Friday, October 3, 2014

Somewhere Under Wonderland

“How do you find the bottom
when you’re in the air?
How do you find the circus?
Man, the circus is everywhere.”
   “John Appleseed’s Lament,” Counting Crows

The new album by Adam Duritz’s band Counting Crows, “Somewhere Under Wonderland,” is an impressive panorama of references to everyone from Elvis Presley and Alex Chilton of the Box Tops to Johnny Applesee (nurseryman John Chapman).  Duritz references travels to places as diverse as Hollywood and “the Heart of America,” including Oklahoma, Maine, New Orleans, Colorado, New York City, and Reno.  PopMatters music reviewer Colin McGuire, calling the band fearless,  wrote: Twenty-one years after the Counting Crows’ debut breakthrough cut between the rock radio noise and launched this band’s career, they are still finding ways to win the battle against irrelevancy. What other early ‘90s alt-pop-rock band can say that?”

Back home after a trip East, Anne Balay posted this lyric from the indie folk rock band Girlyman: “Nothing can prepare you for the gravity of ground.”  Perhaps Girlman got its name from misogynist Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s frequent use of the pejorative “girlie man,” inspired by a Saturday Night Live Hans and Franz routine ridiculing him.  Attacking George Bush’s Democratic opponents in 1988 and again in 1992, the body-building lunkhead movie sar claimed that “they look like a bunch of girlie men.”  While governor of California, Arnold said of legislative opponents, “If they don’t have the guts, I call them girlie men.”
 Above, Suzanne Lilar; below, Alan Barr

Steve McShane is assembling a display of books by IUN authors.  “Modern Women Playwrights of Europe” (2001), edited by Alan Barr, features the work of 17 women I’ve never heard of, I’m not proud to admit.  Translating Suzanne Lilar’s “El Burlador” (“The Trickster”) was the late Frank Caucci, one of the few openly gay faculty on campus, although in the closet until after awarded tenure, like all others but Anne Balay, who paid dearly for being openly queer.  Of Flemish background, Lilar wrote “El Burlador” in 1946 as a neoromantic retelling of the Don Juan story.  In an introductory essay Barr (I think, but possibly Caucci) wrote: “Lilar takes this legendary seducer, who lives ‘on the edge,’ challenging the laws of society, and makes of him an avatar of Eros.  The play is a celebration of the union of the carnal and the sacred, of an archetypal couple.”  The lovers are heterosexual, but Lilar’s hedonism could just as well idealize homosexual relationships.

Another book by Alan P. Barr (no doubt a revision of his dissertation) is “Victorian Stage Pulpiteer: Bernard Shaw’s Crusade”(1973).  Seeing it for the first time, I thought the title was “Stage Puppeteer,” because the only Shaw play I was familiar with, “Androcles and the Lion,” conceivably could have been staged with puppets representing the slave and the beast from whose paw Androcles extracting a thorn.  The seldom-used word “pulpiteer” means preacher and often has pejorative connotations, understandable given the controversy swirling around Shaw’s beliefs.

At a table urging students to participate in the t-shirt Clothesline Project to promote awareness of domestic violence Kaden informed me that the LGBT group Connectionz is still functioning, with a talent show in the works and Ausra Buzenas as adviser.  Maybe the fact that she is only an adjunct will protect Ausra against traditionalists.

IUN grad Marla Gee is applying for an Indiana House internship and asked if I’d write a letter of recommendation.  This is part of what I wrote:
Marla Gee is one of the most remarkable and determined people I know.  After being out of high school almost 40 years and acquiring a wealth of experiences, she enrolled at Indiana University Northwest and is now a graduate of that institution.  In classes that I team-taught I observed how thoughtful and intelligent she is.  Outside of class I came to know her as one who is eager to serve others, in particular Gary residents who need a mentor to set them on a path toward success in life.  She is polite, well mannered, politically astute, diligent and trustworthy – a perfect match, I believe, for an Indiana House Democratic Internship.  I endorse her wholehearted in the highest possible praise.”   

Last time the small market Kansas City Royals made the playoffs was 1985, when George Brett was their star.  They won a dramatic one-game elimination game, 9-8, in 12 innings.  Jeff Manes wrote: “Realize it's all about Da Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls these days and baseball is for old Democrats like myself, but that Oakland versus Kansas City game was one of the greatest ballgames I've ever watched.  Wow.  I think of the ceremony on Paul Konerko Day.  Paulie thanked the Royals for putting up with the delay of the game because of the festivities honoring him. Then, he wished them luck and said something like: ‘Go A.L. Central.’ From the dugout, each and every Royal player nodded or clapped. What a class act was Konerko.”  Too bad Pittsburgh, another small market team, didn’t fare so well as the Giants.

Nicole Anslover’s WW II Wednesday class opened with an excerpt of Hitler addressing a crowd from the German propaganda film “The Triumph of the Will.”  U.S. movie director Frank Capra studied it to learn why it was so effective.  Hitler was spellbinding in a demented sort of way; one almost expected him to start foaming at the mouth.  Several students had questions about the silly looking mustache perched between his pigstink lips and Semitic nose.  One admitted that her father admired certain aspects of Hitler.  In a discussion of the D-Day landing in Normandy in June 1944 I pointed out that a necessary precondition was controlling the Atlantic Ocean, enabling soldiers and supplies to reach Great Britain.  Nicole stressed the point that victory was not inevitable and that Hitler’s invasion of Russia breaking its Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union, was a colossal blunder. 

Electrical Engineers took all three games from Never a Doubt despite my dismal performance and a man short due to Dick’s bad knee and Frank’s golf outing.  Robbie and John both rolled 530s, and their lead-off man, normally automatic on spares, had an off night.  The best photo I took the week before of the Town Drunks got lost because Sam Grossman acquired a new phone.  I need to bring a camera next week.
 The President with Sen. Joe Donnelly and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson; AP photo by Paul Beaty

Making appearances at Northwestern and Chicago’s Soldier Field, President Obama flew in and out of Gary Airport.  A Chicago Tribune editorial predicted that he’d run for mayor in 2019 after Raul Emanuel finishes a second term.  That was Jacob Riis’ fantasy for Teddy Roosevelt’s post-presidential career.
 Jimbo and Tom Clark; photo by Steven Kruk

Invited to a Lake Central class on Career Preparations, thanks to ninth grader Brandon Wilking, who looked for a historian on Google and found me.  I arrived early in order to visit former student Tom Clark’s room, which resembled a museum.  He greeted me warmly and showed me a photo from Steve McShane of a soldier from Lake County who had died in Vietnam.  I took him my “Vietnam Veterans from the Calumet Region” Shavings, and he recalled the names of some of the interviewees.  His students were very attentive.  When I asked if anyone could take a photo of the two of us, almost everyone produced devices capable of doing so.  I told Tom to invite me back and think he should have Civil War re-enactor Will Radell visit in uniform when they reach the 1860s (right now they are back in the 1780s).

Preceding me in the Career Preparation class was an IUN Radiologic Sciences graduate, so I got a sense of what to expect.  The students had prepared questions in advance, so while the Q and A part was not spontaneous, the queries were good ones, about benefits, amount of schooling, on-the-job training, and most favorite aspects of the job (in my case, opportunities to interact with students).   I struggled to come up with a “least favorite” answer and finally said grading, explaining that most professors didn’t give true-false or multiple choice test but used essay questions and assigned term papers.  I told them the role that college professor (William H. Harbaugh) played in my switching from law school to a career in History. I told them about student teaching Amish students in Mifflinburg, PA and being in college ten years, including stops in Hawaii and Maryland.  I not only discussing teaching but research and being co-director of the Calumet Regional Archives.  Brandon escorted me to the exit, so we had an opportunity to talk.  It being “Spirit Week” at Lake Central, some students were dressed as superheroes.  Another themes that week was dressing in a style of a previous decade (for freshmen, it was the Sixties).  The Friday theme will be school colors.

Watching “Good Morning America” while at Toyota for an oil change, I heard Hoosier John Mellencamp reveal that he was born with Spina Bifida that required an 18-hour operation when he was a baby.  He didn’t even know about it until someone asked about a scar on the back of his neck.  He recently met with the now 97 year-old surgeon who performed the operation.  Two others babies with similar birth defects either died on the operating table or a few years later.  The bit opened with “Jack and Diane” playing in the background and ended with a Mellencamp song from his new CD “Plain Spoken.”

A nice crowd was on hand for the opening day of “Gone Girl,” based on a bestselling thriller about a marriage gone bad.  Stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were excellent, as were Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry in minor roles an ex-boyfriend and lawyer.  I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, but Toni would probably hate it.

Porter County’s onetime Congressman Earl Landgrebe, best known for trying to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union, appears in Rick Perlstein’s book on the fall of Nixon.  Days before he President resigned, Landgrebe told reporters that he was sticking with Dick, “even if he and I have to be carried out of the building and shot.”  Asked about the overwhelming evidence that Nixon participated in he Watergate cover-up, Landgrebe responded, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”  That fall, Landgrebe lost a bid for re-election to Purdue History professor Floyd Fithian (below).

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