Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beginnings


“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.” Walt Whitman
 Lovers Bill Duckett and Walt Whitman


HBO has begun offering the 2010 film “Beginners,” for which Christopher Plummer deservedly received an Oscar for best actor in a supporting role, at age 82 the oldest winner ever.  He plays Hal Fields, a 75 year-old retired museum director who comes out of the closet after his wife dies.  His lover Andy, played by Goran Visnjic, tells Hal’s son Oliver not to be threatened by the relationship.  As critic Roger Ebert wrote: “Andy truly and deeply loves the old man, with a fullness that almost shames Oliver.”  After Hal dies, the son finds the letter and photo he used to place a personal ad in an encounter column identifying himself as a gay man looking for a younger partner.  The role for the Canadian actor is a far cry from his first major role as Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” (1965).  Despite having terminal cancer, Hal embraces a gay lifestyle socially and politically and seems to have found true happiness.
Samuel A. Love and Ava Meux
Samuel A. Love and Ava Meux were on two radio stations to express their opposition to plans by The GEO Group to construct an immigrant detention center on property in Hobart formerly belonging to St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church. He took a note with him reading, “Don’t curse.”   His lover, attorney Brenda Love, carries a similar note with her when she in court.  Pressure by citizens groups has resulted in Mayor Brian Snedecor backing away from any support of the project.  According to Post-Trib reporter Karen Caffarini, The GEO Group “has been dogged by complaints of sexual harassment, wrongful deaths and skimping on inmates’ health needs.”

In another black eye for the reputation of Lake County politics, a grand jury has indicted Lake Station mayor Keith Soderquist and wife Deborah, charging them with stealing money from the city’s food pantry account to support their casino gambling addiction.  Former Gary mayor Scott King is representing them. The mayor’s stepdaughter Miranda Brakley, who previously worked for the city, also is also under indictment.

Anne Fritz and Corey Hagelberg spent Wednesday hanging a show at Gardner Center that will feature former IUN Fine Arts students.  The opening is Friday from 6 to 9.  One sculptor produced busts of professors Neil Goodman and David Klamen.  We had lunch at Miller Bakery CafĂ©, where Corey’s artwork adorns the walls.  I was almost floored when Ann mentioned having nine grandchildren; I can remember when she first announced she was a grandmother.  Jackie Gipson called m beforehand and agreed to join us.  She is interested into community projects, such as renovating the Palace Theater at Eighth and Broadway and enjoyed meeting Corey and Ann.  When I picked her up, husband Floyd, a steelworker, gave me a big hug.  We go back a long way.  Jackie was my student in the 1980s and after graduating from Valpo Law School was a lecturer in SPEA for about ten years until, like Anne Balay, she made enemies in high places for being outspoken and unwilling to put up with departmental nonsense. 

I got Frank Shufran to bowl in my place in order to attend a condo owners meeting.  Our budget took a major hit because of all the snow removal bills so we’re hoping the late spring will reduce the number of lawn mowings (at $300 a shot) that we’ll need.  We’ve also decided a major mulching is unnecessary since that was done last year.  Ken Carlson is president of the condo association now that Bernie Holicky moved to Chicago; he is an old hand at the job and things went smoothly.

Henry Farag called to discussed possible changes in “The Signal: A Rhapsody” prior to the performance at Gardner Center in 10 days.   He plans to mention going to nearby Jack Spratts for ice cream following dances, and I suggested he work in references to Cedar Lake Ballroom (where he first saw the Skyliners and other live groups) and the Palace Theater (where he gawked at performers in movies produced by Alan Freed.  There was a nice article in the Post-Trib announcing that Henry and members of the Spaniels and Soul Stirrers would be on Lakeshore Radio.
Old friend Paul Turk reports that daughter Kat (above, with horseshoe crab carapace) will be interning again at the Virginia Museum of Natural History and announced: “She has formally declared geology her major, cementing (you should forgive) a choice she made back in the days when we found rocks from her pockets rattling around in the washing machine.”
The UConn daily newspaper covered Ann Balay’s leacture that was part of the Sexuality Studies Spring Symposia Series, although correspondent Carles Lopez Penalver identified her as being from the University of Indianapolis.  Wouldn’t it be great if she suddenly had been hired by that college. Penalver wrote: Balay offered a variety of stories that portrayed the harassment and violence gay steelworkers suffer. Brenda, a lesbian steelworker suffered from sexual harassment from a coworker multiple times, who would continuingly tell Brenda that she should try to be with a male. This coworker went to such extreme that he even attempted to rape Brenda, but was stopped by a third coworker.”

Huffington Post, which recently ran an interview with Anne (above, in Connecticut) and a story about her being denied tenure, reported on a three year-old boy who somehow got inside a claw crane machine filled with stuffed animals at a bowling alley in Nebraska. According to the Omaha World-Herald he climbed through the prize shoot and was “playing happily” with toys in the machine when discovered.

I am holding off sending my article “Steel Closets and Injustice in Academia: The Anne Balay Promotion and Tenure Case” out for publication in hopes of receiving a final resolution from IU President Michael McRobbie, to whom Anne wrote this appeal, the last step in a procedure that so far has been egregiously unfair:

“Most students I have taught love and support me wholeheartedly.  Not because they're gay, and not because our political views match, but because I believe in them, and push them to think, achieve, and surprise themselves with the pleasure of learning.  I have enjoyed teaching in Gary.  It led to a book that is the accomplishment of my career, and . . . to moments where students became scholars, and I saw the joy of that in their eyes.

    I welcome opportunities to have my teaching evaluated, and seek advice about how to improve.  Just as I challenge my students, I challenge myself, and I'm learning that *how* you ask a question can be as important as what question you ask.  If you study my student evaluations after my denial, you will notice that I'm trying to learn, even from this experience, and to grow as a teacher.  Please consider giving me the chance to continue to do that at IU.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Turning Your Orbit Around



“Tall buildings shake
Voices escape
Singing sad sad song.”
    “Turning Your Orbit Around,” WILCO

I found a VHS tape of a 2003 PBS Soundstage concert featuring the band WILCO.  “Turning Your Orbit Around,” my favorite slection, is also sometimes called “Jesus, Etc.”  Introducing “When the Roses Bloom Again,” about a soldier going off to war, Jeff Tweedy said it was supposed to be on the album “Mermaid Avenue,” based on Woody Guthrie lyrics for songs he never completed, until someone objected because the words were written in 1901 by Will D. Cobb.  The song finally appeared on “Mermaid Avenue,” volume 3.  Cobb is most famous for “In the Good Old Summertime” and “School Days” – i.e., “School days, school days; dear old golden rule days. Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic; taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick.”
Keystone, S.D., grill photo by Dean Bottorff; Wyoming, MI, daffodils photo by Delia Lane
Snow greeted residents of Northwest Indiana and elsewhere on tax day.  A medley on WXRT included “I Melt with You” by Modern English, “Taxman” by the Beatles, and “I Fought the Law” by the Clash interspersed with dialogue about taxes from movies and TV shows, such as Homer Simpson making fun of last minute filers lined up at the post office and smugly saying: “I paid my taxes over a year ago.”
 

Homer Simpson made it into “Steel Closets.”  In my NWI Times review I wrote: To demonstrate the powerful link between steel production and masculinity, Anne Balay began by citing a 1997 episode of “The Simpsons,” where Homer, fearing that Bart might be becoming gay, takes him to a steel mill only to discover, much to his chagrin, that the workers are all gay.  What makes the satire funny is how incongruous it appears to be yet cannot be completely dismissed.  Anne found that, ironically, the increasing visibility and legal protection for gay people in our culture creates a backlash in the mill, making variatio Portage Little League ns from traditional gender roles or sexual identifications less welcome, and more threatening to the mills’ macho subculture.”

In the episode, entitled “Homer’s Phobia,” the politically incorrect clueless goofball says, “I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals flaming.”  Anne Balay, who appeared today on “HuffPostLive,” wore a neat pair of earrings but looked anything but flaming.  She does have somewhat of a “butch” haircut and sometimes refers to herself as queer.  Had she herself not been out of the closet, she never would have won the trust of her 40 narrators.  While she emphasized how stressful it was being a LGBT steelworker, she added that they are not whiners and by necessity have developed coping skills.
 Anne Balay and noted author John D'Emilio in Chicago

I alerted Terry Jenkins that the Phillies were on ESPN but hope he didn’t tune in or record it.  In the eighth inning pitcher B.J. Rosenberg faced three Braves batters; all three hit homeruns.  Then after Philadelphia scored five runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead, Jake Diekman walked two baters and surrendered four more runs for a 9-6 loss.  Manager Ryne Sandberg didn’t use regular closer Jonathan Papalbon because he’d pitched in all three games over the weekend.

In Moraine Student Center the Nursing Division was hosting a Wellness lunch consisting of an ample salad, rolls, and fruit.  Anne Mitchell, Coordinator of Nursing Student Services, inquired whether our National Lakeshore leaseback had expired.  I told her we now lived in Chesterton but that we get back to Miller often, thanks mostly to the events at Gardner Center.  Anne and I have served on several committees together, and she is a very friendly, caring person.

Bill Dorin mentioned that a guy on “Wheel of Fortune” wearing an Indiana sweatshirt missed a chance to play for a million dollars when, after all the letters were turned over he pronounced the mythological hero Achilles “A-chill-es.”  To make matters even worse, later on, for “on-the-spot decision” he guessed that the last word was “dicespin.”  It could happen to anyone, especially under pressure.  I once went into a Chicago theater and seeing a sign that I thought read “bino-colors.”  It stumped me until I realized that it was advertising binoculars for patrons sitting in the nosebleed balcony sections.

At a sensitive time of negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration, bowing to pressure from Republican blowhard Ted Cruz, is foolishly refusing to grant a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, that country’s proposed new U.N. ambassador, because he allegedly took part in the 1979 American embassy seizure in Tehren.  Aboutalebi claims his role was limited to that of translator.  Iranian spokesman Hamid Babaei termed it a regrettable decision “in contravention of international law, the obligation of the host country and the inherent right of sovereign member states to designate their representatives to the United Nations.”  Aboutalebi has served as ambassador to Austria, Italy, Belgium, and the European Union.
 photo by Miranda Lane


At a recent Grand Rapids White Caps baseball game Phil caught a foul ball, his second in only the fifth game he’s attended, according to Delia.  I caught one in the stands at the University of Maryland but had to throw it back.  I didn’t even get a free drink at the concession stand like is customary at the Portage Little League field. Noting Tori with a book, cousin Michael Soto admonished: "There is no reading in baseball."

Born in 1965, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” author Thomas Frank recalls his youthful conservatism being the result, he believes, of events of the 1970s that signified national decline.  He wrote this about my favorite decade: “For you it may have been the groovy seventies, with bell-bottoms and Deep Purple and all the dope you could smoke, but for me it was a time of national shame and honor betrayed; a fallen decade, a faint shadow of the World War II era. . . .I was not surprised when the United States was humiliated by Iran.  Of course the rescue effort failed.  America couldn’t do anything right anymore.”

Ray Smock has been reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” and wrote: Our species has become the biggest threat to life on this planet, including the future of our species, since the big asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. We eat everything and we kill everything including one another.  In less than 30 years, by 2040, more than 30% of all life forms now in existence will become extinct. This is not a slow process but a rapid kill off. There have been five such events that scientists have recorded, we are now in the midst of the sixth.   Humans have been causing extinctions since the Ice Age, but in the last 300 years we have outdone ourselves largely because of industrialization and the burning of carbon fuels, the related destruction of the world’s forests, and the pollution of all bodies of water, especially the ocean.  We have also outdone ourselves because there are now 7 billion of us and there will be 9 billion in another 30 years.  Al Gore was a polite messenger of this relentless assault on the Earth. He didn’t tell the half of it, although he was the best single public messenger of this Inconvenient Truth.  For his service he has become a laughing stock of those with their heads in the sand.  We have had Chicken Littles throughout history who have declared the sky was falling when it wasn’t. This time it is.”