Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

“Oh Bobby, Bobby
Where can you be?”
“The Ballad of Bobby Fischer,” Micah Ellison

The HBO documentary “Bobby Fischer against the World” was deeply disturbing. His absentee mother was a communist activist hounded by the FBI, and the chess prodigy who became world champion in 1972 by defeating Russian grandmaster Boris Spassky was a full-fledged nut case by the end of his life. He almost pulled out of the 24-game championship, quit when at the top of his game, disappeared from public view for decades at a time, and ended up an anti-Semitic conspiracy nut living in exile in Iceland, scene of his triumph over Spassky, who crowed that America got what it deserved on 9/11. Other chess champions developed psychological problems, including nineteenth century American genius Paul Morphy. As the final credits ran, on came Micah Ellison singing “The Ballad of Bobby Fischer.”

The teachers tournament Final Jeopardy category was The 1960s.
The question had to do with a 1967 appointment that LBJ called the right person at the right time in history. Easy, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Only one contestant got it right. They did better on the “Human Body” category, so they must not have taught history. Let’s hope not.

Dave and Angie’s cockatiel Razz and parrot Olive died suddenly, apparently of Teflon poisoning. The grief-stricken family held a burial service at Angie’s grandparents’ farm in South Haven.

Mitch Lenyo, a law student at IU, described his first year as “a serious kick in the ass.” He wondered when I decided law was not for me. I advised him to get through the year. If he moves to Hawaii (his reoccurring fantasy) a law degree would be good to have in hand.

Four famous people born on February 29 were bandleader Jimmy Dorsey (1904), singer Dinah Shore (1916), stripper Tempest Storm (1928), and rapper Ja Rule (1976). Leap year coincides with Presidential elections, and Mitt Romney took a step closer to the Republican nomination by eking out a victory in his home state of Michigan against Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania Senator self-destructed with stupid comments about Obama being a snob for wanting everyone to have an opportunity for higher education and JFK’s 1960 comments about the separation of church and state making him gag.

In 1948 a neighbor kid warned that if Dewey beat Truman, my dad would lose his job. My life prior to the family moving from Easton to Fort Washington in 1950 is basically a blur except for a few images, such as: being forced to take cod liver oil at breakfast with Spike Jones on the radio; watching a snowy TV at Bradford’s; the trauma of being dropped off at a party where I knew nobody; walking into a room and seeing my friend’s mother naked; almost falling out of a moving car when I inadvertently opened the passenger door; playing a game where my brother and I tried to kick stuffed animals past each other; seeing my dad play donkey softball where he rode on said animal.

Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe won’t run for re-election because of the polarized climate caused by rightwing partisans in her own party. In 1925 Will Rogers quipped: “When a gentleman quoted me on the floor of Congress the other day, another member took exception and said he objected to the remarks of a professional joke maker going into the Congressional record. Now can you beat that for jealousy among people in the same line?”

As Subway’s February five-dollar sale was coming to an end, I bought a roast beef 12-inch (half for lunch today, half for tomorrow) and they threw in a free cookie. The temperature reached 59 and shoots of plants are starting to come up at school. Students were walking across campus in t-shirt and in a few cases shorts. The demolition of Tamarack Hall is underway. The coup de grace was the 2008 flood. Once the only building on campus, it was where my office was during my entire teaching career.

Anne Frank doubted that anyone would be interested in her “unbosomings” or unburdenings but wrote because she had no real friend. Similarly Anaïs Nin called her journal “the only steadfast friend I have, the only one which makes my life bearable because my happiness with human beings is so precarious.”

The NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle asked “half of a 1960s pop group” (Mamas) and “they can help worriers” (beads). Responding to an article on the war in Afghanistan, Vietnam helicopter pilot Rod Carlson wrote: “Soon the marines will leave Afghanistan, but that won’t end the war, not for those who did the fighting. For them it will rage on with nightmare firefights, daytime flashbacks of explosions and screams, with pain that never fades and wounds that never fully heal. Some will suffer through sad holidays unable to forget those deprived of yet another year. A country can walk away from a war, but those who fought it cannot. For them it never ends.” President Obama is holding a state dinner for 200 Iraq vets from all 50 states. Some nitpickers want a more inclusive event.

The Engineers won just one game against a team called Harry Richards, who last week gave me the Déjà vu t-shirt. I wore it at their insistence and posed for pictures with David and Johnny. The front had the gentleman’s club logo of two legs with alluring stockings while the back featured babes in bikinis and the words “have a beachin’ good time.” A lane over from us Nick Dedonna rolled a 299, leaving the ten-pin on a perfect hit on his final ball. Home to watch Derrick Rose and the Bulls win a close one against San Antonio, coached by Region native Gregg Popovich. Letterman has a great bit of Chris Christie appearing to pull up his shirt, revealing a morbidly obese upper body.

Monkees singer Davy Jones died at age 66 of a sudden heart attack. I was never into his group, but they were really big in 1967 after their TV show about a band similar to the Beatles was a smash. Last year they played in Merrillville, and admittedly “I’m a Believer” and “Daydream Believer” were catchy tunes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

And So It Goes

The dawn delivers me life.
New skins in which to hide.
My hands reach daily,
New life in me remain.
For Love Not Lisa, “Slip Slide Melting”

Instead of getting hit with six to ten inches of snow from a storm passing through Chicagoland, the temp in Chesterton stayed in the 30s and the snow mostly melted when it landed in the streets. At the Westchester Historical Museum I found a eulogy for Alice Gray (Diana of the Dunes) in the March 1925 Prairie Club Bulletin, which noted that “her fresh spirit and fair-mindedness left its impress, incorrigible individualist though she was. She knew every native plant and animal, every mood and color of lake and dune.” A loose-leaf notebook about Alice that contained excerpts from “City of the Century” as well as my “Lake Michigan Tales” Shavings.

A “Final Jeopardy” question for the category “Literary Biography” asked who was the subject of Charles Shields’s “And So It Goes.” Being a big Kurt Vonnegut fan, I would have nailed it. In fact, a recent issue of TRACES contained an article by Shields about the author of “Slaughterhouse Five.” None of the contestants, teachers all, knew the answer, perhaps because Vonnegut’s masterpiece is frequently censored due to use of the “m.f.” word.

Chuck Gallmeier congratulated me on my TRACES article “Every Tub on its Own Bottom” about Carlton Hatcher and on turning 70. Tom Dietz called from Indy, Alissa from Grand Rapids, and Fred McColly from work. Among the Facebook birthday messages was “may your cheese be ever binding” from Jef Halberstadt, paraphrasing a remark of my dad’s – “that makes the cheese more binding” - I frequently make when a board game takes an unexpected turn and that others have adopted. Niece Andrea’s hubby Nick Licata emailed: “Hope you are celebrating and enjoying life, which seems to come easily to you and that is a gift that you give others through your ready smile.” Nice. Terry Jenkins passed along a joke about guys going to a restaurant every ten years, starting in their 20s because the beer was cheap and the girls cute, in their 50s because of their good wine list, in their 60s because there was an early bird special, in their 70s because the food wasn’t too spicy and it was handicapped accessible, and finally in their 80s because (in their minds at least) they had never been there.

I decided my article about football great Alex Karras needing some mention of his Gary Emerson coach. Here’s what I added: “Art Rolfe was a shrewd judge of football talent and relished yet another Karras brother entering his program. The 60 year-old Minnesotan had starred in three sports at Carleton College and had run Emerson’s football program since 1928. Many of his players obtained college football scholarships, including Rocco Schiralli at Notre Dame, Tom Kuzma at Michigan, and Tulane’s Pete Mandich, who was elected mayor of Gary in 1951.”

Grandson James rolled his best game ever, a 114 in his Saturday morning league at Camelot Lanes in Portage, where I won a jacket 17 years ago on a team with Dave, Kevin Horn, and Tom Dick. After each ball he’d look back at us for support. After a bad frame, Dave would say, “Remember, we’re here to have fun.” One of the coaches, John English, graduated with Phil. His mother was very active in the girl scouts, and we talked about dipshit Republican legislator Bob Morris, who recently called the organization radical, pro-abortion, and harboring lesbians and feminists.

In for my birthday Phil was reading “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, which I borrowed for an hour and found irresistible. Color me hooked. The main character is Katniss, named for an edible aquatic plant and certain to be one of the top new girls names of 2012. Number one in 2011 was Charlotte, no surprise, but in second was Seraphina. Ben Afflick and Jennifer Garner started the trend by naming their kid Seraphina. Spent quality time with Diamond and the grandkids and played pinochle before catching SNL, hosted by Charlie Day, on an FX sitcom I’ve never seen called “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

In “Chronicles” Dylan mentions playing at a Minnesota state fair when wrestler Gorgeous George came through with his entourage. Hardly anyone had been paying attention to Dylan but George made eye contact, winked, and mouthed, “You’re making it happen.” When I was a kid and wrestling was a TV staple, lady, midget, and Indian performers were fun, but Gorgeous George was the greatest showman of them all.

Gamed at the condo prior to a birthday lunch at Appleby’s. Our party of 18 included Hagelbergs and Wades, who came in with a dozen balloons plus gave me the board game Revolution and a compilation CD Tom made of clever songs by Garfunkel and Oates and Jonathan Coulton. I especially love Coulton’s “Code Monkey (“very simple man with big warm fuzzy secret heart”) and “Still Alive (“there’s no sense crying over every mistake, you just keep trying till you run out of cake”).

Billy Crystal, back hosting Oscars after eight years, did a routine where he juxtaposed himself in scenes from “The Descendents” and other nominated movies as he sings a parody about the nine flicks. “The Artist” was the big winner of the night. I was disappointed that Martin Scorsese didn’t win for “Hugo” and Jonah Hill for “Moneyball” (he lost out to 82 year-old Christopher Plummer playing a gay guy in “Beginners”) Sacha Baron Cohen, who should have been nominated for his role as train station inspector in “Hugo” showed up in a huge black beard dressed as “The Dictator.”

Inside the Alamo on February 27, 1836, diarist Davy Crockett wrote: “The cannonading began early this morning, and ten bombs were thrown into the fort, but fortunately exploded without doing any mischief. So far it has been a sort of tempest in a teapot, not unlike a pitched battle in the Hall of Congress.” He was spoiling for a fight with Santa Anna. A week later Crockett, who served three terms as Congressman from Tennessee, was dead.

Alan Barr showed the 1971 Jane Fonda movie “Klute,” about a prostitute who helps detective Tom Klute (Donald Sutherland) solve a missing person case. There were cool cameos by Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker in “All in the Family”) and Candy Darling (from Andy Warhol’s Factory) as well as brief glimpses of Teri Garr and Sylvester Stallone. The class was asked to write an essay on how “Klute” separates sex from love and to what purpose. She tells Klute she never comes with Johns but in the end, presumably sexually fulfilled, goes back to Pennsylvania with him. Afterwards I told Alan it was cool seeing Edith Bunker. He looked puzzled, probably because he didn’t hear me, but is it possible he never watched “All in the Family”?

Someone sent me “Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory-Town.” I thought it was a mistake – that someone else had ordered it via inter-library loan. Anne Koehler examined it and discovered it was a discarded book from the Gary Public Library. Someone must have retrieved it for me. But who? Ron Cohen? Recently Ron talked me into writing the FBI to request files on William Marshall using the Freedom of Information Act as justification. A letter from the Justice Department directed me to write to the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD. A runaround perhaps?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Approaching 70

“I wanna scream,
I want you all to know,
I would be runnin’
But my feets’ too slow.”
“Huey “Piano” Smith, “Rockin Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”

For Fat Tuesday (the English translation of Mardi Gras), the day before the beginning of Lent, WXRT played New Orleans songs. Two I heard in the car were “Mess Around” by Dr. John and “Rockin Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” by Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns. In high school I had all Huey’s records including “We Like Birdland” and “Well I’ll Be John Brown.” Had I listened longer, I’m sure I’d have heard Fats Domino and Clarence “Frogman” Henry (who I saw perform at his nightclub). In 2003 Marie Grosskurth brought me back a lei made with beads from New Orleans that someone in the Marti Gras parade threw her way.

The Winter 2012 issue of TRACES has Gary native Karl Malden on the cover and my article on Mayor Hatcher’s father, “Every Tub on its Own Bottom: The Odyssey of Carlton Hatcher” in the Black History News and Notes section. Editor Ray Boomhower did another splendid job and is sending me a half-dozen extra copies for the Hatcher family.

After numerous complaints, the history department got rid of a new part-timer who was obnoxious belittling students. They’ll pay him for the balance of the semester so he doesn’t make trouble. Until a replacement arrives Jonathyne Briggs is teaching the class and his own three back to back to back to back. With Anne Balay in Philadelphia giving a talk at Haverford College, Thursday lunch is off.

Every time I reach a milestone birthday I think of someone ten years older who is doing well. At age 30 it was Psychology prof Frank Lowe, at 40 neighbor Chuck Bernsten, at 50 flamboyant Little Richard, at 60 diplomatic historian Walter LaFeber. About to turn 70, I take solace that former local TV anchorman Tom Higgins is still writing area histories and am pleased contemporaries Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan are still doing creative things.

On Chuck Todd’s “First Read” the question of the day was what did George Washington, Teddy Kennedy, and David Axelrod have in common. The obvious answer: birthdays on February 22. I share mine, February 24, with “Hiawatha” poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Steve Jobs (would have been turning 57), and rocker George Thorogood (62). Unctuous Joe Lieberman was born the exact same day as I.

Talked on the phone with sister-in-law Marianne Okomski, who is having a knee replacement. It took eight weeks for me to recover from mine enough to get around and teach effectively. Still I’m glad I had it done even if it meant the end of my tennis career.

I was a guest on a WJPN Gary TV talk show hosted by Sergeant Louis Stewart, who is at least ten years my senior and who for 22 years brought distinction to Roosevelt’s junior ROYC program. I plugged my Gary books, the Archives, Steel Shavings, my blog, TRACES magazine, and even my upcoming fall course. I mentioned that a former student, David Janott, discovered my blog and returned a book he had borrowed 40 years ago. Asked how I like to write, I said I did a draft during the day and then took it home, popped a beer, and revised it.

Preceding me was Gary School Board treasurer Alesia Pritchett, who discussed the devastating effect budget cuts and tax caps have had on summer programs and other needs. Governor Mitch Daniels refuses to release any of the $320 million in found money despite having cut almost that much last year in education funding supposedly to shore up the budget surplus that has reached $1.6 billion. On his wife’s orders Sarge bought a copy of “Gary’s First Hundred Years” for Alesia. “How much?” he asked. “For today, ten dollars,” I replied. He insisted on giving me full price, 15 dollars.

According to Jerry Davich, steelworkers are up a dying co-worker’s 1970 VW bug to satisfy a buddy’s dying wish. Back in the 1970s when I first came to Gary, you were risking your foreign car's life if you drove it onto the U.S. Steel parking lot.

Opposed to federal subsidies for electric-powered cars, Newt Gingrich sneered, “You can’t put a gun rack on a Volt.” A guy named J.T. McDole proved him wrong.

In bowling the Electrical Engineers took one game from Wild Thang, whose lead-off man James Cyprian is the nephew of former labor union boss Phil Cyprian. Though right-handed, his ball behaves like a left-hander’s. In return for a solar system t-shirt I gave an astronomy buff last week, Mike and Johnny presented me with two in return, one having to do with “The Big Bang Theory” (Toni’s favorite show and suitable for her wearing it as a nightie) and the other from Déjà Vu, a local strip club. They expect me to wear it next week when we bowl against them.

Stayed up long enough to catch Heartless Bastards on Letterman. Singer Erika Wennerstrom claims their name came from a Mega Touch trivia quiz where it was one of the bogus answers for Tom Petty’s backup band and a take-off on Heartbreakers.

Monday, February 20, 2012


“If I should stay,
I would only be in your way.
So I’ll go, but I know
I’ll think of you every step of the way.”
“Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”

Whitney Houston’s face is on the cover of virtually all the supermarket magazines and tabloids, flattering shots for “People” and “Us,” disheveled images for the scandal rags like “Globe” and “Enquirer.” She made the Dolly Parton song “I Will Always Love You” her own, and hearing it over and over in the days after she died in a hotel bathtub made one think of how unique was her talent (as Clive Davis said, a voice like that comes along once a generation). How corrosive must have been her insecurities and need for drugs that in the end killed her. New Jersey governor Chris Christie ordered flags on state buildings at half staff. The funeral at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark had moments of grandeur (Stevie Wonder singing with the choir) and farce (ex-hubby Bobby brown storming out because of the seating arrangements). Whitney and Madonna were the female stars of MTV during the 1980s, and in those videos she was impossibly beautiful and talented. So sad she couldn’t age with grace like her mentor Aretha Franklin.

I had to limit my “Choice” review about the Kennedy administration forcing the Washington Redskins to desegregate to 190 words, so there was scant opportunity to go into detail about the disparate lives of racist owner George P. Marshall, idealistic Interior Secretary Stuart Udall, or Hall of Fame running back/wide receiver Bobby Mitchell. The Skins started out in Boston and suffered a humiliating loss to the Chicago Bears 73-0 in the 1940 championship game. Years later Washington QB Sammy Baugh suggested that his teammates didn’t play hard as a rebuke to their obnoxious owner.

Jonathyne Briggs is on a Chicago bar trivia team. My reaction time for coming up with Jeopardy answers has fallen off. Brian, Jonathyne, and Anne debated the merits of “Mockingjay,” the third book in the Suzanne Collins sci-fi trilogy aimed at young adults. A film version of volume one, “The Hunger Games,” the first book in the series, is due out soon. Chesterton’s library is all out of their four copies. I’m on the reservation list.

A “Vanity Fair” article claims “Diner” is the most influential movie of the last half-century. The 1982 comedy about high school friends reuniting at their old Baltimore hangout for a wedding inspired scores of coming-of-age movies and sitcoms like “Seinfeld” and “The Office.”

Radio host Tavis Buchan of Merrillville’s Lakeshore Station 89.1 FM discovered my blog and wants me as a guest. The NWI Times is also considering linking the blog to their website. It might be a good way to publicize Steel Shavings issues still in print.

On February 17, 1842, William H. Prescott, biographer of Ferdinand and Isabella and author of histories about the Spanish conquests of Peru and Mexico, noted: “I consume too much time on notes and on pettinesses every day. Think more of general effect and impression. Don’t quiddle nor twaddle.” Great words, quiddle (meaning to dawdle) and twaddle (idle talk or chatter). I’ve played a card game called Quiddler where you make words with letters or letter combinations (TH, CL, IN, ER, QU) in your hand.

“The Artist” was at the AMC in Michigan City, the only area theater other than Schererville where it is playing. It was basically a black-and-white silent movie set in 1927 and about an actor whose career is threatened by the advent of “talkies”. I can see why it got so many Oscar nominations, including Jean Dujardon for best actor and Berenice Bejo for supporting actress. Berenice could have qualified for best actress, but now won’t have to compete against Meryl Streep (“The Iron lady”), Viola Davis (“The Help”), and Michelle Williams (“My Week with Marilyn”).

I had almost decided not to use Jon Resh’s “Amped” in my Fall course when I came across how influenced Resh was by William O. Douglas’s “Points of Rebellion” (1969) in particular this quote by the liberal Supreme Court justice: “The dissent we witness is a protest against the belittling of man, against his debasement, against a society that makes ‘lawful’ the exploitation of humans.”

Resh introduces a chapter called “Pastacore” (an amalgam of pasta and hardcore that was the band Spoke’s rallying cry) with this Voltaire quote: “Everything must end. Meanwhile we mist amuse ourselves.” Concluding that “simply, pastacore is life lived maximally, every moment savored,” one example Resh cites is “lying on your driveway at midnight listening to Hank William, Sr., on a Walkman and watching the stars, wondering what music the aliens are listening to as they watch Earth.” Another is playing at full volume the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (a recent “NY Times” crossword puzzle answer for the soundtrack of “A Clockwork Orange”).

The Westchester Township History Museum located in the Brown Mansion is a 16-room brick structure built 125 years ago in the Queen Anne architectural style and located near downtown Chesterton. I had hoped to use the Prairie Club archives and peruse their 1920s bulletins, but a reception was in progress so I set up an appointment to return in five days. I browsed through some of their holdings, including notebooks of Alice Gray (Diana of the Dunes) and artist-author Earl H. Reed. On the way home I bought a Subway Philly cheese steak from Brady Wade, who started working there earlier in the week. “Welcome to Subway,” he said as I entered.

Assholes angered over the decision by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to allow people to buy a license whose proceeds go to a pro-gay organization. Folks can pay an extra 40 dollars for a plate showing six different colored hands rising up from a ring with $25 going to the Indiana Youth group. Never mind that an anti-abortion group and 65 other groups have specialty plates, even the national Wild Turkey Federation.

The Post-Trib’s Mike Hutton wrote a column praising Andrean coach Carson Cunningham’s hilarious, poignant new book “Underbelly Hoops: Adventures in the CBA” the author’s last, quixotic attempt to get picked up by an NBA team. One paragraph quoted from Carson’s book describes the funeral of former Purdue teammate Gary McQuay, who died of leukemia: “We mourned that day, and yet we also celebrated Gary’s life. When the pastor spoke, he started passing a basketball around, asking people to keep it moving, just like Gary would want us to do. And the ball flowed through the pews. This is the type of thing that can happen at funerals in Indiana.”

While not as spectacular as the Jeremy Lin story, the Bulls hit the jackpot signing 36 year-old Mike James to a ten-day contract. He has a championship ring from playing with Detroit but after receiving no offers from NBA teams chose to play in the D (Developmental) League. “I went from Ritz Carltons to Howard Johnsons,” he quipped. Now he’s back at high-priced hotels, at least for the time being.

Sunday’s SALT column was on Nick Mantis, who is working on a documentary about Jean Shepherd. I suggested the idea to Jeff Manes after meeting Mantis at the Archives. Nick told Jeff: “My mother and father met at a bus stop in East Chicago. My father is from Greece and my mother is from Mexico. My father looks like Anthony Quinn, who was born in Mexico. My mother is very fair complected for a Mexican lady. When they saw each other, me dad thought, ‘Hey, here’s this good-lookin’ Greek chick.’ My mother was thinking, ‘Here’s this good-lookin’ Mexican guy.’” Only in the Region.

Delores Crawford sent out a “media report” listing all the local newspaper articles for January mentioning IUN. One was the SALT column on Dick Hagelberg, where it mentioned me as his friend. We played bridge with the Hagelbergs Sunday and visited the house son Corey and Kate bought high atop a sand dune near Lake Street in miller.

I called Alex Karras at his home in California and, lo and behold, he picked up. He credits his mother Emmiline, an outdoors person and good ice skater, for being mainly responsible for the athletic prowess that ran in the family. He confirmed what brother Ted told me about their father teaching them to swim at the Gary YMCA and how they frequented the neighborhood doughnut shop. All in all, he was very affable. Good friend and former student David Malham, whose older brother Nick was a friend of Alex Karras, told me about the time he saw the two boxing for “fun” on his front porch. After Alex had a split lip and Kick a bloody nose, Mrs. Malham finally broke up the fight.

I got the following anecdote from Dave Malham’s brother Nick: On August 11, 1950, after starring at Purdue, brother Lou played in the College All-Star Football Classic at Soldier Field in Chicago, in which his team upset the Philadelphia Eagles 20-17. The next morning Nick Malham found Alex sitting on his front porch proudly wearing Lou’s helmet and jersey. A year or so later, while Lou was playing for the Washington Redskins, Alex told Malham, “I’m going to play professional football and then I’m going to become a Hollywood actor.”

Fellow U. of Maryland grad student Don Ritchie informed me that our old adviser Sam Merrill’s widow Marion passed away at age 97 and is finally going back to her hometown of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, to where she always claimed she wanted to return. I replied: “Thanks for letting me know. I had been thinking about seeing her in April when I came east for Ray Smock’s Alumni lecture. I wish Marion had agreed to the living eulogy program Richard wanted to have for her. Terry Jenkins, my best friend from high school had a surprise party all planned for his parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. A week before the event, his mother said, “Please don’t plan anything” so he called everyone and said it was off. Numerous people had to cancel airplane reservations. On the day of the anniversary his mom said, “It’s a shame we didn’t plan something involving old friends.” He would have liked to have strangled her.” It was Don who suggested the title “The Professor Wore a Cowboy Hat (And Nothing Else)” for an oral history paper I delivered on “Ethical Issues in Handling Matters of Sex in Institutional Oral Histories: Indiana University Northwest as a Case Study.”

Ray Smock has decided to title his speech “I Did It My Way, By Accident: Lessons from an Unconventional Career.” He also was the first to wish me an upcoming “biblical three score and ten,” adding: “How did we get this old? Many more to you dear friend.”

IUN was open despite it being Presidents' Day (an amalgamation of what once were days celebrating the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington, two of America's best three leaders, FDR being the third). At lunch George Bodmer noticed my black sweater with the SI logo and asked if Sports Illustrated gave it to me. I told him I selected it from among several choices offered to subscribers. He quipped that at first he thought it stood for Supplemental Instruction, an IUN tutoring program. Friday I wore a bluish-white turtleneck under my crimson IUN t-shirt and looked pretty, pretty, pretty good if I do say so myself.

Former Indiana Congresswoman Katie Hall died at age 73. An ally of Mayor Richard Hatcher, she sponsored the bill that made the birthday of Martin Luther King a national holiday. After Pete Visclosky defeated her in 1984, she was elected Gary city clerk. An A.P. reporter asked me to assess her career. I indicated that the Post-Tribune had it in for her as a Hatcher ally and led the charge for her to be indicted for forcing members of her staff to sell candy (kadydids) during a time when virtually all political appointees were expected to do similar things, such as buy tickets to fundraisers. Small potatoes compared to how Dick Cheney and others of his ilk have become multi-millionaires thanks to their connections.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This Gets Old

“We’ve been working
Our whole damn lives
But for what?
For them.”
Never Shout Never, “This Shit Getz Old”

Sam Barnett posted a comment about artist Chris Drew who faces a possible 15 years in jail under the Illinois Eavesdropping Act for putting a videotape of his being arrested on YouTube. He was selling art pieces on the street to protest a law making that a misdemeanor. He didn’t know about a draconian law forbidding folks from recording police officers. Chris is also in Never Shout Never.

Charles Halberstadt shared a “Being Liberal” photo of a monopoly board and this statement: “You can tell monopoly is an old game because there’s a luxury tax and rich people can go to jail.”

Since Toni’s birthday falls on Valentine’s Day, she prefers not battling the holiday crowds, so we had Happy Wok carry-out with Dave, Angie, and the kids. I contributed flowers (as did Alissa) and macadamia nuts, and Angie baked a chocolate cake.

Both the Post-Trib and the Chesterton Tribune have “this date in history” section. Yesterday marked the 83rd anniversary of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Chicago gangster Al Capone’s tentacles reached into Northwest Indiana both in terms of control of booze, prostitution and drugs and with hideaways “Scarface Al” owned. Today is the anniversary of the assassination attempt against FDR in Miami that killed Chicago mayor Anton Cermak. 114 years ago occurred the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine, which helped bring about America’s first imperialistic war after the press wrongly accused the Spanish government of blowing the ship up.

Steve and Ron traveled to Munster to collect some treasures for the Archives pertaining to the 1945 Froebel School Strike. The man was selling stuff on the Internet but also seemed willing to donate some material.

Wendy Foley ordered “Educating the Region” for a friend as a Valentine’s Day present. Got it the mail as soon as I received her note, but I’m afraid it will have to be a belated gift.

I interviewed Ted Karras at his Miller home. He has a championship ring for playing with the 1963 Chicago Bears, something brothers Lou and Alex never achieved. When he had troubling remembering things, wife Anna assisted him. Among his happiest memories: pier fishing in Michigan City with his dad and brothers. Prior to a high school game, Ted injured his finger, went to a shoe store, and used an x-ray machine meant to measure foot size to examine his hand. Sure enough, a finger was broken. He taped it up and played that evening. As I was leaving Anna told me that they were going to watch “Webster,” a sitcom Alex and wife Susan starred in during the 1980s that comes on at 11:30 weekdays on WMEU (The U).

Being in his neighborhood, I dropped in on Clark Metz, temporarily laid up with a broken toe. Normally his dog tries to jump up on the couch next to me the entire visit, but today he was calmer – not so much of a puppy anymore, I guess, although Dave and Angie’s aging dogs Sammy and Maggie never tire of giving frenetic greetings.

IUN’s Gallery for Contemporary Art director Ann Fritz hosted a reception for mixed media artist Javier Chavira. One piece honored the many women who have gone missing in Juarez, Mexico. “Americano” portrays a Mexican-American caught between two cultures. I asked Chavira if he was worried that the pieces he did on cardboard wouldn’t last very long; he claimed not to care, like Picasso. His work was striking, and, as always, Ann put out a nice spread.

In honor of Charles Darwin’s birthday number 203 the Anthropology Department’s annual Darwin Day featured talks on “Evolution of the Use of Cadavers for Teaching Anatomy” and “Evolution of Disgust and Its Role in Dehumanization of Others.” Psychology professor Ceyhun Sunsay discussed how Nazi propaganda predisposed Germans to become xenophobic. I had a slice of Darwin birthday cake. T-shirts and primate Beanie Babies were on sale.

I submitted an article about a male counterpart to Diana of the Dunes to the “South Shore Journal.” I was afraid I missed the deadline, but editor Chris Young said, “No problem,” it had been extended.

Facing the first-place team, the Engineers started hot and despite notching only one mark in the seventh game won the first game before the splits started coming. I kept an eye on the IU game, which the Hoosiers barely pulled out against Northwestern. Dave was announcing the East Chicago-Lou Wallace high school grudge match, which E.C. won 80-75.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Spinning Around

“You’re my superstar
Tu es mon petit chouchou yeah.”
Lenny Kravitz, “Spinning Around Over You?"

Anne Balay showed her Women’s Studies class the YouTube video of Garfunkel and Oates’s “Pregnant Girls Are Smug.” She also returned my “Reality Bites” soundtrack featuring Lenny K. singing about his “chouchou,” which according to a French-English dictionary means darling pet or scrunchie. Say what? Scrunchie is an elastic loop used to keep hair in a ponytail. On “Californication” Karen dated a black guy that Hank called Lenny Kravitz. Lenny’s best-known song was 1993’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” (that same year he divorced willowy Lisa Bonet from “Cosby”), but he’s still going strong. On the CD Ethan Hawke, who starred in “Reality Bites” with Winona Rider as a “Generation Xer,” sings “I’m Nuthin’.” The lyrics (for example, “I’m sick of people talking about the American Dream – it’s all gone”) remind me of the line in John Dos Passos’s 1920s novel “Manhattan Transfer” where disillusioned young Martin declares: “None of us know what we want. That’s why we’re such a peewee generation.”

The History department is sifting through applications for its mediaeval position. When Sid Feldman was starting the Business Division, he looked for applicants from the Midwest because they were more likely to stay rather than hunt for another job. Chris Young, the only department member who fits that description, has put down roots in the Calumet Region, expressed interest in Indiana history, and seems most likely, in Jonathyne Briggs’s words, to be a lifer.

I interrupted Nan Plunkett, Alex Karras’s sister, while she was playing bridge in order to confirm that her stepfather’s old man who was a sea captain. Brother Ted lives in Miller and had a nine-year NFL career.

A category on“Jeopardy” was “Game of Thrones,” also the name of the memorable HBO series. Nobody (except me) knew the first Holy Roman Emperor was Charlemagne, whose throne is located at Aachen, Germany.

Time’s Joe Klein ridiculed Republican strategist and Obama hatemonger Karl Rove for criticizing the Chrysler Superbowl ad where crusty Clint Eastwood defended the automobile bailout. Eastwood said, “It seems that we’ve lost our heart at times – the fog of division, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead. But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right and acted as one.” The veteran actor concluded, “This country can’t be knocked down with one punch. We get right back up again. And when we do, the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.” I’m waiting to see how Romney defends his anti-bailout position during the upcoming Michigan primary.

Jon Resh’s “Amped: Notes from a Go-Nowhere Punk Band” arrived via interlibrary loan, laced with great quotes, including this by Russian-born composer and conductor Igor Stravinsky: “My music is best understood by children and animals.” Resh formed the band Spoke while a U. of Florida student. The book is reminiscent of Sam Barnett’s memoir of being in the band Fuzz Factor.

At age 70 New Yorker contributor E.J. Kahn, Jr., kept a diary throughout the year 1987 that he published as “Year of Change.” On February 10 he noted: “For some years, ever since the women’s lib movement convinced me that I was a heel for having so long been malely chauvinistic, I have made a point, when, say, buying Christmas presents via telephone from a mail-order catalogue, of asking whomever I’m connected with, after she identifies herself as Joanna or Rosie or Kate or whatever, for her surname. I do this in what I conceive to be the spirit of the Equal Rights Amendment. Whoever heard of a man identifying himself solely as Charlie or George?” Pretty lame.

Milk and sandwiches are slightlymore expensive at IUN’s Redhawk Café than at the cafeteria. I frequently choose the latter venue, everything being equal. Library director Bob Moran, founder of the Redhawk Café, walked around the entire campus each day after a heart attack. Thanks to all the computers nearby, his brainchild is thriving after struggling for many years.

Friday was opening night of “Oliver” at Valpo’s Memorial Opera House. Lake effect snow was falling, with eight to 12 inches predicted. Since James and Becca, playing urchins, only appeared in the first act (they were fantastic), we left at intermission and except for a couple spins on the ice, got home OK. Starting out after the play ended, it took Angie two hours to make it home through near whiteout conditions.

Letterman’s Top Ten list dealt with “ways to describe gravy.” The only clever ones were “how mashed potatoes go from drab to fab” and “what N.J. governor Chris Christie puts on his cereal.” Mr. Smith, one of Dave’s old Little League coaches responding to someone who quipped, “Like your beer, do you?’ by replying, “No, potatoes and gravy.”

In the always-difficult “Saturday Stumper” crossword puzzle I was able to help Toni out with “First Pulitzer Winning Comic Strip” – Doonesbury- and “Family with Megahits” Gibbs.

Had a lucky streak gaming Sunday. A clever final sacrifice earned me the victory in Amen Re, while in St. Petersburg I emulated the strategy that Tom has successfully employed so many times. I ran away in Acquire by owned the most stock in both blue-chip companies before losing to Dave in Stone Age.

We attended “Oliver” with the Hagelbergs. It was easy to spot James, but Becca, playing a boy, had on a wig and was harder to find in the first workhouse scene. After a delightful opening act, the play ended in overly melodramatic fashion with Nancy, the prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold getting killed by Bill Sykes, her abusive lover. When Antoinette Gomez as Nancy sang about loving her man despite all his faults (“As Long As He Needs Me”), I thought the women in the audience might hiss. The play originally opened in 1960, a pre-feminist age. A woman, Maddie Blaney, playing the role of the Artful Dodger brought down the house singing “Consider Yourself.” Luke Bouman portrayed Fagin, the leader of the pickpocket ring, almost sympathetically rather than as the anti-Semitic figure of Charles Dickens’s original novel.

After dinner at Pesto’s Restaurant I turned on CBS in preparation for the Grammys. “60 Minutes,” a favorite of seniors, ran commercials for the sexual stimulant Viagra and Orencia arthritis medication. Since Whitney Houston was recently found dead at age 48 the Grammy Awards Show had numerous tributes. Johnny Otis and Etta James were also remembered. Bruce Springsteen, Chris Brown, and the Foo Fighters all rocked out. David Grohl was outfitted in a Slayer t-shirt. As expected, Adele cleaned up. Glen Campbell sang “Rhinestone Cowboy” despite suffering from Alzheimer’s and Maroon 5 and Foster the People performed Beach Boys songs prior to joining with Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine on “Good Vibrations.” Amazingly, the Beach Boys never won a Grammy.

Learned that I’ll be on Sergeant Stewart’s TV show February 22, that page proofs for “Valor” will arrive in early March and that I’ll be doing a presentation at the Hobart Senior Center on March 8. I skipped Alan Barr’s Monday movie “Peeping Tom,” about a murderer who films his women victims’ contorted dying faces. Ugh! Not for me.

Larry Ceplair, author of “The Marxist and the Movies: A Biography of Paul Jarrico,” emailed: “I have been alerted that you wish to communicate with me. Have at it.” I asked about William Marshall’s 42-year relationship with Paul Jarrico’s ex-wife Sylvia. Evidently Marshall met the Jarricos in Paris because Paul wanted him to play the lead in “All Night Long,” a film based on “Othello” in a modern Jazz Age setting. There is speculation that because Paul was having an affair at the time, he may have been hoping that his wife and Marshall become lovers, in Ceplair’s words, “as a counter to his own dalliance.” Actor Paul Harris eventually played the role of Aurelius Rex, and due to the Blacklist screenwriter Jarrico used the pseudonym Peter Achilles.

On February 13, 1844, according to John C. Fremont’s journal, the day before he discovered Lake Tahoe, his party feasted on pea soup, mule and dog prepared in the Indian fashion. It being Seattle Joe’s birthday, I called him while listening to “The Crow” soundtrack featuring The Cure (“Burn”), NIN (“Dead Souls”), Pantera (“The Badge”), and Rollins Band (“Ghost Rider”). My favorite cut is the finale, Jane Siberry’s “It Can’t Rain All the Time”

With Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire out, Chinese-American Jeremy Lin, an undrafted Harvard grad, came off the far end of the New York Knicks bench to have a sensational five games, including scoring 38 points against the Lakers. People are comparing him to Tim Tebow and talking about Lin-fever, even describing the phenomenon as Lin-sanity.

Former student Milan Andrejevich informed me that retired History secretary Rosalis Zak was in the Life Care Center of the Willows. After several unsuccessful attempts, I reached her the day before she was scheduled to undergo a serious operation. She was an English war bride. In “Educating the Region” I wrote: “We kept her busy with research papers as well as normal work. Chary even had her take dictation. I revised my work using red, blue, black, and green ink, and once she posted a multi-colored copy of a page on her door to show others what she had to put up with.” In an age before computers she used an electric typewriter and white-out to correct typos.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Save the Rich?

“Save the rich
It’s so easy to do
Just let yourself be ignorant
To what’s been done to you.”
Garfunkel and Oates

I’ve moved Tom Wade’s CD of Garfunkel and Oates songs to the car. Pretending to give a rationale for America being built on corporate greed, “Save the Rich” proclaims: “All the jobless people need to learn to be content/ ‘cause what we need to do is protect our 1 percent.” At the Comedy Club Garfunkel and Oates dedicated the song to Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.

One rich bastard I’ve been reading about is former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who parleyed his dad’s laundry business into a profitable 57-store chain using the slogan “Long Live Linen.” He married a Ziegfeld Follies girl and then beautiful silent film actress Corrine Griffith but vowed not to employ black players until the Harlem Globetrotters hired whites. JFK’s Interior Secretary Stewart Udall forced his hand by threatening to deny him use of D.C. (later RFK) Stadium.

In the news: The last British WW I veteran, 110 year-old Florence Green, an officer’s mess steward, passed away. Last year the last British sailor died and the year before the last foot soldier. On February 8, 1918, ambulance driver John Dos Passos wrote of being in Brassano when the Germans shelled the French town. Afterwards he and three others were waving bottles of Chianti and laughing with chocolate drooling from their mouths. I met Dos Passos at the Library of Congress shortly before he died. A radical when he wrote the USA trilogy, the novelist became a Ron Paul type suspicious of all bureaucracies in old age.

Rick Santorum won Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri, throwing a monkey wrench in the GOP establishment’s plans to anoint him their nominee. Santorum is making hay on such social issues as gay marriage and a recent government demand that Catholic hospitals provide health plans that allow employees to be covered for birth control pills. The way bishops are screaming, you’d think the government was requiring people to take them.

Commenting on New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s intention to submit a proposal to ban gay marriage to a referendum, Ray Smock took a dim view of direct democracy infringing on the rights of minorities. Arguing that California has been ruined by propositions and mentioning that the ultimate example of direct democracy was the Western lynch mob, He ended his rant: “Gee whiz, I am starting to sound like John C. Calhoun.”

I might call my next Shavings “Un-Retirement Journal,” as opposed to volume 40’s title “Retirement Journal,” since I’ll be teaching in the Fall and having students keep journals.

I interviewed the Nan Plunkett, the 82 year-old sister of Alex Karras, at an assisted living facility in Portage. She looked beautiful and attributes her still keen mind to playing bridge. Even though she and her brothers were baptized Greek Orthodox, her mother, a Canadian of Scotch ancestry, took them to an Episcopal Church. Alex was the gentle dreamer in the family compared to his ferocious older brother Lou. A kid named Donny Coleman once had Alex. Older brother Louie suddenly appeared, grabbed Donny, and told him he’d put him in the hospital if he ever touched his brother again. Afterwards he told Alex to wash up and change his clothes “before mom sees you,” then adds: “Goddam, Al, you gotta learn how to protect yourself. You’re bigger than him.”

George Thiros called from Pittsburgh, hoping to purchase “Gary: A Pictorial History.” His brother, renowned attorney Nick Thiros, was in partnership with Max Cohen, no relation to Ron, co-editor of the book. George’s wife graduated from Emerson with Alex Karras.

The third season of “Californication” ended with Moody’s daughter Becca being deflowered by a college kid, wife Karen disgusted upon learning that he had unwittingly deflowered her stepdaughter Mia, and him bloodied and in jail again after confrontations with Mia’s smarmy agent/boyfriend and then the police. The final minutes were without dialogue, just Elton John singing “Rocket Man.” What Elton says about Mars (“ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids/ in fact, it’s cold as hell”) also applies to Los Angeles. I have until February 14 to watch the entire fourth season On Demand.

Someone left a Trojans wrapper on a library elevator. What is this world coming to? It could have been worse, I guess, had it been a used condom. The wrapper was gone within the hour. On the up side, the Thirty-Third street entrance to IUN’s main parking lot is open again.

Bill Jarrico, the son of Gary-born actor William Marshall’s longtime companion Sylvia Gussin Jarrico, returned my call and had some interesting anecdotes. Even with Alzheimer’s disease, Marshall was such a good actor that he could hide it. Someone asked him a question about whether doing one-person shows actors adlibbed or stuck to a specific script. In his booming voice Marshall answered, “The latter.” He hadn’t understood the question and was winging it, but the questioner went off satisfied.

Former Gary mayor Richard Hatcher had Hammond mayor Tom McDermott speak to his class. Now in his third term, he bragged about his College Bound program, which uses casino money to pay for the tuition of college students whose parents own property in Hammond. He criticized Governor Daniels and called him a hypocrit for appointing people to a board that approved an 8 percent rate hike for NIPSCO.

After downing cherry yogurt with chips and a tiny Mr. Goodbar I bowled a 470 series against Never a Doubt, composed of Kerry Smith junior and senior, Tom Clark (whose daughter wrestles on the Calumet boys team), zero handicap young gun Jason Schipper, and George Lopez (daughter-in-law Delia’s uncle). We were fortunate to pick up two points, winning the first game by 30 pins. In tenth I barely picked up a ten-pin. Tom Clark left the one, two, four, six, ten but converted it. Young Kerry Smith, working on a double, buried his ball but left the seven-pin. Then Jason did the same thing, only it was the ten-pin left standing. Eight lanes down a friendly guy who always wears an IU cap rolled a perfect game.

At night’s end I congratulated Bobby McCann on rolling a 750 series a couple weeks before, a feat mentioned in the Post-Trib weekly roundup of top scores. Mike Flavin offered to buy my t-shirt depicting the solar system for 40 dollars for a friend who is an astronomy buff. Once before Mike spoke admiringly of it. The thing is probably 20 years old, so I think after I wash it I’ll give it to Mike and perhaps ask for one of his choice in return.

Letterman’s top ten had to do with people you’d like to see wearing a mustache. One was Daryl Hall, who actually had one for a while, albeit not as memorable as sidekick John Oates’s black bushy one. In fact in 2008 Hall had a full beard while Oates was clean-shaven. Contrary to rumors, they were not gay.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Superbowl Weekend

“Do you think?
Is it normal?
To go through life,
Oh so formal?
“Weekend,” Smith Westerns

The first time I heard “Weekend,” on the car radio Friday, I thought the Chicago band called themselves Smith Wesson after the gun manufacturer. Robert Blaszkiewicz included this song from “Dye It Blond” on his Best of 2011 CD. Interlibrary loan books of memoirs keep arriving, including Henry Rollins’s “Get in the Van” about his days with the punk band Black Flag. Also in the mail: page proofs for my TRACES article on Carlton Hatcher that were clean except for a missing comma (my fault) and a question whether African American should be hyphenated when used as an adjective. As always, the magazine has done a great job with the illustrations, which came from daughter Gladys Givan, nephew Charles Wise, and the Michigan City Lighthouse Museum.

I love observing people reading things I wrote. Friday in the Archives a Latino scholar was studying “Forging a Community” and a black woman interested in Gary race-relations was perusing a couple Shavings issues. Having learned from Jonathyne Briggs that Jerry Pierce was in town, I tried but failed to reach him on his cell phone to see if he wanted to go to a micro-brewery in Michigan City.

With Wades in Chicago Saturday, first to Geja Fondue Restaurant (thumbs up) and then for a UP Comedy Club show featuring Garfunkel and Oates (real names Kate Micucci and Riki Lindholme) who interspersed clever, irreverent songs with humorous banter and social commentary. “Weed Card” joked about how easy it was to get a medical marijuana card in California while “Sex with Ducks” was a spoof of an anti-gay comment of Reverend Pat Robertson. Perhaps the funniest two were “My Self-Esteem’s Not Low Enough to Date You” and “Pregnant Woman Are Smug.” After the show they posed for pictures with folks lined up to buy their CD. When I passed them and said, “Great show,” Kate looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “Thanks for coming.” Tom made me a CD of some of their best songs. For the occasion I wore a tie and sweater over a green dress shirt (Darcey quipped that I took my fashion sense from Rick Santorum) and black socks (Darcey has made fun of my wearing white socks in the past).

Exactly 43 years ago, according to “The Book of American Diaries,” Catholic radical Dorothy wrote in her diary of her misery “at the thought of a drunken priest in our midst” but promised to say a prayer “for all priests with their well-stocked bars.” If only alcoholism was the worst of the sins committed by those using their power to seduce young boys. What would Dorothy have said about that, I wonder? In 1838 Sophie Du Pont wrote this touching entrée: “Particularly do I feel impressed with sadness when looking on a little girl. To be gifted with quick and sensitive feelings, with warm and passionate affections, with genius, with rare talentsperchance – and all this to be crushed and wasted, and borne back upon the heart, till the bitter medicine works at length the healing of the soul. I am sometimes tempted to think with the Indian woman who said, ‘Let not my child be a girl, for very sad is the lot of women.’”

Jeff Manes did a column on private detective Ken Burbridge, who a woman once hired to find out if her suspicious-acting husband was cheating on her. Burbridge discovered that the guy was a drug dealer. The wife was relieved he wasn’t being unfaithful and didn’t seem to mind that he was dealing drugs. The anecdote reminded me of an imprisoned gangland enforcer who during the 1950s began socializing with leftwing political prisoners until his sister warned him that they were a bad influence and hanging around with them could get him into trouble.

Before the Superbowl Tom, Dave, and I got in three games and then after chili I got the grandkids into a Milles Bornes contest. To through the interminable commercials eight of us played a Game Marianne Brush taught us last year of, throwing in quarters, drawing categories, and the first ad after the football action stopped would determine the winner. The best categories to have were cars, beer, and, followed by pop and upcoming movies and TV shows, while food, insurance and clothing hardly came up at all. No Nike ads or McDonald’s commercials, surprisingly. Madonna put on a great halftime show with the help of Cee Lo Green, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, MIA (who flashed the bird, horror of horrors, before the censors could notice) the IU band, and a cast of thousands. The game itself was eerily reminiscent of four years ago when Eli Manning led the Giants to a late winning score thanks to a sensational catch by David Tyree. This time the hero was Mario Manningham.

The director of the Center for Urban and Regional Excellence wants me to talk about local history to Hobart seniors. I said I would. Also got jpegs from niece Niki of her adorable kids Addie and Crosby holding hands and looking at their shadows and from Suzanna Murphy of her latest painting, a snow scene. Nephew Joe had a band to recommend, Death Angel, and Ray Boomhower thanked me for my very few corrections on my Carlton Hatcher article.

Alex Karras’s youngest brother Paul returned my call and had great anecdotes about football pickup games in East Side Park and their 90-pound grandmother Daisy getting after them with a belt when they were late for church choir practice. After her husband died at age 48, Emmiline refused to go on welfare and resumed her career as a nurse.

Garrett Cope introduced me to Charles Gates a student five years my senior who’s friends with former NFL star and actor/director Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. Williamson’s mother is still active at age 90 and someone I should interview. She also evidently helped raise former Gary mayor Rudy Clay.

At the cafeteria Michele Stokely noted that Alan Lindmark, Fred Chary, and I were all supposedly retired and that she doesn’t plan on returning to campus when her turn comes. I said she shouldn’t be so adamant about that and mentioned the WW II drill instructor who told his unit, celebrating their final drill prior to being mustered out of the army, that one day they would look back on their time in uniform with nostalgia as one of the highlights of their lives. As Bill Neil noted, it’s hard to replace the collegiality of academe.

After lunch I attended Alan Barr’s film class to see the 1959 “Hiroshima Mon Amour.” A student had complained about foreign films with subtitles, and Alan explained that to only watch films in English would mean missing the majority of great movies of the past and present. He asked the class to write essays dealing with the connection of memory and time with love. Passing back papers, Alan seemed to know the names of all the students, pretty good for so early in the semester.

In “Hiroshima Mon Amour” French actress Elle (Emmanuelle Riva) is having an affair with Lui (Eiji Okada), a Japanese architect. She reveals that when 19 she fell in love with a German soldier who promised to marry her and take her back to Bavaria. He was shot just a day before her town was liberated, and as punishment partisans cut off her hair and her parents confined her to a cold cellar. While the lovers ruminate over the horror of remembering and forgetting, juxtaposed with them in bed or at a tea room are scenes of victims of America’s atomic bomb and commentary about the meekness of survivors adapting to unimaginable horror. I’d never seen the film before, being myself averse to films with subtitles, but I’m glad I went. Afterwards I emailed Alan: “I wondered if the class realized just how controversial it was in 1959 for movies to include bedroom scenes, shots of radiation victims, or to depict sympathetically a married woman who’d slept with a Nazi soldier and commenced a casual affair with a married man (and an Asian to boot).”

Apparently all the movies Alan Barr selected to show his class deal with breaking sexual boundaries. He reports showing “The Lovers” two weeks ago, where Jeanne Moreau had a one-night-stand, “leaving husband, lover, and daughter agape.” Coming up: “Last Tango in Paris.”

At supper I showed James and Becca the copy of Thomas Smith’s “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins,” sent to me by Choice magazine, to review, and was impressed that they knew who JFK was and recognized the building on the cover as the White House. They knew what showdown meant but had trouble with the word integration.

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.