“You got no time for the messenger,
Got no regard for the thing that you don't understand,
You got no fear of the underdog,
That's why you will not survive!”
“The Underdog,” Spoon
I’ve been listening to Spoon’s new CD “They Want Your Soul” (on heavy rotation with Weezer, Jonathan Coulter, Hold Steady, and Parquet Courts). My favorite song by the indie band from Austin, Texas, however, is “The Underdog,” from Spoon’s 2007 album “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” For National Vinyl Record Day I also put on “Black Vinyl Shoes,” recorded between November 1976, and May 1977, according to liner notes, “in a living room under strenuous conditions for the sole purpose of using as a demo tape.” “Someone Finer,” written by John Murphy, begins: “Go look but careful who you choose.” My hope is that the woman chosen by the English Department to be Anne Balay’s successor is half the teacher and researcher she was. My advice to her is, if you are a lesbian, keep it to yourself.
In 1909 when Gus Edwards and Edward Madden’s Tin Pan Alley standard “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” was the rage, spooning meant cuddling and kissing – in other words, making out, necking and maybe mild petting. After Doris Day sang the tune in a 1953 movie by the same name, Gene Vincent and Little Richard put out rockabilly versions that, the way they sang the lyrics (“I want to spoon, to my honey I’ll croon love’s tune”), hinted at going all the way with one’s lover.
Weathermen prepared viewers for the coming of a “Supermoon” due to earth’s natural satellite being much closer than normal, but clouds and rain the past two nights have spoiled the view. Poor weather forced IUN’s Thrill of the Grill inside to Tamarack. There was no live music and the pulled pork proved fatty. Three Business profs opted not to sit with me. Am I a pariah to them or were they merely indifferent or anxious to talk shop?
Adman Joe Harris originally created the cartoon character Underdog to help sell General Mills cereal. The NBC animated series enjoyed a run of 124 episodes starting in 1964. Wally Cox (“Mr. Peepers”) provided the voice of Underdog, who usually spoke in rhyming couplets, such as, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here.” Nickelodeon introduced Underdog to Generation Xers during the 1990s. In 2007 Walt Disney released the movie “Underdog” for Millenialists with the tagline, “Saving the World One Paw at a Time.” Alas, it was not one of the legendary studio’s better efforts.
David Ige and Neil Abercrombie
Famous underdogs include David (v. Goliath) and Ho Chi Minh (v. the U.S.). The biggest upset by an underdog in American political history was Harry s Truman’s 1948 triumph over Thomas E. Dewey, but there have been several surprises this year. Republican House Whip Eric Cantor lost a primary to a Virginia Tea Party demagogue aptly named David Brat. More recently Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie succumbed to obscure State Senator David Ige despite outspending him 10 to one. Abercrombie alienated voters in several ways but none greater than appointing Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz (like him a haole or white guy) to complete Daniel Inouye’s Senate term despite a deathbed plea by the beloved Japanese-American war hero for select Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as his successor.
On the cover of Traces are the Parisian Redheads, billed as “America’s greatest Girl Band.” The brainchild of Hoosiers Henry Z. Freeman and Charles E. Green, the 13-piece ensemble led by Tuxedo-suited conductor Bobbie Grice, performed such Jazz Age favorites as “Because My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe Now” and “We Walked Back From the Buggy Ride,” to enthusiastic crowds during the Roaring Twenties. A born trouper, Grice, according to author Evan Finch, moved one admirer to gush that “quivering gelatin in the hands of a palsied waiter could not shake like that piece of turbulent flesh.” Only Martha Tripeer was a natural redhead, but the others, mostly Hoosiers, dyed their hair or wore wigs. Like women athletes and musicians in our time, the Parisian Redheads faced sexism but enjoyed uncommon opportunities for travel and excitement. Finch concluded: “Each time a young woman picks up a horn, a drum, an electric guitar, or any other instrument considered ‘unfeminine,’ the echoes of ‘America’s greatest Girl band’ will continue to be heard.”
Paul V. McNutt
An article entitled “Franklin D. Roosevelt, French Lick, and the Road to the White House: The National Governors Conference of 1931” inspired Traces editor Ray E. Boomhower to write about Governor Paul V. McNutt, whom FDR called “that platinum blonde S.O.B.” When political guru Jim Farley was laboring to secure FDR 1932 Presidential nomination at the Democratic convention, McNutt and other Indiana delegates refused to support him. Along with Illinois politicos, they were planning to “steal the show” (according to McNutt biographer I. George Blake) and put FDR over on the fourth ballot. Before that happened, Farley successfully wooed the California and Texas delegations. From that time forth, Roosevelt looked upon McNutt with distrust and, wrote Boomhower, “thwarted any attempts by the Hoosier politician to gain his party’s presidential or vice presidential nominations.” In 1940 Farley suggested McNutt as a possible running mate for FDR, causing the President to reply: “Apparently you still have your sense of humor.” FDR selected Henry Wallace but in 1944 was pressured into dropping him for Harry Truman.
On the back cover of Traces is a full-page ad for James Madison’s “Hoosiers,” including a blurb from Lee Hamilton. Mine is better, but the former Congressman has more name recognition.
The suicide of comedian Robin Williams and death of 89 year-old Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall has overshadowed coverage of Sprint Car racer Kevin Ward, Jr.’s demise. After his car crashed against the wall, Ward left his cockpit and ventured onto the track to shake a fist at Tony Stewart, whom he blamed for causing the accident. Other drivers managed to swerve and avoid him, but Stewart’s vehicle fishtailed and struck him. Stewart, a tough guy who has been in numerous altercations with rival drivers, evidently did nothing wrong and has not been suspended nor charged with a crime.
As President Obama sends troops on a humanitarian mission to help Yazidi civilians trapped on Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain, I support the mission can’t help thinking that it is the fiftieth anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident when another president I trusted, LBJ, lied to me. While I don’t doubt the reports of atrocities committed by ISIS extremists, on the other hand, I believed propaganda disseminated to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Last week I was disappointed when Obama supported Israel’s attempts to rescue one of its soldiers who had fallen into enemy hands while pretty much remaining silent about the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including some at prayer in a mosque. Israelis evidently use the phrase “mowing the lawn” to describe the periodic incursions into Gaza to humiliate Hamas and demonstrate who’s boss. Republicans, as expected, continue to slam Obama for not doing more and being on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.
“Hands Up. Don’t Shoot” is the chant used by protestors outraged at the shooting by a policeman of unarmed 18 year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. While the population of Ferguson is approximately two-thirds black, only three of the town’s cops are African American. Witnesses claim that Brown had his hands over his head when fatally shot multiple times, apparently in the back (authorities are withholding details of the homicide as well as the shooter’s identity). Obama called the killing heartbreaking but, like Brown’s parents, called for calm in the wake of protests that police have broken up using tear gas.