"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)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving: an innocent story w/ hopeful air

We're approaching Thanksgiving once again. I remember that at Longfellow Elementary School, we made a big deal out of the Pilgrims and Indians story. We probably did some appropriate artwork. Of course, the happy story of the Pilgrims and Indians interacting would not be a prelude. Indians would be displaced in an unpleasant way. The European culture would run roughshod.
We still impress upon our kids the promise represented in that original story.
I wonder why we still have Columbus Day. For years I had to be reminded early in the day that it was in fact a "holiday." I had to know because of the nature of the work I did for the Morris newspaper: the Post Office would be closed.
The P.O. is closed for every imaginable holiday. I remember in a chat I once had with a post office employee, he recalled a phone call where he was asked if they would be open for "Easter Monday." He said he was stunned for a moment before he answered. He had never thought about "Easter Monday" before.
Easter Monday does in fact have significance as a quasi holiday, at least among certain Catholics: it's "Dyngus Day." I'd like to see that celebration get a little more traction. It's a day of feasting and celebration in contrast with the self-restraint imposed by Lent.
Dyngus Day sure seems preferable to Good Friday and its story of Christ's torture and ultimate death. Is it just me, or does the Christian faith give more attention to the torture/misery aspect than in a previous time? I get so discouraged by this, I have written 3-4 springtime blog posts where you might get the impression I'm an atheist. Don't take those posts at face value - I just resent the gore in the story of Good Friday.
I think that by comparison, "Dyngus Day" is wonderful. Dyngus Day got a little extra attention a few years ago when Anderson Cooper of CNN got the giggles when reporting about it. He had a hard time composing himself. I guess the term "pussywillow princess" set it off. He was invited to be the "pussywillow prince" at a major Dyngus Day celebration the next year. I'm not sure if he accepted.

History not so cut and dried
Ah, Thanksgiving. It was an event marking the opening of a new continent, at least for the Europeans, right? That's not really true. By the time the first English people settled, other Europeans had already reached half of the (eventual) 48 states.
Giovanni da Verrazzano is not remembered nearly well enough. He was an Italian in command of a French ship. In 1524 he toured the Eastern seaboard. At one point he directed a crewman to swim ashore where natives were seen. The natives took the crewman to a fire, not to roast him but to warm him!
Sailing north, Verrazzano observed a wide bay which is today New York Harbor. Alas, in 1528 this intrepid man went to a Caribbean Island where he was seized by cannibals and eaten. Verrazzano was famous in his own time. He has since fallen into obscurity. He is remembered with a bridge named for him in New York City. Years ago this bridge became high-profile as the masses of runners in the New York City Marathon crossed it. National Lampoon did a satire where the bridge collapsed under the weight of the runners!
Spanish conquistadors examined the interior of the continent in 1542. They rafted the Mississippi River! In Kansas they showed horses to Indians who had never seen them. I read that Columbus Day has actually been replaced in some places by "Indigenous People Appreciation Day." What a wonderful idea. Wonderful for here in Morris?
In 1602 a band of English explorers built a fort on the island of Cuttyhunk. Religious freedom was not their passion. They came to seek riches from digging sassafras, considered a cure for the clap in Europe. The commodity was valuable. This would not be acceptable for artwork at the old Longfellow School.
Longfellow is where I heard about the assassination of JFK. Lillian Peterson (later to be Ehlers, living over 100 years old) was called into the commons area for a couple minutes, and when she returned she grimly informed us third graders of the shooting of JFK. I can't remember if we were let out of school early, but I think we were. At home we watched the continuous TV coverage of the assassination and its aftermath. It was the first big TV news spectacle.
Let's hail the Norse people for their settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in 1000 A.D. As a Norwegian, I say let's raise a toast. The Sagas gave us spoken accounts of the Viking age (A.D. 800 to 1050). They are fascinating because of their blending of reality with the paranormal. Leave it to my forebears. We get the story of the person who was unable to use the latrine during the night because "the path was blocked by ghosts." That ever happen to you?
Did the Vikings get to Kensington? Who knows?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cauldron of far right stuff reaches sex

Donald Trump is the best thing that ever happened to MSNBC. Ironic, of course, because that network is the most likely to have commentary skeptical toward the president. This is a president that lost the popular vote. He is trying to lead us in an extreme direction. He does and says things that are patently absurd all the time. MSNBC reveals that, often with the kind of smirk and incredulity that such behavior invites.
Trump binge-watches Fox News. He has special affinity with the morning "Fox and Friends" which is like a caricature of what Fox News stands for. Many people simply don't have the time to consume a whole lot of cable TV news. Or they might opt to watch other things on TV of which there are myriad. However, cable news has the power to throw out topics that leach into our main street discussions.
The media landscape of today has given the far right ideology the kind of footing it lacked before. There's a big audience out there that really applauds this stuff. It's one thing to be entertained by the rhetoric - who really wants "big government?" - but something else to truly turn the reins of power over to people who spew it.
Republicans are assaulting the Affordable Care Act over and over. They are striving to wipe out the individual mandate. Of course, if we are to have any kind of meaningful health care system, the cost must be shared. It must be shared with healthy people, and the reward for them is that they'll get help if they need it. These cheap catastrophic policies can seem real good until something bad actually happens to you.
The cost of health care can be spread by the insurance principle. The ACA props up insurance pretty well. The cost can also be shared through taxation which is a tried and true redistribution tool. I guess Republicans want neither. You all are learning, if you didn't know before, what makes Republicans tick.
There is a part of us that wants Republicans to be right, really. On the basis of pure principle, it's easy to find merit in a lot of what Republicans espouse. Who likes government? There is always waste to be found in government. Government simply does not operate like the private sector. But do you really want to place your own personal health and happiness in the hands of the private sector? "You're on your own."
The Republicans came within a hair's breadth of destroying the ACA earlier. Had Norm Coleman won our Senate seat instead of Al Franken, it likely would be done by now.
I am writing this at 2 a.m. when we are all quite consumed by the Roy Moore thing. Amazing. If I, Brian Williams, former writer for the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper, was known to be banned from Morris establishments because I was hitting on high school girls, I'd be shamed into leaving town. In Alabama a guy like this can run for the U.S. Senate. He is taken seriously even by those who ought to reject him outright.
What if I, Brian Williams, were to write that pedophilia is to be understood by the Mary, Joseph and Jesus story? People might insist that my blog be shut down. Yet this argument is seriously made by a person of high standing in Alabama. Let's remember we are talking about Alabama. It's too bad because the state has actually made inroads toward the 21st Century. The Moore episode is a big backslide supporting the ignorant stereotype of the past. Alabama was part of the Confederacy. "They lost." But the Alabama of today deserves better than to have this discussion about Roy Moore percolating.
Getting back to Mary, Joseph and Jesus, most people find the argument offensive on its face. The right wing evangelicals appear to be doing more damage to the foundation of responsible, non-political Christianity, the kind of Christianity presented by my own personal church which is ELCA Lutheran. We're plain vanilla and I'm so thankful for that.
People maintain that the virgin birth brought us the savior of humanity. But there is a credible argument that the virgin birth story was actually the product of a bad translation, sort of like when Saddam Hussein's translator gave us "mother of all land wars." The translator got carried away. Remember Jimmy Carter's Polish translator?
Well, I like the story of Christ's birth. It is a gentle, pleasant, uplifting story with the "Star" that now is the focus of a new movie. Christmas is a time of total joy in contrast to Good Friday and Easter - I guess I'm pinpointing Good Friday with its story of the absolute torture of Christ. Has the Mel Gibson movie made the torture story more high-profile? I resent it. Maybe this is why each spring, I write a post that suggests I'm an atheist. I would never write such a post at Christmas.
The Roy Moore story presents an avalanche of revelations about sexual assault and harassment. Bill O'Reilly pays $32 million to a woman who he certainly must have harassed. The Weinstein thing has brought on a ridiculous piling-on. We have conservatives who step forward to say, after some hesitation, they "believe" the women accusing Moore. But what should these people say about the accusers of Donald Trump?
Shall we all pile on this Weinstein fellow? At a certain point the whole effort becomes redundant. I have to ask: what kind of sex education did these offending males receive when growing up? Quite likely they got none because of the shame and embarrassment we all feel about approaching the subject, the old Victorian norms. If males grew up with nothing but shame and mystery surrounding sex, should we be surprised that some of them end up misbehaving?
We'll probably never be able to peel away the mystery around sex or its taboo nature. Bernard Goldberg in his signature book "Bias" addressed this. He was talking about a case where someone alleged she got AIDs from her dentist. Doubt grew when an insurance company began applying pressure to ensure the truth - this is one thing that insurance companies are really good at. Goldberg wrote: "People are notorious for lying about their sex lives." Amen and hallelujah.
Consider someone who counsels people on matters relating to sex. They'll prescribe acceptable norms of behavior, but then we must ask: How do these counselors behave re. sex in their own lives? Ahem. We lie about sex.
One of the current notorious cases in the news has to do with an entertainer who has masturbated in front of women. Is that really assault? Do we veer off into a sort of gray area? Again, what kind of sex education did that entertainer ever get? Any at all? Did he follow the old norm of "learning in the schoolyard?" That's how I learned.
We hear about that minor Star Trek actor now accused of assault, which he denies. I sure hope this doesn't eliminate all the Star Trek re-runs on cable TV. Will we never again see the movie "Beyond the Sea" because of the revelations about Kevin Spacey? If not, that's a shame.
We're still forced to see old cowboys and Indians movies that are unacceptable in the way they portray our indigenous people.
I suggest we have an "amnesty" program for offending males that calls for sensitivity training. They can hold off on running for the U.S. Senate.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sinclair Lewis' prescient novel re. U.S. politics

I remember hearing about Sinclair Lewis when I was quite young. I heard about his connection with Sauk Centre MN. What I heard was not entirely breathless praise. To the extent I heard pooh-poohing, it seemed vague and scattershot. Turns out, this was probably a reflection of Lewis' writing genius. He saw the world around him through his own distinctive lens. He never got on a bandwagon through expedience. He sought truth wherever it might lie.
Today, Americans do not like being told they elected a truly dangerous president. Yet can we really deny the foundation of such a thought? Of course we can't, nobody can. We have fallen for the human tendency of finding appeal in a blowhard populist who seems to just want to blow up convention. Remind you of a Sinclair Lewis book? The parallels ought to scream at you. It was 1935 with the Great Depression raging when Lewis put out "It Can't Happen Here."
Of course it can happen here - that's the whole point. While Germany was careening toward its fascist disaster, we had to wonder if similar potential existed within the American psyche. It's something we don't want to be told. A tried and true writer will penetrate the conventional notions and reveal the truth about our nature, as if peeling a banana. Lewis did this with his classic dystopian novel "It Can't Happen Here."
The book has found quite renewed popularity as reflected on Amazon.com. The Trump-like character in the book is Berzelius Windrip. Lewis wrote the book with the ominous backdrop of Hitler's rise to power in Europe. Fears grew that a like phenomenon could happen in the U.S., with the catalyst personality perhaps being Huey Long (the Louisiana senator) or Charles Coughlin (a radio priest).
We have always considered "Main Street" to be Lewis' signature work. Given what all is happening in America now, we could see "Main Street" displaced by "It Can't Happen Here." Within a week of the 2016 election, "It Can't Happen Here" was sold out on Amazon.com. Is there any doubt that Lewis should be totally lionized within literature, when you consider the timelessness and staying power of his work?
"It Can't Happen Here" is surely a dark story. It's one that many Americans of today would find inconvenient or offensive, given its suggested parallels. I say the book by itself should put Lewis in the pantheon of greatest authors.
I read "Main Street" in high school but I don't remember much about it. It would be good to re-read it. I heard Chris Matthews of MSNBC use the term "Babbitry" one day - I assume this is derived from Lewis' "Babbitt" novel. I'm not sure of the precise meaning. Google would help me within seconds of course. For pundits to today use the word "Babbitry" is another testament to Lewis' staying power.
I remember hearing that Lewis was physically unattractive. A perfect personal attack toward someone who you don't like for other reasons. We don't judge people by "unattractiveness" anymore. And besides, I've seen photos of Lewis and consider him to be quite ordinary looking. He's not obese.
Lewis was certainly not a glad-hander with the influential people and institutions around him. He could be quite the deconstructionist or cynic. Lewis delivered his Nobel Lecture in December of 1930, titled "the American Fear of Literature." He was critical of American letters, asserting that readers and even writers tended to be "afraid of literature which is not a glorification of everything American."
Lewis was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. You can see how his general attitudes, not averse at all to skepticism, might engender some resentment. To where we had to criticize his physical appearance? Such is human nature.
The Sauk Centre community of today has appeared to sucker for some of the less-than-flattering views of the author. We read that Sauk Centre has lost some of its excitement of being associated with the author. Perhaps a majority of the town voted for Donald Trump. Maybe that's it. Ignorance is bliss, eh?
I remember hearing when I was young that Lewis suggested kind of a backward air for places like Sauk Centre. I'm sure there were daunting challenges for living in small town America in the 1920s. But was Lewis seeking to diss such places? Or, were readers already disposed to thinking this was Lewis' intent, reflecting kind of a small town or "middle America" defensiveness which was once quite common.
I heard that Lewis would approve of Sauk Centre and like places today. But did he ever really seek to diminish that environment? If there was any doubt about his true attitudes, this should answer the question: Lewis had his ashes buried in Sauk Centre.
I wish to emphasize here that the old divide between "backwater America" and the metropolitan centers has been eliminated by our strides in tech and communications. Remember the "Trautman" character in "First Blood" talking about "Jerkwater USA" in that barroom chat with the sheriff? The movie scene is dated in two ways. We don't think about so-called "Jerkwater America" anymore, and people don't just sit around bars ordering alcohol-laced drinks from scantily-clad "barmaids." DWIs have taken care of that. (The sheriff ordered "wild turkey," remember?)
Is the U.S. careening toward the kind of crisis as portrayed in "It Can't Happen Here," a crisis in which so many people wondered "Why didn't we try to do more to stop this?" Don't you find yourself asking that question more and more now?
Let's laud Sinclair Lewis as one of the shining lights of literature all-time, whether the community of Sauk Centre agrees with this or not. Maybe Sauk Centre really is a backwater place, not the Sauk Centre of the 1920s but the Sauk Centre of today. Sauk Centre was a prime rival of the Morris Tigers when I was in high school. I never did like that town.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The harassment purge in historical lens

Remember how the movie "Deliverance" (with Burt Reynolds) ended? Those guys finished their horrific vacation with the knowledge that a dead body might someday wash up from the river. So, they'd be haunted.
Today, ever since the whole Weinstein thing erupted, we see a like phenomenon. A whole lot of high-profile men are whistling past the graveyard. They know that in the past, they crossed a line in their behavior with women. The impulse today among many of us is to react by saying "well, they have it coming." Or, "they should have thought more about their behavior back then."
These issues are not as one-dimensional as they might seem. When Bill O'Reilly feels he has to pay a woman (Lis Wiehl) $32 million to make a sex harassment lawsuit go away, money enters the picture and that always clouds things. How many women have dollar signs dancing in their eyeballs? For God's sake, how did we get to this point, where a figure like $32 million comes out in connection to such a case?
I remember a friend of mine, a devout Catholic, bristling from some of the revelations about Catholic priest misbehavior, saying "what does money have to do with it?" Very good question. As a secondary issue, how can we view O'Reilly as some sort of representative of the common folk - the way he likes to portray himself - when he can get out his checkbook and do this? (I knew how to pronounce "Lis Wiehl's" first name as soon as the story broke - the same cannot be said of some cable news anchors.)
I exchanged emails with an old friend as we bandied about some of the recent sensational headlines. I made the point about how society has grown so unforgiving about certain forms of behavior that we once tolerated (or where we chose to look the other way). The World War II generation launched a lifestyle after the war that included a lot of smoking and drinking. Didn't the cigarette companies give free cigarettes to the GIs? Even without a lot of scientific data, people have long known that cigarette smoking was undesirable and bad for you. Didn't the baseball player Honus Wagner call for his baseball card on cigarette packages to be discontinued? Isn't that why that limited-distribution card became so wildly valuable?
And yet look at all the years that passed before we banned smoking from public places like restaurants? Such moves seem totally logical and natural today. We shrug and say, well, we had to pass these restrictions. I agree. But most of my adult life was spent in an environment where I might walk into DeToy's Restaurant and find the air to be blue with cigarette smoke. Most of my life was spent in an environment where seat belt use was voluntary. Today the Morris Police will chase down anyone they see not wearing their seat belt, to the point where their behavior approximates a high-speed chase. I would argue that it could endanger public safety. But this is where we set the bar these days.
Boy, only an idiot would not use his seat belt. But wouldn't that have been true 20 years ago as well?
At present, we may be seeing something like a witch hunt growing toward men who may or may not have engaged in sexual harassment in the past. Are we at the point where it might be risky to simply ask a woman on a date? I am extremely fortunate, sitting here at age 62, as I have never asked a woman on a date and I have never played football. I don't have to worry about my mind slipping away. I don't have to worry about a woman from my past coming forward and saying things that could render me unproductive for the rest of my life.
God created us with these crazy hormones that can induce such crazy or dangerous behavior. Look at the Catholic priests. Am I saying that I tolerate behavior that might be defined as criminal? No I don't approve of it, just as I do not approve of parents allowing their sons to play football. But football is still legal. The process of the sport's decline is slow but it is happening. And then someday we'll look back at our unenlightened tendencies of allowing our sons to play it.
My friend with whom I emailed challenged me, saying I ought not find a parallel between sexual harassment and certain other questionable behaviors. Obviously it seemed like I might be trivializing sexual harassment.
I'm just looking at the behavior in a context of the long-term history of our culture. We once lived in a culture where a police officer might see you driving erratically at 2 a.m. and ask you, "are you sure you're in good enough shape to get home?" Yes it's true. Secondhand cigarette smoke was assumed and common. The Bob Woodward character in "All the President's Men" asks Carl Bernstein, "Is there any place you don't smoke?" They were in an elevator.
And men like Harvey Weinstein felt empowered to behave inappropriately toward women. We had a teacher/coach here in Stevens County who spent time in prison for his inappropriate behavior with female students. We had a school administrator in Morris charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct - first degree! - in a case where charges were dropped with no explanation as to why.
The administrator's case was an embarrassment for our community and a serious inconvenience for our school district. How can you lose your high school principal in the middle of a school year? How would anyone else even know how his office was organized? Don't tell me that whole affair wasn't a logistical headache for our school, even if the board said otherwise. What would you expect them to say? I still feel the administrator should have been fired even with charges not resolved. The charges were just too sensational for any school district to live with. We have to consider the cost of putting the individual on paid leave also.
And now the school needs a ton of money for building maintenance. Money, money, money. Vote "no" and force the school to practice more responsible management. The school will try to vacuum money out of your pockets every time.
Bill O'Reilly says he's "mad at God." The brilliant David Brooks writes an odd column that subtly implies he has his own problems with sexuality. Sex is a big black hole where we feel fundamentally mystified. I am not trivializing misbehavior. But we must wonder why God created us the way He did. My generation of boys went to Annette Funicello beach movies and wondered why we were developing erections. I'm sorry if you're offended reading that - I'm just writing the truth.
Boys could enter a minefield where we'd be tempted to engage in inappropriate behavior. There was a "boys will be boys" credo out there. That is completely wiped out now.
If the new standards are so absolutely correct, why couldn't we have used better judgment in the past? If a prominent member of the community was known to be preying on young boys, there was a hush-hush reaction and parents were simply careful to tell their own sons to stay away from him. That was our old culture. Times change. As an amateur social scientist I carefully observe such things.
As young boomers we laughed at a Cheech and Chong bit about how an underage girl was mistaken for being older, by some klutz we were supposed to laugh at. It was humor! It's an outrage today.
The entertainment industry knows all about such cultural shifts. Poor Mark Halperin will never be seen on cable news again. I saw David Corn's name the other day. It's a purge. And purges are always scary. We need Corn on TV as an articulate progressive advocate.
I'll repeat what I have written before, that the mystery of sex is a manifestation of how the human species may be a hybrid between Earth primates and space aliens. Just think about that motorcycle gang in the Annette Funicello movies (LOL)!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, November 3, 2017

MACA volleyball seeks Section 3AA title

Tigers 3, Paynesville 1
The stage is set for the Section 3AA volleyball championship match, in which our high-flying Tigers will vie. Coach Kristi Fehr will lead her proud orange and black unit into action at 6 p.m. Saturday at Southwest MN State, Marshall. The challenge is great. Our opponent Marshall is ranked No. 9 in state. They also have the "Tigers" nickname. Marshall's Tigers are ranked No. 2 in Volleyball Hub Class AA rankings. They have been flawless in post-season action so far, not dropping a single game.
But they'll surely have to take our Tigers seriously. We're fresh from a 3-1 win in the 3AA semis over Paynesville. It was our 21st win of the season against five losses.
At Marshall we'll be seeking our third straight state tournament berth. We were consolation champions in last year's state affair. Marshall has six state titles under its belt. Wow! Oh, those Tigers have finished runner-up five times too. Over the past 40 years, Marshall has been in state 26 times.
The orange and black will surely rule on Saturday, whether it's MACA's version of those colors or Marshall's.
Paynesville was no slouch to overcome. With a record well over .500, the green-themed Bulldogs were a worthy opponent on Thursday at Minnewaska. Games 1 and 2 were quite suspenseful as both ended in a 25-23 score. MACA took the first game and Paynesville the second. We came on strong in the third game to win 25-13, then we edged the Bulldogs 25-22 in the fourth and last game. Paynesville ended its season with an 18-8 mark.
Three Tigers each batted one serving ace at the Bulldogs: Karly Fehr, Jenna Howden and Riley Decker. Fehr was sharp as usual in setting, accumulating 42 assists. Two Tigers had double figures in kills: Jenna Howden with 20 and Jenna Larsen with ten. The list continues with Kenzie Hockel (5), Lexi Pew (4), Bailey Marty (4) and Fehr (3).
Here's the list of ace block contributors: Pew (4), Larsen (3), Hockel (3), Howden (2) and Fehr (1). Decker was tops in digs as she typically is, on this day accomplishing 24. Marty had 19 digs, Fehr 12 and Howden six.
For Paynesville, Jenna Lundquist had a serving ace. Molly Stang was busy as setter for the green, picking up 25 assists while Lundquist scurried around to contribute 19. A pair of Bulldogs co-led in kills with 12: Skylar Bayer and Abby Schaefer. Jacquelyn Hoeft pounded down eleven kills. Their list in this category continues with Brynn Johnson (5), Stang (4), Lundquist (4) and Ashley Ley (4).
Hoeft and Megan Utsch each had a blocking ace. Olivia Riley was the cog in digging for the green with 33. Beyer had 19, Stang 12, Schaefer ten and Lundquist eight.

Football ends season
I review the Tigers' football game vs. Pillager on my "Morris of Course" site (my companion website). Highlights were few as we bowed to the powerful Huskies at Pillager. This post also reviews the volleyball team's 3-1 win over Litchfield in the debut match of post-season. We had a bye prior. Click on the link below. Thanks for reading. - B.W.


Winter nears, inevitably
Prolonged volleyball success helps keep our mind off the inevitable arrival of winter.
Prior to the fall season, a nice schedule page on slick paper was distributed by the Morris paper. However, am I correct in assuming that this feature went only to people who buy the paper? Up until recently, the paper might have distributed the schedule with the free "Ad-Viser." Man, the paper used to distribute a lot of those, almost like pollution, but it ceased to exist. The Ad-Viser is no more. That can only be a negative for advertisers. Less is certainly not more in this case.
Unless special provisions were made, the MACA fall sports schedule flyer went only to people who buy the Morris paper, and that is a very limited number of people. That circle gets smaller all the time. Perhaps some "sponsors" could arrange a direct mailing of that flyer to reach many more households? It would be a PR plus for the school district.
I imagine it won't be long before a winter schedule is prepared and distributed. But to how many people? The staggering decline of the Morris newspaper product is becoming a community issue. Let's all be proactive and try to harness the new media, the web, in an optimal way. You don't need me suggesting that to you.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Listen to my song about Charlottesville conflict

Poor Charlottesville VA. The community knows how it will be perceived for years and years. A community that I'm sure is wonderful, unwittingly became a flashpoint for old Civil War grievances. White supremacists and the "alt right" crowd gathered there. It got ugly and a person got killed.
I have always been fascinated by the Civil War and, just as important, Civil War memory. I have written a song based on the conflict in Charlottesville, called "I Thought the Civil War Ended." It was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Bob Angello. This is one of those songs that I occasionally like to have recorded with just voice and guitar. I figure if a song is good, it will be impressive in that minimal form. I hope you will consider my song good. Because it was recorded in Nashville, maybe I should say "I hope y'all will consider my song good." It was put online by the always-capable Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck MN. I invite you to listen with this link from YouTube. Thanks a lot. - B.W.
Robert E. Lee is a complicated figure from U.S. history. Should he be viewed primarily on the basis of the treason he committed, by leading a war against the Union? A statue of Lee was a catalyst for the conflict in Charlottesville. Local government had already approved of taking the statue down. After that, though, we got one of those predictable "lawsuits." Ah, lawyers. We can't live with them and we can't live without them.
How might Robert E. Lee be viewed more charitably? That's easy. He pleaded, once the war was over, for the U.S. to become one again. It was a common attitude of the generals post-war. The issue had been decided. If Lee had remained belligerent, it might have encouraged a new guerilla resistance to the Union - quite problematic. The odds were decent that a substantial guerilla resistance could arise. Heaven knows the emotions remained high. It seemed rather a miracle that this miserable conflict did not develop. The South was left in ruins anyway.
I'm not sure the South has ever completely recovered. The industrial North moved forward just fine. Here in Morris MN we're pretty far to the west. The Wadsworth Trail was getting established at the time the war was winding down. "Wadsworth" was the name of a Civil War general. "Fort Wadsworth" was later re-named "Fort Sisseton." I remember chatting with the late Ed Kvatum who recalled that as a young person, he saw the old fort just sitting there and crumbling, as restoration and historical awareness efforts hadn't yet sprung up. You can purchase a book about Fort Sisseton at the Stevens County museum.
Morris has a surprising degree of Civil War connections. Most notably this is with the Sam Smith statue at Summit Cemetery. I think the level of awareness of this statue needs to be propped up a little. We have new generations coming to town who probably get little if any orientation. You can listen to my song about the statue by clicking on this link. The song is called "Ballad of Sam Smith." Thanks again.
In West Morris we have the grand "Stanton House," a Victorian mansion on Park Avenue that was originally put up by Lewis Stanton, the son of Abe Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin Stanton. There are Civil War veterans buried at local cemeteries. I remember reading about an old-timer named Amos Pushor. These guys were old-timers by the turn of the century. Undoubtedly they all had interesting stories.
The Civil War was fought by human beings in the age before killing with industrial efficiency. It may have been the last such war. Samuel Smith was present for some of the best-known battles and campaigns in the Eastern Theater, including Gettysburg. He was assigned to the ambulance corps at Gettysburg. His local statue is a smaller version of the "Running Rifleman" statue at the Gettysburg battlefield. The Gettysburg statue memorializes the famous First Minnesota Regiment. The First Minnesota was called on to plug a hole in the Union line at the end of Day 2 of the Gettysburg battle. The casualty toll was horrible. But, can we consider the First Minnesota's heroics to have been essential to preserving the Union? A "yes" argument can be made.
Personally I have always felt the South never had the resources to "win." Maybe they could have embraced hopes of inflicting so much damage with Lee's pugnacious military ways, the Southern states could have simply gotten "concessions." But President Lincoln appeared not receptive to any of that.
The Civil War was probably the biggest tragedy in U.S. history. All these years later, we have learned due to Charlottesville that the conflict is not totally behind us.
"I Thought the Civil War ended." But it's not that simple, is it.
Click on the link below to hear my song about the First Minnesota Regiment, called "Take Those Colors."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Meredith Carrington & Tate Nelson make state

The state cross country meet is a magnificent spectacle. MACA cross country has two runners who have qualified for it in 2017. Meredith Carrington will vie for the girls in the state Class A race. Tate Nelson will run for the boys. Qualification was achieved in the Section 6A meet held on October 26.
Carrington was No. 4 to the finish chute with her time of 20:30. It was Kira Sweeney of Staples-Motley taking first in the girls race with her time of 19:46. Lexi Bright of West Central Area was second (20:16) and Kristine Kalthoff of Albany third (20:28). Carrington in fourth was followed by Katie O'Brien of Sauk Centre (20:32).
Meredith's sister Maddie was second best on the MACA team with her time of 21:04. Also running for the orange and black were Caryn Marty (22:20), Malory Anderson (23:05), Kaylie Raths (23:22), Isabel Fynboh (23:36) and Madelyn Siegel (23:44). Eden Valley-Watkins topped the girls team standings.
On to the boys: Tate Nelson will be running in the prestigious state meet. Nelson covered the course in 17:46. The boys champion was Emmet Anderson of Staples-Motley with a time of 16:38. Nelson was joined in the MACA boys team effort by: Noah Stewart (17:57), Ben Hernandez (18:23), Solomon Johnson (18:26), Thomas Tiernan (19:21), Tyler Reimers (20:00) and Bradley Rohloff (20:04). Emmet Anderson and his Staples-Motley mates were #1 in the boys team standings. Jonathan Tostenson of Benson-KMS qualified for state by placing fifth.
The Section 6A competition was in Long Prairie.

Other sports
The high-flying MACA volleyball team is in a rather lengthy break from action, partly due to a well-deserved bye. So I'm on hold writing about that exciting team. As for football, we have had an unfortunate development of the Tigers disappearing from the West Central Tribune coverage (other than scores). I can cite three recent home games that did not get reviewed on the pages of that purportedly regional newspaper. I don't take notes week by week, but I also seem to recall at least one other game getting reported belatedly, in Monday's issue, which I assume that paper discourages.
Also, based on my memory, the boxscore (stat) review of the Benson game appeared twice. That led me to wonder if it was repeated in order to correct a mistake. And if there was a mistake, maybe a major one, maybe a coach got distressed and just decided not to call in anymore.
I have been waiting for that paper's system to break down. I suspect that the younger coaches are not as apt to view a newspaper as essential to their work. Younger coaches grew up in a time when we were surrounded by ever-burgeoning new media. We don't automatically delegate to newspapers anymore. Forum Communications came right out and admitted, at the time of cancelling the Hancock paper, that papers are afflicted by revenue issues.
I open the Willmar paper and find so much of the sports information reported in such small type, it's difficult to read. I would be hopeless without my reading glasses. Sometimes it's difficult even with those glasses on.
Coaches have got to feel pressure getting so much fine game info collected and ready to report within a short timespan at the end of game night. Here's a question: are coaches even required to keep stats? Would they be allowed to keep minimal stats? Who is the West Central Tribune to direct them to do otherwise? Who is the West Central Tribune to direct them to do anything? Could the school administration direct coaches to do anything in relation to a newspaper? I suspect not.
I have seen the West Central Tribune get the names wrong of players scoring touchdowns. I have seen the Morris paper fail to correct some of this stuff even when they have a week to do so.
A few years back there was a highly dramatic, memorable win by MACA football at Paynesville, a game that was severely butchered in the Willmar paper. It was so bad, Lyle Rambow gave me a heads-up via email late Saturday afternoon, just hours after I put up my blog post using info from the Willmar paper. The Morris paper had a week to start fresh with that game and put together a comprehensive, thorough article. Someone just had to sit down with coach Jerry Witt for a half hour or 45 minutes, take some notes and write a lively article. Could you imagine me still at the Sun Tribune and not taking the trouble to do this? I'd be called every name in the book. I might be burned in effigy on Morris' main street by a howling mob bearing torches. OK I exaggerate.
I was expected to try to be consistent when I was at the Morris paper. So if you start the season with game reviews of MACA football, as the Willmar paper did, you should be consistent and carry through to the end of the season. Of course they rely on coaches. That's really the crux of the matter. No matter a paper's philosophy or approach, it really comes down to the coaches. So, here is my suggestion: teams should design their own web-based home pages, just like we see for the UMM teams. It wouldn't be work, it would be fun. I have certainly had fun putting up my blog posts.
But in the end, my work wasn't considered satisfying at the Morris Sun Tribune. I was told in writing that I should try to get quotes from players for sports articles. How often does the Sun Tribune do that now? I was handed several pages of typed, single-spaced micromanaging sports directives. That was the end for me. The editor was Tom Larson, who did not impress me as an editor or as a human being.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com