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).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thoughts on the meandering of popular music

The Beatles could never happen again. They burst onto the scene when our entertainment options were so much more limited. Entertainment is all around us in myriad forms today. Songs on the radio are nice but they are a minor diversion.
Often I wonder why it's even necessary for new songs to be written. Mountains of high-quality popular music have been written through the years, ever since the Beatles established the prime standards of what kind of sound and melodies appeal to young people. Countless songs of arguably great appeal have been written that were never released as "singles." Many of the hits of the '70s and '80s would sound new to young people today.
I'm told it's even hard being a pop music songwriter today. Why? It's hard to know if a melody you've written might inadvertently be similar to another. People who call themselves songwriters are common. Go to a restaurant in Nashville and you'll probably be waited on by one.
Given the Everest-like mountain of pre-existing music, why don't we call some sort of moratorium on new music? Let's mine what's there. To an extent we have seen this with the "oldies" concept. Am I correct in asserting that the term "oldies" doesn't seem to be used much anymore, if at all? "Oldies" is sort of a pejorative term. It suggests that if you like such music, you're probably "old."
Let's just judge music as good and bad, by our own tastes, rather than "old" or "new."
I look for good music on the AM radio dial on weekends. Notice I just said "good music." That's the extent to which I care to categorize it. Labels have always been a little questionable in music. People who play music for us seem to understand this today. With the division between pop and country being so blurred, shall we just discard the terms?
I remember a few years ago someone saying that country music just seemed like '70s pop. You'd have a nice compressed melody, easy to memorize after a few listenings, along with some touching or meaningful lyrics. "Country" invited a certain stigma. While I might readily label Hank Williams Sr. as "country" with his twangy and earthy sound, I hesitate using the term a lot.
Beatles music? If it hadn't been them, it would have been someone else. They created the wave and rode it with incredible consistency. To do that, they had to evolve as any successful creative person must. As much as a certain album might strike you as the epitome of quality, the artist knows he/she can't just put out more like it, like clones. You might think such "clone" albums would be dandy, but music industry insiders know quite the opposite.
It's the same principle that can make movie sequels challenging. The movie industry whispers have always been: When you do a re-make, take the quality that made the original movie popular and exaggerate it. Rambo became a comic book type of character after the first movie. The first Rambo movie ("First Blood") was a work of art, showing how a scarred young man from the Viet Nam war could wreak havoc if he's misunderstood. Subsequent Rambo movies seemed like more of a formula. (And how would he instantly know how to fly a Soviet helicopter? Ah, the movies.) 
I have to chuckle looking at a photo of the Beatles from the mid to late 1960s, when they had gone beyond their initial pop phase. Legend has it they evolved into a deeper sort of consciousness or something like that. Here's a photo of the Beatles looking as though they were starting to "trip out," which I guess they literally did. They look scraggly and a bit sullen, no longer the innocent "mop tops." They're posing in a flower garden. Their hair has gotten too long to serve any other purpose than to just bring attention to themselves.
I laugh particularly because of Ringo standing there, as if we were to believe he was really "into" the new sort of consciousness. I admire Ringo as a superb professional drummer for his time, a hard worker and a man who subscribed to the proper values. I don't think any of the hippie or counterculture stuff meant a thing to him. He was happy to stay on the gravy train. And that meant being willing to step forward and at least pretend to reflect the counterculture. Flower power!
Ringo's drumming was perfect for when the Beatles were starting to become famous. It was tailored for the "Meet the Beatles" album.
There's a reason why musical groups adjust with personnel. Well, there's more than one reason I suppose, but a chief one is that a group's sound changes, and eventually personnel must shift to present a new type of sound well. Beginning with "Rubber Soul," I suspect Ringo's style wasn't quite as optimal for what the Beatles were trying to do. John Lennon, the guy who really owned the band, probably was anxious  in wanting to move on and secure a different drummer, bidding an affectionate goodbye to Ringo. Hey, it's not personal.
One problem: the Beatles wouldn't be the Beatles without Ringo! John had to sigh, in effect, and keep the original framework intact. He probably thought: "My God, what have I created?" I suspect there were times when the fame surprised and befuddled him. He probably even came to curse it some, though he'd never admit it. He probably thought to himself: "My God, I'm just a musician." (And, "we're not bigger than Jesus!")
The Beatles were pulled into the counterculture whether they liked it or not. My own view of this, is that they saw the counterculture as full of topics and themes that could be mined musically. Because first and foremost, the Beatles were musical craftsmen. It's no easy mantle to wear. It's very hard work and with many demanding steps along the way. The Beatles couldn't just keep turning out songs like on "Meet the Beatles." No, they had to "evolve," as they say, and conventional wisdom suggests they evolved as though their consciousness suddenly expanded.
You're nodding. I'll veto this thought, suggesting instead that all this evolution was just the natural progression of artists, successful ones, who know that re-defining themselves in some manner is necessary. I think it's absolutely cruel and fallacious to suggest the Beatles stayed successful because of drug use. I don't know the extent of the drug use but it was probably less than what popular history suggests. It's like Dean Martin at a party with a glass of what turns out to be apple juice (which I understood actually happened). The artists find that the myth is marketable.
I'm sure Mark Hertsgaard is a sincere soul but I think he's way off the mark assessing the Beatles and their relationship to drugs. Hertsgaard wrote the book "A Day in the Life." He refers to the Beatles' "involvement with consciousness-raising drugs, specifically marijuana and LSD." And, a few lines down: "Marijuana and LSD were also and more profoundly tools of knowledge, a means of gaining access to higher truths about themselves and the world."
I can't blame Hertsgaard entirely for such thinking because there was such a strongly-felt meme about such things. You'd reflect on smoking pot and say "I saw God." You and your friends would then laugh. The Beatles helped fuel the meme although I think they stayed aware of the qualities that continued to produce good music, and drugs weren't part of it. Frankly, drugs were just kind of a prop, like Dean Martin's cocktail glass.
The Beatles appealed to boomers - boy, did they ever - who drifted through different times and non-productive distractions. We see this in the movie "Almost Famous." The movie tries to be nostalgic about that, but it's a lie. All the non-productive stuff was just that: non-productive. We feel nostalgia only if we ended up "landing on our feet." If we seem reasonably healthy today, we can reflect on earlier times with some pining for what was. It's a human trait, alas, that we remember more good things about the past than bad.
We smile remembering the Beatles. I think we'd prefer remembering the mop-top phase. The Beatles later pretended to be something bigger than they ever became. What a monster they created.
Hertsgaard quoted Derek Taylor saying that marijuana left the group feeling "taller and broader of mind." Hertsgaard then suggests that the so-called psychedelic drugs "took that taller, broader mind to places it would never forget."
The Beatles themselves gave some quotes that were in this vein.
Has science ever demonstrated that this array of drugs "expands the mind," opens new vistas of consciousness or whatever other sheep dip you want to come up with? The drugs may have an effect on the brain that causes hallucinatory phenomena. Such phenomena might actually be felt as the brain is being damaged. Expanding knowledge or consciousness? I think not.
Boomers of that time would want to slug me, or at least laugh at me for making assertions of that type. They'd be indifferent today or maybe even slightly embarrassed.
Bob Dylan misheard the lyrics to one of the Beatles' earliest hits. He thought they were singing "I get high" in "I Want to Hold Your Hand." In fact the words were: "I can't hide," remember?
The Beatles couldn't hide from anything once their fame virtually erupted. As musicians they had to evolve, latching onto whatever themes seemed practical for them and their aims. Too bad so much negative stuff entered. I'd be willing to wager Ringo could read this and nod in agreement.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Gettysburg" film (1993) showed tragic panorama

Writing about Stone Mountain recently got me thinking about the movie "Gettysburg." Movies get my attention often in online writing, so it's not surprising that the 1993 depiction of that battle should re-surface in my thoughts.
So, it has been 20 years. Given Hollywood's fondness for conflict and loud explosions, I'm surprised a "re-imagining" hasn't been issued. Gettysburg was pure conflict. How very dramatic and how very, very sad.
The Revolutionary War was supposed to have created something new and blessed. It was supposed to plant the seeds for this wondrous new land. How sad our Founders with all their genius couldn't lay a framework preventing the kind of conflict we saw in the Civil War.
The death and devastation were practically indescribable. The movie "Gettysburg" showed waves of human beings hurtling against each other. You might be tempted to think "this could not have happened."
War today seems to involve the pin-prick type of confrontation. It's certainly tragic but not on the same scale as in a previous era of war. How on earth could so many young men allow their bodies to be deployed this way?
Civil War "buffs" today go to great lengths trying to "get in the heads" of those 19th Century young men. Why would those young men do it? I can't imagine that a mere political philosophy would be worth one's life. Wars through time were fought on a mass scale that I just can't understand today. Life seemed cheap.
People of the Union had problems with a system that included slavery. But I don't think their zeal sprang from any enlightened or non-racist frame of mind. Slavery seemed uncivilized. Unseemly. We needed to guard our place in the world. But why couldn't slavery be eased into obsolescence in a more orderly way? Could the South be entrusted to eventually do this? Probably not. And the moral questions springing from slavery probably demanded immediate action. So, we got the pathetic U.S. Civil War. And at its height there was the battle of Gettysburg, where life never seemed more expendable.
Can you imagine living anywhere near that place in its aftermath? A staggering total of 158,000 men went into battle. A total of 43,000 were killed. It defies description. The cannon barrage that preceded Pickett's charge could reportedly be heard in Philadelphia.
Hollywood rolled up its sleeves for a depiction of it all in 1993. Roger Ebert liked it, giving it three stars. He liked it partly because it was focused. It was about the men - yes, it was all men - who developed the planning and tactics for this climactic struggle. There were no side notes about politics, romance or anything else not directly related to the battle. The movie was based on the acclaimed historical novel "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara. I read the book and considered it perhaps the best I've ever read.
Ken Burns was reportedly influenced by the book. Burns actually has a cameo in "Gettysburg." He warns General Hancock about how he should lay lower during the artillery barrage. Hancock bravely asserts, in effect, that his life really isn't worth that much. This is one of the many vignettes from the battle that have been preserved in popular lore and history books. Shall we agree there is probably some exaggeration about many of these stories? Would military veterans be prone to some exaggeration or myth-making? Would they tell some CYA stories (cover your you-know-what)?
I own "Gettysburg" on VHS tape and watch parts of it from time to time. Randy Edelman composed the musical score which adds a lot to this movie. The prime actors are Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels and Martin Sheen. People who still feel some Confederate allegiance didn't like Sheen's depiction of Lee. I thought his acting was terrific. The problem in the eyes of some is that he seemed a little eccentric and fatalistic. His charisma was offset by an outlook that seemed a little bleak. But that portrayal in my eyes was exactly what was needed.
Most Civil War battles were stalemates. The weaponry had advanced so much, primarily with the "rifled gun" technology (grooves in the barrel), it was hard for one side to obliterate the other. New technology in war always gives an advantage to the strategic defensive. Thus we see Berenger's Longstreet character imploring Lee about how a defensive position needed to be sought. He pleaded about how the Army of Northern Virginia needed to be positioned between the Union Army and Washington D.C. "They'll have to attack us," Longstreet told Lee.
Sheen as Lee seemed somewhat dazed listening to this as if he couldn't fathom. Lee felt he simply had to attack. Part of his thinking, to be fair to him, was that time was of the essence: The South had more limited resources for fighting, and the idea was simply to impose so much immediate pain on the North, the North would sue for peace. It didn't work. The impulsive South underestimated the war resolve of the North. The South paid dearly, its antebellum culture for all practical purposes getting wiped out.
Did Gettysburg really make the difference? Was there ever any doubt about the war's conclusion? Did the South ever have any real sense of self-governance or direction? Did they ever declare any true boundaries? Or was their resistance, as argued in the North, merely a "rebellion," more of a nuisance that just had to be stomped out? Well, if it was a nuisance it was a heckuva nuisance. The tragedy is that our Founders could not have prevented this.
Civil War re-enactors had quite the field day for the movie "Gettysburg." It's quite the hobby really. If you want to nit-pick, you might suggest "Gettysburg" showed too many soldiers carrying too much weight and who weren't young enough.
The movie was originally conceived as a TV miniseries. ABC showed interest initially but then got cold feet, after noticing the low ratings for "Son of the Morning Star" (about George Armstrong Custer).
TNT emerged as the possible destination for the epic movie. Ted Turner became so enamored, he decided to go for the big screen. It indeed ended up reaching the big screen in a limited number of theaters. It needed special accommodation because of its very long length. It's divided into two halves, the first climaxing in Chamberlain's charge on Little Round Top, the second portraying the ill-fated Pickett's charge.
I remember the gang on WCCO Radio discussing this movie when it was current. Ruth Koscielak was at the microphone then. I remember them talking about how you really only had to see the first half of this movie. That stuck in my head because it's rather true. The first half indeed has that dramatic climax with Chamberlain's men from Maine fixing bayonets and charging down a hill, having run too low on ammo. Daniels as Chamberlain is a hero.
The second half of the movie develops a redundant feel. We get a little weary seeing so many men contemplate each other's death. A Southern officer says "my men have never been so ready for a brawl." Really? It sounds like they're getting ready for a football game. Did the true fighting men really embrace such an attitude? Were they really so ready to sacrifice their lives? The war deaths were tragic enough on their face, but these involved prolonged pain and suffering in so many cases with blood poisoning etc. Amputations were ubiquitous.
Lee withdraws but the war does not end. Why not? We are so human an animal.
"Gettysburg" grossed $11 million but was still considered a flop. It did become an all-time top grosser in the home entertainment market. The TV premiere in June of 1994 drew over 23 million viewers, a record for cable TV at the time.
"Gettysburg" was one of the longest films ever released by a Hollywood studio: 254 minutes. WCCO's Koscielak felt disturbed about sitting so long "watching men shoot at each other." And that's basically what the experience was. As the 'CCO gang stated, maybe half this movie was enough. Let it end with the bayonet charge. We know how Pickett's charge (actually Longstreet's charge) turned out.
Ebert gave the movie a solid three stars. He lauded the film as "pure and simple about the battle of Gettysburg." No extraneous elements to distract, no token romances etc. I recall only one line by a woman in the whole thing. A woman watches the Union soldiers pass in Maryland and says: "I thought the war was in Virginia." It seemed deliberately placed just to give a woman a line. Otherwise this is all men and all fighting.
Ebert felt the movie was best appreciated on the large screen. You would think Hollywood would be inspired by now to depict the battle again. Maybe there's some hesitance based on oddly-placed sensitivity, about how rock-ribbed Southerners might be offended seeing their cause crushed. After all, they still have Stone Mountain. Even that is coming under siege now with a petition through "Change.org." McCartney Forde is leading that.
One thing the South taught us, and that is how to lose (not that they did it well, but just that they did it). Not even Longstreet's wisdom could prevent that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, May 17, 2013

MACA girls split twin bill in Thunder Hawk country

The MACA softball girls visited Thunder Hawk country of Montevideo for a doubleheader on Tuesday, May 14.
Game #1 was a heartbreaker for the MACA crew: a 4-3 loss that had Monte rallying at the end. The Tigers took a 3-1 lead into the sixth but succumbed to Monte's three-run rally. Paige Jorgenson delivered the key hit in that game-deciding rally. Jorgenson's single drove in the run that made the difference.
The Tigers had scored one run each in the second, third and fourth frames. Monte scored its first run in the third.
The line scores were almost identical: MACA with three runs, four hits and two errors, and Monte with 4-5-3 numbers.
The pitchers of record were Kiersti Grey for Monte and McKenzie Van Batavia for Motown. Van Batavia struck out seven batters and walked two. Grey was the winner despite having no strikeouts. She also overcame six walks issued.
Three Tigers had hits in the boxscore: Becca Holland with two-for-three numbers and Brianna Abril and Chelsey Ehleringer each with a one-for-two line. None of the Thunder Hawks had multiple hits.
The Tigers did not respond in a deflated way for game #2. They summoned fresh energy and scored in every inning but one, in downing the T-Hawks 9-7. Each team had eight hits. Monte committed four errors and the Tigers three. Abril was the pitching winner while Ashley Hoehne took the loss.
The Tigers got going with punch, scoring two runs each in the first and second innings and leading 5-2 after three. Each team scored four runs in the wild fourth inning. Monte tacked on its last run in the sixth but couldn't catch up to Motown.
Three Tigers were at the fore of the hitting attack, each with two hits: Holland (two-for-three and two runs scored), Abby Olson (two-for-three including a triple and three RBIs) and Nicole Strobel (two-for-two and an RBI). Ehleringer had a hit in her only at-bat, and Sadie Fischer went one-for-four. Monte's Jessie Janisch had a home run as part of going two-for-three.
 
Baseball: MACA 20, Monte 0
"Cakewalk" describes what the Morris Area Chokio Alberta baseball team accomplished on Tuesday. The Tigers were in Montevideo like the softball team. It might have seemed like batting practice at times. There were 17 hits rocketing off the MACA bats, nine of them sizzling for extra bases. The offensive show was part of the 20-0 rout over the T-Hawks.
Tanner Picht was in the zone with his hitting eye, getting a hit in each of his four at-bats, and his RBI total was a robust five. He socked a two-run home run and had a triple too. Jacob Torgerson made noise with his bat, contributing three hits including a double and triple, and he drove in five runs. Bryce Jergenson was part of the show with two hits for extra bases, and this Tiger's RBI total was four.
Tom Holland attacked Monte pitching for two hits in three at-bats, with one of his hits a double, and drove in two runs. Mac Beyer had a multiple-hit game. Other Tigers chalking up RBIs were Corey Storck, Tyler Henrichs, Lincoln Berget and Logan Manska. The line score for Motown was a super-duper 20 runs, 17 hits and a mere one error.
Jergenson was the winning pitcher while Jake Bednar was tagged with the loss.
 
Softball: Tigers 9, Melrose 6
Each team had eight hits but the Tigers came out on top in the column that counted, runs scored, in Monday (5/13) softball success. The Tigers had to fend off a late furious Melrose rally - four runs in the seventh - and their run total was sufficient in this 9-6 triumph.
The Dutchmen hurt themselves with six errors. Coach Mary Holmberg's orange and black crew, meanwhile, committed just one error. The Tigers plated two runs in the third, one in the fourth, four in the fifth and two in the sixth.
That big four-run fifth got going with singles off the bats of McKenzie Van Batavia and Abby Olson, and continued with doubles delivered by Brooke Johnson and Nicole Strobel. The score stood 7-0 when the dust cleared after this rally. The cushion was needed considering Melrose's subsequent signs of life.
Steph Hennen had two hits for the Tigers. Megan Gillespie had a hit in her only at-bat and drove in two runs. Olson drove in a run as did Strobel. Johnson added two ribbies to the mix. Sadie Fischer went one-for-two.
Van Batavia struck out seven batters as the winning pitcher. She walked two and allowed four hits. Abril also pitched for Motown.
The losing pitcher was Morgan Notch. Nikki Zierden tripled and went two-for-four for Melrose.
 
Baseball: Marshall 2, Tigers 1
A couple early mistakes took a toll on the MACA baseball cause on Monday, May 13. The Tigers didn't know it at the time, but the early lapses would tell the story of the game in this 2-1 loss in Marshall. One lapse was a wild pitch on a third strike. Another was a throw that went awry on a stolen base attempt. The consequence was Marshall (a Section 3AA rival) scoring two runs in the first inning. Marshall would score no more runs after that. MACA was held to one run in the sixth.
MACA did outhit Marshall 4-2. Marshall helped itself by playing errorless ball. MACA had one fielding miscue.
Karl Meyer was the MACA starting hurler but had to leave early due to some misfortune. Meyer sought to field a Marshall come-backer but the ball glanced off his glove and struck him in the head. He reported a headache and watery eyes, so he was judged no-go for staying in the game. He was succeeded on the mound by Chandler Erickson. The two came through well in this department, each giving up a mere one hit. Erickson pitched five innings, fanning two batters and walking three.
Winning pitcher Arron Mathiowetz pitched the full seven innings, striking out three batters and allowing four hits.
Four Tigers each had one hit: Erickson (a double), Tanner Picht (a double), Mac Beyer (a triple and RBI) and Tom Holland. The Marshall batters with hits were Drew Hmielewski and Mason Campion.
The Tigers' run in the sixth came on a walk to Logan Manska and Mac Beyer's two-out triple. In the seventh, a baserunner got to second base with one out but was stranded, marking the third time a Tiger got stranded there.
The loss was the Tigers' second straight after the squad began the season with a skein of nine wins.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, May 10, 2013

Come see my Morris Public Library exhibit!

I bought my copy of "Meet the Beatles" at the old Johnson Drug Store. It's where City Center Drug is now. The purchase didn't seem particularly special at the time. Oh, it was an enjoyable vinyl record to listen to (33 RPM, if you remember the old terminology).
The Beatles had become quite the rage. I certainly didn't buy this or other records with the idea they'd be collectibles. Nor did I drive my 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado with the idea it'd become a classic. That car was an extension of my identity.
We never dreamt vinyl records would disappear. We never dreamt Oldsmobile would disappear.
Remember Dripps Oldsmobile in Morris, right downtown? We can be comforted that the Dripps name is still part of the local auto sales/service scene. It projects continuity. But the Oldsmobile has tooled into the ether of history.
My vinyl Beatles record jacket is currently in the collector's display case at our Morris Public Library. That case is a wonderful feature of our library. My exhibit is the one for May, following the April display which was Beatrix Potter books owned by Judy Bluth. What's next? Collectibles span a very wide spectrum. Vicky Dosdall showed her Pillsbury Dough Boy items.
I'm told the case is booked through September. Please let Library Director Melissa Yauk know if you have a collection of interest. Our public library is being wonderfully managed.
  
The "Fab Four"
I believe I first became familiar with the Beatles on morning TV. That would have to be NBC's Today Show, as we got no other network at that time. These little video clips were being shown of teenage fans going berserk while the Fab Four performed. The clips showed the fans as much as the musicians.
We got the impression that a truly new phenomenon was bursting forth. The first song that made a big impression on us young USA boomers was "I Want to Hold Your Hand." This was on "Meet the Beatles."
The Beatles ended up with myriad hits covering myriad styles and lyrical messages. But the song that put a clear stamp on this group as being "the real deal," I feel, was "I Want to Hold Your Hand." (It's OK to type "Wanna.") A close second might be "She Loves You" (yeah, yeah, yeah), but this was not on "Meet the Beatles."
Let's get our chronology right: First there was "Please Please Me," then "From Me to You," "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand."
There was little indication of how deep the Beatles' music would become. Bob Dylan would eventually "take their hand," as it were, and lead them in a more substantive direction, if that floats your boat. But heck, what was wrong with the one-dimensional stuff the guys were writing in 1963? That's what we hear on the album I have showcased at our public library. We hear cliche-ridden expressions. The songs reflect puppy love and adolescent drives.
The audiences as seen on the TV news and on a key Jack Paar program were enthralled, not even being able to contain their emotions and enthusiasm. Girls were at the head of the line. We see one retrieving binoculars as she jumps up and down.
Note the personal pronouns in a lot of the song titles: "From Me to You," "Please Please Me," "She Loves You." The group truly connected with the young people who discovered and who were devouring it. As for me, I loved the sound, the melodies, the harmonies and the rhythm. There was something very dynamic and new about it.
A couple years ago there was a visiting Driggs lecturer on the UMM campus who shed a little light on the so-called "British invasion." It wasn't just a matter of quality music, he pointed out. This visiting scholar, who spoke on the theme "The hippies and the 1960s," said the British recording industry was more advanced than in America. Yes, there is a lot of unseen craftsmanship behind all of this. He pointed out one impediment in America: Young men who might be interested in this industry couldn't just plunge into it, as they had to be worried about being drafted into the Viet Nam War. I think we have largely forgotten what a horrible and intrusive distraction that was. It was a distraction that could literally end your life.
  
Songs and their origin
Music fans probably didn't think much about the circumstances under which songs are actually written.
I have been fascinated for years by the simple, momentary impulse that can take over a creative mind and yield a classic in the most humble of circumstances. At a museum in Nashville TN once, I was mesmerized at a display that shows scraps of paper or even napkins - candidates for the garbage - on which were scribbled lyrics to tunes that would become timeless, like "Oh Lonesome Me."
The Beatles' "She Loves You" was written by the boys on twin beds in a Newcastle hotel room five days before it was recorded. The chorus is primitive in its simplicity. It includes that "yeah yeah yeah" refrain that would become a trademark of this early chapter. Schoolkids all over the U.S. would sing it impulsively, all started by a few moments of inspiration in a Newcastle hotel room.
Music is wondrous in how inscrutable it is. What if I, as a would-be aspiring songwriter, wrote the following for a demo to be submitted to a publisher: "She loves you yeah yeah yeah, she loves you yeah yeah yeah, she loves you yeah yeah yeah yeah." Talk about getting a door slammed on you.
My father Ralph was a successful choral music composer with 70-90 published works depending on what list you consult. I'm sure he could tell you about the vagaries of the music world. Me, I had a demo recorded of a song about Kirby Puckett once. I'll try to get it online sometime but it's on cassette tape. I'm told the process might be a little involved. We'll see. I actually wrote quite a few songs, mostly in the 1990s, but I'm not holding breath over achieving fame or fortune.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote songs both separately and together. They were fully collaborative on some of the early classics such as "She Loves You," "From Me to You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." The "Hold Your Hand" song was written in the cellar of a private home. The boys meandered along crafting the melody when Paul came upon a particular chord that John felt really made the song. In my mind what makes the song is the full-chord leap in the melody at one point! Very unusual and effective, sort of like a leap into hyperspace. We hear handclaps accenting the beat. Guitar riffs are well-positioned. We are prompted to wonder if the listener is led to hold more than a girl's hand!
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" spent seven weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. The rest was history. Come see a little bit of it at our Morris Public Library.
Click on the permalink below to read a post I wrote about the Beatles performing at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, in 1965. This post is on my main website, "I Love Morris." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
  
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, May 6, 2013

Time travel and the obscure flick "An Angel for May"

Crop circles are supposed to reflect a form of time travel. By who? I'm not sure I wish to find out. The movie "Signs," I feel, was an overrated effort to explore the topic. Crop circles may be the closest we get to sensing "real" time travel. Outside of that we have fiction.
If a creative mind cannot tap time travel as a bountiful subject, he or she is challenged. So, there has been a raft of movies.
Roger Ebert pointed out there's a fundamental problem in such story lines. Time travel presents unavoidable problems of logic. If one could go back in time and tamper with the past, it would affect the present. Michael Crichton tried tackling that obstacle. The probing mind of the late author suggested maybe we're living in just one of many dimensions. There's a dimension in which the Nazis won World War II. Time travel might just involve skipping through dimensions.
Crichton also suggested that altering history isn't as easy as one might think. The reason is that the major forces of history are just too strong. A single individual waving his arms and imploring about something would be inconsequential. We wait to find out the hard way where the future is taking us.
The futuristic visions presented by world's fairs of the early 20th Century are merely amusing. Cars are simply more streamlined. Skyscrapers are taller. There is no true grasp of what is to come. When the "Back to the Future" movie series shot into the future, all we saw was a fancier or "jazzed up" version of when the movie was made. Sorry, that's the best we can do. We saw flying cars in "The Jetsons," and robot maids, but nothing like Facebook.
I had a college professor whose "claim to fame," as it were, was predicting how tech would impact us. He wrote an original chapter in a book that was otherwise edited from other sources. His thesis: tech inroads would create immense leisure for us. So much leisure, in fact, that adjusting to it would become a prime societal challenge. We should be so fortunate! I'll applaud this guy because he meant the best for us. His last name was Ryan.
In reality, we have become a caffeinated, obsessed sea of souls who cannot seem to complete our assigned tasks.
The hippie movement made an attempt to jettison us into the kind of world foreseen by Mr. Ryan. It was an ill-fated venture. The boomers who once talked about "dropping out," inspired by Timothy Leary, have now become like Norm Coleman. Politician Coleman was once an anti-war activist with superfluous locks of hair. Today he's an anti-tax tea party-ish straight-laced Republican. We adjust to circumstances. There's a zeitgeist.
Was the 2008 "economic slowdown" just a mild tremor, a precursor as it were? Have we just been buying time since then? Have our leaders just found ways to forestall the pain or crisis? If the crisis arrives, we will no longer put stock in the stock market. Our society will go through convulsions and we'll eventually arrive at a new normal. History is full of various ebbs and flows. They just can't be predicted.
Time travel movies toy with our thoughts about this. They can only be speculative in the way of those old world's fairs.
  
"An Angel for May" (2002)
My favorite time travel movie is one that doesn't show up on the lists of "bests." It never broke out from obscurity. It's one of those hidden gems of cinema. It's called "An Angel for May." It's based on the well-received novel of the same name by Melvin Burgess. I found the VHS tape in one of those discount baskets at a big box store several years ago. It seemed intriguing.
I had been captivated by this genre of movies by the George Pal classic "The Time Machine," based on the H.G. Wells novel.
We see two troubled children in "An Angel for May." The girl is in the 1940s and has been orphaned by war. Stuck in rubble for a long time, "May" has PTSD. Then we have "Tom," the lead character of the movie, whose troubles are in the present. They seem minor compared to war. But they're very real to Tom whose mother is considering re-marrying after an uncomfortable breakup with her first husband. The discord is unnerving to the impressionable Tom. The 12-year-old becomes lost in his own discontent. Time travel becomes a tool for him to be more outwardly-directed, to find fulfillment in caring about others, across generations.
The story takes place in Yorkshire, England. There are striking scenes of rows of wind turbines.
"An Angel for May" might be considered a dog movie. An apparently stray dog named "Tess" gets Tom's attention. Tess is a border collie. We don't see that much of Tess in the movie, but the canine is instrumental to the plot.
The dog attracts Tom to an abandoned farmsite as storm clouds approach. Tom falls through a stone wall that takes him back to 1941. "May" befriends him. She has been taken in by a wholesome farm family. Challenges await. And peril. German bombers pass overhead in one scene, jettisoning bombs from an abortive raid. The two children come to see they are kindred spirits. Their company is healthy for each other.
At the end, Tom is able to do something with his asthma relief device to alter the future of the principals around May. Tom's final time trip is from the past to the present. This time the stone wall wasn't involved. Rather it's a blow to the head caused by a falling beam. He awakens in a hospital, his concerned mother present. We wonder if the whole story of May might have been some sort of hallucination caused by blacking out. Of course we want to believe otherwise, that Tom was transformed by his experience of being thrust into crisis and realizing how important it can be for all of us to rely on each other.
Tom is content at the end, even accepting the new father-to-be, "a nice enough bloke," to use his words.
Matthew Beard plays the role of "Tom." Charlotte Wakefield is "May." The movie might have some pacing issues. Also, I had to watch it more than once to accurately place all characters, especially Alison who I learn is the adult daughter of the farm owner. Alison, who wears a military type of uniform, discovers May in the rubble.
Time travel movies are many and various. I liked Kirk Douglas in "The Final Countdown." I liked the movie based on the Crichton book "Timeline." Critics were cool on "Timeline" and I thought that unfortunate. It could have been the start of a franchise of movies. Different time periods could be explored. Alas, Crichton with his genius wasn't able to inspire such a franchise as he had with "Jurassic Park."
We all ponder what we might do if we went back in time. We might make a different choice at a certain juncture. But we wouldn't be able to stop Pearl Harbor.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Boys down the Sting 7-1 at GF's Richter Field

The spring sports schedule began picking up steam on Tuesday, April 30, with the baseball and softball Tigers of MACA facing YME. The baseball Tigers closed out April in style, defeating the Sting 7-1. Pitcher Mac Beyer out-dueled Blake Linstrom. Granite Falls was the site of this action.
The Tigers looked to be in the groove offensively at Richter Field. Three Tigers each posted two-for-four numbers in the boxscore. Jake Torgerson was one of these three, and his contributions included a double and an RBI. Tom Holland went two-for-four and drove in two runs. Lincoln Berget picked up an RBI as part of his two-for-four showing.
The Sting's Austin Vikander, who has ties to Morris through family, had two hits in three at-bats in the losing cause. (Austin can beat out infield choppers if he inherited the speed of his mom Anna.)
Beyer held the Sting scoreless through the first three innings. The Sting's only run was scored in the fourth. The Tigers scored two runs in the second, one each in the fourth and fifth, and three in the seventh. Our line score: seven runs, 14 hits and one error. The YME line score was 1-4-3.
All in all it was an upbeat and encouraging day for Tiger baseball.
 
Softball: YME 8, Tigers 6
The softball performance had its encouraging signs, like ten hits by the Tigers to four for the Sting, but in the end this was a loss. MACA was edged 8-6. It was the first setback for the MACA girls this spring after they had won four times. They couldn't quite overcome pitcher Ally Trudel on Tuesday.
McKenzie Van Batavia handled the MACA pitching. Pitching wildness proved to be a handicap on Tuesday. There were nine bases on balls issued to the Sting batters. Three of these helped grease the Sting's essential fourth inning rally, a rally that also included two MACA fielding miscues and Danie Roden's two-run single. The Sting pushed across six runs in the fourth. Their other two had been scored in the first.
The Tigers got on the board with one run in the first and then erupted for five in the fifth. It wasn't enough. The MACA line score was six runs, ten hits and four errors. YME's numbers were 8-4-3. No Sting batter had more than one hit.
There were three Tigers owning two hits each in the boxscore: Becca Holland (two-for-four with an RBI), Abby Olson (two-for-four including a double) and Nicole Strobel (two-for-three including a double).
Yellow Medicine East pitcher Trudel struck out five batters and walked two.
 
Softball: Tigers 3, Brandon-Evansville 1
The Monday story was rosy for the softball girls as they turned back Brandon-Evansville in a 3-1 final. McKenzie Van Batavia was quite in the groove pitching, setting down 13 Charger batters on strikes. She walked but one and allowed just one hit. The one run she allowed was unearned. The losing pitcher was Carlie Steffenson.
Van Batavia held the Chargers scoreless until the seventh.
MACA scored two runs in the second inning and one in the third. Our line score was three runs, four hits and two errors.
The second inning rally had Van Batavia and Nicole Strobel laying down bunts to reach safely. Up to bat comes Brooke Johnson who socked a double to plate two runs. Sadie Fischer drove in a run with a ground out.
Johnson had a two-for-three line in the boxscore. Strobel and Kayla Pring each went one-for-two. Emma Friedrich had Brandon-Evansville's only hit. (Note: Information in this post is from the Willmar newspaper which may have struggled in compiling information for this game, based on inconsistencies between the article and boxscore.)
 
Baseball: Tigers 10, Minnewaska Area 3
Chandler Erickson wielded a hot bat for the baseball boys in Monday action, going four-for-four in the Tigers' 10-3 win over Minnewaska Area. Erickson picked up an RBI and scored two runs in this league action. Mac Beyer wielded a potent stick too with his two doubles and three RBIs.
Jacob Torgerson was busy on the pitching rubber and at bat. He hurled for nearly six innings in this win, plus he hit safely twice and drove in two runs.
The score stood 1-1 until the Tigers came to bat in the fifth, and what a fifth inning it was, as the orange and black plated five runs to pull away. They weren't done yet as they rallied for four runs in the seventh.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta had the most robust line score of ten runs, 15 hits and zero errors. There was no evidence of the late spring! The 'Waska line score was 3-11-1, so in terms of hitting the Lakers did OK.
Jake Torgerson fanned three Laker batters and walked one. The losing pitcher was Jayden Beecher.
Tyler Henrichs had a two-for-three showing including a triple, plus he drove in a run and scored three. Tanner Picht had a hit in four at-bats and drove in two runs. Beyer's boxscore line was two-for-four. Torgerson finished at two-for-three with two ribbies, and Bryce Jergenson likewise finished two-for-three.
Let's see spring weather settle in for good!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com