Thursday, September 15, 2016


“Jerry: You’ll be stunned.
Elaine: Stunned by soup?
Jerry: You can’t eat this soup standing up.  Your knees buckle.”
         Seinfeld, “The Soup Nazi” episode, 1995

In her account of the popular Nineties sitcom Jennifer K. Armstrong defined “Seinfeldia” as a place where elements of fiction and reality commingled.  Often inspired by real-life situations experienced by co-creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld episodes often echoed everyday occurrences. The “Soup Nazi,” for instance, was an exaggeration of the behavior of Al Yeganeh, chef at Soup Kitchen International in Manhattan. Yeganeh benefitted from the notoriety but resented the use the word “Nazi.” In “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993) Meg Ryan as reporter Annie Reed makes reference to a similar ogre, telling her editor, “This guy sells the greatest soup you’ve ever eaten, and he is the meanest man in America.” The Soup Nazi’s signature line: “NO SOUP FOR YOU,” sometimes followed by “COME BACK ONE YEAR!  NEXT!”

I returned “Seinfeldia: How a Show about Nothing Changed Everything” to Westchester library and checked out CDs by R.E.M and Neil Young plus New Yorker essayist Ian Frazier’s “Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting Pieces.”  It contains a chapter on the 4 to 5 million feral hogs in the wild, mainly in Southern and Western states. Domesticated hogs are adept at rooting under fences to escape, after which they reproduce rapidly, adjust quickly, and become, according to Frazier, infestation machines.

To my delight the “Best of R.E.M.” CD contained “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”  It’s about trying unsuccessfully to understand young people and contains lines such as “I’d studied your cartoons, radio, music, TV, movies, magazines” and “withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.”  The title stemmed from a 1986 incident where an assailant attacked CBS news anchor Dan Rather and kept uttering the words, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?” The song reminded me of a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” scene where Larry David is a chauffeur and asks John McEnroe how frequently he has sex with his wife. 
WXRT morning host Lin Brehmer often plays without explanation brief TV or movie excerpts between songs.  Today it was the sound of coughing and gagging that I swear came from the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode where Larry has a pubic hair caught in his throat.

David Parnell opened with a mini-lecture on the 1101 “Crusade of the Faint-Hearted.” Three years earlier, Count Stephen-Henry of Blois had deserted Crusader forces at Antioch.  Upon arriving home wife Adela (daughter of William the Conqueror) berated him for cowardice (wonder what she had going behind his back), so bck to the Levant he returned.  Stephen perished at the hands of Egyptian Fatimids during the 1102 battle of Ramlah. 

Halfway through class students formed four groups, and David told each to come up with two interpretations to views of Anna Comnena expressed in The Alexiad.  My group was to select two antagonists of Anna’s father, Emperor Alexius.  We came up with the duplicitous Bohemond of Antioch and the Seljuk Turk commander Kerbogha.  Hardly anyone had finished the assigned reading, so it was a clever strategy to get students to peruse the pages prior to completing a five-page paper on The Alexiad, due Monday at midnight (imagine).  Two representatives reported on each group’s conclusions, which elicited lively discussions. 
 Bohemond of Antioch portrait by Francois-Edwourd Picot

In from California, old neighbor John Laue sought advice on publishing a history of Indiana Dunes National Park leaseholders, including Save the Dunes activists and former residents of the vanished community of Edgewater, where we both lived for decades.  Afterwards, I drove to Waverly Beach in Porter and gawked at the white caps produced by a brisk north wind.  The surf was pounding the shore “with the throb of an engine,” as Simone de Beauvoir put it.  I spotted two ore boats and Chicago’s Loop to the northwest.  I skipped a few stones and filled a pants pocket with others to put by the side of our garage.
above, E. Ric Frataccia
crowd (above) and Chesterton student Julie Graff (below) oppose SSCA; Post-Trb photos by Kyle Telechan

A group is seeking approval to start a charter school, the South Shore Classical Academy (SSCA), in Valparaiso.  Students supposedly would read original texts of classics such as Dante’s “Inferno” and Aristotle’s “Poetics.”  WFT?  Boring!  Public schools would lose approximately $6,000 for each charter school student.  At a heavily attended public meeting Valparaiso Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia stated, “Charter schools are supposed to fill a need.  I don’t see the need. We don’t need it – it’s a waste of public resources.”  Duneland Superintendent David Pruis agreed, saying, “In our view, this school does not fill a void but dilutes the human and fiscal resources of local public schools.”  Chesterton Tribune reporter Kevin Nevers wrote:
  Thirteen people spoke against SSCA during the 90-minute hearing, 12 in favor of it, and three more said they were undecided on the issue.  Yet the format of the hearing – in which supporters of the alternated with the opponents – tended to under-represent the latter, since many more people signed up to speak against SSCA than did to speak for it, by roughly a four-to-one margin.
Porter County Council member Sylvia Graham, a Democrat, argued, “There’s one big pot of money, and all these charter schools are skimming off the top.  Public schools will be extinct in the next few years if this continues.”  That seems to sum up the mission of Republican legislators who support SSCA. 

P/S. The following day, SSCA supporters withdrew their efforts to launch the charter school due to the overwhelming opposition. 
R.I. P. at age 93: Northwest Indiana billionaire Dean White, who made his fortune from billboards.  In 1994 White said, “One thing I’ve never worried about was ego.  I’m not a Donald Trump.  I don’t care about being high profile.”  Jeff Manes wrote:
Dean White was my kind of billionaire, born and raised along the Kankakee River in Shelby and a World War II vet. When Patty [Wisniewski] and I first tried to raise funds for our film, it was the Dean and Barbara White Foundation that gave us $10,000 to make "Everglades of the North: The Story of the Grand Kankakee Marsh."  May you rest in peace, Mr. White.

Once again, the Engineers won a single game, this time against Pin Spinners.  Opponent Judy Ward, carrying a 151 average, rolled 200 in the one close contest.  I edged out Robbie for most pins above average (just 8) with two 158s plus the third in the 130s.  I must have left a dozen ten-pins, including once when going for a double. I buried my ball in the pocket and used the MF word in disgust when the ten-pin wobbled but did not fall.  An opponent gave me a dirty look.  I have to remember I’m not back in the Sheet and Tin League.  Afterwards, when I said, “nice bowling with you,” the guy did not respond –to be charitable, perhaps he’s half-deaf like most of my teammates.

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