"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

No glowing eulogy for Billy Graham from me

Big news this morning (2/21) is that Billy Graham has passed on. Boomers remember him as representing Christianity when we were young. He held what amounted to "pep rallies" on TV.
I have always felt some cynicism about the man. I felt that corporate America propped him up as a way to keep the working class submissive. Just keep working hard in your miserable lives, "accept Christ" and you'll eventually be in heaven where you can escape the ennui.
My generation associated Graham with our parents. We knew what side of the generation gap he was on. He kissed up to presidents. He'd kiss up to Donald Trump today and try to rationalize away Trump's offensive personal behavior/statements. Isn't that what Franklin Graham does? Franklin doesn't pretend to embrace the wide public, he's a southern style of fundamentalist.
Billy surely strived to reach the broad public - it was his mother's milk. Imagine being able to attract a stadium full of people. Imagine being able to invite Johnny Cash and June Carter as your musical guests. Johnny and June saw that as a gold mine for themselves, I'm sure.
Yes I'm cynical. Billy Graham put forth Christ and God as our solution for everything, at a time when young men all across the U.S. had to fear getting a conscription letter. "Greetings."
Vietnam was the extremely dark backdrop for my growing-up years. So was entertainment TV on the "Big 3" networks when shows had to be crafted so as to appeal to everyone. We all now know, thanks to disclosed taped conversations, that Billy Graham blamed the Jews for much that was considered bad in entertainment. You can accurately say he was anti-Semitic.
I'll repeat what I've written before: I have had little contact with Jews in my life, and it's possible I had contact with people I didn't know were Jews. Maybe the popular resentment stems from how ambitious they are. Well, don't our local Apostolic Christian people have the same reputation? Ambition?
"They value education," my friend Ray Staley (retired from Florida State University, Tallahassee) once told me about Jewish people. Seems like a quite admirable trait. Do Jews practice exclusion? I imagine other groups within the population do so as well.
Billy Graham was notorious for kissing up to "Tricky Dick," Dick Nixon. This removes any doubt as to where he stood in the generation gap. Years later the evangelist was challenged on whether Nixon took advantage of him and his power. "I don't think he did, although some of the people around him may have," I remember him responding. Let's think of the cast of characters in Watergate. Watergate may have reflected evil intent but it also reflected sheer ridiculousness. It's almost embarrassing to see a movie or read about it because it was a phenomenon associated with the boomers' growing-up years, and with our parents - bless them despite their short-sightedness.
While most of us were planning our lives and seeking happiness, the Beltway was enmeshed in this cloak and dagger drama where the efforts of the principals didn't seem worth the trouble.
Graham didn't mince words about Jews. Let's be clear: in 1972 when yours truly was 17 years old, the great evangelist sat in a conversation with Nixon and one of those Watergate celebrities (eventually), H.R. Haldeman. Nixon raised a topic that he said couldn't be broached publicly, at least not in a palatable way. The topic was Jewish influence in Hollywood and the media. From the perspective of Nixon, Graham and their ilk, Jewish people were either in the primary roles or acting as "puppetmasters" for the front men like anchor David Brinkley. But it always came down to the Jews.
Nixon makes his point and then Graham responds: "This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain." Nixon then says "you believe that?" And Graham says "yes sir." Were they suggesting that TV fare like "The Beverly Hillbillies" were somehow subversive? TV used to be full of stuff that seemed devoid of substance, which is why Newton Minow famously used the term "vast wasteland." It's why we talked about "the boob tube."
Someone on C-Span recently commented that if you used the term "boob tube" today, people would be puzzled. Times change. Contestants on the old "Match Game" - we loved Gene Rayburn and his long microphone! - would prompt audience laughter when suggesting answers relating to excess alcoholic beverage consumption. No one laughs now.
Graham was unequivocal in his anti-Jew bias. There was no point paying attention to his later apology, given when his health was deteriorating. We learn today he was 99 at the time of death. It's not really "sad" when someone age 99 dies. It's something to be expected. Graham can now see if heaven really is that exhilarating escape place like for the throngs of middle class slobs who attended his pretentious rallies.
Did a cat get Graham's tongue when it came to speaking out on Vietnam? Would that have been so hard? We learned in 1989 of a memo Graham once sent to Nixon re. that war. It originated as a secret letter from Graham in 1969, sent after the evangelist met in Bangkok with missionaries from Vietnam. These "men of God" said that if peace talks fell through, Nixon should get aggressive and bomb the dikes. Graham felt that act would destroy the economy of North Vietnam.
Let's understand that Graham was supporting a policy to the president that on Nixon's own estimate would kill a million people. Would female leaders even think in these terms? Men do. Men destroy things and people, whereas women are nurturers. Were any World War II leaders or generals women?
The German high commander in occupied Holland got the death sentence for breaching dikes in Holland. He was executed. We excoriated Saddam Hussein for allegedly having chemical weapons hidden away. But didn't the U.S. use chemical weapons in Vietnam? Didn't the effects of those chemicals, like a time bomb, ruin the lives and cause the deaths of our own troops?
Billy Graham could have been described in the context of war criminal. Yeah, while the FBI surveilled Martin Luther King Jr. We are so human an animal.
When Billy Graham arrives at St. Peter's gate, I suspect he'll be evaluated like everyone else. May God have mercy on his soul. We can pray that Franklin becomes more temperate in his thoughts and opinions. Franklin kept his distance from Barack Obama. I'll take Barack Obama over the Grahams anytime.
"Have you met thy Lord, my son?"
"Have you been dead before, father?"
- Toba Beta
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, February 19, 2018

Decker goes to the well with 3-pointers in win

The MACA girls came down the home stretch of the regular season with a narrow win over Melrose. Our stock rose with a 49-47 win over Melrose at home.
The February 16 contest saw Riley Decker score 15 points with all of them coming from three-point range. Yes, five successes by this Tiger from beyond the three-point line. Liz Dietz made two 3-pointers and Maddie Carrington made one.
It was anybody's ballgame all the way through as the margin was one point at halftime with Melrose up, 26-25. Then we found the momentum to outscore the Dutchmen 24-21 in second half play. Our attack had an iron man look as just five Tigers scored led by Decker and her 15 points. Dietz was No. 2 with her eleven points and Malory Anderson scored ten. Carrington had a point total of nine and Carly Wohlers had four.
Post player Anderson topped the rebound list with eight. Dietz and Jenna Howden each grabbed four rebounds. In assists it was Carrington and Decker leading, each with three. Decker had an aggressive stance on the court and stole the ball eight times. Carrington achieved three steals.
Let's take a look at the Melrose stats. Here we see just four players making the scoring list. Makayla Luetmer was in the groove to score 19 points. Cassie Klaphake poured in eleven. Then it was Mia Meyer with nine points and Ashley Rademacher with eight. Klaphake made two 3-pointers and Luetmer made one. We steamed out of this game with a 15-9 record while Melrose owned 13-11 numbers.
Some of my recent Tiger sports coverage has been on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Click on the link below to read about the MACA girls' 52-41 win over Sisseton SD. This post also reviews the boys' defeat vs. BOLD, 62-58. Also: the boys' win by three over New London-Spicer in overtime, 69-66. Thanks for reading. I started a second site so that none of my sites would get "clogged" with sports, though I surely enjoy writing about sports.
Boys: Sauk Centre 52, Tigers 50
The Sauk Centre court was the site for this Friday hoops action. Our Jaret Johnson led all scorers on the night with his 19 points. But it was the host Streeters coming out on top, led by the 1-2 punch of the Schirmers boys, Ryan and Casey.
The Schirmers boys came at the Tigers with a combined 30 points, Ryan with 16 and Casey with 14. The two were complemented by these Streeter mates: Cade Neubert (nine points), Alex Kowski (6), Matt Traeger (5) and Jacob Jennissen (3). Ryan Schirmers connected for three 3-pointers while Casey Schirmers made two. Traeger succeeded once from three-point range.
Jennissen and Neubert led in rebounds with eight and seven, respectively. Three Streeters each had two assists: Ryan Schirmers, Kowski and Neubert. Neubert had two steals. Sauk Centre led by four points at halftime, 30-26. The final score was 52-50.
Johnson with his 19 points for the Tigers was followed by these teammates: Tate Nelson (15), Jackson Loge (10), Connor Koebernick (4) and Camden Arndt (2). Nelson made four 3-pointers and Johnson made three. Our top three rebounders were Loge (7), Arndt (6) and Koebernick (5). Chandler Vogel and Kyle Staebler each had two assists. Koebernick and Loge each stole the ball three times.
Hancock boys: Owls 87, WHN 52
The reward was the Pheasant Conference title when the high-flying Owls downed Wheaton-Herman-Norcross on Friday. Noah Kannegiesser scored 29 points but he wasn't dominant as he sometimes is. Bennett Nienhaus came through with 27 points. The two Owls drained 13 three-pointers between them, Nienhaus having seven of those and Kannegiesser six.
Kannegiesser and Nienhaus were part of a big cast of scoring contributors for the Owls. Here's the rest of the list: Connor Reese (7), Daniel Milander (6), Jordan Peterson (4), Tyler Timmerman (4), Cole Reese (3), Mason Schmidgall (3), Peyton Rohloff (2) and Parker Schmidgall (2). Top rebounders were Peyton Rohloff with seven and Nienhaus with six. Kannegiesser with his eight assists topped that list, while Reese (first name not reported in Willmar paper) had four.
Kannegiesser is often a marquee scorer but the stats show him having impact in many ways like in steals where he had eight on Friday.
Hancock was in control at halftime, up 49-22. The Owls' win was their 19th against just two losses. WHN is having a struggling campaign.
The Warriors had just five players score led by Matthew Thielen with 20 points. He was followed by Nelson Schmidt (12), Zach Stueve (11), D. Fuentes (7) and Z. Braaten (2). (The latter two names had first initials only reported in the Willmar paper.) Thielen sank three shots from three-point range. Schmidt and Fuentes each made one '3.' The Owls' conference title is their first in 15 years.
Click on the link below to read about other recent Hancock hoops games, boys and girls. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Read about Noah Kannegiesser scoring 40 points in a win over Brandon-Evansville. He's now atop the career scoring list in Owl country. 
The Trump mystique
The presidency of the U.S. is fundamentally about moral leadership. Don't we all think it's rather bizarre that we're bumbling along with Donald Trump as president with all the illogic and outlandish behavior? Don't we all hear a voice in the back of our head suggesting something is profoundly embarrassing?
I would like to assert that Trump succeeds because of a rare communications trait. Compare Trump to the several garden variety candidates who challenged him in the Republican primaries. Trump stood out, right? Was it because he actually seemed sharper? No. He stood out because he had a rare natural talent to connect with audiences. I might compare this ability to a German dictator of the mid-20th Century but that would be deemed extreme and unreasonable. In my own mind the connection is valid, even though we'd all like to doubt that Trump would lead our nation down the very same path.
Me, I don't rule out anything. But for the time being, let's just be concerned about Trump acting like a crazy uncle at times, causing embarrassment that we then try to tamp down or be in denial about. How much longer can we go on like this? A total economic collapse in the U.S. would change the equation. The Dow flip-flops like crazy, making us wonder. For the time being, we're whistling past the graveyard, n'est-ce pas?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, February 17, 2018

We all know kids can say the darndest things

So the FBI appears to have not followed up adequately on a tip. It's so easy on the surface to pass judgment re. this. Paul Ryan complains about a "knee-jerk" reaction to a shooting incident, in terms of people calling for gun control. It's just as easy to be knee-jerk in terms of responding to the FBI's alleged negligence.
The Internet age has created issues that will take time to deal with. We hear about this all the time, how the law has to catch up to the Internet. Remember those stories about kids who faced years in prison because of stumbling onto some inappropriate porn website? Since then it appears porn has consolidated onto one or two sites where any kid or adult can get his jollies, and presumably those sites have appropriate controls. They had better, or they'll be wiped out.
Porn no longer lurks in many dark corners of the 'Net, or maybe it does and it just isn't needed. So the main sites are left alone as they should be. Men who have these irresistible needs can go there, accomplish their business and carry on. In the process they'll likely become "de-sensitized" and they'll feel less of a need, perhaps no need at all, to consume such stuff. No more need for boys to hide their Playboy magazine and live in fear of their mom finding it (like what happened to the Tom Cruise character in "Born on the Fourth of July"). Today they go online, get de-sensitized, have the stigma of "porn" wiped out in their minds, and carry on with the idea that "it's no big deal" (porn). They are more mentally healthy as a result, IMHO.
Compare that to the days associated with the boomers' youth when guys might have a National Geographic hidden with their Playboy, so to look at women's breasts from places like New Guinea. I prefer the current system. Moms of that era: Why were you so hard on us? We just innocently responded to the way God made us.
We now have the problem associated with the Internet, of kids being able to share quite impulsively all their thoughts and reactions to their environment. So a kid impulsively puts something online that might be construed as a "threat." Do you realize how prevalent this might be? If a threat is not direct in expressing something sinister to be done - I'm sure the gray area situations are ubiquitous -  what action is necessitated? You can talk to the kid, fine. But what if he goes off the deep end and does something terrible? People in law enforcement are going to fear the repercussions from society. So, there is the omnipresent danger of government doing what it so often does: cause unintended consequences of government vigilance.
Remember the child molestation "crackdown" of the early 1980s? You can see TV documentaries today about all the innocent people who got railroaded, having their lives ruined. At present I see the exact same potential for abuse and overzealousness with the crackdown on elder abuse. These phenomena follow the same pattern: it starts with the media doing stories about egregious cases. The government feels it has to do something. Thus we can get the unintended consequences of government probing into gray area situations with overzealousness.
The issues related to aging Americans are very complicated. It is a time bomb of an issue because medical science is dramatically extending lifespans. The trend is happening to an extent where there are more and more people unable to properly care for themselves. What to do re. all of them? Our society insists on electing Republicans these days at a time when it appears the social safety net is needed more than ever. And Republicans promote austerity. Not only that, the forces of automation and globalization are wiping out the traditional "job" in America.
None other than conservative sociologist Charles Murray trumpets this, and says we'll inevitably need "universal basic income" (UBI) in America. Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer talks like single payer health care is inevitable in America. If it's inevitable then let's start preparing now, but Republican politicians tend to throw up resistance, those people who seem to insist we can keep living in a Norman Rockwell America. Krauthammer projected seven years until single payer, and I heard that comment about a year ago. It won't just be Bernie Sanders promoting it, it will be a consensus of America.
And yet we tend to elect GOPers who want to slash Medicaid and other parts of the safety net. Of course, those Republicans now appear to have gotten lots of support from Russia. Turns out that the whole "Hillary for Prison" campaign was thanks to the Russians. I saw those bumper stickers on the back of pickups at DeToy's Restaurant here in Morris in the morning. So, it appears I rub shoulders there with Russian fellow travelers. I in contrast am going to advocate for America.
In the age of the Internet and "social media," what are we to do with all the kids who might type silly rebellious or combative threats onto their online devices? If it isn't enough to just talk to them, what are we to do with them? Segregate them off, in effect incarcerating them, even though they committed no act? Maybe the Appleton prison could be opened again. Maybe the best thing to do is just not have kids. Too risky.
Maybe kids over the age of 15 should just be allowed to stay at home. They can be given assignments to do online just to ensure they properly develop their reading, writing and arithmetic. Going to a building like school where they'll likely have all kinds of conflict with peers or teachers, seems questionable for many of them. I'd likely be a better person today if I had been allowed to stay at home away from various schisms. Another alternative is to make school more pleasant and pressure-free. Let the kids relax more. They'll have a hard time going out in society and finding a "job" anyway, in this age of automation and globalization. Those forces are going to increase the pressure we all feel just to get by.
Meanwhile our elders are going to be forced in increasing numbers into assisted living and nursing homes. And who's going to pay for all this? In the meantime, we not only need gun control, we need aggressive gun control.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Maynard Ferguson's whole career on YouTube

Maynard Ferguson came to Morris twice as I recall. He attracted a nice audience both times at the UMM P.E. Center. Today because of YouTube we can easily explore Maynard's whole career. Is it necessary to pay for recorded music anymore? Do the big box stores even have a department that sells music CDs? I don't get out much.
I grew up in a time when recorded music was characterized by scarcity. Us young Maynard fans would get excited about a particular album and then have to wait six months to a year before getting the next offering. We were like kids in a candy store when that next album came out. Maynard himself was always overly optimistic about when it would happen. "Six months" he'd say about the timetable for the next vinyl product. This is etched in my mind for the period after his "M.F. Horn 2" album. But we waited a full year.
I had my copy of "M.F. Horn 3" mailed to me. It was anticlimactic. Rabid fans of particular artists could sometimes be let down by a new offering. Was it a case of overly high expectations? Problem was, I think, we were too often starved for the kind of music that excited us. Like I said: scarcity.
It has been said we are nowhere close to being through the "digital revolution." One thing we have realized to date: All the music in the world from all time seems easily accessible, for free and with top-notch sound quality, on YouTube. I don't even have volume control on my new laptop. I just click around and listen. As with all blessings of this kind, we can begin to take it for granted.
We must never take this music accessibility for granted. As someone who once browsed the vinyl records at the Crossroads Center "Musicland" (St. Cloud), I see the new arrangement as nothing short of Nirvana. Maynard's whole career is there, a career that can be divided into two periods.
First he was the esoteric jazz guy fitting in with all the bebop and cool musicians. His albums were artistically brilliant but were never going to be good enough to make him a household name. The '60s were terrible for big band music which was Maynard's niche. Maynard ended up in England where Keith Mansfield discovered to his delight that MF was not under contract.
Mansfield was 100 percent essential in creating Maynard's second career as a pop music master with the jazz element tamped down. Gone was the rough-sounding sax section of the type we'd associate with the 1940s. The saxes were still there along with the other standard band elements. But Mansfield cleaned up the sound substantially so that it would captivate the young crowd that existed around the year 1970. We all know how rambunctious and demanding the young generation of this nation was in 1970! Mansfield had his own orchestra ready to go, to merge with Maynard. The rest is history. Mansfield and Ferguson partnered for four albums. The second of those, "M.F. Horn," was the one that instantly mesmerized the generation of young high school band musicians. John Woell at our Morris High School had a copy ready for anyone to play who was interested.
There were two more albums after that, presenting the Mansfield flair with its distinctive appeal, very deep, clean and tight. The stage was set for everything that came later. Maynard even got into the disco phase heavily. After years of riding a popularity wave, he left Columbia Records (which had been generous to him) so he might drift back more to his jazz roots with smaller labels. His long-time fans, having been attracted into the fold by that first "M.F. Horn" album, were happy to follow and were able to appreciate the pure jazz better than they would have as kids.
You can listen to Maynard all day on YouTube now. I'm sure he's smiling up in heaven. I saw him in Dawson MN not long before his death. MF and the band did gigs in small towns as well as in the more famous places. Years earlier I heard the great Maynard at Orchestra Hall. I heard him at the (now razed) Met Sports Center for a date that was an experiment to see if MF could fill an arena. That experiment failed. But MF did a fine (if short) concert there that night. I remember him pointing up with his thumb just before hitting his high note at the end of "Stella by Starlight."
But my richest memories of Maynard go back to the St. Paul Prom Center (or Ballroom). What an atmosphere at that place. The newly attracted young fans of Maynard behaved like a rabid cult there. Remember the old Lakeside Ballroom in Glenwood? The Prom had an atmosphere just like that - it was just much larger. I guess boxing matches were held there. Pat Boone played there in the 1950s.
A gang of us would head to St. Paul supervised by an adult like Doug Garberick (who was like a kid with his music enthusiasm), and we'd have our evening meal at the Bridgeman's Restaurant. Then it was on to the Prom, where the mere sight of the "Prom" sign would give me goosebumps. Kids stood outside in line waiting for the doors to open. The adults might drift across the street to have a cocktail or two at Denny's Loft. The kids saved seats for them. Upon getting inside the Prom, us kids grabbed the little plastic ashtrays and instantly made them into frisbees!
About 20 minutes before the concert started, we'd hear Maynard play warm-up notes from a little room off to the side. We grew silent to appreciate the notes, then roared when he was done with his little "exercise." He came out of the room to great fanfare when he was announced. The band would be playing his lazy theme, "Blue Birdland." Goosebumps there too. I will never have another musical experience like this.
I have written a song in tribute to the late MF. The lyrics are for a melody that I originally used with different lyrics, the title of the original being "Las Vegas Town." The new title: "M.F. That Trumpet Man." This is not a three-chord song! The way I hear it in my mind, there are chords I might associate with Frank Sinatra. These chords are funky to the point where I'm not sure I can accurately notate them. I might need some consultation.
I have written many songs and have gotten only a small number recorded. I'll consider the MF song along with all the others. At any rate, I'm most happy to share the lyrics for my song "M.F. That Trumpet Man." "Stan" is a reference to Stan Kenton. "Miles" is a reference to Miles Davis. Get on YouTube sometime and call up Maynard's "Message from Newport" album material.
"M.F. That Trumpet Man"
by Brian Williams
That trumpet man who had that awesome band
He played that horn like no one ever could
That trumpet man who got his start with Stan
He gave us jazz that Miles understood
But what we liked most
Was how he would reach for those high notes
We stood up and cheered for each new dose
Let's raise a toast
That trumpet man with such adoring fans
He made us feel enraptured by his tone
That trumpet man who played with such command
He was the greatest brasser ever known
We called him Maynard
The man was the absolute last word
We all should have heard the great Maynard Ferguson
That M.F. sound would leave us all unwound
We played those vinyl records day and night
That M.F. sound that made us all so proud
Of instrumental music done just right
His band just wowed us
The talent it had was a surplus
I felt like a kid at the circus
Oh such a rush
That M.F. sound would bring him such renown
To hear his theme "Blue Birdland" blows my mind
That M.F. sound would never let us down
The high school jazz bands worship at his shrine
All hail that M.F.
He left us too soon with his trumpet
And jazz is in debt to that Maynard Ferguson
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Sunday, February 11, 2018

An even playing field for men & women? Really?

It's 2 a.m. and I'm watching Jeanine Pirro on Fox News. Heaven forbid that I would seek Fox News watching, but I sample some just to see what they're up to. I notice immediately that "Judge Jeanine" has a generous amount of lipstick smeared on her lips. Here's a direct question: "Why do women do this?"
I notice Meghan McCain on "The View" with a similar amount of surplus lipstick on her lips. My forehead becomes wrinkled as I wonder.
The old movie "Marie Antoinette" revealed the custom vividly. It is revealed at the end of the movie where we see Norma Shearer without lipstick or makeup. She didn't look like the same person. But what was wrong with how she looked? The occasion for making her eschew makeup was surely grim: she was about to be guillotined.
In addition to cosmetic habits, this movie made me wonder if in our current digital age where "flash mobs" are enabled, could something like the French Revolution happen again?
But let's get back to the topic of makeup. I hear no general discussion about it. But we are seeing headlines regularly about male misbehavior. Two guys in the White House had to pull the rip cord and bail out. The Weinstein thing started a flood of discussion. Then we had Steve Wynn. Democrats are pressured to return money from the likes of these people, but Republicans are not. My friend Brent Waddell remarked recently: "Democrats are going to have to learn how to play dirty."
Well, I think circumstances in our society are going to prop up the Democrats again. I guess politics exists to reflect the will of the people.
The recent scandals of misbehaving men have promoted again the message of how women must be totally equal. Men should not exercise any special leverage. In theory it's all easy to grasp. In practice there are issues. In a subtle way we encourage predatory habits in boys. We still have the notion that it's boys who ask girls out on dates and not the other way around, right? Can you explain the basis for this custom? Is it something instilled in our nature from prehistoric times, when the male cave man would drag around the woman by her hair (an amusing stereotype, yes)? Is this how it was when man roamed the savanna?
Men were assumed to have superior strength when I was growing up. That assumption seems suspect now. I got dragged through stages of enlightenment myself. When the three-point shooting rule was instituted for basketball, I was skeptical if females could ever make much use of it. There were people in the early '70s who felt girls basketball would remain little more than a novelty. We'd watch those poor girls get called for traveling all the time, right? A lot of us sure had our eyes opened.
If men are not dominant physically, then on what grounds do they receive special privileges at all, including the privilege of being the ones who propose dates? We have the odd custom of Sadie Hawkins which is an isolated opportunity for women to be assertive. Why so isolated and rare? We raise boys thinking they have the privilege of "going after" girls, yet we act surprised when we find out some men are abusive.
There ought to be a movement among women, who I will not refer to as "the fairer sex," to abolish makeup. Can they give me any explanation why it's necessary? By the same token, why do women have this fear of showing up at a party wearing the same outfit as another woman there? As a guy I could not care less about this. If we are to wipe out temptations among men to be abusive in any way, maybe we ought to wipe out all these behavior expectations that are tied to gender, n'est-ce pas?
Think of all the celebrity men who have some unacceptable behavior in their background. They go to bed every night knowing it could all come out publicly the next day, and they'll have to wear a scarlet letter the rest of their lives. Neanderthals like Donald Trump make apologies for them, eagerly buying superficial denials from the men (who have been forced to resign anyway). Trump campaigned for Roy Moore.
Men are raised thinking they can be assertive with women as if it's a cultural right. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that some of us men go off the rails (though in the case of Moore, such behavior cannot be forgiven on any terms). As for me, I have never even dated a woman, never even shared a cup of coffee. God created me in such a way that any woman would laugh at the notion of doing something social with me. I get laughed at. It's my lot in life. A person could definitely have worse problems.
God created me with an effeminate appearance that drew a tremendous amount of teasing when I was a kid, and even some acknowledgment as an adult. I don't know what I am supposed to do about this. Sometimes I pass judgment on people because they seem so eager to pass judgment on me.
It's 3 a.m. now and I still have Fox News on, where the women seem to be required to wear dresses and makeup. How fundamentally odd, these differences in notions in how men and women present themselves, even in our new age of "zero tolerance" re. men who behave badly. What was it that Roger Ailes expected Gretchen Carlson to do for him?
I continue to maintain that the mysteries of sex are due to our origins as a hybrid species between space aliens and Earth primates.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Coach reaches milestone, not surprisingly

Allow me to reveal that I have never been a big fan of career records or milestones in sports. Any player who excels over a long time is going to reach some impressive-sounding numbers. I consider the milestones themselves to be rather arbitrary. A certain player is bound to reach a certain number. I was always rather irritated by the hype surrounding these things.
Now we hear about the MACA boys basketball coach having reached a lofty number: 500 wins. Well. . . Considering the coach got what amounted to a lifetime appointment back in the late '80s, I'm hardly surprised he has collected quite a few wins.
Click on the link below to read about the February 5 boys game vs. Melrose, a loss. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." The post leads with coverage of the MBA boys hockey Storm's 7-6 overtime win over Worthington. Thanks for reading. - B.W.
The basketball coach has always benefited from a base of support in this community that has been totally unquestioning. That base exists within what I'd describe as "polite society." The coach got the appointment at a time when school leaders were striving to extinguish an unpleasant level of conflict. Once the appointment was made, the school's leaders - people with official positions along with their high-standing personal friends in the community, people like dentists - made it clear they wanted absolutely no more contentiousness. Anyone who spoke up in a questioning way, I mean above the level of chatter at the Legion Club or some such place, might experience the wrath of God.
There was in fact dissent from the party line over a number of years, but it existed below that top level of leadership. It existed as sort of an underground although I admit that sounds like overstatement. People would say "Torgy" and not in a way intended to be flattering. There has always been two sides to that coin.
The coach's original appointment came down to winning a 50-50 proposition, with the alternative being a guy who would later end up in Hawley. Not Mike Martin, Chris Baxter. Martin was a press writer in Morris but that was a sideline. Administrator Dennis Rettke, with whom I had regular conversations in his office, was an advocate for the other guy, Baxter. He told me that directly. The other guy would have stood out for the sheer intensity he would have instilled. My view is that Rettke in his considerable wisdom knew that an intangible like intensity would do much to smooth over some shortcomings that existed at the time.
Shortcomings? Let's wade into Morris community history, albeit rather remote in time now. Here's how I piece it together based on my close observation of community matters at the time. (I even had a police scanner!) There was a time when schools had paid faculty members coaching elementary. Phasing this out could step on toes because the unionized teachers were likely to be a affronted. A parent told me all about what happened here.
A volunteer-run program was going to be inevitable. A group of parents who wanted to get things going felt they had to work directly with Superintendent Fred Switzer, because the other administrative guy was in the camp of those wanting to resist it. The parent told me this "other" guy was told: "I guess we're going to do this whether you support it or not."
The volunteers would show up in the morning, having gotten the nod from Switzer, to find the doors locked. I believe this was at the old elementary gym (the building now razed). I believe this happened more than once. "We called Fred at home," the volunteer leader told me.
Keep in mind that the teachers union was very strong at that time. Today I think the system has gone through proactive adjustments to keep things on a smooth course. The old adversarial model had to be ended. Teachers were too much of a politically motivated element once. I would argue they overestimated their importance. Are teachers important? Well of course they're important. They're important even if their role is as glorified caretakers. They take care of our kids through weekdays, guiding them toward basic maturing and civil behavior. So teachers are important, just not quite in a way they once saw themselves.
There were married couples on our teaching staff which I think made things worse. These people had power via synergy from their relationships. Other teachers who should have known better basically shrugged and went along with their professional brethren. But not all were so engaged in a parochial way, according to Don Fellows, a wonderful man with whom I had rapport. You know, I could "break through" with some teachers despite the political contentiousness of the time, if their own kids were friends of mine. Should not surprise you.
When I shared with Mr. Fellows what I understood about Rettke's agenda for coaching appointments, i.e. Rettke's preference for Baxter, Fellows said "I don't doubt that Brian." My critics will always have a way to put me down. When all else fails, they'll use the very Minnesotan cliche of  "it's no big deal." When a Minnesotan says that, what is really meant is that it probably is a big deal, but life in Minnesota has enough real adversity as with weather, so let's just shelve it.
The push for elementary volunteer coaches was bound to win out. Eventually we saw sports get the proper attention through the grades. Of course I can't tell you all the details about how the system is run now.
Torgy got the appointment and I believe he actually had to survive some rough spots through the early years. I suspect he was a fighter to keep the position. There has been some reason for controversy through the years. Whether all that is past now, I don't really know.
I overheard a retired teacher talk one day about how Torgy planned to phase into retirement, as if Torgy was pulling all his own strings, guiding his own destiny. I have never felt his performance justified that kind of deference. But, the leadership class of this town (dentists etc.) decided at a certain point long ago that there would be no more discussion about this. Of course, I'd offer a comment now and then and be totally pilloried by certain stuffed shirts in the leadership class. An employee at the WCROC told me in shrill tones "if you didn't do your job (writing sports), someone else would." Couldn't you say that about anyone?
And weren't the teachers being a little hypocritical? Very often they'd try to diffuse an argument by saying "it's just sports." But in their own actions, they treated certain coaching appointments like they were of overwhelming importance.
There is a ready explanation: In the late '80s after all the contentiousness, which Supt. Switzer allowed to get out of hand, the teachers desperately wanted the appointments to go a certain way (having little to do with job performance) so as not to signal to the community that the community could butt in and influence things. In an even earlier era, Mayor Chet Birch told me "the people on the hill," i.e. the school people, felt threatened by anyone wanting to give constructive feedback. They'd stop at nothing to try to resist it. School people should never be allowed to feel like a power unto themselves.
Up through the mid-1980s, teachers were given room to flex their muscles. Teachers who were lazy, ossified and bureaucratic largely got away with much of their discouraging behavior. It was common in the 1970s to hear teachers simply say they hated their work. I think in the mid-1980s, a considerable push got started to wipe out the negative stuff and make school people more accountable. Today we see so many more kids on the honor roll. That's the way the parents would have wanted it all along.
We believe today that kids should feel uplifted and enjoy much of their school experience, whereas in my young years it was more "pain equals gain." I was dragged through school where I felt so much of the activity was pointless.
School sports went through a profound adjustment in the '70s with girls getting into it. That took some time. We had a quasi-administrator here who was known all over town for hating hockey. That stance was surely not bound for success. We later ended up with an athletic director who had a daughter play hockey. That quasi guy might deny he ever resisted hockey, rather he'd just say, perhaps: "Show us the money." I remember talking with a very credible local person - I forget who exactly - who said during the conflict period: "I think a lot of people around town think we should be doing better than we are, even without spending more money."
So often there's a financial component, n'est-ce pas? Certain people might have been expected to work a little harder without a corresponding rise in pay. There were serious scars left after all that, unbeknown mostly to today's Morris residents. Should I mention there was a petition at the Dairy Queen? Certain people would have their hair raise up on their head to even read that. Hey, I thought sports wasn't so important.
I suppose it's nice coach Torgerson has 500 wins now. It's an excuse for some nice puff writing at the Morris paper, where people wouldn't say s--t even if they had a mouthful. You'll probably get the most valid opinions at the Legion club.
Addendum: My issue with the Morris Dairy Queen is more recent. I resented how I saw Fox News on their house TV once. 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Joe and Mika give us perspective on news

I turned 63 recently (on 1/28) so increasingly I'm at an age where I cannot understand some trends in the news. My day begins with watching "Joe and Mika" on MSNBC. The discussion dwells on the stock market today. Our president has been telling us that stock market gains should give all of us satisfaction. I have no money in stocks. Should I have all our family savings there? What am I to make of the president's recent comments?
I have noticed the market surging upward in such a way, I almost wonder if it's a function of the TV set. We see those little green arrows with perhaps a triple digit figure next to them. Months go by and it seems the stock market might reach the stratosphere. It sure wasn't like this when I was a kid or a young adult.
Early this week we saw a snap back. But we can't be sure what it means. The stock market by definition defies any coherent predicting. Is this really where we want our life savings? I suppose I'm a dinosaur in that our family savings are in the local banks. One of them informed me recently that the interest payment on a five-year CD is one percent. But I'm still not tempted to veer into the stock market.
I have heard the Republicans' tax cut bill blamed for the current volatility. The tax cut, it is explained, is good for main street but might not facilitate Wall Street. We should cheer for main street I suppose. How can you not? But what about President Trump's pronouncements that his presidency has been so good for the stock market, i.e. people's 401Ks?
The economy may now be heating up. Wages are going up. We may be seeing a whack-a-mole situation where what's good for the goose may not be good for the gander. I had no problem buying bank CDs back in the Jimmy Carter years! How could the same nation that elected Jimmy Carter, a gentle, uplifting man, now elect Donald Trump, a cruel, course cad of a human being?
"Joe and Mika" have started my day for a long time now. I remember when Joe Scarborough had an evening program which I think was called "Scarborough Country." There was an opening that showed him playing touch football. Prior to Joe and Mika (Brzesinski) in the morning, we had Don Imus whose show famously and sadly crashed and burned because of some inartful comments that were intended as satire. Satire is very risky. There has been a publication on our UMM campus that has to come out and tell people that it's satire, which means of course that it isn't very good satire. Either that or the "satire" explanation is just a "cover" for some mean-spirited stuff that it dispenses.
I don't know if the "Northstar" still exists on the UMM campus. I generally find it unacceptable to visit the UMM campus because it seems like a nervous place. There are people associated with the radical/reactionary "Northstar" who apparently can get access to video surveillance footage to see if anyone is taking multiple copies from their newsstand. I don't even want to show up on UMM video surveillance footage.
What if I were a student and simply wanted to take an extra copy of the publication for my roommate? They say that each additional copy costs $5. But where would you pay for it?
The University Register which is the normal, sane UMM student publication has no charge. The expansion of free circulation newspapers is actually causing confusion or potential confusion. One must keep track of the free ones like Senior Perspective as opposed to the ones that extract money from you, like the Forum-owned Morris and Willmar papers.
Why would a publication be free? That's elementary - they get money from advertisers. We can look forward to the day when there is a Morris community paper that is free.
My late father and I used to rise for the Don Imus show. It was sort of an acquired taste. Nothing like it has really come along to replace it. I guess Imus had a resurrection, first on RFD TV (of all places) and then on the Fox Business Channel. But he was never the same after his flame-out on MSNBC. Scarborough credits him for laying the foundation for "Morning Joe," in that Imus had a topical show connected very much to the day's news. I remember the guy who imitated New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagen so well.
Imus flamed out because of satirical comments that I guess you could say were directed at hip-hop culture. The problem was that the comments took in a college women's basketball team, Rutgers. "Nappy-headed hoes," remember? I understood the humor but could also see how it was going to torpedo the show. I was sad to see it end. I'm glad that Scarborough gives Imus some credit.
Watching "Morning Joe" seems like the type of thing an educated, interested person would do. But there's an element of the show that might be described as "Beltway gossip." I wonder is that's the lure for me.
The show probably had the effect of helping Trump ascend. He was the "shiny object" in the presidential race. Surely he stood out among the ridiculously large field of Republican candidates (17?). How could anyone not be more interested in Trump? But look at the situation we're in now.
For good or bad, I have to watch Joe and Mika in the morning, and I pray for our country. I have written a song about this pillar of morning topical television. It's called "I'm Watching Joe and Mika." I don't know if I'll have it recorded. Here are the lyrics. Thanks for reading as always.

"I'm Watching Joe and Mika"
by Brian Williams

I'm watching Joe and Mika
With hot coffee at my lips
They give me all the headlines
The words they will never mince

We turn to them for wisdom
When D.C.'s out of whack
I'm watching Joe and Mika
Because they're like mom and dad

With Katty Kay beside them
They sift through items of note
And Willie Geist is handy
To make his comments and jokes

It's like a morning beacon
That reaches through the fog
I'm watching Joe and Mika
They're always up to the job

They analyzed Obama
Through eight years he was the man
They ridiculed the birthers
And all the hate that they fanned

And through it all they realized
The press is here to stay
I'm watching Joe and Mika
To get my start to the day

It landed like a circus
When Trump got the nod to lead
It started as a punchline
But turned into something real

The talking heads were busy
They dipped into the well
I'm watching Joe and Mika
They always answer the bell

They talk about a tweetstorm
From our commander in chief
It overloads the senses
When he unleashes a tweet

We recollect the old days
Decorum was the rule
I'm watching Joe and Mika
They just are nobody's fool

Consider Rachel Maddow
A voice from the feisty left
She deconstructs the big lies
And makes GOPers sweat

And then I hit the pillow
Alarm set for the dawn
I'm watching Joe and Mika
They make me feel I belong

- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com