Tuesday, November 21, 2017


“File this garbage under garbage!” Col. Henry Blake in M*A*S*H*
We had a full house over the weekend, as 6 Michiganders and Beth from Indy arrived to witness James in the Portage production on M*A*S*H*and Becca in the Chesterton musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”  Not a regular M*A*S*H* viewer during its 11-year TV run nor a big fan of Allen Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce, I preferred Donald Sutherland, who portrayed Hawkeye in Robert Altman’s more hard-hitting 1970 film.  Nonetheless, I was part of the record audience that tuned in the 1983 CBS two-hour finale.  Dealing humorously with a fictional Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea during America’s “police action” nearly 70 years ago, the play contained characters familiar from the series, such as “Hot Lips” Houlihan and “Radar” O’Reilly but not the cross-dressing Maxwell Q. Klinger.  James was Colonel Henry Blake, McLean Stevenson in the TV series.  When Stevenson left after the 1975 season, the producers killed him off in a plane crash as he was returning stateside.  Last year in E.R.,” the character James played suffered a fatal heart attack on stage, but James as Colonel Blake made it the play’s end.  At the Friday opening, however, while the stage was dark, unbeknownst to the audience, James fell six feet into the orchestra pit.  Amazingly he landed on his feet with no apparent ill effects. I shudder every time I think about it.
 James on right and M*A*S*H* cast
On stage James was an absolute joy to behold, booming out his lines with facial
expressions registering various states of annoyance, anger, impatience, and sarcasm.  The large cast included a humorous trio of USO entertainers (Mitzi, Fritzi and Agnes Bonwit) and several Korean villagers. Ho-John was played by Korean-American Braxton Craigin, who plans on joining the marine corps and becoming an aviation engineer.  His best line: “In America. When you are hungry, you eat something called the French fry and the overheated dog.”   Two talented African Americans were in the cast, Rondale Hendricks, who played “Spearchucker” Jones and Daniel GoShay as Captain John ‘Ugly” Black, who made out onstage with one of the nurses.  I liked when the cook sang and played on guitar the M*A*SH* theme song “Suicide Is Painless.”

Sitting behind us were the aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother of Jordan Johnson, who was great as bumbling Private Lorenzo Boone, Colonel Blake’s go-fer.  The program revealed that this was the junior’s first theatrical experience and that Jordan is outgoing and writes poetry.  James wrote that he loves playing Henry (“but don’t call him Henry” – an oft repeated line in response to wiseacre Hawkeye) and enjoys cracking puns.  I laughed out loud when he uttered the line: “File this garbage under garbage!”  Also in the program was a tribute to Bill Bodnar, who recently passed away, and information on how to contribute to a scholarship in his honor. The announcement began:
For 38 years, Bill Bodnar touched the hearts and souls of thousands of Portage students as he directed over 100 plays, variety shows, and Air Band contests.  His love of theater and his students was evident in his work.
Both Phil and Dave were big admirers and participated in his productions.  In an Air Band contest Dave and friends appeared as the Sex Pistols (the name was censored from the program) and were disqualified because Dave Joseph ran out onto the apron of the stage. Mr. Bodnar confided to David afterwards that his group won the balloting by a landslide despite having been disqualified.
 Becca in Little Shop of Horrors

Because Becca was had the role of killer plant Audrey II in “Little Shop of Horrors,” we only saw her face in the opening and final numbers.  Like a trooper, she belted out her musical numbers despite having battled a cold all week.  Toni and I took Alissa to a production at IUN when she was 4 and 5, and she called it the “Little Shop of Horribles” after everyone got eaten.  A biker dentist who abused his girlfriend was the first victim, to the audience’s satisfaction, but then Audrey II got more bloodthirsty After watching the movie, we had kept assuring her that the main characters would not suffer such a fate only to be proved wrong.  She wouldn’t talk to us during the entire car ride home. We joked about it after the play, but she didn’t find it humorous at the time.  On Facebook Angie’s dad John Teague wrote: “Almost ran away to Hollywood as a teenager to be an actor! It runs in our blood to be on stage, I'm glad to see my grandchildren fullfilling my dream!”

Over the weekend Toni made a huge pot of chili and then a large pot of sausage vegetable soup, and we alternated cooking breakfast for our houseguests.  I got in several games of the card game euchre with Phil, Dave, and Josh, while the women played bananagram, a take-off on Scrabble.  Alissa and Josh about their plans to visit Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving.  Tori has been accepted at several Michigan colleges plus the University of Hawaii, one of my alma maters.  Intriguing, although she’s leaning towards Grand Valley State, where Anthony goes and Alissa works.  Most everyone except Josh and Alissa will be returning in a few days for a turkey dinner.  Miranda asked what I thought of all of us living in a mansion in grand Rapids.  I joked that my next residence would be an assisted living facility and that it would be difficult to move away from IUN.  I hope to get in 50 years and outlast English profs Alan Barr and John Bodmer.

While sleeping on an air mattress downstairs, Josh came across “Dinner with DiMaggio” (2016) by Dr. Rock Positano.  The “Yankee Clipper” still holds the record for hitting safely in 56 straight games. Because he retired in 1951, I have no recollection of him as a player except in documentaries, such as in Ken Burns’ series on baseball.  More vivid is his being a pitchman for Mr. Coffee.  Though the author idolized DiMaggio (1914-1999), he comes off as a vain, thoughtless, pain in the ass, especially to waiters, tailors, and other underlings when their service didn’t meet his exacting expectations.  He was also a mooch; as the author delicately put it, if a restauranteur sent anyone to his table and then expected him to pay, he never returned to the establishment.  On several occasions, Positano took DiMaggio to an art gallery that had a sexy photo of his former wife Marilyn Monroe in the men’s room. Positano would alert the staff about impending visits, and they’d temporarily replace it with one of Salvador Dali.
 Yankee Clipper

DiMaggio remained bitter over losing parts of three seasons to Uncle Sam during World War II.  Unlike his contemporary Ted Williams (the better hitter of the two), who was an ace air force pilot, DiMaggio had a safe job as a physical education teacher in California and Hawaii who played in exhibitions to entertain the troops.  His association with mob-connected club owners compared to Frank Sinatra’s, but the press gave him a pass due to Joltin’ Joe’s status.  In “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life” (2000) Richard Ben Cramer documented his subject’s vanity and obsession with maintaining an image of manly reserve.  In old age, he became an odious Mr. Scrooge who skipped funeral of friends and basically disowned his weakling son. If there was something in it for him, however, the “Dago,” as teammates called him, could turn on the charm. DiMaggio loved recounting the game when Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez fielded a bunt and heard a coach yell, “Throw it to the Dago.”  Italians Tony Lazzeri was playing second and Frankie Crosetti at short.  Rather than try for a force out, Gomez hurled the ball to Joe all the way out in centerfield. Crotchety Clint Eastwood would be perfect to play an elderly DiMaggio.
Josh and Alissa are big “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fans, and I mentioned my regret that Shelly Berman, who played Larry’s father, passed away prior to the HBO show’s new season.  Berman was an acerbic stand-up comedian 60 years ago during an era when comedy record albums were big sellers.  “Inside Shelley Berman” (1959) was the first Grammy winner I the category of spoken comedy recording.  During his routine, he’d pretend to be on the phone with someone and accused Bob Newhart of stealing the concept from him.  Newhart claimed that the concept had a long tradition going back to George Jessel in the 1920s.  Bill Cosby, and Redd Foxx put out records that, especially in Foxx’s case, were raunchier than their routines on TV.  Others following in their footstep who had success with the genre included Jonathan Winters Woody Allen, Allen Sherman, Don Rickles, and George Carlin.

Since their game wasn’t until Sunday evening, I got to see the Eagles rout the hated Dallas Cowboys, 37 to 9.  At one point Philadelphia scored 30 unanswered points. Because their place kicker got hurt, the Eagles opted to go for 2-point conversions after TDs.  My Fantasy wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey scored one and later caught TD pass for a total of 14 points.  I defeated Kira (“The Cougar”), 116-84, snapping her 8-game winning streak
Interviewed for Time, Blues great Mavis Staples revealed that her longtime friend Bob Dylan had proposed when both were teenagers in the 1960s.  We were courting and cuddled, she admitted, but realized their careers would take them on separate paths.  In 2002 the two recorded several duets on spirituals, including “Slow Train Coming,” and last year did several shows together.
In Amy Dickinson’s advice column, a young songwriter complained of being stressed out over her mother dying and her boyfriend leaving her.  Amy replied: “Joni Mitchell has some things to say to do.”  “Reckless Daughter,” a new biography of the Canadian folksinger by David Yaffe, describes Mitchell, as a survivor whose music radiates melancholy and a longing for meaning.  On the 1971 album “Blue,” the opening number, “All I Want,” begins:
I am on a lonely road and
I am traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling
Looking for something, what can it be
 LaVar Ball

How low can Trump go?  Three UCLA basketball players were detained in China for shop-lifting from a Louis Vuitton store near their team’s hotel, including LiAngelo Ball, son of outspoken promoter LaVar Ball. Afterwards, Trump claimed credit for helping them get released and tweeted that Ball was an ingrate.  According to Politico.com:
“Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!” the president wrote on Sunday in the first of two posts on the subject. “Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVar. Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead. China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!”

WTF?  Charlie Rose is the latest celebrity to be suspended for past behavior demeaning women.  The 70-year-old avuncular host of CBS This Morning who had a program on PBS and made frequent appearances on 60 Minutes, he was the closest thing to our generation’s Walter Cronkite. I watched him every weekday morning while eating breakfast.  Eight women told the Washington Post that he had made unwanted advances in the form of lewd phone calls, disrobing in front of them or groping them.  Apologizing for the inappropriate behavior, Rose stated: I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.” One former producer responded to complaints by saying, “Oh, that’s just Charlie being Charlie.”  Last week, it was former President George H.W. Bush’s turn to be publicly shamed.  Six women, including one who was 16 at the time, accused him of grabbing women on the buttocks during photo ops. Bush spokesman Jim McGrath admitted that Bush “has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.”

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Prairie's Edge

“Prairie: an extensive, level or slightly undulating, mostly treeless tract of land characterized by a highly fertile soil and originally covered with coarse grasses.” Dictionary.com
 Platte River Prairie in Nebraska

In the American imagination, the prairie has symbolized freedom and self-reliance.  To Chiricahua Apache war chief Geronimo, it was a place without enclosures where the wind blew free.  To Great Plains homesteaders, it was a force of nature that could bring afflictions such as dust storms and tornadoes.  Prairies once covered 15 percent of Indiana, primarily in the northwest and west-central counties.  Drainage, farming, and urbanization have replaced most grasslands, but some remnants remain, such as Hoosier Prairie in Schererville, now a state nature conservancy. IUN dean Herman Feldman worked on safeguarding Hoosier Prairie for over ten years, along with university botanist F.C. Richardson. Finally, in the early 1970s, with IU President Herman Wells, State Senator Adam Benjamin, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources involved, funding was secured for the purchase of 300 acres.
 Hoosier Prairie

Prairie’s Edge is the name of a trading company and Native American art gallery (in Rapid City, S.D.), a dairy farm (in Fair Oaks, Indiana), a casino resort (in Granite Falls, MN), and an outdoor supply store in Rensselaer, Indiana, where From the Edge of the Prairie literary magazine originated as an annual publication of the Prairie Writers Guild.  Managing editor Connie Kingman dedicated the 2005 edition to her mother and fellow writer Anna Marlan.  Knigman wrote: “Here by the edge of the prairie, the passage of time is visibly marked by the growth of field after field of maturing corn, [and Anna] left us unexpectedly when the corn was but knee-high.”  Fittingly, the opening story is Chuck Schuttrow’s “Jasper County, the Buckle of Indiana’s Corn Belt.”

From the Edge of the Prairie contributor Philip F. Deaver wrote “Ray and Winter,” about being at recently-closed St. Joseph’s College in 1967 and playing pool in Rensselaer (“you pretty little prairie town”).  He and Ray were walking to the attic they shared (my junior year at Bucknell, I split an off-campus attic with Roger McConnell).  Deaver recalled:
I lived a two-hour hitchhike
into Illinois, Ray was from South Bend.
Rensselaer represented both our homes,
our parents’ voices in us still, but now muffled
by the clink of change.  That was us changing.
A new hard wind across the fields in winter,
new smell of different candles in the chapel,
stone cold dark and silence in the cemetery,
the little river under avenue bridges built for more,
the park with its soldier statue, whisper of war.

Introducing an excerpt from Bree Ma’Ayteh’s blog, editor Kingman defined the genre as an Internet web log that anyone can read and respond to.  Bree listed 100 items constituting, in her words, “more than you ever cared to know about me.”  These included her love of spinach dip and, when 13, TV soap operas and the boy band New Kids on the Block. 
43. Once, to impress a boy, I jumped from the middle of a going-up escalator.
44. I did not impress this boy. 
45. But I did make him laugh.
46. And then I went out with his friend.
47. Who was 18.
48. I was 15
49. I have always dated older boys.
. . . .
97. I belt out Lionel Ritchie and Mariah Carey love songs in the car.
98. I am the 20-something Angela Chase (in “My So-Called Life”).
99. I cry at the drop of a hat.
100. And I love the sound of my full name.

Bree Ma’Ayteh contributed to “Cringe: Teenage Diaries, Journals, Notes, Letters, Poems, and Abandoned Rock Operas” (2008) edited by Sarah Brown.  In the author index she claimed to be happily married and no longer pining for her childhood crush.  Let’s hope the same still holds true.

Mel Guth Senior League’s Renaissance man Gene Clifford, 81 - a sportsman, aviator, writer, craftsman (of bird feeders), retired bricklayer, raconteur, and lover – rolled a 600 series.   He suggested that I work on my follow-through and keeping my shoulders squared as I delivered the ball. Over the summer Gene drove to Fairbanks, Alaska with teammate Dorothy Peterson and took a train to the Arctic Circle, where the temperature climbed close to 70, and care had to be taken to avoid sunburn. There were no July Fourth fireworks because it doesn’t get dark enough.  Gene met a guide from Hobart and another who had relatives in Clifford’s hometown of Valparaiso.  I told him about a driver pointing out a moose during a ride from Anchorage to Whittier for a glacier cruise aboard the catamaran Klondike Express. Gene had a similar experience in which, with a guide’s help, he spotted moose, caribou, and a black bear with two cubs.  Also, a wolf ran across the road in front of the vehicle.

In 2012, on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website, Ken Marsh, who claims to have lived in Alaska since shortly after the last Ice Age, wrote an article entitled “Little Grouse on the Prairie: Alaska’s Bird Hunters Enjoy an Ice Age Leftover” in which he asserted: Not so long ago, just beyond the fringes of written history, interior Alaska was a vast prairie linked to the steppes, or grasslands, of Eurasia. That connection was lost about 11,000 years ago when the ice of the last glacial age, the Pleistocene, dissolved in a global warming trend and raised sea levels 300 feet or more.”  Two birds that have survived their prehistoric grassland ancestors are the sharp-tailed grouse and willow ptarmigan.
 above, sharp-tailed grouse; below, Kim, Beamer, and Nicodemus Pickert

How to summarize what the GOP presently stands for?  Beamer Pickert suggested Greed Over People, Guns Outweigh People, Grotesquely Opulent Plutocrats, and Grabbing Other’s Privates. Josh Talley suggested “Grand Old Pussygrabbers.” Ray Smock wrote about the Alabama Senate candidate who in his 30s trolled a mall looking for teenage girls to prey on:
The Judge Roy Moore scandal, where pedophilia has been added to his other considerable disqualifications for the U.S. Senate, needs to be seen in the larger context of current Alabama politics and the national debate which has reached the U.S. Congress. 
Kay Ivey, a former state treasurer and lieutenant governor, became governor of Alabama in April this year when Governor Robert Bentley stepped down over charges of campaign finance violations. He was also about to be impeached for a sex scandal involving intimidation of women in the governor's office.  News reports suggest that Governor Ivey is looking to Donald Trump for signals about what to do about Roy Moore. Why would she turn to a self-confessed sexual predator for advice?
          The U.S. House and Senate, feeling the pressure, have instituted new anti-sexual harassment training for all employees (and, I hope, all Members) to deal with the sexual intimidation that occurs in both houses of Congress.

Stop Roy Moore, and stop all sexual intimidation and acts of sexual aggression whether, in Alabama or anywhere else.