I offered my help to the co-valedictorians to work on their collaborative speech, as I had previous taught public speaking, and they were in an odd situation in having to co-write their speech and share the stage. My principal heard this, but in a classic game of telephone, thought that I had previously been a speech-writer, and thought this would be a great human-interest story. She proceeded to call the local paper, and I got a very confusing follow-up phone call. The subsequent article doesn’t have the assumedly intended angle (“Former speechwriter helps co-valediction take shape!”), but is simply the standard local story about the end of the school year.

Elden Dustin's 100th Birthday cake. Photo by J.TullyBut the story trickling out led my step-grandfather, Elden Dustin, to tell me that I was a legacy at Belmont High, in that he had been headmaster there many years ago, from 1936 until 1943. A little poking around on the web and I found a collection of Belmont’s archived Annual Reports, including a number featuring letters and updates he had written about the state of affairs at the school. I found it to be fascinating reading: in 1939, nine student graduated, which was the largest senior class in the history of the school. The 1943 report details the various drives and rationing required by the war effort — including an aeronautics curriculum teaching pre-flight skills and glider training, and the 1941 report talks of adding a fifth(!) teacher to the school, as well as instituting a typewriter class and buying a refrigerator in order to properly support Home Economics. It was a different world.

When Elden celebrated his hundredth birthday, I printed out a couple of these reports to share with other members of his family, to give some perspective. The Concord Monitor was once again on hand for a minor local event, and they quoted me rattling off some of the statistics I’d gleaned. It amuses me to think that I might be getting close enough in having sufficient multiple mentions in the Monitor to have my own morgue file, if such things still exist.

1 Comment

  1. Benjamin Russell said,

    As a coda to the last part of this collection of articles and links, Elden Dustin died on August 6, 2012, at the age of 101. His obituary can be found here:

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