Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beginnings


“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.” Walt Whitman
 Lovers Bill Duckett and Walt Whitman


HBO has begun offering the 2010 film “Beginners,” for which Christopher Plummer deservedly received an Oscar for best actor in a supporting role, at age 82 the oldest winner ever.  He plays Hal Fields, a 75 year-old retired museum director who comes out of the closet after his wife dies.  His lover Andy, played by Goran Visnjic, tells Hal’s son Oliver not to be threatened by the relationship.  As critic Roger Ebert wrote: “Andy truly and deeply loves the old man, with a fullness that almost shames Oliver.”  Despite having terminal cancer, Hal embraces a gay lifestyle socially and politically and seems to have found true happiness.   After Hal dies, the son finds the letter and photo he used to place a personal ad in an encounter column identifying himself as a gay man looking for a younger partner.  The role for the Canadian actor is a far cry from his playing Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” (1965). The movie contains references to the murder of Harvey Milk, Alan Ginsberg’s “Howl,” Gay Pride parades, and the mistreatment of homosexuals during the pre-Stonewall era.
Samuel A. Love and Ava Meux

Samuel A. Love and Ava Meux were on two radio stations to express opposition to plans by The GEO Group to set up an immigrant detention center on property formerly belonging to St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church. Sam took a note with him that read, “Don’t curse.”   Attorney Brenda Love carries a similar note with her when in court.  Pressure by citizens groups has resulted in Hobart mayor Brian Snedecor backing away from any support of the project.  According to Post-Trib reporter Karen Caffarini, The GEO Group “has been dogged by complaints of sexual harassment, wrongful deaths and skimping on inmates’ health needs.”

In another black eye for the reputation of Lake County politics, a grand jury has indicted Lake Station mayor Keith Soderquist and wife Deborah on charges of stealing money from the city’s food pantry account to support their casino gambling addiction.  Former Gary mayor Scott King is representing them. The mayor’s stepdaughter Miranda Brakley, who previously worked for the city, also is also under indictment. All three entered a plea of not guilty.

Anne Fritz and Corey Hagelberg spent Wednesday hanging a show at Gardner Center that will feature former IUN Fine Arts students.  The opening is Friday from 6 to 9.  One sculptor produced busts of professors Neil Goodman and David Klamen.  We had lunch at Miller Bakery CafĂ©, where Corey’s artwork adorns the walls.  I was almost floored when Ann mentioned having nine grandchildren; I can remember when she first announced she was a grandmother.  Jackie Gipson called beforehand and joined us.  She is interested into community projects, such as renovating the Palace Theater at Eighth and Broadway and enjoyed meeting Corey and Ann.  We go back a long way.  Jackie was my student in the 1980s and after graduating from Valparaiso Law School was a lecturer in SPEA for about ten years until, like Anne Balay, she made enemies in high places for being outspoken and unwilling to put up with departmental nonsense. 

Frank Shufran bowled for me so I could attend a condo owners meeting.  Our budget took a major hit because of all the snow removal bills.  We’re hoping the late spring will reduce the number of necessary lawn mowings (at $300 a shot).  We’ve also decided to forego a major mulching since that was done last year.  Ken Carlson is condo association president now that Bernie Holicky moved to Chicago; he is an old hand at the job and things went smoothly.  Ken has built homes in Mexico and Africa with Habitat for Humanity and is quite handy; one owner noticed bees coming in a small hole near the ground and offered to bring a caulking gun and try to fix it.

Henry Farag sought advice onpossible changes in “The Signal: A Rhapsody” prior to the performance at Gardner Center in 10 days.   He’ll mention going to nearby Jack Spratts for ice cream following dances and work in references to Cedar Lake Ballroom (where he first saw the Skyliners and other live groups) and seeing movies produced by Alan Freed at the Palace Theater.  Next week he’ll be on Lakeshore Radio with members of the Spaniels and Soul Stirrers.

Paul Turk’s daughter Kat will be interning again at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.  The proud papa wrote: “She has formally declared geology her major, cementing (you should forgive) a choice she made back in the days when we found rocks from her pockets rattling around in the washing machine.”  I recall Paul putting Kat in a car seat when she was a toddler.

Anne Balay’s UConn lecture was part of the Sexuality Studies Spring Symposia Series.  Campus newspaper correspondent Carles Lopez Penalver identified her as being from the University of Indianapolis.  Wouldn’t it be great if that college had suddenly hired her?  If so, it would be IU’s loss and their gain.  Penalver wrote: Balay offered a variety of stories that portrayed the harassment and violence gay steelworkers suffer. Brenda, a lesbian steelworker suffered from sexual harassment from a coworker multiple times, who would continuingly tell Brenda that she should try to be with a male. This coworker went to such extreme that he even attempted to rape Brenda, but was stopped by a third coworker.”

Huffington Post, which recently ran an interview with Anne and a story about her being denied tenure, reported on a three year-old boy who crawled inside a claw crane machine filled with stuffed animals at a Nebraska bowling alley. According to the Omaha World-Herald, he climbed through the prize shoot and was “playing happily” when discovered.

I am undecided whether or not to send out my article “Steel Closets and Injustice in Academia: The Anne Balay Promotion and Tenure Case.”  Six weeks ago, Anne wrote this appeal IU President Michael McRobbie, the last step in a procedure that so far has been egregiously unfair:

“Most students I have taught love and support me wholeheartedly.  Not because they're gay, and not because our political views match, but because I believe in them, and push them to think, achieve, and surprise themselves with the pleasure of learning.  I have enjoyed teaching in Gary.  It led to a book that is the accomplishment of my career, and . . . to moments where students became scholars, and I saw the joy of that in their eyes.

    I welcome opportunities to have my teaching evaluated, and seek advice about how to improve.  Just as I challenge my students, I challenge myself, and I'm learning that *how* you ask a question can be as important as what question you ask.  If you study my student evaluations after my denial, you will notice that I'm trying to learn, even from this experience, and to grow as a teacher.  Please consider giving me the chance to continue to do that at IU.”

Three weeks have passed since McRobbie was to have responded to Anne’s letter.  Unless IU’s president reconsiders, Anne will be terminated at the end of spring semester.  If only justice would prevail – but who said life is fair?  Poet Walt Whitman learned this tending to wounded Union soldiers, comforting them as best he could, with love and tenderness.  If Anne is forced into a new beginning, she’ll survive and probably even flower, but IUN will be the poorer for losing her.

Miriam Pawel’s new book “The Crusades of Cesar Chavez” probes into what former allies of the Mexican American labor leader call his “dark side” – his tendency to isolate himself and see himself as a saintly martyr.  While the time has come for historians to study Chavez, warts and all, as others who have examined Martin Luther King’s life have done, both were truly heroic and deserve to be held in high esteem despite their human frailties.

Alycard Black posted an article about teenage slang.  Getting “chirped,” for example, means being told off or called out for something.  One clever phrase young folks use after saying something they think especially clever is, “Can I get an Amen?”
 
I finally got for in time for Jeopardy only to have it cut short by a Presidential press conference about Obamacare and the easing of tensions (hopefully not temporary) in the Ukraine.  Dang, I was looking forward to questions in a category about things that happened on certain historical dates.  The President opened by expressing sympathy toward the families of South Korean casualties from the ferry disaster.

Hockey playoffs have begun.  When St. Louis tied the Blackhawks with just 105 seconds left, I went to sleep.  The Blues eventually won game one of the series in triple overtime.