Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Major Major

“Major Major had been promoted by an I.B.M. machine with a sense of humor almost as keen as his father’s.”  Joseph Heller, Catch-22”
 Bob Newhart as Major Major (1970)

When promoted, Major Major actually became Major Major Major.  Joseph Heller’s biting satire seems more than relevant, some 43 years after its publication, in today’s dysfunctional political environment. Heller wrote:

  Major Major’s father was an outspoken champion of economy in government, provided it did not interfere with the sacred duty of government to pay farmers as much as they could get for all the alfalfa they produced that no one else wanted or for not producing any alfalfa at all. He was a proud and independent man who was opposed to unemployment insurance and never hesitated to whine, whimper, wheedle and extort for as much as he could get from whomever he could.”

The highlight of IUN’s annual Arts and Sciences Holiday Party was Mark Hoyert’s humorous bit about his son’s friends discussing the choice of a major.  Claiming he himself changed majors many times while at the University of Maryland, Hoyert passed on the advice of humorist Dave Berry to stay away from majors such as math and science that involve actual facts.   Instead, Berry said tongue-in-cheek:  The passage from Berry read by Hoyert intimated that philosophers were high on drugs, sociologists were all Marxists, and English professors think lunatic interpretations of novels are enormously creative.  Regarding Psychology, Hoyert’s chosen field, Berry wrote: “This involves talking about rats and dreams. Psychologists are obsessed with rats and dreams. I once spent an entire semester training a rat to punch little buttons in a certain sequence, then training my roommate to do the same thing. The rat learned much faster. My roommate is now a doctor. If you like rats or dreams, and above all if you dream about rats, you should major in psychology.”

Having trouble with his notes while in the middle of a song that he claimed to have heard on the car radio, Hoyert drew laughs when he adlibbed, “We went under an overpass.”  Among the tunes Hoyert parodied was “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes, only he changed it to “Get a Major.”  Thus, we were treated to these lyrics:

“Sha na na na - sha na na na na

Sha na na na - sha na na na na

Sha na na na - sha na na na na

Sha na na na - sha na na na na

Dip dip dip dip dip dip dip dip

Mum mum mum mum mum mum

Get a Major.”

Though disappointed that there were no scallions or Cole slaw as usual, I had ample amounts of chicken, salad, mashed potatoes, and gravy, with room left over for a couple cookies.  I enjoyed talking with recently retired Dorothy Grier (with a grandchild in tow) and David Parnell, whose in-laws live in Chicago (good news, as it increases the odds that, like fellow historian Chris Young, he’ll stay at IUN rather than regard his position as a stepping stone to something more prestigious. Jack Bloom reported that his oral history of Solidarity, “Seeing Through the Eyes of the Polish Revolution,” is now out in paperback, at $24 on Amazon just one-sixth the price of the 2013 hardback.
Christmas shopping with Toni at Jewel, I ran into former IUN Vice Chancellor John Black, a great supporter of Steel Shavings, who was unjustly terminated during the previous regime.  He looked great, and it turns out he lives in Chesterton just a couple miles from us.  Jerry Pierce, inexplicably denied tenure a few years ago, has a chapter (“Autonomy, Dissent, and the crusade Against Fra Dolcino in 14th Century Valsesia”) in a just published book entitled “Religion, “Power and resistance: Playing the Heresy Card.”
Speaking of unjust terminations, Anne Balay has both daughters home to help host her Christmas Eve party.  Facebook’s photo scrapbook, entitled “Anne’s Year,” included one posted just hours before of Emma and Leah putting together a gingerbread house.

Our grandkids and their family arrive today.  Let the holidays begin.

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