Monday, February 13, 2017

Independently Blue

I’ve never seen a bum pushing a shopping cart with a flag sticking out
of his can, but I’m not saying that doesn’t exist.
This is America, after all.
         “Independently Blue,” Julien Poirier
According to Matthew Zapruder, Julien Poirier (above), a San Francisco poet, employs a “casual and anarchic wit, love of high and low culture and willingness to be sentimental – but also a California surrealism.”  Zapruder selected “Independently Blue” for inclusion in The New York Times Magazine and described its mood as bemused disgust with just a hint of optimism. Here’s the entire poem:
It’s easy to fly a flag when you live in a nice house
in a beautiful city.
Things have worked out nicely for you,
and you think everyone can agree
this is the greatest country on earth.
The Bay Area is full of hikers with portfolios.
Goggles in German skycar ride my ass past the prison.
The day they break that prison down
to a funhouse, and the rapists to mirrors,
I’ll fly a flag.
I’ve never seen a bum pushing a shopping cart with a flag sticking out
of his can, but I’m not saying that doesn’t exist.
This is America, after all.

J. Michael Ferguson’s Oral History Review essay on George Lepre’s “Fragging: Why U.S. Soldiers Assaulted their Officers in Vietnam” noted that fragging was rare until after the Tet Offensive.  Then, during a four-year span between 1968 and 1972, as army morale deteriorated due to a seemingly pointless war, the numbers became staggering: almost a thousand reported instances, with hundreds injured and at least 57 dead. Lepre debunks the common myth of soldiers in the field tossing fragmentation grenades into the tent of gung ho officers who needlessly placed their lives in danger.  Indeed, most fraggings occurred in noncombat support units where lives were not at risk.  More likely, it was over personal conflicts or trivial matters such as reprimands over hair length, falling asleep on guard duty, or drug use.  In fact, many fraggings took place while the offenders were high.  Thus, Lepre concludes that rather than being understandable efforts at self-preservation, fragging were malicious acts of murder.  The breakdown in discipline, Ferguson writes, “was a reflection of the social upheavals of the late 1960s, including the questioning of authority, racial tensions, and drug experimentation.”
 Pat Bankstown looks on as Dr, Janet Seabrook of Community Health Net signs letter of intent

IUN Medical School dean Pat Bankston has achieved a long-sought goal to give students access to residence training at a health care institution in Northwest Indiana.  Doctors frequently practice medicine in the area where they completed their residency, so this will help combat the shortage of local physicians.  As Erica Rose wrote for IU Northwest News: Leaders from nine Northwest Indiana health care institutions gathered at Indiana University School of Medicine to sign a formal letter of intent leading to the creation of the Northwest Indiana Graduate Medical Education Consortium.  The signatures represent a promise from leading health care providers in the region to create and apply for residency positions in their organizations.”
 Grace Teuscher, second from left

Saturday after I made pancakes and Polish sausage for James and took him bowling, Toni and I drove to niece Lisa and Fritz Teuscher’s place in Granger, a South Bend suburb. Lisa’s sister Mary Ann and kids Bella and Ben were visiting from Tampa, as well as sister Michelle from Indy.  I had a delicious steak sandwich from Jersey Mike’s in Mishawaka and learned there’s also one in Schererville.  I chatted with Grace, a tenth grader who plays several instruments and is in pep band.  Brother Oliver was sporting long blond hair, like his swim teammates (he’s a diver).  We mostly sat around the kitchen table telling funny stories. Lisa and Mary Ann recalled a hair-pulling brawl over borrowed clothes.  Screaming that they were animals, their mother tried breaking it up by whacking them with a broom.

The Sunday TV basketball games (first IU and then the Bulls) were blowouts, with my teams on the losing end, so OnDemand I found “You Can Count on Me” (2000), a taut drama about siblings Sammy (Laura Linney) and Terry (Mark Ruffalo) from upstate New York whose parents died in a car accident.  She has an eight-year-old (Rory Culkin) whose father abandoned him.  All were rebels in their own way, the kid by flooding his pancakes with syrup.  The soundtrack included several Steve Earle numbers, including the haunting “Pilgrim,” recorded with the Del McCoury Band. 
I am just a pilgrim on this road, boys
This ain't never been my home
Sometimes the road was rocky long the way, boys
But I was never travelin' alone 

We'll meet again on some bright highway
Songs to sing and tales to tell
But I am just a pilgrim on this road, boys
Until I see you fare thee well 

Ain't no need to cry for me, boys
Somewhere down the road you'll understand
Cause I expect to touch his hand, boys
Put a word in for you if I can
I loved Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right” as a sperm donor for a lesbian couple who starts a relationship with his two biological teenagers.  Linney recently played Lorraine Sullenberger in “Sully” (2016).

Governor Eric Holcomb signed an executive order declaring the West Calumet Housing Project in East Chicago a disaster emergency, something predecessor Mike Pence egregiously refused to do despite dangerous levels of lead and arsenic in the soil.  Holcomb also pardoned Keith Cooper, wrongly convicted of armed robbery and “abandoned” (Cooper’s words) by Pence.  In the Post-Tribune Quickly” column was this comment:
  Thank you to Governor Holcomb and the Indiana legislature for overturning all of former Governor Pence’s backward actions.  It’s new day in Indiana, and we have a new direction, free from the ridiculous shackles.
Keith Cooper, photo by Zbigniew Bzdak

Twenty years ago, Cooper was walking home from the grocery when police stopped him over an alleged purse snatching.  While exonerated of that offense, he was charged, on the basis of faulty eyewitness testimony, with breaking into an apartment, demanding money and drugs, and shooting a victim in the stomach.  A victim of racist law enforcement practices, Cooper denied any involvement but had inadequate counsel and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.  The case began to unravel in 2005 when the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned co-defendant Christopher Parish’s conviction.  Cooper was offered the choice of a new trial or immediate release as a convicted felon.  He chose the latter, as he was desperately needed at home. His wife and three young kids had been living in homeless shelters and his mother had lost her house to foreclosure.

In 2008 Elliot Slosar, interning with the Exoneration Project, discovered that an Indiana state police lab report kept from jurors found that DNA from a hat the shooter left behind eliminated Cooper as a suspect.  Three years ago, DNA evidence pointed to a Michigan inmate serving time for murder.  Meanwhile, the key eyewitness recanted his testimony, and the Indiana parole board unanimously recommended that Cooper be pardoned.  Pence ignored the request, an inaction attorney Slosar called disgraceful. Cooper stated, “He abandoned me, but thanks to Eric Holcomb, I got my name back.  I want to shake his hand.  I want to give him a hug.  And I want to tell him he gave me my life back.  Justice has prevailed.  We won.”

In “Retired bricklayer far from sedentary,” Post-Trib columnist Jeff Manes wrote an excellent profile of Gene Clifford.  After a bowling quote from the movie “Kingpin” (1996) Manes began: It was Indiana University Northwest professor emeritus James B. Lane who tipped me off about interviewing Gene Clifford. Jimbo and Geno bowl in a senior league on Thursday afternoons in Hobart.”  After exploring Clifford’s 43-year career as a journeyman bricklayer, the piece touched on why his email address began: HuntFishBowlFly.  Regarding bowling, Clifford recalled:
              I've been bowling for over 60 years. After retiring, I volunteered as a coach for a high school boys and girls bowling team for 12 years. I still bowl in two leagues. I'm averaging about 175, which is 20 pins down from my normal average. I slipped on the ice and hurt my back a few years ago. A week ago, I had a 268 game with eight strikes in a row.
          There was a bowler by the name of Gene Rhoda from Valparaiso who was on the pro tour for five or six years. We went to high school together. In fact, the two of us washed dishes together at Strongbow Inn. I bowled in a pro-am with Walter Ray Williams and Mark Roth once in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
Walter Ray Williams, Jr., first bowler to win 100 PBS tournaments
Manes mentioned that Clifford built model airplanes as a kid and in his spare time constructs birdhouses and bird feeders.  On Thursday, I’ll see if he’ll sell me one of the latter.
 St.Joseph's College Church

St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer is closing due to a debt of $27 million and annual deficits of nearly $5 million.  With a population of less than 6,000, the city will be sorely affected. Retired English professor John Groppe stated: I’ll feel a tremendous sadness come the fall, when I pass the college. It will be a ghost town.  I don’t think that’s yet to be felt by the community at large. But it will be, come August, when a whole new class would have come in, with parent bringing kids to campus – they’re not going to be here. We’ll know, Saint Joseph’s wasn’t quite resilient enough this time. That’s devastating for all of us.”

IUN’s Kathy Spicer posted this message:       
  IU Northwest has reached out to officials at Saint Joseph’s College to provide assistance and flexibility to students seeking to continue their education. We welcome Saint Joseph’s College students to apply to any of our more than 70 degree programs and are committed to helping facilitate a smooth transition. This includes providing personalized, one-on-one assistance with transfer options and waiving the application fee for admission to the university.
Lady Gaga with Metallica; below, Twenty-One Pilots receive Grammy
Grammy highlight: Lady Gaga joining Metallica to sing “Moth Into Flame” from the heavy-medal band’s CD “Hardwired . . . To Self-Destruction.  The final lines go:
Sold your soul
Build the higher wall
Now you’re thrown way

Same rise and fall
Who cares at all?
Seduced by fame
A moth into the flame

Addicted to the
Marianne Brush, who saw Twenty-One Pilots recently in Chicago, enjoyed watching Tyler and Josh strip down to their underwear upon winning the award for best pop performance for their song “Stressed Out.”
 Peter Aglinskas; NWI Times photo by John J. Watkins

Peter Aglinskas is up for an IU Founder’s Day teaching award, so I wrote this recommendation, which he said truly made his day:
            I believe Peter Aglinskas to be a master teacher.  I have observed him in the classroom, speaking to community groups about world music, and hosting a “Film Noir’ series at Valparaiso University.  He is learned but not pedantic, engaging in an interactive manner, and extremely enthusiastic about the importance of his subject matter.
In a class at IU Northwest on the history of popular music, Aglinskas seamlessly went from talking about a piece of music to playing a few notes on a piano.  Students had an excellent rapport with him and appeared to feel free to inject their opinions without fear of being put down or made to feel stupid.  Quite the opposite.  I learned new insights about a subject I thought I knew a lot about.
Aglinskas is excellent classical guitarist, and I saw him perform at Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City.  Evidently, he thought he was hired to play background music during an art exhibit, but more than 50 people gathered expressly to listen to him, including several of his IUN students.  In between numbers he provided a scholarly account of the song as well as anecdotal comments on why the particular songs appealed to him.  He was charming, and it was for many of us an evening to remember.
His “Film Noir” series has become so popular, it is still going strong in its third season.  Each time I’ve attended, I’ve seen retired IUN faculty and staff, as well as community leaders.  Aglinskas is a tremendous ambassador for the university and a personification of topnotch faculty community service. When I read the mission statement of IUN’s Center for Innovation and Scholarship in Teaching and Learning, to wit, creating and sustaining a diverse community of learners requires faculty to commit to facilitating learning opportunities for all of their students,” I could think of no better example of one who lives up to that ideal than Peter Aglinskas.

Diana Chen-Lin will be offering a course on East Asian popular culture. She knows about Korean singers Rain (“It’s Raining”) and Psy (“Gangnam Style”), whose success has spawned a glut of boy groups, one of the most popular being BigBang. 

Joe Gomeztagle gave an excellent presentation on “Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China” by Jung Chang.  Gomeztagle noted that among her accomplishments was banning foot binding of women.  After I noted that Jung Chang’s was a more balanced view of Cixi than found in most works by American or Chinese scholars, Joy Anderson said male authors have a tendency to disparage women in history and cited the demonization of Mary Todd Lincoln as an example.   With Joe was his boos SPEA dean Karl Besel (below), who has a book coming out entitled “Passing the Torch: Planning for the Next Generation of Leaders in Public Service.”  It seems especially relevant as Baby Boomers in increasing numbers are facing retirement.  Besel co-authored a previous book entitled “Back to the Future: New Urbanism and the Rise of Neotraditionalism in Urban Planning.”
Below, Coach Ryan Shelton

IUN Lady Redhawks fought gamely against undefeated St. Francis University in Joliet, Illinois.  The Fighting Saints were quicker than the Lady Redhawks and executed numerous fast breaks. Their 6’1” power forward Jordan Giddings dominated inside and for good measure hit a couple three-pointers.  Once again, I enjoyed the energy coming off the bench of Weslee Wilson and Alexis Blake, and the hustle of the Redhawks’ “Big Three” of Nicki Monahan, Bernadette Grabowski, and Grayce Roach.  At halftime Coach Ryan Shelton honored Monahan for scoring over 2,000 points during a four-year career, second only to Sharon Houston.  It’s difficult for Shelton to recruit black players since those with talent generally get scholarships away from the Region. Still this year’s 23-5 record isn’t too shabby.

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