History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chorus grows vs. football with Paul Butler of NH

Paul Butler, visionary?
A friend noted recently that a theme I appeared to have over the summer was "anti-football." True, I had made note of troubling health reservations about the sport. It troubled me partly because I have spent a chunk of my life covering it.
"Anti-football" is not the term I'd choose. It's of course negative. I may be "anti-smoking" too but I'm really "pro-good health."
It's sad we have to cast this new negative eye on football. The new truths are inconvenient. But they are in fact truths. George Will sounded an alarm with a column before this season began. He cast doubt on suggestions the sport's problems can be solved as with new helmets.
The NFL is run by money-seeking wizards. No one questions their ability to pull all levers keeping their product sound. Where these wizards lack control is at the youth level. Without that youth "feeder" system, their product is endangered.
Many of us are conflicted. Part of that involves denial. We are troubled by the health reservations and wish we could just continue enjoying the sport on the tube. How could we possibly adjust our lives away from it? Well, we can. We have come to accept that public places will be free of cigarette smoke. We have come to accept that seat belts are required. Believe it or not, one's weekend can be reconfigured so there's enjoyment without football.
But let's return to the subject of the youth feeder system. There have been some early voices on the side of pushing football aside in high school. OK let's use the word "banned" with its drastic connotations. Banned? Those early voices represent people not inclined to feel inhibitions. I cited one in my last summer's writing: Patty Sexton, a school board member in the Philadelphia PA area. She claims she was just being sincere in making a point and wasn't thinking in terms of getting headlines. I believe her. She talked about how public schools shouldn't be sponsoring "gladiators."
Such talk raises eyebrows. In a few years it may not.
Schools aren't exactly bathing in resources these days. They may want to get out of the football business. The very valid health considerations give them firm footing for that. Sexton's name faded within a couple weeks. But a new name has surfaced. This individual says basically the same thing and he has medical credentials. He's a retired physician and current school board member in Dover, New Hampshire. His name: Paul Butler. Like Sexton he spoke from the heart. He wasn't intending to make a splash.
In terms of making a splash, the news media did it for him. He brought up the subject with permission during a portion of a meeting called "school board matters of interest." He spoke for five minutes after which there were no comments. The board moved on to another matter. Clearly no ballyhoo, that is until the next morning, when the newspaper sounded the trumpet. Newspapers aren't dead quite yet.
The newspaper furthered the subject along, via its headline, to where other media began contacting Dr. Butler. Reflecting, the doctor said "I didn't even know a reporter was there (at the meeting)."
Butler became transfixed as he noticed the story "went all over the country." Why would it? The media, whose members always reflect public sensibilities, know concern is afoot about football. The concern is at the micro level. It's being discussed in family living rooms as the decision is weighed for what sports boys should pursue. Football has been a fall standard. People are transfixed watching football even if they've never played it. How do we deal with it? Well, we can, with the proper resolve.
Butler said "there's a lot of unease about the dangers of football for the brain. The brain is who we are."
It's unconscionable to court the risk of lifelong problems as a result of impacts experienced in one's mid-teens, he asserts. He suggests that if local boards of education don't take action, the lawyers will take the reins. He later amended this to suggest "lawyers and insurance companies." That's quite a steamroller. But how can we be skeptical about this?
Columnist Will emphasized how college players have gotten substantially bigger, stronger and faster. High school coaches typically tell the players to lift weights in the off-season. I wrote last summer that this is pointless when your opponents are all doing the same thing. The game is just going to take on more of a look of combat.
Coaches feel excruciating pressure to win. Look at the turnover of coaches in NCAA Division I football. Even if you acknowledge that football can be taught so it's "safer," the incentive to win can never be suppressed.
Some of the sport's defenders say other sports too have risks. Dr. Butler says in response "football is the only game in which we use our head as a battering ram and a spear." Even if instruction at the youth level discourages this, it's pretty futile. Oh my, kids watch the big-time football on Saturday and Sunday and these are their heroes. They feel the invincibility of youth. Exuberance takes over. Immediate rewards are all that matter.
We have learned so much about the dangers of repetitive head trauma over the past ten years. Butler is especially concerned about effects on "the developing brains" of children. Several experts have said tackle football should not be allowed until age 14.
Is Butler some prude or nerd - apologies if the latter term is obsolete - who rejects football without any personal experience? Not at all, as he in fact played football and continues to play hockey at age 68. He in fact calls football a "great game." He cites the work ethic invested in it.
What trumps that, unfortunately, are the head trauma risks which are too great to be disregarded.
As for the benefits of football, which we always hear about in athletic award banquets and the like (motivational type speeches), such benefits can be gained from other activities, according to the good doctor. He cites band, debate club and math club. "Same benefits, no risk," he said.
Boy, you should have seen the Irondale marching band here at Big Cat Stadium this past summer. Why can't Morris Area have a program like that? This isn't your father's/mother's marching band. It reflects tremendous creativity and harnesses tech to empower all instrumentalists.
Butler isn't just sitting idly by while talk continues on the issue of football. His school board term ends in 2013. He wants to give other school leaders more time to ponder the subject and gain information. Undoubtedly there are some emotional hurdles to get past. Ban football? Our jaws might drop.
What's to become of our fall weekends? Well, for one thing, we'd no longer have "football game day" on college campuses on Saturdays - an event inviting various kinds of self-destructive and foolish behavior like alcohol consumption. Campuses could remain as serious bastions of advancement throughout the week. No "Lord of the Flies" timeout.
Sundays? Reportedly the behavior at NFL games is discouraging and getting worse. Can we still nix the new Vikings stadium? I have ranted against that all along. Governor Mark Dayton drank the Kool-Aid. How disappointing for a Democrat. Labor unions went along with it. They could have been just as enthusiastic about an array of other infrastructure projects, which heaven knows we need.
The NFL for the time being seems strong. The youth feeder programs are definitely going to be treading rough water. A decline could happen suddenly.
For the record, Dr. Butler is proposing a ban on high school football. "I'll bring it to a vote (in Dover) by December of 2013," he said (in an NPR interview with Neal Conan).
I have joked with a Morris Area school board member that if she were looking for fame, she could make similar statements. Such statements would come from the heart, though. And in a few years, it will be no joke.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Larry Hagman and entertainment for the masses

Larry Hagman as Major Anthony Nelson
Larry Hagman's passing reminded of the "Dallas" TV series in the eyes of many. I'm guessing that many boomers may have thought first of "I Dream of Jeannie."
"Jeannie" was part of a stable of meticulously constructed entertainment productions for when boomers were young. They seemed brainless on the surface. They seemed absurd and off in some child's dream world. But in fact they were carefully honed by people very dedicated to the entertainment craft. The brainlessness was an illusion. There was a method to the madness of those entertainers.
It's the same as with popular songs. "Tiny Bubbles" seems like the kind of song you could scribble on a cocktail napkin in an idle moment. It only seems that way. Guys like Hal David wrote songs like that after years of honing their craft.
The boomers grew up with entertainment so different from today. There was a fundamental problem: entertainment had to be constructed so as to appeal to a very wide audience. It was also the age of general interest magazines like Life and Look. Yes, I realize Life was resuscitated in later years and may even still exist in some form. But it's a boutique item now. It gets lost in the vast sea of what we call the media now. Life and Look were icons in a previous time. They coincided with television entertainment programs that were highly vapid.
Is this a slam? That's a good question.
You might argue those programs simply entertained. We had "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Gilligan's Island," "Petticoat Junction" and a whole lot of other shows that will bring smiles to boomers when mentioned. Hagman fit right in with his military officer role on "I Dream of Jeannie." TV then was like a world in which we might all be forced to eat the same breakfast cereal. It would sustain us but wouldn't be truly satisfying for a large number of people.
It's easy to just feel nostalgia about it all today. We can even see re-runs on retro-oriented TV channels. Those channels are of course just part of a sea of TV entertainment available to us today. I guess you can watch TV on your laptop too.
I haven't taken the step to get a laptop. I'm reminded of Jim Bouton being told by a friend that "you're really getting there" with some fashion tastes. Author/athlete Bouton responded: "Yes, but by the time I get there, everyone will be someplace else." That's me with tech stuff.
Young people today would experience culture shock if forced to live in a world with the minimal media/entertainment options my generation had. Why, what an analog, retrograde world. There was absolutely no empowerment for the individual in that old media world. Forget it. The vast masses of knaves consumed what the entertainment puppeteers in New York City and Los Angeles laid out for them. I remember when Johnny Carson moved his late-night show from New York City to L.A. What of the whole vast nation in between? We were just the consumers - the helpless, unempowered consumers.
Not that we didn't think we liked it. And none of this is to say there weren't hints of what was to come. For example, "The Monkees" was a highly edgy show for its time that touched the irreverence of hyperactive teens. The teens learned that their least desirable impulses might have some reinforcement from the performers on TV. The parameters of earlier sitcoms were breaking down. But "The Monkees" was ahead of its time. Its model broke down to where it seemed little more than silly. It met its end.
A better example of what I'm talking about might be "Star Trek." This was a cerebral and substantial type of show, definitely breaking through the limitations of that time. That was good and bad. It was good on the merits of what it was trying to do, but bad in the sense it got canceled prematurely. Like Life Magazine it would have later incarnations that capitalized on the established brand.
Today we don't question the power of "Star Trek." But when that show with the amazing William Shatner was in its original incarnation, surviving was hardly a given in the media landscape we had then. There were three major networks. In Minnesota we had the "independent" TV station of WTCN in Minneapolis. Gil Amundson read us the news in the evening on WTCN. Mel Jass hosted the movies. "Quaint" hardly describes all that.
I think the limited nature of the media universe was hard on the boomers. It might explain some of our psychological challenges. Had social media existed then, it would have been like a giant pacifier for the boomers. We consumed entertainment and heaven knows we were targeted doggedly by marketers.
We were the first young generation to be marketed to in such unrelenting fashion. Maybe that explains the psychological issues. And yet we weren't allowed to be collaborators with the kind of media that came at us. Media were created by cynical and distant puppeteers. "Flyoverland" became awash in the kind of entertainment they crafted. They were filling a need. But they were forced, tragically, to try to create a one size fits all product.
Kids today might be amused watching re-runs on a retro TV channel. But they'd have a hard time imagining a world in which such fare was our only choice. You could watch "Gunsmoke" or have a bowl of cereal and go to bed.
There were trendy shows like "Night Gallery" that kids would discuss in the school hallways the next morning. But again, we were merely consumers. The days of using media to establish your own identity were a long ways off in the future.
My old college advisor (now deceased) once said "you can watch the Tonight Show every night and never learn anything." Today the Tonight Show would be past my bedtime. Johnny came out from behind the curtain (at least on those nights when he didn't have a guest host like Joey Bishop) at 10:30 p.m. I can't believe I ever felt a need to watch it.
My college advisor had a role in a deposed government of Ethiopia. Years later when I learned of an area clergy family who had a background in that country, I thought (based on the details I'd read) there was a chance the minister would have known my advisor. I ran the name past him one day. He responded: "I don't know him but my father probably did."
Ah, a reminder of my age! Us boomers are getting that all the time.
Just as with the passing of Larry Hagman of "Dallas," I mean "I Dream of Jeannie."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving story an oversimplification? It's still OK

The image here is one I discovered in the early days of the Internet when I was still with the Morris newspaper. I'm taking it from "The Skeins" blog of Moira Finnie. Thanks Moira. Incidentally my first Internet-capable computer at the paper was a hand-me-down that was a disaster. It froze a lot and I couldn't even open attachments. Shudder. Today I could do all my work on a simple laptop. The Morris paper of course isn't what it used to be.
We see turkeys on the cover of the new "Morris Area Merchants" advertising publication. Kudos to the publication for recognizing the true spirit of the upcoming weekend.
The turkeys point to Thanksgiving which is a holiday with a grand purpose. We needn't recognize "Black Friday" so much. Only in recent years has "Black Friday" picked up steam to where it might be seen as overshadowing Thanksgiving. Of course it's up to all of us to set our own priorities.
We could just cancel cable TV if we didn't want to hear so much about Black Friday. The media have elevated the "shopping" day beyond reasonable proportion. We can reject that. Fox News would be another good reason to cancel cable TV. But I'm unemployed so I might get bored.
I used to discuss with Glen Helberg how unemployed people are subject to feeling depressed on holidays. "Normal" people slow down and relish the time off. For those of us who are shiftless by comparison, we see no contrast. You get the blues. There's a feeling of relief when "the routine" kicks in again (and I can watch "Morning Joe" at 5 p.m. weekdays as scheduled). On normal workdays you can check the stock market futures at that very early hour. You can see how Europe is doing with the "footsie" (the European FTSE). When I was a kid it wouldn't have crossed anyone's mind to check the stock market futures very early in the morning. In fact, we'd get a "test pattern" if we turned on the TV. So, times can change remarkably.
As a kid I received the standard imagery about Thanksgiving. Pilgrims and the "natives" together, rejoicing and giving thanks. It was a benign and uplifting story. We'd see the famous portrait of "George Washington in the clouds" out by the milk machine in the commons area (at Longfellow Elementary, today an office building for St. Francis Health Services).
The iconic status of Washington was benign and uplifting too. The turbulence of the late 1960s and '70s began to obscure a lot of that. Much of that turbulence was unavoidable. We needed turbulence to get out of Viet Nam and advance civil rights. But a lot of that fizzled off like fireworks gone awry, i.e. it got misdirected.
The all-out assault on American traditions and myths probably wasn't needed. It wasn't necessary for the deconstructionists to take over so much of American education. It's fine for kids to learn the story of Betsy Ross sewing the flag. The "great men" approach to history was far from perfect but its replacement - the story of aggrieved groups - had a discouraging air. We could easily see both approaches had oversimplifications.
Kids are of course smarter than many of us think. They know when they're being "sold" something.
Is the Thanksgiving story unhealthy because it suggests the Europeans were eager to break bread with the natives and make accommodations, when in fact the natives were headed toward much travail? History is a messy story of the strong exploiting the weak. Identifying heroes and villains is a pursuit that seems to get us nowhere. There are those who want to diss the history of Fort Snelling. So much misery heaped on the Indians, so the argument goes. I think the fort ought to represent one of the most fascinating historical locations in Minnesota. We can't make history "right" by all the aggrieved groups.
The so-called white people had no cakewalk. Just think of the percentage of the male population killed as casualties of the Civil War. (Timeout: I'm uncomfortable with the "white" and "non-white" dichotomy of terms. Why should all "non-whites" be lumped under one label?)
The Civil War cause was good for the Union. But think of the massive pain and death needed to advance it. We are so human an animal. So in the end we must consider the traditional Thanksgiving story a benign piece of imagery for kids as they develop their most benevolent outlook. They'll eventually learn that history is written by the winners. Plymouth and its "rock" (much smaller than most of us think) endured in our national memory. The English prevailed.
New Englanders were at the forefront of molding America's collective memory. Let's call it a bit of a creation myth. We teach kids about the piety and work ethic of these gentle people who appeared to seed the new land. All fine and wonderful, but of course the settlement and development of this land was more complicated.
Of course we know all about Columbus. But that was in 1492, long before the Pilgrims who arrived at that "rock" (five feet square) in 1620. Did nothing much happen in between? Oh my.
Europeans other than the Pilgrims had made quite extreme inroads in this continent by the time the stovepipe hat-wearing Pilgrims broke bread with the red Indians. Europeans had reached half of what would become the 48 states. Maybe the Kensington Runestone wasn't such a big deal.
Why in heck don't we treat Giovanni da Verrazzano the same way as Christopher Columbus? There's a bridge in New York City named for the former. I remember when National Lampoon had a satire that had the bridge collapsing under the weight of runners beginning the New York City Marathon. This was before we had The Onion. It would be a perfect Onion gag. If you don't regularly check The Onion website, you should.
Ol' Giovanni toured the whole eastern seaboard of the U.S. in 1524. At one point he ordered a member of his crew to swim ashore. The natives took this man to a fire. But it was to warm him and not to roast him! Why not commemorate this instead of just those black-clad Pilgrims by their "rock?"
Verrazzano ventured north where he spotted a wide bay. This would become New York Harbor. He was an Italian commanding a French ship. The story of this most intrepid soul ends tragically. He visited a Caribbean island in 1528. There he was seized and eaten by natives (sorry for the bluntness). We do have the bridge named in his honor: the "narrows" bridge where he sailed in 1524. Quite famous in his own time, he has faded.
The Portuguese really got out and about at one time. They sailed along both U.S. coasts in the 16th Century. Spanish conquistadors got inside our continent in 1542. My, they rode rafts along the Mississippi River. And would you believe, the intrepid Spaniards broke bread and "gave thanks" with natives 56 years before the iconic Plymouth Rock story?
Some English explorers built a fort on Cuttyhunk, an island, in 1602, motivated not by a desire for religious freedom but to seek wealth digging "sassafras." This commodity was most sought back home in Europe, as it cured "the clap." It's not quite so endearing a story as the Pilgrims with their newfound native compatriots. But hey, let's stick with those charming Pilgrims and all that benevolent imagery. It's good for kids.
And never forget: "History is written by the winners."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 17, 2012

morris mn - thoughts while appreciating northern lights

The Morris MN "welcome" sign out by the old Golden Cream
I was walking home the other night when I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing the northern lights. I was on the outskirts of town. Presumably the sight would have been more spectacular had I been further away from the town's lights.
A wonder of our natural world can put our worldly problems into perspective. Its power humbles us. Being alone in the country and seeing the Northern Lights is a release. I was walking along Iowa Avenue which turns into a dirt road as you go north. It goes out toward Wintermute Lake via rolling topography. The road isn't the best. Dirt roads are the stuff of country music songs.
Yankee Ridge Road parallels this road (to the west) and is paved. "Yankee Ridge" is old offhand terminology; use it and you signal you're a native. County Road 5 is the formal reference to Yankee Ridge Road.
When I was a kid we had a contest for naming our road and one of the nominations was "Rebel Ridge" (to correspond to "Yankee" obviously). OK it was a joke entry. The winner was "Northridge Drive." It connects Iowa Avenue and County Road 5. Most of it continues to be unpaved although we have paving in front of where we live. We're old-timers here.
The northern lights are also known as Aurora Borealis. The display I saw was noteworthy, breaking into the next day's news.
As a kid I remember hearing science had no clear explanation of what caused these lights. I also heard it was scientifically impossible for bumblebees to fly. I think science has made inroads since. We have learned that the Aurora Borealis doesn't come from Superman's Fortress of Solitude.
Getting detached from election
The peacefulness of seeing those lights helps me forget (to the extent I'm able) about the election campaign. It might be best for us now if Mitt Romney were to go to someplace like the Fortress of Solitude. Mainly he should just stay quiet if he doesn't have something thoughtful or intelligent to add to our discourse.
I think all along we felt that even though Romney had a total "Richie Rich" background - I called him "Scrooge McDuck" - he must have humanity and depth. Why would he want to run for president? There must be altruistic impulses within him, just bubbling. Maybe they were suppressed. But since the election Romney has given no indications of those better impulses. He has been just as blunt and stupid as when he talked about the "47 per cent."
Now he says that the people who voted for Barack Obama essentially had their votes "bought." I guess he means we expect government to do things for us. The "47 per cent" secret tape should have sunk Romney. There should have been no getting up from the canvas after that. It should have been Johnson-Goldwater redux.
Some suggest Hurricane Sandy made all the difference, reminding us of the extent to which we can rely on government. The GOP is the party that doesn't want us to like government. But Republicans usually have a way of at least massaging that philosophy to get votes. Or they actually break down once in a while and realize the blessing that government can represent. Chris Christie has done this of late. But he's a northeastern U.S. Republican and they're a little more sensible. The northeastern U.S. gives grudging approval to a Republican sometimes, like Scott Brown. And Christie. Their position can be precarious.
Christie did well for himself by "behaving" in the wake of the hurricane. He acted like he had full rapport with President Obama. My hope is that it was sincere. Deep down away from all the media talkers, I think Governor Christie had no problem working closely with the president who is so ridiculously demonized from the political right. Why on earth would anyone have a problem working with Barack Obama? He's a wonderful and loyal family man who has stayed married to the same woman, and with two wonderful daughters and a dog (Portuguese water dog).
As a family man he's far superior to Newt Gingrich.
Was Hurricane Sandy and its lessons the reason Obama won? I certainly hope not. To think Romney could have actually won is profoundly scary. We can't really know what all his convictions are. That's because he was all over the map. I hate to even put forth the hypothetical of Romney winning, but if he had won I think he would have let down many of his most conservative backers. But we don't know. It's amazing so many people filled in the little circle next to his name, having no idea if he'd behave like a Massachusetts Republican or a Republican representing the Confederacy. Romney did carry the old Confederacy.
Maybe some of those states where the secession impulse has been so strong should just be allowed to leave. It has been a pain trying to accommodate them. The Feds had to practically invade the Deep South in the 1960s to get rid of Jim Crow. Today there's still a profoundly regressive streak there. If we were to allow them to secede - Texas included - we would no longer have Democratic presidential candidates having to pretend they like NASCAR.
Good trend in Minnesota voting
In Minnesota the election results were very upbeat. The Democrats (DFL) have been given a mandate and I hope they don't blow it. Democrats can go astray just like Republicans when they get too much power.
Locally we had the race of Scott Dutcher vs. Jay McNamar for House. The race was mighty good for the U.S. Post Office. These pols have apparently lost interest in me since the election. For a long time I'd traipse back from the mailbox examining those beautiful and elaborate color flyers from these guys daily.
Dutcher's campaign was a test of the kind of Republican rhetoric that worked well in the midterms. "I'm a business guy and I know how to create jobs." Silly rabbit, people don't create jobs, consumer demand creates jobs.
The electorate showed a weariness with Republican rhetoric in the 2012 election. The Republicans are going to have to learn to offer a little more, to at least talk like they have more fundamental human compassion. Romney's post-election comments have been the complete opposite. He really is "Scrooge McDuck." His own party has begun turning on him. And to think the GOP gave him such an important mantle of leadership in the first place. But we never really expected Herman Cain, did we? Or Michele Bachmann?
At the state level we could breathe a sigh of relief over the "no" judgment on those two amendments. Can the Republicans finally say they've gotten the message? Can they finally realize they need to appeal to the electorate and not to talk radio hosts or Fox News? We can be heartened to an extent. But Romney got way too many votes. He clearly belonged in Goldwater territory.
Let's be honest: many of the skeptics about Barack Obama continue to be influenced by his racial makeup. He's black, right? Actually he's half-white if you insist on using such crude terminology. But his background was not Anglo-centered and that's an issue for some people.
I think President Obama is about the most compassionate person you can find. It might take a full eight years before we all appreciate that. He has had to try to lift us out of the very deep hole left us by George W. Bush. Heavy-lifting indeed.
Oh my, the Morris Human Rights Commission kerfuffle
The "marriage amendment" lost in Minnesota. "Losing" is the favorable outcome here. We aren't closing the door on the possible expansion of human rights. In Morris we have had the rather ridiculous controversy involving the Morris Human Rights commission. This is a controversy that wouldn't even exist if there were no Morris newspaper. The newspaper greased the skids, started or facilitated a fight and then crawled out from under the pile.
We are left with punches being thrown in the letters to the editor section. Let me be emphatic about one thing: the letters to the editor section is for losers. Nothing is ever decided there. It's a place for people with an ax to grind.
I feel sorry for Jeff Miller. Jeff is a pretty affable and lively guy who happened to be with the "vote yes" crowd. But he never intended to be perceived publicly as a zealous crusader. An argument he wrote ended up under the heading of the Morris Human Rights Commission as if it might reflect Commission sentiment.
If the HRC stands for anything, it stands for inclusiveness and the breaking down of barriers. So Miller's little thought piece ended up not going over very well. Apparently Mr. Miller wrote the item as sort of an internal assignment with the HRC, to encourage the exchange of ideas. He expected that if anything got published, there would be a "for/against" juxtaposition. There's a rather involved story but the end result is that Miller's thoughts were presented bare and unrebutted. It must have looked ridiculous.
Miller's opinion by itself should be respected. But it shouldn't be propped up under the imprimatur of the HRC. So Miller found himself in a spot of trouble through no fault of his own. Here's another argument for letting such debates flower and be resolved in our new information ecosystem of online, rather than in dinosaur newspapers.
Unfortunately a messy controversy developed on the pages of our newspaper, a newspaper whose official stand was that we should vote for Romney. Loser.
It's possible Miller's future in local politics could be impacted, although word of mouth could take over to provide the needed clarity. He has real enthusiasm for local government and for resolving local issues. He says he never submitted his thought piece directly to the Morris Sun Tribune. Since it was handled by other parties and presented in a format he would not have approved of, and contrary to his interests as a local politician, I'm not sure he wouldn't have legal recourse. I hope he explores this.
The controversy apparently spanned several issues of the newspaper which comes out weekly. I don't buy the paper. When I left employment at the paper I tried signing up for a subscription but they said "no, we'll just send it to you." A couple years later I got cut off. Then they started sending me the Ad-Viser as if I would actually want that. Seeing the Ad-viser in our mailbox was more annoying than seeing a hundred McNamar-Dutcher flyers there. I was able to get it canceled, thank the Lord.
Today I do all I can to promote a local online ecosystem of news, information and advertising. Such a system is in fact growing, albeit not as fast as I'd like.
Historical marker: Twinkie departs
These are historic times and the media have to play their proper role. We had the momentous re-election of Barack Obama. And even more important, the announcement that the Hostess Twinkie or the Ding Dong (or as Carol Burnett called it in a skit, the "Dong Ding") was done. We have seen Kodak film disappear. Soon all camera film may be gone. And now we're bereft of an American icon like the Twinkie.
Was it an urban legend that some Hostess Twinkies were found in an old WWII hideout or bunker and they were still edible? Boomers will remember that story. Whatever, we have learned to adjust to change, so we can find plenty of other junk food to jam into our system. When I was a kid there were no unlimited refills of soft drinks at McDonald's. Today we can fill ourselves with all the sugary water we want, although the New York City mayor is beginning some pushback on this. If any of this distresses you, just look into the northern lights sometime.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 10, 2012

David Frum breaks through noise w/ "Why Romney Lost"

David Frum has written a book that no doubt makes John Heilemann and Mark Halperin nervous. The Heilemann-Halperin tag team fashions itself the new Theodore White. "Teddy" White gave us the "Making of the President" series of books. It was back in those cave painting times of pre-Internet (and pre-fax).
Frum is already out with a book on the presidential campaign that is commanding special attention. Once in a while a book like this comes out of the blue. It presents analysis that should have dawned on all of us. It points out something that may have been right before our eyes.
So sharp is the author he might arouse some resentment from his peers.
David Frum is hardly a nobody. He in fact was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, which should instantly make many of you dismissive about much of what he says. He prides himself on being a conservative. Again, don't stereotype please. Frum has emerged as very much his "own man." He is a conservative with the proper motivations. He is totally outside any sort of "herd."
While I may disagree with him in some key ways, I applaud the clear lens he insists on looking through. So now Mr. Frum is out with a book entitled "Why Romney Lost." So spot-on is his analysis, the eventual treadmill book from Heilemann and Halperin will fade in significance. You'll remember the "tag team" gave us "Game Change." It was an over-hyped book that resulted in a movie of the same name. How could the movie fail when you had the opportunity to present Sarah Palin?
Our Morris Public Library obtained the book "Game Change" very soon. Heilemann and Halperin are to be applauded on their hard work. But we're already well familiar with the key events and personalities in any such book. The new stuff I would argue is merely some newly revealed quotes with potty mouth language in them. A few quotes like this can get the book in front of the public. Even Bob Woodward (or should I say his publisher) has come to master this ploy. I won't get out my wallet just to read some potty mouth quotes. But to each his own.
"To each his own" certainly describes the tastes of people who consume political commentary. And therein lies the basis for one of David Frum's central assertions. He coined a term we should all file away in our minds. It's "conservative entertainment complex."
Let's just toss out one name: Rush Limbaugh. From there could be added a quite extensive list. These people aren't sharing sincere opinions so much as they're catering to a class of people who scare easily about government.
Let's emphasize here that Frum is not part of the TV political commentary mainstream, whether we're talking right or left. Heilemann and Halperin are in that mainstream and are Beltway guys all the way. Good for them. But as with any groupthink, the lens can get clouded. Occasionally someone outside the mainstream comes along and triumphantly says the emperor has no clothes. This is exactly what Mr. Frum, who's a bit of an eccentric, has done. He isn't hostile to the mainstream but he's clearly outside it.
Such people don't consciously decide to go outside it, it's just the way they are. The fact Frum is seen as a contrarian was evident on two MSNBC shows last week. Because Frum's theories are the type that would win receptiveness on the left-leaning (supposedly) MSNBC, you'd think it would be totally friendly territory. It's not so simple.
Here's the problem: Frum has written a book with definitive assertions about the presidential campaign. He beat "good old boys" Heilemann and Halperin by a country mile. The "tag team" often appears on the panel of "Morning Joe" (Scarborough). Yes, Halperin got spanked once, saying something that constituted a faux pas. But the tag team authors are most welcome in the established TV ecosystem of political talk. Frum? He's just an independent thinker. You'd think that would be benign. But you don't realize how self-protective that ecosystem is, how even the adversaries are comfortable with each other when the cameras are off (just like in professional wrestling).
Mr. Frum gives no thought to "taking a role" and finding a place. He just wants to be honest. People like this can break through when what they have to offer just can't be ignored. And that appears to be happening now.
Chris Matthews seemed to put Frum on the defensive last week, suggesting the book was a "rush job" right at the end of the campaign. Frum bristled, suggesting that he worked hard for about six weeks. He obviously saw what was coming: the Romney failure.
The most interesting conflict was on Joe Scarborough's "Morning Joe." Frum introduced his "conservative entertainment complex" term. Someone on the panel - I later read it was Scarborough himself - interrupted and barked "name names!" Frum then said something that interviewers hate: "It's in the book." But I don't blame him. "Naming names" was a ridiculous exercise when all of us know full well who these parties are. At the same time "Morning Joe" airs, we have "Fox and Friends" on the most notorious right-leaning "entertainment" enterprise of Fox News. So Frum didn't bother starting a list, rather he wanted to continue making his points.
Why would Scarborough, a guy I normally think highly of, want to disrupt Frum's flowing commentary with an asinine question? Why did Matthews say something that seemed to reflect an urge to diss the book? Well, here's my answer: Political commentary shows and networks represent an ecosystem with its own interests to protect.
Have you ever heard the saying "Don't kill the category?" It's why there are limits on how far McDonald's and Burger King will go, criticizing each other. They don't want to "kill the category." If there were no Fox News, there would be no MSNBC. Maybe we'd just have news networks that report the news.
But once the commentary ecosystem gets established, it has its own interests. Frum's incisive and spot-on assertion about the "conservative entertainment complex" might be said to run contrary to the political commentary ecosystem, because it basically diminishes or counters one side. Frum does so by suggesting, as if we don't know (and it appears we don't) that entertainment has its own clear ends. The Fox News crowd does its job very well. It reaches its substantial target audience effectively. But it's not in the business of thoughtfully weighing everything to bring out the truth for the betterment of our country. I can't even write this with a straight face.
Scarborough was following his instincts of being defensive for "his crowd" of people who spew political thoughts for a living. "Don't kill the category." McDonald's shouldn't say that Burger King puts rat poison in its hamburgers. Frum shouldn't talk about the "conservative entertainment complex" like it's merely a cynical and manipulating machine. The whole house of cards might come down.
In the meantime, here's one voice, mine, that totally applauds Mr. Frum and his book "Why Romney Lost." I hope Romney doesn't catch Frum in an unguarded moment, pin him to the floor and forcibly cut off his hair.
Frum says today's GOP is isolated. It's the party of yesterday's America, and instead of re-examining that stance, has seemed to want to "double down" with its message. He considers many Republican leaders "cowards." He feels the base has been "lied to and fleeced" - strong words - by that "conservative entertainment complex." Fear-mongers have overrun the GOP, he asserts.
Frum is a little idiosyncratic like Keith Olbermann. These guys are strong political thinkers who have a hard time getting assimilated with any group or constituency that might help them. Frum was supposedly fired from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a D.C.-based free market think tank. Frum had gone against the grain, suggesting the GOP should have considered compromise on health care.
Was he really fired? Does anyone really get "fired" anymore? Isn't "Mr. Spacely's" style just a stereotype now? I laughed when I read Frum wasn't really fired, he was just told he wasn't going to get paid anymore! Leave it to Republicans.
Frum felt the AEI came under donor pressure after a blog post he wrote. The AEI asserts that Frum simply "wasn't working hard enough." Yeah, I can sort of smell what happened. I made a forced departure from a company once, a company that would probably laugh at any suggestion it was forced. The employer holds all the cards in these things.
For now, Frum is breaking through any sort of fog or rejection that might be thrown in his path. Forget about the personality, read the book. And Scarborough should just let Mika Brzezinski talk more.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cougars can't quite escape hole vs. St. Scholastica

Derrick Foss, former Hancock Owl, prepares to receive the snap as quarterback in this file photo. (B.W. photo)
The UMM football Cougars played their tenth and final game of the season Saturday (11/3). On the other side of the football was College of St. Scholastica (CSS).
The Cougars fell into a hole and then charged to try to get out of it. The comeback ended up just shy. The Cougars were a touchdown down when the four quarters had been played. The Saints of CSS were the 28-21 winner. It was a disappointing end for our maroon crew, still we can take satisfaction in the six total victories. It's the most for the program since 2006 (my last year in the print media).
How far down did UMM get Saturday? The scoreboard revealed a dismal 21-0 picture. Was it an afternoon for the opponent to just romp? Not at all. Eventually the score got tied. But UMM had gone to the well too many times I guess. The CSS Saints pulled ahead with under two minutes left thanks to a drive of 69 yards and 15 plays. CSS consumed 7:28 on that possession.
It was an entertaining game even if it was a loss.
The Cougars were stopped on their first possession, then CSS showed some of that early momentum, marching to score on a ten-yard pass. The Cougars experienced a three-and-out. The Saints proceeded to strike again, this time executing seven plays en route to the end zone, covering 66 yards. Quarter #1 ended with a 14-0 score and little reason for the home Big Cat Stadium crowd to cheer.
The Saints thrust forward in the second quarter, mounting a ten-play, 74-yard drive that gave them that fat 21-0 lead. Finally the Cougars got their engines humming. It was the toe of Cam Adel that got the Cougars on the scoreboard. A 15-play drive ended with Adel kicking the ball through the uprights from 31 yards out. It was a modest start but it was psychologically important. CSS was forced to punt, then UMM took off again with another well-oiled drive, this one covering 69 yards and ending with another Adel field goal. Adel ended this 14-play possession with a 31-yard field goal. Halftime arrived with the score 21-6.
Bring on the third quarter! The Cougars forced a fumble on a CSS punt. They took over possession at the CSS 44. It took four plays to reach the end zone, the last of which was a 12-yard pass involving the Foss boys from Hancock: Derrick (throwing) and Brendon (catching). The Foss boys clicked again on the conversion play so the score is now 21-14 and suspense is in the air.
The Cougar "D" bore down to force a three-and-out. CSS then got off a bad punt, 24 yards, enabling the Cougar "O" to go to work at the CSS 41. From there, one play did the trick. Dan Garrigan was calling the signals for UMM. Garrigan passed to Tyler Peterson who accelerated along the sideline. The PAT was good to get the score all tied up.
The CSS defense made a key play when it snared Dustin Spohn for a two-yard loss at the CSS 35. The drive got snuffed out and then CSS went to work offensively at its own 30 with 9:23 left. Saint Jake Jensen became a workhorse. Time and again he got the handoff. But it was a pass that netted the ultimate score. It was a ten-yard pass on third and seven.
The Cougars bore down to try to answer. The time remaining was 1:49. They were backed up somewhat at their own 33. Garrigan passed to Roumy Desir for 21 yards on fourth down. The Cougars progressed to the CSS 31, then progressed further thanks to a pass interference call. So UMM is looking at first and ten at the CSS 16. A holding penalty dealt a setback. Garrigan connected with Dan Kernan, getting UMM to the 19 where the situation was second and 13. Dalton DeGraffenreid was targeted as the receiver. But the CSS defense was able to break up this aerial attempt. Fourth down loomed. Alex Longerbone was targeted as the receiver, but the pass sailed high.
University of Minnesota-Morris had to accept the losing outcome. But the six wins during the season spelled pluses.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 3, 2012

OK, what rhymes with "Ohio?"

Who owns this land out across the highway by McDonald's in Morris? Why do they foist all this on us? It promotes conflict. (B.W. photo)
A songwriter should go to work writing a ballad about "Ohio" based on this state's importance in our electoral process. It seems too much attention is concentrated there. Does anyone think Ohio won't get a few government favors based on this importance?
My first familiarity with Ohio was probably through Ohio State football. Woody Hayes was their father figure-like coach. We all knew what side he was on in the generation gap. Ohio State is in the Big Ten which in my youth was rather depressing. Don Riley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press called it "The Big Two and the Little Eight." That's because seemingly every year, Ohio State and Michigan vied for the title and the coveted Rose Bowl berth.
Our U of M Gophers had some interesting individuals like Rick Upchurch but the Rose Bowl never seemed in the cards for us. Ohio State and Michigan were the true behemoths. It was the days when the running game tended to rule. Some of the top passing quarterbacks were relegated to relatively obscure programs. If you wanted to win you did so with "three yards and a cloud of dust."
Media people finally started needling coaches for talking about "establishing the running game."
"Establish the passing game!" Don Meredith implored one night from his booth for pro football.
Meredith would be delighted today. He may have died before his time because of the effects of football. He would smile seeing how the passing game has ascended at all levels, because people like it, it's good for TV ratings and that puts money in everyone's pockets.
"Money's honey my dear sonny and a rich man's joke is always funny." Come to think of it, a songwriter could take that phrase and do something with it. It would be what's called a "novelty song."
I was a songwriter once. If you enter that pastime, please do so because of its inherent rewards. Any other aspirations (fame, fortune) will leave you heartbroken. Or with a heartache, to use country music parlance. "Not tonight, I have a heartache." (I believe Martin Mull did this satire.)
Music can be intertwined with political campaigns. I'll never forget Robert F. Kennedy having the song "This Land is Your Land" become synonymous with his campaign. It's a Woody Guthrie song. Guthrie truly spoke for the masses. Charlie Crist had to apologize two years ago because his campaign used a song where adequate copyright clearance wasn't made. Hoo boy, you have to be aware of this stuff. Crist made a videotaped apology.
We are now on the threshold of the 2012 election. The campaigning has seemed never more tiresome. I don't blame that little girl talking about "Bronco Bama" in that current popular video clip. Tears stream down her cheek. I'm a man so I'm not supposed to cry. But I sure feel like singing the blues when coming back from the mailbox each afternoon and handling those flyers from Dutcher and McNamar. These fellows are running for the state House. I don't know why they can't just put their views on websites and not make us handle all that paper.
And why in heck - Don Riley always wrote "whyinell" - do they find it necessary to make these flyers so glitzy - slick and with color, graphics, the whole nine yards? Do they have to do this to get our attention? Why not basic text letters, you know, with sentences and paragraphs? They could actually explain a lot more this way. Instead they "take the long way around the barn," to quote the John Wayne character in "The Shootist."
Scott Dutcher pulls the kind of tricks you'd expect from the cynical Republicans, such as finding an unflattering photo of his opponent. Jay McNamar looks shady in these photos. It looks like a photo from a wanted poster. It's gray, dark and somewhat blurry. Of course McNamar isn't smiling. We can feel assured he's capable of smiling.
If you visit my websites much you'll know I'm a Democrat/progressive. But I'm not sure I'll even vote for McNamar. He seems too aligned with the teachers union. We even received a small McNamar flyer one day with some handwriting on it from a local teacher.
I wouldn't develop such a dim view of teachers' self-advocacy if I were a young person today. My views got hardened during the 1980s. Teachers crossed the line way too often back then, pursuing their interests in a scorched-earth type of way. I don't doubt that advocacy and conflict still exist today. But I sense it's much more internal, within a given school system and not spilling out into the broader community so much. Perhaps some laws or policies got tweaked to help this new sense of order come into play.
The old order seemed particularly hard on small outstate Minnesota communities. Most people in these towns accept their lot in life in a quiet and restrained way. Call it humility or civility. Teachers could be in your face with a brazenness I'd associate with big cities. It was culturally disruptive. We all like money and security. But as the Rolling Stones sang, "You can't always get what you want."
We like our quality of life out here in rural Minnesota even if we don't get rich. Teachers can fall into line. I can't simply put aside my memories regarding this. So I'll be voting for Mr. Dutcher.
My primary inclinations are progressive, though, so I'll be choosing "Bronco Bama." Mitt Romney is the definition of mendacity. The fact he even seems close is a troubling sign for our great nation. Chris Christie went through his cute little act of advocating for Romney at the GOP national convention, but now he needs the Federal government and "Bronco Bama." There's nothing like a disaster to make us appreciate the Democratic Party.
I hope it doesn't come down to Ohio. "Bronco Bama" ought to sweep the nation in a Reagan-esque way. We'll know soon. Ohio shouldn't spell our destiny any more than Ohio State and Michigan should play for the Big 10 title every year. Let's have a song about national unity and resolve. Hurricane Sandy may be pointing that way.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com