Deer Gone Wild


This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land ● by Colleen Wells

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

— Mahatma Gandhi

A doe stands by the edge of a neighborhood street in a wooded area east of Clarizz off 3rd street. She casts her gaze at my car as I slowly drive by. Then behind her two fawns rush to her side. One of them is gnawing on leafy green vegetation which hangs from its mouth. This is a common scene around Bloomington, where I’ve even witnessed a doe nurse her fawns in the middle of Maxwell Lane.

While deer are a species native to Indiana, there was a period of time from 1893-1934 when deer were absent from the landscape due to hunting and habitat loss. Introduced back into the environment in the mid-1930s, the population is growing despite further loss of habitat and hunting. To help keep the balance in check, controlled hunts have been held in some Indiana state parks as early as 1993.

Deer seem to contain an ancient wisdom reflected in their eyes and can adapt to an ever-changing environment. Some think they have adapted too well and that they are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Others feel strongly that there must be a non-violent solution for human-deer coexistence.


And yet the debate points to issues even greater than the deer. It calls for a closer look at what is happening with the environment as a whole. And in a town progressive in its environmental stewardship, many are wondering about the decisions that have been made.

In September 2010, the DTF (Deer Task Force), comprised of eleven members with diverse expertise, began meeting monthly. It was appointed by city officials to explore options and make recommendations to local officials and Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The Executive Summary of their final report describes concerns for residential neighborhoods as well as the approximately 1,200 acre Griffy Lake Nature Preserve: “When it comes to deer at Griffy Woods, clear evidence points to ecosystem damage by deer – native tree seedlings are not regenerating; herbaceous plant species are severely compromised and possibly going locally extinct; invasive species are taking over some areas; the forest understory is unnaturally open; and the understory-reliant birds and other animals are losing habitat.”

The Summary also addresses our role in the problem: “The increased presence of deer in the woods and in residential areas is the direct result of human action. We have fragmented wildlife habitat, sprawled ourselves across the landscape, provided deer with ideal ‘edge’ environment and eliminated virtually all deer predators. As a result, deer are abundant. In some areas, and to some residents, deer are overabundant. Deer are not to blame for this situation—we are.”

Task Force recommendations call for a deer cull at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve using hired sharpshooters and additional lethal methods of handling the in-town deer including a “trap and kill management” during which deer are lured into a cage with bait to reduce stress then shot. The cull at Griffy Lake may begin as early as November 15, 2014.

Bob Foyut, a wildlife rehabilitator and a member of the Deer Task Force, stressed the complexity of the matter. He says that while “for the public it’s a very emotional issue,” the task force worked well together to develop solutions. The decision to kill the animals is not something Bloomington officials or residents take lightly.

Lethal methods for eliminating deer are considered and employed in many areas of the United States. For example, in a report in Newsday, Stephanie Boyles Griffin, the senior director of innovative wildlife management program for the Humane Society of the United States, who discussed the Bloomington issue with former Deputy Mayor, Maria Heslin, wrote that in Hastings-on-Hudson, “gardening enthusiasts arrived at a village meeting to hire someone to cull a local herd of deer.” In this case, when backlash from residents ensued, non-lethal options were instilled. PZP (Porcine Zona Pellucida), a contraceptive vaccine delivered through a dart, was proven effective in closed areas including Fripp Island, S.C. Hastings-on-Hudson is the first open community to try this.

The article also states, “A second non-lethal technique ready for widespread adoption is being tried in suburban Baltimore and Washington, D. C. and in communities in California. Does are being sterilized, their ovaries removed in a 30-minute procedure perfected by veterinarian Steve Timm of Wisconsin, working with wildlife biologist Anthony DeNicola of Connecticut, a sharpshooter who owns a business that until recently specialized in culling deer.” DeNicola is the founder/president of White Buffalo Inc., the company who will conduct Bloomington’s cull.

Heslin said of Boyles Griffin, “In 2012, I was hearing rumblings that lethal options might be on the table, so I tried to find a national expert who could help the DTF fully explore non-lethal means. Through a connection I made with the president of the group Farm Sanctuary, I had the opportunity to meet HSUS wildlife expert Stephanie Boyles Griffin. She and I had several conversations about how other communities handled the challenges of deer management, and she talked a lot about how the issue, if not handled incredibly thoughtfully, can tear communities apart. She offered to come to town to give a public presentation or speak with Council and do a site assessment, but she needed to be invited by the decision-making body — in this case, City Council. … Just a couple of days after that phone call, the DTF issued its final report.”

Non-lethal methods were explored by the Deer Task Force including “Fencing,” “Deterrents and Repellants,” “Reintroduction of Predators,” “Trap and Translocate,” “Contraception,” and “Sterilization.” Details in a Taskforce powerpoint, available online,  relating impracticalities of non-lethal methods are included and clearly expressed. For example, one of the concerns about contraception is that it “addresses population growth over time, but not immediate concerns with human-deer conflicts.”

Costs of both lethal and non-lethal methods are also listed. Sterilization costs “$800-$1,000/doe plus ongoing maintenance.” Costs for Trap and Euthanize are “$300/deer plus ongoing maintenance” and Sharpshooting ranges from $200-$350 per deer plus continued maintenance.

Rebecca Warren, Executive Director of the Monroe County Humane Society, addressed the challenge of the human-wildlife balance. “Bloomington is rich with parks and preserves, laying the ground work for an abundance of wildlife taking up home here. There has to be a healthy balance of accepting that we choose to live in an area that’s also attractive to animals and wildlife. I can accept that animals might eat my Hosta plants and moles are going to leave holes in my yard, but I also don’t want to see wildlife beginning to pose safety risks to themselves or the community.”


She also explained how educational efforts about animals are beneficial to wildlife such as deer. “Humane Education is absolutely one of the largest pillars in our organization. Teaching both youth and adults how to live humanely with animals, both at home and in the wild, animal safety and teaching kindness are core to Monroe County continuing to be a safe place for animals, wild and domestic. I think there’s always room for our programs to learn and grow as a community’s needs grow.”

Use of non-lethal methods is still the hope of some residents of Bloomington including members of BANIDS (Bloomington Advocates for Nonviolent Innovative Deer Stewardship). The organization recently called for legislation to ban bow-hunting which is legal in city limits. BANIDS is pushing for a waiting period of two years before lethal methods are taken. During this time an accurate census of the deer at Griffy Lake could be taken and innovative solutions explored.

Heslin cites this as one of the reasons the debate is so polarizing, “National experts and common sense dictate that you need to count deer before any type of management plan is put in place so you know the scope of the issue, yet the City refuses to do so having too few deer actually causes ecological harm so not knowing the baseline yet killing up to 100 is irresponsible.”

A Strange Stew

A quest into understanding more about Bloomington’s deer community begins at the farmer’s market. Amongst the autumnal offerings is a table helmed by Alyce Miller displaying information about the impending deer cull at Griffy Lake. Indiana University Miller is Professor of English and Creative Writing at IU; she is a passionate advocate and writer who has practiced law in the area of animal welfare.

“At first I was actually incredulous,” Miller says. “I sort of thought it was a bunch of… to be honest a kind of wacky minority of people who had never dealt with animals. I wasn’t very charitable in my thoughts, but I didn’t think it was going to become what it became… it never occurred to me that [the Task Force] would recommend a lethal method.”

She adds, “I had no idea of how powerful they were in terms of grabbing the attention of their council members.”

Having studied the situation for several years while being active in council meetings, Miller, who also teaches an animals and ethics course and wishes she had a penny for every time she’s been called a Bambi lover, attributes misinformation and fear of wildlife as part of the issue.

She moved here from San Francisco, the first city in the U.S. to mandate composting. When asked if environmental initiatives related to the environment occur there that perhaps we should model, she says, “The deer issue is tied into environmental issues for me. We need to stop using herbicides. The city uses herbicides, and people are constantly spraying Round-up in their yards here. I’ve never lived in a place that’s so suburban. The deer issue is tied into environmental issues for me. In Berkley they’ve outlawed all gas-powered trimmers, edgers, blowers, and mowers, and they’ve outlawed using herbicides … so it is possible.”

Miller points to the irony that “lawns attract deer because they are edged species like we are and they like open savannahs like we do and though people don’t realize … they have provided inadvertently the perfect habitat or attractant for deer.”

Miller explains how a misconception over who “owns” wildlife originated.

“The public trust doctrine came out of Roman law through British Common Law and is a concept in the U. S. We the people own all the resources. We own the waterways. Basically wildlife belonged to no one and everyone. People think the DNR own the deer. No they don’t.”

What Happens When You Remove Jenga Blocks from the Tower of Biodiversity

Jim Poyser, Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, which, in his words, is “a state-wide non-profit organization that works on issues of political transparency, waged equality, social and peace justice issues, and all that within the ecological footprint of our earth.”

It’s a complicated issue,” Poyser says. My perspective on it is the World Wildlife Fund issued a report yesterday that is devastating when it comes to the state of animals globally. The numbers are more shocking than we’ve ever seen before, and I think they even surprised the World Wildlife Fund people.”

Poyser continues, “One of the conclusions of the statistics is that while animals have diminished world-wide at an alarming rate, human population over the last 40 years on the planet has gone from around 4 to over 7 billion. We are a species run amok. If part of the perspective of this deer imbroglio in Bloomington is that the deer are running amok, I would say there’s an interesting analogy for you. People are running amok and … when it comes to a more macro issue where you’ve got habitat for animals, you have humans through development encroaching on it. Then obviously the most important thing is once you have removed the predator, a keystone species from an ecosystem, you’re going to have proliferation. Deer are extremely destructive to a forest system. You can’t blame them, they’re just animals. And they’re animals reproducing, just like we’re animals reproducing. You can’t blame us. It’s the fundamental right to reproduce, but the Tragedy of the Commons here is that every single deer is God’s creature depending on how you interpret God.”

He adds, “If you remove these Jenga blocks from the tower of the ecosystem, you need biodiversity and anything that encourages biodiversity should be embraced. We need more green spaces. We need corridors and easements, and that’s the key with the predator.

On the Other Side of the Fence

Keith Clay is a Distinguished Professor of Biology at IU. His specialty is community ecology, which he describes as “how organisms interact in ecological communities.” Clay was also a member of the Deer Task Force. He has been the Director of the IU Research and Teaching Preserve since the day it was established in 2001, and he has tried to engage in research projects that take advantage of the natural areas of the preserve that are also addressing locally relevant issues. “I’ve been doing research as part of my position in the Griffy Lake area for 25 years at least or more. And a lot of it is focused on plants, their growth, reproduction, establishment, but also how they’re interacting with diseases, herbivores, animals that are eating plants. I’ve been aware that there’s been a gradual attrition of plant diversity at Griffy for quite a while. For example, a PHD student in the late 90s, worked on a group of plants that you can hardly find any more. In the late 90s, they were common. Now they’re not common. You can hardly find them pretty much. And at the same time we’re seeing these ever-increasing populations of deer.”

Clay explains, “Whether deer were causing these losses of plants we established I think it was like in 2005, a couple of exclosures, where we just built fences to keep deer and other large animals out to see what would happen and quite quickly stuff started growing, bigger, better, faster, inside the exclosure indicating that things outside were getting eaten big time.”

Clay addresses what some see as a problem with the experiment. “The opponents are disseminating what I would consider misinformation or disinformation and one of the common things… that these studies were done at the IU Research and Teaching Preserve not in the Griffy Nature Preserve, and it’s technically true, but it’s all part of the same system. It’s one big patch of woods. The deer just go back and forth. They share a long border and it’s all part of the same ecosystem.

Clay concludes, “The cull will preserve not just the vegetation, but the entire diverse ecosystem. The decision to have a cull was the result of two years of study by a large panel of people with outside expertise. I guess my point is there is a small group of animal rights activists that want to stop this any way they can. It needs to be viewed in that light that society in general does not agree with their position. If you look at the policies around the state, in Indianapolis, what Bloomington is planning on doing is no different than many, many other places. Basically, nothing controls the deer except human hunting and car accidents.

Guns & Griffy

The plan as of this writing is for sharpshooters hired from White Buffalo, Inc., who according to their website, offers a “strong approach to urban deer management” to euthanize 100 deer over a 9 day period at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve.

I spoke with Tim McColligan, a deer hunter who participated in a managed deer kill near his home in Dallas, Georgia.

“We had a controlled hunt at Red Top Mountain State Park. You could look at the deer and tell they were emaciated. They were running out of food. They had shooters qualify a weekend before, and took the top 10 hunters. They didn’t want deer running around with arrows hanging out of them. The meat was donated to homeless shelters.”

“What’s the most humane place to shoot a deer?” I ask.

“We hunt right behind the front leg where the vital organs are with bow-hunting.”

“Sharp shooters will be used at Griffy Lake. What’s the most humane way to take a shot that way?”

“A bullet to the head is the quickest way. But you can have a lower percentage [of accuracy] due to its [the head’s] size.”

Tim is curious about the weaponry that will be used. He owns a rifle that a bullet can travel 6 miles from.”

White Buffalo addresses bullet safety on their website which states, “We have thoroughly tested and selected bullets, in addition to having developed specialized bullets.  As a result of our extensive testing, we have found that no bullet fragments with significant size or inertia exit the target animal, therefore ensuring public safety.  We have extensive experience in both lethally removing and capturing deer in a variety of human occupied environments without incident.  We have used our discretion in the selection of shooting sites with satisfaction of both local/state officials and property owners.

I explain to Tim that the issue is very polarized in Bloomington. “Can’t they load em’ up and have them taken somewhere that’s wide open?” he asks.

“From what I’ve learned, that puts too much stress on the deer.”

“So’s a head shot.”

Mary Harris is an animal communicator and consultant in Fountaintown, Indiana. “When people ask me how animals feel about being hunted my answer is pretty blunt…they don’t want to be hunted any more than you and I do.  That said, every animal I’ve talked to about this subject has said that, given a choice, they would much rather be hunted and killed quickly by a single, lethal shot than to go through the horrors of slaughter. For them, that is far preferable than being crammed onto a livestock trailer and hauled who-knows how far, before being herded into a terrifying kill factory.”


On a lighter note Susan Davis has been a wildlife rehabilitator for 14 years. She lives in Bloomington and specializes in raccoons, recounts stories of when she gets calls about animals.

On a call about an opossum in someone’s yard, Davis advised the caller to, “Enjoy your opossum wildlife moment. It’s the only marsupial in all of North America.” Davis, who started her work caring for opossums, says, “They are the only mammal that will go after a mole.”

Davis says of wildlife rehabilitators, “Most of us welcome the calls we get to help resolve conflicts.  Because we understand the species involved.  People who take the time to find us online and call always have a special place in my heart.  They see a problem and want to find a peaceful resolution.”

She cites an example: “So it was with the woman who called upset because her family dog had killed a nursing mother raccoon foraging during late afternoon.  Female raccoons will forage during daylight when they have a litter of cubs so they will be able to protect them from night predators and also keep them warm.  Cubs cannot thermal regulate until their eyes open at about four weeks old.  They are born with eyes and ears closed. It was June so I knew the cubs would be forced to come down from their nest in a large tree to find food and both of us knew the dog would have the advantage.  Because this caller seemed so wildlife friendly I was encouraged to suggest she build a shelf and feed them until late August.  She was thrilled.”

Davis loves observing the deer she feeds on her property during the colder months. She and her husband made a pact that because trees were felled in building their retirement home, taking away food for wildlife as a result, they would supplement food for the deer. “So we put out stumps in back and from November 1 to April 1 we put out deer chow and shelled corn topped off with apple pieces and peanuts. Our herd of does and their yearlings come all year for the salt block, but they also know when the stumps will be filled.”

Davis describes the hierarchy of the herd. “Since 1999 we have had a steady number of 6-8 in the A team that appear healthy and strong. If the winter is especially difficult the B team may try to join them, but the alpha female keeps order and they will only be allowed a few mouthfuls.  They do not appear to be starving either. We try to plant bushes they do not prefer such as boxwood and holly and so far none have been disturbed.  They do not let us grow hostas, however. Too tempting. But that’s our social contract. Their needs now trump our needs and it’s up to us to live in harmony.”

[Author’s Note: I would like to give thanks to everyone who gave freely of their time to weigh in on this issue. I recognize this is a sensitive topic for many.and this piece only scratches the surface of the complexity of the matter.]

Bloomington Deer Timeline:

  • September 2010 The Deer Task Force, established by the City of Bloomington and the Monroe County Commissioners to address residential concerns surrounding the increasing deer population, begins meeting monthly. The eleven members of the Task Force are charged with educating themselves on all aspects of deer life as it relates to the urban/suburban environment in order to provide the community with options on how to best mitigate the negative impacts of deer proliferation.
  • October 2012 The City of Bloomington-Monroe County Deer Task Force releases its recommendations for deer population control at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve in its report entitled Common Ground: Toward balance and stewardship. The Task Force concludes that “sharpshooting is the most efficient way to cull the greatest number of deer in the most humane way possible.”
  • December 6, 2012 The Bloomington City Council accepts the recommendations of the Deer Task Force in their Final Report, Resolution 12-13, with a unanimous vote.
  • April 9, 2014 Ordinance 14-04 which allows sharpshooters to kill deer at Griffy as recommended by the Deer Task Force to cull the population, is approved by the Bloomington City Council.
  • April 11, 2014 The Mayor of Bloomington, Mark Kruzan, vetoes Ordinance 14-04 saying, “As a matter of conscience, I cannot support the killing of deer in the community. Legalizing deer hunting in Bloomington will irreversibly change the nature of the community.”
  • April 24, 2014 The Bloomington City Council overturns Mayor Kruzan’s veto of the kill ordinance with a 2/3 majority vote.
  • November 15, 2014 Sharpshooters provided by White Buffalo, Inc., a leading expert in urban deer population control, are authorized by the Special Purpose Deer Control Permit, issued by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, to begin taking out 100 deer in the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve. The kill, estimated to take place from November 15, 2014 to February 28, 2015, is expected to yield an estimated 5,000 pounds of venison which will be donated to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.


The Ryder ● November 2014

François Truffaut


The Man Who Loved Cinema ● by Craig J. Clark

One of the leading lights of the Nouvelle Vague or French New Wave, François Truffaut died 30 years ago this month at the age of 52, having written and directed 21 features over the course of a career that spanned three decades. Before he had his breakthrough with 1959’s The 400 Blows, the first in a series of films detailing the adventures of Antoine Doinel (played by his onscreen alter ego, Jean-Pierre Léaud), Truffaut worked as a critic for the influential film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. Afterward, he made such seminal New Wave films as 1960’s Shoot the Piano Player and 1962’s Jules and Jim, and wrote the original treatment for 1960’s Breathless, the debut feature of his Cahiers cohort Jean-Luc Godard.

[Image at the top: Truffaut with actress Julie Christie.]

In the years that followed, Truffaut had big successes with the likes of 1973’s Day for Night, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Film, and 1980’s The Last Metro, which won ten César Awards. What I’d like to highlight, though, are some of the lesser-known entries in his filmography, whose subjects run the gamut from marital infidelity to science fiction to Hitchcockian suspense to doomed romance. The one thing that binds them all together is Truffaut’s clear affection for his characters, however flawed they may be.

This was especially the case with Truffaut’s follow-up to Jules and Jim, 1964’s The Soft Skin, which wasn’t nearly as successful, but is a fascinating film in its own right. Based on a true story, it stars Jean Desailly as a respected author and editor of an academic journal who becomes infatuated with a much younger flight attendant and upends his life to be with her. Considering the flight attendant is played by Françoise Dorléac, it’s easy to understand why he’s so taken with her and fails to consider how their affair will affect his wife and their young daughter. As in the real-life case that inspired it, this leads to a tragic end for all concerned.

"The Soft Skin"

On The Set Of “The Soft Skin” With Françoise Dorléac

For a change of pace, Truffaut turned to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the first (and only) film he ever shot in English. Working with a large crew for the first time, Truffaut was able to fully realize Bradbury’s futuristic totalitarian state where reading books is illegal and firemen are employed to burn them when they are found. It’s a beautiful film to look at thanks to Nicolas Roeg’s sharp photography (which accentuates the reds that dominate the color scheme) and Bernard Herrmann provides a stirring score, but one gets the feeling Truffaut is constantly straining — and failing — to overcome the language barrier.

Of course, if Truffaut was uncomfortable writing and directing in a foreign tongue, that’s nothing compared to poor Oskar Werner, who previously starred in Jules and Jim and plays the film’s hero, Montag, in a halting German accent. He’s ably supported, though, by a cast of native-born English speakers like Julie Christie (who plays a double role as Montag’s vacuous wife and a teacher who lives nearby) and Cyril Cusack (as Montag’s captain). And even if it was done in the service of a story about the dangers of censorship, it’s still painful to watch the scenes of books (many of them masterpieces) being doused with kerosene and set ablaze.

"Fahrenheit 451"

Oskar Werner & Julie Christie

At Cahiers du Cinéma, Truffaut was a big proponent of the auteur theory, especially as it applied to Hollywood filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock. After conducting a series of interviews with the Master of Suspense that resulted in the seminal book Hitchcock/Truffaut, he was inspired to take a couple stabs at the genre himself, first with 1968’s The Bride Wore Black and then with 1969’s Mississippi Mermaid, both based on novels by Cornell Woolrich. The more successful of the two, both critically and commercially, The Bride Wore Black stars Jeanne Moreau (late of Jules and Jim) as a woman distraught over the murder of her childhood sweetheart on their wedding day who decides to track down the men responsible. As she eliminates them one by one, we learn a little bit more about her motivation until we find out exactly what happened on that fateful day. Then it’s a matter of whether she’ll be able to carry out the rest of her plans before her conscience or the police catch up with her first.

For Mississippi Mermaid, Truffaut had a bigger budget to work with, but the film saw diminishing returns despite extensive location shooting and the presence of stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve. (Even Deneuve’s fleeting topless scenes failed to bring in the crowds.) Belmondo plays a plantation owner based on a small island off the coast of Madagascar who sets his heart on marrying Deneuve after only corresponding with her. Once she arrives, it turns out neither of them was entirely honest with the other – he downplayed his wealth and position and she sent him a bogus picture – but they go ahead with the marriage anyway. Then one day an alarming letter arrives and Deneuve flies the coop with most of Belmondo’s money. His pride wounded, he hires a private detective to find his runaway bride, but then decides to track her down himself.

There are numerous allusions to Hitchcock’s oeuvre throughout the film, with the most obvious antecedent being the similarly flawed Marnie, which also deals with a woman who meets rich men under false pretenses and takes them for everything she can. Curiously enough, the ending of the film echoes one of the rejected endings of Hitchcock’s Suspicion, which Truffaut must have known about. One has to wonder, if it didn’t pass muster for the Master of Suspense, why did he think it would work for him?

Switching gears, Truffaut entered the ’70s with The Wild Child, the first time he gave himself a starring role in one of his films. It tells the true story of a boy who was found running naked in the woods in the south of France in 1798 and how he reacted when he was introduced to civilization. I strongly suspect Truffaut assumed the role of Dr. Jean Itard, a specialist in deaf-mutes who took a personal interest in the case, because he knew he was going to be working closely with the young actor playing the title character (a remarkably feral Jean-Pierre Cargol). Incidentally, by the end of the film the “wild child” has grown considerably more tame, but it’ll still be a while before he reaches Kaspar Hauser levels of social integration.

"The Wild Child"

Jean-Pierre Cargol & Truffaut

One decade after reaching the heights of romance with Jules and Jim, Truffaut made Two English Girls, based on another novel by Henri-Pierre Roché. Released in 1971, it stars Jean-Pierre Léaud as a young Frenchman and aspiring writer who travels to Wales to visit with a pair of sisters (Kika Markham and Stacey Tendeter) because their mother is friends with his mother. Of the two of them, older sister Markham is more approachable, but Tendeter is the one who initially captures his fancy, which is only inflamed by her reclusiveness. Even if the given reason for this is perfectly reasonable — she suffers from eye strain and has to rest them for fear of going blind — it still gives her an air of unavailability. Things don’t really get complicated, though, until Léaud gets involved with Markham when she moves to Paris to become a sculptress. Their situation even inspires him to write a book very much like Jules and Jim, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

By the time Day for Night picked up Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards, Truffaut was on the radar of Roger Corman, whose New World Pictures picked up numerous foreign films for distribution in the ’70s. The first of two Truffaut films New World released — 1975’s The Story of Adele H. – even managed to garner an Oscar nomination for its lead actress, Isabelle Adjani, which was something that rarely happened with the company’s home-grown product. Adjani plays the daughter of Victor Hugo (who is called “the most famous man in the world” at one point, which explains why she travels under an assumed name), who travels to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in pursuit of a British officer (future Withnail and I writer/director Bruce Robinson) with whom she is madly in love. Sadly for Adjani, the feeling is not mutual and in her delusion she becomes something of a stalker. It’s a heartbreaking performance that becomes progressively more difficult to watch as she divorces herself further and further from reality. No wonder the Academy was impressed.

No acting nominations resulted from Truffaut’s next film, 1976’s Small Change, but it proved he hadn’t lost his flair for directing children. An episodic slice of life set in the last few weeks of school before the start of summer vacation, it recounts the misadventures of a classroom full of children, focusing on a handful of them as they get in and out of various scrapes. It’s hard to say which scene is more memorable, the one where a precocious toddler falls out a seven-story window and bounces right back as if he had merely tumbled off the couch or the one where a girl gets on a bullhorn to announce to an entire high rise that her parents have locked her in while they go out to eat and she’s hungry. In either scenario, it’s incredible that the parents didn’t have to answer to charges of child neglect.

"Small Change"

Scene From “Small Change”

The following year, Truffaut went from a film that demonstrated how much he loved children to making The Man Who Loved Women, which begins and ends at the funeral of the title character — whose passing, his editor (Brigitte Fossey) notes, is being mourned exclusively by women — but within that frame it’s bookended by a pair of car accidents that illustrate how little control he has over how he’s affected by the fairer sex. A devout and unapologetic leg man, Charles Denner is introduced faking a hit-and-run just so he can locate a leggy driver whose license plate he managed to scribble down as she drove off. And at the end he’s so distracted by a skirt he’s chasing that he walks right out into traffic and gets hit by a car. Such is the lot of a man called “the wolf with a wearied look” by one of his countless conquests.

As the film progresses, we meet a number of Denner’s beauties after the rejection of one, a middle-aged boutique owner who is only attracted to younger men, sends him to the typewriter to peck out a book all about the women in his life (starting with his mother, who’s briefly glimpsed in black-and-white flashbacks). By far, the one he devotes the most space to is a mercurial married woman (Nelly Borgeaud) who enjoys having sex in public places, which makes their months-long affair a nerve-wracking one. It’s only after he’s completed his manuscript and it’s ready to go to press, though, that he has a chance run-in with a bitter ex (Leslie Caron) that he somehow left out of the book. Fossey won’t hear of him making any last-minute changes and suggests he save her for the follow-up, but his sudden urge to play in traffic prevents him from writing that.

When Truffaut made The Story of Adele H., he eliminated all of the master shots, which allowed him to stretch his budget further and make a smaller film look larger. Three years later, he applied the same principle to 1978’s The Green Room, based on a story by Henry James, which takes place in a small French town in the late ’20s. It’s a little over a decade after the Great War, which Truffaut’s character fought in, and nearly the same amount of time since the death of his young bride, who waited patiently for him all throughout the fighting and then died right after their wedding. Since then, Truffaut has been consumed by her memory and even has a room in his house dedicated to her, but he soon resolves to refurbish an abandoned chapel to make a more permanent memorial to all the people he’s known who have died.

"The Story of Adele H."

Isabelle Adjani With Truffaut In “The Story Of Adele H.”

With its morbid subject matter and emotionally closed-off main character, The Green Room failed to catch on with audiences, but Truffaut turned things around with the following year’s Love on the Run, the capstone of the Antoine Doinel saga. (It’s possible it could have continued if Truffaut hadn’t died so young, but we’ll never know what he had in mind.) Then, after The Last Metro and its story of the German occupation of France during World War II, Truffaut left the past behind for two contemporary films that turned out to be his last.

When romance flames out in a spectacular fashion, are both parties irrevocably burned by the experience or are they capable of rekindling their passion years later? That’s the central question posed by 1981’s The Woman Next Door, in which Gérard Depardieu’s quiet life in a tiny French village is disturbed when ex-lover Fanny Ardant (Truffaut’s partner until his death) moves into the house across the street with her new husband. Depardieu, too, has settled down with a wife (Michèle Baumgartner) and small boy, but neither of their domestic arrangements can erase the undeniable attraction they still feel for each other.

In his defense, Depardieu does try to head things off at the pass by pretending to work late when Baumgartner invites their new neighbors over for dinner, and he steers clear of Ardant as much as he can without raising suspicion, but all it takes is one stolen kiss in a parking garage and it’s only a matter of time before they start meeting in hotels and so forth. From that point on, all of their public interactions are marked by the increasing strain of keeping their affair secret, although local tennis club owner Véronique Silver is wise to it pretty much from the start. That makes sense since she’s the character Truffaut and his co-writers chose to narrate the film. Based on her own experiences, she’s well-versed in the fallout that doomed love affairs are prone to.

Made in 1983 as a lighthearted variation on the Hitchcock-inspired thrillers he turned out in the late ’60s, Truffaut’s swan song Confidentially Yours is about a real-estate agent (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who finds himself in a real pickle when his wife and her lover both turn up dead and the police think he’s their man. Lucky for him, his headstrong secretary (Fanny Ardant again) is ready and willing to do the legwork and try to find out who wanted them dead because the police sure aren’t interested and his lawyer believes he should turn himself in and claim it was a crime of passion.

"Confidentially Yours"

Fanny Ardant In “Confidentially Yours”

Ardant’s investigation takes her to Nice, where she looks into the wife’s past, and gives Truffaut the perfect opportunity to recreate the famous shot from Psycho of Janet Leigh driving in the rain. (This moment alone justifies his decision to shoot the film in black and white.) Hitchcock isn’t the only director on his mind, though, since another plot point revolves around a cinema that’s showing Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. And the voyeur angle is provided by Ardant’s ex-husband (Xavier Saint-Macary), a photographer who always seems to be lurking around. Exasperated as he gets with Ardant, though, Trintignant is fortunate to have somebody who’s so thoroughly on his side — save for those fleeting moments when it crosses her mind that he may be guilty after all.

As breezily entertaining as it is, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that Confidentially Yours is somewhat inconsequential. That wouldn’t be so bad, but around the time of its release Truffaut suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He eventually died on October 21, 1984, leaving a number of unfinished projects in the planning stages. I’m sure he would have liked his final film to be a bit weightier, but the body of work he left behind is substantial enough to keep film lovers occupied for a long time to come.

The Ryder ● November 2014

Leather And Skin


The Art of Robert Mapplethorpe Comes to IU ● by Ethan Sandweiss

The statuesque nudes and the soft flower petals that line the walls of Indiana University’s Grunwald Gallery of Art are unmistakable works of one of the 20th Century’s most influential photographers. Whether viewed as intentionally explicit or uniquely insightful, Robert Mapplethorpe created photographs that demand a reaction. In a joint effort with the Grunwald Gallery, the Kinsey Institute is displaying all 30 of its Mapplethorpe prints for the first time. Robert Mapplethorpe: Photographs from the Kinsey Institute’s Collection is on display through November 22nd and features some of the most provocative and recognizable work of his career.

[Image at the top of this post: Self Portrait, 1980 © The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

Used by permission. Courtesy of The Kinsey Institute.]

There’s little doubt that Mapplethorpe’s gritty, explicit, and beautiful images changed the landscape of American art. Born in Queens to a working class Catholic family, Mapplethorpe was often walking the thin line between conventionality and deviance. A former choirboy, he enrolled at the Pratt Institute following his father’s wishes to become a commercial artist, but dropped out to live as a bohemian in Brooklyn. Like many artists before him, Mapplethorpe explored the world, and himself, through creation. His self-discovery as a homosexual profoundly changed his lifestyle and the nature of his work. The photographs on display at the Grunwald Gallery are some of his most provocative and distinctive.

Though he sometimes described his own photography as “pornographic,” Mapplethorpe avoided the temptation to create art just for the shock value. “I don’t like that particular word ‘shocking,’” he once said, “I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before.” Though Mapplethorpe emulated artists such as Warhol and Duchamp, he was always preoccupied with defining his own unique style. The photographer became notorious for his provocative polaroid images of New York’s S&M scene that hid curiosity about passion and the human body behind initially startling sexuality.

Robert Mapplethorpe’s career began in the 1970’s New York City. For the previous decade, art in the city had been dominated by Andy Warhol and the pop art movement; bohemian and gay subcultures which had received marginal attention before were now at the forefront of the evolution of fine art. As a college dropout, Mapplethorpe scraped by working various menial jobs and living with his close friend and lover, Patti Smith. The years before his

art began to proliferate were challenging for him on all levels; he suffered from severe health complications and struggled with his own sense of identity. Financially, Mapplethorpe was destitute, but along with Smith he continued to produce vast quantities of art. Eventually, the two moved into the Chelsea Hotel: the center of New York’s bohemian community.

In 1970, Robert Mapplethorpe bought his first Polaroid camera. Mapplethorpe, who at the time primarily created drawings and collages, began incorporating his own photographs in his work. By 1973 when his first show opened at the Light Gallery, the artist was almost exclusively working with photographs. While Mapplethorpe had begun to work commercially for print and television, his artistic career became increasingly avant garde and provocative. The controversy over his explicit, but masterfully produced, polaroid photographs not only brought attention to him but challenged the very definition of art.

Throughout the 1980’s Mapplethorpe’s work continued to evolve and his reputation continued to grow. He focused increasingly on homoerotic photography featuring statuesque men, often African American, in photographs that were at once classically formal and revolutionary. In addition to his nude photography, Mapplethorpe photographed series of flowers and celebrity portraits which became famous in their own right. Particularly controversial were his images of children, which were often infused with overtly sexual imagery.

Mapplethorpe’s self-destructive lifestyle of casual sex and drug abuse kept him simultaneously alive and on the brink of death. His close friend and writer of his biography, Jack Fritscher, wrote, “If AIDS (didn’t get) him, something else would have.” Mapplethorpe received his diagnosis in 1986 at the height of his artistic career. The AIDS epidemic had begun to devastate the gay community and Mapplethorpe was to become one if its most prominent victims. Despite his diagnosis, Mapplethorpe continued to create, and AIDS research became cause. In 1988, one year before his death, Robert Mapplethorpe started the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, dedicated to promoting photography as a fine art form and later to supporting AIDS research. In March of 1989, Mapplethorpe lost his battle against the disease and died in a Boston hospital.

Months after Mapplethorpe’s death, the photographer made his biggest impact on the world of art. His touring show Perfect Moment arrived at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The exhibition, which featured his signature leather-clad gay men and child photography, drew outrage from conservative locals and eventually a legal suit. Dennis Barrie, director of the arts center, was arrested and put on trial for obscenity charges, facing up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine for the museum. Barrie and the museum were eventually acquitted of all charges in a Cincinnati court. However, even though free expression had won the battle, Perfect Moment provoked a much larger conflict. The show coincided with a tumultuous time in the American art world. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) had been sponsoring similarly controversial projects, including one of artist Andres Serrano that included a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine, entitled Piss Jesus. (At the height of the controversy, IU brought Serrano to Bloomington as a guest lecturer.) Many Washington lawmakers had been looking for an opportunity to cut funding for the NEA, and Perfect Moment became their excuse. The NEA had provided $30,000 for the show, which Rep. Dick Armey, a Texas Republican and ardent anti-NEA advocate, labeled “morally reprehensible trash.” While congressional attempts to directly cut funding to the NEA were unsuccessful, a congressional committee removed $45,000 from the NEA’s budget (the combined amount spent by the NEA on both the Mapplethorpe and the Serrano show), adding also an anti-obscenity clause that denied funding for projects that featured, among other things, homoeroticism, sadomasochism, and “individuals engaged in sex acts.” Betsy Stirratt of the Grunwald Gallery recalled her own reactions at the time of the controversy. “I was a young artist at the time. I think a lot of us were impacted by the censorship.” Popular protest against the rise of government censorship increased, as did the threat. Clashes continued throughout the 1990’s in response to the legislation and brought to the table not only the question of government involvement in the arts, but the very definition of art itself.

Catherine Johnson-Roehr, Curator of Art, Artifacts, and Photographs at the Kinsey Institute feels passionately that the work of Robert Mapplethorpe has to be preserved and shown. “No one today should be questioning whether or not he’s a real artist,” says Johnson-Roehr, “there’s still arguments being made about what is art, but I think as a culture we’ve evolved.” Catherine Johnson-Roehr remembers that in her first days working at Kinsey, one of the most common questions she was asked was if the institute had any of Mapplethorpe’s photographs. Johnson-Roehr wrote to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and in 2011, it donated 30 original Mapplethorpe prints. The only stipulation made at the time of the donation was that the prints were to be one day shown in an exhibition. Coincidentally, the show will take place 25 years after the arrest of Dennis Barrie in Cincinnati, and will feature some of the same prints that were on display in Perfect Moment. The exhibition at the Grunwald Gallery, a retrospective of some of Mapplethorpe’s best work, promises to be rich with artistic and historical significance. “Not everyone will like it,” says Stirratt, “(but) it’s a very gratifying show.”

The Ryder ● November 2014

Jonathan Bloom And The American Wasteland


● by Colleen Wells

[ED: Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) spoke at Indiana University last month. His book, published in 2010, earned the 2011 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award.]

Pies, pasta and pizza are often better the second time around, but what about the rest of the leftover food in your fridge? If you don’t know what to do with last night’s corn or beans, try mixing them in with a pot of chili. Reallocate on-the-edge bread to feeding ducks, or use it to make breadcrumbs. Fading lemons, oranges, and apples can be used to create potpourri, and coffee grounds can be left in your fridge to neutralize the odor of stale food. These are the types of things we can all do to make a dent in the 160 billion pounds of food Americans waste annually, And, according to Jonathan Bloom’s book, that’s a conservative estimate.

Jonathan Bloom has been researching food waste since 2005 when he had a seminal experience as a volunteer for DC Central Kitchen. While witnessing piles of donated food, the author became overwhelmed and intrigued by the vastness of it. In the introduction to American Wasteland, he writes: “That summer day in our nation’s capital, my task was to man an industrial-sized vat of pasta. This was not a plum assignment in a building without air conditioning. Yet the job’s mindlessness granted me time to look around while I stirred the spaghetti with an oar. I noticed a variety of foods that somebody hadn’t wanted. And it was all good stuff, too.”

From there Bloom began asking questions and exploring the topic on his blog. like his book, his blog offers as many solutions to food waste as it does point out the scope and severity of the problem. There’s a forum for readers to post tips about reducing food waste. They include bringing leftovers to coworkers for lunch, feeding scraps to chickens, and getting creative with putting leftovers in omelets.

All of these, like the ideas listed above, are small suggestions we can use at home. And they are suggestions that just make sense. In a phone interview with Bloom, who lives in Durham, North Carolina, the fact that it makes sense not to waste food was discussed from many different angles.

Colleen Wells: What events and memories have informed your journey?

Jonathan Bloom: Wasting food just doesn’t make sense. When I came to realize how much food wasn’t being used, I was stunned and confounded. I had this real ah-ha moment in DC Central Kitchen in Washington where I was volunteering, where I saw all of this food that they had recovered that would have otherwise been thrown out. I saw not just the massive amounts of food but the beautiful kinds of food and the variety and the quality of food that at most places would be thrown out, but, in this instance, was being put to good use.

Having that experience really forced me to start asking some questions and start doing some digging as a journalist. The more I’d go looking for food waste, the more I found it. To this day I keep learning more and more about where food is discarded in our food system and some of the rationale behind that waste. For the most part, none of it happens for a good reason. That’s the shocking part of food waste that keeps me interested in the topic and passionate about it.

CW: That makes a lot of sense.

JB: Yeah, and just to flesh it out a tiny bit more on the background, as I said before, it’s kind of common sense. Why would anyone waste food? And that’s my perspective but the experiences I had growing up in a family where we took all of the leftovers home from a restaurant, where we saved leftovers from our meals at home, and then also where we were told to just take what we wanted to eat and to try not to take too much. All these were formative experiences…

My grandfather would finish up everyone’s plate. My grandmother–I remember watching her eat a drumstick, a chicken leg–seeing her get every morsel of meat off that bone really caused me to take a moment of pause as a kid. I guess you just don’t see that kind of reverence for food most of the time these days because we as a culture, for the most part, haven’t gone without food. But for anyone who’s lived through the depression or even the rationing of WWII, or had parents who did, you’re going to approach food differently and more likely than that, you’re going to really appreciate that food.

CW: We have a daughter who we’ve adopted from Haiti who does that with chicken legs.

JB: And why wouldn’t someone do that? We have different sensitivities, but we as a culture err on the side of being a bit on the squeamish side and we only want our packaged, boneless chicken breast. We don’t want to deal with the entire animal and we don’t want to face the actuality of what we’re doing when we eat meat, but that’s a separate topic.

CW: We are so busy as a culture and have gotten away from cooking and using wholesome ingredients.  What are your thoughts on this?

JB: That’s certainly part of the problem of poor nutrition and food waste. Not having enough time, [and] leading these incredibly busy lives. We have stepped out of the kitchen to a certain extent, or we don’t have the time to cook where we wished we did, so as a result we’ve lost some of those traditional food ways… Collectively speaking, we’ve lost some of those tricks and tips of making food last and stretching food and most importantly, knowing when food has gone bad or not knowing how long you can keep food or even how to store food so it can last longer, how to prepare food, or can food. Busyness and the loss of food knowledge go hand in hand in creating this culture that has lost its way with food, period. And you’re starting to see a reaction against that, and thankfully more and more people are starting to learn some of those traditional food ways to get better at using all of their food and getting back to eating seasonally and cooking more. It does take time to be able to pull that off… [but] where there’s a will there’s a way….

CW: There are so many ways that food is wasted from the seed to the fork. What are some of the most surprising things you discovered in your research?

JB: The most disturbing aspect of waste to me is the fresh food that never ends up leaving the farm. That happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s based on macroeconomics where the price of the goods doesn’t justify the investment to harvest it. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of available labor or possibly the policies on immigration leading to lack of available labor. For whatever reasons, to have this fresh, nutritious food that could be going to help feed hungry people, to have that be plowed under or just rotting at the bottom of an orchard or the bottom of the trees at an orchard, that just doesn’t make any sense. There’s food wasted at every level of the food chain, and the more I looked, well, there’s just an abundance of more foods available for recovery because of our excess.

But as we move forward, I think it’s vital to focus on the healthiest foods so that we’re not exacerbating existing problems like obesity and food-related or diet-related illnesses in trying to solve hunger. So it’s all about finding the healthiest, most nutritious foods out there for everybody, and all the loss at the farm level just seems to be a lost opportunity to help those in need.

And I don’t want to cast any blame really on farmers and growers who I think in many cases are victims of circumstances. It’s not that, it’s that we have to figure out some logistical and policy-based solutions to harness the excess food.

CW: You offer many solutions in your book.

JB: I was a little vague there in the solutions part. There’s so many gleaning organizations who are able to harness volunteer labor. There’s one avenue for change and then I think that there should be some involvement from the USDA in trying to promote food recovery at the farm level and that hasn’t happened since the late `90s. There’s a real opportunity there, especially where you have farms that are receiving federal subsidies. I think that’s an avenue to make sure that food recovery happens. If you’re gonna take some federal money then let’s contribute all that food back to society and find a way to harness that excess so that it’s profitable for the growers who I recognize have a pretty tough path these days.

CW: We have wonderful farmer’s markets and coops and small farms in Bloomington. Do you feel like that’s a huge key, here, reducing travel involved in getting food to our plates?

JB: The long distance food chain is certainly to blame for a lot of waste, so eating locally will contribute toward a more local food system. I do think it’s a process where if more and more people are voting with their food dollars for a local food economy, then that’s going to have an impact. And more importantly, perhaps, would be that when you eat locally, whether it’s going shopping at a farmer’s market, or growing your own foods, the more connected we are with our own food, the more likely we are to respect and value what we eat. That connectedness is what’s really going to make a difference with food waste.

And it really carries through with adults and kids alike, in that if you can get kids, for example, to have a school garden or even a backyard garden, they’re so much more likely to want to eat their vegetables when they’ve played a role in creating them, growing them. Kids who grow kale, eat kale for the most part and all the sudden it’s miraculous. You’ll see this transformation where broccoli goes from being something yucky to something delicious and being a part of that process can have a magical impact on how we approach food…

CW: I totally understand. It’s hard to stay connected to our food with three kids on three different soccer teams, and I’ve worked in preschools where it can be discouraging seeing what’s in the children’s lunches… how else can we teach our children about food? I didn’t grow up in an environment where we did canning, but there are things I’d like to try with my family.

JB: We didn’t do canning either. We were definitely a supermarket-based family, but we valued (the) stuff we got. I would think canning would be a nice way to do it. I just went apple picking with my kids, but I have mixed feelings about that as I’m stepping on apple after apple that’s fallen by the wayside. I think the good probably outweighs the bad because of the awareness and connectedness that you’re fostering, but that’s debatable…

I was in Colorado this summer, and there’s this really neat org called They map all of the readily available fruit. There are apple trees all over the place in this town where I was staying, in Boulder. And we would be out for a walk and go by an apple tree, pick an apple or two, and that would be our morning snack, and it all just felt very organic for lack of a better word.

I think there’s something to that, just getting kids to realize that food doesn’t happen from the supermarket, and whether you’re gardening out back or in a community garden or enjoying the random apple tree run-ins, they all go toward that same end of connecting kids to their food better.

CW: That dovetails with another area of waste. It’s school lunches. I’ve seen waste in schools where I’ve worked, and it seems like it would be easy to redistribute the food.

JB: I’m with you. I’m astounded that there’s all this waste at the school cafeteria level, and for the most part, food doesn’t have to be thrown out. Leftover, packaged foods could be recovered or rescued and sent to a non-profit. There’s this huge misconception that all food in a school cafeteria setting has to be thrown out per USDA rules and that’s not the case. They’ve just added something to the Good Samaritan Act. In 2012 this congressman put an addendum on the Good Samaritan Act to make sure that people knew it applied to schools… and while there might be variations from county to county or state to state, for the most part we could have that kind of food recovery program happening at a school level.

Of course that doesn’t apply to the kid who takes a bite out of their sandwich and doesn’t want to eat any more. There’s nothing you can really do with that.

CW: I’m really interested in the composting. Can we talk about how wide-spread it’s becoming because I didn’t even know when you mentioned in your book that in Seattle and San Francisco there is mandatory composting per household and in San Francisco for businesses too. Has that taken off more since your book came out?

JB: Composting has grown steadily in the last five years and more and more cities and towns are instituting household composting, usually starting with a pilot program to test it out. So we’re at a point now where more than 200 cities and towns in America have curbside composting which is fabulous. But certainly there’s room for so much improvement there, and hopefully that will grow because there’s really no reason to be sending nutrient-dense food scraps to the landfill where they just create an environmental hazard in the form of methane emissions. So we’re taking a potential soil amendment, a potential plus, and turning it into a net negative when we throw away food, and unfortunately about 97% of the food waste created ends up in a landfill.

CW: That’s definitely another thing that families can do.

JB: Yeah, I was going to say that, and it’s not like you have to wait for your city to institute a compost program. You could do it in your back yard. If you don’t have an outdoor space, they  sell indoor composting contraptions, or you could even get worms. Have a worm bin and compost food scraps that way and in either scenario, whether it’s regular composting or worm composting, you’re going to create a really useful soil amendment that will help you or your neighbor garden.

CW: That’s awesome. Thank you for bringing up the worm bin. I hadn’t thought of that.

JB: Especially for kids too. It’s a nice way to interact with them in a natural process.

CW: Then my son can borrow a few for fishing I guess…

JB: (Laughs)

CW: How can someone like me, your average Mom who wants to make a difference but sometimes has limitations, how can I share the information about food waste?

JB: I think it all starts at home, and I want people to spread the word through actions before any kind of outreach, so trying to reduce their own waste and be as waste aware in their own personal lives, cooking at home, and out in the world of restaurants or shopping, for example.

So then I’m sure there will be these… kind of organic conversations popping up left and right, like why are you doing that? Why did you bring that metal container to this restaurant? … And why are you asking for a half loaf of bread at the grocery store with the fresh baked loaves? Then I think it’ll spread out from there. Maybe you’re then trying to work with others, work with neighbors and family members to avoid ordering too much at a restaurant or to avoid serving family and friends too much when you have them over for a meal. And I think it’ll flower from that.

CW: In your book you say, “Food waste reduction will succeed because it’ll become second nature.” You refer to recycling a few times and how that’s taken off, I was happy to hear that you believe that and that you’re seeing the change because those of us who aren’t out in the field aren’t always aware of the good things that are happening. With that in mind, what do you think are the greatest obstacles remaining?

JB: There’s three things. There’s awareness, apathy and attention span. The first thing is we have to get people to realize that food waste is a problem, then once you breach the topic then the danger is people don’t care about the issue and just don’t want to bother. Reducing food waste isn’t hard, but it does take a little bit of doing and people for the most part tend to steer clear of behavior change. That’s kind of scary for a lot of folks. They don’t want to listen if you’re asking more of them.

Busy lifestyles is a third barrier to action on food waste because we don’t tend to pause much on anything let alone this topic that people might not think is all that important. If we can really get people thinking about food waste, that’s the first step towards creating some kind of lasting change.

[Jonathan Bloom’s American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) is published by Da Capo Press. You can read more about him at Wasted Food and @WastedFood.] [Colleen Wells writes from Bloomington. Her book, Dinner with Doppelgangers-A True Story of Madness and Recovery is forthcoming from Wordpool Press.]

The Ryder ● October 2014


An Attempt At Processing The Death — And Life — Of Robin Williams


● by Will Healey

I had just walked off the field after a pick-up Frisbee game and, seated in my car, checked my phone for any messages.  There was a missed call and a voicemail from a friend I’d been playing phone-tag with for several days; there was a text, too, from that same friend, saying “Robin Williams died, supposedly a suicide…”

I remained in my car, in the parking lot of the elementary school where we’d played, for what must have been twenty minutes.  At first I was stunned by the sudden news that he was dead; but my shock soon turned to disbelief, and I switched to journalist mode, using the Internet on my phone to confirm that it was true.  Once corroborated by a glance at a credible news outlet, I was hit by a flood of images of many of his performances enmeshed with who I was, where I was, and who I was with when I watched them.  It was like my life, and his life as a performer, flashed before me.  Mork & Mindy, Hook, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage, Good Will Hunting; my family, my friends, growing up.

From "Good Will Hunting"

Good Will Hunting

I’d always appreciated Robin Williams as an entertainer, though in recent years I truthfully found him more exhausting than anything else, mostly because the only times I saw him were in shtick-y interviews where I’d find myself pleading with the TV for him to relax, shut his brain off for a second, to stop being the entertainer…but he couldn’t.  He seemed so manic; I often wondered how he could live with his mind going a million miles a minute. I no longer went to see his films. The Night at the Museum franchise, Happy Feet, those vehicles didn’t hold the same magic for me, an adult, as they probably do for kids today.  I’d long since left Neverland.  Robin Williams had served his purpose for me, and I no longer needed him.  But when I heard that he was dead, I realized just how big a part of my life he’d been.  In an admittedly parasocial sense, I grew up with this guy.  From my car in the parking lot, I sent a group text to my family, a rare act usually reserved for sharing big things like the Red Sox winning the World Series, or videos of my little niece doing something adorable.  This felt appropriate, somehow.  We’d lost someone who gave our family much entertainment and great joy.  We’d lost one of our own.

And then my mind shifted to the manner of his death.  Suicide? I’m not saying that suicide is a fitting end for any person, but it felt especially inappropriate for him.  I had heard of Williams’ wild days with drugs and alcohol in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I knew the story about how he was one of the last people partying with John Belushi before he died, and I’d heard his bits about cocaine. I also knew that he cut all that stuff out when his first child was born in 1983.  Williams relapsed into alcohol in 2003, and struggled with it for years before checking into rehab in 2006. I remember hearing that he had checked into an alcohol treatment center earlier this year, but I didn’t think much of it. I did not see this coming.  I wonder if anyone did.

Shortly after his death, Williams’ publicist stated that he had been struggling with severe depression prior to his death.  Shortly after that, Williams’ wife stated that he had been sober before his death, but revealed that he had been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.

After Williams’ death, the outpouring of grief and tributes throughout social media made it clear that the loss was felt by many.  I saw post after post of people’s favorite quotes, pictures, and clips. I thought about my favorite Williams moments, and ironically, they weren’t any of the bombastic live wire comedic performances.  They were the nuanced, dramatic moments where he laid himself bare.  His impassioned performance in Dead Poets Society. His Academy Award-winning performance in Good Will Hunting- particularly two moments- the warm glint in his eye when his character, Sean, shares with Will the information that his wife used to fart in her sleep, saying “that’s the good stuff;” and the shift in his voice in the classic park scene when he says to Will, “If I asked you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet, but you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable.” That one scene might have single-handedly won him the Oscar.

In the days following his death, many previously unheard stories came out about his generosity, the quiet acts of kindness that he didn’t intend for anyone to ever know about that showed the true measure of the man. The bucket list video he sent a New Zealand woman dying of cancer shortly before his death. The time he chartered a jet to North Carolina to spend the day with a young girl who would die two weeks later from brain cancer. Or the video of the time he had a tickle fight with Koko the Gorilla. Some things were higher profile, too- the many trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain the troops. Helping Comic Relief raise more than 50 million dollars during its twelve-year run to fight homelessness in America. Granting countless wishes to kids with terminal illnesses through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Supporting the St. Jude Children’s Hospital for several years.

When his close friend Christopher Reeve was convalescing after the riding accident that left him a quadriplegic, Williams snuck into the hospital dressed as a doctor to cheer him up.  According to Reeve, it was the first time he’d laughed since his accident.  Williams continued to be close with Reeve over the next several years, and even helped him pay his medical bills.  After Reeve and subsequently his wife, Dana, died, Williams helped provide support for the Reeve’s son, who was fourteen at the time.

Robin Williams almost came to the Comedy Attic try out some new material in 2010. Jared Thompson, owner of the Comedy Attic to “Unfortunately, it never happened, I don’t know exactly what he ended up doing instead, but the fact  that we were even involved in a conversation about it was just fantastic,” Thompson said.

Williams did perform at the IU Auditorium in 2009.  In an email exchange, IU Auditorium Director Doug Booher reminisced about meeting Williams, and shared this story about the night of his performance:

“There was one particular guest that night who he (Williams) was most interested in meeting.  We had learned that a young teenage boy, who was being treated for a significant medical condition at IU’s MPRI, was one of Mr. Williams’ biggest fans.  His parents wanted to surprise him with a trip to the show, but because of the costs of his ongoing treatment were only able to pay for a balcony ticket for their son, and one parent to accompany him.  When Mr. Williams learned about this, he asked that the young man and both of his parents be invited to be his guest, sit in the front row, and attend a private backstage meet and greet.  After the show, when we escorted the boy back to meet Mr. Williams, I am not sure which of them was more excited.  Mr. Williams and the young man shared stories of their lives, recounted favorite movie lines and roles, and even took turns impersonating Mr. Williams’ various performances.  Toward the end of their visit, Mr. Williams shared some very personal insight with the boy about perseverance and his optimism for the boy’s recovery.  With tears near the surface for everyone in the room, they exchanged contact information and hugs.  It was truly a genuine moment that defied all of the common beliefs about celebrities, and reinforced the incredible power of laughter and love.”


I read somewhere that Williams viewed performing as a means to let him get to his true passion in life- making people feel good.  It saddens me to think that someone who gave so much happiness to so many in the end had none left for himself. Perhaps the best way to honor Robin Williams would be to remember him less for the circumstances of his death and more for the joy he brought in life.

The Ryder ● October 2014


A Cure For Your Post-World Cup Blues


Welcome to England ● by Michael Roberts

The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait four more years to see dramatic, exciting, world-class soccer.  England’s top-flight soccer league, the Barclays Premier League, has a new season underway and it is on television in the USA almost every weekend through May of 2015.  The drama unfolds over the course of a 38-match-week season in which three vital points for a win are at stake in every match; it isn’t a surprise these days for the season’s champion to be determined by a margin as small and fragile as a few points, so every single week is important to the various clubs’ ambitions.

World-class players, world-class goals, last-second heroics, last-second heartbreak, historic clubs, stadiums, and famous anthems sung by passionate supporters, high-powered local rivalries, upsets and blowout-wins, goals galore, promotion and relegation, and players from every corner of the world – these are just some of the qualities which make England’s Barclays Premier league the best ‘football’ league in the world, and so much fun to watch. As of mid-September, the BPL is heading into just match-week four, so there’s still plenty of time to catch on if you’re experiencing soccer withdrawal after this year’s wonderful World Cup. To help you get into it, here is a guide to last season’s top seven clubs, their outlooks for the current season, and how to catch them on television in the USA.

Manchester City Football Club: Last season’s champion, and certainly among the favorites to win the title again this year.  The club’s home color is sky blue and their manager/head coach is Manuel Pellegrini.  Until recently, they had mostly been known as the “pesky little brother” to Manchester’s most famous club, Manchester United, but everything changed in 2008 when the club was purchased by the wealthy Abu Dhabi United Group, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family.  This change in ownership resulted in the immediate purchase of Brazilian forward Robinho for a British record transfer fee of £32.5 million, and unprecedented spending sprees in the subsequent transfer periods ever since.  They have now assembled a world-class team full of experienced, international superstars and consistently challenge for all available trophies.  No longer just a “pesky little brother,” Man City is now a full-fledged powerhouse – a formidable opponent for any of Europe’s top clubs.  They scored a league-leading 102 goals last season, thanks to their confident, smart, attacking style of play.  After a summer which saw them strengthen yet again in the transfer window, there’s littke doubt they will find their top form and be competing for trophies at the end of the season.

Liverpool FC: Last season’s runner-up to the league title, and an outside favorite to win it this year.  Their home color is red, and their manager is Brendan Rodgers.  Although dominant in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, Liverpool FC hasn’t managed to win a league title since 1990.  In fact, the 2013-2014 season was the closest they have come to doing so.  While the league title has proven elusive, they have managed to win other major trophies to fill the void and have remained a competitive team yearly.  Having scored 101 goals in the league last season, they are not a team to be taken lightly.  Thanks to their stylish, quick, unselfish and passing-based style of play, many described them as also being the most enjoyable team to watch.  Uruguayan forward Luis Suárez, was perhaps the best player in the world last season.  Suárez’s Liverpool career has been riddled with controversies; however, he managed to stay out of trouble last season and produced his best football yet, scoring 31 goals.  This caught the eye of FC Barcelona, and despite Suárez biting an opponent at the 2014 FIFA World Cup while playing for Uruguay and earning a four month suspension (this being his third such infraction), they bought him from Liverpool for a whopping £75 million.  Liverpool used that money and more to uncharacteristically acquire nine players this summer to address three concerns: fixing the leaky defense, which was their major weakness, trying to fill the attacking gap left by losing a player of Suárez’s brilliance, and improving the quality of the depth of the squad.  As the new players settle, so, too, will Liverpool’s form, and we can count on a lot more wins.

Chelsea FC: Last season’s third-place finisher, but this year’s top favorite to win the title.  Their home color is blue, and their manager is José Mourinho.  The self-described “Special One,” Mourinho actually had a previous stint with the club from ’04-‘08, but after five seasons and two jobs elsewhere, the fan-favorite manager made his return to the London club last season.  Sometimes derided as a tactically negative and defensive coach, Chelsea managed a pretty healthy 71 league goals last season, though still a far cry from Man City or Liverpool’s tally.  Backed by the financial billions of Russian owner Roman Abramovich since 2003, Chelsea has annually outspent most other clubs during transfer windows.  They seized the opportunity to improve in critical areas again this summer with high-profile purchases of Spaniards Diego Costa, and Cesc Fàbregas, and others.  With three wins and 11 goals scored already, we can expect them to improve on last season’s goal tally, and just maybe earn a title in the process.

Arsenal FC: Last season’s fourth-place finisher and another team with an outside shot at the title this year.  The club’s home colors are bright red and white, and their manager is Arsène Wenger.  With 18 seasons at the Arsenal helm, the Frenchman Wenger is not only the club’s longest-serving manager, but the longest-serving manager in all of English football.  Dubbed “Le Professeur” for his studious and philosophical demeanor, he promotes an attacking mentality tactically, with the idea that football should entertain.  For many years he and Arsenal were reluctant to splash the cash in the transfer market, instead focusing on training young players and developing them into stars. That philosophy has changed somewhat in the last couple of years by necessity, with Arsenal buying a player last summer for a price in excess of £40 million, a player this summer with a cost of £30 million, and making a few other expensive acquisitions just to keep pace with the big spenders of the league. Having spent 17 weeks of last season at the top of the league table only to succumb to injuries and lose momentum, the club is looking for a big comeback.  With Chilean World Cup and ex-Barcelona star forward Alexis Sánchez joining them this summer, their ambitions are as high as anyone’s.

Everton FC: Last season’s fifth-place finisher and a team with top-four ambitions this season.  The team’s home colors are royal blue and white, and their manager is Roberto Martínez. Unable to compete financially with the other clubs in last year’s top seven, Everton exceeded expectations in Martínez’s first year as manager of the club after longstanding former manager David Moyes left the club to become the new manager of Manchester United.  Martínez installed an attractive, possession-based style of football which yielded quick and positive results with only one loss by Christmas.  Fifth place was the club’s highest finish in five years, and it inspired an uncharacteristic splash in the transfer market this summer with the club purchasing previously on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea for £28 million, and making a few other small-money acquisitions.  Cracking the top four this season will prove extremely difficult; nevertheless that is their objective and with Martínez’s tactical nous, they will definitely have a chance

Tottenham Hotspur FC: Last season’s sixth-place finishers and a top-four contender this season.  The club’s colors are white and navy blue and their manager is Mauricio Pochettino.  Finishing sixth last year was a major disappointment for Spurs; in the summer before the season started, they sold their best player for an unconfirmed world record transfer fee of £85 million to Spanish giant Real Madrid and went on a subsequent spending spree, buying two players for club record fees of £26 million each, plus a host of other expensive signings.  However, not all of them settled into their new lives in London quickly, which led to inconsistent performances on the pitch, and the mid-season dismissal of then-manager André Villas-Boas.  A temporary replacement manager was brought in but the turmoil continued, as the players didn’t seem to believe in or trust him, and nor did the chairman Daniel Levy.  After such a tumultuous season, Spurs named their new manager in Pochettino, and the task for this season will simply be quiet progress.  Establishing a style of play, gaining consistency and getting the star signings from the previous summer playing well would satisfy most supporters, with hopes of taking a bigger leap forward next season.

Manchester United FC: Last season’s seventh-place finishers and top-four hopefuls this season, with an outside chance at a title run.  Club colors are red, white, and black, and their manager is Louis van Gaal.  To suggest last season’s seventh-place finish was a disappointment would be an incredible understatement.  Under the tutelage of longstanding former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, between 1992 and his retirement in 2013, the “Red Devils” won 13 league titles and other trophies.  Supporters had gotten used to the club winning almost every year. The transition to Ferguson’s handpicked successor David Moyes, however, proved to be a rocky one, and perhaps it was inevitable that whoever followed Ferguson would fail due to the immense pressure to continue the tradition of success.  Not wanting to make a knee-jerk decision, the club kept Moyes on as manager until the bad results made his position untenable, and with four games remaining in the season, he was fired.  After a positive World Cup performance with the Netherlands and countless other jobs well done in his career, United made Louis van Gaal their new manager in the summer of 2014.  In a desperate move to vault them back into the elite echelon of the Premier League, Manchester United made several big-money purchases of players mostly at the midfield and forward positions, which were not necessarily their biggest problem areas.  They most needed help in various areas of defense, and the expensive defenders they did buy play the same positions as each other, and are injured or otherwise unfit to play yet, so they didn’t exactly address their most critical needs this summer.  However, they can perhaps compensate for the goals they will inevitably allow with the goals they will inevitably score; they acquired two very expensive forwards in Ángel Di María and Radamel Falcao, who are world-class talents, and who might just provide enough firepower to get them back to where they want to be.

For those who enjoyed the World Cup, there is more world-class soccer to be enjoyed.  America is very fortunate to have complete television coverage of every single game of the Barclays Premier League.  Not even the UK itself can boast that fact.  Live matches are generally shown early on Saturday and Sunday mornings and on Monday afternoons on the NBC Sports Network and are available to be live-streamed on the online platform NBC Sports Live Extra, for which there is also an app for mobile devices, for free as an added service for subscribers of participating television providers.  Now is as great a time as ever to get into it, so pick a team and tune in.

The Ryder ● October 2014

We’ve Always Been At War With The Multiplex

From "Sixteen Candles"

1984 at the Movies ● by Craig J. Clark

For evidence of what can happen when Hollywood Gets It Right, one need look no further than the year 1984, which yielded a batch of top-grossing films that also managed the feat of being rather good as films. (The lone exception in the top ten is probably Police Academy, which hasn’t aged well at all, but then again it wasn’t meant to.) Looking back on it from an era when sequels, franchises, and reboots routinely dominate the box office, it’s refreshing to note that only two of 1984’s top ten films were sequels –Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Sure, it’s also the case that seven of the remaining films spawned sequels of their own before the decade was out (the lone holdout, Footloose, had to wait 27 years before it was remade), but one can hardly blame studio execs for wanting to see if lightning would strike twice with properties like Beverly Hills Cop (the #1 film of 1984 by the time the December release finished out its astonishing theatrical run the following summer), Gremlins, The Karate Kid, and Romancing the Stone.

Of course, box office tallies only tell part of the story, which is why the IU Cinema’s “Hollywood Renaissance – 1984” series includes all kinds of cultural touchstones, from effects-driven spectacles to the cultiest of cult films. Topping the list is the film that came in second to Eddie Murphy’s wisecracking Axel Foley: Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (Oct. 25), which is also pulling double duty as a CINEkids screening. A film of such enduring popularity that it received a 30th anniversary re-release Labor Day weekend, Ghostbusters continues to captivate audiences thanks to the interplay of the leads (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Harold Ramis, for those people who have been living in a cave since 1984) and the terrific supporting cast (Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Ernie Hudson), not to mention the quality of the script (by Aykroyd and Ramis) that elevates it above the typical Hollywood product. Even the special effects, which were groundbreaking at the time, hold up their end of the bargain. Sure, they may look quaint to an audience reared on digital effects, and the pacing of the action scenes may seem a little slow to anyone who worships at the altar of Michael Bay, but I’ll take quaint over bombastic any day.

Coming in at #12 on the chart is Milos Forman’s Amadeus (Dec. 14), which won Best Picture along with seven other Academy Awards (with three more nominations besides). Based on Peter Shaffer’s Tony Award-winning play, which Shaffer adapted for the screen (taking home an Oscar in the process), the historical comedy-drama tells of the intense rivalry that flares up between established court composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) and talented upstart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), whose unbridled genius outshines Salieri’s workmanlike efforts. As one might expect, the music adds a great to the film’s power, so hearing the soundtrack through the Cinema’s Dolby speakers should be quite an experience.

Returning to modern times, at #44 is Sixteen Candles (Nov. 16), which was the directorial debut of former National Lampoon writer John Hughes. Previously, Hughes had written the Lampoon movies Class Reunion and Vacation, as well as Mr. Mom, but he was ready to stake his claim to the high-school comedy with Sixteen Candles, which made stars out of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, both of whom stuck around for his follow-up, The Breakfast Club. In this film, Ringwald plays a girl whose sister’s impending marriage causes her family to forget all about her 16th birthday, which would be mortifying enough for more teenagers. On top of that, she’s nursing a crush on the most popular boy in school and has to deal with the crush that the geekiest of the geeks (Hall, playing a character named Geek) has on her. As embarrassing as her plight is, though, it will be interesting to see how it plays compared to the scenes involving exchange student/walking stereotype Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe). That’s one aspect of the film that marks it as a product of its time.

[Image at the top of this post from “Sixteen Candles.”]

After Ghostbusters, the other CINEkids offering in the series is #54, The NeverEnding Story (Dec. 7). Directed by Wolfgang Peterson, who was coming off his first international success, 1981’s Das Boot, and based on the beloved children’s book by Michael Ende, The NeverEnding Story is about a boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver) who gets swept up in the saga of Fantasia, a magical kingdom threatened by “The Nothing.” As he follows along with the adventures of Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), who encounters all sorts of incredible creatures, both helpful and malevolent, Bastian finds that by reading the story, he becomes a part of it. One can hope that December’s screening will allow plenty of children (of all ages) to become part of it as well.

From "Neverending Story"

The NeverEnding Story

As the box-office chart gets down into the hundreds, the selections become more idiosyncratic, although no less influential. For instance, take #112, the Talking Heads’Stop Making Sense (Sep. 24 & 25), which is widely considered one of the greatest concert films ever made. Unlike some that look like they were thrown together on the fly, Stop Making Sense seems like it was meticulously worked out months in advance, but this doesn’t stop it from simultaneously feeling completely spontaneous. In fact, the joy in the performances is so apparent that everybody onstage appears to be having the time of their lives. I suspect this is probably because they were, and director Jonathan Demme and his crew were there (for a three-night stand at an intimate concert hall) to capture every note, look and gesture.

Stop Making Sense famously opens with David Byrne on a bare stage performing a solo acoustic version of “Psycho Killer” to a prerecorded drum machine track. From there, the other members of the band (Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz, Jerry Harrison) are added one at a time and the stage is pieced together in full view of the audience while they run through some of their early material. Once everything (and everyone) is in place, the nine-piece band concentrates on the polyrhythmic songs from the Speaking in Tongues and Remain in Light albums, accompanied by some incredibly striking visuals. (Every song has its own “look.”) The end result is a sight that no self-respecting music- or film-lover should miss.

From "Stop Making Sense"

Stop Making Sense

The same goes for #117, This Is Spinal Tap (Oct. 30 & Nov. 6), one of the most quotable movies you’re ever likely to see and a clear forerunner to today’s improvisation-heavy comedies. As devised by director Rob Reiner and actors Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer – who wanted the entire cast to receive a screenplay credit, but the Writer’s Guild wouldn’t allow it – the film charts the decline of a once-popular British heavy-metal act as it tours America, playing to dwindling audiences, coping with the disinterest of their American label, and dealing with internal strife. These are merely the dramatic underpinnings that inform one of the funniest underdog stories around, though. Even the songs, which the actors composed and performed themselves, are very funny and quite catchy. This Is Spinal Tap is a film that definitely goes to 11.

Finally, scraping the bottom of the box-office barrel – thanks to a botched release by a studio that had no idea how to market it –is Repo Man (Nov. 14 & 15), which comes in at #166 (out of 168 films released that year). When one thinks of ’80s cult movies, Alex Cox’s debut is one of the first that generally springs to mind. Set in a Los Angeles overrun by punks and hooligans (and where all of the food and drink comes in generic packaging), the film follows an aimless high school dropout (Emilio Estevez) who falls in with a somewhat disreputable group of repo men after being recruited by Harry Dean Stanton, who teaches him the ins and outs of the “repo code” (among other things). Meanwhile, there’s a rogue atomic scientist (Fox Harris) driving around town in a ’64 Chevy Malibu with two dead aliens in the trunk and it seems like just about everybody is after him, especially after a $20,000 bounty is placed on the car.

Cox’s script is fairly episodic, alternating between scenes of Estevez going on repossession jobs with Stanton and Sy Richardson (a much more intimidating mentor, all things being equal), the alien conspiracy plot (which involves a secret government agency, of course), and the criminal escapades of Estevez’s punk friends (who don’t think much of his present occupation). He also finds time to hit on U.F.O. researcher Olivia Barash (who works for the United Fruitcake Outlet) and listen to the wisdom of burnt-out mechanic Tracey Walter (who always takes the bus because he believes “the more you drive, the less intelligent you are”). All the while, cinematographer Robby Müller – who shot Paris, Texas for Wim Wenders the same year – captures the city in all its neon-lit, graffitied glory. As the IU Cinema’s program proves, it takes all kinds to make a film series.

The Ryder ● October 2014

In Loco Parentis: Curfews & Curlers

Curfew and Curlers

Student Activism in the Early 1960s

By Craig Forrest


Jan Simmons was not amused. After observing women students at breakfast in the Dobbs residence hall group cafeteria wearing short-shorts, hair curlers, and pink bunny-fur slippers, she immediately issued additional rules defining acceptable attire for women in their dormitories. As the new manager of women’s residence halls at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Simmons had the authority to impose her own standards of propriety on the undergraduates in her charge. She justified her expansion of the rules to ban hair curlers, bandanas, scarves, kerchiefs, hairnets, slacks, and shorts in cafeterias and lounges with the admonition that “our personal appearance is as important as our behavior and our speech in conveying to others the kind of people we are.” The women who had to comply with these new regulations were unhappy, but in that September of 1961 it appeared that they had no choice but to obey Simmons’ dictates or suffer the consequences.

women after dinner
Skirts were required for dinner so many students kept them on for after-dinner studying.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the University of Missouri, as well as every other institution of higher learning in the United States including IU (see opposite page), still operated under the legal regime of in loco parentis. This legal term translates literally as “in the place of parents,” and it defined the relationship between administrators and students as one of a legal guardian to a minor. Since at least 1866, courts had recognized the right of colleges to regulate the behavior of students in the same way that parents regulated their own children’s lives. From the founding of the earliest schools in the seventeenth century, American colleges had concerned themselves with the moral guidance of their students as a necessary component of education. In accepting the legal rights granted to them by the courts after the Civil War under in loco parentis to govern student behavior, college administrators were also accepting legal responsibility for their students. By the early 1960s, students in institutions of higher education across the country were subjected to a myriad of rules and regulations as the legal charges of their schools under this in loco parentis regime.

The bedrock principle of in loco parentis as a legal construct was an understanding that college students were minors who had no claim to constitutional rights enjoyed by adult citizens.

At the University of Missouri in 1960 for instance, campus rules reflected this view. In addition to rules that gave administrators the right to censor student speech and regulate the types of organizations allowed on campus, there were rules governing the daily activities of undergraduates.  Freshmen of both sexes were forbidden from operating motor vehicles in the city of Columbia, women students were subjected to nightly curfews, and females had to conform to a dress code that required them to wear skirts, blouses, and/or sweaters when out on campus or in town. These rules had been in place at Missouri for years, but during the early 1960s some administrators such as Simmons began to expand them in an attempt to counter the attitudes of a numerically growing student body—a student body comprised of a generation that had begun to openly question the very idea of in loco parentis on campus, and that would work in the coming decade to roll back campus rules.

In April of 1960, the student newspaper at Missouri, The Maneater, reported that administrators had voted to extend the ban on driving from freshmen to sophomores in the upcoming school year without consulting student government before the change. Their stated reason for the extension was poor academic performance by sophomores, and, much like a parent would have done, they contended that eliminating driving privileges would remove a distraction from schoolwork. Instead of acquiescing to the dictates of the administration, however, students fought this rule change through their student government representatives. The Missouri Student’s Association (MSA) sent a letter to the Board of Curators, criticizing the sudden change and lack of student input in the rule-making process. The curators, upon receipt of the letter, suspended the rule change for the coming year and sent the issue back to the administrative board for further review. The administrators dropped the issue, and sophomores were not banned from driving.

In the middle of the brouhaha over sophomore driving privileges, an unnamed former MSA president penned a guest column in The Maneater titled “Students Still Kids Officially.” The author of this column, although without referencing in loco parentis, challenged the administration to give students more of a voice in campus rules that governed their lives. He decried the administrators’ attitude that students were too immature to govern themselves, and suggested that the reason some students acted immaturely was because they were treated as adolescents incapable of self-control. The only remedy for this catch-22 situation was for administrators to acknowledge that college students were indeed mature adults, and include them in the rule-making process. In hindsight, the former student body president’s column appears prescient, because students did in fact take an active role in changing campus rules during the following years.

One of the most dramatic changes in rules at the University of Missouri in the first half of the 1960s was the rolling back, and even the elimination, of women’s curfews. In 1960, all female students were required to be in their residence by a certain time each evening. Freshmen women had to be in by 7:30 Sunday through Thursday night, and by 12:30 am on Friday and Saturday nights. All other females had a curfew of 10:30 on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, 11:30 on Wednesday and Sunday nights, and 12:30 am on Friday and Saturday. If a student accumulated more than twenty “late minutes” over the course of a semester, she would be “campused,” or grounded to her room between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. for a number of nights determined by a disciplinary committee. Beginning with the 1962-63 school year, the Association of Women Students (AWS) would successfully push for and succeed in getting many changes to these curfew rules. They were aided in their quest by the Director of Student Affairs for Women, Gladys Pihlblad, whose believed that women students should be given greater freedom on campus. She did not advocate for a complete elimination of hours for females at Missouri in the early 1960s, but she did express the opinion that AWS should be more involved in making the rules for women on campus.

The first change to women’s curfews at Missouri since before World War II came in the fall of 1962. Because of the growing number of female students, all-freshman female dormitories were to be eliminated in 1962-63. AWS proposed that freshmen women be given the same curfew as older females, in part to eliminate the difficulty of having to enforce a separate curfew on students in the same residence hall. The Committee on Student Affairs, made up of administrators including Pihlblad and the Dean of Students, Jack Matthews, approved this rule change. Whether the committee was declaring that eighteen-year-old freshmen women were as mature as twenty-two-year-old seniors, or just trying to streamline curfew enforcement, this constituted an expansion of freedom for women on campus.

By the end of the 1962-63 school year, AWS next began a campaign for “key privileges” for senior women. Key privileges allowed females with senior standing to be issued a key to their residence halls, essentially ending the curfew for those students. Women who wanted to participate in the program were required to get their parents’ permission, and that parental permission would be a first step in releasing the university, in part, from its in loco parentis responsibilities. Negotiations between AWS and administrators went quickly, and the key program went into effect during the spring semester of 1964 for seniors. During the 1964-65 year, AWS lobbied for an extension of key privileges to younger women, and juniors were included in the program during the 1966-67 academic year. Sophomores would be given keys in 1968. In the meantime, AWS was successful during the 1963-64 school year in pushing back the curfew for all women to 11:30 on Sunday through Thursday nights, and to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays. These changes to the curfew rules at Missouri over the course of only five years were the result of student activism—not an activism as well remembered as the higher profile and more publicized activism of the Free Speech and Anti-War Movements, but activism through student government organizations working within the system to effect change.

Simmons’ September, 1961 expansion of the female dress code regulations to residence hall cafeterias and lounges was confronted by a burst of activism as well. In the first week of October, women in the Dobbs group planned a sit-in style demonstration to protest having to dress up for meals. Their plan was for a large number of females to try and get served their dinner while wearing slacks and Bermuda shorts in violation of Simmons’ new rules. Unfortunately for the would-be protesters, Simmons got wind of the plot, and she declared that participants would be punished for “promoting a riot.” The students cancelled their act of civil disobedience, but by working through AWS and the Women’s Residence Hall Association (WRHA) they were able to entirely eliminate the dress code on campus by the end of 1965. Administrators in the first half of the 1960s responded to student pressure and agreed to relinquish their in loco parentis authority, and students continued to push for increased freedom from campus rules through their student government organizations.

By the late 1960s, however, administrators at Missouri and other colleges nationwide became more resistant to the increased demands by students for more freedom on campus. The resulting Free Speech Movement, which began at the University of California Berkeley in 1964, and the desire of students at Missouri to end the “intervisitation” ban, which denied the right of students to visit members of the opposite sex in their personal rooms, found administrators refusing to accept any more loosening of rules that would reduce their in loco parentis rights. In large part, this refusal was borne of the fact that the courts, which had established the in loco parentis regime making administrators responsible for their students as guardians, had yet to release colleges from that legal standing. Court cases in the late 1960s and early 1970s relating to student free speech would explicitly do just that, and only then did universities nationwide relinquish their in loco parentis role.

What the examples at Missouri in the early years of the 1960s show, however, is that even before the well-known Free Speech Movement students on college campuses were actively working to free themselves from in loco parentis controls. These efforts by students are not remembered today nearly as well as the higher-profile campus disturbances of the later 1960s, but they were just as important to students gaining their rights as legal adults as their later efforts. Even in the early 1960s, administrators were signaling their willingness to modify in loco parentis rules, but it was the activism of students that prodded them to do so. The student rights movement, which ultimately resulted in college students being recognized as citizens with constitutionally protected rights, had begun well before the Free Speech Movement appeared on campuses across the country. The better-known Free Speech Movement was actually an extension of these earlier battles for freedom for students on campus, not a spontaneous development with no connection to past events. Modern college students who enjoy their freedoms on campus should be grateful to their predecessors for their rights, and they should be on guard to defend them against current challenges, such as speech codes that restrict free expression, which have been instituted at many schools in the past twenty-five years.

Craig Forrest is a graduate student in History at the University of Missouri.





Big Talk: Young Adult Author Julia Karr

A Sixteen That’s Not So Sweet ● by Michael G. Glab


Julia Karr had a vision of the world in the year 2150. In this vision, she saw teenaged girls buffeted from all sides with messages that they should be sexy. If they’re not, well, they’re beyond help. In fact, in Karr’s fantasy world girls who hit the age of 16 are celebrated because they are now legal; that is, they can have sex, fulfilling all expectations — really, the only expectation.

Karr titled her first book XVI. The numeral is Roman, indicating what a momentous landmark it is to reach that age, as important as our world’s Super Bowl. In it, she lays out her dystopia in detail. XVI and its sequel Truth are Young Adult novels in the speculative fiction genre. Their main character is Nina, a rebel who is certain there must be something more for her than simply becoming a sex toy.

YA books with female characters generally are gobbled up by teenaged girls. But Karr has found the boys seem to like Nina and her story just as much as the girls do.

“They do,” Karr says. “I did a Library Talk up in Indianapolis. A teacher had brought in her senior English class. XVI was required reading for the class. Half of the students that came were guys. It was an underprivileged school. The thing that was wonderful was everybody had read the book. Most of the questions I got were from the guys. There was one guy who said ‘You know I never even bothered to read a book before we had to read this and I just couldn’t put it down. Afterward, I had one kid come up to me. There is a scene in the book where the police come and tear through Nina’s apartment, looking for stuff. This kid comes up to me , and he’s like towering over me, and he says, ‘That police scene, they really do that. How did you know that?’

“First thing I thought was, ‘Well, he knows they really do that, too.’ I said, ‘You know, I’ve been in that situation before. I’ve had them come and go through my house like that. So I understand it.’”

Thus proving one of Karr’s core beliefs: The writer is always writing. “You are even if you don’t think you are,” she says. “While you’re doing other things, your mind is constantly processing.” Even when Karr is pulling weeds in her garden, she’s thinking about her feelings, her situation, and filing those thoughts away in case she needs to use them in some as yet unwritten chapter. To write the scene in which the cops ransack Nina’s home, she reached back to the night when she (Karr) was 20 and the police were tearing through her apartment. The circumstances were funny, but the feelings she had that night came in handy nearly 40 years later when she was an author.

“It had to do with a spider,” Karr says. “A giant spider. I came home, there was a giant spider in my house. It was two o’clock in the morning. What do you do? I saw it and then it ran. It was just a small apartment, a studio apartment. I called my brother in law and I said ‘Come over there’s a spider…!’ He said, ‘It’s two o’clock in the morning — call the cops,’ and hung up on me. So that’s exactly what I did; I called the police and I said, ‘I don’t know if it’s somebody’s pet tarantula or what….’ We’re talking a giant spider. The police show up and, obviously, what do they think? We’re talking 1970 or so — she’s on LSD!

They tore my apartment apart. They looked through the drawers. They looked through everything. And they didn’t find the spider. Meanwhile, I’m perched on my bed, watching the door. I did not see the spider go out the door so I knew the spider was still in when they left.”

Some friendly neighbors came by to console her after the police had rousted her apartment. One of the neighbors eventually found and killed the spider. “That thing curled up into something the size of a jacks ball,” Karr recalls.

“So, I was able to use that — How you feel when the police are there? You feel powerless. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. I was able to put that in my story. What happened to me back then resonated with a seventeen year old black kid from a disadvantaged part of Indianapolis. So, you can connect with your readers if you’re honest about what you’re writing. It all comes down to honesty, and he connected with that. All that goes to say, guys read my books, the girls read ‘em, and they all have something to say.”

Julia Karr: Every writer writes differently. But when I’m just sitting there staring off in space and there’s a blank computer screen in front of me, what I’m usually doing is seeing what happens next. Case in point: I’ve been revising my recent work in progress. Here I am, writing this new beginning, a new opening for my story, and lo and behold, first paragraph, a new character appears! He’s definitely a foil for my main character. I’m like, ‘Whoa!’

I’m not giving anything away when I say there’s fencing in this scene. We’re talking the grand art of fencing which I know very little about other than the fact that Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts — in the greatest scene in the world — the two of them are fencing at the top of the cliffs in The Princess Bride. So, somehow or another, fencing seemed to work into my story and I didn’t know anything about it. I went to the library and got a couple of books out about fencing. If I were maybe 30 years younger, I might consider learning how to fence — and I might anyway! Who knows? But I’m reading these books and I’m learning and I’m thinking about it and I’m understanding some things about the rules of fencing and how opponents interact with each other. It hit me that at the end of a fencing match, you salute your opponent. You have your sword out to the side and you bring your hand up toward your chin in a salute. You’re not supposed to look triumphant. You’re not supposed to look downtrodden. Won, lost, whatever; you’re supposed to have a very even demeanor. I thought about that. I was visualizing. My main character has just finished with this bout and she’s going to salute this person.

Who is this person? Is it just some nameless opponent? Or is there some kind of history going on there? All of a sudden this character just popped up and said ‘This is who I am.’

Michael G. Glab: So, the book writes itself?

JK: It does. I think it was Handel who said, ‘I’m taking dictation from God.’ I have struggled putting words down on the page, more often than not, but I have also found myself in the zone where it’s more like I’m reading what’s on the page rather than typing. Your subconscious is an amazing thing and it definitely takes over. I’ve discovered this not only from this zonal writing which is wonderful and doesn’t happen nearly as often as writers would like it to, there’s also this strange coincidence that happens, this little bit of serendipity, where you write something in your early chapters and you’re not exactly sure why you wrote it and then you end up, as you’re writing the end of the book, and all of a sudden you realize how important that one little thing that you put in chapter two suddenly becomes. If you hadn’t put it in there, you wouldn’t have gotten to this point but you didn’t even realize it when you wrote it. That happens a lot. In some of the books I’ve read about writing, people talk about that. They say, ‘If something feels like it needs to be included, include it, because you can always cut it later. But you never know if it is going to be the hinge for your plot.

It’s kind of like the seventh Harry Potter book. J.K. Rowling was explaining and bringing to fruition and closing doors and opening windows of things that happened in the first six books, that you had almost even forgotten about. She knew she was writing seven books.

MG: She wrote in coffeehouses. Describe your writing space.

JK: I usually write at my dining room table. It’s just a circular table, I plug in my laptop, sit down, fight off the cats who feel like they have to lay on the keyboard. I’ve got my cup of tea. I like to get up early before the rest of the world is up, do a little bit of journaling, and then get into whatever I’m working on. So it’s dark out, the shades are drawn.

The thing is, the minute I see the sun, I want to be doing something outside. I want to be physically doing something rather than writing.

MG: Nina, your protagonist in XVI and Truth, turns 16 in the year 2150. What is significant about 16?

JK: In the book, girls become adults at 16. They are basically primed, by the media — and if any if this sounds familiar, I’m not surprised — by shows, by radio, by advertisement, whatever the means are at that point in time, a constant media bombardment — to be sexual. That they are sexual beings before they become people. The most important thing for a girl is to be attractive to the opposite sex.

MG: It does sound familiar because a lot of that goes on now.

JK: Exactly. That was one of the things that really hit me: If our society continues on unchecked — and, believe me, I’m not a prude; people are sexual beings — but girls at eight do not need to have push-up bras. Little babies don’t need to have….

MG: Underpants that say ‘Juicy’? I saw an ad for them the other day.

JK: Right. People don’t need to be sexualized. We are sexual. It doesn’t need to be the focus of who you are. Nina’s best friend, Sandy, in XVI, has totally embraced the 16-idea. Sixteen Ways is her favorite zine. She buys into all of their how-tos. She wants all the guys to want her. And the price for that is that she has no life. Nothing means anything to her except that.

MG: But at the age of 16 you’re so desperate for an identity.

JK: You are. And if you’re being bombarded by the media that tells you that your worth is tied up in your sexuality…. And that’s the thing about XVI: It’s not just the girls who are taking this in. It’s the guys. They are taught to see girls as sexual beings, not as people. The resistance, the underground in the book, are people that want to see the whole person, but even there, there are problems. And that goes into the second book, Truth, where these guys still are having a hard time because they are bombarded with the same messages that the girls are. You’re still looking at that girl as somebody who’s a sexual being or needs to be protected from rape, from being exploited. That’s a thing our society is currently grappling with. Teens are like the opening flower, if you will. What is it that you’re fertilizing them with? It’s ingrained in our society already. Honestly, when I was writing this, I was kind of despairing. We’re so close already.

MG: XVI came out in 2011 and Truth in 2012. As I was checking all the comments from your loyal readers on various book sites, they were saying, ‘There’s got to be more!’ It’s clear to everybody. Well?

JK: I know that Nina hasn’t left my brain because she keeps showing up saying, ‘Well, what if you did this? What if I went here?’ So, I have been fleshing out some ideas for a third book. It may be more of a companion book than a sequel. A couple of years will lapse.

MG: A website called Parental Book Reviews, which ranks books for teens, has these categories: Sexual Dialogue — you’re ranked Heavy. Sexual Content — Moderate, with mentions of rape. Profanity — Heavy….

JK: That’s puzzling because, you know, slang changes. I had different words for sex rather than….

MG: Maybe they were projecting: ‘Oh that’s going to be a dirty word in 150 years.’

JK: And it certainly was going to be a dirty word 150 years in the future.

MG: Violence — Moderate to Heavy.

JK: Yes.

MG: And here’s a catch-all, Other Notable Ideas — the site writes that guys have a say in girls’ pregnancies, whether or not they can have an abortion, etc. I don’t know if that’s a problem in the site’s view or what. Have you had any problems with censorship or banning?

JK: Not that I’m aware of.

MG: High schools are assigning your books.

JK: Yes. Some of my biggest fans are teachers and librarians. People that love it, love it. And people that hate it, hate it. All you have to do is go to Amazon and the first review is one star and that person willfully chose to misunderstand everything that I was talking about.

MG: You put your stuff out there, you take your chances.

JK: And it’s not yours anymore. You write it for yourself, but when you send it out there, it’s like sending your kid to kindergarten — you can’t make everybody in the classroom like him. And you can’t stand over the other kids in the classroom and say, ‘You, What do you mean you don’t like my kid?’ Same way with the books.

MG: When I write, there’s always someone I’m writing to. Do you do that?

JK: No.

MG: It’s not the same person all the time. It’s different people. I pick a face of someone I know and esteem and say ‘I’m telling you this story.’

JK: Oh, cool. That’s very cool. I don’t do that.

Nina’s story? I’ll tell you how she showed up. One day, into my head just popped a picture of a punk rock girl. Spiky hair. Different colors. Miniskirt. Lots of bracelets with studs on ‘em. Heavy eye makeup. Boots. She’s walking down a city street and she trips over a homeless man and just keeps on walking. She’s got her earbuds in, you know? And then she stops and she turns around and she looks at him and she thinks, ‘I have to do something for him. I have to acknowledge him. I cannot just leave him there any more.’ That was just like this little picture that popped into my head for five seconds.

MG: A personality came out of that vision.

JK: Right. Here’s this person.

That year I decided to do National Novel Writing Month, which is November. You get 30 days to write 50,000 words. One of their catch phrases is No Plot? No Problem. All you need is a main character and a location. I had a main character and I had a location — but it was New York City and I don’t know New York City. I’ve only been there once. I did live in Chicago for five years and I loved it. I turned 16 in Chicago.

MG: You were a high school kid.

JK: Well, I was a high school kid until I dropped out at the end of my sophomore year.

MG: A dropout!

JK: I’m a dropout. Went back and got my GED and I’ve done some college but I made my way with a part of a high school education.

I knew Chicago so I took my character Nina, my little punk rock girl, I sat down and I said, ‘Girl, you’re going to have to tell me your story because I don’t know what it is.’

I started writing. I knew a little bit about who she was; that she was somebody who was no longer comfortable with the status quo.

During the Lotus Festival, you have a wristband on. You walk up and you hold up your hand so that the ushers will see that you have a wristband and you can go in. You don’t have to say a word. So when I started writing this it was the first of November; Lotus had been over for, what, a month? That kind of worked its way into the story. Identification on the wrist – the story evolved from there. I wrote it in 30 days. I had my basic story. And I let it sit for a while and I went back and revised, and revised, and revised. That was 2009. It was just a dream. When I wrote it I said, ‘Wow, this is pretty good.’

[At the time, Karr was part of a critique group and had been working on another, unrelated book. She eventually scrapped the other book because it needed too many revisions.]

JK: So, in order to have something to show to my critique partners, I brought them XVI. And they loved it. They were like, ‘This is your book. Start tweaking and tightening it up and making it a book.’ Which I did.

MG: When your critique partners said, for instance, ‘You know, I don’t like this or that,’ how long did it take you not to want to strangle them?

JK: I’m pretty open to just listening and trying to understand from somebody’s else’s point of view.

MG: You don’t take criticism personally?

JK: The gals that I was working with on XVI, we would sit and talk it over: ‘Well, you know. I really don’t get this part,’ or, ‘This doesn’t sound right,’ or, ‘Would she really say that?’ or, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’ When choosing critique partners you have to choose people that you know want you to be better. They’re not your relatives, heaven forbid. Your relatives will read anything and say, ‘Oh my god, this is wonderful!’

I just recently joined a critique group that has some awesome authors in it, some published, some not published. They are hard. Which is good. They’re not lying to me. They want my work to shine and they know it’s not going to shine unless I hear the hard truth about what’s wrong with it. They’re not trying to rewrite it; they’re just saying, ‘This doesn’t work. I stopped reading here. Why are you doing this?’ They’re excellent. I absolutely love them. I don’t get emotional about critiques because I recognize I’m trying to get better. What do they say? If you think you’re a master, you’re not. I don’t think I’m a master. I just want to get better.

MG: What did you read when you were 16?

JK: Oh my! I was reading fantasy, I was really into science fiction for a while. Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert. I also was reading Michener. I was reading Ayn Rand. I started reading when I was three. I have an older sister and she could read and I wanted to read. So she taught me how to read. She would read to me and I would figure it out.

I even got my picture on the front page of the Seymour Daily Tribune when I was six years old because I was the youngest kid to go through the summer reading club. Yes. I hadn’t even started first grade yet. I always read. The Seymour Public Library was great. I went through the children’s room by the time I was 12. I had everything in there read. Then I moved on to westerns and mysteries. There really wasn’t a lot of Young Adult fiction back then. I can remember when I was in seventh or eighth grade, I wanted to check out Gone with the Wind. The librarian called my grandmother — I grew up with my grandmother — to make sure it was alright to check the book out to me.

Right now I’m reading all the Inspector Linley mysteries by Elizabeth George. I also am on a kick: I have decided to read biographies of all the presidents of the United States, including Benjamin Harrison, if there’s something for the 21 days that he was in office.


The Ryder ● September 2014

Curly Little Shirley Explains It All For You

A Luminous American Life ● by Tom Roznowski


In a curious way, Shirley Temple’s recent death at 85 resonated with popular culture as much as her famous childhood did. While turning her back completely on Hollywood and serving in far-flung outposts as a U.S. ambassador, Shirley Temple Black somehow managed to avoid both vicious gossip and the public eye. Hiding in plain sight, as it were.

Over the course of the 20th Century, media in various forms came to direct and define fame in ways that have made this type of anonymity virtually impossible. Because her early public career coincided with the emergence of sound movies, Shirley Temple would become the first celebrity for whom chronological aging became a serious inconvenience. Her film career began in 1932, the same year that the venerated vaudeville venue, The Palace in New York City, converted itself to a fulltime movie house. In the depths of the Depression, a quarter could buy you hours of escape in air-conditioned darkness. Standing all of four feet as she tap-danced, sang, and lectured cranky adults, Shirley Temple reminded a suffering nation that daily life could actually contain joy.

As exhausting as her schedule was, starting at age 5 with 16 feature films completed in three years, Shirley Temple achieved nationwide recognition without appearing on the stage. Her filmed performances ran simultaneously in thousands of theaters across the United States multiple times every day with a brand new feature being produced every few months. By the time Shirley Temple blew out the candles on her 10th birthday cake, she had appeared in 40 separate film titles. From 1935 to 1938, she was the top box-office draw in America.

Good thing, too. Because within just two years the American movie-going public would summarily reject this beloved and bankable star for the simple reason that she was no longer a little girl. With the increasing clarity of visual film images and recorded sound during this period, every half-inch of her growth was being notched on the door jamb. Fox Studios, anticipating that their investment had a fixed time signature, had altered her birth date by a year.

From today’s perspective, we can see that even as sound film multiplied access and more accurately replicated reality for audiences eager for escape, it also encased film stars and their human personas in amber. And all of this happened within the average American life span of Shirley Temple Black. The first Oscar for Sound Recording was awarded at the first Academy Awards ceremony after her birth. In 1932, just as she was getting in front of a camera, sound mixing was introduced. Then she sang “The Good Ship Lollipop” and “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” performances so definitive no one else even bothered. She held her own dancing on with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Not backwards in high heels but rather down a staircase in Mary Janes.

Shirley Temple’s popularity began to wane even before she reached adolescence. As you might expect, it all started with some bad decisions made for her by adults. She was initially the choice for the lead role in The Wizard of Oz in 1939, but Darryl Zanuck, head of Fox Pictures, refused to loan her to MGM.  He was very confident about Shirley’s upcoming release the following year; a picture you’ve likely never seen called The Blue Bird.

It became the first of four consecutive flops for three different studios.  Shirley Temple would then marry at age 17. A measure of just how completely she had vanished from the public eye was the fact that her subsequent divorce at 21 did very little damage to either her reputation or her career. Two weeks after the decree was finalized, she married Charles Black – very wealthy and not an actor. Then, poof! Even for the still curious, she was gone. Now she could finally smoke a cigarette in peace.

As film and sound recording became more technically sophisticated in the 1930s, screen characters were presented in ways that defied the passage of time, allowing audiences to permanently project their deepest fantasies. In 1955, popular culture would freeze Marilyn Monroe’s white dress in mid-air as she stood over a subway grate. This, and her death at age 36, conveniently banished the thought that she would have been nearing ninety when the dress was finally auctioned in 2011. Its entire reputation was based on a ten second movie scene. The winning bid was 5.6 million dollars.

The great blues singer, Bessie Smith, had been born just a generation earlier and also never saw 50. She at least had the advantage of leaving her best performances in the present moment. Legend has it that her voice was capable of putting some audience members into a hypnotic trance that drew them like zombies towards the stage. Afterwards, her scratchy Victrola recordings became sepia postcards from the trip. Already been there, thanks.

Over the course of the 20th Century and accelerating every decade, technology has narrowed the breadth of our imaginations. With digital formats in sound and film absorbing more and more creative presence, the work of interpretation is now increasingly being done for us. Illusion created in print or with black and white film can gently guide the senses and the emotions. But as every shade of color and every bit of detail is filled in, illusion is becoming a thrill with diminished impact. The effects extend far beyond the artistic. While it’s true that peaches imported from Chile are camera-ready and consumer-friendly, the process of transporting them across a hemisphere in real time comes at a high cost: It turns out they don’t taste anything like peaches.

This slow fade from the imaginative and the sensory began long before Shirley Agnes Temple drew a breath, yet one could argue the process took a pronounced leap with her first flop. The Blue Bird started production at 20th Century Fox Studios in the wake of MGM’s astounding success with their own film adaptation of a popular children’s tale. The production looked good on paper, at least in the contracts and publicity releases. While Judy Garland was a discovery, Shirley Temple was an icon.

The reasons for the failure of The Blue Bird now seem so plain with the perspective of time. Stark reality collided head on with advancing technology: Shirley Temple at 12 and in Technicolor. Her hair was no longer curled in ringlets. Her pouts were temperamental rather than charming. Her talents were suddenly considered pedestrian rather than precocious. At a time when Bessie Smith’s hypnotized subjects still walked the earth, the movie star was no longer worth the cheap price of admission. It’s the oldest vaudeville adage of all: Never follow a kid act.


The Ryder ● September 2014


Pull quote

The slow fade from the imaginative and the sensory began long before Shirley Temple drew a breath, yet one could argue the process took a pronounced leap shortly after she blew out the candles on her 10th birthday cake.

1 4 5 6 7 8 20