"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, January 17, 2018

MACA girls 9 of 19 in 3's in home triumph

Tigers 67, Ortonville 53
Three-pointers were again a valuable weapon for the MACA girls on Tuesday. Fans at the home gym cheered as the orange and black made nine 3's in a 67-53 win. Maddie Carrington came at the Ortonville Trojans with three 3-pointers. Liz Dietz and Malory Anderson each connected twice from 3-point range. Riley Decker and Makenna Kehoe each sank one such shot.
I imagine Makenna is the granddaughter of my former co-worker Janet Kehoe. Janet was a very pleasant person to know through the years at the Sun Tribune.
It was post player Anderson who topped our scoring list with 20 points. Carrington joined her in double figures with eleven. Dietz used her 3's to build her total to eight points. Jenna Howden likewise scored eight. Decker's '3' was part of seven points scored for this Tiger. Carly Wohlers put in six points. Kehoe had her 3-pointer which I'm sure brought cheers from some friends of mine. I personally cheer for Jordann Baier, my occasional waitress at DeToy's, who scored two points as did Jen Solvie.
Anderson grabbed ten rebounds and Wohlers grabbed seven. Carrington and Decker each executed four assists. Anderson and Carrington were tops in steals with five and four, respectively.
We vaulted to our ninth win with the Tuesday success. Ortonville is also having a fine campaign and emerged with an 8-4 record.
Our team three-point shooting numbers were a quite stellar 9-for-19. Carrington had an impressive night across the stat categories.
Madysen Stegner paced Ortonville in scoring with 16 points. The other double figures scorer was Jaiden Conroy with eleven. Samantha Erickson scored six points followed by the Kirchberg girls, Brianna and Allyssa, each with five. Megan Rademacher put in four points while Tyler Peters and Carissa Vanderwall each scored three. Conroy was dead-on from 3-point range three times. Brianna Kirchberg and Erickson each made one '3'.
Boys: Tigers 64, Benson 35
The MACA boys shot out to a 44-19 halftime lead which set the tone for the game. This game was Tuesday night and had Benson as the opponent at Benson. The orange and black prevailed in the 64-35 final. The success pushed our W/L record to .500 at 7-7. Benson is having a struggling campaign.
Jaret Johnson made three shots from 3-point range. Connor Koebernick and Camden Arndt each made one long-ranger. But it was the up-and-coming Jackson Loge who topped our scoring list with 15 points. Johnson was right behind with 13 and Arndt contributed 12. Koebernick added nine points to the mix. Tate Nelson came through with six points and Judah Malek had five. Chandler Vogel and Kevin Asfeld each scored two.
Nelson attacked the boards to collect ten rebounds. He was followed on that list by Johnson with seven. Nelson dished out two assists. Nelson and Vogel each stole the ball four times.
No one with Benson scored in double figures. Here's the Brave scoring list: Austin Ose (5), Max Benson (2), Eric Hoium (1), Matt Ebnet (1), Will Enderson (9), Sam Lundebrek (6), Hunter Gonnerman (4), Jonas Habben (3), Dan Lenarz (4) and Devon Liles (1). Enderson supplied a Benson highlight with a three-pointer. Lundebrek collected five rebounds and Hoium had four. Ose had an assist. Enderson and Lenarz each had two steals.
Girls: Tigers 49, Benson 31
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta girls shot out to a 17-10 lead at halftime and cruised to a 49-31 win over Benson. The game was played on January 12 at home. In the next day's edition of the Willmar newspaper, the data for Benson is reported but not for MACA. I am puzzled by that. Doesn't the home coach phone in? I can only speculate. These days I'm quite out of the loop.
I will dutifully report here the info I have available from the Willmar paper. Kaitlyn Berreau and Abbie Mitteness each made a three-pointer for the Braves. Success doesn't come often for Benson GBB these days. Berreau with her eleven points was the only Brave in double figures. Mitteness had a point total of seven. I wonder if she's the daughter of the Benson Legion baseball coach with whom I worked many years ago. A player with the last name "Anderws" - most likely a typo from the Willmar paper - scored six points. Her first name isn't provided.
Three Brave players each scored two points: Courtney McNeill, Claire Ricard and Lee (first name not provided for Lee). Lundebrek - again, no first name given - added a point to the mix. Benson's rebound leaders were Ricard and "Andrews" (same player as in the scoring list?) each with four. Mitteness had two assists. Andrews had three steals.
If I engaged in such sloppy and incomplete reporting when I was at the Morris paper, it'd probably be cause for shouting, swearing, kicking waste baskets and slamming doors. Of course, such things are way out of proportion to how important these sports subjects are. People in the corporate media get way carried away assessing their own importance.
I do wish the reporting on this game would be more solid so that I could produce a better summary. Did Maddie Carrington make any 3's? My online writing does gather some attention. I know it does. It's hard to gauge exactly how much, but it's there and it's why I keep plugging away.
Crisis brewing in D.C.
Our nation's failure to produce more moderate, temperate and sensible leaders could have catastrophic consequences at some point. Our recent tendency to favor hard-line ideological people on the right could lead to disaster for the nation.
Up until now the Dow Jones just keeps rocketing higher as if propelled by some mysterious force. I was always taught that you cannot predict with certainty what the stock market will do.
So many people in the U.S., people who mostly go to church on Sunday, are looking the other way regarding our odious president and it's because the stock market keeps doing well. We put up with racist thinking on full display. What would Jesus say?
Why is it that Donald Trump walked away from a reasonable bipartisan compromise on DACA? Hard-line conservatives showed up to gum up the works. So now we might have a government shutdown.
I don't hear enough speculation on Trump's motives. It seems clear to me that he needs "cover" from the Republicans who control all levers of power in D.C. He needs cover in order to try to resist the Mueller investigation. That investigation could have serious repercussions for Trump and his family. If he were to indicate that he's not "in" with the wild-eyed, tea partyish wing of the GOP, the wing that has disproportionate power now, that wing might not be as zealous fighting Mueller and dispensing the venomous anti-Mueller propaganda. So Trump essentially knows what side his bread is buttered on. In my view it's scandalous. But the public's attention to this may not be aroused until there's a major stock market correction. I really do believe that God will punish us U.S. citizens for this someday. I hope it doesn't make our nation into a "shithole."
And now we learn Trump's lawyer paid off a porn star, $130,000. It's the equivalent of prostitution: Trump gets what he wants and the porn star gets what she wants.
So the Vikings won
I watched the Vikings/Saints game only at the very end. I was indifferent about the outcome but was curious how it would end. It's unthinkable for me to watch an entire NFL game or even a large portion of one. The game's end was a reversal of what we saw at the end of that famous Vikings/Dallas game in 1975. At that time, I unfortunately was emotionally invested in the Vikings.
Today I'm not attuned to the euphoria generated by the Vikings' win. Instead I think of former Viking Fred McNeill dying from Alzheimer's in his early 60s. There is a time bomb of more and more former players ending up like this. There is a generation of former players in their late 50s and 60s who played football at a time when the game was becoming more dangerous. It's a shame.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The night we lost to the Brylcreem man

Typing Jackson Loge's name brings back memories from when Jackson's father Kevin played. I felt Kevin's peak year was when he was a sophomore. I remember when he was a junior and the very highly-touted player with the top-ranked in state Tigers. We had taken second in state the previous season. We had a two-class system back then. Heck, I grew up when we had a one-class system. No point in being nostalgic about that, even if you liked the movie "Hoosiers." The "good old days" were not really better, Norman Rockwell notwithstanding.
Anyway, in 1996 we played Staples in a game for the ages at the Concordia Fieldhouse. The place was packed. I loved the Polish sausage at the concession stand. I still remember where that concession stand was. That 1996 game is on YouTube for you to see. I haven't watched it because I don't need to - I was there. Most likely you can see me a few feet off to the side of a corner of the court.
Looking back, I find those packed house memories of tournament games to be rather unpleasant: too much emotion. Why do we subject our kids to that kind of pressure, in an activity like basketball where there are no lifelong benefits from the activity? Why do we send these groups of kids out onto a court or playing field as if they're enemies, or to be more blunt, gladiators? In football the activity presents a real threat to the kids' health - unforgivable, IMHO.
We lost that 1996 game to the Cardinals of Staples. Legend has it that the Staples coach, Lynn Peterson, danced on a score table to celebrate the success. I remember him looking like he used Brylcreem in his hair.
The game's outcome was viewed as a monumental upset. I was fascinated as I watched it. Clearly Staples had a strategy to outdo the Tigers. I thought it was plain as the nose on your face. Staples went into these patterns of passing the ball around with their object clear, to set up a drive to the basket where the driving player either got a layup or other high-percentage shot, or would induce a flat-footed Morris player into committing a foul. Over and over it worked for them, wearing us down and maybe even demoralizing us.
MAHS seemed to have an uninspired, disjointed offensive approach. They passed the ball around but not with the same keen sense of mission. A player might impulsively put up a three-point try. As an alternative they'd lob the ball inside to Kevin where he didn't really seem in position to capitalize on his talents. He'd end up flat-footed himself, perhaps putting up a highly contested jumper, falling away from the basket.
I remember one-time MAHS super fan Arnie Hennen getting discouraged about the pass-inside strategy of our team. He said "(this business of) lobbing the ball inside - that doesn't seem to work." It didn't work on that fateful night at Concordia. We lost.
As that realization set in during the closing moments, I remember some of the Morris parents coming over to behind the Morris bench, to send the message "we still love you even though you sure blew this one." My thinking was that we simply should have won.
Adding discouragement to injury, the Morris community was way too accepting of the game's outcome. I produced journalism after that game that implied that based on our returning talent along with Loge's big-time credentials, we really should have won. I didn't editorialize but you might say I was selective with facts. To do otherwise, to be selective in the other direction (as an apologist) would have been dishonest, I felt. I was confronted at least once by fans. "That was a heavy article you wrote," Bernie Wente said. I reacted the way my acquaintances might expect, by immediately looking to Bernie's husband Dave for "support." I'm the type of person who is easily intimidated by women. The congenial Mr. Wente seemed to connect with me but he just sort of smiled and shrugged.
Having observed the disparity in tactics between Staples and Morris in the game, I really wondered: "Was I the only Morris person in that whole building who noticed this?" Was I in some sort of weird Twilight Zone episode where I was the only normal person in a town full of mannequin-like people with eyes glazed over?
My writing affirmed a perception of me that had been getting me dragged down quite badly. The Morris community never benefited from that perception of me. It only hindered my ability to perform journalism. My critics would say I'm incapable of performing journalism. And that was the essence of the problem. We had too much of a good old boy network running things. We had an aggressive teachers union. It appeared that new teachers/coaches would get recruited to join Faith Lutheran Church. A person's choice of church should be private.
I suspect that the Morris school of today is 100 percent more healthy in its attitude and organization. The 1980s were a real backwater and there were still vestiges of that as late as 1996.
I consider myself a journalist in the mold of Michael Wolff. We are undaunted. We don't glad-hand. No matter how much I may have suffered, I can't regret anything.
I remember when New London-Spicer was upcoming on the schedule, prompting Morris people to speculate on who would win "the next matchup" between Loge and Jamie Thompson. Interesting question, given that Loge was a Division I college recruit and Thompson would be headed to our lowly UMM. I considered the question and concluded: We should assume that our Kevin would win the next matchup. Shouldn't that be elementary? Well, it was to me.
I think Kevin regressed after his sophomore year. I felt we didn't have a system to bring out the best in him. I remember UMM coach Perry Ford saying to me: "Kevin is making a better impression with his play in the summer than in the real basketball season." Really? If true, and I'm quite certain it was, it was an indictment of the MAHS coaching staff.
I think we were totally out-coached in that game against Staples. To actually say that "on the street" would have made you rather a pariah in this community. That's ironic because so many of the defenders of the status quo, often said sports was secondary in education and we ought not get carried away with it. So why was Concordia Fieldhouse filled to the rafters? If sports needed to be kept in its place, why would my critics get so wild-eyed with their histrionics? Hey, it's "just sports," right?
Well, the head coach was (and is) a model family man and exemplary teacher, by all accounts. He's a gentleman. I wouldn't argue any of those points. I thought it was time for a change a few years ago when we lost in the first round of the post-season, at home, to the No. 8 seed when we were the No. 1 seed. Last year we trailed lowly YME at halftime in the first round of the tourney, so we flirted with defeat. But we bounced back and impressed. The coach's supporters are quick to cite that, while seeking to ignore the year we lost to the No. 8 seed, or when we did poorly in the post-season with Taylor Witt showing he could score around 50 points. With Taylor we needed double-overtime to win in the first round and then lost in the second. Did we have zero talent around him? I don't think so. Maybe it was even a handicap to have him scoring so many points in a game. That was the first year I was gone from the Morris paper.
The coach has had some incredible talent to carry him through phases in his career. We'll see what happens this year.
As I have written before, the biggest unanswered question in our community's history is how Chris Baxter would have done had he gotten a head basketball appointment immediately. Baxter was the choice of our new superintendent Dennis Rettke. At least that's what Dennis told me.
Baxter eventually got the girls job and although he started out well, he seemed to get nudged toward expedience. "Something happened," my friend Merlin Beyer told me. Beyer was normally a very mainstream person in our town's politics. But regarding the school in the late '80s, he had to take risks and speak out on some things. He was the classic community leader, sensing when something was "in the wind" that would impel him into some controversy. He did what he felt he had to. Eventually he won a write-in campaign for mayor. I had rapport with him. He informed me once that my job was in danger.
I survived for that time and went on quite a while longer, until I had completed 27 years. At the end, a friend told me I should just say "I've had enough of it." That would probably not have been true. But did I really reach the end? Look at what I'm doing now! I think Dennis would crack a grin in heaven, knowing I'm still active at the typing keyboard.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Erosion of Morris paper continues apace

The vanishing Morris newspaper has reached the point where maybe some sort of community meeting should be held. Even if the paper rebounds some in the coming weeks, its ridiculously small size on Saturday is unacceptable. I heard talk about it at church.
It was at church that I was able to personally examine that pile of what gets marketed as the Morris paper, much of it dumpster-ready advertising circulars from Alexandria-based businesses (including "your hometown Sears store"). As Stephen Colbert said, "who shops at Sears anymore?"
Notice how we're required to pay the same single-copy price for the Morris newspaper. Maybe Willie's should tell the paper: "We don't think our customers should have to pay for the Morris paper anymore." The outstanding Senior Perspective along with the interesting University Register are available free. Even though I know the Register is free, I always confirm it with the Casey's clerk as I go out the door. It feels funny to just grab something there and walk out the door.
Of course it's free. But in the display stand right next to it, we see the Forum-owned papers that we have to pay for. A clerk there told me years ago that some customers were incredulous about the Wednesday edition of the Morris paper being cancelled. Also, I personally overheard a customer, sounding exasperated, saying "did they already start that?" when the paper went to once a week. It was such a habit to expect two issues a week, like through all the years when I worked there.
And boy, some sports parents were insistent about how certain games had to be covered in the very next issue. They'd get emotional if they weren't. I remember a member of school administration who similarly got his panties in a bundle. His discomfort about that reached the point where he felt he had to start writing sports himself, voluminous amounts of it. The usual suspects around town thought it was just great he was doing that. But what about now? What about now when the Morris paper is just once a week and down to an unbelievably small ten pages?
Adding shock to it all, the paper thinks we're stupid enough to believe that the old Hancock Record is now incorporated with the Morris paper. I have heard talk about how the paper seems to have bent over backwards giving attention to Hancock since the announced "combination." But if the paper is steadily shrinking, it is literally impossible for the paper to be accomplishing this. I don't have to point that out to you, do I?
I left the Morris paper when management was talking about how its website was going to be made so super spectacular. Has that happened? The paper would only do this if the approach could be monetized. I remember a period of time when our radio station site was made rather dynamic for local news coverage, but then there was a retreat. Again, it could not be monetized well enough.
I have written before that the time is coming when the coverage and PR for high school sports is going to have to establish itself online, in a reasonably consistent and reliable way - not scattershot - independent of the old corporate media. Ten years ago I thought that time was coming soon. I was wrong. Sports promoters should realize that communications outreach is important for these activities which compete for resources with the rest of the school. Look at how UMM sports gets covered so reliably on the UMM website. That's a model that ought to filter down to high school.
Would the Morris paper management say that the shrinking of its paper is due to unavoidable economic pressures? Then why does it seem that the Elbow Lake paper is about three times bigger? Maybe in the short term, the Morris paper is raking in a quite exorbitant profit. This is done with the knowledge that the end of newspapers really is coming. So let's make hay in the short term, the reasoning goes. There is a term for this in the business world: "harvesting."
I wonder if Willie's would consider offering the Morris paper free as a "loss leader." Just let customers grab a copy. And you know what? All those Alexandria advertisers would actually like that, because their ads would get in front of more people. Jim Gesswein would like that.
Come to think of it, the Canary is shrinking quite noticeably too. It's 12 pages this week. The Morris paper has canceled its free Ad-Viser. The Ad-Viser would have been a nice vehicle to distribute those Morris sports schedule flyers. As it stands now, those flyers only get to people who buy the Morris paper - a limited number. And, I was struck by how the type size seemed smaller for the winter sports schedule flyer, so I have to get out my reading glasses. Now, why would the type size be smaller? Do I have to tell you? The paper is trying to sell a few more of those ad boxes including names of the businesses. These are called "sucker ads" in the newspaper business. Do us a favor and back off from those so we might read the schedule info a little easier.
The Forum is so unapologetic in how it maximizes profit. That is not an uncommon credo in business these days. But it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised sometimes. We are not, here in Morris.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, January 8, 2018

Riley Decker makes three 3's in win over Breck

Tigers 60, Breck 57
The Tigers had three players make 3-point shots in their January 4 win over Breckenridge. The game's final score was 60-57, here. The orange and black was up 39-31 at halftime.
Riley Decker connected three times from beyond the 3-point stripe. She topped our scoring list with 23 points. The always reliable Maddie Carrington made two 3's and totaled 13 points. The other Tiger connecting for a '3' was Liz Dietz. Malory Anderson was No. 3 on our scoring list with 12 points. Jenna Howden contributed four points.
Dietz with her three points was followed by Jordann Baier (2), Carly Wohlers (2) and Alexis Pew (1). Anderson led in rebounds with nine followed by Carrington, Dietz and Wohlers each with six. Carrington was crisp with her passing with six assists, and Dietz had three. Anderson stole the ball five times.
For Breckenridge, Sophie Aigner was the only double figures scorer with eleven points. Abby Steckler put in nine points and Claire Conzemius eight. Sierra Hansey and Chase Yaggie each had seven. Ashtyn Kaehler and Carley Vizenor each put in four for the Cowgirls. Nina Jirek scored three followed by Carley Fredericksen and Lauren Johnson each with two. Hansey, Jirek and Steckler each made one 3-pointer.
Our January 4 win was our seventh of the season.
In the "old days," Breckenridge was the prime rival for MAHS basketball in the old District 21.

Litchfield 60, Tigers 55 (OT)
The Tigers took the Dragons of Litchfield into overtime on January 2, here. Unfortunately the extension did not go well for our Tigers. The Dragons outscored the Tigers 10-5 in the OT, to come out on top in the 60-55 final. It was Litch's eighth win of the season. Halftime was basically stalemated with MACA up by one, 25-24.
Maddie Carrington was dead-on with her long-range shooting eye as she so often is. She made four 3-pointers and was complemented by Riley Decker who made one. Carrington scored 19 points but it was Malory Anderson, post player, who led with 21. Decker's point total was seven. Here's a shout out to Jordann Baier, my occasional (and reliable) morning waitress at DeToy's Restaurant, who scored four points. Carly Wohlers came through with four points.
Anderson led in rebounds with six. She also achieved six assists to lead in that department. And in steals, Anderson was tops there too with four.
The winning Dragons had Laney Huhner lead in scoring with 15 points. They had two other double figures scorers: Sydney McCann with 13 points and Neriah Lara with eleven. Maddy Shoultz scored seven points and Natalie Hansen had six. Janessa Olson added four points to Litch's mix, and Kamri Driver and Katelyn Cruze each scored two.
Three-pointers were a source of momentum for the Dragons. Lara connected three times from three-point range while McCann made two long-rangers. Huhner and Shoultz each one one success from 3-point land.
Trivia: If memory serves me correctly and I think it does, Litchfield was the first-ever opponent for Tiger basketball at the 1968 gym when it was unveiled in grand fashion. We had graduated from the old elementary auditorium (actually the high school for many years) where the gym was like what we saw in the movie "Hoosiers." BTW did Gene Hackman ever really get the girl?

Boys: Breckenridge 54, Tigers 47
The cotton pickin' Willmar newspaper keeps referring to us as "Morris/CA." Who are they to impose their judgment? It's "MACA" or Morris Area Chokio Alberta. Insert slashes or hyphens as you wish. Anyway, our MACA boys basketball Tigers were on the short end of a 54-47  final against the Cowboys of Breckenridge on January 4, here.
It brings back memories for me, from when Breck often got the upper hand over the Tigers in "District 21" post-season play. That doggone green!
Noah Christensen did a lot of damage for the green, coming at the Tigers with 23 points. Derek Dahlgren was a nemesis for the Tigers too with his total of 16 points. Breck's scoring list also included Max Johnson (4), Justin Marsh (4), Dawson Pedersen (3), Jace Lenoue (2) and Caden McGough (2).
OK, on to the Tigers. We had three from our ranks in double figures scoring: Camden Arndt (13), Jaret Johnson (12) and Jackson Loge (10). Connor Koebernick scored nine points and Tate Nelson  added three. Johnson had two 3-pointers and Koebernick had one. Arndt and Johnson each had nine rebounds and Loge had seven. Arndt led in assists with six. Johnson and Arndt each had two assists.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" breaks through

Someday we'll all wonder why we were so passive during the Trump reign. We'll be lucky if no true disaster erupts. The fear is that the seeds are being planted now for disaster, with the Republicans' tax bill and regulations being ripped away including those enacted in the wake of Deep Water Horizon.
A crazed president seems motivated by nothing more than wanting to erase everything that Barack Obama did. In the back of all our minds, we seriously think (though might not speak it much) that Trump is motivated largely if not entirely by racism. It's quite a reveal for me as someone who attended a state college in the '70s where so many in academia seemed unhinged and wild-eyed in how they decried racism. Of course we reject racism. But this impulse should arise from our soul in the simplest of terms, organic, not having to be nurtured or cultivated by academics and their histrionics.
I sensed a danger several years ago with the movie "Gods and Generals," an odd Civil War movie that sought to find moral equivalence between the Union and Confederacy. I thought it was disturbing but heard little reaction to it. The public may have reacted (in effect) by not being entranced by this overdone and pretentious production. It was a bomb. Roger Ebert wrote that "men died like flies" in the movie.
According to convention, we're supposed to rationalize the conflict by realizing that the war was going to be liberating. Hollywood had historically given the South a break by portraying the men as products of their culture, gallant fighting men for whom history was not on their side. It is folly to support the propaganda that supported the South, propaganda asserting that the North was an invader or aggressor. "War of Northern aggression" was a term that had some currency. But all of this is usually presented in a sad light - a vestige of a checkered past in America.
We have a president now who says "good people were on both sides" of the Charlottesville incident. It's the same kind of moral equivalence.
I am writing this post on January 4 when we all awaken to hear commentary about a new bombshell in connection to the Trump presidency. I have a smile like the cat that ate the canary. It's not just that revelations are coming forward to unmask the Trump presidency as the travesty it is. I'm gleeful about the means by which this is happening.
I have previously suggested we shouldn't be too quick to draw parallels between the unraveling of Trump, and Watergate. I reasoned that was then and this is now. My late father would say "analogies are dangerous." That's why we have Godwin's Law which asserts that we should not draw analogies with the Nazis because the Nazis were so uniquely evil. It's a rule that gets broken in spite of its apparent wisdom. I'm not suggesting that the current presidency is in fact careening toward Nazism, though I'd forgive anyone for having such thoughts dance in their head. We are free to think whatever we want.
The parallel I now see with Watergate is the manner in which a clear hero is emerging. My grin widens steadily. My pride is all-consuming. That's because, in the midst of all the power brokers with their narrow little self-serving agendas, the back-biting among heavy hitters etc., it is a writer or press person that totally rises above. This individual is Michael Wolff. I have been familiar with his work for years.
Wolff committed folly when predicting that newspapers were going to meet their total doom within a tight timeline. We all knew the new electronic-based media was going to be a hydra-like specter for the old entitled print media. It was easy to sensationalize things. We oversimplified what was going on. Being a futurist is futile because if we really knew all the details of what was to come, we'd institute the model for all that immediately.
It's quaint to look back on the original Internet. It was like a collection of billboards, pretty crude, but we were fascinated.
We're quite over the basic fascination now. The digital miracles all go through a period where we're fixated, then we're bored and move on. I wanted to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming, when discovering the sea of music on YouTube. I grew up when you spent seven bucks for an "album." The miracle of YouTube doesn't have me really fixated anymore. It ought to. Let's be blunt: we have become so abundantly spoiled. We create a new normal and drift back to being the same human beings we were before. We still yearn for certain things we don't have.
The name of the Michael Wolff book is "Fire and Fury." It could attain the same status as "All the President's Men." It probes and reveals, and is drawing furious statements of rebuttal from those in the halls of power. The script is perfect. As a journalist I feel exhilaration: the idea of the primary hero being someone with no other objective than to perceive and report the truth. A purer objective you could not find.  It's the mantle I have sought to wear all my life.
So on the micro level, when I hear a story for public consumption about how a wounded black bear was allowed to simply wander out of town, after the rapid gathering of law enforcement (like the DNR), apparently just to observe, my brow becomes furrowed and I say "don't insult my intelligence." A City of Morris official suggested that the bear probably "went back to where he came from." A curious existential type of statement.
"Hooey," as my old co-worker Howard Moser would say.
Michael Wolff has stripped the pretense from the group of most influential people in America, showing the conflict, dysfunction and actual pettiness of the various players. And I'm still wondering: "Might Melania Trump have a stand-in?"
Would you believe: a Trump lawyer has sent a cease and desist letter to the "Fire and Fury" author and publisher. I'm reminded of when Mad Magazine satirized the movie "Jaws." The movie promoted itself with a warning: "May be too intense for young children." Mad noted: "That's like trying to scare ants away from a picnic by pouring sugar on the ground."
Do you think the media will have enough to talk about today?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.co

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Christmas season is too much of a disruption

Erwin Anderson, RIP. He was always so uplifting with his presence. He was uniquely brightening. Unfortunately I got fooled on the date for his funeral. When I saw that his funeral was going to be on Saturday at 11 a.m., I assumed it would be for the upcoming Saturday. The time interval would have been right.
Upon getting to the church about 20 minutes prior to the scheduled time, I knew something was wrong because there were hardly any cars. I found someone inside who enlightened me. He said that he, too, had initially thought the funeral was going to be on that day. This type of thing happened to us with the Tom McRoberts funeral too. There was a delay for some reason.
In the case of Erwin, I asked around in the days following and I heard that the first Saturday was scrubbed because it was so close to Christmas. Christmas Eve was Sunday night and Christmas was on Monday. But the funeral would have been on Saturday. I felt a little exasperated as I wondered: can't any normal business in our lives be handled on a day outside of the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day window? Does everything have to halt so completely?
This brings to mind the quite fine op-ed in the Star Tribune during the holiday season this year. The writer may have come across like Scrooge but his message resonated with me. He finds the Christmas holiday season too disrupting. He wonders why our normal routine has to be upended so completely. Turn on the TV and much of the normal timely stuff is pushed aside in favor of recycled material, guest hosts etc. I push buttons on the remote rather frantically. I feel some relief if I can just find an old Star Trek episode.
What about football? Glad you asked. This brings to mind another recent op-ed in the Strib that pleads most logically for us to boycott the sport, for the obvious reason of what the sport does to the health of the players. So I barely pay attention to football anymore.
Every year I resolve to bring a stack of my old Christmas CDs from the basement and play them. And I never do. These were CDs I once played at the Sun Tribune shop late at night when I was often the only one there. I played them loud. I considered playing them right after Thanksgiving. You might think I'd be charmed listening to them again. I dabbled a bit one year and felt empty, I suspect because I associated all this music with an earlier time in my life. The music belonged then, not now. Same with my Jack Benny New Year's Eve DVD. Maybe someday I'll consume all this again. It doesn't appeal to me now.
Any other reasons for backing off on Christmas? We hear Donald Trump say it's OK to say "Merry Christmas" again, as if Barack Obama had prohibited it. I remember Bill O'Reilly's constant screed about how Christmas was being suppressed in our society. O'Reilly has been sent to the backwaters due to the $32 million he paid to a woman to avoid a sexual harassment suit. I don't want him to be some sort of lesson on behalf of what Christmas represents. Ditto Trump with his admissions of sexual assault from the "Access Hollywood" tape.
I am rather depressed by Christmas. An increasing percentage of the population is people like me who either live alone or with one other person. Advancing age may well have reduced the family contacts we might renew at Christmas. Thus we are susceptible to feeling depressed at that holiday time which is put forward as a celebration of a big, robust family from the infants to the grandparents. Lots of home-cooked food, right? With our family (Mom and I), we just have to be sure when Willie's is open so we might get our usual essential food items - pretty minimal, like a prepared sandwich from the deli.
I am writing this post on New Year's. I grabbed breakfast where I heard the waitress answer phone calls from people wondering what their hours were on that holiday. A disrupted routine. We might have suspected that the restaurant is closed completely. The phone calls indicated that people really do appreciate "the routine" where the restaurant would be open.
I am exasperated by the whole stretch of time between mid-December and New Year's, as I struggle to find some sort of stimulation for my mind. It is a matter of just surviving it, and now we're just hours from proceeding on to January 2 when hopefully we'll land on our feet with that sense of normalcy. I can watch Joe and Mika (hopefully) live at 5 a.m. on MSNBC. We can get back to the daily talk about how President Trump is outrageous and most likely dangerous.
We did not go back to church for the "real" day of Erwin Anderson's funeral, sorry. I didn't go back for Tom McRoberts' either and that was a shame because I heard that my father's "UMM Hymn" was performed.
Don't worry, my family will never again prompt people to consider attending a funeral, because we are done with funerals. If my mother passes on before me, her soul will immediately go to heaven which is all that matters. If the funeral is meant for my benefit, you can skip it. I don't think Rich Moen would appreciate anything being done for my benefit. I was a "miserable failure" in his eyes. But I do plug away in my life.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Star Trek's "Errand of Mercy" was pacifist

The Star Trek episode "Errand of Mercy" came out in 1967. Kids like me who were transfixed by the series got poised to watch the show on March 23, 1967. They say 1968 was the year when this nation came apart at the seams with conflict and cultural transition. But 1967 was more than a precursor year - for example, Vietnam was totally a hellhole by then. How blessed it would be, for me, if our biggest problem was the Minnesota Twins getting edged out for the American League pennant by Boston at the very end!
"Errand of Mercy" was episode #26 of the famous original "Star Trek." Lest there be any doubt, the series steadily plants itself as an American artistic classic, not just a pop culture classic. It takes time to appreciate these things. We didn't adequately appreciate the series in its early days of syndication. It seemed passe, little better than the rest of the swamp of TV programming at the time. And syndication meant it might be seen in the afternoon which we all remember was a "dead zone" for TV. You'd see Flintstones cartoons or the Mike Douglas talk show (with guest Totie fields, perhaps). Nothing against any of the professionals who gave us afternoon TV in the '70s and '80s - they just had to create a homogeneous product.
Today the Star Trek episodes appear often on cable channels like BBC America. It comes across now as having significant artistic merit. Something about the TV landscape - more "niche" programming - accentuates that now. We're not so quick to sniff at TV shows, not like in the days when we'd hear the term "boob tube." Remember that?
A statement about conflict
A scene jumps out at me in "Errand of Mercy." The episode was significant because it introduced the Klingons with John Colicos playing "Kor," their leader. I was almost charmed by the original Klingons who seemed basically human, i.e. like us. It seemed their bark was worse than their bite. We heard about bad things they might do, but saw little if anything of it.
What about that gripping scene (in my mind) in "Errand of Mercy?" Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Kor are cornered by aliens who they are having a hard time understanding. Suddenly they are aware that the apparently passive, innocent and vulnerable "Organians" aren't so weak after all. Suddenly with a threat upon them, Kirk and Kor seem kin. They seem bonded. I'm intrigued how they communicate like they have shared interests, like they're almost brethren! The talk of conflict between them does not disappear. But again I'll say that the violent trait of the Klingons seemed mostly that: talk. We get the feeling that the Federation can be just as confrontational with their impulses.
I am going to make the bold suggestion here that a subtle anti-war statement was being made. The year 1967 was a little early for overt anti-war statements to be made, right? People had to step lightly, and people in the arts know how to do that. Here we see Kirk and Kor stand side by side as if they suddenly feel a need to react together. The message: The Federation and the Klingons were not as dissimilar as we might be led to believe. The two sides are quick to cite the tired old reasons for war - "you cut off our trading routes" etc. - that lead to so much needless bloodshed.
The heroic aliens of Organia were pacifists. They proclaimed that the Federation and Klingons would someday find peace but that in the meantime, too many people would die. Prophetic?  Today the U.S. has normalized relations with Vietnam, the nation created after the North Vietnamese finally overran the South, going city by city in the mid-1970s and leaving the U.S. virtually humiliated, seeking to escape with those depressing scenes of helicopters leaving rooftops so frantically. What did our warlike tendencies do for us in the 1960s? It created hell and caused cynicism for a generation of America's youth.
So here was Star Trek in 1967 spinning a story in a prophetic and symbolic way, subtly suggesting that us humans can be total fools with our warlike tendencies. The gentle Organians possessed the wisdom.
Background of the plot
The planet Organia is presented as non-aligned (for the purposes of conflict) near the Klingon border. The Enterprise crew believes the population of the planet to be primitive. The Enterprise attacks and destroys an approaching Klingon vessel. The script is careful to have the Klingon vessel opening fire first! Hey, we cited the Gulf of Tonkin, right? The Gulf of Tonkin was a prevarication.
Kirk and Spock beam down. Sulu is left in command of the Enterprise. Ruins are seen in the distance. The environment is an illusion created by the Organians to provide familiar points of reference for visitors. The Organians are unconcerned about the Klingon threat. They don't seem to view the Federation people any different than the Klingons. We're all just barbaric to them. Kirk and Spock try to conceal their identities.
I loved Colicos as Kor. He comes upon the scene with an air of authority, almost triumph. Kirk and Spock attempt some guerrilla action. Finally the Organians allow Kirk and Spock to be arrested. Spock of course has the ability to resist the Klingons' "mind probe." The Organians free Kirk and Spock from confinement. Kor orders the execution of 2000 Organians. We don't really see this of course. ("Bark is worse than their bite.") The Organians act undisturbed. The Federation people and the Klingons are left baffled and here we see the start of the apparent bonding of the two sides.
The Federation and Klingon fleets are getting into the position for war. Kirk and Spock try to rouse the Organians into resistance. They are able to capture Kor. Finally we see the truth about the passive Organians. They are not humanoid at all. They are advanced incorporeal beings. They incapacitate both sides in the burgeoning conflict. They impose a peace treaty which of course both sides find objectionable!
Kirk says to Kor that the impending war is going to have to be called off, whereupon Kor delivers the most memorable line of the episode: "A shame, Captain. It would have been glorious!"
This is the episode where Leonard Nimoy as Spock says "pure energy," a line later pasted into the song "What's on Your Mind? (Pure Energy)," from the group Information Society. The song got to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Nimoy got a "special thanks" in the song's credits.
Wishful thinking
Would that the gentle Organians could prevail over Earth's hostile forces in the 1960s. Would that they could disarm everyone. (Would that they could help the Twins win one more game, LOL.)
The year 1967 was a hellhole for America's young men who were susceptible to the draft. We can too easily forget.
Kudos to Gene L. Coon for writing "Errand of Mercy" which sought to point out how warring sides are really both a reflection of the worst in us.
A footnote: John Colicos played "Judge Flood" in the series "Gunsmoke" and became the last character to be shot and killed in that series.
Star Trek gave us lessons on a lot of fronts. Another example is from the episode "Miri" which I write about on my companion website, "Morris of Course." I invite you to click on this permalink to read my post inspired by "Miri." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com