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).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bill Chase: superb instrumentalist, meteoric career

The passage of time might be burying the memory of brass man Bill Chase.
The trumpet is often in the background in our popular music. Instrumentalists outside of the standard guitar and bass add an atmosphere of class and depth. Chase was not in the background. He brought the trumpet right into the forefront. One of the trademarks of his music was "cascading trumpets." You might remember his biggest hit: "Get It On." That hit had cascading trumpets as a firm stamp. It's kind of a waterfall of sound.
Chase and his band of nine pieces (unusual size) appealed to the boomers. Some thought the trumpets were a bit too much. Many who themselves were in band thought it was quite cool. Male trumpet players were enthralled. Trumpet was associated almost exclusively with the male gender. These boys thought it incredibly cool that Chase and Maynard Ferguson had this ability to play high notes. Now I'm age 58 and don't quite see what all the excitement was about. I'm more inclined to agree with a family member of mine who once remarked "if they want to play that high, why don't they just play a different instrument?" It's not quite like saying the emperor has no clothes, but the point is similar.
Chase and Ferguson both came out of jazz. Both cut their teeth in standard big band jazz. Ferguson never departed that far from his roots. But Chase made an abrupt transition and went "hip" (with the boomers) seamlessly. You'd never be reminded of Woody Herman, listening to the Chase group's three albums. Chase's nine-piece band was "rock" with absolute firmness.
He played in our community once. Very few people are around who'd remember that. I wasn't there, but I remember the word about that concert trending negative. It was about the volume. The "noise." Yes, I realize a big part of rock in the '60s and '70s was intense volume. This could go awry without proper management though. The loudness was unpleasant. Thus I heard that many audience members didn't return to their seats after intermission.
I was at a Ferguson concert in the mid 1970s where this problem surfaced. It was so "cool" to be loud then, some of these musicians neglected proper attention to detail and didn't adequately realize their audience really wanted good music, and not just to have their eardrums threatened. Boomers like me sometimes pooh-poohed our elders who'd say "that music is too loud." We can hang our heads about our old attitudes now.
Chase may have had rough edges in his concerts and touring, if the Morris concert was representative. However, his three studio albums were stellar artistry. "Jazz-rock fusion" best describes. Oh yes, there was a singer. The singer was a must for making the music commercially appealing. Terry Richards sang on "Get It On." Later we got the vocal cords of G.G. Shinn. These singers fit a mold. They most definitely followed in the footsteps of the Blood, Sweat and Tears vocals. The vocal style of Kenny Rogers was a prototype for this. It was an intense, restless and gravelly tone. Those were restless times.
I'm biased because I once got to meet G.G. Shinn. The coterie of Chase fans in Morris loved the intensity of Shinn's singing on the group's second album, called "Ennea." (That's the Greek word for "nine," the size of the group.)
Band reunites on night of bridge disaster
Del Sarlette and I got to meet Shinn at the unforgettable reunion of Chase alumni in 2007. By coincidence it was on a night that would go down in infamy in Minnesota historical annals. That bridge fell into the Mississippi Rover. I thought it was incredible: Here I was in the Twin Cities for the first time in years, and I have to call home and tell the family I'm OK because I'm hearing these news reports on the radio about the bridge collapsing.
It seemed eerie. Chase himself died in a sudden tragedy: the crash of his plane in southern Minnesota. Ah, but let's not get superstitious. There was a TV screen at the Minnesota Music Cafe where the reunion concert was held. We saw constant coverage of the bridge disaster on KSTP. But the concert itself was totally unimpeded.
First we saw some nostalgic slides of the Chase group's meteoric heyday. There he was, Bill Chase himself, the epitome of cool and on top of his game playing his "ax," the trumpet. How wonderfully gifted and inspired.
A trumpet playing luminary from the present was at the concert to do his best reflecting what Chase represented. This Asian talent: Eric Myashiro. Actually there were several most outstanding trumpet players present. The event was billed as a "trumpet summit" in addition to a reunion.
The Minnesota Music Cafe is like a larger version of our Met Lounge in Morris. It's "where the food's great and the music's cooking." It's at 499 Payne Avenue, "on the edge of beautiful downtown St. Paul." A reviewer has said "the Minnesota Music Cafe proudly holds a torch for Minnesota's music history." The main clientele are known as "working-class east siders."
Del and I brought some old vinyl record jackets from the Chase years. We found the jackets themselves to be a bit of a curiosity. Are we getting that old? Are the jackets in the pantheon of antiquity with the Model T? Apparently yes.
"Get It On" crystallizes the memories
Patrons of the Minnesota Music Cafe often hear R&B and blues. But in August of 2007, the group "Chase" came to life as best it could without the old leader himself. The concert climaxed at the end with "Get It On." The cascading trumpets seemed never more powerful or memorable. I remember like it was yesterday.
The original spelling of Bill Chase's last name was "Chiaise." It's Italian. Bill's father played the trumpet. Bill got the opportunity to hear Maynard Ferguson way back in 1950. Maynard was making a name for himself with the Stan Kenton big band. The course of Bill's life seemed fixed after hearing Maynard with Stan. 
Bill went through a phase of studying classical trumpet. He kept on climbing through the Berklee School of Music. He finally came on board with Maynard himself in 1958. Then it was on to Kenton's band in '59, and in the 1960s he found a long-term home with another fixture of the big band world: Woody Herman and his "Thundering Herd" orchestra. I was fortunate to hear the Herman band at the St. Paul Prom Ballroom in the 1970s. I heard the Kenton band in Willmar and St. Cloud. You could put several pins on the map for where I heard Maynard. I heard the incredible drummer Buddy Rich and his band at the Prom and at Orchestra Hall. Del heard pretty much the same list.
Chase broke out as a group leader with his distinctive new band in 1971. Veteran jazz trumpeters were enlisted in this jazz-rock fusion experiment. "Get It On" spent 13 weeks on the charts. Only Carly Simon stood between Chase and the "Best New Artist" Grammy Award.
The first album, simply called "Chase," was unquestionably a labor of love. Pop music had never seen anything quite like it. The composition of this nine-piece group was unique. It was a celebration of brass which drew raves from most young people who themselves played brass instruments. It was a little risky trying to get fans from the rest of the general public. It just seemed at times the trumpets were "on the attack" in Chase music.
Boomers generally didn't mind "in your face" music with its bluntness and bravado, played loud. Tastes eventually evolved. I think the "unplugged" movement was a signal the public was ready to go back to simple good music.
"What might have been. . ."
How would Bill Chase have evolved? It's the fascinating question that gets asked in connection to deceased individuals like Chase, Buddy Holly and Glenn Miller. It's so hard to know how their artistry would have guided them. It's so tragic we could never find out. We had to ponder on that hot August night in 2007 when the old Chase crowd gathered again.
Chase's most devoted fans liked his second album, "Ennea," just as much as his first. The general public did not follow. Shinn replaced Richards for this album. Commercial success dropped off. "Ennea" had a theme of Greek mythology for one whole side of the album. A single release from the other side, "So Many People," got some airplay. The Greek mythology theme didn't lend itself to radio.
The reunion band did some selections from the mythology suite. Del and I were mesmerized as Shinn broke into the opening phrases of "Aphrodite."
Bill Chase took a hiatus before coming out with the third album called "Pure Music." Again his most firmly-planted fans were thrilled. But there was no more commercial success as was once promised by "Get It On." The third album included songs written by Jim Peterick of the Ides of March, who sings on two of the songs. We had to laugh during the reunion concert because one of the songs was deemed inappropriate for political correctness reasons. This was "Run Back to Mama." Would "misogynistic" be the word? I'd like to suggest just writing new lyrics.
Chase was working on his fourth album when the end came. He was en route to the Jackson County Fair, southern Minnesota, when he and three band mates were killed in the plane crash. Those three were Wally Yohn (keyboards), Walter Clark (drums) and John Emma (guitar).
I read that in 1977 a Chase tribute band released "Watch Closely Now" but I didn't hear of it at the time. "Ghost bands" are much better in theory than in practice. We'd love so much for the deceased to live on with us. We'd love the music to just keep on resonating. But the spark is gone. We can remember but we cannot deny the death of our idol.
We can remember the past so easily at the Minnesota Music Cafe. The walls are lined with glass display cases housing old records, posters, photos and the like, each one honoring a different local legend. All this reminds of the old Lakeside Ballroom in Glenwood. Old photos there stimulated memories too. I remember a "trough" for men to use in the men's room - wow! - which surely wouldn't pass "code" today. The old Lakeside burned down. There's a new facility there which might be called a ballroom but it's in name only. There are no more "ballrooms."
The three Chase albums wouldn't sound dated, were they to be heard by anyone unfamiliar today. They are sophisticated and inspired. The reunion concert did justice to that commitment. It reminded how the trumpet can be showcased in popular music and not just in the background.
"Get It On" could practically bring tears, such did it re-kindle memories of the Chase heyday.
I wonder if the sound would reach the iconic departed musician in the next world: Bill Chase, RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, January 25, 2013

Just one '3' but a romp by MACA boys on the road

Boys basketball: Tigers 57, Ortonville 39
The MACA boys stayed on a roll with a Saturday (1/19) win over Ortonville on the road, 57-39. It was the eleventh triumph for coach Mark Torgerson's squad, compared with just two losses. The Tigers rolled up a 26-17 lead by halftime. The second half advantage was by 31 to 22.
Success came despite making just one three-point shot. Logan Manska made the lone '3' which came among nine team attempts. In total field goals the Tigers went 20-for-54. From the freethrow line there were 16 makes in 33 tries.
Austin Dierks vacuumed the boards for ten rebounds followed by Lincoln Berget with seven. Jacob Torgerson and Manska each produced four assists. Dierks was the steal leader with three.
Coach Torgerson liked the caliber of his team's defense in this non-conference game.
Manska's '3' helped elevate him to his team-leading total of 14 points. Dierks was right behind with 13, then we have Nic Vipond with his ten points, making for three Tigers in double figures scoring. Chandler Erickson and Berget each put in six points. John Tiernan scored four followed by Tom Holland with two, and Torgerson and Dylan McNally each with one.
No one reached double figures for the Trojans. James Nitz and Jade Hasslen each put in eight points for the losing team. The Trojans were four of 18 shooting 3's and went 14 of 41 in total field goals. Ortonville came out of the weekend with a 5-7 record.
Boys hockey: Storm 10, Worthington 4
The MBA Storm stormed their way through their Saturday (1/19) road game against Worthington. The final score was 10-4 as the Storm improved to 9-7 on the season. Three goals came in the first period for the visitor. Four came in the second and three more in the third. Worthington kept pace for a while, scoring three goals in the first period, but faded after that with only one more goal scored the rest of the way.
Kyle Kennedy wore the goalie gear for MBA and he accumulated 14 saves.
MBA had to get going after falling into an 0-2 deficit on the scoreboard. Get going they did, indeed! It was Brody Gimberlin getting the Storm on the scoreboard with a goal at 11:47 with assists from Mac Beyer and Tanner Picht. Lincoln Pahl put the puck in the net for score No. 2. Pahl scored with assists coming from Taner Gimberlin and Jordan Staples at 14:48. Tanner Mikkelson scored the Storm's third goal at 16:27 of the first, assisted by Corey Storck.
The score wouldn't stay tied 3-3 for long. Beyer scored with assists from Brody Gimberlin and Picht at 5:16 of the second period. It was Riley Blake scoring the Storm's fifth goal, working well with Storck and Darion Helberg who got assists. That goal came at 6:18 of the second.
Following a Worthington goal, Beyer went to work to guide the puck into the net at 10:38 assisted by Brody Gimberlin and Picht. Then Picht showed his scoring magic with a goal at 16:52 with assists from Brody Gimberlin and Beyer.
The Storm polished things off with a 3-0 scoring advantage in the third period. Brody Gimberlin got the first of those three goals, assisted by Beyer and Staples at 1:24. Then came a goal by Blake with assists from Helberg and Storck at 2:12. MBA got to the ten-goal plateau thanks to a Picht goal at 16:52 with assists by Brody Gimberlin and Beyer.
The Worthington goalie was Ryan Scholtes who had 26 saves but was overwhelmed often by the well-oiled MBA offense.
Girls basketball: Milbank 48, Tigers 47
The MACA girls seemed in command through the first half only to falter in the second, when hosting Milbank SD on Monday, Jan. 21. The Tigers led halfway through this non-conference affair 23-12, and fans at the home gym were content and confident. But Milbank proved to have weapons that could whittle away at that advantage.
The second half was a quite different story as Milbank outscored our Tigers 36-24. Still, the Tigers nearly survived. It took a buzzer-beating shot by McKenzie Mertens to sink the Tigers' victory hopes. Mertens deftly took a pass under the basket and executed in the clutch. That clutch field goal made Milbank the winner 48-47. Milbank denied the Tigers their win No. 11.
The Tigers had to be satisfied with the still-quite-fine season mark of 10-5. Milbank earned its eighth win against five losses.
The Tigers were four of 12 in three-point shooting with Katie Holzheimer having three of the successes. Beth Holland had the other. It was Holzheimer leading in rebounds with eight followed by Tracy Meichsner with seven and Smith and Strobel each with six. Beth Holland was proficient passing the basketball with her six assists. Holzheimer and Meichsner each had two assists. Holzheimer stole the ball twice.
In total field goals the Tigers were 16 of 49. In freethrows the numbers were 11 of 16. Milbank made just one '3' in nine tries and were 20 of 68 in total field goals.
Holzheimer's 15 points led the way for Motown scoring-wise. Beth Holland had double digits with her ten. Meichsner put in seven points followed by Nicole Strobel (5), MaKenzie Smith (4), Abbie Olson (2), Becca Holland (2) and Kaitlyn Vogel (2).
The top Milbank scorer was Kendra Snaza with 19 points.
Girls basketball: BOLD 60, Tigers 35
It was South vs. North in West Central Conference girls basketball on Tuesday night, Jan. 22, in Bird Island. The Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tigers came out of the South and vied with the Warriors of BOLD. It was the home team bringing the North some special pride on this night at the expense of our Tigers.
The outcome was pretty clear at halftime. The orange and black trailed 37-14. The second half was pretty much a stalemate but that still left the Warriors in quite good shape. They won 60-35.
MACA came out of the night with a 10-6 won-lost mark. BOLD is an upper-crust team for whom the Tuesday win was No. 13.
Katie Holzheimer made three 3-point shots for MACA. These were the only MACA long-range successes. She scored a team-best 15 points. Beth Holland scored nine points, MaKenzie Smith 5, Abbie Olson 4 and Kaitlyn Vogel 2.
BOLD was four of 16 in its attempts from beyond the three-point stripe. Taylor Ebnet made two of these and Carly Sigurdson the other two. The Warriors were 24 of 61 in total field goals and eight of 13 in freethrows. Sigurdson was BOLD's top scorer with 21 points.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Manti Te'o and the continued primacy of football

Cupid can make mischief online.
The "Doonesbury" comic strip once had a gaggle of reporters pestering a fellow named Jerry terHorst. He was a newly-named spokesman for President Gerald Ford. "Why don't you change your name?" a reporter chirped. "It looks like a typographical error."
We have all been familiar with such names. The comic strip popped back into my thoughts recently with that media storm over that Notre Dame football player.
Talk about a name that looks like a typo: "Manti Te'o." Nothing wrong with the first name. It's an atypical first name but only by our established Anglo standards (although getting less established all the time). We are all having to adjust to names that never would have fit in with the kind of TV sitcoms that boomers watched in their youth. Such sitcoms have been referred to as "benevolent Aryan melodramas." No, the name "Manti Te'o" wouldn't have fit in there.
What looks like a typo is this fellow's last name. I have gotten used to non-Anglo names but this apostrophe business is something new. Nothing wrong with it, I'm just not used to it.
Until just very recently, I couldn't have told you who this individual is. On the day the big "scandal" story broke, I needed some background on who he was and who he played for.
People who follow my writing - God bless you all - know I have grown quite skeptical about football. To a very large extent I have withdrawn from the sport. It's hard to go "cold turkey." There is a slight curiosity appeal I still see in the sport. The sport has terrible health consequences for its participants, with new revelations rolling out regularly. George Will asserts the problems may well not be solvable. A significant Bloomberg piece asserts that football doesn't have a "concussion problem," it has an "existential problem."
But football still seems very much to reign in American culture. So, that big national championship game involving Te'o's team was a marquee item, I guess. It was Notre Dame vs. Alabama. The Catholic institution of Notre Dame didn't have a prayer. The southern boys romped. The Alabama coach didn't even seem happy having Gatorade poured over him. He's getting paid very well to put up with such annoyances. Maybe it's time for that awkward "Gatorade shower" tradition to end. Just like the "tomahawk chop."
There wasn't much for journalists to mine in the Notre Dame vs. Alabama game, at least not from the on-field stuff. Off the field? Significant fodder emerged. First we had the "Brent Musburger controversy" in which the old venerated broadcaster - "You are looking live. . ." - fawned excessively over a woman deemed attractive. Our changing culture has made such comments not necessarily innocuous. We've come a long way from the Dean Martin Variety Hour.
The Musburger story ran its course in the news cycle, then along comes linebacker Manti Te'o with his romance and tragedy escapades - a real tear-jerker for a time. I followed none of this as it developed. I needed a "primer" when the scandal angle broke out.
This is a young man who plays football. Who really cares if his thoughts run a little wild sometimes? I don't think young people are nearly as excited about this "scandal" as older folks like me. Young people know how easy it is to create sort of a fantasy universe for yourselves online. The line between reality and fantasy is at least blurred.
If this kid weren't a "football star," nobody would care about whatever cockeyed directions his perception took with online communications. The media see him as a sports star and put him under a microscope for reasons having nothing to do with his football talents. Young people see it as ridiculous, I feel. Give the guy his 15 minutes of fame and then let's all move on.
I'd like to suggest we all just move on from big-time college football. Columnist Will has been growing skeptical about college football for some time. He talks about the "coach centrism" that has taken away some of the appeal of football as a simple test of athletic skills between two teams of athletes. Coaches have become these genius superpowers unto themselves, more important and better paid than governors of their states. These empires have to come under closer scrutiny, to see why it is such models are necessary to simply present a sports product.
The Manti Te'o story is also about the big traditional commercial media. That media establishment is close to "jumping the shark" if it hasn't already done so. It must have found the debt ceiling issue to be boring. Or, maybe it found it could no longer scare us with stories like the debt ceiling "impending crisis," because there is now a "cry wolf" ring to such stories. This is due to what the media dragged us through with the "fiscal cliff." Endless experts coming on these TV studio sets and saying "I think we're going over the fiscal cliff." Stock up on freeze-dried food, everyone.
Except of course there was no crisis. Politicians got together and enabled the country to limp along a little longer, which is what they always do. The big push at the end of that episode was from "Wall Street finance Republicans." So, that tells us, lest there be any doubt, that Wall Street is running America. At least until we get to Bastille Day.
We should be focused on macro economic issues. Instead the media steer us toward a young man who has an imaginary girlfriend. He's "news" because he's a talented football player. Heaven help us all.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 17, 2013

U of M deals with brickbats from the Wall Street Journal

Eric Kaler speaks at the 2012 UMM graduation. (B.W. photo)
"That's the press, baby. The press! And there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing!"
- Humphrey Bogart as crusading editor Ed Hutcheson in "Deadline - U.S.A." (1952)
It could have been worse - it could have been "60 Minutes." It really could have. There was definitely a story there. The Wall Street Journal is perceptive on these things.
The WSJ did an expose on (much of) higher education recently. It hardly stayed in its back yard to find a case study. It came out to "the frozen tundra," as the late iconic radio personality Steve Cannon called us.
Beth Hawkins of Minnpost equated the WSJ to "The Grinch" who right after Christmas "paid a visit to University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler." The period between Christmas and New Year's is usually pretty dead. Kaler would wish it were so. Now the U is scrambling to get direction from outside consultants to see how it might remedy or soften problems identified by "the press."
The Wall Street Journal basically asserted in a lengthy piece that the U is being dragged down by disproportionate administrative costs. I imagine most people wouldn't be shocked reading that. The WSJ placed its article on the front page. Online the article appeared behind a subscription paywall. The U of M has an advantage here to the extent it chooses to joust with the WSJ. The paywall can only limit the number of eyeballs getting access to the article. Meanwhile, Kaler and those aligned with him can deliver a return volley with quotes on numerous websites that are free access.
As an aside, it's possible many advocates of the U might think the WSJ's expose is a good thing. The truth shall set you free.
The WSJ thinks its prestige is so great, it can apply the paywall and come out a winner. I disagree. Newspapers have basically been in retreat on these things. You used to have to log in to read a New York Times columnist like David Brooks. I remember having to actually pass when I wanted to read Brooks, a conservative who is nevertheless able to understand varying points of view (LOL). The log-in requirement was dropped. I later read that the protests of the writers themselves were largely responsible for that.
Writers want readers. As for the company, you might think they'd need or want the money from online "subscriptions." It's not that simple. Yes you can get money from subscriptions, although I can't believe people are beating the door down wanting to pay to read news and commentary online. Removing any paywall or log-in procedure opens you up to more readers which increases your visibility and prestige, and that in turn maximizes advertising sales opportunities. And as any knave readily knows, advertising is the mother's milk of the media.
Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Wall Street Journal, is simply old school in his approach. He feels media entities must simply charge readers. In the short term it might work because the WSJ still invests enough in its reporting to give it distinctive value. But it's tenuous ground.
Murdoch's "dead tree" properties are hardly the flagship of his business ventures now. Young people don't associate any special mystique with the Wall Street Journal. It's almost lost in a sea of media that has something for everyone, almost all of it free. Is that unfair to "journalists" who we have always felt need to be paid for their work?
If you take a probing look, you'll realize that journalists have never really been paid directly for their journalism, rather they've ridden piggy-back on the gravy train of the historic monopolistic newspaper business model, in which newspapers established monopolies in their distribution areas. The Internet has dealt a frontal assault on that.
"What about Woodward and Bernstein?" you might ask. My first response is that it was an anomaly. But most importantly, the Washington Post didn't unleash its reporters out of idealistic zeal or to "make money." Rather, this whole phenomenon unfolded because Washington D.C. is a "company town" and the Washington Post had a vested interest in how D.C. is perceived as the host of government and the "military industrial complex."
No one expected the U of M's Kaler to be happy with the WSJ article (dated 12/28). Perhaps he was a little too bombastic in his rebuttals. I wish he hadn't fallen back on the old cliche of a newspaper just wanting to "sell papers." But he did this in an interview with Minnpost's Hawkins.
Newspapers don't really try to "sell newspapers," they try to sell advertising. Maybe supermarket tabloids try to sell copies in the manner as suggested by the U president.
I have been able to read the WSJ article without dealing with the subscription paywall. It appears to have been re-posted in its entirety on a blog site. That blog is called "The Periodic Table" and it focuses on the University of Minnesota. Gee, "can they do that?" It's my understanding they can, based on a judge's ruling in one of the Righthaven legal cases. Judges are steered in the direction of wanting the Internet to be free and open. In my opinion the "subscription paywall" is really folly.
Kaler felt he could massage the English language in seeking to assail the WSJ. Rather than say the WSJ was wrong or inaccurate, he mostly said that what they wrote was "challenging." He told Hawkins he felt the reporter "had a real hard time collapsing it into a 2000-word article." I hardly think 2000 words is minimalist. Maybe at the U where superfluities apparently abound, it is.
The latest word is that the U is tapping a consulting firm to guide it on trimming alleged waste. So, the allegation is that the U is top-heavy with "management" and yet there apparently isn't enough "management" to handle the task of restructuring the U. I suppose the fear is that no manager would want his ox to be gored.
I wonder if this consulting firm is the equivalent to the "military base closing commissions" we've seen in government. No individual politician wants to have to answer or squirm over the decisions that ultimately must be made.
How did we get here? The Wall Street Journal, which really cites the U of M as just illustrative of prevalent trends, tells us "like many public colleges, the University of Minnesota went on a spending spree over the past decade, paid for by a steady stream of state money and rising tuition. Officials didn't keep close tabs on their payroll as it swelled beyond 19,000 employees, nearly one for every 3 1/2 students."
I assure you, private business doesn't operate like this. Private industry has natural incentives to be efficient. Institutions supported entirely or largely by government have no such incentive. They in fact like to thump their chest by growing bigger, at least for as long as they can get by with it.
It appears the U of M is finally at a crossroads.
Anyone familiar with my writing knows I have long been skeptical about the future of the bricks and mortar model for higher education. Consider that a disclaimer if you like. I don't hesitate dispensing Internet triumphalist Kant.
Another national financial crisis like in 2008 might tip us over the edge. It will force us into efficiencies. There are natural corrective forces in a free market economy, although we have the power sometimes to delay those corrections.
Minnesota will always need its U of M. The form it will take is open to question.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The homemade bread trumped the hunting of deer

Wonderful town in picturesque place: Sundance WY
Hunting is secondary to the other memories from hunting experiences of my youth. Today our family takes the attitude of "live and let live."
Hunting seemed more embedded in our culture when I was growing up. We filled our obligation, the male members anyway. The NRA would be proud. So would Yosemite Sam.
Mitt Romney talked about how he once "hunted varmints." That sure conjures up visions of Yosemite Sam. It was clever by Romney. Pesky reporters wouldn't be able to prove or disprove anything by looking up hunting license records. You don't need a license to go after varmints.
My father and I made trips west to hunt deer in the Sundance, Wyoming, area. A family friend from Brainerd joined us. The same ranch hosted us each year. The scenery out there was stunning for someone accustomed to the prairie. Not that the prairie doesn't have its own wonderment.
I had always seen pictures of mule deer in magazines like Outdoor Life. We don't have these deer on the prairie but they're quite common out by Sundance. They don't look that much different from our whitetail deer. Unlike whitetails they hold their tails down when running. Simply seeing such wildlife was its own reward.
Traveling in and of itself was rewarding. We made a wrong turn once and got to see Devil's Tower. This was before the fame it gained in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
We must have been on the road on a Friday night once because I remember seeing the glow of lights at football fields. Every little town had its own high school football team then (the 1960s). Here in the Morris area we had the Herman Panthers, Graceville Shamrocks and Appleton Aces among many others.
I'll never forget the host family at the ranch where we hunted. The man got us out to our hunting stations in the morning. He was a graduate of some sort of military academy. I remember that because one year he had an old classmate visiting and they sat down with great delight paging through their yearbook. It made me wonder if I'd be better off having attended such a school.
I didn't talk much with the man but I definitely got to know the mother. They had a son who was close to my age. Their last name was Frolander. Several years after our hunting experiences ended, I sent Mrs. Frolander a postcard from Europe and she answered. Hunting didn't cross my mind. She said she had always wanted to see the Holy Land. I hope she did.
Besides being wonderful people, I have the most distinct memory of her homemade bread. That bread was on the corner of my thoughts during the entire trip west. Any homemade bread is good but Mrs. Frolander's was unique. Maybe if I'm fortunate enough to go to heaven, I can have some again. It won't be the first thing I'll do if allowed to check in there. I'm already obligated through my online writing to look up Willie Martin and Del Holdgrafer and perhaps others. Hey, I can share the bread with them!
Some of the other hunters who were guests at the ranch really seemed to savor a regional product: Coors beer. The distribution of that product was more limited then. Coors had a mystique, I learned. Empty Coors cans gave a backdrop for our experience, a dubious one. Not only was hunting more embedded in our culture then, drinking was too. Much more appealing was the backdrop of that wondrous nature and the topography so different from western Minnesota. In hindsight, hunting really just gave us an excuse to have this wonderfully exotic experience.
I of course was too young to sample any beer. When I eventually got old enough to do that, I couldn't have told the difference between brands anyway. A big deal was made of Olympia beer coming to Minnesota. Big deal.
Getting a deer wasn't much of a challenge in our trips. I never got a "trophy." The NRA would have approved of how I filled my obligations. Yosemite Sam too. The NRA wasn't so political back then. I remember it as a reasonable organization that promoted the safe use of firearms. I guess that made too much sense. Today it wants armed guards at all our schools. What could go wrong, right? More people with guns - that's the answer, or so they say.
I used a Remington 30/06 bolt action rifle with a Redfield scope. We got our guns "sighted in" at the Morris rifle range out by the golf course (across the railroad tracks).
Here in western Minnesota you could only use a shotgun with "slugs." It was OK to use a rifle up north.
We also hunted in the vast north woods of Minnesota. As with Wyoming the surroundings seemed a world away from the western Minnesota prairie. Getting a deer in the north woods was much harder than in Wyoming. To be honest I never got one there. But as with Wyoming, the non-hunting related memories seem so much richer anyway. Like, hearing that primitive call of a "raven" (like a giant crow) as it glided over the forest top. I remember a little store/lounge in the middle of nowhere that had lots of literature available on the independent presidential candidacy of George Wallace. Punch the right number and letter on the jukebox there, and you could hear Lorne Greene narrate "Ringo."
I was awed by the seemingly endless forest.
Hunting is a closed chapter in our life now. Mrs. Frolander's bread ranks higher in my memories than any pursuit of deer. It also reminds of a time when women were more likely to specialize as "homemakers" and made bread from scratch. I suspect many older people like me relish memories of when such fare was more common.
Such memories are included in the book "Remember - No Electricity!" by the wonderful Maurice Faust of Pierz. Faust is a little like Del Holdgrafer in that he's a homespun artist. He has as much talent as anyone. But his "fame" will be limited. Let's put Doug Rasmusson in the same category. Holdgrafer and Rasmusson have moved on to the next life. I don't know about Faust; his book is copyrighted 1998. I will quote from Faust's book as the closing portion of this post. Close your eyes and imagine fresh-baked bread nearby. Please, if you ever see his writing for sale somewhere, buy it. His reminiscences center on the 1930s and 1940s.
Here we go:
"Making good bread was an art form but, I believe also took a certain amount of luck. Unlike today when a dial is set for the desired temperature, in those days it took the skill of the housewife to fire the stove for the correct baking temperature. The kind of wood used, the outside temperature, the wind for proper draft all had a bearing on the output of the cook stove. Too hot meant burned bread, too cold made for small doughy loaves.
"No batch of bread was ever a complete failure - if the bottom was black it would be sliced off and given to the animals. If not raised properly it would be sliced and served in its deflated form. Fresh cream, homemade jam, sweet cream butter, or egg bread, all made even the poorest home baked bread seem like cake compared to store-bought. A batch of bread that flopped, which seldom happened, was almost always blamed on the yeast or the flour.
"Bread baked in our home in midweek was usually just plain loaves, but on Saturday Mama pulled out all the stops. Raisin loaf, plain buns, buns baked in a bed of caramel, cinnamon rolls, or a loaf of cinnamon-sugar combination were usually part of the weekend fare. It is amazing what the ladies in those days could produce in their kitchen without any modern conveniences."
(end of quoted material)
Let's remember the simple genius and ingenuity of our ancestors. High tech is no panacea.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brent Musburger & the mystifying concept of "babes"

Brent Musburger, taking brickbats
The humor of the "rat pack" belongs in a time capsule. We are charmed by it because it's so distant. None of our cultural norms disappear permanently though.
Men judging women by aesthetic standards that are archaic surfaced this week. I heard about it on the morning after, during the essential "Morning Joe" program (MSNBC).
The behavior in question happened during that big football game. I wasn't watching because, as anyone who follows my writing knows, I'm withdrawing from football. Maybe football is heading the way of the rat pack and its humor. It's way too damaging to the human body and brain. Women can feel thankful they've been spared that.
Women have been subjected through time to comments from men that seem shallow and boorish. I remember seeing Bob Hope in concert once when he had a featured singer. He asked for a special additional applause for her and said "isn't she pretty?" This concert was at the Minnesota State Fair. Frankly she was not a good singer. But she fit this image of what has been broadly accepted as a "bombshell."
You chuckle? Such language has faded but it's not gone. On Headline News we can see Nancy Grace, the fire-breathing legal commentator, talking about the Jodi Arias murder case with a label at the bottom of the screen: "bombshell beauty." This "bombshell" may have committed a heinous murder. But why are the aesthetic qualities of the accused worthy of such mention? Because, the "old" criteria as promoted by the rat pack and Bob Hope still float around our culture.
So Brent Musburger "steps into it" Monday night during a game that I hear was horribly boring.
Good, I'm glad it was boring. It didn't bother me to learn that Notre Dame was pummeled either. Notre Dame's chutzpah with football has always grated on me. Today the chutzpah of all of football grates. It grates on me that our University of Minnesota chose to flush away $800,000 to get out of a home-and-home football series with University of North Carolina. And I don't care if the athletic director can explain this away with talking points. On the surface it's awful.
I don't think of Brent Musburger as an old man. I need someone to tap me on the shoulder. It's the year 2013 now.
I remember Musburger when he was part of the popular Sunday afternoon panel that included Phyllis George, known as a "former beauty queen." Once a beauty queen, always a beauty queen. The mother of the murdered JonBenet Ramsey was a former beauty queen.
We seemed to have a more firm notion of what constituted beauty once. By "we" I suppose I mean mostly men. Men had a more prominent role in defining our culture once.
Musburger began gushing about the girlfriend of the Alabama quarterback. Let's remember this TV crew was trying to keep the evening's broadcast entertaining despite a one-sided football game. Let's remember they're media professionals. They're always conscious of the eyeballs - wanting to keep them. How do you think Musburger keeps getting these gigs at age 73? Celebrities like him may seem carefree and nonchalant but underneath they are calculating craftsmen.
Musburger evaluated this young lady by archaic terms.
What he said wouldn't have stood out at all, in the old days of Monday night football. Which reminds me, wasn't there a famous episode where the camera panned in on a young woman who shall we say was attractive, who after a couple moments, reached up to remove some effluence from her nose? And I think it was Frank Gifford who said "she was almost perfect."
Almost perfect. . . Eventually the crass expression "a perfect 10" came along.
Musburger must know he's working in a quite different media environment today. Electronic communications can seize on otherwise innocuous episodes and make them "viral." What a perfect example we saw with Musburger and his comments about the young lady (named Katherine Webb). Bob Hope would be proud.
Oh, and in the old days we might decide a "wolf whistle" was in order! A man might get slapped in the face today.
Willie Geist of the "Morning Joe" panel felt Musburger deserves a "Brent Musburger pass." Hey, let's consider his stature and age. Someone might whisper to him about the inappropriateness sometime.
Today's media culture is set up as a meritocracy where we think we can get clarity on everything. But a question hangs out there in limbo: What is a "good looking woman?" Nancy Grace would consider herself enlightened and yet she allows the term "bombshell beauty." Why is an expression from war needed? We have an instinct to reject such terms today. But they seem to have legacy staying power.
We hear the term "beautiful woman" and get an image of the type of woman that's being suggested. What are the real grounds for this? Have we never thought about the feelings of women who don't conform to that image? Have we ever thought about how the "beautiful women" themselves might feel cheapened and dehumanized by the old criteria?
The rat pack embraced smoking and drinking too. A lot has changed. We may even see a full-scale withdrawal from football someday. This might be happening faster than you think.
How fortunate the feminine gender is, that they've been spared football. If a women's sport were found to have the same kind of hazards that football does for men, there would be calls to have it banned immediately. But in football we admire, or we're supposed to, the gladiatorial ethos that has someone like Robert Griffin III trying to play through pain and physical damage. I checked in with that game only briefly as it was being played. I knew "something was up" with Griffin. Then the next day we had the cacophony of media voices. There should have been overwhelming condemnation of coach Mike Shanahan and the "team doctor."
Yes, there was condemnation but there was also too much of "the other side," people wanting to give Shanahan some space for his decision. Hey it's football. Be gritty out there.
If you don't have human compassion for Griffin, then think of him as an investment. If there's any language people understand nowadays, that's it. But in football there's so much money flowing around, maybe it doesn't matter. Look how that Alabama coach is being compensated. This isn't just proper professional compensation. It makes him sort of a pillar unto himself, a man to be revered more than the state's governor.
In the Deep South or Southeast maybe we can let this go a little longer. It's a deeply-ingrained cultural thing. It needn't be that way here.
It wasn't necessary for the U of M under Norwood Teague to forfeit 800 thou because they're chicken about playing North Carolina. They want that absolutely guaranteed 4-0 start through the non-conference schedule, so as to ensure they can make a low-level bowl like what Patrick Reusse called "the muffler bowl." The Gophers lost to Texas Tech or Texas State or Tech State or whatever it was. The teams went back and forth scoring. It was like arena football. The coaches may have agreed on somewhat loose defensive tactics.
Am I an outlier with such a conspiratorial thought? I remember when the venerable Dick Cullum of the Minneapolis Tribune offered the same theory after the first-ever Fiesta Bowl game. A high-scoring and close game is considered quite the formula. Professional wrestling knows all about formulas too.
The Brent Musburger episode has been bandied about quite a bit. We lack clarity. Are we prepared to declare what an "attractive" woman is? Can we come up with a clinical definition, in this age in which we expect clear answers to everything? We can't. So we ought to feel a little chastened.
When I was a kid, the "cute girls" became cheerleaders. Then female sports took off toward total legitimacy. We came to see athletic qualities as being consistent with a generally accepted notion of being "attractive." Cheerleaders actually became a little anachronistic. But then along came "cheer teams" and male participants. The pastime took on new qualities although our Morris Area High School has chosen not to get on board.
Cheerleaders are considered athletes today. We occasionally see a visiting team at Big Cat Stadium with cheerleaders who conform more to the older model. We for all practical purposes no longer have cheerleaders nor a pep band for home football. And yet Big Cat Stadium is deemed a step forward.
In a few years, nothing associated with football will be considered a step forward, I predict.
The concept of the "attractive woman" surfaced with that Iowa Supreme Court case recently where that dentist, according to popular media reports, fired a female assistant because she was "too hot." OK, maybe "hot" is the new "attractive." Bob Hope could have learned that word.
The dentist was given a pass on his firing decision. Apparently the argument wasn't gender-based but rather on grounds that the dentist "wanted to protect his marriage." I imagine most men don't go to the dentist thinking in terms of getting a hard-on.
Women who are overweight aren't generally considered attractive. But this may be not so much aesthetic criteria as criteria about healthy vs. non-healthy. We are learning we can probably blame fructose for that horrible problem of trying to keep one's weight down.
In high school we know which boys can ask out which girls, and which pairings would be unthinkable. The movie "Carrie" (Sissy Spacek) made us think about all that. The basketball captain asks out the cheerleader. Are other people bothered, like me, that we never got to know the cheerleaders at all in the movie "Hoosiers?"
I think there's an unspoken frustration among kids about why certain kids ought to be attracted to certain other opposite-gender kids based on criteria that can't be explained in any meaningful way. There's an impulse to reject that. We saw this in the movie "Carrie."
A high school homecoming will make national news when a developmentally challenged kid gets chosen for royalty. It makes the news because the norm isn't being followed.
When I was a kid, Natalie Wood and Raquel Welch were considered "hot."
Back when the Internet was young, I exchanged emails with a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Brown, after he wrote a column that fits in with the themes I'm touching on. I think I can remember Mr. Brown's headline word for word: "Babes of our youth stay forever young." He was inspired by a recent chat with a colleague. This colleague was gushing about a certain female acquaintance on her looks, and said "she reminds me of Julie Christie." Brown then thought: My, Julie Christie must be quite up in years. He reported her estimated age.
Brown decided that men envision certain "babes" from popular culture as always being a certain age. I pointed out to him he had misspelled "Hayley Mills." He spelled it "Haley." Doggone it, he responded in effect, "I should have checked that."
He apparently got a lot of feedback on this column. He later sent out a mass email to those who communicated with him on it, thanking all of us and noting we had acknowledged a concept of interest. This was in the days when simple "computers" and "email" were all the cutting edge, before all the exotic new tools and systems came along. Back then we spelled "email" with a hyphen: "e-mail."
I remember a media figure who I think was Dan Rather, suggesting Hillary Clinton was an attractive First Lady and wondering "what it's going to be like having an attractive First Lady." Of course there's the very irritating suggestion that her predecessor was different. How crass. But again, how do we define "attractive?"
Brent Musburger has done us a service in reminding us of this elusive concept. He might also remind us of the "rat pack" and Bob Hope. And days of cigarettes and alcohol. Ah, maturity.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What could spoil a beautiful fall evening here?

Our Big Cat Stadiuim, Morris MN (Panoramio photo)
Have you noticed the sheer length of the district court news in the local newspaper on many weeks? I don't buy the paper but I have occasion to see it in public places. I related to a friend recently that the attention-getting block of space for "district court" might be a public relations issue for Morris.
I asked "isn't Morris basically a small, quiet and safe rural community?" In other words, shouldn't that be a selling point for the community? Shouldn't we frown about so many cotton pickin' citations being given out?
Our political leaders usually try to walk a fine line with law enforcement. They know the aim of law enforcement is to keep us safe. They also must be sure law enforcement doesn't become an onerous and oppressive presence. The same applies to "security" personnel at public places.
I remember the night of the first-ever high school football game at Big Cat Stadium. As I recall, the Tigers were playing Minnewaska Area. Our community leaders must have had some delusions of grandeur about the place. They felt they had to chase away any people who might be able to get a glimpse of the field without having to pay. I found right away getting such a glimpse was easy. You can get an excellent view of the field from the south sidewalk leading from the P.E. Center.
I was making my evening rounds on bicycle. I went to the stadium not as a freeloading fan because my intent was to just "check it out," to be there maybe ten minutes maximum. I'm sure my main purpose that night was to stop by Westwood Apartments and check on a friend who was dealing with Parkinson's.
I parked my bike and headed over to that sidewalk to see what a high school football game would look like at the new field. Obviously there are no restrictions to access to that sidewalk on a normal day. As an aside, allow me to recall that this sidewalk got used less after the RFC opened. No longer could you enter the P.E. Center for a basketball game at the south entrance. Then-coach Jim Severson told me why, as if I'd have trouble figuring it out. "They want you to see the RFC," he told me. This would be accomplished through use of the north entrance. The urgency for everyone to "see the RFC" was of course a selling job.
Anyway, that south sidewalk (on the north side of the field of course) affords a surprisingly good view of the field. I'm surprised the facility was designed this way. On day #1 for high school football, the powers that be determined they needed to keep an eye on the sidewalk and possibly other perches.
Who were "the powers that be?"
Because Big Cat is a joint project, involving not just UMM, we can't answer that question automatically. Big Cat Stadium has the feel of being part of the UMM campus. But the public school is equally involved. So we can't be sure who makes some of the decisions. That's a drawback to a "cooperative" arrangement. A town leader told me once that the state's leaders were giddy about the cooperative example being set by our Big Cat Stadium.
I should insert that this time of year (winter), Big Cat sits there for months being good for absolutely nothing.
I was standing on the sidewalk just prior to the start of that first-ever prep game. Along comes a young man, looking like a UMM student and wearing a sweatshirt or T-shirt with a reference to Big Cat Stadium on the front. "Hello," he says. I turn, face him and rather self-consciously return the greeting. I'm not certain his "hello" was an innocent or well-intentioned one. Not wanting to assume the worst, I said "hello" back to him in a heartfelt way. But it couldn't end there.
"Are you here for the game?" he asked. I answered that I was just stopping by to get a look at the spread. I then got the impression I was illegal. On a public sidewalk. He kept walking past me, not pausing to make meaningful interaction, and retorted something to the effect that "we don't want people watching the game from here."
OK, who is "we?"
I felt like tracking down good ol' Chuck Grussing and sharing my views on this experience. I didn't at the time. Eventually I had occasion to speak to the genial and now-retired Mr. Grussing. Did he really have to retire when he did? The circumstances under which I spoke to him were novel. It was at a time when I was attempting one of my occasional "comebacks" as a distance runner. I made the mistake of being out running on the day of the Tinman Triathlon in April. This can cause confusion. I saw a "water station" and immediately realized I probably shouldn't be out running. I wasn't a participant.
Finally I stopped running when I got out to the bypass. Chuck Grussing was positioned out there in connection with the Tinman. So we chatted a little. I told him my little story about my experience on that first-ever night for high school football at Big Cat. I had felt offended. This young man who accosted me on that night was a volunteer on behalf of some public entity. I got the impression as I talked with Grussing that it wasn't UMM campus security. He said that as far as he knew, "the college doesn't care" about some fans watching from that sidewalk or anywhere else outside the complex, for the UMM football games. He couldn't make such an assertion about the high school games.
So he seemed to be implying that the high school enacted some sort of policy, which would mean Mary Holmberg, the then-athletic director, was most likely involved. I could see Mary doing that.
Here's the problem though: A person who has an unpleasant experience on the UMM campus is probably going to hold UMM responsible. This is one of the problems of "cooperative" ownership and operation of an athletic venue.
There is no evidence today that anyone gets "chased" from that sidewalk during any kind of football game. In fact, I'm guessing that the night of my annoying experience may have been the only time they even attempted it.
I asked Chuck why UMM or the high school couldn't install tarp along the fence on the north side of the field, so as to prevent any "free" viewing. He seemed to think the issue was really just a non-issue, no big deal.
I have gone back and forth with my feelings about Big Cat Stadium. I was a skeptic at first. There are strong political pressures in Morris to be totally positive about it. There is a relatively new issue in our broader society that could put a cloud over this facility. The consciousness of football's horrible health consequences for its players has risen dramatically.
For the time being, the sport seems stable. But there are rumblings below the surface. Football will literally die without its feeder system with America's youth. More and more pressures are coming down from the medical community. A strong consensus is building that youth shouldn't be involved in football until age 14. And where do we go from there? Kids who don't play football 'til 14 might develop other interests. I pray they do.
I wondered before the current pro and college season whether I could get myself to watch less football. I was worried that the old habit of feeling attracted to the game would cause me to break down, to dismiss my good judgment. I can now report the results: I was successful in watching far less football! So I'm happy. I only checked occasionally out of curiosity to see if certain teams were "up" or "down."
I had absolutely no emotional investment in the game anymore. I got more emotional reading about how the U of M jettisoned $800,000 to get out of playing a home-and-home series with University of North Carolina. Maybe the 'U' people got the North Carolina football team confused with the basketball team.
Our U of M people would be prescient if they would just start backing away from football. Instead we hear the standard talk of how "we need to be more competitive" etc.
No, let's start putting football aside. As much as many of us swear we'll continue enjoying football, how it's as American as apple pie etc., it's really out of our hands. There are forces far more powerful here, namely the insurance companies and lawyers.
Many of us get annoyed by seat belt citations which can seem like overzealous law enforcement. But the powers that be insist, emotionally, that such enforcement is necessary to promote safety. We are a society trying to eliminate all risk, which is a philosophical matter I could expound upon in another post. So we also hear the refrain from some about how armed guards are necessary at all the nation's schools. Ron Paul totally shakes his head. He is an outlier sometimes with his blunt wisdom. He says simply that total safety and security are unattainable, and it would be bad to give the state such absolute power to be out and about with firearms.
Football will die because we don't want to see an appreciable segment of U.S. males begin to develop cognitive issues when in their 50s. They'll develop dependence for one thing. In a time when medical science is miraculously extending lifespans, we need to ensure people can maintain optimum health for as long as possible.
And no one is going to remember you were on a football team that beat Montevideo 20-12 twenty years ago.
I decided to sing the praises of Big Cat Stadium for a while, but I won't anymore. I'll be dismissed (again) as a contrarian. So be it.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com