Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Little Slack

“Maybe you could cut me a little slack
Would it kill you to be civil?”
Jonathan Coulter, “Skullcrusher Mountain”

Tom Wade put a half-dozen Jonathan Coulter songs on the Garfunkel and Oates CD he burned for me. Known for their witty lyrics, often about geek culture, they are catchy and definitely grow on you. “Code Monkey” supposedly is about people stuck in dead-end programming jobs. “Still Alive” is featured in the video game “Portal.” In “Skullcrusher Mountain” a mad scientist is looking for a little sympathy as he asks a visitor if he could “find some way to be a little less afraid of me.” Thinking nephew Aaron Pickert would enjoy Coulter, I called him while listening to “Code Monkey” and learned he is a fan of “Jo Co.”

On Facebook Jerry Pierce, harassed last year for supposedly not being adequate in research, posted the cover of his new book “Poverty, Heresy, and the Apocalypse: The Order of Apostles and Social Change in Medieval Italy, 1260-1307.” Michael White, head of IUN’s History Society, recently asked for program suggestions. I’d love for him to invite Jerry back and see if any of Jerry's critics dare show up. I personally asked several to cut Jerry a little slack to no avail. There was a time when an endorsement from the History Department would have silenced any critics. This post from Don Young seems apropos: “If someone doesn’t appreciate your presence, make him appreciate your absence.”

It’s Islam Awareness Week at IUN, and an announcement promised food samples, but they were so slow coming yesterday that I bought a hot dog instead. Also on Wednesday’s agenda: Brother Osama Estwani discussing “Rights and Wrongs in Islam” and Henna (ornate body painting using dye from the henna plant). Today the IUN community was invited to have snacks and try on a Hijab or Kufi, and the food included samosa and pizza.

On a blustery, sunny day East Chicago’s tennis team lost to Lake Central, 5-0, but the girls played hard. The first doubles team won a set, and number one singles player Ashley Pabey came back in the second set to make it close against a machine-like opponent that hit virtually everything back.

The lead story in last week’s NY Times Sunday magazine is Matt Bai’s “Who Killed the Debt Deal?” While there is plenty of blame to go around, the chief culprit was Speaker John Boehner, too chicken to risk angering Tea Party Republicans. Yesterday Dick Lugar debated wingnut rival Richard Mourdock, who has forced the six-term senator to posture as an archconservative. In any case I’ll be voting Democrat.

The Merrillville Legion Hall upped its prices, so the bowling banquet was at the Sportsmen Club in Crown Point. Captain Bill Batalis didn’t come, it being his Holy Week, but seven Engineers attended, including newcomers Duke and John. A late season slide dropped us to tenth place out of 14 teams. Joe Piunti’s team, after languishing in last place all year, put on a late drive to finish thirteenth. During the season five bowlers had perfect games, including Jason Schipper, whose average was 236. I elected to have both mashed potatoes and potato salad to go with chicken, sausages, corn, and salad.

Down 3-0 in their playoff opener against Pittsburgh, the Flyers rallied to win 4-3 in overtime. I was tempted to call Fred Chary. He was probably watching the game simultaneously with the Phillies, who beat the Marlins (without Ozzie Guillen at the helm) 7-1 behind another master mound performance by Doc Halladay.

Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey charged George Zimmerman, the man who stalked and then killed Trayvon Martin, with second-degree murder. The severity seems a reach, but the facts now will come out and there’s wiggle room to plea bargain down to manslaughter.

Magic Johnson and Larry Byrd were on Letterman. After Byrd wrote about their relationship in “When the Game Was Ours,” HBO did a documentary about the two fierce competitors. Now a Broadway play will dramatize their relationship. They first paired off in the 1979 NCAA final and were NBA rivals throughout the 1980s playing for the Lakers and Celtics. Byrd is now a Pacer executive, and Magic is part of a syndicate that recently purchased the Dodgers.

At the end of “Chronicles I,” Dylan, writing about being in New York in 1961, mentions that Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth home run record that year, was born in his hometown of Hibbing Minnesota. Then he mentions other North Country Minnesotans, aviator Charles Lindbergh, writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis, and rocker Eddie Cochran. Each one, he writes, “followed their own vision” and “would have understood what my inarticulate dreams were about. I felt like I was one of them or all of them put together.”

I’ve been laboring to combine articles about Gary-born Nobel Laureates Paul Samuelson and Joseph Stiglitz into a single article, perhaps for a future issue of Traces. Stiglitz studied under Samuelson, and both economists were admirers of John Maynard Keynes who supported liberal centrist programs. Samuelson’s textbook “Economics: An Introductory Analysis” sold over four million copies while Stiglitz has written such influential books as “Making Globalization Work” (2006), “The Three Trillion Dollar War” (2008), and “Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy” (2010).

I talked to CURE director Ellen Szarleta about launching an oral history project at the Reiner Senior Center in Hobart. The Center for Urban and Regional Excellence had grants available for IUN students involved in community activities. Fred McColly has already volunteered to get involved. It might lead to a special Shavings issue.

We helped Dick Hagelberg celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday at Sage restaurant. Earlier that day Post-Trib columnist Jerry Davich mentioned Dick in connection with his company Kidstuff Playstations offering to repair for free playgrounds that they had installed in the past – a very generous, civic-minded gesture indeed. Dick told Davich, “We are trying to adopt a Gary park each year that contains our play equipment and fix it.” After dinner we invited his family and the McGuans to the condo for cake and coffee.

On this date in 1945 President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away and Harry S. Truman inherited the myriad problems having to do with bringing WW II to an end. FDR was with his onetime mistress Lucy Rutherford in Warm Springs, Georgia, when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Eleanor was furious when she found out FDR had been seeing Lucy again but, informing cabinet members of his death, said that “he died like a soldier.” He was the greatest president of the twentieth century, guiding America through the Great Depression and the second World War with its institutions intact.

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