Thursday, February 2, 2012

Glass Houses

“You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just might be
A lunatic you’re looking for.”
Billy Joel, from the album “Glass Houses”

Heard “You May Be Right” on the car radio, one of Toni’s favorites (she’s a huge Billy Joel fan). Dave’s band Voodoo Chili did a rousing version, and if she were at their gig when they did it, we’d always get up and dance. The album cover shows him preparing to throw a rock through the window of his real-life glass house in Oyster Bay on New York’s Long Island. Also on the 1980 album is Joel’s only number one hit “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me.”

In “Hugo” pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies builds a glass structure so adequate light can get to indoor scenes. After his fortunes decline, the “glass house” came tumbling down. As the old proverb dating back to Chaucer says, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Stayed home to catch Obama’s Prayer breakfast talk. He gave equal weight to Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu beliefs and pointed out that each believed in a version of the Golden Rule. In fact, one might regard the “Glass Houses” proverb as an inverse Golden Rule. Mentioning great reformers whose values motivated them, he included Catholic anarchist Dorothy Day in a list with Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Heschel, and Abraham Lincoln. He talked about praying with 91 year-old evangelist Billy Graham. I always admired Graham’s stand against segregation despite his Southern background.

In politics: Romney continues to display symptoms of foot in mouth disease. First it was “Corporations are people,” then “I like to fire people.” Now he doesn’t really care about the very poor because they have a safety net. Not if the Republicans kill Obamacare and gut social security. Meanwhile Donald Trump, another person who enjoys firing people, is endorsing Mitt. Closer to home, in a demonstration of what Republicans will do with unvarnished power, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels signed a right-to-work bill into law after his minions rejected putting the issue on the ballot as a referendum.

Overseas: With security virtually nonexistent least 74 Egyptians died and hundreds were injured when soccer fans rioted in Port Said. Many victims were trampled but others were stabbed with knives and machetes by “thugs” loyal to former dictator Mubarak.

Post-Trib columnist Mike Hutton eulogized former Wirt basketball coach Jim “Mac” McDonald, who passed away recently. His teams were perennial underdogs against the likes of Roosevelt, Lou Wallace, and West Side, but you could always count on his players being disciplined and giving 100 percent. His teams won 179 games in 16 years, including a fair share of upsets. After a three-year stint at Chesterton McDonald was an unpaid assistant to Bob Punter at Valpo H.S. Al Hamnik of The Times called Mac “ of my favorite coaches of all time.”

Beamer Pickert passed along a cartoon from Doghouse Diaries entitled “Why not try a book?” Reasons included infinite battery life, page always loads, immune to viruses, and never loses your data.

Reacting to the suicide of longtime “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius, John Shearer wrote: “Always watched “Soul Train” on Saturday. The hippest trip in America. Peace, love, and soul. Thanks Don Cornelius.” I responded: “It didn’t get any better than seeing Barry White perform with the Soul Train dancers.” Cornelius took Dick Clark’s format to a more sophisticated (and sexy) level. The show debuted in Chicago and was “Very Seventies.”

I came across Alex Karras’s name on a list of former NFL players who most deserve inclusion in the Hall of Fame. After admitting that he bet on games, he was suspended for the 1963 season, as Packers running back Paul Hornung. Unlike Hornung, Karras never acted contrite. In 1964 he refused to participate in a pregame coin toss, telling the official that Commissioner Pete Rozelle ordered him not to gamble. Some labeled him a dirty player, but like many defensive linemen he simply hated quarterbacks – even those on his own team – and made it his mission to punish them whenever he could. He played Mongo in “Blazing Saddles” and George Papadopolous in the TV series “Webster.”

Another player who should be in the Hall of Fame is Minnesota defensive end Jim Marshall, the “Iron Man” who played 20 years (282 games) without missing a game, a feat comparable to Cal Ripken’s baseball longevity record. His fellow “Purple People Eaters” Carl Eller and Alan Page are enshrined in Canton, but Marshall is best known for a bonehead play, picking up a fumbler and running 70 yards in the wrong direction. Also his Vikings team never won a Superbowl.

Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles” starts out in 1961 with the legendary producer John Hammond offering him a Columbia Records contract. At Club Wha? he met Tiny Tim, the longhaired weirdo who played the ukulele did old-fashioned songs in falsetto, such as “Tip Toe Through the Tulips.”

Wednesday Toni and I ran into IUN chemistry professor Atilla Tuncay at Jewel. It turns out he lives a stone’s throw from us. His retired former colleague Alan Lindmark recently donated material to the Archives. Unlike the scene in “About Schmidt,” when the boxes are put out in the trash, his stuff should be useful.

Picked up a cold cut combo Subway and had half prior to bowling. We faced off against No Weak Links, whose five bowlers averaged 200. We were fortunate to win one game thanks to Melvin Nelson’s double in the tenth. In the eighth frame I threw a gutter ball but then spared. In the final two frames I picked up ten-pins on good hits despite being quite nervous. In the second game, which we lost by 40 pins, Roland Garcia rolled a 267, his only blemish being an 8-pin in the sixth frame that was halfway down but then remained, wobbly but erect. Rich was so disgusted he missed it on his second shot. Another opponent, Rusty Pleasant, wore a t-shirt with the name of the metal band Redemption. Prepared to show off my heavy metal knowledge gained from nephew Joe, I asked if he were a fan. He didn’t know who Redemption was and thought his wife had gotten him the shirt because it had a cross on it.

Home for Bulls-76ers highlights followed by Letterman celebrating 30 years as Late-Night host with “shock jock” Howard Stern. In his monologue joked that he no longer had his original hair or heart. Also: “You know what really gets on my nerves? Those Amish people on eBay. What the hell are they doing?” The Top Ten list featured staff members revealing things they’d like to say about Dave, including “Hey, grandpa, shove it up your ass” and “I will not be berated this way. Go (Bleep) yourself.” Most had been with Dave for three decades, so he must be a cool boss

Groundhog Day: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, auguring six more weeks of winter. But when will winter start? Ironically Europe and Asia have been having unseasonably cold, snowy weather. It has something to do with wind currents. Ray Smock frequently sends out Groundhog Day cards, and in an email wishing his friends a Happy Groundhog Day claimed Harvard was holding a symposium on Punxsutawney Phil featuring Newt Gingrich (“Scientific Evidence of Groundhogs on the Moon: Just Look at All Those Craters”) and Rick Perry (“Texas Culture and the Use of Live Groundhogs for Target Practice”). I suggested that Bill Murray, who starred in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” could discuss “Punxsutawney Phil and Déjà vu All Over Again.” Ray replied: “It would be a never-ending conference, wouldn’t it? We show the movie annually at our Groundhog office party.”

Former Maryland grad student Jim Parker inquired how Marion Merrill, the widow of our old adviser Sam was doing. He’s retired but teaches an occasional course and is active in Wisconsin politics in opposition to the current moronic governor. Ron Cohen called to put me in contact with historian Paul Buhle, co-author of “Radical Hollywood,” who 20 years ago interviewed actor William Marshall. Choice wants me to review Thomas G. Smith “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins.” Happy to oblige. Finished my Subway at lunch with Jonathyne Briggs, Anne Balay, and Brian O’Camb. When the subject of cult movies came up, I unbuttoned my shirt to reveal that I was wearing a “Detroit Rock City” t-shirt.

On February 2, 1918, Chicagoan Howard O’Brien, a first lieutenant of artillery, wrote: “Funny how notions change. Back home we drooled about democracy and glory. Like Burgundy wine, that stuff doesn’t stand a sea voyage. Most of the people whom the papers squeak about being ‘eager for the Front’ are about as eager for the smallpox.”

Meryl Streep is a wonder as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” but the film almost put me to sleep. I first saw Streep 33 years ago in “Kramer V. Kramer.” The movie portrays Thatcher as a dowdy octogenarian suffering from memory loss but in flashbacks reveals her to be an anti-union grocer’s daughter on a quixotic quest to return Great Britain to greatness. When she decides in 1982 to go to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, she tells a skeptical Secretary of State that the action was analogous to America opposing Japan after Pearl Harbor. The most dramatic scene is when Thatcher narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in 1984 while attending a Conservative Party conference in Brighton. Irish politician called the hard-nosed leader “the biggest bastard we have ever known.” She had more grit than brains, and her popularity declined by the end of the Eighties.

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