Friday, January 23, 2015

Gates of Eden

“At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what’s true
And there are no truths
Outside the Gates of Eden.”
            Bob Dylan, “Gates of Eden”

Dylan recorded “Gates of Eden” for the 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home,” and the song was also the B-side for the single “Like a Rolling Stone.”  Reminiscent of William Blake’s “The Gates of Paradise,” the imagery is bleak, evoking a corrupt and decaying society and, despite what the title might imply, debunking the myth of a glorious hereafter or the hope for an incipient, Edenic, “Age of Aquarius.”

Ron Cohen loaned me “Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now” by Pater Bacon Hales, a cultural historian who concentrates on postwar atomic testing, “The Miracle on 34th Street,” Levittown, “I Love Lucy,” popular music in the 1960s, and the proliferation of video games and computer gadgets.  It’s almost as if the author decided to string disparate subjects that interested him into a thematic narrative, but Hales pulls it off brilliantly.  In “Portable Communities” he discusses pop music that teens heard on car radios, creating a sense of community apart from adults.  Regarding social media such as Facebook and Twitter, Hales concluded that they provide “powerful tools for new communities, and perilous tools for stripping privacy and even personal safety.”

Nicole Anslover has agreed to be presenter at the Merrillville History Book Club’s May meeting.  She’ll speak about her 2013 book “Harry Truman: The Coming of the Cold War” and spend a few minutes on Bess Truman, whom she talked about brilliantly on a C-SPAN series about First Ladies.
 Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Sitting in on Nicole’s class on Twentieth Century Woman, I admired how she skillfully summarized the women’s rights movement during the nineteenth century while generating class participation, particularly about the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, which discriminated against women, much to the chagrin of suffragettes Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Nicole showed a cartoon of groups, in addition to women, denied the franchise: Native Americans, criminals, and the insane.  Women’s legal status was virtually identical to that of a minor. 

Nicole’s using a reader entitled “Women’s America: Refocusing the Past” and Estelle Freedman’s “No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women.” “Feminist politics originated, Freedman believes, where capitalism, industrial growth, democratic theory, and socialist critiques converged, as they did in Europe and North America after 1800.”  Freedman writes not just about America and Western Europe, however, but examines the spread of feminism globally.
Poet William Buckley submitted an arresting abstract drawing for a 2005 “Steeltown” exhibit that Ann Fritz put together, featuring a sphere that resembles both a dark sun and a hot ingot emerging from an acid pit.  Writing an artistic statement in the form of a poem, Buckley told Fritz, “I need a sense of place before I feel its line and color.”  He went on:

“You’d think it wouldn’t take long here,
That expression would be easy
In this ocher-grey, on this land
That balances beauty between steel and water.

It isn’t the curve of dunes or grain
Or the jet-blue coils from rolling mills
That bundle up those private moments
We do not want, or can’t afford.

But the hard light, and dark-line,
The kind even a deKooning couldn’t bend,
The kind that drove Pollock in his death-Buick
To the tangle of his vision.

The truth is that here,
Lines roll up inwardly,
While our colors look like dark suns,
Dipped in acid.”

Beverly Taylor-Morris, sister of IUN librarian Audrea Davis, passed away peacefully at age 73.  The Froebel grad put up a brave fight for years, Audrea said, and lived longer than doctors had predicted, cherishing each day.  Still, her son was taking the loss of his favorite aunt hard.  When I ran into her and Oz (Mike Olszanski), they were talking union.  He has been suffering from sciatica and was getting around with the help of a walker but hopes a cortisone shot will bring improvement. David James passed on to him Winston Churchill’s advice, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”

At lunch I introduced Oz to Jonathyne Briggs.  Teaching a course on youth protest since World War II, Jon invited us to attend any time.  Oz might take him up on it. Winner of the 2014 IUN teaching award (like historians Chris Young two years ago and Jerry Pierce two before that), Jon is urging Nicole Anslover to apply.  She’d be an excellent choice.  Jon’s book on French pop music is due out in ten days (it’s already on Amazon), and he has a new article in the latest issue of the French journal Souvenirs.  Like Robert Blaszkiewicz, Briggs is a big fan of Sun Kil Moon, Tweedy, New Pornographers, and The War on Drugs, whose song “Under the Pressure” ends:

Lying in a ditch
Pissing in the wind
Lying on my back
Loosening my grip
Wading in the water
Just trying not to crack
Under the pressure
Well I'm surviving
Under the pressure

On Jeopardy the reigning champ was $3,400 in the hole when I tuned in and had just $1,700 going into Final Jeopardy; his opponents each had $7,400.  The category was Candy, and only he knew the answer, Three Musketeers.  Since the others wagered everything, he remained champ.

HBO aired a documentary about satirical street artist Banksy’s month (October 2013) in New York City, during which time he secretly produced an art piece each day.  It turned into a scavenger hunt for his many fans.  These ranged from sayings and simple pieces to moving artistic statements and elaborate happenings.  My two favorites: a delivery truck filled with stuffed animals driving through the meatpacking district, and an old man at Central Park selling a display of small spray art pieces that were on sale for $60.  At the end of the day he made just $420.  Now the pieces are each worth about a quarter million dollars.  Scorned by snobby art critics, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who called him a vandal), and most New York graffiti artists (some defaced various pieces), Banksy pulled off the fantastic stunt without ever showing his face.

I took in a double feature of acclaimed movies, “The Imitation Game” (about a troubled math genius who helped crack the Nazi code Enigma) and “American Sniper” (murdered by an Iraqi war vet he was trying to help).  Both movies and actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Bradley Cooper, have been nominated for Oscars.  I was prepared to dislike “American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, but Cooper was great and there were scenes (if you looked for them) that drove home the pointlessness of our efforts and the toll on those we sent as agents of misguided policies.

Judy Ayers donated 15 recipe books from Gary area church congregations going back to a 1947 publication by the Mary-Martha Division of the City Methodist Church entitled, “My Memory Cook Book.”  Its foreword promises “the choicest bits of the best experiences of many housekeepers who have long traveled the daily round of household duties – not reluctantly like drudges, but lovingly, believing ever that good cooking is the housewife’s best art.”

A 1952 volume published “by the ladies of Bethel Lutheran Church” contains many Scandinavian recipes, including one of my favorites, Swedish Potato Sausage, submitted by Ingrid Swetlick.  In addition to salt, pepper, and casings, the three ingredients are two pounds of pork, six potatoes, and two onions.  Here are Mrs. Swetlick’s directions: “Run potatoes and onions through food chopper and mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Fill prepared casings to about 12 inches in length, tie to form rings, and SIMMER for about one hour.  Active boiling may cause casings to burst.”  

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