Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Not So Grand Old Party

“Brains, you know, are suspect in the Republican Party,” Walter Lippmann

The friggin’ Republicans went and did it: they shut down the government because the Senate wouldn’t delay the implementation of Obamacare.  Although October is National Arts and Humanities Month, the Smithsonian museums and many others will be closed until further notice.  Same with national parks, including Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  Disgraceful. 
Ray Smock wrote: If you want to see a fast-paced interesting movie, try WORLD WAR Z with Brad Pitt. It is a very nicely done zombie movie. Now wait a minute, what could be nice about zombie movies, you might reasonably ask?  Well this one uses the zombies as carriers of a horrible virus. They must bite living humans to transfer the virus. Once bitten, you immediately become a zombie looking to bite someone else.  This virus spreads fast and undermines civilization everywhere. I see it as a beautifully powerful allegory of the Tea Party. It should have been called World War T.  Once you make the connection between this horrible zombie inducing virus and the Tea Party, the whole movie makes perfect sense.  Just as the original BODY SNATCHERS was about Cold War mind control, this one is meant for our times, where rabid, paranoid congressmen set out to destroy the nation first by biting government employees and then the rest of us. Believe me, it will explain national politics like nothing else you have seen.”

The IUN police made coffee available from 8 to 10 for those who wished to meet them and ask questions.  I had intended to suggest that they honor former chiefs and officers who served many years but, seeing no doughnuts or juice being served and having had my two daily cups of Joe, decided to email Chief Pat Nowak instead.

Dean and Joanell Bottorff participated in a Chief Crazy Horse Memorial hike (called Volksmarch).  He wrote: They only let people walk up there twice a year. The total trail is 6.2 miles and it took us about three hours. I would class the trail as easy but a few people couldn't make it.”
After the Pirates beat Cincinnati to advance to the playoffs for the first time in a quarter-century, nephew “Pittsburgh Dave” admitted that tears came to his eyes.  Good for him.  I told him I’ll be rooting for the Bucs, too.

Samuel A. Love met with Sandra Hall Smith about an upcoming IUN event called Culture Shock.  She thought he was Black from their phone conversations.  Afterwards we discussed having Camilo Vergara’s photos of MLK murals at Wirt/ Emerson School for a week, prior to Culture Shock.  I contacted art teacher Deb Weiss, and she was excited to have the idea.  She knew about the project and was sorry she couldn’t bring her class to the Gardner Center last month. At the end of their stay we’ll donate one of the prints to the school.

National Review reporter Jillian Melchior interviewed me for a half hour about Gary’s travails.  I told her right off I hated when writers came with preconceived intentions of describing the city as dead and crime-ridden but ignored positive things.  Gary can be a great place to live, I asserted.  She praised my Gary book and mostly asked historical background questions. I was upbeat as possible about the many community activities taking place.  She seemed impressed by Mayor Freeman-Wilson, but I made the point that she very limited powers, or resources, for that matter.  What cities like Gary really need, as Mayor Richard Hatcher reiterated, is a federal aid program similar to America’s postwar Marshall Plan.  After endorsing gun control and decriminalization of drugs, I told Jillian that her conservative editors probably won’t agree.  National Review founder William Buckley smoked pot but claimed he sailed beyond the three-mile limit so as not to break the law.  Humbug!

Frederic and Blandine arrived at the Archives to interview Mayor Hatcher.  As always, the French filmmakers had been very active recently.  At a new downtown radio station they ran into Coach Earl Smith.  They met several jazz and blues musicians, including a member of Kinsey Report.  Invited to Sunday service at an old Carpatho-Rusin church now used by a Black Baptist congregation, they loved the interaction between pastor and parishioners.  Afterwards a young woman greeted them who works for Mary Lee, whom they had interviewed last week.

Hatcher talked with Frederic and Blandine for almost two hours.  They were blown away by his wisdom and afterwards gave him a miniature Eiffel Tower (“made in France, not China,” Frederic said) that spun on flat surfaces.  Nice touch.  Knowing that Hatcher and Reverend Jesse Jackson were good friends, I told him that in “The Clinton Tapes” Taylor Branch writes that Jackson was of great comfort to Chelsea Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  Labeling him “The Great Consoler,” Hatcher replied that Jesse often performs that function without fanfare.  When Jesse, Jr., got into legal trouble, Hatcher and his wife were there for him.

Diana Martin inquired about an unfinished memorial near Fifth and Broadway in Gary. She heard it was intended to be a clock tower but lacks the clock.  I was no help, but Steve McShane suggested contacting former planning director Chris Meyers or Indiana Landmarks officer Tiffany Tolbert.  Tolbert and I are both participants in an upcoming Calumet Heritage Conference at the Pullman Historic Site in Chicago.

Anne Balay is attending a Festival of Medical History at the New York Academy of Medicine. Riva Lehrer is one of the featured speakers.  The program identifies Riva as an artist, writer, and activist whose work focuses on socially challenged bodies such as her own (she was born in 1958 with spina bifida). Her portraits have been featured in such venues as the United Nations, the Chicago Cultural Center, and both the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Her writing and visual art are included in the new anthology Sex and Disability (Duke University Press), and she has been the subject of several documentaries, including The Paper Mirror, by Charissa King-O’Brien (with graphic novelist Alison Bechdel), and Self Preservation: The Art of Riva Lehrer by David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches drawing and anatomy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a visiting artist in medical humanities at Northwestern University.”

Before Nicole Anslover’s class on music of the Sixties I asked high school buddies Phil Arnold and Gaard Murphy for suggestions.  Phil mentioned James Brown’s live performance of “Please, Please, Please.”  Gaard and Chuck said anything by the Grateful Dead.  My nominees: Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law and the Law Won,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, and “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five.  When Nicole played a YouTube of Bobby Fuller’s appearance on “Hullabaloo,” go-go dancers were in the background with fake guns, which got a laugh from the students.  Several of them chose Beatles songs, and Marla Gee gave everyone a Beatles bubblegum card from her extensive collection.  The best selections were related to Vietnam, “Fortunate Son” by Credence Clearwater Revival (the guy next to me couldn’t refrain from singing along) and one I’d never heard, John Lee Hooker’s “I Don’t Wanna Go to Vietnam,” evidently recorded in 1968.  One line goes, “We got so much trouble at home, we don’t need to go to Vietnam.” Amen to that.

Jonathyne Briggs took his class to see a screening of “The Loving Story,” the HBO documentary about an interracial couple convicted of violating Virginia’s miscegenation law, which led to a unanimous landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of Richard and Mildred Loving.

Mediocre night bowling although I picked up three difficult splits – 5-7, 4-5-7, and 5-9-10.  With the latter two usually if your ball goes between the front two, you still leave the 7 or 10.  Waving my right arm during one pocket hit, I inadvertently smacked the ball return rack, right on the middle finger knuckle.  It turned red and swelled up some, but I didn’t realize how much it hurt until I was driving home.  Bobby McCann’s team took 5 or 7 points.  Afterwards I kissed Shannon McCann on the cheek; she called me awesome and squeezed me so hard my glasses would have fallen off had I not been wearing a strap to keep them on.  She’s terrific.  Stayed up to see the Flaming Lips and Yoko Ono on Letterman performing “Cheshire Cat Cry,” where between wails 80 year-old Yoko kept repeating, “Stop the violence, stop all wars.”

Bowling teammate Robbie Robinson alerted me to a mean-spirited Times column by Rich James ridiculing former sheriff Roy Dominguez for considering a run for Lake County auditor.  James wrote, “Smiling like a Cheshire Cat can’t buy one votes forever.”  Instead James seems to prefer that current officeholders with term-limits problems simply swap jobs.  For some reason James seems beholden to or fearful of incurring the wrath of Sheriff John Buncich, who has been known to employ heavy-handed scare-tactics against his enemies.  In Lewis Caroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” the Cheshire Cat’s grin was mischievous, while Roy’s smile is warm and sincere.

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