Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Touch of Evil

“Quinlan: Come on, read my future for me.
Tanya: You haven’t got any.
Quinlan: Hmm? What do you mean?
Tanya: Your future’s all used up.”
         From “Touch of Evil”

I plan on attending the screening of “Touch of Evil” (1958), directed by Orson Welles, at VU’s Brauer Museum on April 21.  Previous “Thursday Night Noir” films in this, the second season of the series, hosted by IUN professor Peter Aglinskas, have included “Phantom Lady” (1944), “Dead Reckoning” (1947), and “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955).  In “Touch of Evil” Welles also plays corrupt police captain Hank Quinlan pitted against Charlton Heston as Mike Vargas, whose new bride (Janet Leigh) comes under danger.  On YouTube I watched the opening scene, known as the “crane shot”: a car blows up not far from the Mexican border, near where Vargas is kissing his wife.  There are amazing cameos by Dennis Weaver as a sexually obsessed motel clerk, Zsa Zsa Gabor as a strip-club owner and Marlene Dietrich as the madam Tanya, who delivers the famous last line about Quinlan’s future being all used up.  Critic Roger Ebert wrote: “Her words have a sad resonance because Welles was never again to direct in Hollywood after making this dark, atmospheric story of crime and corruption.”  Ebert added:
  Much of Welles' work was autobiographical, and the characters he chose to play (Kane, Macbeth, Othello) were giants destroyed by hubris. Now consider Quinlan, who nurses old hurts and tries to orchestrate this scenario like a director, assigning dialogue and roles. There is a sense in which Quinlan wants final cut in the plot of this movie, and doesn't get it. He's running down after years of indulgence and self-abuse, and his ego leads him into trouble.
I watched Ivy Meeropol’s 2004 HBO documentary “Heir to an Execution: A Granddaughter’s Story” about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, wrongly convicted during the Red Scare of passing on vital atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.  While Julius certainly was a spy who provided certain information to the Russians, such as specifications of an airplane propeller, mostly during World War II when the two countries were allies, his purloined intelligence played no role of significance in our Cold War adversary developing an atomic bomb.  It is also clear that Ethel’s transgressions, if any, were negligible.  She was tried and convicted in the hope that Julius would confess and “name names” in order to save her from the electric chair.  Through interviews with old CP members, one learns that the Rosenbergs were motivated by idealism and misguided faith in the Soviet Union as a model for a just society.  For example, Miriam Moskowitz tells Ivy, “You had to be dead from the neck up not to be radical.”  The government coerced Ethel’s brother into giving false testimony by threatening to implicate his wife, who actually typed the document he falsely accused Ethel of copying.  As Sam Roberts of the New York Times put it:
  The government framed a guilty man. It also cynically prosecuted Ethel on flimsy evidence to bludgeon the couple into confessing and implicating other Soviet agents. To justify the death penalty, not as punishment but as the ultimate weapon to win their cooperation, the government grossly exaggerated their offense - claiming the couple had stolen the secret to the atomic bomb.

Julius Rosenberg was executed first.  When Ethel entered the chamber, she turned to shake hands with matron Helen Evans and then hugged and kissed her.  After three shocks, attendants removed the straps and equipment only to discover that her heart was still beating. After two more shocks, smoke began rising from her head.  Barbaric!  Over 10,000 people showed up at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn, New York for the burial.  From her cellblock in Crown Point jail political prisoner Kathryn Hyndman wrote in her secret diary:
  Only those who have been imprisoned can understand the anguish, loneliness, and deadly monotony. The Rosenbergs are with me every waking moment, but there is no one to share my sorrow.  It hurts to see others so unaffected by this monstrous act.  The others realize innocent people do die for crimes they did not commit, but they weren’t touched by the Rosenberg case.
 Katy Perry in "Part of Me"
Choice magazine asked me to review “Hearts and Mines: The US Empire’s Culture Industry” by Tanner Mirrlees.  On its back cover is this blurb:
  From Katy Perry training alongside US Marines in a music video, to the global box office mastery of the US military-supported Transformers franchise, to the explosion of war games such as Call of Duty, it’s clear that the US security state is a dominant force in media culture.  But is the ubiquity of cultural products that glorify the security state a new phenomenon?  Or have Uncle Sam and Hollywood been friends for a long time?
I already know the answer.  “Hearts and Mines” appears to be overly theory-driven, but maybe I’ll learn something about digital gaming.  The title is a take-off on the slogan “Winning Hearts and Minds” – referring to the South Vietnamese people – easier said than done.

Some Indiana 58 law school professors have urged Senator Dan Coats to reconsider his opposition to confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.  VU Law School grad and former Lake County sheriff Roy Dominguez wrote”
  We really don't deserve a Senator who doesn't exercise independent judgment. I understand being a good Party member but there are times when gridlock requires statesmanship, not partisanship. 
This issue of affording Chief Judge, District of Columbia, Court of Appeals, Merrick Garland a fair confirmation hearing is an important opportunity to excise statesmanship. I totally agree with our Indiana law professors' call on Senator Coats not to abdicate his constitutional duty. 
This would be an opportunity to show he is in the same league with our former distinguished Senators Dick Lugar and Evan Bayh.
In a NWI Times guest commentary entitled “Online learning is virtual success” IUN Chancellor William Lowe stated that over 750,000 Hoosiers have attended college but failed to graduate and therefore might benefit from the flexibility and accessibility that distance education offers.  I have been a critic of the proliferation of online college courses but am pleased that my university is committed to ensuring that its offerings are of high quality and instructors trained properly.  Touting the CISTL program directed by Chris Young, Lowe wrote: Through IU Northwest’s Center for Innovation and Scholarship in Teaching and Learning faculty are trained with proven principles of effective online instruction. Courses developed through CISTL are peer-reviewed and closely evaluated to ensure quality instruction.”  The most promising are so-called fusion courses that include face-to-face interaction with the instructor and fellow students.

Anne Balay reports: “It's official: I will teach at Haverford/Bryn Mawr next year, and live here in Philly while finishing the trucker book.”  Anne hopes to be in Gary part of the summer, resuming daily walks along the beach.

Jim Spicer passed on this joke in reference to Viagra TV ads:
  On Easter Sunday the priest had already preached to the adults in the congregation. Next, he was presenting a children's sermon. He asked the children if they knew what the Resurrection was? A little boy raised his hand and said, "I know that if you have a resurrection that lasts more than four hours you're supposed to call the doctor."

Someone I admire greatly is considering quitting law school after one very hard year.  My first reaction was to discourage her and to reiterate that the first year is about survival and that law school gets easier after that.  At times she feels like she can’t cut the mustard. I told her, “You are one of the most intelligent people I know.”  On the other hand, fifty years ago, I was at Virginia Law School on a full scholarship but left to pursue an advanced degree in history.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made.  She has a similar alternate plan more akin to her longtime passion. I told her to follow her dreams.  The nation already has plenty of excellent lawyers. 
Being the only one in a 50-person pool to have picked Villanova to win the NCAA tournament, I stayed up for what proved to be the most exciting and satisfying finish to a spectacular down-to-the-wire contest.  With 5.7 seconds left, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit an off-balance trey to tie the score.  Then Kris Jenkins inbounded to Ryan Arcidiacono, who dribbled into the forecourt and passed to Jenkins, who nailed a long shot from way beyond the arc less than a second before the buzzer sounded.  With no clear favorite going into the tournament, I picked number 2 seed Villanova to win because they had a veteran team with an excellent point guard plus for sentimental reasons: they were from Philadelphia near my hometown, and I grew up rooting for area Big Five teams, LaSalle, St. Joseph’s, Temple, Penn, and the Wildcats.

The bastards at GEO are still seeking to open a prison for undocumented immigrants near the Gary airport.  Samuel A. Love joined demonstrators at a City Hall council meeting and reported that members “argued procedure and hurled personal cripes for two and a half hours until activists checked them and put GEO on the agenda.”

Jonathyne Briggs had a lively Sexology class on the research findings of IU professor Alfred Kinsey.  When he mentioned that Kinsey’s questionnaires of some 70 years ago revealed startling information regarding masturbation, same-sex encounters, prepubescent sexual pleasure, premarital and extramarital relations, and women’s multiple orgasms, I added Kinsey’s claim that 17 percent of males had partaken in carnal relations with farm animals.  When students expressed shock, Briggs asked rhetorically, what is worse, bestiality or killing animals for food? 

Arriving at Calumet College in Whiting to speak on my research about steelworkers in Gary and East Chicago, I noticed that the school newspaper was called “The Shavings.”  The current issue contained articles about Black Lives Matter, the Pullman National Monument, and an upcoming Humanities festival that will include a screening of “American Arab,” about the lives of two Arab Americans in the aftermath of 9-11.  Calumet Revisited forum coordinator Michael Boos greeted me warmly and had with him Steel Shavings issues on the 1980s and the history of Gary.  I gave him a copy of volume 45, telling him it was hot off the press.  He was pleased to find himself on a page with labor historian Staughton Lynd and folklorist Richard Dorson. 

Boos said to expect about 15 people, but almost twice that many showed up, including Mike Olszanski, chair of Local 1010’s environmental committee during the 1970s, whom I had enlisted for moral support and to supplement my remarks.  Oz knew Boos from the 1977 USW election when area district director Eddie Sadlowski challenged International president Lloyd McBride.  My talk touched on the history of Inland’s Local 1010, once known as the “Red Local,” and stressed the continuing need for rank-and-file militancy as a counterforce to management cupidity.  I mentioned several labor radicals who spoke at Staughton Lynd’s Labor History Workshop (held in a Glen Park storefront near IUN) during the early 1970s, including John Sargeant and Kathryn Hyndman.  I brought up Inland Steel union stalwart Bill Young, whose father had been beaten during the 1919 strike.  He himself was clubbed on the head while picketing at Republic Steel during the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre, when Chicago police killed ten demonstrators.  Young recalled: “They beat me pretty good, but I was on the picket line the next day.”  Bill Gailes said of Young, “He was a hell of a guy.  If somebody came to him with a grievance, he’d pick up the phone, call the foreman, and threaten to do this and that.  He kicked tail.”  Ruth Needleman in “Black Freedom Fighters in Steel: The Struggle for Democratic Unionism” (2003), wrote:
  Bill Young was the only African American subpoenaed to appear before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee hearings in Gary in 1958.  He was never called to testify because of an incident that occurred within earshot of the committee.  When Joe LeFleur, the government’s star witness, completed his testimony, Bill Young walked up to him with an outstretched arm, as if to shake his hand.  Young was a very large, very unforgettable man.  LeFleur, flustered, asked, “Do I know you?”  Young responded, “No you don’t but you named me anyway.”

I persuaded ten audience members to read excerpts from oral interviews, including Oz himself.  A woman gave a fantastic recital of Women’s Caucus leader Valerie Denney’s description of handling harassment.  Here is part of what Denney recalled:
    With the guys, the most outspoken leaders try you out and determine your mettle and then it’s fine.  With a woman every single person has to try you out.  That’s part of the reason it takes so long to get comfortable because you’ve got to run through everybody’s game.  Everybody runs a game on you.     For example, one guy’s game consisted of first talking dirty and then putting up a Playboy pin-up. I thought, “Should I make a big deal about this?  Is it just going to encourage him?”  I waited until he was out in the bullpen and took it down and threw it away.  He never put up another one.  He probably knew I took it down but wasn’t faced with it directly and forced to respond.  Then he started reading dirty books out loud.  I wasn’t morally offended but realized that it was some kind of attack on me to make me uncomfortable.  So I said the first thing that came to mind: I didn’t even mean it but it worked.  I said, “Sometimes I get the idea that you guys are all homosexuals.”  He stopped and never did it again.
Former IUN History major John Wolter read longtime Inland Steel griever Joe Gutierrez’s testimony:
  In 1961 at age 20 I went to the galvanized department, which was a world of its own, even though it was near the 24-inch bar mill, the weld shop, the machine shop, the 100-inch plate mill, and the spike shop.  There was not much sense of unity.  You identified with your department.  They were islands unto themselves except for a common canteen.  I got drafted in 1963, went into the army and came back to that department.  I never expected to stay past the summer.
  My first union meeting, it seemed like a closed set of people and that they wanted to keep it that way.  It looked like the Mafia sitting up in front. I was totally turned off.  I did not have the historical background in terms of knowing what the unions had done.  That wasn’t taught in school. The only union people you ever heard of was John L. Lewis.  Unless his father was a steelworker, the average kid didn’t know anything.  The union was like, “that place over there.”  The company had taken advantage of the workers for so long because of poor union leadership.  Most grievers eventually became foremen.  People would be one-time grievers.  It was a steppingstone.

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