Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Morticia to Gomez: “Last night you were unhinged.  You were like some desperate, howling demon.  You frightened me.  Do it again!” Addams Family 
While unhinged can refer to a dislodged door, its most common meaning is deranged or mentally unbalanced.  It is also the name of a 1982 horror movie, an expansion set to the card game Magic: The Gathering, and the titles of a Caite Kelly book about suicide and a young adult “Splintered” fantasy by A.G. Howard.
 above, Amy O'Brien and Darren Serhal; below, Angelica Huston

A large, diverse crowd attended a Memorial Opera House production of “The Addams Family: The Musical” – a kooky, apropos choice for Halloween season.  We were with Dick and Cheryl Hagelberg; Angie, Becca, and James decided to go at the last minute and got balcony tickets.  The Hagelbergs had seen a Chicago performance starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwith (Frasier’s TV wife).  Playing Morticia was sultry Amy O’Brien, at five feet ten an imposing, well-endowed matriarch reminiscent of Angelica Huston in the 1991 film.  My favorite line was Morticia recalling her pride when daughter Wednesday, played by Valparaiso H. S. senior Laura Riggle, ate her first worm.  Becca and Riggle were in a Star Plaza production of “Annie,” Becca as Molly and Laura in the title role.  Darren Serhal as Gomez was hilarious, employing a Spanish accent and a devilish laugh.  When the orchestra struck up the familiar "Addams Family" theme song, audience members snapped their fingers and clapped. Judah Ball as Uncle Fester and Mark Bonich as the butler Lurch got frequent laughs.

At Pesto’s I had Stella on draft, steak salad, and delicious rolls and at home watched the Cubbies lose a second game against the Mets, who in 1969 ruined Chicago’s pennant hopes.  The next three contests will take place in the hopefully “friendly confines” of Wrigley Field.

In Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral” the daughter of a successful businessman becomes unhinged over Vietnam War atrocities and becomes a terrorist.  In the final scene family and friends are debate the meaning of Watergate and the mainstream popularity of the pornographic film “Deep Throat.”  Concerning the shattering of standards and the rampant permissiveness of the 1970s, Roth concluded: “The breach had been pounded in the fortification and would not be closed again.”

The nickname for Watergate investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s secret source, Mark Felt, was Deep Throat.  The subject of Woodward’s “The Last of the President’s Men” is Richard Milhous Nixon’s deputy chief of staff Alexander P. Butterfield.  Best known for revealing to Senate investigators the existence of a White House taping system, 89 year-old Butterfield recalled that Nixon “seemed to hate everybody.  The resentment festered.  And he never mellowed out.”  For example, Nixon became unhinged upon spotting photographs of John F. Kennedy in the Executive Office Building and ordered a sanitization to get rid of them.  “The whole thing was a cesspool,” concluded Butterfield, who in 1974 was relieved when Nixon resigned the office of President.
New York Times Sunday Magazine cover, Oct. 4, 2015

After Jeb Bush bragged that his brother had kept America safe during his presidency, Trump pointed out that thousands died on September 11, 2001, because George W. Bush had been lax in allowing terrorists to enter America.  “The Donald” trumpeted: “When you talk about George Bush – say what you want, the World Trade center came down during his time.”  Had he been president, he alleged, “there’s a good chance that those people would not have been in the country.”  Trump has called Bush protégé Marco Rubio a “perfect little puppet” and, after the last debate, quipped, “I’ve never seen anybody sweat like that.” It brought to mind Nixon perspiring in 1960 when facing off against JFK.

Watching Jeopardy, I knew all the words containing the letters “ette” (i.e., omelette, roulette and suffragette) as well as eighteenth century celebrities Russian czar Peter the Great, Louis XVI’s wife Marie Antoinette, French playwright Moliere, and Methodist cleric John Wesley.

Chuck Logan pointed out that the subject of a New York Times feature by N.R. Kleinfield titled “The Lonely Death of George Bell” was his stepfather’s cousin.   A hoarder and semi-recluse, Bell had worked for a moving company until 1996, when he hurt his shoulder and spine lifting a desk.  From then on he lived on workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, and a pension from the Teamsters.  The police found his body in a Queens apartment after a neighbor smelled a fetid odor and called 911.  Bell had last been seen six days earlier, on a Sunday.  On Thursday, Kleinfield reported:
  There was a break in his routine. The car he always kept out front and moved from one side of the street to the other to obey parking rules sat on the wrong side. A ticket was wedged beneath the wiper. The woman next door called Mr. Bell.  His phone rang and rang.

I improved to 4-2 in Fantasy football thanks to Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Jonathan Stewart, who wasn’t expected to do much against Seattle’s defense but scored twice.  When the Eagles’ linebacker DeMeco Ryans ran back an intercepted pass for a TD, I let out a whoop!  The rout was on.  Final score: Jimbo Jammers 110, PAL – The Fire 62.

Ron Cohen spoke to Steve McShane’s Indiana History class about School Superintendent William A. Wirt and his work-study-play Gary school plan.  The students’ family histories are due soon, and I asked them, if possible, to take selfies with the main people they interviewed.  As per custom, Cohen brought me issues of The Nation and New York Review of Books.  In the latter was James Surowiecki’s article entitled “Why the Rich Are So Much Richer” on Gary-born economist Joseph Stiglitz.  Surowiecki wrote:
  In the years since the financial crisis, Stiglitz has been among the loudest and most influential public intellectuals decrying the cost of inequality, and making the case for how we can use governmental policy to deal with it.

On Facebook Anne Balay posted:
         I was asking a question of my Mellon Humanities Fellow group at Penn and I used the word "rapey," and it made me miss my IUN students SO much. You guys are the greatest, smartest, most down-to-earth humans ever, and I wish we were still working together to make that school, and the whole world, better and more fun.
 Anne Balay
Replying to Balay, Liv Kingston wrote: “You made me work hard, and I was a tiny bit scared of you; however, you are one of my favorite professors!!!  Miss you!”  Betty Villareal added: “Anne, the world is a better place because you’re in it.  I wish you were still in Hoosierville too.  Those students are lucky to have you.  You are a wonderful teacher.”

Stephen Spielberg’s Cold War saga “Bridge of Spies” stars Tom Hanks as insurance attorney James Donovan, who defends Soviet spy Rudolf Ivanovich Abel and then arranges the swap for U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. The only false note was where vigilantes shot up Donavan’s home for defending Abel, played with great dignity by English actor Mark Rylance.  The film has the Berlin Wall going up in winter when it took place in August 1961.  Due to Donovan’s efforts, the East Germans released a second American, graduate student Frederic Pryor, at Checkpoint Charlie simultaneously with the exchange on Glienicke Bridge.  Though famous in the Soviet Union as the spy who wouldn’t break, in reality Abel accomplished little during his years in America.

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