YAM Notes: January/February 2018

By Christopher T. Cory

Tea leaves: “There is no rest, it seems, for the ideologically tendentious,” quips Neal Freeman, dryly alluding to his influential 53-year involvement with the now-resurgent conservative movement in the US. That note appears in his introduction to Skirmishes (National Review Books), a collection of his essays written over the years that are still mostly fresh, pungent, and pointed. From his nuanced endorsement of the Tea Party to his lonely opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as “butt-stupid” and his “modulated” endorsement of Donald J. Trump, Neal, as usual, shrinks from neither verbal stilettos nor sound cases. A 2004 essay ticks off the nation’s multiple Yalie presidents and presidential candidates, tartly explaining that “before the zeitgeist of the ’60s blew it away, Yale’s culture taught its sons—daughters would come later—that they should prepare to lead. Not to cope, not to interface, not to relate, but to lead.” Look for more on our class website (address above).

Tea in the trenches: Steve Buck, after joining other Maryland Democrats who carpooled to Virginia to get out the vote in the November 7 election, reported: “Dems won big, mostly through the DC exurbs. The Dem turnout was much larger than in previous non-presidential elections. I think this gives real hope for 2018 and 2020.” As synecdoche (ten-dollar Yale word—look it up) of the underlying trends, many of the potential voters were recent US citizens from India, Steve noted, and new McMansion developments are sprouting in areas not far from older houses with “No Trespassing” signs and trucks mounted with gun racks.

For his part, your Corsec continued dipping a much smaller toe into politics by participating in a weekly anti-Trump, soup-sipping lunch group called “Resist and Replace,” and by phone-banking to increase turnout in his exurban community of East Hampton, Long Island. (Democrats swept, save for a few seats on a board that deals with local water bodies and where party loyalties can be overridden by, yes, competence.) Ed Goodman is volunteering and speaking to help resist methods that suppress voting, working with the foundation set up to honor the (unrelated) civil rights worker with the same last name, Andrew Goodman, who was killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi during the “Freedom summer” of 1964. The foundation is training campus leaders to lead registration and turnout efforts; at the Stony Brook campus of New York’s state university, the project helped registration triple for the 2016 election.

Asian tea: Fred Starr has “moved our Central Asia-Caucasus Institute from Johns Hopkins which, like all universities, is increasingly mired in bureaucratic red tape, to the American Foreign Policy Council, a solid and effective organization within walking distance of the Capitol and those who actually make policy.” Somewhat curiously, he says: “I have been impressed by the number of serious, competent, and hard-working congressmen in both houses and both parties who are quietly working away, in contrast to the loud-mouths who dominate the public media.”

Leaves of Sass: Bill Weeden and his wife, the actress Dolores McDougal, were on a Hollywood red carpet this fall to help launch the 30-episode second season of Mr. Student Body President, a comedy series set in a high school which the hyper-ambitious president “treats like the West Wing” and where the Weedens play teachers. The 15-minute segments (a common online length that harkens back to my childhood listening to radio segments of The Lone Ranger) are streamed by a service called “go 90” (Google it) and coproduced by Ron Howard (that Ron Howard, who you knew when he was on Happy Days and who directed A Beautiful Mind). Earlier, S. B. President’s cast won Best Ensemble at the Streamy awards, something of a web equivalent of the Academys. Almost simultaneously, a sweet musical comedy that Bill and David Finkle wrote several years ago with their partner Sally Fay, Move It and It’s Yours, got what Bill says was “a very successful presentation at the prestigious York Theatre in midtown Manhattan, which we are hoping will lead to a full-scale production. The show got many laughs, much appreciative applause, and a standing ovation, a real rarity at presentations like this one.” And wait: As of November, Bill was in pre-production for Special Needs Revolt, a movie to be shot in the spring. He says “I am cowriting and codirecting (and costarring in) this action-horror comedy, which features the first Down syndrome action hero in movie history. I will be playing the villain, a highly identifiable POTUS who is trying to turn our country into a dictatorship. Fans of the current White House occupant, steer clear.”

Leaves of Bronze: In other media, Phil Proctor has been promoting his self-published autobiography, Where’s My Fortune Cookie, coauthored by Brad Schreiber, including, à la Neal Freeman, a chapter on you-know-where titled “Boola Boola.” It’s available on Amazon. Our titanically talented tubist Eli Newberger has just reissued a terrific 1985 recording of Dixieland jazz duets with him on tuba and one Jimmy Mazy on plectrum banjo, which you might think is an odd combination until you hear Mazy’s fleet fingering and Eli’s silky sostenutos on “Over the Rainbow.” It’s on Amazon, Spotify, and YouTube. And for a month last fall, Richard Barnet exhibited his sculptures, some of which were shown last year on our website, at the 440 Gallery on Sixth Avenue in Brooklyn. The topical title of one of his 2010 bronzes: It’s a Wall.

Leavings: Necrology. We sadly announce the deaths of Dr. John H. Brandt, James L. Grove, and Robert A. Jones. Obituaries will appear on www.yale62.org in due course. New obits posted on the site since the last announcement are those of Zoltan L. Bary and James K. Gardner.