Monday, March 19, 2012

Catching Fire

“I’m feeling good,
I’m feeling so fine,
Until tomorrow,
But that’s just some other time.”
Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground

In Suzanne Collins’s “Catching Fire,” teenage heroine Katniss, winner of the annual Hunger Games, finds herself under suspicion as the inspiration behind a widespread rebellion against the brutal leaders of the Capitol. Slower moving but more political than the trilogy’s first book, it is still a gripping read. The symbol of the revolution is the mockingjay, a hybrid resulting from the bad guys’ attempts to develop a bird that could spy on the rebels only to have the plot backfire. Rather than become extinct, the new species bred with the mockingbird and became adapt at mimicking sounds. One wonders whether during the Red Scare Collins’s trilogy would have been deemed subversive.

On the way to watch James bowl a personal best 123 I listened to WXRT’s show on the year 1967. Highlights included Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “I’m Waiting for the Man” by the Velvet Underground featuring Lou Reed and John Cale. Unlike many of the upbeat paeans to the Age of Aquarius, The Velvets sang about heroin addiction and other aspects of the gritty New York City scene. Most observant Lou Reed line: “First thing you learn is you always gotta wait.”

P-T religion Columnist Frederick Niedner ruminated about whether God answers prayers. Hardly, yet sometimes when I escape the consequences of doing something stupid, it feels like a guardian angel is watching over me as in “It’s a Wonderful Life” or the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode where Larry’s heart stops during a liver transplant operation. Theologian William Hamilton, who recently bit the bullet, couldn’t believe that a God who answered prayers would allow such atrocities as the Nazi death camps. His views echoed eighteenth century deists who compared God to a master craftsman whose creation unfolded without divine intervention and according to natural laws, with humans having free will.

When Albert Pujols left St. Louis and signed with the Angels, he claimed that God told him to do so. Many basketball fans will be praying during the NCAA tournaments. It can’t hurt, assuming God is not a sadist.

Knocking on our condo door was State Rep Scott Pelath, Assistant Minority leader of the Democratic Caucus. He’s from Michigan City and because of redistricting will be running for re-election in our area. He is unopposed in the primary and seemed very personable.

A Smithsonian article commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the luxury liner H.M.S. Titanic focused on survivor Dorothy Gibson, a silent film actress, and on two French “Titanic orphans,” ages two and four. Times assistant managing editor Robert Blaszkiewicz wondered about local connections to the tragedy. I emailed: “Two possible angles. One steel magnate who perished on board was Youngstown Sheet and Tube president George Dennick Wick. The following year (1913) the company started buying land to expand into Northwest Indiana. Also the fictitious villain in James Cameron’s film is Caledon Hockley, the son of a steel baron.”

Other than gaming, reading “Catching Fire” and “Underbelly Hoops,” eating corned beef, and playing bridge with the Hagelbergs, I spent most of the weekend watching college basketball. The highlight was Indiana’s two-point victory over Virginia Commonwealth to reach the Sweet Sixteen. VCU got off a decent three-point shot at the last second, but IU survived thanks to stellar performances by Christian Watford and Cody Zeller. Now they face Kentucky, looking to revenge a December defeat at the hands of the Hoosiers. Purdue led Kansas until the final minute before succumbing despite a 26-point performance by senior Robbie Hummel, whose injuries kept him from a more productive career with former teammates E’Traun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. Of the 51 people in my CBS Sports pool, Dave and I are tie for fourteenth place. I am one of four people who picked Michigan State to win, and nobody selected Syracuse or Marquette, whom I have in the Final Four.

Bowman Academy, a charter school that has drained the talent pool away from the Gary public high schools, is still alive in the state tournament. It started out as a K through 6 school on the site of the former Holy Angels School and added a grade each year. Grades 7 through 12 moved into a new building a couple years ago, and its basketball team already has one state title to its credit. It should have been two, butits star player, DeJuan Marrero, was forced to miss a game in 2009 for picking up two dubious technical fouls, one for hanging on the rim after a dunk because an opposing player was beneath him. Marrero is now a senior, headed next year to DePaul.

Old Lighthouse Museum director Laura Shields thanked me for sending her my “informative and well-written” Carlton Hatcher Traces article that made use of several photos she sent me. I forwarded a copy to the Michigan City News-Dispatch suggesting it might make a good feature story. Carlton worked at the paper with a team he put together stuffing inserts into special editions. Carlton’s son-in-law Charles Wise also thanked me, writing: “He was a good man to his children as well as to their friends. We spent a good deal of time, as kids, going in and out of the Hatcher house. Papa would bring home goodies; sometimes we were there to grab a handful of candy or cookies.”

I chatted with William Marshall’s cousin Bill for close to an hour. When William visited Beloit, Wisconsin, Bill’s dad would get him to sing gospel songs at the Second Methodist Church to which he belonged. Bill, nine years his junior, saw William in a Gary Roosevelt high school production of “Oedipus Rex.” After William’s parents, Vereen and Thelma, split up, his dad remarried, and Bill took care of Vereen for a year after he contracted Alzheimer’s. In France when his father died, William sent a telegram to Bill with remarks he wanted his cousin to deliver to an association of African-American dentists. Bill believes that William was unofficially blacklisted for romancing white actresses and befriending leftwing writers Paul and Sylvia Jarrico. After returning to America, William was actively involved in the Watts Writers Workshop, taught drama at the Mafundi Institute, and served as a mentor to many aspiring black actors. “People would crowd around his apartment seeking his advice,” Bill recalled. He bought property in Pacoima, California, in the San Fernando Valley, and enjoying horseback riding. His mother moved in with him during the 1970s and continued to be active in social work. William earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Governors State University in 1978 and taught theater at numerous universities and at Chicago’s Creative Arts Foundation.

Dr. John Sikora, an IU fan, cleaned my teeth while classic rock (i.e., “The End” by The Doors) played in the background. With the temp in the 80s, I had stripped down to a t-shirt that Ivan Jasper gave me commemorating the Florida Marlins’s World Series victory over the Yankees in 2003, the year of the infamous Bartman incident where a fan interfered with Cubs outfielder Moises Alou from going for a foul ball. What followed was a collapse of momentous proportions. In “Catching Fire” the villainous President Coriolanus Snow has the smell of blood on his breath; that’s what I felt like for a couple hours after the cleaning.

The FBI finally decided to investigate the shooting of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in the gated community of Sanford, Florida. Thousands of people have protested that nothing was done to detain or arrest self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who followed the African American teenager as he was returning from a convenience store. Florida has a Stand Your Ground statute that opponents have nicknamed “Shoot First.” Obviously, Zimmerman had suspicions about Martin, a evidently good kid with no record and model student who had no weapon on him, based on his race. He had previously made several “false alarm” calls to police.

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