Monday, April 23, 2018

Earth Day

“The proper use of science is not to conquer nature but to live in it,” Barry Commoner

First celebrated on April 22, 1970 by 20 million Americans and countless millions more in 193 countries around the world, Earth Day was a reaction to such environmental disasters as the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Blowout and the Cuyahoga River in Ohio bursting into flames.  It began as a bipartisan effort.  President Richard Nixon’s 1970 State of the Union address noted: “The great question of the seventies is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land, and to our water.”  By the end of the year, Congress had passed the Clean Air Act, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director William Ruckleshaus commenced an investigation of the pesticide DDT that resulted in it being banned.
 Jim Spicer posted a photo of Fifth Avenue in Gary, circa 1970, before passage of the Clean Air Act
below, granddaughters Tori and Miranda on Earth Day nature walk
Ruckleshaus, a native Hoosier, wrote to the New Yorkerabout Margaret Talbot’s scathing piece on current EPA director Scott Pruitt.  He declared that the environment is far healthier than 47 years ago when the EPA was established but warned:
  Pruitt is systematically attacking both the EPA’s badget and its scientific framework. If he is successful, the very reason for the EPA’s creation – illness and disease from pollution – will reemerge, and we will have to start from square one.  The country must challenge the Trump Administration’s war on science. Otherwise, as a result of actions taken by Pruitt and this Administration, the uncontrolled pollution that we have greatly reduced in the past 5 decades will return.

Toni and I attended a ninetieth birthday celebration for Rhea Laramie at Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville, called the Gary Country Club when founded a century ago.  During the 1920s, Allegra Nesbitt told me from personal experience, the liquor flowed despite the Prohibition laws.  Little wonder, since that is where the Steel City’s movers and shakers hung out. Rhea Laramie seemed to be doing well, but Bob was using a portable breathing device due to a recent health setback. When we started swapping soccer memories, however, his memory proved to be as sharp as ever.  Outside golfers were teeing off despite the cold weather.  I sat next to one of his many in-laws, a 56-year-old named Mark who graduated from Kankakee Valley High School, while his wife went to North Newton. He once played in a rock and roll band that had a gig at the Ponderosa Sun Club, a nudist camp in De Motte. Mark currently lives in Bradenton, Florida, and goes to Flamingo’s in Miller for the Friday lake perch special whenever up for a visit.  Also at our table was Rhea’s 71-year-old son who lives in Wisconsin and races sled dogs.  He once had several dozen but is down to 19 and not planning to add replacements once they are too old to run.

At Miller Beach Aquatorium Sociology professor Tanice hosted a memorial service honoring her sister Patricia, who lived a productive life despite being crippled since childhood.  One photo on display showed her in a wheelchair holding a sign at an antiwar demonstration.  A contingent of IUN faculty and staff came, including Dean Mark Hoyert, as well as Lori Montabano, who attended and then taught Speech at IUN before taking a position at Governors State University in Chicago.  I danced with with her two kids, at Tanice’s December cookie-trading party many years ago.

In Richard Russo’s “Straight Man” English professor Hank Deveraux runs into a student he nicknamed Bobo relieving himself outside and says, “I’m curious.  Why is it necessary to turn your cap around backwards in order to pee forward.”  Russo writes: “Bobo entertains the question with high seriousness, as if I’d just asked him to explain the disappearance of the Fool after Act 3 of King Lear.”  Bobo becomes a History major, and the last time Hank saw him, he “had in his possession, incredibly, a Garcia Marquez novel, the corner of a page turned down about halfway through.”
James as William Barfee with Kenzie Moore, Sayer Norrington, Isabelle Minard, Andrea Vance, Jessica Cretors, Jake Ryan, Victor Ramisez; photos by Ray Gapinski
James shined in the Portage H.S. presentation of “The 25thAnnual Putnam County Spelling Bee” as William Barfée, a nerdy character who spells out words with his foot as a way of seeing it in his mind.  Someone spills pop near the microphone to foil him, and James was a riot acting like he was trying to overcome the hazard.   Several dance numbers required nifty footwork; because James had sprained an ankle during an early rehearsal, we all held our breath but he was great.  Barfée eventually wins the contest by correctly spelling Weltanschauung,a German word meaning worldview.  Half the words used I’d never heard of.  I was surprised to find chimerical pronounced like (ky-MER-ih-kuhl) whereas I always thought the ch was like in church. At Applebee’s afterwards, I admitted as much and added that until recently I pronounced machinations that way instead of the ch sounding like a k.
I watched Maudie (2016) on HBO after recognizing that Sally Hawkins, whom I loved so much in “The Shape of Water,” was playing Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis.  Thought to be retarded by a despicable brother and aunt, Maud had her baby taken away and sold to a wealthy couple after being told that it was born dead and deformed. Ethan Hawke, one of my favorite actors, played reclusive fishmonger Ev, whom she first worked for and then married. Looking out a window, Maud says to Ev: “How I love a window.  A bird whizzin’ by, a bumblebee.  It’s always different.  The whole of life already framed.  Right there.”

Deborah Swallow’s travel guide described Finland as an environmental paradise, with pristine forests, crystal-clear lakes, huge quiet skies, and, in Lapland during the winter, views of the aurora borealis. Finns, she noted, can initially seem aloof but love to laugh and have good sense of humor and humility. To illustrate that last point she repeated this joke:
  An American, a German, and a Finn are looking at an elephant.  The American wonders if the elephant would be good in a circus, the German wonders what price it would get if he sold it, and the Finn asks himself, ‘I wonder what the elephant thinks of me.’”
Brenda Ann Love’s latest report of “Sounds from the South Shore”:
       Church ladies talking smack about other church ladies who may or may not be having an affair with Pastor John.
       Dude listening to Pantera so loudly I can hear it over my podcast and he’s three rows away.
                Woman complaining about how much weight she’s gained while drinking some Starbucks concoction with whipped cream on top.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Being Charlie

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Rose
Until forced off the air after being accused by eight women of making unwanted sexual advances, CBS co-host Charlie Rose was my favorite morning newsman.  In a New York Reviewessay about David Friend’s “The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido,” entitled “Being Charlie,” Laura Marsh concluded that the 1990s were a time of sexual fads and experimentation, when many powerful men believed that to be sexually daring was their prerogative and even part of their appeal.  Marsh wrote:
“That’s just Charlie being Charlie,” a senior producer reportedly told an employee on The Charlie Rose Showwho complained of harassment,  “Being Charlie” was perhaps an essential part of his professional persona: a profile of Rose in Newsdaytitled “The Love Cult of Charlie Rose,” was one of many to note his “famously seductive gaze.”  The seductiveness may be why many people thought at the time that a lot of the behavior now being called out and condemned was not so bad, and why some of the men accused made little effort to hide it.

I’ve always been fond of the name Charlie – it seems to imply a genial and unassuming person, less formal than Charles and more intimate than Chuck.  It’s been used effectively as the name of the “Peanuts” cartoon character Charlie Brown, John Steinbeck’s canine companion in “Travels with Charley,” Edgar Bergen’s puppet Charlie McCarthy, detective Charlie Chan, and silent movie star Charlie Chaplin.  In high school Vince Curll and I befriended the dour iconoclast Charles Thomas and got him to loosen up by calling him Charlie, as in “good time Charlie.” During the mid-Fifties my favorite baseball player was Tiger Charlie “Paw Paw” Maxwell.  Later I had a good-natured brother-in-law nicknamed Charlie that fit him to a T.  One of my closest friends is Charlie Halberstadt.  Retiring Indiana State Representative Charlie Brown  believes using that nickname was a political asset.

Laura Marsh wrote:
In her book The Hearts of Men (1983), Barbara Ehrenreich traces this change in masculinity through the twentieth century, detailing the dissatisfactions many men felt at having to marry early and support their wives, who secured what Playboy sourly called “an Assured Lifetime Income”through marriage. To be a husband and a father in the 1950s meant being a provider—getting a job and, in order to keep it, submitting to the conformity of the office. A successful man was the one who could mold his personality both to the corporate culture at work and to domestic ideals at home. For such men the promise of sexual liberation was that separating sex from the responsibilities of traditional marriage would release him from crushing expectations, freeing him to be whoever he wanted to be.

In sixth grade a classmate’s mother called the house and told Midge that I had deliberately brushed against the her daughter’s breasts, as we called them then.   I was floored since I had no idea what she was talking about and had no interest in the girl or her newly sprouted tits, as we referred to them then.  Now had it been farmer’s daughter Thelma Van Sant, the accusation would have been more plausible, albeit untrue.  My mother believed me, and nothing further came of the matter, other than my being wary not to get too close to the girl.  Years later, as a college professor, I never took advantage of my positon nor was ever accused of improper sexual behavior but knew enough to keep my office door open after an incident involving a colleague.

I offered to send my latest Steel Shavings to former Post-Tribunecolumnist Jeff Manes and he replied, If you hand deliver Shavings, I'll fry us some fish. Let me know. Bring McShane. The levee broke on Feb 22. Went 42 days without NIPSCO. I put up a sign: ‘Welcome to Ramsey Road. We are the Puerto Rico of Jasper County.’ - The Kankakee Ki.”  Great nickname for the sage of the Kankakee River.
Coach Vic Bubas with Duke players
1944 Lew Wallace grad Vic Bubas passed away at age 91. The high school basketball star, who helped Wallace win its first sectional and regional championships, played for North Carolina State and between 1963 and 1966 coached Duke to 3 Final Four appearances.  He is credited with transforming the ACC into one of the top conferences in the county and being one of the first coaches to scout high school prospects prior to their senior year.  In 1969, after ten years at the helm, Bubas retired from coaching and became an administrator.  In 1976 he became the first commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference.
Post-Tribune photos of IUN hearings by Kyle Telethon
Area lawmakers Charlie Brown, Vernon Smith, Lonnie Randolph (East Chicago) and Eddie Melton (Merrillville) held hearings at IUN on the dwindling number of African-American students (down to 17 percent) and faculty. Approximately  80 people attended, including former Labor Studies professor Ruth Needleman, who pointed to the lack of relevant programs.  A partial explanation for the problem is that many qualified minority students obtain scholarships and go away to college and that the market for black faculty is tight.  I would also argue that the shabby treatment of former vice chancellors for academic affairs Kwesi Aggrey and Mark McPhail, both sensitive to the problem but unable to convince others to make minority hiring and enrollment diversity a top university priority, is also responsible.
 George and Betty Villareal at IU Day
At bowling the Pin Chasers swept the Electrical Engineers to finish the season ahead of us in the standings.  In the crucial game, all we needed was for our lefty anchor Dick Maloney to mark.  After leaving the 3-6, he seemed to have it covered, but his ball flattened and went straight at the 3-pin and left the 6-pin – chopped wood, as the saying goes.  I told aviation buff Gene Clifford that my bridge buddy Tom Rea had recently attended an air show in Florida.  “It must have been the Lakeland Sun’n Fun Fly-In,”he replied.  Opponent George Villareal, who the day before had attended IUN Fun Day.  One of the attractions was a six-ton steam-whistle-playing calliope located outside Hawthorn Hall, which could be heard in my Archives cage and acted sort of like a pied piper.
Toivo Pekkanen 
I have started Toivo Pekka’s 1953 autobiography about his Finnish Childhood, “Lapsuuteni,” which contains this elegiac fantasy:
One of these mornings
One spring morning
When the sun rises in the sky
I will mount my steed
           . . . . . 
Only for a moment
Shall his hoofs thunder over the rooftops
Only for an instant
Shall my shadow flash against the skies
Already I shall be far away, set free.
 Mathew Brady

Samuel A Love and I had lunch at Flamingo’s and worked on captions that will go with his photos of Gary poetry projects that Ron Cohen and I plan to include in the third edition of our Gary pictorial history. V Sam told me that when he was a kid, the first edition that his parents bought was one of his favorite books, along with one about the Civil War photos of Mathew Brady.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Teachers Fight Back

“Students, because you’re mine, I walk the line.”  Sign at West Virginia rally of teachers during 9-day strike, borrowing a Johnny Cash line
 Oklahoma state Capitol on third day of nine-day strike

Teacher walkouts and strikes have occurred in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona – red states, for the most part -  to protest low salaries, large class size, inadequate supplies, including obsolete textbooks and lack of computers, plus threats to teachers’ pensions.  In Kentucky, Governor Matt Bevin claimed that the walkout led to a student being sexually assaulted, then was pressured into apologizing for the outrageous remark. He vetoed a bill that included a hefty budget increase for education, but lawmakers managed to override his action. The situation for teachers in Indiana is also dire.  In fact, the state appropriates less money per pupil than where walkouts have occurred. Since the 1990s, when Dave started at East Chicago Central, teachers’ salaries have been stagnant and lost ground to inflation.  What a sad commentary on America’s priorities that teachers are so underpaid and burdened by policies that force them to respond to unrealistic guidelines intended to undercut public education in favor of for-profit charter schools.
 Hedy Lamarr

Bridge was at Herb and Evelyn’s in Ogden Dunes, where granddaughter Alissa and their son Alex used to play in their swimming pool.  The huge Passo dog would get so excited when company came that they’d have to keep the friendly beast in the garage, where he’d bang against the wall in frustration.  After a few loud barks, current dog Hedy Lamarr, named for a Forties movie siren was friendly.  When Dick Hagelberg noted that he had Finnish ancestors, I mentioned reading a history of Finland because of my upcoming trip to a conference in Jyvaskyla and that their language is different from neighbors Sweden and Russia.  Connie Barnes noted that one of her great-grandmothers boarded a train to get married only to discover that her fiancée already had a wife, so she wed someone she met on the train.  It was her second marriage and lasted a lifetime.  Evelyn Passo, a kindergarten teacher, is planning to retire soon.  There’s even pressure at that level for teachers to drill stuff into their charges instead of making their first year of school mainly a socializing experience.
In “Straight Man” Richard Russo compares a situation to the plot of “Scuffy the Tugboat,” Gertrude Crampton’s 1946 best seller.   Bored with being confined to a bathtub, Scuffy embarks on a great adventure but in the end realizes he’d rather be back home. Russo also references Brobdingnag, the land of giants in Jonathan Swift’s eighteenth-century satire “Gulliver’s Travels.” When Hank, an English Department chair under duress from both professors and administrators, muses that he must be Porthos to others’ Athos and Aramis, the reference is to “The Three Musketeers” (1844) by Alexander Dumas.  A literary allusion I particularly liked was saying that someone, like Oliver Twist in the Charles Dickens novel, went from a poor home to an even worse one.  One section begins with lines from English poet Stephen Spender, who wrote about social injustice and class struggle:
What I had not foreseen
Was the gradual day
Weakening the will
Leaking the brightness away
Two interesting words Russo employs are dudgeon(a feeling of deep resentment) and ellipsis(the omission of obvious or superfluous) words. Reviewing “City of the Century,” historian James Madison called my Gary book elliptical, which I took to mean, rather than obscure or ambiguous, that I left readers to draw their own conclusions. 

Like Hank, there was a time in academe when I went a little crazy – in my case, soon after achieving promotion and tenure.  I decided to revive the near dormant IUN student newspaper by teaching a History of Journalism course and becoming adviser to the Northwest Phoenix.  Under my guidance it came out weekly and didn’t shy away from controversy.  I was sensible enough, however, to leave editorial decisions to student editors John Petalas and Joe Salacian and discourage articles about professors’ personal lives, such as one about Economics professor Les Singer being a practicing nudist. While I took pride in my teaching and influenced a fair share of students, my impact was miniscule compared to son Dave at East Chicago Central.
There are so few movie comedies worth seeing that, after deciding I didn’t have an appetite for the spy knockoff Beirut, which received mediocre reviews, I debated between Blockers(about parents trying to keep daughters from getting laid on prom night) and Girls Trip(four old friends reconnect in New Orleans),  I opted for the latter since Queen Latifah was in it, I could watch it free on HBO, and it got a 90% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It was  quite raunchy, but Queen Latifah didn’t disappoint, and I enjoyed musical cameos by Ne-Yo, Sean Combs, and New Edition and the dirty dancing scenes. Critics evidently loved Tiffany Haddish as an impulsive party animal, comparing her performance to Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids (2011).
 Cindy Bean

Emerson interior ruins

Cindy C. Bean granted Ron Cohen and me permission to use her photo of Lake Michigan and area steel mills for our new edition of “Gary: A Pictorial History.”  It originally appeared in Jerry Davich’s “Lost Gary.”  Cindy and husband Larry frequently visit abandoned buildings in Gary, such as City Methodist Church, Union Station, the Palace Theater, and Emerson School.   Its disgraceful present condition is a sad testimony to the city lack of resources. According to historian Kendall Svengalis, an Emerson grad, the latter cannot be demolished due to it being on the National Register of Historic Places, but Cohen disputes this. 
In “The Defeat of Black Power: Civil Rights and the National Black Political Convention of 1972” (2018), Leonard N. Moore described how Jesse Jackson stole the spotlight at the West Side black summit in hopes of becoming Martin Luther King’s successor as the leader of African Americans. Following is Moore’s account of Jackson and the three conveners, poet Amiri Baraka, Detroit Congressman Charles Diggs, and Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, at the opening press conference:
All four men were dressed in garb appropriate to their constituency: Diggs in a conservative suit as representative of the National Black Caucus; Hatcher in an expensive tailor-made suit exemplifying the new generation of young, educated, urban mayors, controlling black-majority cities; Baraka in his dashiki representing black nationalists; and Jesse Jackson dressed like Superfly – wide-collar shirt, vest, with a large medallion engraved with the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. hanging from his neck.

Ray Smock wrote tongue-in-cheek about Stormy Daniels showing up at Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s court appearance in an attempt to block authorities from seeing his email correspondence:
     While I have not made a scientific study of the phenomenon, it did appear to me from video clips of the event that there were more reporters, cameramen, and paparazzi at Stormy Daniels' court appearance today than there were people at Trump's inauguration.
     Since we know that Trump's inaugural crowd was the largest in history, according to our highest authority, I will settle for Stormy's crowd as being the second largest.
     For those of you who may feel I am exaggerating a bit, let me find a way of stating this that cannot be disputed. The crowd at the courthouse to see Stormy Daniels today was the largest crowd in history ever to gather for the purpose of seeing a porn star who had an affair with a President of the United States.
 Chase Utley heroics in 2008 World Series

At bridge Dee Van Bebber and I finished second with a 63.89 percent and finished second despite my twice being too cautious in not pushing us to game.  Having lived many years in Florida, Dee is a Tampa Bay fan and resented Joe Madden leaving the Rays to manage the Cubs.  Commenting on last Saturday’s atrocious weather at Wrigley, Madden mentioned that his worst experience was the deciding 2008 World Series game 5 in Philadelphia. A Phillies fan, I vividly recall it being suspended in the sixth inning with the Phils holding a one-run lead and being resumed next day.  I was at the bowling alley with the TV on mute when, with the score tied, Philly second baseman Chase Utley knocked down a grounder headed for centerfield, faked throwing to first, and then nabbed the lead runner at the plate, thanks to a great tag by Carlos Ruiz.  At the time I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened, but, by all accounts, it saved the Series for the Phillies.  I also recall the on-field celebration after closer Brad Lidge, a perfect 48 for 48 for the season, struck out the final batter with a nasty slider, causing me to let out a whoop.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Stone Cold

“If you piss me off, Donald Trump, I’ll open an eight-billion-dollar can of whoop ass and serve it to ya.”  Stone Cold Steve Austin
In 2007, at WrestleMania 23, Donald Trump got in the ring with wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin and as a publicity stunt was the recipient of Austin’s signature move, the Stunner.  Another one of Austin’s gimmicks was to pour two cans of beer toward his mouth at the same time and douse himself with the contents.  Twenty years before, Trump promoted WrestleMania events in Atlantic City in hopes of boosting casino revenue at the Trump Taj Mahal, which nonetheless filed for bankruptcy in 1991.  Last July in a tweet that originally appeared on the rightwing site Reddit (posted by user HansAssholeSolo), Trump used footage from one such event where he body-slammed WWE owner Vince McMahon only the figure had a CNN logo over its face.  CNN responded that it was “a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters.”
At a Chesterton show choirs Open Mike fundraiser held at Val’s Famous Pizza and Grinders, Becca sang “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato, a breakup song that starts out, “Stone cold, stone cold, you see me standing, but I’m dying on the floor.” Dave backed her up on guitar.  
Christina Hale spoke at IUN’s Women’s Center on the topic “Yes, You Too: What To Do When You Want To Set Your Hair On Fire.” Formerly a Democratic State Representative and candidate for lieutenant-governor in 2016 as John Gregg’s running mate, she described herself as a 46-year-old Latina native of Michigan City and former single mother who graduated from Purdue Northwest and is still paying off her student debt. She is presently CEO of Leadership Indianapolis, whose mission is to recruit and develop community leaders. She was dozing on a plane in rural China when she felt a hand on her breasts. Next to her, the culprit was masturbating.  She tried to report what happened but nobody would listen until she boarded her subsequent flight.  The pilot warned that if she pressed the matter, she might be detained for hours by Chinese authorities and miss her flight. Anxious to get home, she demurred, but the incident brought home to her why many victims fail to report sexual assaults due to the unpleasant consequences.

In addition to talking about the value of the Me, Too Movement, Hale described the frustrations of being in the distinct minority in the Hoosier statehouse.  Republican lawmakers recently made it illegal for people to tattoo their eyeballs but avoided passing legislation defining sexual consent.  In rural Wayne County, she said, ten percent of newborn babies suffer from opiate addiction, and on highway signs FARM stands for “Find and Report Meth.”  Millionaires buying private planes need not worry about sales tax, while struggling mothers pay duties on diapers and tampons.  The onetime reporter is a board member for the Indiana Humanities, the Indiana Commission on Latino Affairs, the Domestic Violence Network, and the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault. When she apologized if she made Chancellor Lowe uneasy bringing up tampons, he said no problem, he has a wife and daughter.

In the audience were students from two Sociology classes, plus several faculty, including Philosopher Anja Matwijkiw.  When Christina asked for questions, nobody initially responded until one of the few males in the audience spoke up, which got things going.  I kept silent but afterwards thanked the speaker and added that, while I agreed with her on the need for new blood in politics, people in the Region will sorely miss retiring  State Representative Linda Lawson, a former police officer and IUN grad.

Joining our Chesterton bridge group were Unit 154 president Gary Chaney and Fort Wayne sectional chair Kim Grant, who presented certificates of accomplishment to Terry Bauer and Chuck and Marcy Tomes. In the hand that kept me thinking afterwards, Dee Van Bebber opened a Spade.  I had five Hearts to the Queen, Ace, King and two other Clubs, 3 Diamonds to the Queen, and a singleton Spade.  I bid 2 Hearts, Dee responded 2 Spades, and I jumped to 3 No-Trump.  Dee had 6 Spades Ace, Queen Jack, Ace spot of Hearts, 4 little Diamonds, and one little Club.  With only 22 combined points, we were in trouble, especially after Chuck Tomes led a Club and my Spade finesse failed.  Marcy led back a Club, which Chuck took, and then forced my Club Ace.  I crossed to the board with a Heart and led out the remaining Spades, which fortunately broke 3-3.  Still, I needed one more trick with a bare Queen of Hearts and a Queen-3 of Diamonds left in my hand and both red Kings out against me.  Marcy took my Diamond lead from the board with her Ace and cashed a good Club.  When I played my Heart Queen on it, Chuck discarded his Heart King, keeping a Diamond King over my Queen.  Marcy then led the 8 of Hearts, which beat dummy’s Heart 7.  So close but no cigar!  It turned out that we ended up with the second highest board since other couples went down 2 or 3.

Brenda Ann Love reports: 
Today I thought I may have seen one of three things: 1) a dick measuring contest; 2) a circle jerk; or 3) a literal pissing contest. To give some context, there were three men standing in a circle down the alley. There seemed to be quite a bit of tittering, which could explain any of the three things above.  Upon discussing the above with Sam, he explained to me that they were most likely just three dudes smoking a joint, something he used to catch his students doing back in the day.  My mind is clearly in the gutter.

Ray Smock posted this assessment of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who claims he wants to spend more time with his family but will likely take a lucrative position as a corporate lackey.  As bridge buddy Helen Booth puts it, he is the latest rat abandoning the sinking ship of state:
    Paul Ryan will not seek re-election. The speculation about this is over. He never liked the job and it never fit him well. As the former House Historian who worked with three Speakers, I hereby dub him: The Reluctant Speaker. He was reluctant to take the job. He was reluctant to challenge members of his own party in the so-called Freedom Caucus. He was reluctant to cooperate across the aisle. And he was very reluctant to challenge our demagogue president. Furthermore, he has been reluctant to use his constitutional office to help set the national agenda. He was never able to get the House to work using the regular order of business. He bears a good deal of the blame for the terrible dysfunction in the House during his tenure.
 B-24 Liberator at Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson

At bowling Chris Pfeiffer showed me a WW II-era publication called Tucson Liberatorthat contained a photo of his mother and other defense workers who belonged to a bowling team, as well as other memorabilia.  There is a good chance that she was a real life Rosie the Riveter working on B-24 Liberator planes.  I told his to get in contact with the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tuscon, Arizona, as curators there might be interested in what he discovered.

“Straight Man” takes place in a distressed Pennsylvania city Richard Russo calls Railton, whose demoralized workers, the author writes, “have gone from unemployment to subsistence checks and whose marauding kids roam the streets at night marking time until they’ll be old enough to acquire the fake IDs that will allow them to climb on barstools next to their sad parents in seedy neighborhood taverns that sport out-of-date beer signs in their dark windows.”
 Betty Dominguez at right and below

Jerry Davich moderated a debate held at IUN’s Bergland Auditorium among the candidates running for Lake County sheriff.  He had audience members submit questions and chose the ones he felt were most germane.  Rather than ask for a closing statement, he asked each what their greatest regret in life was.  Richard Ligon said that it was waiting 45 years to get married.  Betty Dominguez, who I’d vote for if I lived in Lake County, said she didn’t have any.  

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Quest

“It is the mission of each true knight
His duty, nay, his privilege
To dream the impossible dream.”
         Don Quixote, “Man of La Mancha”
photo by Bettie Wilson
Thanks to an invitation from librarian Scott Sandberg, I participated in a community discussion about Martin Luther King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize speech.  It took place on the second floor of IUN’s Anderson library on the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination.  The panel also included ministers, attorneys, and Archives volunteer Maurice Yancy (who was great).  Discussion facilitator Junifer Hall, head of the Katie Hall Educational Foundation, asked us to elaborate on statements from the address, such as King’s contrasting contemporary technological achievements with what he termed a “poverty of spirit.” From past experiences in this setting, I knew how to concentrate on certain points I wanted to make - such as that King’s dream of a nonracist society was one that inspired people of all races and backgrounds, myself included.  I brought up Richard Hatcher’s civil rights activities using King’s tactics prior to his becoming mayor.  I emphasized that employing nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to protest unjust laws allowed King and his followers to assume the moral high ground and that his principled opposition to the Vietnam War was an act of courage that cost him support from President Lyndon Baines Johnson and probably hastened his death. Lutheran pastor Delwyn Campbell and Deacon John Henry Hall got into a doctrinal dispute over the relative importance of faith versus good works and love of self as opposed to love of others. NAACP attorney Barbara Bolling-Williams mentioned lawsuits by her organization against Republican efforts to infringe on poor people’s voting rights. Regarding prospects for the future, I stressed the need for inspired leadership and importance of studying the past.

Reminiscent of John Updyke in “Rabbit Run,” Richard Russo portrays ministers hilariously.  In “That Old Cape Magic” a Unitarian man of the cloth presides at Jack Griffin’s daughter’s wedding, unencumbered, Russo writes, “by liturgical obligation.”  He “clearly fancied himself a comedian and used those parts of the service that might otherwise be given over to prayer to relive memorable moments of the rehearsal dinner to a smattering of nervous laughter.”  When Griffin’s date “set upon the Unitarian comic on the dance floor,” he “looked everywhere but at Marguerite’s chest, unintentionally providing the very comedy that had eluded him during the wedding ceremony.”   I enjoyed “That Old Cape Magic” so much I decided to reread Russo’s “Straight Man,” about a professor at a mediocre Pennsylvania branch campus where getting promotion “was a bit like being proclaimed the winner of a shit-eating contest.”  The sentiment was similar to Griffin’s parents complaining of being stuck at as Hoosier college in the “Mid-fuckin’-West.” Hank has a white German shepherd named Occam (for Occam’s razor, the principle that the simplest explanation is usually the most valid) whose signature move is to put his wet pointed snout in a visitor’s crotch and tug upward.

The Cubs’ quest for a second World Series championship in three years got off to a rocky start, as they failed to score a run in 2 consecutive games, plus the final 14 innings of a 2-1 loss to the lowly Marlins.  They finally broke out of it in an 8-0 win over the Brewers and then took the series three games out of four.
Sergio Garcia
At bowling an overhead TV broadcast round one of the Masters from Augusta, and I watched Tiger Woods fight back from 3 over par with 2 birdies on the back nine.  When last year’s winner Sergio Garcia put five balls in the water for a 13 on a par 3 hole named Firethorn, I thought I was watching instant replay since the set was on mute. Sergio’s wife Angela recently gave birth to a girl named Azalea, nickname for the thirteenth hole at Augusta. When Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner quipped that Sergio won’t be naming his next kid Firethorn, Angela Garcia called him an idiot.  Lerner subsequently apologized, needlessly, I thought. 

The annual Portage High School (PHS) variety show lasted 3 and a half hours and featured 37 acts, culminating in a number from the spring musical, “The 25thAnnual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  James appeared in it as William Barfee (“That’s Bar-FAY!”) Administrators had put the kibosh on plans to stage “The Drowsy Chaperone” because of alcohol references but did not censor a group singing “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.” Go figure!  Must have slipped through the cracks.  Thirty years ago, when Dave and friends performed “Cretin Hop” at a similar PHS show, the brochure left out the name Sex Pistols.   I recognized Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” sung by Lailah Abdulla and Danny GoShay as the number Becca did at Alissa wedding. Highlights included Angelo Turner singing Coldplay’s “Everglow,” Jaden Vandever crooning the John Legend number “All of Me,” and a dance number by multi-talented Andrea Vance, who also sang with the PHS Dance Group and PHS Thespians.
 Andrea Vance
Larry Lapidus, "Vintage Couple"
Gregg Hertrieb
Over the weekend two exhibit receptions took place, “Straight Shooters: Photographs by Larry Lapidus” at the Munster Center for the Arts, and “Time Ghost,” curated by Lapidus and featuring surrealistic watercolors and acrylics by Gregg Hertzlieb at Gardner Center in Miller.  A brochure for “Time Ghost” stated: “Enter a world inspired by nature and art, where characters and elements exist as fantasy or metaphor.  Hertzlieb’s message is one of peace, delight, and joy in the possibilities of the imagination.”  I told Gregg, VU’s museum curator, that he had a fertile mind.
“Scandinavia,” a travel book by Rick Steves, asserted that nearly every educated young person in Finland, where Dave and I will be going in two months, “speaks effortless English – the language barrier is just a road turtle.”  I’d never heard the phrase “road turtle” and subsequently learned it stands for raised pavement highway reflectors sometimes called road studs or cat’s eyes.  While our destination is Jyväskylä, virtually the entire chapter dealt with things to do in Helsinki, the only European capital without a medieval history.  Its most distinguished buildings were constructed during the nineteenth century when Finland was part of the Russian empire and modeled after architecture in St. Petersburg. Steves wrote:
  In 1917, Finland won its independence from Russia and enjoyed two decades of prosperity until the secret Nazi-Soviet pact of August 1939 assigned them to the Soviet sphere of influence.  When Russia invaded, Finland resisted successfully, its white-camouflaged ski troops winning the Winter War of 1939-1940 and holding off the Russians in the Continuing War from 1941 until 1944.
  After WW II, Finland was forced to cede territory to the USSR, accept a Soviet naval base, and pay huge reparations.  The collapse of the Soviet Union has done to Finland what a good long sauna might do for you.

At Gino’s in Merrillville for a book club meeting, I enjoyed a free plate of raviolis at the bar to go with my 8-dollar pale ale 16-ounce draft. Two guys in their sixties talked about having to deal with a catheter and urine bag, one due to a kidney stone and the other after prostate surgery.   Sitting nearby, Debra Dubovitz commented that it’s tough growing old.  On the TV were shots of snow falling at Wrigley Field, forcing cancellation of the Cubs home opener.
 J.D. Vance

Joe Gomeztagle talked about J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” a surprise best-seller in the wake of the 2016 election, frequently comparing and contrasting Vance’s background and his own and Middletown, Ohio, with Gary, Indiana. While it is primarily a work of self-congratulation by one who overcame a rough childhood (with a drug-addicted mother and 15 stepdads) and made it out of a former Ohio steel town by joining the marines and then going on to graduate from Yale Law School, conservatives have touted Vance as the voice of the rustbelt and the book as the explanation why Trump is so popular with Appalachian whites.  Though proud of his Scotch-Irish hillbilly roots, Vance admonishes those who “spend their way into the poorhouse and choose not to work.”   Like his Yale mentor Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Lady,” Vance preaches a message of tough love and personal responsibility.  Vance now works for a Silicon valley investment firm, and many Republicans want him to run for political office, perhaps an Ohio Senate seat. He seems content making an obscene amount of money from speaking engagements.

During the discussion Brian Barnes mentioned that the Scotch-Irish have tended to be tribal and violence-prone, dating to when they relocated to Catholic Ireland and later emigrated to the American frontier.  Debra Dubovitz said that her Irish family considered it a “mixed marriage” when she married someone Polish, even though they were both Roman Catholic. Lee Christakis did her one better, claiming that his folks disapproved of a Greek girlfriend because she was from a different island.  I mainly criticized “Hillbilly Elegy” for tending to blame poor people for their own economic plight and criticizing welfare state programs that at least ameliorated their situation rather than corporate capitalists who exploited and then abandoned them.  Citing David Goldfield’s “The Gifted Generation,” I concluded that the primary cause of their work ethic decline was not moral failure, or what Vance calls “learned helplessness,” but unhealthy corporate concentration, the weakening of organized labor, and governmental neglect.