May 20

Here’s a distraction

It occurs to me that I am ready for a three-day weekend in the most desperate way. Which is odd, right? I’m going to spend it at home just like all of the days. And I’ll try to think about work less, but otherwise, status quo ante.

I suppose it is all mental, or I am.

Makes you wonder what next week will be like. Tuesday is Monday, and by this time next week we’ll be here thinking “thank goodness for a four-day week.” It’s a weird moment, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, we have that to look forward to, and brothers and sisters, I am looking forward to it.

Brothers and sisters. Huh, he said, writing this in an almost stream-of-consciousness style while also knowing where it was going. I had a news director who called everyone brother or sister. He wasn’t a particularly religious man then, moreso now it seems, so it struck me as an odd word choice. I just figured he was from where he was from, and that’s the way it was there.

He was a nice guy. Young. His first news director job, he was being handled and he didn’t need to be. After he figured out what was what in that market and who the sharks in the building were he was good at it. I only worked with him for a short time, but he was nice to work with, and gave me one lasting piece of advice: You have to look out for yourself, because no one else will.

It was that last bit of early-20s advice I really needed, I think. It was overdue, perhaps, but I took it to heart.

He’s a news director in Nashville now. He and his family are doing well, according to his Facebook feed. Always seems happy when we catch up. Brothers and sisters.

Let’s look at some old newspapers again. Let’s go back in time 111 years and look at the local paper on this date in 1909.

We save by using the ditto marks and pass along the savings to you! I love the little local ads that exist because of the university. It’s always difficult to tease out their story, though. One of the owners has two other men of different generations using the same name here. The other couple don’t leave much of a trace either. And that’s not an uncommon book store name, it turns out.

Oh, it’s one of those seasons. The Milwaukee mayor was in town. And one of the authors of the legislation.

This wasn’t outright prohibition, it was about home rule and liquor licenses and how much a saloon would have to pay and, yes, about prohibition. The Anti-Saloon league held a powerful sway.

The registrar speaks! Terrific news! Had there been an accident? Was he recovering, then? Was he coming out of mourn — oh, he was just weighing in on the debate of the hour.

He wants to leave out the moral question, indeed, he mentions it twice in here in this brief selection. I’ve edited out a few paragraphs in between because, you know academics, we do tend to go on.

This was actually Craven’s paper. He founded it in 1893 and ran it into his brother bought him out in 1906, just three years prior. He was the registrar for 41 years, until 1936.

A registrar, by the way, keeps the academic record of all the students and plans the registration process for classes. Craven did all that while he was a student. Academia was a lot different back then.

Look, I wear a suit to work. Not while fishing, though:

Kahn Clothing was Moses Kahn, and a partner, Solomon Tannenbaum. There was a big fire, but Moses was soon back to work, and became a founding member of the local fire department. He ran that store until he died, in 1920, at about 70 years of age.

Someone was in a mood when they went to look for filler:

I love that these places didn’t need an address. You just knew where The Globe was. I don’t. Or I didn’t. A few other searches tell me it was on the square. You can assume everything was there, but you shouldn’t. It’s just one square.

Elmer Bender was in the clothing trade for a long time. You can still find references to him through the mid 1920s. And soon after he joined the city council. He died in 1957.

Safe to say the newspaper was coming down on the side of the Drys. I’ve edited a bit of this to get to the real panic.

Ninety percent of the murders were somehow tied to saloons and drink! And you want that to come here!?

That’s an instructive look at fear-mongering you weren’t expecting out of this exercise.

The vote was just a few days away. I skipped ahead. The drys won the day. It seems they thought the city would vote dry, but the vote totals went against that idea. It rained and that let the farmers come in from the fields and voted dry. There was a big stir about whether many of the students who voted were eligible to vote. But across the state, it was a series of wins for the Anti-Saloon League.

I’m through here every so often.

When I first read that I thought, I should keep a look out.

You never know when a lost cufflink will turn up, but if I see it, Mr. J, I’ll let you know.

May 20

I apologize for the rant below

Today I ran four miles. Fourth run in a week, following almost four weeks of not running. So this, I guess, is brought to you by the number four. It’s interesting how quickly you can come into and out of phase with running. And I am not, by nature, a runner.

Or a model. Or a photographer. But my hair game is on point.

Last weekend I noted that the night before I celebrated the 45 minutes where my hair was at it’s most presentable peak of long-short. Now we enter into the short-medium phase which lasts an inordinate amount of time and offers no good looks. But you’ll wish for those days when medium-medium arrives, should it come to that.

Yes, I too need a haircut. No, it isn’t really bothering me that much at all. Mileage varies, and I’m fine with that. We can all roll our eyes at one another, which is a great way to take in the grandeur of our sans-haircuts, our home-haircuts and our “I just couldn’t wait another minute to see my barber/stylist” contemporaries.

One day I realized that, despite my lights and my green screen and everything else my webcam still shoots at a pitiful 720, and that meant that slightly longer hair and formerly nice shirts with tiny spots on them were back in play again. That’ll do for now. I’m not even ironing the shirts. Oh, you see wrinkles? No, my wifi is just seizing up.

Besides, no one is looking at my hair, they’re concentrating on that typo from my last email. I dashed off a note last night related to one of today’s Zoom calls. I consulted it this morning to make sure I had the meeting topic well in hand. And that’s when I found the typo. It was one of those where there are two words that sound the same, but mean wholly different things and when you use the wrong one you look feral and uneducated. Never mind that I was still corresponding at 8:01 p.m. There was an obvious error and it will now shame me for all of my days.

I talked with a history professor who has built out a food program at the university and, this summer, they’ve collaborated on creating a meal and delivery service. There’s a lot you can’t get to in an interview like this, but if you look up Carl Ipsen‘s research interests this all make sense.

And it’s a small scale effort, relative to these big food banks staffed out by the National Guard. But the man brought two or three different units of the university together, even as it scaled down in a pandemic. And from that they created an effort that feeds 70 or so meals a day, and counting, to members of the campus community? That’s something.

People doing things, like the famed chef who’s creating that menu that Ipsen talks about, the people preparing the food, the drivers bringing things in from farms and food plants … people taking the initiative of the moment and making it productive, they’re going to be the unheralded glue of all of this. We’ll talk nurses and doctors and truck drivers and shelf stockers, and we should. There are also a lot of other people doing a lot of good, big and small. We’d all do well to acknowledge them.

That’s much more inspiring than the tiresome binary argument over Covid etiquette.

Decency is not in short supply, the mention of it just doesn’t get the lift that jerks do. This is not a new phenomenon, and we’d do well to think of that, too.

May 20

Just some old stuff

We’ve come to it, finally, a day of nothing but filler. It was cold and dreary and I didn’t go outside much and inside I probably reflected the same mood and so maybe it is for the best if we just jump to this stuff and then see how we feel about tomorrow. Don’t worry, this is quick and informative and fun!

So we go back 103 years to see what was in the local paper on May 14, 1917. Because it’s worth it to remember our struggles are not our own, seldom unique, and they’re going to get looked at like this one day. So be mindful.

The Bloomington Evening-World, imagine picking up this big smeared piece of ink in the morning and wondering what they’re going to be preaching to you about today. Food juggling:

Jugglers most harmed.

Oh, they’re preaching at me about food. How exciting. How things never change. Thankfully things did change in newspaper technology, photograph and layout software. But the didn’t any better in 1917, so this was the standard look. All that writing. So many words. So much of it vague as to be useless, or at least that’s the read from our far remove.

When I started looking for a paper to study today I considered fish wraps from all of the places I’d care about. I wanted it to be something at or on this date. And I didn’t want to look at a 25 page paper. But I didn’t want it to be dense, either. So, naturally, I chose a dense four-pager. Anyway, let’s dive in.

They were going to be a part of the famed ambulance service:

Remember, this is 1917, so the AEF wasn’t there yet. But ambulances, which were state-of-the-art in medicine, were.

Stella Belmont appears in a couple of different newspapers in the teens, but then she disappears. I assume it means she married, or retired to a quieter life, and didn’t have some horrible aeronaut accident. Surely that would have been covered. Nevertheless, this sounds fun. Watch for it:

We got this war on, stop making things!

And now for your straw hat.

You think those could make a comeback this year? I figure if we keep asking for enough years we’ll eventually get it right.

Page two has your reminder that the same people have been making the same argument for more than a century. And it’s always the same sort of vague and ill-formed argument. The construction peters out after the premise: You shouldn’t. Why? Well, that’s not really important. What’s important is you shouldn’t!

The reasons are pretty simple, really, someone doesn’t want you to have what you have, or what they have, or what they can’t have. And then they try to couch it in some moralistic terms. I wonder if it was as tiresome then as it is today.

In the column right next to that:

On page three, while you’re still rolling your eyes from that bit on page two, there’s something else I’m sure they don’t want you to have. But the advertisers certainly do, and so does every woman or man who was remembering how they heated water the old way:

Corn substitutes work for feed in a pinch, at least through the war. And better for you to eat the corn than your livestock. Life has always been about compromises in the moment, I guess. It’s easy to forget that when things are going well.

Western Union by now was doing lifestyle advertisements. Gone were the days of telling you about how telegrams delivered the news from here to there as a miracle:

And, on page four, a lot of briefs. It’s always nice to see the local campus doing it’s part:

Jordan Field was said to be where the Union’s parking lot is today. And I’ve put that lot on the bottom of the frame, so that would have been right in here. They planted corn and spuds. Look at all of the things that have sprouted up:

Arbutus is the campus yearbook, by the way. I guess everyone in town knew that. It’s interesting that the town’s paper felt the need to include the applications in their copy.

Kenyon Stevenson would leave school, go to the war as a lieutenant in an artillery unit, the 21st Field Artillery and Fifth Division. He fired his guns in France and Luxembourg, in heavy fighting near the end of the war. He came home, got married, finished school, raised a family, wrote two army unity histories and some other books. He worked as a copywriter in Pennsylvania, a director of advertising, got caught up in the Great Depression and went into sales in Ohio. His last child just passed away in 2018.

I found an Edwin Sellers, but the dates don’t quite add up, so I believe it’s the wrong man. Ditto Margaret Munier, who probably married and had a fine Roaring Twenties. Joseph A. Wright, now there’s another individual from here by that same name in the 19th century. The older one has some things named after him around here. (Indeed, it seems he was one of the first 10 students at Indiana Seminary, the first iteration of IU.) He became a governor and he, understandably, sucks up all the search engine oxygen. No idea if they are related.

Joseph Piercy retired in 1938, and passed away in 1943. His wife and daughter both taught at IU.

A congressman, and a judge, and he respected a man’s gardening needs:

Can’t let the university’s potato and corn crop outpace the local bar!

May 20

Figured something out today

It started because of the cardinals. I was on my walk, because it was a run day and I didn’t want to run, so I took a walk, and on my walk I saw two cardinals. Fighting? Playing? Play fighting? Doing an intricate dance that tells the tale of their tribe? Anyway, there they were.

I got as close as possible, which is never close enough because I only had my phone on me. And the video is, well, it’s a phone video. But cardinals are awfully vivid and bold, aren’t they?

Shouldn’t that be a saying? It’s as good as “It is what it is.” It’s like saying you went to the grocery store and they had paper products, but not the soft good stuff, just some store-brand thing you’ve never seen before with a reasonably fine grit, in a pinch. “Hey, it’s a phone video.”

Anyway, the cardinals got me off the path and into the low brush and then I saw these flowers.

By then I’m down by the creek which will never not have a draw on me. And after a time walking on both sides of the creek I walked out of the woods, crunching leaves and snapping dead branches on the ground, and some guy who’s out walking his dog hears me and stops.

When I get close enough he says “Hunting for ‘shrooms?”

This is a question that’s a Rorschach Test, or maybe even just a straight up autobiographical clue. You tend to think people are doing what you’d be doing. Which is why I’d just assume that guy was down enjoying the rocks and the sounds of the creek. When, really, he’d be down there looking for mushrooms.

And then he walked away.

I’ve heard from friends who are looking for people to just interact with, and reading even more stories like that. This guy must not have that concern. Imagine craving human contact and, finding your chance, your first thought is to inquire about the fungi.

Best thing I did today? I got back into the yard from my walk and I decided to stretch out in the grass. The weather was nice and it’s almost starting to feel like it could soon become something of a constant. The grass is nice and lush. I pulled my hat over my eyes and my hands behind my head and closed my eyes and listened to the birds.

And, a little while later, I woke myself up with a little snore. The breeze was delightful. There were no insects to bother me. It was the perfect moment, stretched and compressed within a half hour or so. This is something that should happen more often, I think. And it’s all within reach. What an idea!

From work, students are sharing their graduation pictures. Cap and gown photos must be taken. That’s creating big crowds, from what I understand, in the traditional photo spots, even if they aren’t getting an actual ceremony. I feel for them about the latter, but the former is a concern. If only there was some way for people to learn the new rules of the road.

Social cues and overcoming instinct and habit are going to be a considerable issue going forward.

Meanwhile, at least two of my former students here have heard today that they were nominated for Emmys. That’s very exciting for anyone, but to be in there in year three of your career must be another thing altogether. And while they deserve all the credit because of the quality of their work, we can only rightfully assume it was our instruction that got them there.

I interviewed an epidemiologist today. It’ll be a podcast tomorrow. And also some video clips for television, which meant more time playing in new software. There’s always something new to learn. This is something that people should say more often, I think.

It was a fine interview with important information and it felt productive. That’s a win.

More on Twitter, check me out on Instagram and listen to a few On Topic with IU podcasts as well.

May 20

Keep reading ’til the part about biscuits and ducks

One of our god-nieces will soon celebrate her birthday. Her big sister — and I think they have the dynamic where they work and play well together, while also each delighting in pushing the other’s buttons, but if one of them gets picked on by someone else there will be H- E- double-hockey-sticks to pay — asked us to make a video. It was a sweet thought by an older sister, and so we made a little video.

We would have made the video anyway, because the kid can’t have a proper birthday party under stay-at-home orders, but mostly I want to point out how awesome the pre-teen is in all of this. They’re both swell, really. Cool kids, except for the pushing-each-others-buttons part, but I understand that’s part of the sibling deal.

Anyway, all of that to say there were multiple takes of this video. And there were outtakes. Here is one clip, and to honor the motif of multiple takes, I have uploaded and deleted and re-uploaded several different versions of this, which is brilliant in a meta-sort of way.

Right after this The Yankee says “I didn’t know which key to start in.”

Kazoos, y’all.

And then she asks if I want to start the video over again, because she’s considerate like that. I got to use one of my most recent trusty throwaway lines. I can handle it; I’m a professional.

It was funny and we’re still giggling about it and I could watch her laugh all day.

Besides, if you don’t emerge from their stay-at-home orders without at least a half-dozen new stories and three traditions and 15 new inside jokes then you’re just not enjoying your time.

Let’s look at the paper. We’re falling through a rift in the Internet’s space-time continuum, which intersects with so many rabbit holes, and we’re falling out, oddly enough, in this same town, on this same date, 111 years ago, 1909.

Yes, friends, people read the newspaper, even when it looked like this. And, for 1909, and for a very basic rag such as the Evening World, this has a lot of design elements on the front page. And front page ads! ¡Qué horror!

People were starved for information, as you’ll see, or they just wanted to take a break from whatever else they had to do, so they pored over every word. Like … the only sports story, and one of the few news pieces in the whole paper.

It goes on like that for a while. Coach Roach didn’t say the victors, in-state rival Purdue, were better at baseball. His players were just distracted, see. Wommins. Perfume. Fluffy clothes. Have you seen their corseted figures? And also the fans, including the “girls,” which are fine enough for a university, should have been there to cheer his men on the diamond. His lovestruck, distracted men.

Skel Roach played professional baseball for 10 years, including one game in the bigs, for the Chicago Orphans, which was three years prior to a newspaper re-nicknamed them the Cubs. And, you know, baseball is wild about statistics … let’s see if we can take a quick detour … Orphans beat the Washington Senators 6-3 in his one game. Roach was the winning pitcher. He threw a complete game, which didn’t even merit mention back then, he allowed three runs on 13 hits and was never seen again. Couldn’t agree on a salary with the club. He got shipped to the Orphans because their star pitcher was hurt. He was 27 at the time, and he played for six more years, but that was his high water mark as a player, a career that tallied 133 wins in the minors and across the prairie leagues. He coached throughout the midwest, studied the law and practiced in Chicago.

He got married just two months after this story about lovey dovey players not being hardened enough for matters of sport was published. It was his first year on campus, and he’d stay for three seasons, practicing law in Chicago around the demands of baseball. Apparently his time at IU marked the Hoosiers’ first success on the diamond, this criticism notwithstanding. He’d go on to practice law for 35 years and serve several terms as a judge in Illinois. He died in 1958.

Edwin Shelmadine was fighting for himself, and everyone like him. And he wasn’t going to give up.

Congress approved the increase for Shelmadine the previous March alongside a host of other veterans and widows. He was upgraded to $30 a month. His obituary talks about how he was hanging on to sign that first pension check, taking medicine he didn’t like to live for that happy moment, and he did, but only just. He went out for a buggy ride that same day with a friend and died.

His unit, the 48th Regiment of the Indiana Infantry, fought at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, was a part of Sherman’s March to the Sea and the Carolinas Campaign. I wonder how many of those he was a part of.

Curious thing: the roster for the unit lists an Edward Shishmadine, who mustered in as a private in December 1861 and left as a sergeant in 1865. His obit, where he’s Edwin Shilmade, (just like the paper and the Congressional record) says he mustered into the service in October 1861. What’s a few months and a completely different name at a remove of 58 years?

Shelmadine was a shoemaker. His obit tells us he had three wives. His first died during the war, then came a separation and his last wife survived him. Apparently he met all three in the same house. Presumably not at the same time.

I wonder what people from 1909 would think about the steps you have to undertake to offload a house these days:

Here’s that spot in the summer of 2014:

I wonder if it is any of those houses. Probably not.

Anyway, more from this paper after an advertisement from … the same paper …

Royal merged with Fleischmann’s and a few others to create the giant Standard Brands on the way to becoming the modern version of Nabisco in 1981. Royal is still marketed today.

Those are the most interesting things on the front page. Told you it was a rag. Well, there was a criminal conviction. A gentleman found his wife and another man in a hotel, which probably means a rough shack just off the road in 1909. He killed the other guy and pleaded insanity. Six of the jurors agreed, but the other three weren’t buying it and manslaughter was listed as a compromise conviction. His name was Good, even if neither he nor his wife particularly were at the fateful moment. But I don’t know what happened to him after his conviction and his wife isn’t name. No story, no clipping. And, really, that completes the interesting portion of the front page.

Let’s go inside!

Page two is a serial part of a feature following Theodore Roosevelt’s African safari. It’s literally history in the sense that, if you’ve read Roosevelt, or about him, you know that material. (If you haven’t, I recommend Edmund Morris’ Roosevelt trilogy. There aren’t many people, even presidents, who deserve that much copy from one author, but Roosevelt may, and Morris is the man for the job. Terrific work.) Moving on!

Page two also had a piece about a princess of Prussia who had to soon decide on a husband. Her family was going to be out of power soon anyway and she spent the rest of her days making socialite-style appearances and I’m sure it was all very lovely and worthwhile to the people in this area as there were a fair amount of German immigrants, but it seems a bit odd and gossipy, today, to speculate on a 16-year-old girl’s marital ambitions.

But this … There must have been some story here.

There’s just something so precise about this little brief. Not just the chairs, but the 114 of them. And there’s something so declaratively stern about that. It’s almost like the paper is saying “We’re too chuffed to bring it up again, but you know what happened, dear reader.” Surely people read about this in a previous issue.

It’d be a fool’s errand to try to figure out what happened, or whatever became of the chairs.

I’m not that foolish.

Page three had a serial installment of a book that was published in 1902. Why people are reading about it here, in the paper, in 1909 escapes me. They could just as easily order it from Amazon. The chapter in this edition of the paper is about a guy loading up a board of directors. And the book is called The Minority, so I just assume it goes on and on for pages about proxy votes and what not. None of the dialog is particularly interesting, so I won’t quote it. But, if you’re intrigued by my description

The back page of the paper has a lot of those society listings which just seem to grow more odd to our modern eyes with every passing year. This note was one of them.

No idea what became of St. John, but I am sure she was a proud mother. Regester graduated from law school in 1905, ran for judge a few times and finally sat on the bench late in his career. He was also a state lawmaker and just had the look of an important man.

I wonder if you had to pay extra for all of that stuff around your ad:

Several new stores had recently opened. Most of the proprietors only shelled out for the brief text mentions. Not these guys.

No idea how long their store lasted. They had a great spot though, two blocks from the courthouse at the center of it all. There’s an auto parts place there now.

Did someone say biscuits?

If that illustration makes you uncomfortable, welcome to the precursor of General Mills! Gold Brand started after they won some big flour awards in 1880, so the label still had a meaning, perhaps. So grand is General Mills’ reach that on Wikipedia the subhead “Aeronautical Research Division and Electronics Division” comes before the diversification subhead.

All of it started with a guy who was a soldier and a businessman and a politician and had a great name, Cadwallader Colden Washburn, who worked alongside a businessman with a very regular-sounding name, John Crosby. They built something big. One of their successors, a Minnesota man named James Ford Bell, got the job the old-fashioned way, nepotism. Bell started working there in 1901. When his old man died in 1915 he became the vice president. In 1928 Bell started General Mills. He’d also play a part in Herbert Hoover’s European Hunger Relief Mission in 1918, worked in the FDA and perfected the look of a gangster. There’s a library and a museum at his university named after him. Big duck hunter too.

You know what sounds like a duck call, if you work at it a great deal? Kazoos.