Wednesday, March 26, 2014


“Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.”  Mark Twain
Mark Twain
At Westchester Library looking for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit,” I got on a waiting list and then spotted Ben Tarnoff’s “The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers who Reinvented American Literature.”  On the back was a blurb by Goodwin, who declared: "What an ingenious idea for a book and what a rousing story!"  One close friend of Twain’s was Bret Harte, who like him, Ben Franklin, and Walt Whitman, once was a printer’s apprentice (Franklin called the experience “the poor man’s college”).  Two other California writers who became protégés of Twain and Harte were poets Ina Coolbrith and Charles Warren Stoddard (like Whitman a homosexual, although the term wasn’t used during the 1860s).  While the group broke away from the over-refined style of New York and New England literary giants, they identified with a group of New York literary rebels who called themselves Bohemians.  Tarnoff concluded that for Bret Harte and the others “Bohemia” “came to represent a creative alternative to the mundane and the mercenary in American life, a way to overcome California’s crude materialism.”  Harte himself wrote: “Bohemia has never been located geographically, but any clear day when the sun id going down, if you mount Telegraph Hill, you shall see its pleasant valleys and cloud-capped hills glittering in the West like the Spanish castles of Titbottom.”

Though the word Bohemian was first used in France early in the nineteenth century to describe artists and writers who lived outside the margins of conventional society, I first heard the word used to describe the so-called beats who lived in NYC’s Greenwich Village, hung out in coffeehouses, smoked dope, and, like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, thumbed their noses at bourgeois society.

A committee has selected three nominees for its “One Book … One Campus … One Community” initiative.  Several folks nominated Anne Balay’s “Steel Closets,” but there was no way that was going to happen – too embarrassing given Anne’s termination.  Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” which Anne used in last summer’s Gender Studies class, is one of them.  It deals with the unfair legal system that punishes African Americans far worse than others and how the War on Drugs has targeted blacks and deprived millions of their freedom (more blacks are in jail today than were slaves in 1850).  The others are Ntozake Shange’s “Betsey Brown,” a Young Adult novel about an African-American seventh grader growing up in St. Louis during the 1950s, and “Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families,” edited by Andrew Carroll.  If I had a vote, it would be for “The New Jim Crow.”
Anne Balay at Cornell discussing "Steel Closets"; photo by Riva Lehrer
Anne Balay is back from her book tour. In putting together an article about her tenure case, I came upon this teaching statement she wrote for her dossier: “I love my students, I let them know I care, I drive them crazy, I make them work, and their success is all the reward I need.  First, they create the magical space that is the classroom, a place where interactions with texts, with ideas, and with other learners is central.  Secondly, they grow.  The look in their eyes when their mind first wraps around an alien concept, or when they synthesize disparate ideas to create an independent insight, or when they think analytically about something they’ve never noticed before and, almost in shock, notice that critical thinking has become a habit – this look of pride is teaching’s main reward.”
NWI Times photo by Jon L. Hendricks
We’re used to reading stories about oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, but one occurred Monday afternoon when a malfunction at BP’s Whiting Refinery, which a spokesman called a “processing disruption,” sent oil into Lake Michigan.  Clean-up crews arrived early Tuesday morning, and EPA and IDEM officials were on the scene.  No word on how much oil spilled into the lake.

IUN has set up a Redhawks Athletics Hall of Fame, and one of the first honorees is Linda Anderson, the university’s first director of athletics.  Pleased to have been selected, Linda said, “I have many fond remembrances of my time at IUN, and many friends from that time who are still dear to me: staff, coaches, faculty and players. It takes a special kind of person to do what is required to be a student athlete and I have a great deal of respect for students who can manage to juggle studies, home and athletics. I saw my role as to facilitate the dreams of the students.”  Also honored, longtime announcer Chuck Gallmeier.

IU Press editor-in-chief Robert Sloan asked if I’d take a look at James Madison’s forthcoming “Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana” and possibly write a short review.  I’m very excited to see it because his previous book, “The Indiana Way: A State History,” the standard text in the field, came out 28 years ago.  From being in touch with Madison over the past few years, I know how hard he’s worked, including taking pains not to neglect Northwest Indiana.

I have ugly red marks on my right leg from scratching it during the night and breaking the skin, something I’ve done to my face but not my limbs.  Do I need to wear kid gloves to bed, I wonder.
Forming Acting Chancellor Lloyd Rowe, 84, passed away.  Lloyd had that rare ability to get along with everyone yet get things done.  During the brief time he ran IUN after Peggy Elliott left, he got smoking banned and allowed a half-dozen vacant positions in Arts and Sciences to be filled.  Serving in the Political Science Department with cantankerous Jean Poulard and curmudgeon George Roberts, he got along with both and helped launch the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.  He was a consummate gentleman and, like most of our successful administrators a home-grown product associated with the campus for 35 years.

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