Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lions and Lambs

“Got shackles on, my words are tied
Fear can make you compromise.”
“Houdini,” Foster the People

Harry Houdini had no trouble with shackles but wasn’t ready for the sucker punch that fatally burst his appendix. The Foster the People “Houdini” line about compromising reminds me of the Counting Crows line in “Round Here” about talking like lions but sacrificing like lambs. Talk about sucker punches: Mitt “the shit” Romney’s Super PAC did a number on Newt “the hoot” Gingrich, who emerged from the Iowa caucuses, to quote one pundit, like a wounded lion eager to exact his revenge. To eke out a quarter of the votes frontrunner Romney continued to compromise his beliefs (if indeed he has any) pandering for votes from the Religious Right. He’s done a one eighty on abortion and buckled on global warming. We’ll see if he turns out to be the Ed Muskie of 2012. As Matt Taibbi wrote on his Rolling Stone blog, what did all the sound and fury in Iowa mean: absolutely nothing. He points out that the candidate who raises the most money wins more than 94 percent of the time. In Romney’s case, it was by eight votes over former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Tea Party sacrificial lamb Michele Bachman is gone, and Rick “the prick” Perry is probably next.

Speaking of lions, the final words of Steve Jobs allegedly were, “Oh, wow, oh, wow, oh, wow!” Did he see a shining light at the end, one wonders, or just a black abyss? Did he feel great pain or liberation from same?

Save for catching a cold, the holidays went great. Got in numerous card games. Grandchildren abounded for a week, and numerous good friends dropped in, including Hagelbergs, Horns, and Wades. For Christmas I received a lumberjack shirt (Phil got matching ones for himself and Dave), slippers, jelly, the CDs “Torches” by Foster the People and “Lisbon” by the Walkmen (from Alissa’s boyfriend Josh), and “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” (from daughter-in-law Beth). Robert Blaszkiewicz’s annual CD of his 20 favorite songs of the year included Foster the People’s hit “Pumped Up Kicks” as well as numbers by veterans WILCO, the Feelies, and REM. On Wednesday December 27 the last folks to leave were Phil, Beth and Alissa plus Angie and the kids.

Talked to old classmates Mary Delp, Gaard Murphy, Phil Arnold, Bob Reller, and Wayne Wylie, who informed me that John Magyar passed away. A starter on Upper Dublin’s basketball team, he and his brother Mike used to shoot hoops at my place. Rel’s son is a high-ranking naval officer. I told him about nephew Fritz working at Notre Dame in the navy ROTC program.

Thursday 12/29 an Asian lady trimmed my toenails at L.A. Nails ($5), got my hair cut at Quick Cut ($12), picked up an airport bus schedule in Portage (I’ll have to go to Highland to catch my Saturday 7 am flight to Hawaii), and stopped at Town and Country for groceries. I discovered the HBO series “Game of Thrones” On Demand. It’s got plenty of violence and nudity but grabbed my attention immediately. Filmed in scenic Northern Ireland, it deals with families vying for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. In short order I watched the entire ten episodes of season one. The spectacular final scene features a funeral pyre for Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo, whose wife Khaleesi emerges from the fire nude but unscathed with three newborn dragons. Bring on season two, due in April! Aside from Khaleesi, the most fascinating character is nine year-old Arya Stark, daughter of Lord Eddard, the right hand man of the king (shockingly beheaded at the end of episode nine) and a willful tomboy to the core.

On Friday, opening day of Game Weekend at the Halberstadts, I had an amazing streak of luck, winning five of seven games, including Small World, Seven Wonders, Medici, and the new hit Revolution. It was so popular someone ran to buy the expanded version, which accommodates up to six players. In Wits and Wagers a question asked how many times members of Congress applauded during one of Bush’s 49-minute State of the Union addresses. I guessed 59; the answer was 58. Since you can’t go over, the person who wrote down 44 got credit, not me. Dave went ahead nailing the number of Olympic medals Carl Lewis won (ten), but I rebounded knowing when the movie “Casablanca” came out (1942). We both knew the final answer, 1789, the year of George Washington’s first inaugural, but I had more money to bet.

Game Weekend attendance, up from last time, included John Hendricks from Wisconsin, the Davis family from Fort Wayne, and several guys from Indianapolis who had met Jef at gaming conventions. One was Patrick Malott, works for a video game company in Austin, Texas, called BioWare. His t-shirt had a logo of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, one of the games he works on. I was teaching three of them St. Petersburg when a little kid spilled an entire glass of pop in the middle of everything in a bid to gain his dad’s attention.

Saturday I finished last in Revolution, caught up in a turf battle with Charles Halberstadt and stymied by Patti Davis employing a strategy similar to one I used the day before, but Sunday my luck returned with victories in Amun Re and Acquire (in a four-player game that Evan Davis would have pulled out if it had lasted one turn longer). One treat was playing in a game of Air Baron with Evan, who had invented the game. When Hendricks bragged about besting him, Evan replied that many folks could claim that honor.

No interest in the final week of the NFL season since Eagles and Bears were out of playoff contention but loved watching Indiana upset number two Ohio State 74-70 in a nail biter. Even though freshman Cory Zeller had trouble scoring and fouled out with three minutes to go, Christian Watford, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls came through in the clutch. Bulls have won four of five and are fun to watch with MVP Derrick Rose.

Monday, January 2, being an official holiday, Fred Chary invited me to watch the annual NHL outdoor classic featuring Flyers against Rangers. Lake effect snow and a lingering cold kept me home, but we were in phone touch like during the 1970s. Despite being awarded a penalty shot in the final minute, the Flyers succumbed due to superior goal tending by Ranger Henrik Lundqvist. Between commercials I got into “Unbroken,” about Louis Zamperini, who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics before becoming a bombardier during WW II, who survived being adrift in the Pacific and incarceration in a Japanese POW camp. He was an incorrigible hell-raiser as a child until an older brother channeled his energy into long-distance running.

Tuesday the IUN library opened after 12 days, and a hundred emails awaited me, including messages from high school friend Pat Zollo (about mutual friend Paul Curry, who died in Vietnam) and grad school buddy Ray Smock (who is delivering the annual alumnus speech April 2 at Maryland). Niece Andrea reported that it is sunny with highs in the 80s on the Big Island of Hawaii and that she and Seattle Joe can’t wait for Tom and me to arrive. Cafeteria was virtually deserted save for Alan Lindmark, who supposedly retired in December. Ron Cohen’s son Josh, visiting the credit union, recognized me and showed off a photo of his son, who looks just like him. “I call him Mini-Me,” he said with a grin, referring to a character in an Austin Powers movie.

Steve McShane received an email from the nephew of Kathryn Hyndman, who discovered that we have her aunt’s jail diary in the Archives. Steve is sending him my “Age of Anxiety” issue and invited them to the Archives.

Wednesday at the credit union I ran into Leroy Gray, formerly head of IUN’s Financial Aid office. We ended up having lunch and reminiscing about Region high school basketball and gushing over IU’s present number 12-ranked team. He asked about my former colleague Paul Kern, and I inquired about Ernest Smith, who moved to the Houston area a couple years ago.

Researching the career of Gary-born actor William Marshall, I discovered that among the half dozen productions of “Othello” that he starred in, one was a 1968 jazz musical with Jerry Lee Lewis playing Iago. In 1953 he was in the first TV series starring black actors, “Harlem Detective,” until blacklisted for being a member of two supposed communist “front” groups. A lion, he was friends with W.E.B. DuBois.

Steve McShane informed me that a researcher named Katie Turk will be visiting the archives to do research on the Kingsbury ammunition plant during World War II. My old friend Paul Turk’s daughter has the same name.

DeeDee Ige convened a pre-planning meeting of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion group in advance of a lunch date Friday with Chancellor Lowe. Many Gary residents were outraged when an able faculty member was denied tenure and then, after she died, few members of the administration attended her memorial service. My role will be to suggest ways to increase meaningful contact between the Gary community and the campus.

Librarian Audrea Davis gave me a copy of a 2010 report the Jeff Johnson Institute compiled on recommendations for community engagement and relationship-building. One suggestion was to launch an “Ambassador program” utilizing faculty, staff and students in making the community aware of university events and vice versa. Staff members such as Kathy Malone and Mary Lee already have assumed such a role and Ken Coopwood helped establish a black student leadership group, but more use could be made of former administrators such as Leroy Gray(Financial Aid), Bill Lee (Admissions), F.C. Richardson (Dean of Arts and Sciences) and Barbara Cope (Dean of Student Affairs). When former chancellor Peggy Elliott took the reins at South Dakota State, Barbara Cope and Bill Lee helped her recruit area Black students. Why not enlist them to do the same for IUN? I’d also like to see former chancellor Hilda Richards welcomed back to campus events. Unfairly maligned by those who would have preferred a WASP male leader, she was a good person who got two buildings built and the social work program launched.

Jeff Johnson also recommended “arts focused” special events. We do a good job celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday, and coming up is a program commemorating the Freedom Riders of 50 years ago. Two other possibilities are a symposium recalling the historic 1972 National Black Political Convention at West Side High School and an event honoring the memory of Gary-born Shakespearean actor William Marshall and his mother Thelma Marshall, for many years head of the Lake County Children’s Home. William Marshall’s daughter Gina Loring is an accomplished poet and hip hop performer as well as a political activist. Gregg Andrews, who wrote a biography of Thelma’s sister Thyra Edwards, emailed that Gina performed at his campus and “to say that she WOWED our students would be an understatement.” He added: “I’m sure she’d jump at any chance to perform where her grandmother made such an important contribution to the community of Gary.”

The last time Jeff Johnson was on campus, he spoke with and listened to interested members of the IUN community. Perhaps he should be invited back to interact with Gary residents who still believe the campus is too aloof and insensitive to issues of diversity and inclusion.

I helped the Engineers win five points against the Town Drunks by bowling my average (barely). In the one close game Dick Maloney doubled in the tenth and finished with a 203.On the other team were Joe Piunti and his three sons, plus Chris Lugo, who bowled for us one year. I told JP, as I call Joe, that the family that bowls together stays together. Dave has been taking James bowling Saturday mornings, and we talked about an excursion with Phil over Christmas, but it didn’t happen. Too many other things going on.

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