Wednesday, June 19, 2013


“Teachers are the one and only people who save nations,” Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

If asked my religion, I sometimes call myself a deist (like Thomas Jefferson), a Universalist (a form of Unitarianism that believes everyone goes to the same place after death, whether it be heaven, floating in the cosmos or “ashes to ashes”) or a secular humanist, a philosophy embracing reason, ethics, and social justice and opposed to dogma and superstition.

At lunch Atilla Tuncay and I talked about the mischief caused by religious fanaticism and Turkey, which he plans to visit after he retires.  He has not returned to his native country in over 25 years and wants to take his daughters.  We discussed the protests against the regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, we both agree, has guided Turkey on a path toward prosperity. Erdogan has created so many new universities (all over Turkey, not just in Istanbul) that there is a shortage of professors.  Perhaps the police brought the problem on themselves by violently cracking down on peaceful protesters objecting to construction of an old Ottoman barracks on Gezi Park near Taksim Square.  Reporting on “the rise of a new generation in protest,” Mehmet Sinan Birdal wrote in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram: “The young generation is much more accustomed than their parents to living together with people who are different. This explains the vast plurality of the Gezi protesters: soccer fans, college students, feminists, LGBTs, anti-capitalist Muslims, Kemalists, liberals, nationalists, socialists, anarchists, ecologists, Alevis.”  Kemalists believe in the secularist principles of Mustafe Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, and fear Erdogan is gravitating too closely to Sunni clerics.  Alevis, belonging to a Shiite offshoot, are Turkey’s largest minority, comprising 20 percent of the population.  Alevis are angry at the naming of a bridge over the Bosporus after Sultan Selim I, a.k.a. Selim the Grim, who was “the executioner of Alevis,” according opposition leader Huseyin Aygun.

I emailed Chris Kern: “Have you heard about the pinkeye epidemic in Japan, thought to be from ‘worming’ or eyeball licking? I recall your mother having pinkeye; do you think she and your dad had been worming?”  Julie had been teaching when she came down with conjunctivis, or pinkeye, and her students were fascinated by how gross it looked.  Paul joked: “You caught us.  You should try it.”  According to, an online gossip magazine, the practice, also called oculolinctus, hopefully will “remain one of those peculiarly Japanese fads such as bagelheading (injecting saline into your forehead until it swells out of all proportion, yaeba (undergoing dental surgery to give you crooked teeth) and shippo (wearing a neurologically controlled tail that reveals your moods).”

“Sesame Street” has a muppet with blue hair, a green nose and a hoodie named Alex whose dad is incarcerated.  Jerry Davich thinks this might create controversy, but I cannot fathom how anyone could object.  Some 2.7 million kids have a parent in prison, and children of soldiers are growing up missing a loved one.  Bob Estelle quipped: “Bring back Mr. Green Jeans.”  Just like it’s not easy being green, the same is true when your old man is behind bars.
A woman at Lake County Government Center, doing research for the Dillinger Museum, wanted to know the identity of someone in the famous photo of bank robber John Dillinger with Sheriff Lillian Holley and Prosecutor Robert Estill.  After Dillinger escaped from Crown Point Jail, FBI critics referred to it as the “petting picture” because Estill’s arm was around Dillinger.  The shot, taken in February 1934, ended Estill’s aspirations for higher office.  The UPI caption identifies a man to Dillinger’s right as East Chicago Police Chief Nicholas Maker.  The problem is, two men are to Dillinger’s right.  One might be Gary Chief of Police Stanley Buckland. A photo of Buckland in an FOP “History of the Gary Police” resembles, I think, the fellow on the extreme right while Steve believes it may be the man with the hat slightly in the background.  That theory makes more sense since it’s less likely that he would have been identified in the original caption.
 below, from left, Angela Lane, Jimbo, Marianne Brush, Beamer Pickert, Phil Lane, Lorraine Shearer

I sent nephew Beamer Pickert photos taken during his stay with us.  He liked them and, a fan of They Might Be Giants, remarked: “For some reason I had a song stuck in my head out of seemingly nowhere... ‘The Statue Got Me High!’ Once this faded (after maybe 7 or 8 repeats) it was quickly replaced with ‘Ana Ng’ (extended version)!  What a trip down memory lane!”  I replied that the verse I liked best in “Ana Ng” began, “All alone at the ’64 World’s Fair.”  Subsequent lines went: “Who was at the DuPont Pavilion?  Why was the bench still warm?  Who had been there?”  Referencing the chorus, Beamer’s friend Josh Sheridan Talley wrote: “Ana Ng and I are getting old, and we still haven't walked in the glow of each others majestic presence.”

I listened to 1950s Vee-Jay hits in preparation for Steve’s class.  I may focus more on “Pookie” Hudson and the Spaniels than last time when the emphasis was on founder Vivian Carter.  I plan to give students copies of Steel Shavings, volume 41, which ends with Henry Farag describing Pookie closing an Oldies show with the Spaniels a few years ago at the famed Chicago theater.  Henry wrote: “He was a quiet guy and not a braggart, so it was impossible to know what was on his mind when he took the stage.  Perhaps his thoughts fleetingly harkened back to Jackson Street in Gary, growing up listening to the Mills Brothers and Ink Spots and singing in his church choir.  He had a casual yet intimate voice and a delicate timbre that put emotion into every syllable and attracted girls.  He joined a group named after a dog breed.  Their hit records were the ignition that launched the first Black-owned label, Vee Jay Records, that would go on to produce and release hits by the Dells, Jerry Butler, El Dorados, Gladys Knight, Dee Clark, the Four Seasons, the Beatles, and many more before it all went to hell.”

Harper’s reviewer Jane Smiley discussed four rather self-indulgent new memoirs, whose villains include ex-husband, mother, father, and agricultural commune leader.  The best of them, Jeanne Nolan’s “From the Ground Up,” deals with caring for a large public garden.  Smiley concludes: “The hardest memoir to write is the one that is honest but not self-obsessed: Nolan accomplishes this with clarity and poise.”  Dismissing Philip Caputo’s “The Longest Road,” as dull, Smiley asserts that it was “wedded to the organizational principle of which every memoirist should be wary: chronology.”  I, on the other hand, am an advocate of chronology.

Dave cooked delicious catfish with a Hawaiian sauce and steamed crab legs; then we played four board games, including League of Six, which arrived from Amazon the previous day before turning our attention to San Antonio’s heartbreaking loss to the Heat due to despicable two no-calls when Miami players basically mugged Manu Ginobili and Danny Green.
 Lake Michigan at sunset, photo by Anne Gladys Balay
Anne Balay is back in Miller after trips to England with Riva Lehrner and to Wisconsin to see Leah.  Preparing for her upcoming Gender Studies class, Anne asked” “What’s an easily recognizable cultural reference that links blue collar workers to traditional family structures? (they say Roseanne is too old, and complicated).”  Anne doesn’t own a TV, and I don’t watch sitcoms, but several folks suggested ‘Family Guy’ and ‘Larry the Cable Guy.’”  “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” takes place in Paddy’s Pub,” but the characters are selfish eccentrics rather than your typical blue-collar family unit.

In Nicole Anslover’s class I watched “Coming Home (1978),” starring Jane Fonda as Sally Hyde, the wife of an American marine corps officer in Vietnam who falls in love with a paraplegic war casualty, Luke Martin, played by Jon Voight.  “Hanoi Jane” took lots of heat for appearing in this anti-war flick, but both Fonda and Voight deservedly won Oscars for their performances.  The soundtrack to “Coming Home” is amazing, especially the Rolling Stones’ “Out of Time.”  The ending of “Coming Home” really got to me, especially as Tim Buckley’s “Once I Was a Soldier” played in the background.  I great film, better than another about the effects of Vietnam on soldiers, Best Picture Oscar winner “Deer Hunter.”  Poet Walt Whitman, who cared for wounded Civil War casualties, declared: “The real war will never get in the books.”  That being true, despite cinematic efforts such as “The Platoon,” “Coming Home” provides a glimpse of the seething anguish returning soldiers often go through.

I called up former neighbor Dave Elliott, first time we talked since he moved back to Virginia, and told him I was listening to a J.J. Cale CD he burned for me.  His email address starts out Wavy Dawg, the first part in honor of hippie crown prince Wavy Gravy, and the second part from his nickname, Road Dawg, when he was a truck driver. 

Anne and Emma Balay had dinner with us at Sage Restaurant.  I told Emma that our nephew Beamer posted a review on Foodspotting and she did the same on Tumblr and got a huge number of responses.  Back at the condo, we played three rubbers of bridge.  The Stanley Cup game was still in progress when I turned it on.  Amazingly the Blackhawks scored six goals, the final one in overtime.

1 comment:

  1. collar workers on tv ( and in most films ) are beer guzzling buffoons a la homer simpson or bigoted idiots like archie bunker...or schemers trying to leverage a payoff to easy street as in the film "blue collar" a reasonably intelligent industrial worker i am somewhat bitter at the reflection and am inclined to view popular culture with as jaundiced an eye as it turns on my peers and i.