2003-10-02

University of Georgia Being Smitten

The University of Georgia administration should be investigating the nature of its possible sins because it is being slowly smitten this year.

On July 1, the basement laboratory of the pathology department at the College of Veterinary Medicine was flooded. Equipment and data were destroyed with the damage being estimated at $2.2 million.

On July 23, a fire at the Main Library caused significant damage on the second floor and smoke damage throughout all seven floors. The damage there has been estimated at $1.5 million, and the second floor is still closed for major repairs. A suspected arsonist has pleaded not guilty to charges for causing this fire. For days after this fire I saw plenty of disappointed visitors that found the library closed and had to turn away. One odd-mannered visitor on July 24 introduced himself to me as Dr. Swaskey and told me that he has written philosophy in the past but now develops merger deals, but I guess that is another story.

As if this was not enough, on September 21, a less serious disaster occurred at the Student Learning Center, another library building that had just opened in August. The sprinkler system activated on the third floor, covering it with an inch of water. Water leaked all the way down to the first floor.

The University community should be worried by this point, right? Anyone that still thought that this was all coincidental should take note of the latest disaster, a fire on October 1 at the College of Pharmacy. The building is still closed to regular use while damage is being assessed.

Clearly, the University of Georgia is being smitten by fire and by flood. The man upstairs has decided that football crowds trashing the entire county six times a year was not enough, so will whoever has sinned please repent now? The campus has been smote enough already. There will be no more smiting -- no more! It is already time for the bookstores to begin selling fireproof clothing and floatation devices with officially licensed school logos.

2003-04-15

The Arch

The Arch is considered to be the gateway to the University of Georgia as it stands at the northern edge of North Campus. It is also considered to be a mystical object that will cause freshmen that walk through it to become sterile. Indeed, while observing people on the walkway that the Arch stands on, you may see some intentionally walk around it while others that walk through it do so in a snooty manner that publicly signifies that they are not freshmen. Or perhaps knowing this myth causes me to assume too much about the manners of these pedestrians. In either case, considering the placement of the steps beneath it, the three columns, and the volume of pedestrians, walking past or through the Arch requires careful attention.

The Arch is a popular landmark that appears on many postcards. In the Athens area you can buy postcards showing the Arch during the day, the Arch at night, the Arch in the rain, the Arch in the snow, the Arch covered in vomit from drunken students, and so on.

According to A Postcard History of Athens, Georgia by Gary L. Doster, the Arch was cast in iron around 1856. It is a representation of the arch on Georgia's state seal, though the seal does not depict lamps at each end of the arch. These lamps on the University's Arch are only turned on for postcard photography season. Doster's account says that each of the pillars stand for Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation (Georgia's state motto), while another account says they represent the three branches of government. (Perhaps the motto was meant to describe the branches?)

The Arch, being the gateway that it is, is the site of much activity. At times you will find protesters gathered there or flowers laid on the steps for a memorial service.

One thing is certain: There is only one Arch. Perhaps inebriated people downtown see two on occasion, but there is really only one. Resist the urge to speak of "the arches" as many people do -- that will only encourage Georgia Tech fans to claim that people at UGA can't count.

2003-03-16

The Tree That Owns Itself

Let's get two things straight: 1) Trees have no rights. They can't own jack. 2) The so-called Tree That Owns Itself is long dead and doesn't exist anymore.

When you hear about the Tree That Owns Itself, you think, Hey, that's sounds kind of neat. That sounds like an interesting Athenian story. I wonder how that happened.

Well, it's a nice little Athenian story all right, but it's just a big letdown. It didn't happen at all! It's just a wacky little story, OK? Just let it go. If you can understand why people like the story and why the great white oak tree became a landmark, then you can understand Athens. If MIT students were responsible, it would be called a hack or something. The fraudulent stone marker in front of the tree says:

For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides. --William H. Jackson.

William H. Jackson was deceased when this marker was put up, and he never owned the land to allow him give it away in the first place! The current Tree was derived from an acorn off the original and planted in the same spot. If you want to see the Tree and you want to take the easy way there from West Broad Street, you'll have to drive up some damned bumpy cobblestones that are seriously due for a repaving.

If you want all the dates, go get a history book like I did. (I read A Postcard History of Athens, Georgia by Gary L. Doster.)