Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Where's My Country?

“These bastards who run our country are a bunch of conniving, thieving, smug pricks who need to be brought down and removed and replaced with a whole new system that we control.”  Michael Moore, “Dude, Where’s My County?”

Reminiscent of “The Other Wes Moore,” as the twenty-first century began, Michael Moore received a package from a man on death row in Texas who had the same name as him.  Thanks to Moore’s letter writing campaign, the court granted the convicted murderer a stay of execution.  Then 9/11 happened, and the country’s mood changed.  On January 17, 2002, the Texas inmate was executed. 

Fourteen months later, American military forces invaded Iraq.  Soon after, accepting an Oscar for his documentary “Bowling for Columbine,” Moore ended his speech by saying: “Shame on you, Mr. Bush.  Shame on you!  And any time you’ve got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up.”  The crowd booed loudly, a stagehand called him an asshole, and Steve Martin quipped, “It was so sweet backstage, you should have seen it: the teamsters were helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo.”  Then, after exposing the lies that were the rationale behind the war in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Moore received so many death threats, he went into seclusion for two years.  Both Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly joked about wanting to kill him.  Moore hired former Navy SEALS for protection.  Kurt Vonnegut, whom Moore called “this mad son of Mark Twain,” nudged him back into the arena. What is truly maddening is that Moore is so much more a patriot than his reactionary critics.

Forget about Syria, the Ukraine, the exchange of fire along the Korean DMZ, and what the hell happened to Flight 370?   Columnist Clarence Page called obsession with the missing plane news candy, writing: “When news anchors and reporters don’t know what’s happened, they bring in panels of experts and outsiders [including a psychic medium] to speculate about what might have happened.”  When the Malaysian government concluded that it went down in the Indiana Ocean, Bill Maher joked, the flags at CNN were flown at half-staff.  Also in the news: a Secret Service agent assigned to guard President Obama in the Netherlands passing out in a hotel hallway.

Asked to write a brief review of James Madison’s forthcoming book “Hoosiers,” I called it a towering achievement that makes room for ordinary people, outsiders, and dissenters and whose subject matter extends “from the Ice Age to the present and from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan.”   In the Preface, in words I can relate to, Madison concludes: “I care about Indiana and yield to no one in my Hoosier patriotism, but I can be as critical as any Hoosier about our shortcomings.  Whatever my personal views may be, however, I have sought to understand rather than condemn or praise.

In what could be an April Fools Day prank Steve Spicer posted an article about Millie, the alleged Miller Beach monster that has supposedly been sighted from time to time in the Marquette Park lagoons.  The Potawatomie believed a mysterious creature lived near Lake Michigan’s shore, and French explorer Samuel de Champlain wrote of spotting a 20-foot serpent with a head resembling a horse.  In 1884 boat builder Allen Dutcher sighted a large creature, and similar claims have increased in the past quarter century.  One theory is that the lagoons are connected to Lake Michigan through deep underwater channels, and that the species return to the lagoons during the summer to breed.  Perhaps what people saw was i carp, diving waterfowl or beaver. 
  “Mad Men” will wrap up with seven spring episodes and seven more in 2015. Perhaps a sequel could have Don’s daughter Sally coming of age during the Seventies.  She’s walked in on her step-grandmother giving Roger a blowjob and her dad screwing a neighbor.  Actor Jon Hamm told Time TV critic James Poniewozik: I’m always surprised when people are like, ‘I want to be just like Don Draper,’ You want to be a miserable drunk?  You want to be like the guy on the poster, maybe, but not the actual guy.  The outside looks great, the inside is rotten. That’s advertising.  Put some Vaseline on that food, make it shine and look good.  Can’t eat it, but it looks good.”

Lucy Jane King’s article “Pioneering Women Doctors” in Connections magazine profiled Dr. Sarah Stockton, born in 1842 near Lafayette, who graduated from Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia at age 40. Previously, she and a sister had operated a hotel after their parents had died.  Interested in mental illnesses, Stockton worked at the Indiana Hospital for the Insane.  Anna Agnew, whose bipolar disorder brought on severe mood swings, including incapacitating depression, wrote about Stockton: “I felt the first time she came into my darkened room, where I lay in such agony as only miserable women suffer, and seating herself at my bedside, looking pityingly at me, the expression in her lovely blue eyes in itself a mute promise of assistance before a word was spoken, that an angel had been with me.”

At present half of all medical students are women; when author Lucy Jane King attended Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis during the 1950s, they were an oddity.  Dr. King wrote: “Occasionally I heard the concern that women would get married and give up medical practice, thus wasting the training that a man could have had.  The other two women in my medical school class married men in the class, raised families, and continued to practice medicine – one as a psychiatrist and the other as a pediatrician.”

In “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Aga of Journalism” Doris Kearns Goodwin argues that TR’s friendship with muckraking journalists such as Jacob A. Riis tempered his conservatism and led him to embrace progressive goals and ideals.  Taft, on the other hand, lacked TR’s communication skills, pragmatism, or political instincts.  First Lady Helen Herron “Nellie” Taft enjoyed smoking, drinking, and gambling at cards.  Her husband’s closest adviser, she suffered a stroke two months into his presidency; otherwise Taft might have been a two-term president.  The Japanese cherry trees that blossom each spring in the nation’s capital owe their existence to her; in fact in 1912 she planted the first two saplings herself.

Anne Balay is traveling to South Bend for a Women’s and Gender Studies Conference.  IUN students are delivering papers, including one by Heather Gray titled “First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes Mommy without a Baby Carriage: Women’s Decisions to Remain Childfree.”   Samantha McQuen, Ebony Hicks, Eliot Gabel, and Eleny Babilonia are taking part in a session entitled, “Inside-Out Prison Program: Students and Offenders Studying Together.”  If I could hear just one paper, it would be “Constructing a Lesbian Batterer” by Amanda Board.
Amanda Board hanging Clothesline Project t-shirt
Jerry Davich reprinted a column he did in 2006 about seeing if he could get through the Dune Acres guardhouse after several other reporters tried and failed.  He was let in, but then a guy in a green minivan followed him wherever he went.  Afterwards he wrote this sarcastic comment on a Dune Acres online Guest Book: Greetings Dune Acres! We had the pleasure of visiting your wonderful town today and we were even chaperoned by a town official, Road Commissioner Irv Call, who followed us like a stalker through your public streets, and then to the public beach, and again through your public streets, until he made sure we left the town limits without causing any crimes, mischief or vandalism. And he also made sure we didn’t illegally park on any streets or turn around in anyone’s driveway. Your road commissioner then referred to us as ‘creepy’ for invading your town. We felt so special and – of course -
welcomed. Thanks for the hospitality.”

The Engineers won two games from Town Drunks.  Their lead-off man, Joe Piunti must have had a dozen splits.  My best game was 172; the last three frames I buried my first ball, only to leave ten-pins, but I converted all three, going across alley after missing three others earlier trying to throw a back –up ball.  Dick Maloney had his best night in weeks.

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