Monday, January 23, 2012

Hard Rain

“Life is sad,
Life is a bust,
All ya can do,
Is do what you must.”
“Buckets of Rain,” Bob Dylan

A hard rain plus temperature in the upper 40s eliminated most snow that had fallen three days ago, save for piles where plows had dumped the white stuff. Because of the weather, I stayed home Friday after going to the Chesterton library in the morning. I checked out “Deadline Artists,” a compendium of classic newspaper columns on war, politics, humor, crime, and farewells. What hooked me were columns by H. L. Mencken on Warren Gamaliel Harding and the Scopes Monkey trial and numerous essays by New Yorker Jimmy Breslin, including one concerning John Lennon’s death written within hours of the shooting. The initial entry by Richard Harding Davis describes the German war machine crossing into neutral Belgium in August of 1914. Entitled “Like a River of Steel It Flowed, Gray and Ghostlike,” Harding wrote: “At this minute it is rolling through Brussels as the swollen waters of the Conemaugh Valley swept through Johnstown” – a reference to the 1889 Pennsylvania flood that killed more than 2,200 people after a dam burst, sending a 36-foot wall of water rumbling through town at 40 miles an hour and, according to witnesses, crushing houses like eggshells.

On “Homeland” a 16 year-old is listening to “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People at a critical plot moment. On “Californication” a young woman steals Hank Moody’s 1974 Bob Dylan album “Blood on the Tracks” after having sex with him. Locating the album among my collection, as I listened to the first cut, “Tangled Up in Blue” (“The only thing I knew to do was keep on keeping on”), I read the liner notes by Pete Hamill entitled “Poems of a Survivor.” Referring to Vietnam, Hamill writes: “Early on, he warned us, he gave many of us voice, he told us about the hard rain that was going to fall and how it would carry plague.” Hamill concludes: “We live with a callous on the heart. Only the artists can remove it and help the poor land again to feel.” Pretty, pretty, pretty good, as Larry David would say.

In my Vietnam class I used to show an excerpt from the 1987 documentary “Dear America: Letters from Vietnam” that used Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” in the background while someone reads a letter from a private first class named Raymond Griffiths, who died at age 19 on July 4, 1967, shortly after writing home to a friend named Madeleine. He wondered if his girlfriend Darlene had been faithful to him and said he’d make it out alive if it were God’s will. Apparently it wasn’t.

Saturday we dined with the Hagelbergs at a place near our condo called Sage (I had delicious scallops), and we played bridge afterwards. While I was in Hawaii Jeff Manes did a Post-Trib SALT column about Dick at my suggestion. Interestingly, what ran in the Gary edition was shorter than the Porter County version. The interview took place at Dick’s business in Miller, Kidstuff Playsystems. After Jeff mentioned me, this exchange took place.

DH: “I’ve known Jim for many, many years. We play bridge together; he’s very good.”

JM: “Are you as liberal as Jim?”

DH: “Almost, not quite.”

The longer version also appeared on the Post-Trib website. On his bio page he described himself humorously as “an agnostic socialist who has never been nominated for any journalistic awards”. He expressed gratitude that the Post-Tribune includes photographs of its columnists, lest readers mistake him for the canine Ollie. The P-T has an “Ask Ollie” column purportedly penned by a dog rescued by a local humane society following Hurricane Katrina.

Tom Wade turned me on to a female duo, Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, that call themselves Garfunkel and Oates (after the sidekicks of Paul Simon and Daryl Hall). Among their parodies posted on YouTube are “Pregnant Women Are Smug” and “Sex with Ducks” (inspired by Reverend Pat Robertson’s remark that legalizing gay marriage was a first step toward allowing people to have sex with ducks). Tom’s favorite is “Save the Rich,” dedicated in Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, which contains the refrain: “Let job creators keep more than their fair share/ So they can go to Asia and create jobs over there/ So give the special tax breaks/ Who cares about Detroit?” They also do such risqué songs as “Handjob, Bland Job, I Don’t Understand Job” and “This Party Took a Turn for the Douche.” Tom wants to see them live in Chicago next month.

In the news: Newt Gingrich trounced Romney in South Carolina by bashing the press (how dare they bring up his second ex-wife’s allegation that he sought an open marriage so he could continue banging Callista, then his mistress, now his wife) and playing the race card, calling Obama the food stamp president. Gabby Giffords, shot last year in Arizona by a rightwing nut, is resigning her seat in Congress but promises to run again after she regains her health. Penn State coach Joe Paterno “Joe Pa” succumbed to lung cancer and a broken heart in the wake of the child molestation scandal involving his longtime assistant.

I won two of four board games before settling in for an afternoon of NFL football. Two goats emerged from the close playoff games. Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed an easy field goal, and San Francisco punt returner Kyle Williams had two turnovers, first when a ball grazed his leg and then in OT when he fumbled, leading to the winning field goal. Earlier Vernon Davis was penalized 15 yards for jumping on a cameraman’s podium after a 73-yard TD catch. What a stupid rule. Meanwhile, it’s OK to dunk the ball through the uprights or for Packers players to leap into the stands; the latter was “grandfathered” into the rules forbidding unnecessary celebrations. By that logic veteran cornerbacks should be allowed to employ helmet-to-helmet hits.

Sociology professor Bob Lovely passed away. Although I knew the end was near, still the news brought tears to my eyes. He was a kind man and a great teacher whom students loved. On a happier note Fred McColly called to tell me his daughter Sarah made him a grandfather.

Gaard Murphy Logan reported on the storms that struck the Seattle area. She and Chuck lost power and the freezing rain caused three large branches to come crashing down in their backyard and two other trees to be leaning on the garage and house. They are in the market for a chainsaw, but the stores were sold out.

In the cafeteria was 72 year-old Fred Chary, who is back teaching a course on Eastern Europe. He is using John Reed’s book on the Russian Revolution “Ten Days That Shook the World” and showed the class excerpts from the 1981 film “Reds” starring Warren Beatty and featuring “witness” interviews with such luminaries as writer Henry Miller and peace activist Scott Nearing.

Still mulling over whether to teach a fall History Topics course on “Diaries, Journals, and Memoirs,” I checked out both abridged and unabridged (11 volumes) versions of Samuel Pepys’s “Secret Diary.” Writing about seventeenth—century England young Pepys covers such events as the Stuart restoration, the Great Plague, the London Fire, as well as social diversions as royal balls and public cockfights (he wrote: “It is strange to see how people of this poor rank, that look as if they had not bread to put in their mouths, shall bet three or four pounds at a time”). Though married, Pepys was a notorious womanizer and
had numerous affairs, including one with his wife’s maid, Deborah Whitten. The diary was written in shorthand and covered a ten-year span beginning in 1660. He stopped after fearing that he was going blind.

1 comment:

  1. pepys was the first to codify procurement procedures for the royal navy and was well respected for his work there. the british admiralty hates that journal with a passion because it shows a conscientious administrator for the unvarnished human he was...check out "Samuel Pepys: The Unequaled Self" by Claire Tomalin