Monday, May 8, 2017


“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Thomas Paine, “The Crisis”
below, close-up of Corey Hagelberg work "Salvage"

Corey Hagelberg organized and participated in a three-person gallery show entitled “Conflict” at the Marshall J. Gardner Center, displaying nine column assemblages made from recycled materials. Jason Bord, normally a sculptor, contributed woodcuts reminiscent of Corey’s work in that medium, only the theme of conflict between nature and industrial society was less subtle, more intense.  Aaron Leif Nicholson, a self-styled hot metal artist, displayed a dozen bronze, mostly helmeted busts as well as ink-on-paper portraits of such weird characters as Peyote Face and Blotter Boy.  One reminded me of former IUN professor Leslie Singer, another of 1984 Cubs pitching ace Rick “The Red Baron” Sutcliffe. I asked Aaron if he’d modeled any of the characters after real people.  They all come from my head, he told me. Last year Corey obtained money from a grant for Aaron to teach sculpture to Wirt/Emerson students.  I wondered whether the materials were expensive; Aaron said no, they mainly worked with crap iron.
Aaron (above) and Jason
At the reception were many of the usual suspects, including Gene and Judy Ayes, George Rogge and Sue Rutsen, Steve Spicer and Meg Roman, and Tom Eaton and Pat Conlin, coming from a Johannes Brahms concert in Chicago.  Pat mentioned that the woman sitting on the other side of Tom called the usher to complain that a kid near her was playing video games on an iPad during the concert.  Bill Payonk, a charter school teacher with four weeks to go, plans to work on two science fiction manuscripts during his 8-week summer vacation.  I had eaten beforehand but still enjoyed the salted nuts, guacamole, and raw veggies and dip.

Ray Smock wrote:
     By the margin of 217-213, only one vote over the number necessary for a majority, a deeply divided House of Representatives gave Donald Trump his first legislative victory by finally passing an incredibly bad bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Healthcare Act.   Its passage culminates one of the most contorted and abhorrently bad legislative processes in the annals of American lawmaking. It is the triumph of blind ideology over practical lawmaking that is supposed to serve the American people but now functions to please an ill-defined base of angry voters.
      It is, for President Donald Trump, a moment of gleeful ejaculation in his victory over the black president of the United States he hates so much. Trump is systematically trying to erase the Obama administration’s entire 8-years of governance and any legislation or executive orders bearing Obama’s name. It is the fulfillment of a sick campaign promise that had powerful demagogic appeal, enough, unfortunately, to elect Trump.
      The House Republican healthcare bill, let's call it Trumpcare, cuts $800 billion out of Obamacare. By the merest of coincidences Trump's proposed tax cut for billionaires is $800 billion. This is Robin Hood in reverse. Steal healthcare from 24 million Americans so the top half percent of the rich can be richer. This ranks among the greatest acts of thievery in American history.

Chris Sheid is back again, not at IUN but in the Region as Marketing director of St. Mary’s Hospital in Hobart.  He did yeoman service in a similar position at the university several years, quit to take a newspaper job in the Southwest, and came back to IUN a few months later.  He spent the last few years in Wyoming but evidently missed family and other Northwest Indiana ties.

 “The Straight Story” (1999), directed by David Lunch is about Alvin, a 73-year-old geezer played by Richard Farnsworth, who travels 370 miles on a lawn mower to reconcile with a brother, who had suffered a stroke.  Alvin recalled, Anger, vanity, you mix that together with liquor, you've got two brothers that haven't spoken in ten years. Ah, whatever it was that made me and Lyle so mad don't matter anymore. I want to make peace, I want to sit with him, look up at the stars like we used to do, so long ago.”  When someone asks what’s the worst thing about being old, Alvin replies, “Remembering when you were young.”  I disagree and cherish memories of sports feats, places visited, friends who’ve come and gone, etc. Some memories Alvin cannot forget, such as inadvertently killing a buddy during World War II. 

This from Jim Spicer, himself a senior citizen:
     Vernon, a senior citizen, was driving down the freeway when his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, “Vernon, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on I-25. Please be careful!”
     “Hell,” said Vernon, “It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!”
Missy Brush visiting Strawberry Fields in NYC
On August 27, 1965, the Beatles met Elvis Presley at the latter’s mansion in Bel Air, California.  Colonel Tom Parker and Beatles manager Brian Epstein arranged the rendezvous.  Everyone was nervous, and John Lennon, drinking heavily, said things that sounded to Elvis like sarcasm, such as he loved his early recordings, an implied criticism of the stuff he was singing in various lame movies.  Later Lennon said that they all were terrified because he was their hero.  Ringo Starr said later, He was pretty shy, and we were a little shy, but between the five of us, we kept it rolling [for four hours]. I felt I was more thrilled to meet him than he was to meet me.”  At one point Elvis said, “If you’re just going to sit around and stare at me, I’m going to bed.”  But then he laughed and to break the tension started playing notes to Charlie Rich’s “Mohair Sam” and Paul McCartney chimed in.  Elvis produced some guitars and they jammed on a couple Chuck Berry numbers, “Memphis, Tennessee” and “Johnny B. Goode.”  As he was leaving, Lennon yelled out, “Long live zee King” – which sounded patronizing but was probably meant sincerely.  They never met again. 
I told high school classmate and Elvis buff Phil Arnold about Ray Connolly’s “Being Elvis: A Lonely Life” and he posted a photo of himself giving blood, along with this note:  
    This is is my 80th time - ten gallons total. The blood center calls me as soon as I am able to donate again because I have 0 negative. This is the universal donor blood that they can give to anybody. It is needed by trauma centers for stuff like saving someone who has been in a car wreck and lost a lot of blood. They don't have time to test for his blood type. They just give them o-. Same thing for premature babies. There is no age limit on giving blood, so with them calling me all the time, I'm sure I will get to 100 donations someday.

IU Kokomo emeritus professor of historian Allen Safianow appreciated my mentioning his 2016 Indiana Magazine of History (IMH) article “The Challenges of Local Oral History: The Ryan White Project” in Steel Shavings, volume 46. He called the volume a “wonderful publication, rich in its diversity of materials.”  In 1988, The Historian published Safianow’s “Konklave in Kokomo Revisited” and in 1999 IMH published “The Klan Comes to Tipton.” Safianow is a fearless truth-telling who investigated stories many would have preferred to have been left buried.

Inside IUN’s street-corner library, which resembles a birdhouse, I found Bob Avakian’s “Away with All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World” (2008).  The author is a veteran of the 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the Revolutionary Youth Movement II faction of the Student for a Democratic Society.  Still an ultra-leftist, Avakian is chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA.  He titled a 2005 autobiography “From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist.”

Chancellor Lowe was pleasantly surprised that more than a dozen faculty and staff showed up at his “Coffee and Conversation’ hour in the Little Redhawk Café, given that it was during the week between semesters.  Most questions had to do with the new Arts and Sciences building and parking issues.  When someone raised the subject of food service in the summer, I chimed in that last summer the campus was nearly deserted due in part to the proliferation of on-line courses. In addition, for years the campus has stuck to an obsolete system of two summer sessions with horrible time slots rather than a single session with decent starting times.  For example, in Summer I an English prof is teaching MW from 11:15 until 2:45 and then from 3 pm until 6:15; another is teaching TR from 8 a.m. until 11:15 and then from 11:30 until 2:45.  How insane is that?  And I doubt food service will make much money off them, given the 15-minute break between classes. With a new vice-chancellor for academic affairs, Vicki Roman-Lagunas, coming on board, perhaps she could work on a viable summer program complete with seminars geared not only to incoming IUN freshmen but those going to other IU campuses and universities.  
 Vice-Chancellor Vicki Roman-Lagunas

Purdue president Mitch Daniel has made a questionable deal with for-profit Kaplan University, known for on-line offerings but with a rather shady history of false advertising and employing faculty with questionable credentials.  Without consulting faculty, Daniels secured approval from the Purdue Board of Trustees, consisting largely of those he appointed while governor of Indiana. Purdue’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution, 46 to 8, opposing the arrangement, claiming it violated “common-sense educational practice.”  According to the Lafayette Journal and Courier’s Dave Bangert:
    Pending further review from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and others, Purdue will pick up Kaplan University for a dollar, convert it from for-profit to nonprofit, and brand it as a public institution that is self-sustaining and without need of state support. The Purdue/Kaplan blend would take its place in a Purdue hierarchy that is topped by the main campus in West Lafayette and flanked by regional campuses, Purdue Fort Wayne and Purdue Northwest.
I’m no fan of the proliferation of on-line course, but at least IUN, under the leadership of CISTL (Center for Innovation and Scholarship in Teaching and Learning) director Chris Young, expends considerable resources in faculty training and research to ensure quality control over its offerings. 

Chesterton Tribune correspondent Kevin Nevers reported that Mount Baldy Beach is scheduled to re-open in the summer but not Baldy itself, due to fears that more holes might swallow visitors, like happened in 2013.  A “sand ramp” still needs to be constructed to replace a stairway swept away by a storm that left a 15-to-20-foot drop-off, and the National Lakeshore must complete surveys to guarantee that no archeological artifacts or bat species would be impacted.  Ranger Bruce Rowe told Nevers that a third rare plant survey has already been completed.

James and Becca spent Saturday afternoon helping Toni for gardening.  Afterwards, I got them to each pick one of the four favorite in the Kentucky Derby. After they selected Classic Empire, McKraken, and Irish War Cry, that left Always Dreaming, ridden by jockey John Velasquez, for me. He won on a muddy track with battle of Midway coming in second.

Jeff Manes is ending his 12-year-long run as SALT columnist for the Post-Tribune.  He told readers: Let it be known that I never missed a deadline. I would like to thank all who faithfully read my column including those who didn't necessarily agree with my politics. I put my heart and soul into every interview and continue to believe that everyone has a story to tell.  My next venture will be to write an exhaustive historical tome regarding a 100-year period (1826 to 1926) of the Grand Kankakee Marsh.  I replied, Say it ain’t so, Jeff!  You’ll be sorely missed.”  Thanking me for my support over the years, Manes wrote: “This makes your signed copies of my books collectors’ items.”
                                        Grant Fitch, Bobbie Sue Kvachkoff, and Lisa Woodruff Hedin

Adolpho and the Drowsy Chaperone

At Memorial Opera House in Valpo Toni and I enjoyed “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a hilarious parody of 1920s musicals starring Grant Fitch as “The Man in the Chair” and Lisa Woodruff Hedin in the title role.  What little conflict arises is caused by actress Janet Van DeGraff’s rash decision to give up her stage career to marry a man she met aboard a cruise ship. Her manager Feldzieg (Adam Woolever) hires a gigolo named Adolpho (Michael Glorioso) to seduce Janet (Bobbie Sue Kvachkoff), but he mistakenly beds the drowsy (meaning inebriated) chaperone instead.   African American (Deveon Williams), a senior at Valparaiso High School, shines as a servant.  This is what Grant Fitch wrote about himself for the Playbill:
  Despite being of only average intelligence and talent, Grant Fitch was a well-established actor in Northwest Indiana having played Henry Higgins, Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Brown, Don Juan, and Ebenezer Scrooge.  By the time of “The Drowsy Chaperone, the little diva had “come out of retirement” for “one last show” at least five times.

As the narrator, “The Man in the Chair” makes humorous asides about how he hates most plays, except as pure escapism, and can’t stand if they last much more than two hours.  One of his lines goes: “Everything always works out in musicals. In the real world, nothing ever works out and the only people who burst into song are the hopelessly deranged.”  Pretending to be playing a record album, at one point when he supposedly puts on the wrong record, the cast comes out in Oriental costumes as if they’re in a totally different play.  Later, it appears the power went off due to a blown fuse, and Opera House technical director Scott “Stretch” Miller made a humorous cameo appearance.  Before the finale, The Man in the Chair says: “I know it’s not a perfect show, but it does what a musical is supposed to do: it takes you to another world, and it gives a tune to carry with you in your head when you're feeling blue.”  My favorite number, “Toledo Surprise,” was full of double entendres; here’s a sample:
Chop the nuts, pound the dough
Bake it up, nice and slow
Then you got a Toledo Surprise
Pit the peach, peel the skin
Mush it up, throw it in
That's a tasty Toledo Surprise
First you beat it up, then you sweet it up
When you heat it up, if it tries to rise
Don't let it
What the hot Toledo does to my libido
Good? Mmmm, yes indeedo
Squeeze the cream, grease the pan
Lick the spoon, flip the flan
Makes you bust your tuxedo
Toledo Surprise
Makes me twitch, makes me shake
This dessert, takes the cake
Hits me like a torpedo
Toledo Surprise

I was up till 1 a.m. watching the Cubs lose in 18 innings to the hated New York Yankees.  I dozed off in the middle innings but woke up to watch Chicago rally for three runs in the bottom of the ninth against ace closer Aroldis Chapman.  The final Yankee run came on a bunt, an error, a sacrifice, and a fielder’s choice.
 Naval commander and Chinese hero Zheng He

At Gino’s in Merrillville for a history book club presentation on Louise Levathes’ “When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433,” (1994) I sat next to Judge Lorenzo Arredondo and across from Jim Platt, and we traded anecdotes about Lake County politicians of years past who were in cahoots with illegal activities in such places as the Big House, a gambling establishment in East Chicago.  Lorenzo said that kids would warn gangsters if police were approaching in return for spending money and, in one case, baseball uniforms. Rich Olszewski gave an excellent presentation stressing the mammoth size of the Chinese ships and fleet under the command of a six-foot eunuch named Zheng He and the economic, security, and diplomatic benefits of trade with Calcutta and the Spice Islands.  After the death of Emperor Zhu Di, in a perverse turn of events, conflict between Confucian officials and a corrupt eunuch named Wang Zhen led to China turning inward under less adventurous leaders.  I mentioned that scholars, including Levathes, generally reject the thesis of best-selling author Gavin Menzies in “1421: The Year China Discovered America” (2003) that that Zheng Di’s fleet reached the Western Hemisphere on one of its voyages.

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