Friday, April 26, 2013

Free Spirits

   “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds,” Albert Einstein
cover photo, "hy hyh 105," by Eleanor Bennett
A “Spirits” literary magazine reception in the Robin Hass Birky Room featured free copies of volume 24 and readings by contributors to the latest, just published issue.  In an editor’s note Jennifer Thompson thanked faculty adviser Brian O’Camb and student life director Scott Fulk, whom she compared to “the great and powerful Oz, the man behind the curtain.”  A 31 year-old mother of two “brilliant, ornery children,” Jennifer has a blog called “living is exhausting.”  In a previous volume she wrote a fantasy about killing an insufferable spouse.  Her poem “Marriage” could serve as its inverse - or prelude:

He stands, eternally shoveling,

At the open grave never filled.
Heaping the dirt upon
My casket, thud . . . thud . . .
Bound inside I hear the
Dirt, burying me
I gasp for breath, slowly
Fading but never completely

Expressing feelings of powerlessness while recuperating in the Florida Keys in the aftermath of being struck by a car crossing Broadway, George Bodmer in “Gazing at Cuba” writes:

Struck lame in a mishap from another year

I wobble on an uncertain pathway
Dependent on any that can catch me.

Alyssa Black, who in her artist biography, admitted to enjoying ninja comics, girly punk rock music, and coffee, titled her descriptive poem “Have You Been Here?”

The orange paint under chipped blue

A floor of cold cement
The ominous hum of an archaic generator
Stripped down and purely functional
Cobwebs fill the seasoned rafters
The eerie glow of yellow electric light
Resonating from above
Dilapidated stalls that
Offer privacy
But no solace. 

At first I thought Alyssa was describing an apartment, but the “dilapidated stalls” indicates that it is a public place, where she worked perhaps.

Jonathyne Briggs posted a teaser for a Louis C.K. comedy special where he riffs on classic jokes and riddles such as: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”  “Take my wife, please.” “Why is six afraid of seven?” “What’s the difference between Neil Armstrong and Michael Jackson?” and “Knock, knock, who’s there? Interrupting cow.”  Jonathyne was disappointed that his History of Music students dismissed Celine Dion’s popularity (among women singers only Madonna and Mariah Carey have sold more records) without attempting to understand it.  An object of both adoration and hatred, Dion to some is plastic but to others very compelling.  I’m not a fan but would be willing to have my opinion changed.  She is very popular with gay men, as were Judy Garland, Lisa Minelli, Gloria Gaynor, and Cher.  With Judy Garland, it had something to do with men relating to her personal struggles and vulnerability as well as her talent.  She was truly an icon, campy or not, and wore her emotions on her sleeve, to quote an old saw.  Several people involved in the 1969 Stonewall Riot had attended her funeral earlier in the day.

President Obama and his four living predecessors got together for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.  Then, along with Governor Rick Perry, the President attended a memorial service at Baylor University for victims of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion.  More ominously, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has charged that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against rebel strongholds.

It saddens me when young people I like are so set in their reactionary views it is hopeless to argue with them.  Nephew Garrett posted a cartoon of Kim Jong-un saying to Obama, “I will destroy America” and a smug President replying, “Too late!”  I commented, “There is so much that is great about America.  I am sorry you feel this way.”  He replied, “Absolutely, there is a lot that is still good about America.  For example, the beach, private schools, hockey, and a few other things the government doesn’t control . . . . yet.”  Fortunately government agencies control the beaches of Northwest Indiana or there wouldn’t be any public access.  Garrett does seem to like Stephen Colbert, however, and I assume he realizes that his persona on the “Colbert report” is meant as a parody.

Pat Wisniewski arranged for me to be interviewed in the Archives for Lee Botts’s documentary on the Northwest Indiana lakeshore.  On hand to lend expertise was Paul Nelson, production manager for Lakeshore Public Television.  The emphasis was on the history of industrialization.  It’s too bad Botts wasn’t on camera, too, because sometimes her questions contained more information than my answers.  She believes that because steel mills and utility companies bought up much lakefront property as a contingency for further expansion, it had the beneficial effect of forestalling the development of more communities like Ogden Dunes, Beverly Shores, and Dune Acres. 

“The Great Gatsby” is once again a bestseller due, I guess, to an upcoming film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  On Amazon’s nonfiction list, surprisingly, is Frank McCourt’s 1996 memoir “Angela’s Ashes” about growing up impoverished in Limerick, Ireland, with a devout but depressed mother and an alcoholic father whose one saving grace was his story telling ability, a trait Frank inherited.  Born in Brooklyn in 1930, McCourt returned to America in 1949 after 15 years of hardship and got drafted two years later.  A New York City public school teacher for many years, McCourt wrote two other memoirs, “’Tis” and “Teacher Man.”  Whimsical at times, “Angela’s Ashes” is incredible sad as well.  I found two copies in IUN’s library.  It begins: “When I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I survived at all.  It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.  Worse than an ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

In a thank you note for volume 42 Patty Kalvaitis promised to add it to others in the reference section of her Lowell High School social studies classroom.  She lamented having loaned out the Sixties issue (volume 25) to someone who didn’t return it.  In it she wrote of being out of school for ten days during the blizzard of 1967.  That issue unfortunately is out of print, and copies have gone for as high as $39 on Amazon. 

I met Jackie Gipson at Heavenly Ham, where two chicken salad sandwich lunches cost less than $16.  When her house caught fire a year ago, all her Shavings issues were destroyed by water damage.

Commenting on Brady and his girlfriend Kiera Quealy being nominated for Chesterton High School prom king and queen, Tom Wade wrote: I was thinking more court jester for Brady, because really, he is a funny guy.  Plus, he would get to wear that cool costume with the bells in the hat.”  Evan Davis commented, “Like father . . . .”

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