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May 22, 2011 - 7:31pm

Questions for the candidates: Intellectual life

posted by Howard B. Owens in Jack Davis, NY-26, Jane Corwin, Ian Murphy.

As part of our ongoing series of questions for candidates, we close with questions about "intellectual life."

From my perspective, to be qualified for office, it's not just about your policy positions, it's also about what you know, how you think and how you learn, because elected officials are asked to deal with problems that aren't always easily grasped by political ideology. Being intellectually curious is important to any job that's essentially a job of the mind.

The deadline for questions was Thursday at 11 a.m. None of the candidates, perhaps understandably, met the deadline. Kathy Hochul and Ian Murphy turned in answers Thursday evening.

In effort to get answers from either Jane Corwin or Jack Davis, I waited until Friday afternoon to post the questions and answers, but then we had a big breaking news story.

Jack eventually turned in partial answers. Jane Corwin, despite repeated calls and emails to Matthew Harakal, including one conversation in which he promised the answers "soon," we have yet to receive any answers. We requested them again today.

Below are the questions, after the jump, answers in the order received.

Perhaps write-in candidates Jeff Allen and JoAnne Rock would like to provide their answers in the comments.

What three books first published in the past 100 years have been most meaningful to you?

Name your three favorite songwriters and pick one song from one of those writers and tell us what that song has meant to you?

If you were asked to read a poem on the floor of the House of Representatives, what poem would it be and why?

Tell us about a museum you’ve visited any time in your life and how it had a lasting impact on your intellectual life or imagination.

Who is your favorite Western New York writer, musician or artist (any genre/style/medium)?

Do you have any hidden artistic talent? What is it (sing, draw, photography, etc.)?  If not, is there anything along those lines you aspire to -- ‘I really wish I could .... ?’

Kathy Hochul:

Q: What three books first published in the past 100 years have been most meaningful to you?

A: The three books that have been most meaningful to me are “American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and “Profiles in Courage” by John F. Kennedy.

Q: Name your three favorite songwriters and pick one song from one of those writers and tell us what that song has meant to you?

A: I actually have four favorite songwriters - Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Simon & Garfunkel. Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” always reminds me of people less fortunate who don’t have a voice.

Q: If you were asked to read a poem on the floor of the House of Representatives, what poem would it be and why?

A: I would read “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. I have an independent streak and identify with the individualism of the poem.

Q: Tell us about a museum you’ve visited any time in your life and how it had a lasting impact on your intellectual life or imagination?

A: When I was 10-years-old I visited the National Archives on a trip to Washington with my family. I remember seeing the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence and being inspired by the tremendous challenges faced by our forefathers as they created the foundation for our country.

Q: Who is your favorite Western New York writer, musician or artist (any genre/style/medium)?

A: My favorite Western New York playwright is Tom Dudzick, who wrote the “Over the Tavern” series.

Q: Do you have any hidden artistic talent? What is it (sing, draw, photography, etc? If not, is there anything along those lines you aspire—‘I really wish I could…?’

A: I aspire to write short stories about the lives of the fascinating people I have come to meet in my life.

Ian Murphy:

What three books first published in the past 100 years have been most meaningful to you?

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins, and Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein.

Name your three favorite songwriters and pick one song from one of those writers and tell us what that song has meant to you?

Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, and Tampa Red. Anything by Tampa Red means something to me because he plays the kazoo. There has never been a more perfect folk instrument than the kazoo.

If you were asked to read a poem on the floor of the House of Representatives, what poem would it be and why?

I would read Carl Sandburg's I Am the People, the Mob:

I am the people—the mob—the crowd—the mass.

Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing. Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes me work and give up what I have. And I forget.
Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to remember. Then—I forget.
When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year, who played me for a fool—then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision.
The mob—the crowd—the mass—will arrive then.

 ----

I'd read that piece to remind all the corporate flunkies who they really work for, and to remind the American people that they are ultimately in charge.

Tell us about a museum you’ve visited any time in your life and how it had a lasting impact on your intellectual life or imagination.

The Kazoo Museum in Eden, NY, sparked my life-long appreciation for the kazoo.

Who is your favorite Western New York writer, musician or artist (any genre/style/medium)?

Folk-blues singer Jackson C. Frank.

Do you have any hidden artistic talent?  What is it (sing, draw, photography, etc.)?  If not, is there anything along those lines you aspire to -- ‘I really wish I could .... ?’

I really wish I could play the kazoo.

Jack Davis

What three books first published in the past 100 years have been most meaningful to you?

Atlas Shrugged, the engineering textbook from UB are the first two. I'll get back to you on the third.

Do you have any hidden artistic talent?  What is it (sing, draw, photography, etc.)?  If not, is there anything along those lines you aspire to -- ‘I really wish I could .... ?’

I play trombone. (Though I admit I'm a bit out of practice.)

Jeff Allen
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First, thank you Howard for including the write-ins. I admit, of all the sets of questions, this one I find challenging. I purposely skipped reading the others answers so as not to be influenced. A.) 3 Books: 1. Our Sacred Honor : William Bennett. A lot can be learned about the intentions of our Founding Fathers through their personal writings, letters to their spouses, etc. 2. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel: Virginia Lee Burton. Loved having my mom read it to me as a child, loved reading it to my kids, love reading it to my niece and nephew, look forward to reading it to my grandchildren. The inspiration for Mary Ann the steam shovel actually sits in a field off Gulf Rd. in LeRoy 3. A long way gone, Memoirs of a boy soldier : Ishmael Beah. Shocking true story of Ishmael's journey into drugs, then war in Sierra Leone as a pre-teen. B.) 3 songwriters: hate to take a pass, but I'm really not much of a music guy, at least from a lyrics standpoint. C.) Poem: Listen to the Mustn'ts by Shel Silverstein. Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child Listen to the DON'TS Listen to the SHOULDN'TS The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON'TS Listen to the NEVER HAVES Then listen close to me-- Anything can happen, child, ANYTHING can be. There was no doubt when I read this question that it would be Silverstein, he is my absolute favorite poet. I think the words represent why so often nothing gets done in government or no one steps out boldly. D.) museum: without a doubt, The Smithsonian. Our country past and present all in one place. E.) Western New York writer/musician/artist: Don Charmichael, fantastic pen and ink history of Genesee County. F.) "I really wish I could..." play the piano
JoAnne Rock
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Howard, thank you for offering to include me in this week's Q&A. If I were a legitimate candidate, I would be happy to answer the questions; but I am only writing my name in on the ballot as an alternative to submitting a blank ballot.
Brandon Burger
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Great questions, Howard. It is always fascinating to see how someone's mind developed and from which books, art and music their ideas might have come. I think it would be interesting to read what everyone's (and not just the political candidates') three books and choice of music would be.
Daniel Jones
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Howard - These are excellent questions.
Lorie Longhany
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I concur with the group. Love these questions! The answers revealed that I line up quite nicely with the candidate that I have supported from day one. I like many of Jeff's answer's too. Mike Mulligen was a favorite in our house and Don Carmichael was my mentor. I also drew the "Dinky" several years back and my husband's Grandfather drove it when he worked in the quarry. You tugged at me, Jeff.
Jeff Allen
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Thanks Lorie, did your grandfather ever say that he and Dinky could dig more in a day than a hundred men could dig in a week? When I read it to my niece and nephew, I never have to say "four corners, neat and square", they always beat me to it!

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