Archive for June, 2009


Reaction to Hoosier History Live! show about T.C. Steele

June 30, 2009
 By Bob Alloway, who wrote this post after listening to Hoosier History Live!’s show about T.C. Steele 
TC Steele

The T.C. Steele painting purchased with the children’s money so long ago.

In 1927, Thelma Murphy was in her last grade at Crooked Creek Elementary School. The highlight of the 8th grade is to hold fundraisers during the semester so they can purchase an oil painting as the previous 8th grade classes did and then present it to the school.

Thelma was one of the committee members who went with the group to T.C. Steele’s studio on Emerson & Washington Streets to select and purchase a painting with the $100 they raised.

This was a very memorable time for her and while we were visiting the school several years ago, Thelma, now 93, asked to see the painting that had adorned the school walls.  The school principal was very delighted to meet a former alumnus and took her around to every teacher in her room and introduced her to the class.

Crooked Creek Elementary School   Kessler & Michigan Road. 1927

Crooked Creek Elementary School Kessler & Michigan Road. 1927




King Tut artifacts come to Indy

June 26, 2009

This weekend, a special exhibit opens at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Called “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs,” the exhibit includes more than 130 artifacts found in the tomb of King Tut and other great pharaohs, many of which are making their first appearances in the U.S.

The collection spans 2,000 years and includes a colossal statue, jewelry, golden sandals, and a coffinette that stored his stomach. It’s clear from this exhibit that Ancient Egypt is one of the most fascinating periods in world history.

You can peruse the exhibit on your own (ticket prices vary, click here for more info), or take the audio tour (a nice addition for $7–but there’s lots of information to take in even without the audio tour, so it can be overkill).

I’m always in awe when I see items that were created 4,000 years ago, partly because it makes me think: Will anything we make today last 4,000 years?

Read more about the collection through The Indianapolis Star’s coverage, including this article.


What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Any Best Books of Indiana?

June 24, 2009

The Best Books of Indiana Competition had a record-tying 62 entries in 2009. Are you reading any of them?

If so, share your thoughts.


How does your garden grow?

June 23, 2009
We have one, little, purple pepper sprouting!

A tiny, purple pepper from the Indiana Humanities Council's victory garden.

It’s amazing how much better fresh vegetables taste when you’ve grown them in your own backyard.  You understand the work that went into planting and tending them; you’ve tracked their growth and development like you would a small child, counting down the days until you can pluck them from the Earth and place them in a salad bowl.

I haven’t always felt that way. When I was younger, I was my dad’s designated garden helper. I loved working outside, but not in the weedy, hot, buggy garden. I despised weeding around bean plants and hated breaking them and taking the ends off even more. I convinced myself not to like green beans so that I wouldn’t have to pick them. It didn’t work. But I still went through childhood hating plenty of veggies.

Then, in my twenties, something radical happened. I started to try vegetables I gave up on years ago, and—walla!—I actually liked them. It turned out that I loved spinach, I could tolerate broccoli, and, yes, I even found out how to enjoy steamed green beans.

I became a gardener at home (by my own free will), and this year, a gardener at work (check out pictures of our garden, here), which exposed me to an even larger assortment of vegetables. I had gone 26 years without eating a fresh radish and I spent 26 years removing radishes from salads and avoiding them on assorted vegetable trays. I had never eaten kale, or swiss chard; never picked snap peas off a plant and ate them while standing in the garden. And in one month, I’ve know done them all.

Gardening has provided me with delicious and healthy food, but also a way to connect with my dad, my co-workers, and my fellow gardeners at the Mayor’s Garden Plots. It spurs conversation, reduces my reliance on commercialized vegetables and makes me feel better about myself and my community.

How does your garden contribute to your own personal growth?


Making it Relevant: Discovering Darwin

June 19, 2009

This Friday series (by Joshua Eskew, a senior at Marian College studying English and communication, and an intern with the Indiana Humanities Council), will help expose the relevance of studying the classics.

Charles Darwin’s relevance should be obvious. Ever since he published his theory of evolution by natural selection, people from all sides have butted heads harder than a pair of drunken ibeks. Yet I would be willing to gamble that most people still haven’t read The Origin of Species or any of Darwin’s subsequent work.

Unfortunately, Darwin falls victim to the most common of accusations poised at the classics: he can be awfully boring. Needless to say, you do not need to agonize over every specific detail he lists in order to get the gist of his observations, or to appreciate the profound impact his findings have had on the humanities. While Darwin catalogues pigeons as specifically as most rap artists catalogue their gold, guns, and girls, we need not bother with every genetic variation to know that when we consider the origins of life in any capacity, we are entering into a yet uncharted realm of the humanities.

Darwin also falls victim to the misconception that one needs to be a scientist to appreciate him – but you need simply to be a human being. Darwin never fully details whether or not evolution is simply the means or the end in itself. And we don’t even need to buy into evolution to understand how important it is to ask where we came from. What is the relationship between science and how we live our lives? Where did we come from, after all? If we evolved by some purely natural, unintelligent process, how do we create meaning in our lives? Can such a theory be reconciled to the notions of the divine we all sometimes feel?

Darwin’s work should not be read in the same way as the polemic bile of some radical proponents of evolution. We must consider him the same way we consider ourselves – as curious explorers of the world. We can ask the same questions he asked and avoid the controversy surrounding evolution because the questions Darwin asks are valuable in and of themselves. It seems strange that so vicious a public debate should continue to rage over a work that many simply have not read, and do not appreciate. We owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to engage the ideas that continue to shape our lives and our future.


Reflections on the men of World War II

June 19, 2009

Written by a Hoosier History Live listener

I was interested in 90- year- old P.E. MacAllister’s appearance last week on Hoosier History Live! and his reaction to host Nelson’s question about his possible misgivings about relocating to Indianapolis (then truly a “No Place”) after he had served in World War II.  Mr. MacAllister had been enamored of his former city, Milwaukee.  But he seemed to imply that “minding” was not in his mindset; he simply did what he had to do. “My career and future were in Indianapolis,” he said. “Besides, all of us were going through a sort of culture shock.  I had been living in a tent in North Africa for years.  When I came back to the U.S., people were complaining about the price of gas and sugar!  That was a little bit difficult to relate to.”  

These World War II veterans are dying now at the rate of about a thousand a day. It was good to hear a fresh perspective on Hoosier History Live!

My 87-year-old friend Jane says that when the men came back from the War (including her “once-husband”) they just went to work, often at whatever jobs they could find. They also got married and had children, as was the expectation.  She says  “They just quietly went about the business of living.  They didn’t talk about the war.”  Certainly, they did not sit around in therapy groups and talk about their feelings!  And of course, Jane also got married and had children during that era.

Jane had also worked in a furniture-making company in Indianapolis during the War, and says that some of the German workers were let go because of their heritage.  “That was too bad, they were excellent craftsmen!”  

My mother wisely observed that the World War II era was the last time that all Americans were really united in the same cause.    

Will it it take WWIII to unite us once again?

Tune in Saturday morning from 11:30 a.m. to noon on WICR at 88.7 FM to catch this week’s Hoosier History Live! show: Digging up History: Madam Walker Home, Ransom Place & Two-Story Outhouse


Vote for your favorite father in literature

June 18, 2009

Alright, boys, it’s your turn. Who are the most famous fictional fathers?

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorites, as is Charles Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Although I’ve only seen the movie, one of my favorite father/son stories is Big Fish (it’s loosely based on Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions).

But these are all good fathers. What about the wicked? Elphaba’s father—the Wizard or the Governor of Munchkinland, take your pick. Shakespeare’s King Lear?

Having just finished All the King’s Men, three very different types of fathers are on my mind: Judge Irwin, the Scholarly Attorney and, of course, Willie Stark.

So, who’s your favorite father in literature? I’m narrowing it down to King Lear or Atticus Finch…cast your vote!


What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Staying Put

June 17, 2009

I’ve been wanting to re-read Walden, but instead I am reading Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World by Scott Russell Sanders. On the back of the book the category chosen by the publisher is “Nature/Autobiography.” For Sanders, as for Thoreau, these are not two topics but one, the life of the man being inseparable from the life of the natural world.

Sanders writes about his home as if it were Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, yet it happens to be in the city of Bloomington, Indiana, where he lives with his wife and, before they grew up, his daughter and son. Thoreau had actual solitude; Sanders has the solitude of time spent alone outdoors with his thoughts and memories.

A book of collected essays, Staying Put is a meditation on dwelling in a particular place as a way of becoming grounded, finding bedrock. “One’s native ground is the place where, since before you had words for such knowledge, you have known the smells, the seasons, the birds and beasts, the human voices, the houses, the ways of working, the lay of the land, and the quality of light.”

Prose that is poetic, nonfiction that tells a story, a polemic in the form of a paean, and a path to be followed through a spiritual landscape as one would follow a guide on a wilderness trail — Scott Russell Sanders provides a perfect read for whatever quiet moment can be stolen from a restless world.

[Staying Put is included in the Indiana Humanities Council’s Humanities To Go collection, which has multiple copies of over 300 titles available for loan to book groups.]

This entry was posted by: Nancy


Making it Relevant: Although it’s a Roman classic, The Satires could have been penned today

June 12, 2009

“People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions – everything now retrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things – bread and circuses.” –Juvenal, from The Satires

If I were to turn on the news right now, a deluge of tales concerning our crooked politicians, wild celebrities, and the downfall of American civilization would rush at me faster than if I had upset the herd of elephants at the Indianapolis Zoo (which I nearly did last week). This week I’ve considered the work of the Roman poet Juvenal who, to my delight, had to deal with essentially the same things I deal with today. In his body of work, collectively known as The Satires, he lambasts the civilization and culture of the day for being corrupt, materialistic, and displaced from its tradition. If Romans had allowed themselves to laugh, he may very well have been a toga-wearing Stephen Colbert.

In an age like his, he asks us, when basic civility has collapsed and people have forgotten their heritage, why shouldn’t he write satire? When prelates rob the city treasury, eunuchs marry, and foreigners can buy noble titles, what joy can he find? It’s no joke, of course, that we could replace the names of some of the Roman senators known for taking bribes with the names of some modern American senators and emerge with essentially the same text.

When we consult the classics, we learn something truly wonderful about ourselves: people have remained essentially the same in their concerns and motives. It is a real delight to find our thoughts today expressed long ago by people who dealt with the same concerns. Juvenal’s satires prompt us to ask the same questions of ourselves and of American culture that he asked of himself and of Roman culture. What are those institutions which remain sacred to our culture? How did they form and where are they headed? How do we participate in them individually? How do we respond when it seems that our entire culture seems to be headed in the wrong direction?

Juvenal asked these questions thousands of years ago, and we should ask them today. We won’t come up with the same answers, but we’ll find where our values lie. Classics like The Satires help us to see the paths already tread, to sweep the dust away or, if we like, to clear a whole new way.

What other classics are as relevant today as they were when they were penned? Or, is timeless-ness what makes a classic?