Thursday, September 21, 1989
The Michigan Daily
Y KRISTIN PALM
0 NE may not often look for
themes in heavy metal songs, but
"Little Suzi," the first hit by Tesla,
does deal with dreams coming true.
That makes it a theme, right?.
Well, close enough.
The band not only sings about
dreams coming true, however. They
also put their money where their col-
lective mouth is. And they will be
in Ann Arbor today to prove it.
It seems that once upon a time,
in the era of Thomas Edison, there
also existed a lesser-known inventor
by the name of Nikola Tesla, after
whom the band is named. While
Edison worked under corporate spon-
sorship, thus garnering fame for his
endeavors, Tesla worked indepen-
Because he had no corporate ties,
the story goes, Tesla's achievements
have gone unrecognized. But the fact
is, this little-known inventor devel-
oped alternating current and the Tesla
coil which is used in radio, televi-
sion and other electronic devices.
No Nikola Tesla, no radio, no
TV, no MTV, no Tesla.
rfla 10 ,
Enter John Wagner, a third-grade1
teacher from Dexter and director of
the Tesla Memorial Society. WagnerI
is living proof that Nikola Tesla'st
contributions have not gone entirelyt
unnoticed. In order to publicize
Tesla's work, Wagner commissioned1
a bust of the inventor which is cur-c
rently on loan to the Northf
Engineering Library on Norths
To acquire funding for the bust,1
Wagner turned to Nikola Tesla'sl
namesakes. Tesla, the group, obliged
and donated the $1,800 needed for
materials to build the memorial.
Local artist R. Farrington Sharp de-
signed the bust for the cost of the
The project was a noteworthy one
for a band like Tesla to undertake,
"This sets them apart from run-
of-the-mill rock groups that you read
about," he said. "They are doing
Today, all the forces behind the
Nikola Tesla promotion will be on
hand at the NEL to witness the cul-
mination of their efforts. However,
it will be done in the style of Nikola
Tesla's life, with little fanfare, the
main focus being the achievement.
"It will be a chance for people to
meet each other and really see the
fruits of their labor," said Bob
Schwarzwalder, publicity director for
The band will not perform but
will pose for promotional pho-
tographs as well as take advantage of
an opportunity to view the bust they
financed. Also present will be
Nikola Tesla's biographer, Margaret
Cheney, and Leland Anderson, who
wrote the introduction to Cheney's
book, Tesla: Man out of Time.
And as Tesla moves on to the
Palace of Auburn Hills, Wagner,
ton hon es to head fnr a hi ermire:-
bust. Wagner said the goal is to ac-
cumulate 100,000 signatures which
could be easily generated during
Wagner also hopes University
students take notice of this over-
"We have discovered a great man
and we want to reintroduce him to
the academic community," he said.
ilJRc aw caulac*'SrBut Wagner's ambition does not
the Smithsonian. "We want them to take notice of stop there.
Although the big daddy of muse- something other than J.R. Ewing's
ums has denied Wagner's request to hat and Archie Bunker's chair," said "We hope to make history by
display the Tesla bust in its con- Wagner, referring to two pop culture having that bust placed there," he
fines, Wagner has not abandoned his relics which are housed in the mu- said.
self-dubbed crusade. Nor has Tesla. seum. TESLA will appear at the North
The band has been circulating a Engineering Library today at 4 p.m.
petition, which currently boasts Petitions will be circulated, so
1000 names, urging the bring a pen.
Smithsonian to accept the Tesla
O'Brien's talent not a fantasy
BY JIM PONIEWOZIK
SOMEWHERE between the ages
of one and two comes a magic
moment. We tell our first lie. Then
all hell breaks loose. We learn to
fudge and fantasize, to imagine - to
create a portion of our lives where
we call the shots.
If you do it too much, people
will call you a dreamer or a lunatic..
If you do it well, they'll give you
the National Book Award.
The latter happened to Tim
O'Brien; the former happens to his
characters. In the face of problems
not literally surmountable, they de-
velop fantasies and obsessions to
make their realities, if not ideal, at
O'Brien's hitch as a footsoldier in
Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 gave
him one hell of a reality to escape,
although clearly it remains with
him; in two of his novels, for
example, he recounts the same grisly
scene of soldiers slaughtering a water
buffalo with automatic weapons.
O'Brien, speaking today as part
of the University's Visiting Writers
Series, first came to grips with his
war experience on a literary level in
a non-fiction personal narrative, IffI
Die In A Combat Zone. But his
most noted treatment of the war
came in his 1979 National Book
Award-winning novel, Going After
Cacciato is widely held to be the
definitive "Vietnam novel" to date
- a loaded phrase, as Vietnam-
oriented art implies a lot of things
this novel doesn't deliver: namely,
heavyhanded moralism, armchair
politics and napalm. In fact, the
majority of the novel takes place in
Western Asia and Europe - and
imaginary ones at that - as soldier
Paul Berlin takes his squad on a
fantasized chase after an AWOL
soldier trying to escape to Paris.
This surreal tale is really no war
story, but instead that of a man try-
ing to come to terms with his
powerlessness. He does so, soldier-
like, through camouflage. Hiding
behind a mild personality, marching
constantly in back of the squad, and
finally revelling in fantasy, he tries
to disappear; but, eventually, he
finds that he must meet reality head-
on. "Even in imagination,
obligation cannot be outrun," he
admits. "Imagination, like reality,
has its limits."
In Cacciato, and his other fic-
tion, O'Brien tests the limits of
both. Rather than plunging headlong
into surrealism, he coyly melds it
with realism, and the novel is far
stranger for it. Though his characterg
are real, their dialogue crisp and vis-
ceral, he transcends Hemingway-par-
ody death-by-realism with heartfelt,
poetic description, using a sigh
where a less talented writer would
plop down a grunt.
The specter of war also pervades
The Nuclear Age (1985), but in this
novel, 49-year-old William Cowling
escapes not from war, but to it. He
uses a lifelong obsession with The
Bomb as a means to avoid uncer-
tainty at home, at school, and within
himself, for nuclear war leaves no
room for doubt: "Uranium is no fig-
ure of speech," he says. "It's a figure
of nature. You can hold it in your
hand. It has an atomic weight of
238.03; it melts at 1,132.30 degrees
centigrade; it's hard and heavy and
impregnable to metaphor."
O'Brien has also published the
novel Northern Lights and several
acclaimed short stories, many also
war-related; he will take some of his
reading today from an upcoming an-
thology. The reading is the second in
the series, which will also include
appearances by Jamaica Kincaid,
Russell Banks, and Ethan Canin,
O'Brien may be saddled with a
"war writer" tag for some time yet,
which would be unfortunate. But it
beats being saddled with anonymity,
and if it takes Vietnam-mania to get
people to this reading, the hype will
have been worth it. Tim O'Brien is
worth a dozen Charlie Sheens.
TIM O'BRIEN, sponsored by the
University Visiting Writers Series,
will read in the Rackham
Amphitheatre at S p.m. today.
Admission is free.
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Saturday, September 23, 1989
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