Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving weekend

“To succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”  Reba McEntire

Born in 1955 in McAlester, Oklahoma, Reba McIntire sang at rodeos while in high school.  Her dad was a steer-roping champ, and Reba was married for ten years to a steer wrestler.  The country singer was sold 80 million records, played Annie Oakley on Broadway in “Annie get Your Gun,” and had a hit TV show for six years. In 1990 eight members of her band died in a plane crash.  She dedicated her next album, “For My Broken Heart,” to them, featuring the song, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” about a daughter’s lament.  One verse goes:
           “He was good at business
But there was business left to do
He never said he loved me,
Guess he thought I knew.”
Republican staffer Elizabeth Lauten resigned after criticizing Malia and Sasha Obama for the way they looked and acted at the annual turkey pardoning ceremony. This Facebook rant of hers went viral: “Act like being in the White House matters to you.  Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.  And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.”  Evidently Malia winced and said, “Nah” when asked if she wanted to pat the turkey.  Showing her true colors, Lauten added this shot at the girls’ parents: “Your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”  Sounds like it is Lauten who lacks respect. Lauten later apologized.
breakfast at Sunrise Restaurant; gaming at condo
Thanksgiving weekend at the condo saw plenty of good eating, board games (Apples to Apples, Wits and Wagers), Wii contests, and cards (pinochle, bridge, and SOB).  Phil and four of the grandkids – Miranda, Tori, James, and Becca - were with us four days straight, while Anthony, Dave, and Angie were present intermittently.  One question in Wits and Wagers asked what year the first gumball machine appeared.  I guessed 1876; the answer was 1907.  As a joke my remaining answers made use of the numbers 1876. For number of hazardous waste sites in New Jersey I wrote down 187.6 and won; for number of countries bordering the Mediterranean I answered 18.76 and won again.  I’d have been three for three only Phil wrote down 19 for a third question, making it impossible for 18.76 to be correct.

Being a Lions fan, Phil enjoyed their routing the Bears, while I was pleased that the Eagles prevailed in Dallas.  I was uninterested in an evening game (talk about wretched excess), Seattle versus San Francisco.

My raving about “Sonic Highway” finally got Dave interested.  The latest episode was on Seattle, home to rock pioneers Jimi Hendrix, The Sonics, Paul Revere and the Raiders. Dave Grohl joined Kurt Cobain and Nirvana there as he band’s drummer.  Pioneers of the so-called grunge sound were garage bands such as the Sonics. Guitarist Nancy Wilson told Grohl that Heart moved to Vancouver because one member was a draft dodger.  In the 1990s Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana made Seattle the most happening club scene in America.

Phil and I watched James bowl, and I said hello to Chris Lugo’s granddaughter Angel, a student at Ball State.  When she was a toddler, her mother used to bring her to the bowling alley.  I told her that after I mistook her for a boy, she wouldn’t talk to me for weeks.  She admitted she was stubborn and told a friend her hair wouldn’t grow out when she was a kid.   Afterwards we stayed around to talk with John and Chris English, whose son Alex is also on James’ team, Bowling for Doughnuts.  In high school Phil and John were best friends, and John always asks how Phil is doing when see him.  
Before the Michiganders took off, the weather was so balmy Miranda and Tori went on a short walk with me.  Dave was announcing a basketball tournament at East Chicago Central.  If he or Miranda’s friend Derek were here, we would have been playing football, a past Thanksgiving tradition. 

Chicago Tribune reporter Ron Grossman compared the Ferguson disturbances to the so-called Dixmoor Riot that occurred 50 years ago in a Chicago suburb.  Both involved petty shoplifting.  In Dixmoor the owner of Foremost Liquor forcibly stopped a woman from leaving with a bottle of gin. Next day rumors spread that she had been beaten, and the store was looted. The violence continued for two more days, resulting in 37 injuries and scores of arrests.  The sentence Judge Nathan Cohen imposed on those found guilty of disorderly conduct was to write a book review of Bishop Fulton Sheen’s “Love One Another.”  Pretty bogus.

On “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Cokie Roberts expressed outrage at Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s subversion of the grand jury process and the timing of the announcement - after dark, knowing protests would surely follow.  Cokie added that there was no excuse for a virtually lily-white police force in a community with a majority black population.  Conservative Bill Kristol, smug as always, claimed the process was fair and that more Americans care about law and order than the grievances of rioters. 

Five St. Louis Rams players came out of the tunnel at the Edward Jones Dome with their hands up.  No comment so far from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who seems to be into hiding.  An arbiter overturned Goddell’s indefinite suspension of Ray Rice, arguing that it amounted to double jeopardy since Goodell had first given him a two-game suspension.  Once a videotape of Rice hitting (or slapping) his wife in an elevator went viral, sponsor threats caused Goodell to bend over backward to please them, but Rice had already admitted to what was on the tape.

An early (1984) Coen Brothers flick, “Blood Simple,” stars a young-looking Frances McDormand and features an Oscar-worthy performance by M. Emmet Walsh (the Machine-Shop Ear-Bender in “Raising Arizona”) as a crazed private detective, who has a hysterical laugh and, like characters in the Coen Brothers’ “Fargo,” has some unforgettable asides, including this “test of true love”:

  “You know, you know, a friend of mine a while back broke his hand and put it in a cast. Very next day, he falls, protects his bad hand, and he breaks his good one. So he breaks it too, you know. So, now he's got two busted flippers. So, I says to him: ‘Creighton,’ I says. ‘I hope your wife really loves you, because for the next five weeks, you can't even wipe your own god damn ass.’  [laughs] That's the test, ain't it? Test of true love.” 

I also checked out “The Lincoln Lawyer,” which I had seen when it first came out, and enjoyed the banter between Matthew McConaughey and Marisa Tomei as a divorced couple.  I discovered that Shea Whigham, who played Eli in “Boardwalk Empire,” had a minor role as the jailbird snitch.  A man of many looks, Whigham was in “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”

According to Peter Ackroyd’s “Tudors,” Henry VIII was a spendthrift who lusted after glory and had few redeeming qualities.  Breaking from the Catholic Church in order to remarry (he had a total of six wives) and produce a male heir, he profited from the confiscation of church lands and ordered an obscene number of people executed; victims included women, clerics, and officials who had served the king faithfully.  While some merely had their heads chopped off, others were drawn and quartered, disemboweled while still alive, thrown in boiling water, or slowly burned to death.  What seems truly appalling is the amount of deaths caused by doctrinal disputes that seem trivial today.
In Cincinnati over Thanksgiving with Emma and Riva’s family, Anne Balay (above) has an upcoming job interview next week and is preparing two model syllabi.  “Steel Closets” has won yet another national award.  IUN should be bragging about her accomplishment; instead my beloved university is an object of ridicule for getting rid of her.
above, Black oak scenes; below, Borman Square; by Samuel A. Love
Samuel A. Love was part of a Black Oak property survey blitz team and is preparing for a talk on Gary’s parks.  In Marquette Park Alexandra Forsythe spotted a snowy owl.

I easily won a second straight Fantasy match and finished 5-8.  I’d be in the playoffs except that an earlier tie allowed both grandson Anthony and nephew Bob to finish a half-game ahead of me at 5-7-1.

In class Nicole Anslover explained Harry Truman’s unlikely elevation as FDR’s 1944 running mate and claimed he was one of the only Presidents with little or no desire to hold that office.  I mentioned Republican campaign efforts (“Clear It with Sidney”) to tie FDR with Jewish labor leader Sidney Hillman and spreading rumors that FDR had dispatched a destroyer for his dog and that he was near-death.  FDR countered by touring New York City’s five boroughs and Philadelphia in an open car on a cold, rainy day and with the famous “Fala speech”:

“These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself - such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.”

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