Pfoj's Blog

December 19, 2009

Individual Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 10:01 am

Overbrook School For the Blind Christmas Show Slideshow

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 6:55 am

December 18, 2009

Holidays at the Overbrook School for the Blind

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 10:47 pm

“Brail or print?” That was the question asked.

Faculty members stood at the entrance to the auditorium handing out programs—brail for those who could not see and print for those who could. “This is a record crowd! We’ve never had to open the balcony before,” said one excited teacher.

This past Thursday, December 10th, a hundred or so guests filed into the Overbrook School for the Blind’s auditorium to experience the school’s annual Christmas show. The show was entitled “A Holiday to Remember”, and featured vocal and instrumental acts performed by the school’s blind and visually impaired students. 23 songs were performed in total, ranging from holiday classics like Frosty the Snowman to original compositions from students themselves.

The school’s bell choir opened the show. With each of its eleven members armed with two gold bells, the choir rang songs like “Rock of Ages” and “What Child is This”. However, with both hands busy ringing the bells, the audience was left to question how the choir knew what notes to play. “Memorization is key. It took us forever to learn Rock of Ages!” laughed Lucy Miller, a senior and member of both the bell-choir and the chorus. “We had to listen to the song a bunch of times before we finally got the rhythm down.”

Next, the mixed ensemble took the stage. Composed mostly of younger students, and students with multi-handicaps, the mixed ensemble performed three upbeat holiday tunes. Ten-year-old Jacob Pratt led the ensemble by putting his own hip-hop spin on an old classic—Frosty the Snowman. “Froooosstttaaaaayyy! Frosttayy boy!” echoed throughout the auditorium. Students, parents and faculty laughed and sang along from their seats.

Finally came the chorus, which as Miller stated, was by audition only. “The chorus is pretty selective, you can only make it by trying out in the fall. The kids that don’t make the chorus have to sing in the mixed ensemble. But that’s not what most students want to be in,” she said. Seems some things about high school never change.

The chorus first performed a vocally complex a capella version of “Gonna Build a Mountain”. They then reverted back to more simplistic Christmas tunes for an auditorium-wide sing-a-long. The entire crowd was brought to their feet, singing and dancing along to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”—the Bruce Springsteen edition of course.

Maurice Weeks, a senior and long time student at the school, then brought show to a close by performing two piano numbers that he had composed himself. Both numbers brought the crowd to their feet with rousing applause.

After the show, he spoke candidly about his plans for after graduation. “I have an audition at the [Philadelphia] University of the Arts next week. I’m hoping to go there and continue to work on composing and performing. Mr. Sapienza is coming with me too, which I’m excited about,” he said.

Chris Sapienza is the music and choral director at the school. As a person with sight, working with the blind at first seemed to be a daunting and difficult challenge. “I was hired two years ago, and to be honest I was a little nervous. Not being blind, I thought it would be hard to relate to the kids. But with these kids you can’t stay uncomfortable for long. They’re great, and very talented,” he said.

“Especially Maurice,” he went on, “We think he might be a savant, which is basically when someone becomes extraordinarily skilled in one area often due to difficulties in another sensory area. For Maurice, his skill is music.”

Chris’s students seem to think highly of him as well. “Chris is hilarious, he always makes us laugh,” said Miller. “I’m really gonna miss him when I go to college next year,” she added.

Weeks also had only good things to say when asked about Sapienza. “He’s a great teacher,” he said, “He’s really inspired me to keep playing in college, and to take risks I normally wouldn’t take.”

The holiday spirit in the auditorium after the show was contagious. Families of the students, along with alumni of the school and other members of the blind community had come out in droves to support the performers.

“I am so proud of my daughter,” said Jane Novack, mother of one of the preformers. “It is so great to see her smiling up on that stage, knowing that music is one thing that she can share with everyone, blind or not.”

November 2, 2009

Soledad O’Brien

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 5:28 am

I thought Soledad O’Brien did an excellent job with her speech on the importance of diversity. She has excellent public speaking skills as would be expected of a professional news anchor. I was especially impressed with how well she handled the questions during the Q/A session. She was able to begin answering immediately after the question was finished, and was able to come up with good answers without ever stumbling.

As an economics major, I thought she did a great job by focusing on economic incentives. She brought up Scott Page, who argues that diversity is needed since it can help vary ideas, increasing the odds of one of the ideas being correct. He even argues that a diverse work staff will beat a less diverse staff with more ability. I thought this was a fascinating idea, and had never heard it, so it was great for her to bring up




October 12, 2009

Too Cool for Shul

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 7:48 am

This article was fascinating for me. At one point Rabbi Lowenstein says that the purpose of what they’re doing is to fight the perception that Orthodox Judaism is boring and I must admit that that perception is one I share, even though I don’t understand the religion all that much.

Also, I think it did an excellent job showing how contradictory the movement seems to be. Within two paragraphs it switches from describing how progressive things are: drinking allowed, rock music and bon fires, to how conservative they remain: no touching the opposite sex, no driving on Friday nights, denying evolution.

I think the article could do a better job explaining exactly what they’re trying to accomplish. It talks a lot about how they’re playing music and reaching out to people who don’t take religion too seriously, but I don’t feel like I truly understand the goal. The author seems to notice this, ending the article discussing this briefly, but it doesn’t provide a good answer.

October 5, 2009

Physician Assisted Suicide

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 1:44 pm

St. Joseph’s University recently held a talk on physician-assisted suicide, and more specifically a bill proposed by State Senator Daylin Leach.

Leach was the first speaker, and I felt he did an excellent job in the prepared part of his speech, but was less good when it came to the question and answer part. He stressed that this bill would be giving people a choice and put hard regulations on this practice, with plenty of safeguards. He preemptively responded to the argument that physician assisted suicide was not inline with Catholic teaching by saying “This is not a Theocracy,” and saying that no one can use religion to force others to do things.

Ted Furton, a Catholic ethicist, spoke strongly against the bill. Overall I thought he did a good job, but he had some quotes that I felt he probably should not have said, especially when he said,  “the people who take these pills are control freaks who want to be in control of everything, including their deaths.” Insulting those who might want to take advantage of this bill was a poor decision.

The other two speakers were Dr. Kevin Fleming and June Pearlberg. Fleming did an excellent job, telling stories about some of his patients at the end of their lives, which helped people relate with those who may want to take advantage of this bill. Pearlberg, who works with Hospice care, didn’t really touch on the bill or the ethical question of physician assisted suicide, instead touting Hospice as an option and stressing that people know what loved ones would want at the end of their lives. I felt she did good, but should have spent some time talking about the issue of the panel in some way.

October 3, 2009

Speech/Meeting Assignment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 12:10 am

Saint Joseph’s University hosted a panel last night in the Forum Theater to discuss the current state of political discourse in America.

The panel, hosted by Lisa Baglione, head of the Philosophy department, was largely prompted by posters recently displayed at the school featuring Barrack Obama depicted as the Joker from “The Dark Night.”

The poster produced many strong reactions from members of the student body for several different reasons.  While many were angry because of the disrespect it showed the president, others accused the poster of having a racist undertone since the image of Obama in the poster was reminiscent of the racist practice of whitefacing actors.

The panelists were Robert Moore, a sociology professor, Jim Boettcher, a philosophy professor, Chris Moser, a member of the College Republicans, and Alyssa Ryan, the head of the College Democrats.

The panel saw a large turnout, with almost all of the theater’s seats being filled and many others standing in the back to watch.

Most of the panelists were highly critical of today’s form of political discussion, with several mentioning the town hall debates Obama held over the summer and congressman Joe Wilson’s recent outburst as examples of the current problem.

“We see in town hall debates, individuals who aren’t interested in political discourse, but are interested in one way discussion,” Moore said.

With many accusing the posters of being racist, the topic came up often throughout the panel. Moser denied that there was a racial undertone intended by the posters, but admitted that they were in poor taste.

Boettcher said that too often people try to stress colorblindness and a vision of a post racial America, and that this hurts discussion about racial injustices that do happen.

Several speakers said that the media was to blame for the country’s current issues with political discourse. Moore said that the form of today’s media makes it too easy for people to only hear only opinions they want to hear.

We have Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and CNN that are always in our face telling us what to think and not to think,” Ryan said.

At one point an uproar broke out between several audience members when one questioned how the school’s Gay Straight Alliance was consistent with the Jesuit mission. Another audience member began yelling at him over before storming out of the room. Ryan called the incident a sign of the lack of civility she had earlier complained about.

Some audience members showed a sense of frustration with the way the entire discussion had gone. “We’re not talking enough about why this (the poster) upsets polarized parts of the student body,” said Julian Phillips.

However, others seemed to be more encouraged by the talk. “I think that today’s talk will help more people see how they can have more intelligent political discussions,” said Sean Falcone, another audience member.

Boettcher said that he was encouraged by the talk, but that there needed to be more consistent conversations instead of just ones inspired by individual incidents like the poster.

September 30, 2009

Andrew Sullivan on Blogging

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 5:14 am


I think that blogging can definitely be a form of journalism. If journalism is just the conveying of information, then clearly many blogs fit into that. Although a comedic blog or certain other types may not be journalism, a person could stay informed on current events only reading blogs, so at least some of them have to be a form of journalism.

Blogging may not resemble the type of journalism that was common in the past, but journalism is always changing. There is no reason to declare that the form journalism took at any one point is the only acceptable form.

I don’t think it really matters whether or not blogging can be considered journalism. Regardless of how they are classified, the success of blogs makes it clear to me that they will be the dominant medium in the future. I think Sullivan hits on the reason for this, the way a reader can look at a blog writer. The blogger can develop a voice that makes a reader feel a connection to him, while the reader can express immediate feedback and feel

September 28, 2009

Little Baby Suckle Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 5:34 am

I think this is a very interesting story since even the author doesn’t try to make the doll seem all that consequential. Some of the people she quoted in the article seem to think it is a very big deal, but to me the introduction of this doll probably won’t affect anyone’s life too much.

I think this story is in the paper entirely because this doll is so unusual. No one has seen a breast feeding doll before, so it almost certain to get read by a lot of curious people. It is also an easy story to get quotes for since it has created a lot of reaction from people.

The article does attempt to connect the doll to the entire debate about breastfeeding, but to me that was just an attempt to add some substance to it. I feel the article was published just because of the novelty of the doll, not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just find it interesting how little news is contained in this story.

Slightly off topic: I find it weird that it attributed one of the quotes to simply “a Twitterer.” I don’t understand why the username of the Twitterer wouldn’t be posted there. Unless the person requests anonymity, there is always a much more specific attribution, so it doesn’t make sense to me that the quote doesn’t have to be attributed just because it came off Twitter.

College Republicans Meeting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liam @ 4:37 am

The meeting I went to was the SJU College Republicans, which was mostly boring except for a discussion at the very end.

To advertise for the meeting, the group put up posters with Obama’s face as the Joker with the time and place on it. It managed to upset some people, as the posters were removed and a school wide discussion on them was scheduled for next week. However, some people who were upset with the poster decided the show up to this meeting to complain about them.

At the end of the meeting, there was an open floor and one girl, who identified herself as a Democrat  asked who was responsible for the posters and voiced her displeasure with them. The head of the Republicans said that they were put up because of the group’s dislike of Obama’s policies. At this point another Democrat said the picture was propaganda, which caused most of the crowd to begin yelling at him.

To calm the crowd down, another member of the College Republicans stood up and took credit for designing the poster, and defended it by once again stressing that it was in response to Obama’s policies, specifying Obama’s economic policies and healthcare plan when one of the Democrats asked. One of the Democrats in the audience called the poster propaganda again, which caused another round of the entire crowd yelling over each other, with many audience members defending the poster since similar pictures of Bush as the Joker were made last year.

Before anything else could happen, the head of the Republicans ended the debate by saying that the meeting was not designed for debate on the poster and that there was a time already set up for that to occur. He asked that in the future College Republicans meetings be kept to Republicans and not platforms for the opposition to debate them.

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