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Work of Art - How do we define ‘excessive’?

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By Art Trujillo

When does a celebration become “excessive”? All of us who watch football have seen a number of flags tossed to penalize players or teams whose jubilation becomes disruptive.

Defining “excessive” becomes a problem. Many dislike the look-at-me attitude of some players who, while on their way to a touchdown, begin their strut, an in-your-face gesture that fans and — especially — opposing teams loathe.

We’ve all seen players, live or on TV, draw a flag for too much hoopla in the end zone. Where do we draw the line between genuine excitement and hot-dogging?

Well, have I got news for you: Apparently some places have much less tolerance than others for unrestrained joy. We’re discussing commencement exercises now, not football anymore, although crowds in the respective stands often are indistinguishable.

A certain student won’t receive his diploma until about three weeks late and after he performs 20 hours of community service because members of his family were too exuberant when the graduate’s name was called to cross the stage and pick up his diploma.

The boy, Anthony Cornist of Ohio, wasn’t even part of the celebration.

Apparently his large family let out whoops when his name was called. The cheering, available on YouTube, certainly was exuberant, but was it really disruptive?

Times have changed. I read about the hoopla in the Washington Post and chose to weigh in on the topic. But as I did more research, it became a question of selectivity: The issue is widespread. In other schools, public and private, high school and college, administrations have had to cope, and ultimately come up with their own rules.

At one college commencement, the mother of a graduate was led out of the auditorium in handcuffs. In the Ohio case, students received blank diplomas, which they could later claim, provided their family hadn’t been part of the excessive celebration.

I wrote in a column years back about the first time I heard loud cheering at a graduation ceremony. That was when my childhood friend, who graduated in 1957, as I did, from a different high school, received his college degree.

To my knowledge my friend never dropped out of Highlands. After nine years, he got his diploma, having spent several of those years making up incompletes and re-taking classes for a passing grade. He became an institution.

Well, applause and cheers filled Ilfeld Auditorium that June 1966 day. For the rest of the graduates, a polite smattering of applause sufficed.

Times have changed. In the 30-plus graduations I attended, either as a student or as a staff member at Highlands, I can remember commencements ranging from something as solemn as Midnight Mass at Immaculate Conception Church to as raucous as a hip-hop concert. I don’t exaggerate much.

Silly String, air horns, cowbells and beach balls seem to have become staples for a few years at Highlands. Several years ago, Highlands’ commencement speaker was Sen. Manny Aragon, who had already expressed his specific wish to become president of our university. In the middle of his address, someone let loose a large beach ball which dropped from the upper level to the ground level, where graduates sat.

Some graduates returned the ball whence it came, only to have it bounced back in a playful but distracting volley.

Not missing a beat, Aragon incorporated the ball’s trajectory into his speech, quickly shifting his speech to the “ups and downs that life offers.”

Some years, it’s difficult to distinguish used-to-be solemn commencement exercises from pep rallies.

• • •

My first experience with a digital camera came about 12 years ago, when my oldest son, Stan Adam, told me about his new Nikon Coolpix 950. At the time, it was revolutionary in that it had a swivel feature that let the photographer shoot from high or low positions while still being able to view the scene.

Naturally, I had to have one. My grandson and namesake soon became interested in photography. Around the year 2000, when Arthur Roland was 4, he used my camera to take a shot of several relatives in front of my mother’s house.

The results were surprising. Another relative, seeing the finished product, insisted Arthur couldn’t have been the photographer. “How can a 4-year-old even hold a camera steady?” he asked. Then I pointed out a window in the photo that showed a tiny reflection of him shooting the photo.

I’m happy to report he’s made strides. He’s already had a number of photos published in the Optic, including one earlier this week, and hopes to do more of the same.

Here’s my disclosure: Arthur will be helping design a new photo page feature, scheduled to start running every Friday.

I of course am proud that Arthur Roland will be given a chance to learn on the job, and I’m pleased that his summer stint is not simply because of his relationship to me. Optic editor and publisher Tom McDonald sought him out.

McDonald said, “A while back I was looking for a non-staff member to take pictures of the Optic’s entire staff, and asked Arthur to help with it. His work was so good I started thinking about ways we could use his talents, and this photo page came to mind. With Arthur’s talent and Art’s experience, I think this will be a great and fun addition to our weekend paper.”

We’ve dubbed the new page, “Names and Faces,” and we’ll be inviting you to send in your submissions based on a particular week’s theme.

I hope to have fun in this venture, to give pointers to Arthur, as he goes under McDonald’s wing. We will provide details of each week’s plans. With your help, it can be successful.

Please wish Arthur luck. He’s matured as a photographer, and no, I don’t expect to find any of his photos showing his image in a mirror.

That would not be a good reflection on him.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.