“Gonna let my hair grow down my back
Gonna brace myself for the big attack
And they’ll never know what hit them when I’m gone.”
Fountains of Wayne, “Utopia Parkway"
Fountains of Wayne
I’ve been on a Fountains of Wayne kick. The first verse of “Utopia Parkway,” also the name of the New York group's 1999 album, goes:
Well I’ve been saving for a custom van
And I’ve been playing in a cover band
And my baby doesn’t understand
Why I never turned from boy to man
In English humanist Thomas More’s novel “Utopia” (1516), written in Latin, New World settlers establish a communal society where able-bodied citizens share work equally as farmers, weavers, carpenters, and masons. There is religious toleration, and priests can marry and be of either sex. More’s concept of utopian socialism was extremely influential in spawning communitarian experiments. Beheaded on orders from King Henry VIII, Thomas More was later honored by Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and canonized by Pope Pius XI. Like the imaginary Shangri-La in James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon” (1933) More’s ideal community is isolated from the evil influences of the outside world.
In “Indiana’s 200” historian Donald E. Pitzer wrote about Scottish industrialist Robert Owen, who in 1825 founded a utopian socialist Village of Unity and Mutual Cooperation in southeast Indiana after purchasing from religious leader George Rapp 180 buildings and 30,000 acres along the Wabash River. While the experiment, called New Harmony, lasted just two years, it attracted talented scholars to frontier Indiana who remained in the vanguard of progressive education (learning through doing), humanitarian reform, and the natural sciences. Son Robert Dale Owen attributed New Harmony's short-lived existence to too many “lazy theorists” and “unprincipled sharpers.” Historian William E. Wilson referred to the malcontents as “crackpots, free-loaders, and adventurers.” Long-lived utopian communes tended to need strong, dynamic religious leaders. Owen only spent a few months at New Harmony and naively trusted that his principles of equal rights and equality of duties would prevail over greed and factionalism. Even so, Donald Pitzer concludes, Owenites gave effective voice to such causes as emancipation, women’s and workers’ rights, free tax-supported public schools, libraries, and museums, producer-consumer cooperatives, and efforts at planned parenthood.
Another utopian leader profiled in “Indiana’s 200” is Eugene Victor Debs, one of my heroes and, according to contributor Leigh Darbee, “a faithful friend to all who would meet him halfway, and a constant champion of the underdog.” As Terre Haute neighbor James Whitcomb Riley wrote of the three-time Socialist Party Presidential candidate and jailbird (for opposing American participation in World War I):
And there’s Gene Debs – man that stands
And jes’ hold out in his two hands
As warm a heart as ever beat
Betwixt here and the
I couldn’t figure out how to activate closed captions with my new TV remote control. Spotting a Comcast truck in our condo courtyard, I introduced myself to trouble-shooter Paul, and he showed me what to do. It will come in handy watching the final episode of “Fargo.”
In the “Jeopardy” category Colonial New England I knew the most popular textbook (“New England Primer”) and that the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga. I struck out, however, on Final Jeopardy, which asked for the only state capital named after a signer of the U.S. Constitution. My lame guess: Franklin. Answer: Madison (Wisconsin). Of course. Only one contestant nailed it. The reigning champ guessed Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) founded by trader John Harris (1673-1748), who operated a ferry shepherding western settlers across the Susquehanna River.
Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin defied Governor Mike Pence, and Catholic Charities helped a Syrian refugee couple with two small children relocate in Indiana. Tobin labeled Donald Trump’s proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the country “offensive and unconstitutional.” Ray Smock agreed and wrote:
I humbly apologize to all Muslims in the United States and to all Muslims worldwide for the callous, un-American, and unconstitutional statements of one of the candidates for president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump. His call for banning the immigration of Muslims into the United States is beyond the bounds of political discourse, even in the United States, where our political campaigns produce some of the most outrageous and stupid rhetoric imaginable. Mr. Trump has gone way too far. He is discriminating against an entire religion and the people of many nations for his personal political gain. I am embarrassed by his demagoguery and sincerely hope that the citizens of this country will reject Mr. Trump’s poisonous views.
Let’s hope Trump stumbles like the bully in the 1958 Dr. Seuss fable “Yertle the Turtle.” King of the pond, Yertle forces other turtles to stand atop one another and climbs on them in order to set his sights on expanding his domain. Finally the bottom turtle burps, and Yertle tumbles into the mud.
Leaving IUN’s library, I noticed Bill Lowe holding a door open for James Wallace and me, while Wallace was holding a door open for the Chancellor. I exited before observing how the "Alphonse/Gaston" standoff got resolved.
above, Corey Hagelberg; below, Liz Wuerffel's"Potatoes"
I picked up grandson James on the way to Porter County Museum (POCO Muse) in Valparaiso, which was featuring the Community Supported Art 2016 “season preview” that included woodcuts by Corey Hagelberg and metal photographs by Liz Wuerffel. A brochure mentioned Wuerffel being co-director of the Welcome Project and noted that her artwork has been exhibited in Hannover, Germany, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Corey’s bio mentioned his teaching at IUN and co-founding the Calumet Artist Residency Project with partner Kate Land, adding: “His woodcuts focus on the dramatic and complicated relationship between nature and industry on the south shore of lake Michigan, one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world.” Also inside the former jail were exhibits put together by Heath Carter’s History class; the young man greeting us, Jake Just, recognized me from the tape on continuous loop about Mexican Repatriation.
James and I proceeded to Best Buy, where he bought a Christmas present for sister Becca and I picked out two CDS from the dwindling number on display – nowadays most everyone downloads tunes on line. I told James about the time in the early Eighties when I went to Hegewisch Records in Merrillville for an album only to find that the store had converted almost its entire inventory to CDs.
photos by Samuel A, Love
Chicagoans disturbed at the apparent cover-up of a police officer killing LaQuan McDonald are demanding accountability from Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Samuel joined a demonstration and wrote:
I took to the streets today with the organized Black youth of Chicago to express my support and admiration. What did they give me in return? Their LOVE. Gratitude. Trust. Respect. Inspiration. These kids are for real and they're organized! I was most impressed with the care they showed for our safety and their ability to collectively-regulate when things nearly got out of hand. If these kids bother you, well, I offer these words from Johnny Cash. Pay attention:
Yeah, the ones that you're calling wild
Are going to be the leaders in a little while
This old world's wakin' to a new born day
And I solemnly swear that it'll be their way!
You better help the voice of youth find
"What is truth?"
The NWI Times kicked off its celebration on Indiana’s Bicentennial by profiling famous Hoosiers, including the notorious Belle Gunness (above), who killed off two husbands and three children in order to collect life insurance money, as well as several dozen suitors. “Hell’s Belle,” lured men with this ad in Chicago papers: “Personal — comely widow who owns a large farm in one of the finest districts in La Porte County, Indiana, desires to make the acquaintance of a gentleman equally well provided, with view of joining fortunes. No replies by letter considered unless sender is willing to follow answer with personal visit. Triflers need not apply.” Belle’s hired hand Ray Lamphere became jealous of the many men who answered her ad; and after she fired him, he may have set her house on fire. A headless female corpse was found inside. In all likelihood, Belle had faked her own death by murdering someone else, committed the arson herself, and fled the scene after having withdrawn most of her savings from various banks shortly before the fire. Nonetheless, a jury found Lamphere guilty of arson but cleared him of murder.
IUN choir, from left, Kathy Malone, Ken Schoon, Rick Hug, Bonnie Neff, Carol Rozelle, Marianne Milich, Jane Szostek, photo by Dee Dee Ige; below, jazz pianist Billy Foster
Columnist Jerry Davich slammed Holiday office parties, especially those fueled by booze to, in his words, “create imaginary entertainment in the face of sobering dullness otherwise.” He bemoaned the “forced laughs, nervous smiles, idle chitchat and, inevitably, shop talk to fill the gaps of awkward silence.” Where once I took take them or leave them, now I look forward to IUN’s end-of-the-Fall-semester Holiday affair as a chance to see retired faculty (i.e., Dee Dee Ige, Fred Chary, Rick Hug, Leroy Peterson) and staff (Shirley Karageorge, Dorothy Grier). Though there was no booze, the food was quite good and the entertainment first class, including personable Communication professor Eve Bottando on accordion (Hug couldn’t get over how young she looked), jazz great Billy Foster on piano, and a choir headed by Kathy Malone.
In the seven-person choir (Betty Hiemstra and Delores Crawford were absent due to deaths in the family) were emeritus professors Ken Schoon and Rick Hug. The group was animated and displayed impressive syncopated moves. The highlight was “12 Days of Christmas,” augmented by audience participation. People were assigned roles (Tanice Foltz and I were in the “9 Ladies Dancing” group) and asked to act out their part on cue. Dave Parnell and Matthew Benus were a riot as a Turtle Dove and French Hen. After the Maids pantomimed milking cows, Tanice did a pirouette and I danced the Twist. The final chorus began with Drummers banging on a table and ended with Partridges fluttering their wings for the twelfth time followed by thunderous applause.
Chancellor Lowe was in high spirits. After Beverly Lewis-Burton introduced him with a witty version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” he joked that someone should remind him next year not to follow her. Lowe welcomed retirees in his address and chatted amiably with several of us. To me he quipped, “I see that you dressed up and put on a tie to go with your sneakers.” Ha! The poor guy is stuck wearing suits and spit-shine shoes to work.