Friday, April 4, 2014

Let It Go

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free.”
    “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel from “Frozen”

Conservative minister Keith Swanson claims that the Walt Disney movie “Frozen” is thinly disguised pro-homosexual propaganda designed to indoctrinate impressionable kids.  Here’s his stupid bill of particulars.  Elsa is portrayed as different than other girls and not interested in boys.  The troll king asks her, “Born this way or cursed?”  She has magical powers but fears she is becoming a monster and isolates herself.  In the end Elsa and sister Anna save each other rather than get rescued by a charming prince.  Writing for The Independent, Felicity Morse opined: While it's up for debate whether ‘Frozen’ really is dealing with ‘gay’ themes, I think if Disney is teaching our children about LGBT relationships, then it’s not a moment too soon.”

In 1895, while President of New York City Police Board, Teddy Roosevelt came under criticism for demanding, as a means of curbing corruption, enforcement of “blue laws” that forbade saloons from serving alcohol on Sundays.  According to Doris Kearns Goodwin, when opponents staged a massive parade, featuring floats, banners, and 30,000 people marching down Lexington Avenue, TR sat on the reviewing stand and laughed when he spotted placards castigating him.  One read, “Send the Police Czar to Russia,” another “Roosevelt’s Razzle Dazzle Reform Racket.”  TR sympathized with workers who liked to relax at a neighborhood tavern on their one day off and advocated changing the statute.

It was raining so hard when I arrived at IUN, my feet got soaked, but I had an extra pair of socks and slippers in my cage.  Several women presenting papers at Friday’s South Bend Women’s and Gender Studies Conference were also speaking at Thursday’s tenth annual IUN College of Arts and Sciences Conference organized by CISTL director Chris Young.  Amanda Board discussed the high incidence of domestic violence among lesbian couples.  Among the reasons why: alcohol and drug abuse, low self-esteem, internalized homophobia, and mental disorders.  Research does not indicate that it has to do with butch-fem role-playing.  There’s a need to treat the problem different from heterosexual domestic violence.
 Anne Balay and Amanda Board

In a session chaired by Nicole Anslover Ava Meux spoke about racist practices in America that she claimed fell under the United Nations definition of genocide.  During Reconstruction Booker T. Washington, fearful that freed slaves would suffer the same fate as Native Americans (truly victims of genocide, especially peaceful California tribes), urged separation of the races in matters social (like fingers on the hand, he said). Kevin Surney, lamenting the common use of “the N word” among African-American youths, often tells kids, “Amp up your vo-cab.”  That got a chuckle from the crowd.  Beverly Lewis-Burton, a dynamic and impassioned speaker, talked about Fannie Lou Hamer as preacher, prophet and priest.  She works as a pre-professional adviser in the School of Nursing.  I think she’s also a minister; if not, she should be.  When Lewis-Burton quoted from Hamer’s account of being beaten in Mississippi for daring to attempt to register to vote, it was hard to hold back tears.
Here’s Fannie Lou Hamer’s account of what happened on June 3, 1963, in Montgomery County (Mississippi) Jail, punishment for working on a voter registration drive for the Southern Christian leadership Conference: Three white men came into my room. One was a state highway policeman (he had the marking on his sleeve). They said they were going to make me wish I was dead. They made me lay down on my face and they ordered two Negro prisoners to beat me with a blackjack. That was unbearable. The first prisoner beat me until he was exhausted, then the second Negro began to beat me. I had polio when I was about six years old. I was limp. I was holding my hands behind me to protect my weak side. I began to work my feet. My dress pulled up and I tried to smooth it down. One of the policemen walked over and raised my dress as high as he could. They beat me until my body was hard, 'til I couldn't bend my fingers or get up when they told me to. That's how I got this blood clot in my eye - the sight's nearly gone now. My kidney was injured from the blows they gave me on the back.”  Hamer died in 1977 at age 60; three years ago a statue of her was unveiled at the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden in Ruleville, Mississippi.

Thom Cox from Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago gave a keynote performance, assuming the persona of Nelson Algren.  Mario Dongu, so awesome Sunday in the lead role of Harpagon in “The Miser,” presented an analysis of that character.  I predict a bright future for him.  Altogether it was quite a conference, and I was pleased at the contribution by History faculty.  David Parnell, for example, a recent teaching award winner, sponsored a session on “Living in the Roman World: War, Religion, and Nutrition” featuring papers by Eric Doffin, Timothy Hall, and Keith Taliefero.

Home Mountain’s Doug Klemz found copies of past Shavings issues going back to 1994, including Henry Farag’s “The Signal: A Doo Wop Rhapsody,” and wondered if I wanted them.  I indicated that I did but suggested they keep at least one copy in case they might have a display case of things you've printed.
 Kristen Haley and Danny Ferguson

Another Fort Hood shooting has left 16 injured and four dead, including Ivan Lopez, who killed himself after gunning down others at the Texas military base.  I put on the calming influence of the 1971 Cat Stevens album “Teaser and the Firecat,” featuring “Moonshadow” and “Morning Has Broken” and whose last song is “Peace Train.”  Cat Stevens, barred from entering America during the Bush years because he’s a Muslim and gave money to a Palestinian charity, is a 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.  Stevens also wrote a children’s book called “Teaser and the Firecat” about an attempt to put the moon back in the sky after it fell to earth.  If only we could give the dead soldiers at Fort Hood back their lives.  According to fiancé Kristen Haley, Sergeant Danny Ferguson, just back from Afghanistan, died while keeping Lopez from entering a crowded room.  I hope there’s a loving support group available for Kristen.

Anticipating the Cubs’ season opener the Chicago Tribune has been recounting highlights and low-lights of Wrigley Field’s hundred-year history.  I recall Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeouts during his rookie season and his losing game seven of the 2003 against the Marlins a day after the Bartman incident.  Ryne Sandburg, in town managing the Phillies, hit two game-tying HRs against Cardinal Bruce Sutter in 1984 in a game Chicago won, 12-11 after trailing 9-3.  Dave and I were watching it at Dean and Joanell Bottorff’s place in Valpo.  Bill Murray was great singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during a seventh inning stretch (like announcer Harry Carey once did).   Coach Mike Ditka showed up late for his appearance, then sang at double the normal speed and totally off key, and forgot to substitute “(Root, root, root for the) Cubbies” for “Home Team”.  After Kid Rock finished, someone told him to add, “Now let’s go get some runs.”  Instead he said, “Now let’s go get some lunch.”
Several hundred Lake Central students held a sit-in Wednesday protesting the administration’s refusal to have a moment of silence for a young man who committed suicide.  Principal Robin Tobias lamely argued that such an announcement over the P.A. would amount to “suicide glorification” and might lead to copycat suicides.  Instead Tobias called in the police, who took 18 year-old Hunter Ernst to jail for arguing and charged him with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and possession of a pocketknife. Talk about over-reaction – why couldn’t have school officials simply let the students go on with their peaceful protest or made a brief announcement over the public address system?  A second Lake Central student killed himself Wednesday night. 

Winter has been so frigid, an ice shelf along Lake Michigan shoreline has prevented ore boats from reaching Gary Works, forcing a shutdown of blast furnaces that normally burn 24 hours a day.  Traffic has also been stalled further north in Lake Superior.  U.S. Steel announced that such severe conditions have not occurred in more than 30 years.
 Fred Halpern; NWI Times photo by Tony V. Martin
Fred Halpern, co-owner of Albert’s Diamond Jewels in Hobart and Schererville, was inducted into the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame.  Starting out in East Chicago over 50 years ago, he said: “I inherited a store with two employees.  I had to tell them to wait to cash your check a little later.  I had to tell the water guy, ‘Please don’t turn off my water,’ and the electrical guy, ‘Please don’t turn off my electricity.’  I told them I will pay you eventually, and obviously those bills got paid because I’m here now.  I lived at home with my family for five years and never took a penny out of the store.  It wasn’t easy is the point I’m trying to make.  Everybody has to get paid before you do because you have to have credibility.  After you take care of your help and bills and have any money left, buy some more inventory.”

George McGuan drove us to Bethel Church auditorium for a bluegrass mass featuring the Minnesota group Monroe Crossing and the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus.  Host John Cain mentioned that among the event sponsors was a memorial fund named in honor of former chorus member (and IUN professor) Jim Tolhuizen.  The program started with Monroe Crossing performing with the Southlake Children’s Choir, directed by Aaron Riegle (Becca and James sang with them a couple years ago).  My favorite part of the show was when Monroe Crossing performed alone for 35 minutes, doing numbers by legends Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers as well as original compositions. The mass was not my cup of tea but, mercifully, shorter than expected.  Afterwards we celebrated Cheryl Hagelberg’s birthday with an ice cream cake at Baskin-Robbins.

During intermission I introduced George McGuan to former Lake County surveyor George Van Til.  George asked him if he really was indicted for having an employee pick up a tuxedo for him.  Ironically, the employee knew the owner of the shop and tried to sell it to him.  Referring to President Bill Clinton’s legal troubles, Van Til said that once prosecutors commence an investigation against a public official, anything is fair game (or unfair game, as in the case of Clinton’s sex life or something as petty as a tuxedo errand).  The the tendency is to find something to justify the governmental expenditures. McGuan told Van Til he should write a book about Lake County politics.  I chimed in that if he needed an oral historian to help him, to let me know.  He’s familiar with my role in producing Roy Dominguez’s “Valor,” so who knows?  He told an anecdote about a public official being with a prostitute who mentioned the names of clients who hailed from his part of the state.  The guy put his pants back on and high-tailed it out of there before she learned his identity.

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