Friday, March 30, 2012

Political World

“We live in a political world
Love don’t have any place
We live in a time when men commit crime
And crime don’t have a face.”
Bob Dylan, “Political World”

For too many people the face of crime is a young black male dressed in a hoodie. We have over seven times as many inmates incarcerated as any other developed country, according to Time columnist Fareed Zakaria. The reason: idiotic drug laws. Concluding that the war on drugs has been a trillion-dollar failure, he wrote: “In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons vs. $5.7 billion on the UC system and state colleges. Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year.” In the same issue Joe Klein called for an end to the war in Afghanistan.

I took the Corolla for an oil change and ended up getting the $500 full checkup that was due 19,000 miles ago. I’ve been dealing with service manager Tom Klaubo for over 20 years, dating back to when he worked at Merrillville Toyota, and trust him totally.

While waiting for the car, I nearly finished Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles I, including a section about recording the album “Oh Mercy” in New Orleans. He wrote “Political World” while recovering from a nasty hand injury, and he worked well with producer Daniel Lanois although he disappointed him by not having a blockbuster song with some deep revelatory meaning. “Dignity” was inspired by the death of basketball legend Pete Maravich, a true hardwood artist. He mentions that sales were poor and what he was doing was archaic compared to rappers like NWA that were coming to the fore in 1989. Ironically, that year Dylan was on the charts with The Traveling Wilburys and a CD recorded live with the Grateful Dead two years before, on which Dylan sings “All Along the Watchtower,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and five other songs.

Bought a five-dollar cold cut Subway. While the server was wrapping it, quite a few onions and peppers fell off. Last time that happened, I asked the person if she could put the wrapper with the extra stuff in with my sandwich. She looked at me like I was nuts but complied. This time I kept quiet but later regretted not speaking up when I ate half of the sandwich at the Redhawk Café.

House Republicans passed a debt reduction bill that includes greater tax breaks for the rich while pronouncing Obama’s bill to close end tax subsidies to oil companies dead on arrival. Pundits speculated that the Republican activist majority on the Supreme Court will strike down Obamacare. Shame on Chief Justice Roberts if that happens. Scalia used to commerce clause to justify prosecuting someone for growing medical marijuana but thinks using the tax code to penalize someone who won’t buy health insurance an invasion of our liberties. The upcoming Republican primary in Wisconsin is taking place at the same time as the recall vote on the governor. Romney is criticizing Santorum for having opposed right-to-work in Pennsylvania. I hope union members take note and remember that in November.

It was raining hard so I wore a Michigan State hoodie that Alissa bought me. Near where I parked at IUN three workmen all had hoodies on. On March 30, 1840, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Pray what things interest me at present? A long soaking rain, the drops trickling down the stubble, while I lay drenched on a last year’s bed of wild oats by the side of some bare hill, ruminating.”

I looked over my chapters on Gary during the 1920s in preparation for talking to Steve’s class next Tuesday. I wish I’d been at the Orpheum Theater when Clarence Darrow delivered a eulogy for former mayor Thomas E, Knotts or when the Marx Brothers performed there.

Aaron Pigors finished editing my 16-minute tribute to former FACET director David Malik. It will go on the FACET website if Malik approves and might be shown at the May retreat at Pokagon State park. Two days ago I showed the work-in-progress to FACET administrative manager Kim Olivares. The only thing she questioned was where I am in it for a second or two at the 14:40 mark. I actually like that the audience gets the sense that the speakers are talking to someone, namely me.

The State of Indiana hired a private company to take over Gary Roosevelt. At an assembly Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is putting forward a brave face, but I doubt that the new nonunion staff will be that much of an improvement over those losing their jobs. Supposedly the old teachers were too lecture-oriented and the new system will involve more mentoring and interactive exercises. We’ll see. Parents were reassured that there will still be ROTC, a prom, and a sports program.

Cindy Frederick brought files from an organization she belonged to – Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament – to the Archives. Last year I asked Karren Lee if she had the records and she put me on Cindy, an accomplished artist who has shown her work at Lake Street Gallery.

I went to see “Jeff Who Lives at Home starring Jason Segel because the great Susan Sarandon plays his mother. She doesn’t disappoint although the movie is rather lame. I could have enjoyed Susan and Rae Dawn Chong in a few more scenes. Their budding relationship was more interesting than the lives of Susan’s character’s two sons. I have known 30 year-olds who still lived at home, so that plot line is not far-fetched.

The “Final Jeopardy” question was on vice presidents – which state had the most. The answer was New York. Had it just been twentieth-century Veeps, Indiana and Texas would have tied with three. Wilson’s Hoosier vice president Thomas Marshall once said, “What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar.” Bush the Elder’s running mate Dan Quayle famously misspelled potato.

David took his family to the Portage Best Western overnight Friday and we joined them for a steak dinner at Longhorn. Mine came with mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat. I also tasted mashed potatoes with bits of lobster. Nice place. On the way out the hostess addressed me as Dr. Lane – a former student named Stephanie Clemons.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


“I have been crying in my sleep
Cause I don’t know where I’ve been
I just want to live
To see another day.”
“!969,” The Vines

I’ve been listening to The Vines’s 2002 CD “Highly Evolved,” which features their hit “Get Free” and ends with “1969,” the year of Woodstock and hippies tuning in, turning on and dropping out. The Australian band combines a punk style and garage sound with elements of what during the Nineties was called alternative music. They’re sometimes lumped together with other contemporary “The” bands such as The Hives, The Strokes, and The White Stripes. The father of lead singer Craig Nicholls had been in an Elvis cover band called The Vynes.

Tiger Woods finally won a PGA tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which gave me an excuse to talk with Chuck and Gaard Logan. If he doesn’t relapse into old habits, this should make the Masters more interesting.

I spent much of 1969 working on a PhD dissertation. Several Maryland buddies that I hope to see next week at Ray Smock’s Distinguished Alumni Lecture demonstrated at the Nixon counter-inaugural in Washington, D.C. Later that year my adviser Sam Merrill participated with us at the Vietnam Moratorium rally. Things went sour as the decade ended with Manson, Altamont, Chappaquiddick, Afros, Days of Rage, and the inevitable backlash that produced the so-called Silent Majority, Time’s people of the year. Recently high school classmate Pat Zollo posted a photo of Fort Washington firemen marching in a 1969 parade. Though not, in all likelihood, lefties or hippies, Stu Pennypacker has a nice beard and Bob Amy a bushy mustache. At least the spirit of the Sixties proliferated in fashion.

Talked about “Blue Velvet” with Brian O,Camb, a big David Lynch fan who promised to loan me “Mulholland Drive.” Interestingly, Roger Ebert panned the movie when it first came out for its campiness and exploitation of actress Isabella Rossellini, who was in several sexually explicit scenes. When Dennis Hopper was breathing into a device, it was a simulation of taking helium, only if that were the case, his voice afterwards would have sounded like Daffy Duck. Now that would have been campy.

After 244 years the Encyclopedia Britannica is halted production of its print edition, a casualty of the Internet and specifically Wikipedia. We got much use over the years out of a cheaper set, but the only use I have made of it recently is its maps.

In a lecture entitled “Justinian’s men: Ethnic Identity in the Early Byzantine Empire” History Department candidate David Parnell discussed the so-called barbarians who served in Justinian’s army. Parnell was personable, well-organized, and comfortable answering a variety of queries (usually starting with the comment, “Good question,” not a bad way to stroke the questioner and buy a little time). He used the word “trope” several times, meaning, I guess, example. It’s the new buzzword, like paradigm once was – or paradox. Among Justinian’s accomplishments was a legal code and construction of the Hagia Sophia, a cathedral I visited in Istanbul 12 years ago. I asked what he would say in class about women when discussing Justinian’s reign; he mentioned the importance of Empress Theodora, who evidently was somewhat of a feminist and important in bringing about more religious toleration. Thandabantu Iverson, representing the Diversity office, asked the best question and thanked Parnell for delivering such an enlightening talk. He’s a class act.

Chancellor Lowe is holding Town Hall meetings next week to discuss such matters as the budget and diversity. I’ll be in Maryland. I wouldn’t have gone anyway, being retired. Lowe gets high marks for reaching out to campus groups and the community. Our best chancellors acquired an understanding of the Region and its history and peculiarities. Jack Buehner lived a block from campus, stressed community service, and frequently had open houses for students and faculty. President John Ryan made sure his hand-picked selection Dan Orescanin hung out at the County Lounge, a watering hole for political muckety-mucks. Peggy Elliott taught at Horace Mann and was on intimate terms with area legislators and many alumni. Hilda was good with Gary groups and Bruce Bergland could hobnob with suburbanites, but they pretty much remained outsiders to other constituencies.

I picked up my reserved copy of “Mockingjay” at the Chesterton library. As the final book in the Suzanne Collins trilogy begins, District 12 has been wiped out but Katniss and her family are safe in the underground city comprising District 13. I’m ten pages in and already hooked.

On Facebook Dean Bottorff writes from Rapid City, South Dakota: “One of the perks you get when developing property is that you get to name the new streets. If the county approves the valley will have three new street names: Dean Street, Ackerman Road and Dawg Street.” I suggested that he consider Jimbo Lane.

AWLI (Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative) executive director Michael Boos sent along four testimonials to his organization that he expects to work into his book. He also sent them to CURE director Ellen Szarleta, who must be involved in the project. Because Wolf Lake abuts both Illinois and Indiana, Boos has had to work hard to foster bi-state cooperation.

The condo board met to discuss whether owners can have hot tubs on or near their deck in the so-called common area. The issue is a thorny one that probably won’t go away.

Sylvia Plath was a strange duck. In 1958, five years before she killed herself she spotted a fire and was disappointed no lives were in danger. She ruminated in her diary: “What unleashed desire there must be in one for general carnage. I walk around the streets, braced and ready and almost wishing to test my eye and fiber on tragedy – a child crushed by a car, a house on fire, someone thrown into a tree by a horse. Nothing happens: I walk the razor’s edge of jeopardy.” Often the radio traffic reporter will mention a “gapers block,” referring to drivers slowing down to get a better look at accident victims.

Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush put on a hoodie under his suit in remembrance of Trayvon Martin and presiding Congressman Gregg Harper of Mississippi ruled him out of order when he put the hood over his head and had the Sergeant of Arms escort him from the chamber as he was reading from the Bible

A Dominguez for Commissioner Committee fundraiser took place at the Halls of Justice building in Crown Point. I drove around the courthouse square a couple times before getting my bearings. After getting a warm greeting from Roy, I sat with Archives volunteer David Mergl until I spotted a familiar face – Lynette Jones, one of my favorite students, who a couple years ago invited me to her fortieth birthday party. She has a law degree and is human resources manager for the Majestic Star casino. Last year she ran for office in Merrillville and is hoping to do so again. We talked about some of her favorite teachers, including Gary Martin and DeeDee Ige. Lynette was sitting next to Andy Sylwestrowicz, a candidate for Lake County Recorder, who had a marine corps pin on and was very affable. In his remarks Roy reminded me of Richard Hatcher the way he had something nice to say about most of the people in the room and was particularly proud of his many family members, including his mother Inocensia. He mentioned missing his father, who frequently advised: “Remember, it’s about the people.” Then he got a laugh saying he saw his father every day when he looked in the mirror since as he aged he resembled him in appearance more and more. I got a hand after he told the crowd about my role in helping with his autobiography “Valor.” He got the crowd fired up talking about the importance of Regional economic development and the need to end no-bid contracts that wasted so much of the taxpayers’ money. Roy’s wife Betty gave me a hug and thanked me for my work on “Valor.”

Stopped at Cressmoor Lanes to pick up my ball since the place will close for the summer and to check on the team. The Engineers were losing the first game by a hundred pins in the ninth, as one of the McCann brothers was working on seven strikes in a row. Duke said that seven- and ten-pins were killing us. Turned the Bulls game on in the car and they promptly went on an eleven-point run. The Michiganders stayed overnight on their way to a vacation in Cancun.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Safe and Sound?

“The music cooled down
It was nice and slow
I walked up to Judy
And said, ‘Let’s go.’”
Romantics, “Friday at the Hideout”

We’ve been getting April Showers weather, and on Friday I saw a rainbow driving to work. In the car I often have on 100.3 FM (Rewind), playing a variety of genres from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, from Michael Jackson and Madonna to Bon Jovi and the Romantics (one of my favorite power pop groups whom I saw live at Valparaiso University). I still have several old Romantics albums, including “National Breakout,” on which “Friday at the Hideout” appears. I think of first girlfriend Judy Jenkins when it’s playing.

Asked to comment about the Trayvon Martin case, President Obama said, “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Obama sounded so sincere, like he didn’t weigh the political consequences before he spoke, that it brought tears to my eyes. He added that his parents are right to expect that Americans take this with the seriousness it deserves and get to the bottom of what happened. To their undying shame rightwingers such as Glenn Beck are trying to sully Trayvon’s name, mentioning that he got suspended from school and then listing all the possible things he might have done such as bullying and robbery (authorities actually found a baggy in his book bag that had traces of pot). He was unarmed except for the skittles and can of iced tea he’d purchased at a convenience store, and his adversary who was stalking him outweighed him by more than a hundred pounds. Since Trayvon was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when gunned down, his supporters have deliberately been wearing hoodies at rallies demanding action against his killer. Even defenders of Florida’s idiotic “Stand Your Ground” law are calling for the perpetrator’s arrest.

Traces magazine accepted my article, “Mad Duck from Gary,” on Alex Karras after deleting several paragraphs due to space considerations. I argued for reinserting a section showing Gary’s ethnic diversity in the early 1950s and a sentence about Emmeline Karras being honored as Mother of the Year by the Football Hall of Fame in Canton because three sons – Alex, Lou, and Ted – played in the NFL. Editor Ray Boomhower promised to do what he could.

I received kudos for my talk at the Hobart Senior Center. Kristina Kuzma called it a “wonderful presentation” and Pam Broadaway praised my “uncanny ability to engage an audience.” Ellen Szarleta, Director of the center for Urban and Regional Excellence says she got “very positive feedback” and wants to discuss further community outreach programs with me.

The Michigan Lanes attended the midnight showing of “The Hunger Games” while I waited until Friday afternoon. Roger Ebert gave it three stars but thought it a little long at 2:22. It kept my interest, especially Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy or Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Because it was playing in half of Portage’s theaters, attendance for the 12:25 p.m. show was just a few dozen. To get a PG rating the killing scenes weren’t very graphic (I’m glad). The Suzanne Collins book gave a much more vivid portrayal of Katniss suffering from being thirst. Becca wants to see the movie, but I don’t think she’d enjoy it. Taylor Swift has two songs on the soundtrack, “Eyes Wide Open” and “Safe and Sound.”

I came out of the theater with a stiff neck. Outside it was pouring. Home alone, I discovered the basement was without electricity. Worried that the sump pump was off and about flooding, I descended the steps, turned right to open the window blinds, and smacked into a pole. My glasses went flying (luckily without breaking) and I had a lump and bruise above my left eye. I was still icing it when Toni arrived home and with Angie holding a flashlight flipped the circuit breaker and restored power. The lump went down, but I have a shiner.

Dave picked me up and we watched IU play Kentucky in the NCAA tournament at Wades. The Hoosiers played well and scored 91 points. Unfortunately they gave up 102, unable to secure the boards against better athletes. By the end of the weekend I was totally eliminated from winning the pool since Louisville beat Syracuse and Baylor also lost to Kentucky. After Florida blew a late 12-point lead against Louisville I commiserated with Gator fan Bob Reller. In 2000 Mateen Cleaves led Michigan State to victory against Billy Donovan’s upstart Florida team. At the beginning of the second half a Gator mugged Cleaves, who went to the dressing room but emerged a few minutes later to rousing cheers. Coach Izzo loves Cleaves so much he named one of his kids Mateen.

I finished Carson Cunningham’s excellent memoir “Underbelly Hoops” about his final year with the Rockford Lightning. It has many references to Northwest Indiana, including growing up in Ogden Dunes, playing for a Gary CYO team, and starring at Andrean High School. After friend and mentor Paul Rossetti was murdered during a home invasion, Carson wore Paul’s number 43 the rest of his college career. Carson played a year for the Gary Steelheads and former Roosevelt star Renaldo Thomas was a Rockford assistant coach. Even though Coach Chris “Dales” Daleo was a fanatic, by book’s end, when he invites Carson to join a China exhibition tour after cutting him near the end of the CBA season, the reader has to admire the crazy curmudgeon’s devotion to the game. “Underbelly Hoops” ends with Carson dunking the ball (“throwing it home”) as admiring Chinese youngsters watch. John Updike’s “Rabbit” series starts with the former high school star joining a youngsters’ pickup game and ends with a middle-age Harry Angstrom challenging a young black dude to a one-on-one game of 21.

I’m using Carson’s book in my Fall course and wish Carson was teaching with us full-time. I loaned my copy to Chancellor Lowe in hopes he might get the same idea. In my Steel Shavings about the year 2000 I included a “Survival Journal” about Dave, his wife, and I being victims of a home invasion. In an email congratulating Carson and calling the book "buckets," his CBA teammates' synonym for excellent, I wrote: "The ordeal of Paul Rossetti reminded me what a close call that was. How nice to still have an annual event in Paul’s honor.” Carson uses the phrase “seashells and balloons” in describing special things and people such as his wife and kids.

At Carson’s suggestion I wrote this review for “When author Carson Cunningham played for Coach Chris "Dales" Daleo on the CBA's Rockford Lightning, he and his teammates started calling anything that was excellent "Buckets." That's an apt description of this delightful memoir about Cunningham's final year as a professional basketball player, enduring the long bus rides, cheap hotels, and daily insults and humiliations of a fanatical coach for a chance at glory. Cunningham has memorable sketches of some of the people he played for and with, from Purdue's Coach Keady to teammate Gary McQuay, who succumbed to leukemia (at his funeral service mourners passed a basketball around as a way of honoring him).”

Bob Mucci had books in the Student Union for the dollar Anthropology sale. A stalwart who got the Anthro program launched, he asked if I had any books to donate, so I took him some at lunch, including my “Vietnam Vets” Shavings.

I ran into Fred Chary leaving the cafeteria, but he stayed around to sit with me. He recently reviewed a book claiming that Bulgaria’s King Boris was the one primarily responsible for saving his country’s Jews from being sent to German Death camps. As Fred’s book on the subject proves, other leaders within Bulgaria deserve most of the credit, and Boris did not save Jews from re-occupied Macedonia from the Holocaust. Part of the cohort of “Young Turks” who came into the History department between 1967 and 1972 and grew old together, including Paul Kern, Ron Cohen, Rhiman Rotz, and myself, Fred did not realize Jerry Pierce had been denied tenure and couldn’t believe it. What a travesty.

Alan Barr showed David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” in his film class featuring a riveting performance by Dennis Hopper as the villainous Frank Booth (speaking of Booths, the Gettysburg civil war museum recently quit selling assassin John Wilkes Booth bobbleheads after receiving numerous complaints). Alan asked the class to write an essay on the film’s style. Here’s my essay, entitled “In Dreams”:

A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper:
‘Go to sleep, every thing is all right.’”
“In Dreams,” Roy Orbison

The most riveting scene in “Blue Velvet” is when the drug dealing pimp Ben (Dean Stockwell) lip-syncs the Roy Orbison classic “In Dream” using a worklight as a microphone, holding an obscenely long cigarette holder and wearing a fluffy shirt similar to the one featured in a “Seinfeld” episode about Kramer’s low-talking girlfriend. At the end the singer remembers that his girl left him, that things are not all right except in dreams. In other words, all is illusion.

“Blue Velvet” is exotic, bizarre, enigmatic, and lush, but the dominant style of David Lynch’s movie is naturalism of the sort found in the novels of Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, Jack London, and Stephen Crane. Civilization is a veneer (like blue velvet material), symbolized by the well-kept home and lawn of the Beaumont family while just under the surface are bugs ready to feast on dead human flesh. The dog-eat-dog natural forces of the modern world - lust, greed, envy and corruption – overwhelm innocence or make that trait irrelevant. The villainous Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) has perverted the laws of nature in his descent into sexual deviancy, drugs, violence for its own sake, and keeping a mother from her child.

Sandy (Laura Dern), the innocent in “Blue Velvet,” believes in love and romance. Like Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan), she is a seeker after truth until forced to come to grips with the amorality of the world around her. In the end the robin that she thinks represents goodness and love appears with a quivering cockroach in its mouth – doing what it must to survive just as Lumberton’s survival depends on cutting down one of nature’s wonders – trees.

Best line in the movie comes from the W.O.O.D. radio announcer, who says, “It’s a sunny, woodsy day in Lumberton, so get those chainsaws out.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Beat Goes On

“I don't give a hoot about what people have to say
I'm laughin' as I'm analyzed
Lunatics Anonymous, that's where I belong
Sure, cause I am one, till my strength is gone.”
The Kings

At a Hobart Jaycees Fest prior to an appearance by the Smithereens, a deejay was asking trivia questions. One had to do with a band with two number one hits that appeared back to back on their album. By knowing it was the Kings with “This Beat Goes On” and “Switchin’ To Glide” I won. Expecting a Smithereens’ CD, instead I got one from an unknown and best forgotten group. In the chorus to “Switchin’ to Glide” at one point it sounds like “Switchin’ to Guys.”

During the 1960s the Sonny and Cher hit “Beat Goes On” mentioned things that never changed, such as “boys keep chasing girls to get a kiss” and “men still keep on marching off to war.” Approval of the ten-year war in Afghanistan is below 40 percent, but still the beat goes on. Most Afghan civilians evidently hate us, and, shades of Vietnam, we are supporting a corrupt regime. Soldiers have peed on dead guerrillas, burned numerous Qur’ans, and most recently someone on his fourth overseas tour of duty went berserk and killed 16 civilians. It’s time to declare victory and get the hell out.

I gave two tickets to Roy Dominguez’s upcoming fundraiser to Dave Mergl, who had given me a top-quality briefcase purchased from Richard’s of Toto in North Judson, a discount store featuring overrun merchandise that he highly recommended. He’s been to other functions of the former sheriff.

Aaron Pigors sent me a copy of his work-in-progress video honoring IUN Vice-Chancellor David Malik that FACET may air at the annual May retreat. This year it is at the Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park. I made a couple minor suggestions, but it looks great. It made use of interviews I did with FACET members including founder Eileen Bender and Chick Gallmeier.

A woman who recently learned that her great-uncle was a defendant in the 1930 Arlene Draves rape-murder case wanted more info. Since she already read the account in my Gary book, I had little to add. After Eugene Kirkland, the main culprit, got off with a ridiculously light sentence due to faulty rulings by the judge, the prosecutor dropped charges against his accessories. Just a few days ago I received a request for info about the 1949 Mary Cheever murder case that triggered a women’s crusade to rid Gary of vice elements.

I finished “Catching Fire,” which is quite similar to Collins’s “The Hunger games” except more political. It also serves as a teaser for getting readers to read the third book in the trilogy, “Mockingjay.” There were some rather shocking death and torture scenes and the inevitable love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. “The Hunger Games” movie opens at midnight and the soundtrack CD is on sale at Target for $9.99, less than the price of two and a half gallons of gas.

George Bodmer posted a photo on Facebook of his daughter voting for the first time. Pretty cool. Romney won the Illinois primary by 12 percent over Santorum by flooding the state (and Northwest Indiana since we get the Chicago stations) with negative ads. He still didn’t win over the ultra-conservatives, so the beat goes on.

After two mediocre games I rolled a 196 and the Engineers won a game and series from The Big Hurt. Nice guy Bob Sheid struggled all night except for a stretch where he had four strikes in a row. Letterman’s “Top Ten” category was questions rarely asked car salesman. The best, referring to what Romney allegedly did with his pet, was, “Can my dog ride comfortably on the roof?” The musical guest Oberhofer was worth waiting up for, as they did “Away From U.”

About 35 folks showed up for my “Age of Anxiety” performance at the Reiner Senior Center in Hobart, including John and Doris Ban, the boys’ former teacher Mr. Bodnar with his mother, and Tom Croll, a friend of Carrol Vertrees who still has a bullet in his head from combat during WW II. I asked him to read lines from an interview I did with Vertrees, and Tom said, “I had breakfast with him an hour ago.” Bob Fulton, who I hadn’t seen in 30 years, introduced himself. We were mutual friends of Tom and Dominic Pancini and played softball together. When I brought up events that took place at Memorial Auditorium, a woman who had been valedictorian at Emerson talked about leading the procession of Gary high school graduates that paraded down Broadway prior to the ceremony. Karl Malden’s name came up, and a woman mentioned that he was on the cover of the current issue of Traces and that there was also an interesting article in it about Carlton Hatcher. “I wrote that article,” I interjected. Afterwards a lady from the Hammond Historical Society asked whether I’d talk to that group.

Beforehand I had a strawberry blintz for breakfast prepared in honor of recently deceased former mayor Margaret Kuchka and met IUN student Kristina Kuzma, who is interning at the center. She recalled me speaking in Nicole Anslover’s Sixties class and giving away copies of my Vietnam Vets Shavings issue. Jim Chancellor, whose interview is a highlight of volume39, was her softball coach at Lowell. Kristina is graduating in May, and Sandra Hall Smith from SPEA and I both encouraged her to go through the graduation ceremony at the Genesis Center.

I arrived at IUN in time for the Wellness “Salad-bration.” Unfortunately I missed the lecture by History candidate Martina Saltamacchia entitled “A Prince, a Merchant, and a Prostitute: Three Builders of the Milan Cathedral.” Jean Poulard said she was impressive. I’m also sorry I missed the morning session of the Women’s and Gender Studies Conference that included a paper on Edith Wharton’s “The House of Mirth,” one of my favorite novels.

I did get to hear the Conference keynote speech by State Representative Linda Lawson, a former student and the first woman police officer in Hammond. She was riveting talking about Republican efforts at disempowering women in Indiana by passing the right to work law and attempting to defund Planned Parenthood. A state legislator for 14 years, she noted that the era of bipartisanship is over now that the radical right has taken over the Republican Party. The audience appreciated her impassioned defense of Lake County against downstate critics who seem bent of destroying public schools and public agencies that protect women and the poor. She warned that Congressman Mike Pence, a Republican candidate for governor, has truly dangerous views and that Criminal Justice majors in the audience going into police work are in for a rough time if Republicans continue to gut programs that provide a safety net for the poor. Linda got a well-deserved standing ovation.

In his journal writer Clifford Odets wrote on March 22, 1940, about a boarder at his aunt and uncle’s house, Mr. Goodman, who was a shirt cutter: “A writer looks at your face, a cobbler at your shoes. Naturally Goodman looks at your shirts. As I shook his hand in greeting, he said, ‘Three and a half dollars.’”

Michigan State, my pick in the NCAA pool, couldn’t buy a basket early and lost to Louisville. My slim hopes rest with Syracuse, which barely survived against Wisconsin. Meanwhile, go Hoosiers. Nephew Bobby, an IU grad, started a new job and hasn’t kept up with the tournament but said he’d be watching tomorrow to see if they can upset Kentucky again.

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.

Friday, March 16, 2012


“Fields of valor and victory
White crosses that bear no name
Each one gave their life to history
A young boy in an old man’s game.”
Force Titan

Sheriff Roy Dominguez and I finished proofreading the “Valor” manuscript, and I Fed Exed it to Nancy at IU Press. We can’t wait to see the book. The Sheriff gave me free passes to his Spring Fundraiser in connection with his race for Lake County commissioner. I sent two of them to George and Bette Roberts.

Lunchtime reading was a Traces article by Rachel Roberts about the Auburn (IN) Rubber Company, which started out manufacturing automobile tires before making toy rubber figurines of soldiers, race cars and drivers, utility trucks, farm animals and pets. After being in northeast Indiana for a half-century the company was lured into moving to New Mexico and went bankrupt 12 years later. The article mentions that Ben Franklin Five and Dime stores that once were a Hoosier town fixture, and I shopped at their Glen Park and Portage outlets. They were forerunners to the modern dollar store.

Fourteen years ago Dave and Angie got married in the aftermath of a blizzard that left us without electricity for eight days. What a contrast with the record 85-degree temperature that has IUN’s lilies in full bloom.

A pit bull attacked bowling teammate Frank’s dog while he was walking it, causing injuries that required a hundred stitches. A woman had two pit bulls on a leash but couldn’t control them. Pit bulls are a menace and should be banned. Even with a good owner, they are so strong they threaten people and pets alike.

IUN’s Home Page features an article about Chris Young’s research into a Chicago monument honoring Revolutionary War heroes George Washington, Robert Morris, and Haym Salomon. As he wrote in the American Jewish Archives Journal, the statue was meant to be a symbol of unity, both between civilians and the military but also among different ethnic groups. Chris is on a roll, having just been made a member of FACET during his tenure year.

In his diary satirist H.L. Mencken wrote of dining in 1933 with the Fitzgeralds. He noted: “Zelda is palpably only half sane. She occupies herself largely in painting, and her paintings are full of grotesque exaggerations and fantastic ideas. Scott has been trying for six years to write a novel, but it remains unfinished.”

I played phone tag with Dr. Bill Marshall, actor William Marshall’s cousin, who knew him well when they were kids. He seems eager to talk with me and pleased that I’m working on an article about him.

Amazon sent me, compliments of the author, a copy of Carson Cunningham’s “Underbelly Hoops: Adventures in the CBA – A.K.A. The Crazy Basketball Association.” It’s a memoir about playing for the Rockford Lightning in the now defunct Continental basketball Association. It looks fantastic, candid, funny, and well-written. Carson has a PhD in History and is working on an MBA, and I’d love if he were an IUN faculty member. Carson grew up playing hoops in Ogden Dunes with older kids, including Phil and Dave, and went on to star at Andrean and Purdue.

Attorney Michael Katz visited the Archives with some materials, including a pennant from the Fiftieth anniversary celebration and an audiotape of a 1958 Horace Mann football pep rally that had been carried live on WWCA. The son of Gary mayor A. Martin Katz had a very firm handshake. Years ago, I interviewed his dad, who said he’d tap me on the knee when he wanted me to turn of the tape recorder. He did it so often I just decided to keep it off – not that what he told me was all that controversial.

I managed to stay up until 11 Thursday to watch IU, led by guard Jordan Hulls, defeat New Mexico State. Next they’ll face VCU, last year’s Cinderella team coached by Shaka Smart (great name), no relation to Keith Smart, coach of the Sacramento Kings, whose shot gave IU its last national championship against Syracuse. Friday was a day of upsets as fifteenth seeds Lehigh and Norfolk State knocked Missouri and Duke out of the tournament.

My candidate for worst movie of the year so far is Eddie Murphy’s “A Thousand Words” which I endured for 20 minutes before switching to “21 Jump Street,” a forgettable Jonah Hill comedy that featured boring chase scenes and tepid high school party scenes compared to “Project X.” Reviewers were kinder to “Jump Street” than it deserved. Roger Ebert claimed it wasn’t “half-bad.” Trust me, it was.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Social Studies

“The Sun Goes Down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now.”
“Glad You Came,” The Wanted

The Wanted, one of the better current pop groups, have a song called “Warzone.” The lyrics would be compelling – “I throw my armor down and leave the battleground, I’m running from a warzone, I can’t do this anymore, What are we fighting for?” - if it weren’t simply about losing a girlfriend. The Brits remind me a little of Fifties cool cats singing Doo Wop under a street lamp.

I watched two excellent HBO documentaries. One was about Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial married couple jailed in Virginia during the late 1950s for violating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. They were given suspended sentences and told to leave the state but with the help of the ACLU eventually got the heinous statute ruled unconstitutional in a unanimous 1967 Supreme Court decision.

Martin Scorsese’s “Public Speaking” is about Fran Lebowitz. Known as a modern-day Dorothy Parker for her sardonic New York wit, Lebowitz said that while she supported the rights of gays to marry or serve in the armed forces and is herself a lesbian, she couldn’t imagine why anyone would wish to surrender their freedom to these institutions. An unapologetic meat eater and smoker, she claimed that most of her friends after she moved to New York City were older gay men. She wrote two bestsellers, “Metropolitan Life” in 1978 and “Social Studies” in 1981 but claims that she has suffered from writer’s block ever since.

In junior high I had Social Studies in place of history. It was a mismash of geography, civics, comparable cultures, and social sciences. I don’t recall any teacher explaining exactly what it was or its purpose. I learned that coffee was Columbia’s chief export (maybe drugs have replaced that crop) but not how peasants there were exploited. As a social historian, I know it wasn’t social history, and the subject matter bored me, in contrast to when I took history in tenth and eleventh grades under H.M. Jones.

“The Book of American Diaries” reports that Puritan Richard Mather wrote in April 1635 that his fear of what lay ahead was lessened by the “clearness of my calling this way.” On March 14 some 213 years later Ralph Waldo Emerson opined that “the facile American sheds his Puritanism when he leaves Cape Cod [and] runs into all English and French vices with great zest.”

On Facebook grandson Anthony “Lights Out” Lane reports winning a staring contest with his cat. LeeLee Minehart Devenney wished math lovers a Happy PI Day. Yes, there is such an animal. Mr. Taddei would have been proud she remembered.

While Information Technology network specialist Jim Lopez installed my new phone with features I’ll probably never utilize, I read a Traces article by James Thom about editing “Nuggets,” primarily a morticians’ trade magazine, for its last 25 years in existence, beginning in 1968. As Thom’s title “Never Use the D Word” suggests, its contents dealt with everything but death. Instead there were uplifting essays, articles, poems, cartoons, witticisms, and epigrams. The magazine barely limped along but his salary gave the former marine the opportunity to be a novelist on the side, and he even was able to work on the magazine while researching such novelized biographies as “Long Knife” (about George Rogers Clark) and “Panther in the Sky” (about Tecumseh). His semi-autobiographical “Staying Out of Hell” employs a word that he hardly dared use in “Nuggets.” While attempting to sell the magazine to new clients, he discovered that some confused it with “Nugget,” a “Playboy” imitator.

Archives volunteer David Mergl gave me a handsome black briefcase, a definite upgrade over my old one. He took a look at my battered one with a defective lock and mentioned that he had several just lying around unused.

MSNBC carried live President Obama greeting Prime Minister David Cameron at the White House. Most cabinet members were present except Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in Afghanistan doing damage control in the wake of a rogue U.S. soldier murdering 16 civilians. They joked about the British having sacked the Executive Mansion 200 years ago during the War of 1812 and that Barack gave Cameron a lesson in “bracketology,” a reference to making NCAA tournament selections. In the poll I entered I picked Michigan State to win it all against Syracuse.

Beach Café is reopening next week, and Michael Chirich wanted old photos and historical background info. Using Gary city directories I discovered that an establishment called the Beach Place was at that location starting around 1940 and that the proprietor was an Ernest Smith. In the Post-Trib photo collection I found an interior shot from 1967 (when it was called Smitty’s Beach Café) and an exterior shot from 1982, where a sign identified the place as simply Beach Café.

I talked with Nell Kendrick about her actor cousin, William Marshall, whose father Vareen had a dental practice in Chicago next to his brother Bill’s medical practice. The brother evidently talked him into moving to Gary when the mills were booming. They both graduated from Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina and were in a singing quartet that toured to raise money for their alma mater.

Normally I post my blog entry in the afternoon, print out a copy, and revise it in the evening, adding anything I did the rest of the day, such as bowling (tonight Cressmoor Lounge took 5 of 7 points from us as only Duke Kaminsky shines). In those rare instances when I get negative feedback or discover errors, I make changes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Game Change

“Tell everybody waiting for Superman
That they should try to hold on best they can
He hasn't dropped them, forgot them or anything
It's just too heavy for Superman to lift.”
Flaming Lips, “Waiting for a Superman”

Perhaps inspired by the Flaming Lips (I know I am a huge fan), Davis Guggenheim titled his documentary on failures in American education “Waiting for Superman.” It portrays several students hoping to win a lottery that would allow them to attend Harlem Children’s Zone, a charter school. I do not think charter schools are a panacea, and advocates of public education criticized the documentary for claiming that money is not the answer while virtually ignoring the fact that public schools are woefully underfunded and that Harlem Children’s Zone received scads of private money.

IU senior guard Verdell Jones injured his knee during a victory against Penn State in the Big Ten tournament. It might be a game changer in terms of how they’ll do in the NCAA “March Madness.” They’re seeded number five. Realistically, however, the team probably was a year away even with Jones healthy, but potential superstars Jeremy Hollowell, Kevin Ferrell, and Hanner Perea are among the 2012 recruiting class that experts rank as one of the nation’s best.

Anne Balay needed boxes to help her parents move into an assisted living apartment, so I offered her a half-dozen empty Steel Shavings containers. How sad when the ravages of time force seniors to give up their independent lifestyle, and they become a burden to their children. Wayne Coyne supposedly wrote “Waiting for a Superman” for the album “The Soft Bulletin” while his father was critically ill.

In a trivia game at a Chicago bar Brian O’Camb correctly knew the population of the fictional town Twin Peaks: 51,201. Creators David Lynch and Mark Frost wanted it to be 5,120, but ABC feared a backlash from those thinking it was poking fun of rural yokels.

Fellow grad student David Goldfield can’t attend Ray Smock’s lecture; he will be in Greece and was sorry to be missing it. I called Walker Rumble, whom I hadn’t heard from in many years, and he replied, “What splendid news about Ray. It would be worth a plane ticket to hear him speak in that droll way he had.” Ray commented: “I never heard anyone describe my speaking style as ‘droll.’ Sometimes a new perspective is a good thing. Droll has a positive connotation in ‘dry amusement’ and a negative one in ‘buffoon.’ Let’s hope I lean more toward dry amusement than to the alternative.” I told him, “I believe droll is a positive adjective. I think of Walker Rumble as droll and am sure he saw it as an admirable trait. Like with Jean Shepherd, there remains in you a Region (Harvey, IL) quality that rebels against stuffiness and pomposity. But that does not interfere with your seriousness of purpose or good political judgment.” Ray responded, “You are too kind. But I accept your interpretation of droll. It is a Harvey characteristic, now that you mention it. And Tip O’Neill always said, ‘never forget where you came from.’” Ray was House historian when Tip was Speaker and sparring with Reagan in a valiant effort to save liberal programs of the previous quarter-century.

A driver rammed into four Lake County officers, wounding three of them and killing Deputy Britney Meux, the mother of a five-month-old daughter Savannah. A Lew Wallace graduate and former marine, Britney was also working on a degree at Calumet College. Realizing that he was the object of an extensive manhunt, the 42 year-old driver after consulting a lawyer turned himself in. He evidently has a history of alcohol-related violations. Officer Delano Scaife is still in critical condition.

Henry Farag sent me a short story called “Spit Shine” about getting one’s shoes just right before going to dances at Chapel of the Dunes in Miller during the 1950s. I told him my niece Lisa and I were going to the Star Plaza concert featuring Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt and, working with Tina Gibson at the box office, he arranged for us to have third row center seats. Tina is a former student, and her husband John is with IUN’s Business division.

Lisa and I decided to have a drink at Old Chicago, located near the Star Plaza. I dropped Lisa off at the door with instructions to find, if possible, a stool or two at the bar while I parked. I grabbed the only space left and found at least 50 people waiting to be seated. Fortunately Lisa had somehow secured a small table in the bar area for us. Arriving at the concert, a lady scanning our tickets said they were invalid. Fortunately Tina was at the box office and straightened things out on the fourth try. It was pretty funny how we kept getting turned back. We found our seats just as manager Charley Blum was finishing a spiel about coming attractions.

On stage were two chairs and three guitars, and Lyle and John played without any backup band. They exchanged banter, often related to Hiatt being a Hoosier (from Indianapolis) and took turns doing songs. Dressed in his trademark suit and tie, Lyle basically just sat smiling while Hiatt performed, but John often strummed or sang harmony during Lovett’s songs, which were mostly from his new CD “Release me.” Hiatt did many of his familiar hits – “Perfectly Good Guitar,” “Have a Little Faith in me,” “Tennessee Plates” – but they sounded different without a rockin’ band backing him. It was a great show. I tended to favor Hiatt, and Lisa liked Lyle best. Saturday morning I made blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast, and we all enjoyed Lisa’s company.

I gave a copy of Traces magazine to Michael Chirich, and he joked about the cover photo of Karl Malden. I knew by the nose that it was a Serbian, he joked. A Serbian himself, Michael is friends with tamburitza maker Milan Opacich, who has known the Sekulovich family for decades.

I finished “The Hunger Games.” Phil called just as Clove was about to carve up Katniss’s face. Fortunately Thresh, of all people, came to her rescue. The author's target audience may have been teenage girls, but the book totally kept my attention. It’s about time young adult fiction feature strong female characters. The villains in the story are those in power at Panem, the Capitol, who force most people to live like slaves and stage an annual survival contest for their own sport. The Harvard Lampoon put out a parody of Suzanne Collins’s book called “The Hunger Pains.”

“Game Change” debuted on HBO and was riveting. Julianne Moore had Sarah Palin nailed and manages to make her sympathetic, while Woody Harrelson was superb as campaign manager Steve Schmidt. Even though Republican candidate John McCain refused to resort to demagoguery against Obama in the 2008 election, he is called to account for agreeing to select an essentially clueless person to be his running mate. With the Bush administration so unpopular and Republicans reeling from big losses in the 2006 election, McCain’s handlers thought that a woman on the ticket might be a “Game Changer” in terms of attracting women resentful over Hillary Clinton not getting the Democratic nomination. While it was fun seeing Palin baffled by questions from Katie Couric, the real villains in the affair were the political operatives whose negligence put the nation at risk by elevating such an incompetent to a position just a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.

Roger Ebert loved “Game Change” and thought it portrayed Palin somewhat sympathetically. He concluded that she “lacked the preparation or temperament to be one heartbeat away from the presidency, but what she possessed in abundance was the ability to inflame political passions and energize the John McCain campaign with star quality.”

James stayed overnight because Becca had a Sunday tryout for “Annie.” We got him to play Sharpshooters, a dice game. After losing the first three games, I won Revolution, a blind bidding game, with a strategy of becoming the Spy and the Priest during early rounds, which allowed me to control the cathedral and to replace an opponent’s piece with one of my own. I ended up controlling three areas.

On March 11, 1940, Hollywood writer John Monk Saunders hanged himself in his Florida home. A pilot during WW I, he was once married to actress Fay Wray. Thinking it would be nice to marry her, playwright Clifford Odets wrote in his diary: “She is mature, adult, a real woman, womanly in a lovely way, very loyal beautiful. Then what am I waiting for?” Answer: “guarantees, like any American boob with pragmatic eyes. Will it work? Will I be happy?”

Chancellor Lowe announced that Chris Young is a Founders Day award finalist along with Subir Bandyopadhyay (Business), Michael LaPoite (Biology), and Diana Larson (Computer Information). Chris also made it into FACET. What a good hire he was for the History Department and an all-around nice guy.

The Merillville History Book Club book for March is about Timbuktu, located on the southern edge of the Sahara dessert near the Niger River in present-day Mali. Marq De Villiers and Sheila Hirtle note that the phrase “from here to Timbuktu” denoted a mysterious, faraway place. Originally founded by nomads, during the thirteenth century it was a major trade center for gold, ivory, and slaves and became an Islamic scholarly center under Sultan Mansa Musam. Its importance declined after the Portuguese demonstrated that it was easier to sail around Africa’s southern tip than to cross the “Dark Continent” by land. Conquered by Moroccans during the fifteenth century and by the French in 1893, at present, though independent of foreign domination, the dusty city is a shell of its former self and relies on tourists for its sustenance.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wrecking Ball

“We all know that come tomorrow
None of this will be here
So hold tight your anger
And don’t fall to your fear.”
Bruce Springsteen, “Wrecking Ball”

“The Boss” has put out a classic CD that is fun to listen to but heartbreaking at times. “Death to My Hometown” describes a place where the jobs have vanished and hardly anybody visits the downtown any longer. “We Take Care of our Own” has been getting much air play, but most of the other songs are quite pessimistic about families and communities being able to do just that.

Jeopardy had a category called Seconds featuring such trivia as the second captain to circumnavigate the world (Francis Drake), the second wife of Henry VIII (Anne Boleyn), and the second highest mountain peak (K2 between Pakistan and China).

Sheriff Roy Dominguez was very pleased with the “Valor” page proofs. We went over questions I had from reading the first half of the manuscript and will get together next Wednesday to put it to bed, so to speak. If the autobiography weren’t so interesting, proofreading it would be very tiring. Roy brought with him some campaign literature having to do with his running for Lake County commissioner.

With Steve McShane’s help I put together an exhibit of Traces magazine covers and articles. The 11 covers about the Calumet Region include actors (Karl Malden), artists (Frank Dudley), singers (Michael Jackson), aviators (Octave Chanute), war heroes (Alex Vraciu) and sports stars (Tom Harmon). I’m hoping it will be a traveling exhibit and that area libraries will want it, as well as the Lake County Tourist Bureau Welcome Center. Editor Ray Boomhower thinks my article on Alex Karras may go in the Fall issue and wants to see the family photos that Ted and Anna Karras provided.

Marion Merrill left me a sizeable amount of money in her will. She and Sam had no children but basically adopted his Maryland grad students, but still it was quite a surprise. I think it would be appropriate to use the money to put out more Steel Shavings issues.

I made American Airlines and Hertz reservations and RSVPed to Maryland’s Center for Historical Studies that I’d be attending Ray Smock’s Distinguished Alumni Lecture April 5 entitled “I Did It My Way, By Accident: Lessons from an Unconventional Career.” I’m hoping to see Steve and Aaron Pickert and family Saturday, which happens to be Aaron’s birthday.

Rosalie Zak, IUN History department secretary for 25 years, passed away, son Steve informed me. During her last days in a hospice Steve played Chopin music for her benefit. An English war bride with lots of class, she always called me Dr. Lane, never Jim. In the 1970s I’d only get a haircut a couple times a years, but afterward she’d always tell me how nice I looked.

The temperature reached 69 for the second day in a row. WGN’s Tom Skilling, once known as the boy weatherman, had all sorts of graphics to explain the “heat wave.”

At lunch I told Alan Barr I was sorry I couldn’t make it to his film class to see “Last Tango in Paris.” He told me to come see “Body Heat” after spring break. George Bodmer is going to Cincinnati for a family function and hopes to visit the Cincinnati Art Museum, which has an exhibition of Nick Cave’s work (he’s most famous for what he calls Soundsuits). George mentioned that a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition there created great controversy, in contrast to Boston, where a PBS station showed examples of Mapplethorpe’s work on TV. Gaard Logan told me that a controversial Hide/Seek exhibition, subtitled “Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” is opening soon in Tacoma and that some docents quit rather than stay associated with a museum that would put on such a show. It contains Mapplethorpe’s 1975 “Self-Portrait” and artists’ responses to Stonewall and AIDS.

Peggy Roenigk wanted to know more about the Mary Cheever murder case. Cheever was a Gary teacher whose death at the hands of a purse snatcher sparked a mass movement by women to wiper out crime and vice tolerated by the local political establishment during the late 1940s.

“Wanderlust” with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston was so creepy and smarmy in making fun of communal living (Alan Alda should be ashamed of himself for being in such trash) that I moved over to “Project X,” about an out-of-control teen party. While it was rated R for “crude and sexual content throughout, nudity, drugs, drinking, pervasive language, reckless behavior and mayhem,” the only really offensive thing about it was a midget who kept hitting guys in the balls.

The wind was blowing with gale force when I left the movies. With an hour to kill till bowling I ate yogurt and cookies (by mistake I bought Red Hot Cheetos and could only eat one) and read excerpts from the Civil War diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut, a Southerner who called slavery a monstrosity and an iniquity. “Our men,” she wrote, “live all in one house with their wives and their concubines; and the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children. Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household but her own. These, she seems to think, drop from the clouds.”

Engineers took five of seven points from No Weak Link with Dick Maloney rolling a 578 series, 103 pins over his average. I converted three splits, unbelievably, a 5-7, a 3-6-7-10, and a 6-9-10. The latter, a baby split with a sleeper, is almost impossible because if you go between the 6 and 10 you almost always miss the 9. I hit the 6-pin on the left, not on purpose, and it knocked the 10-pin to its left and into the 9-pin. Lucky!

Monday, March 5, 2012

How the Night Moves

“Started humming a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves
When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose.”
“Night Moves,” Bob Seger

The songs from 1962 that I hum sometimes are “If I Had a Hammer” by Peter, Paul, and Mary and “Loco-Motion” by Little Eva. One taught me social consciousness, the other soul. WDRV “The Drive” has album day once a month where you actually hear dead space between songs. Driving to and fro, I heard bits of Led Zeppelin Supertramp, Billy Joel, John Mellancamp, the Stones, and Bob Seger. The breakout 1976 LP (long-playing) record “Night Moves” starts with “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” Seger’s songs often deal with loss of innocence and the passage of time – in other words, social history.

Christine Hinchman wants help finding the name of an African-American woman who danced at Chicago festivals like Taste of Chicago and Country Music Fest. Christine wrote: “She was really tiny and wore amazing outfits - I remember one in particular, a suit made out of faux cowhide. I actually met her a couple times. I worked at the Borders on State Street and she came in to order books that mentioned her. Turns out she had been a fairly well known stripper/ 'exotic dancer' in Gary back in the 60's at one of the clubs the Jackson 5 worked at. They had opened for her and we did find books that verified her story.” All I could help her with was give her the name and address of a Gary club, Mr. Lucky’s Lounge, where the Jackson (and strippers) performed.

I finished my South Shore Journal article, “The Dune-Faun: Diana of the Dunes’ Male Counterpart” after another visit to Westchester Museum. Eva Hopkins found me an article by A. F. Knotts about George Blagg, the so-called “Hermit of the Dunes.” Just a teenager during the Civil War, Bragg lived off his military pension plus whatever he could grow, pick, raise, catch or panhandle. A bit crazy, he feared that anarchists were after him but loved children and animals. Steve McShane made jpegs of Dale Fleming’s drawing of Blagg plus Earl Reed’s etchings of dunes characters Happy Cal and Catfish John to go with the nude but tasteful sketches of Diana and the Dune-Faun.

For an exhibit I’m planning with Steve Ray Boomhower sent a half-dozen past issues of Traces with covers of relevance to Northwest Indiana - Tom Harmon, Octave Chanute, Tony Zale, an Inland Steel mill, Michael Jackson, and a South Shore poster. Maybe my Alex Karras article, assuming Ray likes it, will rate the cover story treatment. I picked up a dozen family photos from Ted and Anna Karras, including one of Yia Yia (grandmother) Sophia and a studio shot of him, wife Susan Clark and “Webster” kid Emmanuel Lewis.

Time passes. Fifty years ago Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain scored 100 points in an NBA game played in Hershey, PA. There were no three-point baskets and players only got one free throw for a non-shooting foul. Brother-in-law Sonny Okomski swears he saw the game on TV although I’ve read the game was not televised. Wilt, a seven-footer, went to Overbrook, the same Philly high school as Fred Chary. I once saw him play for the Philadelphia Warriors against Boston. John Havlicek fouled him hard and Chamberlain started after him. Havlicek wanted no part of it.

My old high school English teacher Delphine Vandling died at age 99. Her daughter came across something I wrote about her on my blog and notified me. A classy lady, she loved reading poems and Shakespeare to us. And so it goes. I hope her eyesight and mental faculties remained until the very end.

I started proofreading Sheriff Dominguez’s autobiography “Valor.” The PDF version arrived electronically and the copy that we’ll mark up is supposed to arrive by FedEx mail on Monday. It’s pretty clean except for one thing that could have been major but that can be easily fixed.

I took in my annual basketball game with Dave, a Sectional battle at Gary West Side between East Chicago and Lake Central. Glenn Robinson III scored 27 points in leading Lake Central to victory. It was close until the final eight minutes. The Cardinals had a flashy freshman named Hyron Edwards that Division One coaches are already recruiting, but Coach Dave MIlausnic put Robinson on him and he didn’t score after that. In the front row with his ever-present scorebook, as always, was Louis Vasquez, author of “Weasal,” whose grandson was a student of Dave’s. Referee Mike Waisnora was officiating 35 years ago when the kids and I were rooting for Gary Emerson. It was fun seeing Dave interact with students and watching the Lake Central fans rocking out to music being belted out on huge speakers. Afterwards at Wing Wahs I just had a bowl of Won Ton soup and an order of pan fried noodles with extra onions but still couldn’t finish all of it. There was a time when all the staff recognized me; now they all know Dave.

A major storm dropped snow to the north and unleashed tornados south of us that killed over 39 people. We got rain, wind, and snow flurries. Knock on wood that winter is pretty much behind us. On Today were shots of Henryville, Indiana, virtually wiped out. One stunned resident talked about losing everything. It’s hard to imagine what that would be like. The worst would be the photo albums.

At Camelot Lanes James broke one hundred again. Teammate Ethan, wearing a cool Brazil soccer shirt, threw a ball that hooked to the left. Madalyn rarely bothered to watch her ball hit the pins but instead came back to where her grandparents were.

I proofread a PDF of “Valor” at school that IU Press editor Nancy Lightfoot sent and notified Sheriff Dominguez that the page proofs that we’re to mark up will be arriving via Fed Ex on Monday. Had a nice dinner and bridge evening with the Hagelbergs. I wore the Kidstuff Playstation shirt he gave me for my seventieth birthday.

After playing the normal trio of Amun Re, St. Pete, and Acquire, we got in a couple games of Revolution, which Dave hadn’t played before. I won the second one by using the strategy Tom employed successfully in the previous contest.

Sunday’s Post-Trib carried a sweet column by Carrol Vertrees about turning 90. Jeff Manes interviewed mental health advocate Mary Hodson. She works a suicide hotline and talked about her teenage son taking his own life. Jeff told her that he came real close to killing himself with a shotgun at that age. It must have been an emotional interview. At noon Manes showed up at the condo to interview Dave for a future column.

At L.A. Nails the lady who cut my toenails wore a mask, something that never happened before. Why, I wonder? A new policy? Foot odor? Fear of germs?

For several years the defensive coach of the New Orleans Saints paid bounties to players who knocked opponents out of the game. The player got more for a “cart off” or if the victim was the quarterback. Evidently the head coach and general, manager knew about it. The team had been warned and told to stop the practice. The league is expected to come down hard on those involved now that lawsuits are piling about involving former players maimed on the field of play.