"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)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Carter somehow seems refreshing now

The ex-president who once talked about "lust in his heart" is in the news. Jimmy Carter seems like a refreshing figure now. It's neat to see an ex-president who has been out of office as long as Carter has, so physically sound (his recent hospital visit for a viral infection notwithstanding) and articulate. It looks like he could almost handle a campaign again.
In a sense he has been doing just that, working vigorously for the betterment of humanity without holding political office.
Candor is another huge strong suit of his. You can tell he's fiercely proud of his efforts to try to push through universal health care for Americans in the 1970s. He asserts this in a manner that steps on political toes (the toes of the deceased i.e. Ted Kennedy).
The "lust" quote was one of several exhibits from his campaign or presidency that would be quite the Internet fodder today.
He talked about how people wanted to maintain "ethnic purity" in their neighborhoods. Such a quote would be like honey for a bear in today's cable news environment.
He told of the rabbit that projected terror when it swam toward him when he was in a boat in a swamp. Reporters weren't quite sure what kind of follow-up questions to ask on that. I remember a friend of mine interpreting the reporters' behavior, saying it was just deference to the president.
"Well, he's the president."
So the story is legitimate! I think Joy Behar of HLN would get some mileage from this today.
"Lust in my heart" was spoken during his rise to the presidency. It came in a Playboy interview.
The "lust" offering seems like a pretty small potatoes quote now, in the age of the Christine O'Donnell candidacy for the U.S. Senate. After following O'Donnell's candidacy for a few days, nothing about Carter could possibly strike one as oddball. Witchcraft and mice bred with human brains? Carter's rabbit seems like "the good old days."
I'd even take a dose of disco music with it. A "Laverne and Shirley" TV episode? Maybe not.
Getting 13 percent on my bank CDs was nice too, but had this economic environment persisted, it would truly have been bad news. But today, with negligible interest? Seems like pretty bad news too, to someone who avoids risk investments and uses banks (me).
We voted for Jimmy Carter because Gerald Ford - RIP - hadn't done enough to sweep away the residue of Watergate and some other unpleasant stuff. Whatever Carter lacked, he had his hands clean. And we were quite convinced he wasn't the back room wheeler-dealer, that he had a sound grasp of basic morals.
The economy tanked but it might have tanked anyway.
We tend to forget this now, but life was much slower-paced and less "caffeinated." Americans tended to think of Wall Street as sort of a land of Oz, an isolated sector where the rich among us could sort of "play around" with money.
Wall Street could never have been sold as a lifeline for average Americans and their retirement.
Democrats had a very firm place in the political firmament. "Liberal media bias" was a real thing, whereas today's conservatives are chasing shadows with that assertion, trying to paint themselves as underdogs again, which they clearly aren't.
Those were the days of paternalistic and rather complacent media institutions. The hard edge of Fox News would have been anathema to them. There was a restrained benevolence. The conservative ideology could take care of itself.
We knew Democrats had excesses and probably weren't vigilant enough chasing down waste. But we felt they stood for common people vs. the well-heeled Republicans.
We voted for Republicans only when the excesses began seeming too onerous.
Republicans in many places had to fight to escape the margins.
There was a Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota with the last name "Johnson" who got thumped, and in the aftermath a pundit complimented him in a humorous way by saying that his Scandinavian name was the key for him beating the Communist Party candidate.
Wendell Anderson and his Minnesota Miracle had their high water mark. Redistributionist thinking wasn't really drastic at the time. Today it seems to be viewed as incendiary by many.
Unless the worm is about to turn. The polls are starting to smile on Minnesota Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton. Dayton's campaign rings of populism.
Republicans in the 1970s could have worn Darth Vader costumes on most college campuses. Even through all this, Americans, even college students, had a vague suspicion that it wasn't working (i.e. the Democratic agenda). In 1980 we had "morning in America" with Ronald Reagan's election.
We might forget that Reagan made a strong bid to win the Republican nomination in 1976. We can wonder what might have been if Reagan had wrested that nomination from Gerald Ford, who had developed that "caretaker" image as president.
I remember watching coverage of that 1976 Republican convention and shaking my head at people wearing Gerald Ford hats, standing on their chairs and clapping as their candidate inched forward, and thinking: "You're gonna lose (to the Dems), guys."
Ford was a father figure who oozed sincerity but he didn't have the firepower to defeat the peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. Carter could seize on the "change" argument after so much bad stuff under Republican presidents.
I probably wouldn't have voted for Reagan in 1976 had he gotten the nod. I was in the midst of my college years and voting Republican just seemed unpalatable in the environment that surrounded me.
Looking back, I'm intrigued at the "what might have been" if Reagan slipped past Ford and went on to confront Carter. The Republicans might have been wise to roll the dice with committed conservative and proven executive Reagan, to see if America was truly ready for a president of his stripes.
Was it "morning" yet? Or was 1980 ordained as the magic year to do a fresh and sympathetic assessment of conservatism?
We probably weren't quite ready in '76. It was the year of the Bicentennial. We got Jimmy Carter who I believe picked up much of his momentum from the state of Iowa. Amazing how we have allowed Iowa to wield so much clout in our national politics due to its early-bird caucuses. A musical has even been written about it.
Someone once said of the 1970s that anything that could go wrong, did. In my mind the height of that was when our helicopters broke down for a rescue mission for the hostages in Iran. Or when the Comet Kohoutek was supposed to light up the night sky as if it were daytime. And then it was a dud.
Our band director at Morris High School at the time, John Woell, joked about how he was from "the land of Kohoutek." The flop supplied jokes for Johnny Carson.
And so did that guy of the Grape Nuts commercials. My friend Ken Hamrum says Euell Gibbons was the iconic figure of the 1970s, you know, the author turned cereal pitchman who was an expert on eating wild things. The commercials reportedly had to be pulled because kids were going outside and looking for things to eat. The Three Stooges had to stop the eye pokes for the same reason.
At the apex of Carter's political career he had to butt heads with Ted Kennedy of the dynastic Kennedy clan - "America's royalty."
In the Internet universe of today, someone like Kennedy with his baggage (Chappaquiddick) couldn't even consider running. That accident which "Teddy" mishandled (aside from the sheer tragedy of it) was a millstone around his neck anyway, deservedly so.
Misadventures from your past cannot be tucked into obscurity today.
Carter is butting heads with Kennedy even with Kennedy now in his grave. Recently Carter shot into the headlines with a statement blaming Kennedy for the failure of the push toward universal health care. Carter saw it as nothing more than self-serving politics.
Kennedy didn't want to see Carter get credit for such a huge accomplishment, the way Carter tells it now.
I would argue that Republicans could have helped a little more. But here's a fundamental lesson about American politics: Republicans never show the initiative for broad-based government entitlement programs, even when the necessity for such things becomes obvious.
It's a little game: Republicans always throw up obstacles, as with the recent health care measure, and then they just sort of shrug and go along with the new order once it's established. It's always tortuous watching Chris Matthews of MSNBC asking a Republican "would you have voted for (such-and-such)?" Finally a "yes" will trickle out, but look for those crossed fingers behind the back.
Here's a quote from Carter: "Republicans are men of narrow vision, who are afraid of the future."
Yes, Republicans are contrarians and believe me, there are times when we need this.
God bless Jimmy Carter but I'm glad Reagan was elected in 1980. Reagan infused some positive things although we have put on blinders to a certain degree and have come to see those "things," such as a totally unfettered free market (although in reality it isn't - witness TARP) as sort of an elixir that will keep lifting us up.
We are imperfect human beings who are sometimes short-sighted, quick-fix oriented and simplistic. Wall Street seemed our friend for a while but it's hardly so today.
"Trickle down" is becoming a harder sell, although the Michelle Bachmanns of the world still seem to have firm standing with the electorate. I'm waiting for that proverbial worm to turn further.
A Carter type of Democrat could come along again, someone not worshipping at Wall Street's altar and who stresses transcendent human values. ("What's that?")
Maybe this is why it's so refreshing seeing Jimmy Carter again, someone who sought to be uplifting without repeating the free market/lower taxes mantra ad nauseum.
People without money will always outnumber people who do. This is why Republicans ought to feel like they're whistling through the graveyard. Why Glenn Beck might be vilified as he deserves to be. Why Fox News might get pushed to the margin as the contrived, crazed propaganda machine that it obviously is.
And I'd love to see a vicious rabbit go swimming after Beck sometime.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Troubled Waters" in more than one facet at 'U'

The U of M Gopher football coaching staff, in photo, is striving for a turnaround in their team's fortunes.

Is public relations important for the University of Minnesota? First we have the "troubled waters" surrounding the documentary "Troubled Waters," initially pulled by the U and then restored after the tempest over this apparent case of corporate special interest intimidation.
Coupled with that mess is the U of M's football program. I realize that football is the "toy department" of an institution like the U, but it's deemed important enough that a brand new palace called TCF Stadium (named for a bank, which somehow correlates with the corporate intimidation episode) got built.
Would U of M football be doing any worse if it were still in the Metrodome? At the very least, this time of year we'd be insulated from the sometimes-unpleasant fall weather. How much incentive are fans going to feel to attend, when it's cold and/or windy and when the U cannot beat the likes of University of South Dakota or University of Northern Illinois?
The loss to Northern Illinois (the Huskies) happened Saturday. These are supposed to be tune-up games for the Big 10 schedule. The season is effectively done now. There is no way to prop up enthusiasm. The "what if?" talk has disappeared.
My waitress Felicia at DeToy's Restaurant in Morris reminds me that Northern Illinois is the alma mater of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. So we should respect them more? I thought the University of Illinois, not Northern Illinois, was the big-time program we had to have in our sights.
I'm not sure how "Gopher Nation" can even take seriously the upcoming Big 10 schedule. I think the early "creampuff" part of the schedule is becoming problematic because the U seems to increasingly be "playing down" to those foes. To the point we can't even beat them.
Poor Tim Brewster. He's a fine gentleman as coach of our "Beloved Rodents" (name bestowed by Patrick Reusse). I agree with Arne Carlson who said the Gophers' current weaknesses are not to be laid at coach Brewster's doorstep at all. Brewster "didn't hire himself," the sage Carlson, a pre-wingnut Republican, said last week.
Yes, the U Gophers are in the midst of "troubled waters" but let's get back to that term as a proper noun, i.e. as a film name. The U denies the corporate intimidation - I at first wrote "bullying" (but let's calm down) - but what do you expect them to say in the wake of a tempest breaking out?
It may come down to your definition of "intimidation," remindful of how Bill Clinton gave us headaches doing gymnastics with the English language. You might say it takes a lawyer. "Veiled intimidation" or "implied intimidation" are terms that I could trot out in attempting a more rapier-like description of what happened.
Karen Himle is the "heavy" who seems to have initially put the wheels in motion for the film getting axed. The Twin Cities Daily Planet sprang into action. It could just as well have been the Daily Planet of "Superman" lore. Because it wielded its journalistic prowess from its website to give us this story.
Other journalists followed that lead like by buddy at Minnpost, David Brauer. Brauer of "Braublog" wrote that the U's explanation of the initial cancellation "morphed several times." Translation: "damage control."
Himle is a PR person and it's a family calling. Her husband John runs the PR and crisis management firm Himle-Horner, which represents the Agri-Growth Council.
"But he denies any involvement," Brauer wrote.
OK, when the word "denies" starts getting tossed around, we have to begin scratching below the surface. There's usually something messy there.
"Troubled Waters" is a documentary on Mississippi River pollution. Corporate interests with a maniacal focus on the bottom line probably feared this film would add eggbeater to troubled waters.
The by-products of industry and profit can be troubling. It's been true through time. But the makers of the film claim no confrontational stance with anybody. It's basically all about truth-telling. It's about society and ag interests knowing the consequences of ag activity and ensuring that those consequences aren't onerous. That's where the University of Minnesota can serve a huge helpful purpose.
I realize how profits can apply a blinder in the year 2010. And how these "private" partnerships with public institutions can seem so very practical while at the same time obstructing the noble purposes of the institutions (potentially anyway).
At its most grotesque extreme, which I don't really think we're flirting with yet, it could mirror a scene I can recall from the movie "Mississippi Burning." A G-man tells his supervisor (Gene Hackman) that "the motel won't rent to us." (The G-men were fighting racial oppression in the Jim Crow days.) The Hackman character, without missing a beat, said "buy the motel."
Again I could quote my friend Glen Helberg with whom I have breakfast most mornings at McDonald's. Glen says "money talks and bulls--t walks."
But heaven help us if it becomes the true sacred cow. Boomers grew up with the image of "Iron Eyes Cody" developing a tear at the sight of litter. We're supposed to be vigilant on this. We should be chomping at the bit to see "Troubled Waters." It should be enlightening and not an invitation to confrontation.
We learn that the film is now set for its original premiere date of October 3. A fellow named Dean Carlson wrote online that "what's ironic is that now ten times more people are interested and will want to see this film."
It's just like that Katy Perry music video for Sesame Street. The odds of me seeing this minus the controversy (over her dress, which I saw as no issue at all) would be like, well, "astronomical," as the late Willie Martin of Morris would put it.
But now? I see clips on the cable news shows all the time.
Karen Himle has done much to ensure that "Troubled Waters, a Mississippi River Story," will be seen by a great many Minnesotans, which I guess now is a good thing.
Now if she can just cancel the rest of the Gophers' football schedule.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tigers win in volleyball, bow in football

This past week closed out with success for the Tigers on the volleyball court but disappointment on the football field.

Girls defeat the Eagles
The Tigers of volleyball not only won, they won in sweep fashion over Lac qui Parle Valley. They downed the Eagles by scores of 25-17, 25-8 and 25-7, delighting the home crowd.
Erin Schieler pounded the ball down for 14 kills. This Tiger showed her prowess at the net with ten ace blocks too. These teammates of Erin's also recorded ace blocks: Terianne Itzen, Sydney Engebretson, Shadow Olson, Kelsey Loew and Dani Schultz.
In the category of digs, it was Carrie Roske setting the pace with 25.
The win lifted the MA-CA girls' confidence in conference play, which had not been their strong suit going in. Their Thursday win was their second in WCC-South play, which still leaves them (just) shy of .500. Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta volleyball sports a 7-4 mark overall.
The Eagles, who were led Thursday by Amanda Broin (five kills), are having a struggling season to date with but one win overall.

Boys defeated 9-7 on the road
The football story wasn't so rosy as the Tigers lost their share of the conference lead. The Tiger gridiron crew was stopped by the host Lac qui Parle Valley Eagles in a 9-7 final.
The Tigers had shared the WCC-South lead with ACGC. They aim on roaring back in front of their supportive home crowd this coming Friday at Big Cat Stadium. Kickoff time is 7 p.m. for the contest with Benson which marks Homecoming 2010. Tiger spirit will reign. Will the football team?
Friday night's scoring began with one of those relatively rare field goals in prep play. It was by Eagle Brandon Bornhorst and it proved vital to his team's winning outcome. Bornhorst got the ball through the uprights in the first quarter. It was a 33-yarder.
Morris Area football took the lead in the second quarter on an eight-yard run by quarterback Ryan Beyer. Jordan Fletcher kicked the point-after.
There would be only one score in the second half and it was a touchdown that delighted the Eagles' home crowd. Sam Haas found the end zone on a run from the three. The extra point kick attempt was blocked but it wouldn't matter. The Eagles could savor this 9-7 win while coach Jerry Witt's Tigers were left to regroup for week #5.
Beyer had a rough night throwing the football as he got picked off three times, and only hooked up for five completions in 16 attempts. The quarterback did better running with the football as he led the team with 66 rushing yards on 14 carries. Tyler Hansen carried eleven times for 30 yards and Tim Ostby three times for 25.
Eric Riley was the only receiver with multiple catches. Ethan Bruer and Cody Cannon each had one catch.
On defense Hansen had a fumble recovery. This Tiger also handled the team's punting.
The Eagles had just one yard passing and gained 111 on the ground. The Tigers outdid the Eagles in rushing with 125 yards.
Turnovers were a bugaboo for the orange and black crew.
In other WCC-South action Friday, BOLD trampled a struggling Minnewaska Area team 35-0, Montevideo dominated YME 21-0 and Benson took command in a 38-8 triumph over LP-GE.
Enthusiasm for Tiger athletics is reaching a mid-season crescendo!
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-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Driggs lecturer at UMM profiles the hippies

The HFA Recital Hall on the UMM campus was alive with historical curiosity and exploration Tuesday night. A visiting scholar, Dr. W.J. Rorabaugh (in photo), was at the podium.
This was the annual O. Truman Driggs Distinguished Lecture, named for a fellow I remember making his rounds on campus and in the Morris community for many years. Driggs is in a higher hall of academe now. In his name and memory, via the memorial lecture, the fascinating subject of "Hippies in the 1960s" came to the forefront Tuesday.
The turnout at the HFA was especially high for an event of this type. One might have even felt challenged finding a seat, or said "excuse me" as you wedged past people to a seat away from the aisles. That's a sign of a most successful event.
I have attended several lectures of this type over the last four years (the duration of my unemployment to date) and I deem this one the best. All of these lecturers have the best possible credentials, but some are better than others at being truly engaging from the podium.
William Rorabaugh is the type of academic guy I would have loved to have as a teacher. I could have listened to him much longer. And indeed, extra time would have been needed to really cover the wide breadth of this subject matter.
For example, I don't even recall Dr. Rorabaugh touching on the Manson murders or Kent State and their ramifications for the turbulent youth culture. Rorabaugh, whose home is the University of Washington, took some questions after his formal talk and could have broadened his analysis more, but finally the "time clock" expired. Dr. Roland Guyotte was the "referee."
The audience retired to the outside hallway for refreshments and informal discussion.
Rorabaugh got a laugh early-on when he welcomed his audience, an audience which he observed included "hippies, I mean former hippies."
Us longer-of-tooth people were mixed in with the many University of Minnesota-Morris students who were appreciating hippie-dom from the distance of time.
I remember being at UMM's Edson Auditorium for a couple of bona fide Viet Nam War "moratoriums." So I observed "the real thing" most directly in terms of youth culture tumult. You might think those memories are exhibit 'A' of the type of thing that made up the heart of Rorabaugh's lecture. But not at all.
One of the most significant points made during the evening was that hippies and (anti-war) activists were not one and the same. Rorabaugh was quite determined to draw the line, although I would argue this line is at least blurred.
The activists weren't making a clear break from the conventions of established U.S. culture and politics, Rorabaugh maintained. Rather they were agitating, with great fervor I could stress, within the framework.
Hippies by contrast were dropouts from American society, at least the society as handed down by the generation that dealt with the Depression and World War Two. That older generation imposed too many restraints, they felt. Mainstream values were troubling.
Hippies weren't fond of this name they were given (i.e. "hippies") and preferred "the love generation," our speaker explained. He noted that "hippie" had its origin in the term "hipster" which grew out of African-American jazz clubs in the late 1940s.
There were variations on "hipster" until finally we saw "hippies" take hold in the 1960s. These on-the-edge young people lived out the anti-conformity ideas that the "beat"writers of the late 1950s wrote about, Rorabaugh told us.
We cannot say that hippies grew out of the Viet Nam War angst because "hippies were worldwide," he continued.
Indeed he made a good argument for that hippie/activist distinction but I might still protest a little.
He made a fascinating parallel between the countries that enjoyed post-World War Two prosperity, and the emergence of hippies. A baby boom occurred in those countries.
During Tuesday's question-and-answer, a middle-aged man in the audience (with a UMM background) said there was a time in West Central Minnesota when "every little town had a basketball, football (etc.) team."
Ah, we can remember the likes of the Graceville Shamrocks and Appleton Aces. It's a neat trivia contest to remember those names. It was a different era of course, because there were lots of young families with multiple children seemingly all over the place.
I believe the point that the questioner was making was that youth numbers were such that any prevailing trends they exhibited would be a big deal. That "punch" isn't there today.
The neighborhood where I grew up (and still live) is an exhibit of the prevailing trend. There was a gang of kids back then, giving the neighborhood definite personality (and a little notoriety sometimes), but today, well, I can't remember the last time a school bus even had to come by here.
This gentleman from the audience further said that because of this population drain here, UMM wouldn't even be built today. That's speculation but we can be most thankful it's here, and still apparently doing nicely.
I don't see the plunge in young people numbers as being nearly so threatening to higher education institutions, as I do the earthquake-like impact of the Internet and how people can get information without so much reliance on the bricks and mortar model.
Dr. Rorabaugh points out that hippies faded in the mid-1970s as mainstream U.S. culture became more accepting of them. Irony? Well, I suppose acceptance meant that a contrary statement vs. the established norms was no longer needed. That's what I took from Rorabaugh's statement.
But I can't help but think of the coincidence that the Viet Nam nightmare finally faded in the mid-1970s, albeit with scars.
Movies can be instructive, and I would cite "One on One," a sports movie, as being helpful in understanding how hippie-dom got retired to the dust bin. A quintessential on-campus hippie character was soundly rejected by his girlfriend, played by Annette O'Toole. Leading up to that, Robbie Benson, who played Annette's new love interest (and was clueless about hippie values), told off the hippie by saying "what about your uniform?"
The hippie had derided the Benson character for his basketball uniform which in the hippie's view was anachronistic. But it was the hippies, at least in their most extreme incarnation, that proved anachronistic.
I would argue that this generation moved forward with many enlightened values but without the more unnecessary or even revolting aspects of being hippies or quasi-hippies. ("You smell," the Benson character also chirped at one point.)
Dr. Rorabaugh covered lots of ground like television and its impact, sort of the "earthquake" of the 1950s. I have previously written about this and suggested that the marketing through TV, rather than the medium itself, helped give the boomers and their hippie element many of their recognizable traits.
"The visual images assaulted their senses," Rorabaugh said. "It rattled tradition. Boomers were able to learn about the whole world."
Rorabaugh gave us a portrait of hippies that was enlightening, describing them as "seekers." Continuing: "They knew consumption wasn't the answer. They were dissatisfied with the religious traditions of their parents. Those traditions seemed to them more crippling than enabling."
Hippies had their day most conspicuously and then moved on. They "cut their hair and got a job," to use Rorabaugh's words.
But that historical chapter ought to be weighed as future generations come on the scene, for all chapters leave their legacy of insights even if you have to scratch below the surface.
Rorabaugh is doing much to present it and give perspective.
O. Truman Driggs would be proud.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Maynard Ferguson brought us brassy joy

The above photo shows the late Maynard Ferguson, at right, with Del and Carlene Sarlette of Sarlettes Music in Morris. Maynard probably didn't know it, but Del was once part of the rather rambunctious turnout of fans for Maynard concerts at the now-defunct St. Paul Prom Ballroom.

It has been just over four years since Maynard Ferguson (in photo) left us. Maynard was not only an amazing musician, he was an amazing human being who was happy traveling and performing anywhere. He showed the spirit of the Vaudevillian. He was delighted to have an audience and never tired of it.
The last time I heard Maynard, he played in Dawson, Minnesota, the type of (with all due respect) out-of-the-way hamlet that often turned up on his itinerary. Maynard probably didn't have to travel to make a living or be fulfilled as a musician. The lifestyle was probably ingrained in him when young, when "big bands" were still defining the mainstream of popular music, and traveling was an assumed part of their mission.
Today's young people wouldn't feel that allure. There was a time when there was nothing more "cool" for a college-age musician than to join, say, the Stan Kenton orchestra, climb on "the bus" and share music. An important part of Ferguson's resume was when he was up-and-coming with Kenton.
I feel affection for Kenton especially when remembering his piano introduction to "What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life" - remember, "north and south and east and west of your life?" Sometimes he'd play a little cat-and-mouse game with the bass player during that intro.
Kenton developed the type of penetrating brass sound that would become a model for Maynard's groups. There was a brethren feeling, and none of us fans can deny that we have fantasized being able to play that way ourselves!
The Kenton band was especially large during much of its history. It afforded a platform for up-and-coming musicians. I remember hearing the Kenton band in Willmar and St. Cloud in the 1970s. Kenton seemed to be riding the coattails of past success and didn't have the most polished unit. I'm sure many of his audience members had been "turned on" to this type of music by Maynard and just wanted more.
Maynard made a name for himself even while playing with Kenton. He played on TV with Kenton when TV was just into its infancy. That primitive looking video is priceless now.
The big band "survivors" during the 1970s were a unique group that had infectious popularity with kids, many of whom no doubt felt themselves "nerds" (until that term became antiquated as it became clear that "the nerds won"). These were baby boomer youth.
A critic once poked fun at the boys as always wearing corduroys. (This was after a concert at the old Met Center in Bloomington.)
We were wowed by the talent onstage.
Buddy Rich, who had been literally groomed in Vaudeville, led a very popular band from his drum set. Woody Herman was one of the true big band leaders from the 1940s heyday of the genre, and he stayed at it through advanced years and some decline in health. Why the perseverance?
"He owed people money," it was learned
But I don't think the musical commitment was drudgery for Woody, as I think all these guys felt a deep, inherent motivation to share the energy of the big band sound. At its best the sound is just as electric and exciting as rock and roll and its pop descendants.
Woody made the transition in tastes beautifully, and perhaps he was the most underrated of the group.
The Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman sounds seemed archival and "not hip." One reason was the restrained bass line. Their rhythm sections (with some notable exceptions like Gene Krupa on drums) tended to stay in the background.
A heavy sense of rhythm might have been troubling to a generation that later would make rock and roll controversial until finally the lid couldn't be kept on anymore.
There were racially-colored undertones to that restraint. The multiculturalism that took root in the late 1960s, spurred by Woodstock, eroded the barriers. Maynard, Stan, Woody, Buddy and Count Basie brought together the best of the old and new. There was the unbridled joy of a powerful, in-sync section of brass, the reliable saxophones and a powerful rhythm foundation that could appeal to boomers who had vinyl record collections full of rock. (You can tell I'm a trumpet player by how I refer to the sax players as merely "reliable." Ha!)
The term "jazz rock" came to be popular. "Fusion" was also heard. But it was just well-conceived music, resonating from that endless process of musical evolution.
Basie was a real jewel but he probably endeared himself more to boomers through his appearance in "Blazing Saddles" than anything. He was an African-American keyboardist and tireless leader. I heard his band in St. Cloud on a night when he couldn't be present due to health. Nat Pierce sat in for him at the piano and led.
I was pleased to interview Nat prior to the concert for an article in the St. Cloud State University Chronicle. Trumpeter Lin Biviano and drummer Butch Miles were highlight performers on that memorable night at Stewart Hall (an auditorium now named for Kimberly R. Ritsche.) My journalism was truly secondary to the music.
(I also gained appreciation of the fact that when you're a journalist, "you get in free!")
Buddy Rich was the kind of unique stylist one would expect as a product of Vaudeville where performers lived their craft from a very young age - something we don't see in the same way today.
Maynard absolutely mesmerized a certain segment of the young jazz audience. I remember him playing twice in Morris, both times at the UMM P.E. Center. The sound was powerful, tight and efficient with a rhythm section that could stand on its own.
Boomers demanded strong electronic amplification in the 1970s, and Maynard had no aversion to this. I remember hearing the MF band in Willmar in the 1970s when the amplification seemed overdone. I remember hearing him in St. Paul at that same time when the young and boisterous crowd got carried away and began detracting from the artistry.
Boomers had their sillier moments which they would now prefer to forget, especially when trying to set an example for their own children. Pssst, you children, your parents could be baboons!
Us baboons filled the St. Paul Prom Center for Maynard concerts three or four times a year. Alcohol was served to adults.
DWIs were uncommon and weren't the kind of seeming death sentence they are today. I remember hearing Buddy Rich's band at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis when alcohol was served in the entry area. Alcohol seemed necessary to accompany jazz. Of course it wasn't. It was just a cultural norm.
I remember Buddy drawing a roar of laughs when he came forward at Orchestra Hall, gazed around and said "Isn't it something what they've done to the Prom Ballroom?"
Well, what they've done to the Prom Ballroom since then, is subject it to the wrecking ball. The Prom was like a much larger version of the old Lakeside Ballroom in Glenwood. Boxing matches were held there. High school and college age musicians used to line up at the door for Maynard concerts, ready to charge in like an advancing army. When inside we turned the little ashtrays into frisbees. Remember, you children, this was not an example for you to follow.
Maynard was renowned for bringing music to colleges. He got a formal award for this late in his career. He came to symbolize jazz education and spoke much of it, but mostly he just performed a type of music that was infectious for young musicians who were seeking to escape the stuffy restraints of "concert band."
Ironically, Maynard himself was a dropout from school! At age 15. The Montreal, Canada, area native plunged into music. He came to the U.S. in 1948 when the traditional big bands were still invigorated.
Maynard was featured in a Charlie Barnet band recording of Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are." Kern's widow was furious at the unconventional treatment. You see, Maynard was a high-note trumpet artist. Jazz fans loved it but there was a generational rift that found no compromise. Maynard was an acquired taste and the widow hadn't acquired it. The recording had to be withdrawn.
Oh, but the times were fading when music had to be gentle, restrained and melodic. Rock and roll arrived like a clap of thunder in the 1950s. There was no turning back. Kids had their transistor radios and more discretionary money with which to buy records.
The 1960s were terrible for big bands. Maynard Ferguson left the U.S. for a time and found a spiritual guru in India. Then came the England chapter in his life. Then he began developing the jazz-rock fusion sound that would define the (commercial) prime of his career.
He returned to North America in 1971 and began his ascent.
Maynard teamed with Bob James in 1976 for a series of quite commercial albums that nonetheless had firm jazz elements. He fronted large groups of session musicians for these recordings. His boomer fans salivated over each new release (those vinyl record days).
The commercial success reached a peak with the cover of "Gonna Fly Now" (from "Rocky"). Through it all, Maynard toured almost incessantly. He came to Minnewaska Area High School (Glenwood/Starbuck). "Flyoverland" was, to him, bus touring land. We thank the Lord that he blessed our musical lives.
His last really solid recording was with vocalist Diane Schuur. I absolutely prize that CD in my collection.
Today Maynard still "screams" in our memories. I doubt that there are any big bands today that inspire the type of "event" feeling that he and his circle of brethren did. Today we are just too surrounded by music. But that heyday of traveling big jazz bands was oh so special.
We were mesmerized by "brassy joy." (And don't overlook those "reliable" saxes!)
Maynard Ferguson, RIP.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Morris Area football thumps Minnewaska

The above photo shows a Tiger ballcarrier seeking to elude the Lakers during the big 40-0 win achieved by Morris Area Friday. Photo by B.W.

The weather cooperated better for the Tigers' second home game than their first. It wasn't perfect but it was acceptable. A few droplets of rain were detectable as Friday's game-time approached, but it abated after that. Fans were present in pleasing style for the MAHS boys' game against Minnewaska Area.
The Morris Area football Tigers took charge decisively in upping their record to 2-1. Fans at Big Cat Stadium saw a 40-0 win by the Tigers over the rival Lakers. The Lakers will have to regroup for another day. Meanwhile, the Tigers can savor their unblemished conference record (2-0 in the WCC-South) going into week #4 of the campaign.
The Tigers will play at Lac qui Parle Valley Friday, beginning at 7 p.m.
Coach Jerry Witt would most certainly give his team's defense an 'A' grade. That defense put up a wall that limited the Lakers to 17 yards rushing. The Lakers passed for about a hundred yards but they couldn't break onto the scoreboard.
Cody Cannon and Tom Holland each intercepted a Laker pass. Brady Valnes had a fumble recovery. Valnes also had a quarterback sack as did Justin Stallman and Ryan Beyer. The tackle chart showed Beyer, Tim Ostby and Cody Hickman standing out.
The Tigers scored two first half touchdowns but were denied on the conversion tries. Quarterback Beyer ran for both of those scores. The first quarter saw him scamper into the end zone from two yards out. In the second quarter, he turned in a truly big play, accelerating for an 84-yard score as halftime neared.
At 12-0 the game was hardly in the bag yet. The Tigers opened up breathing room in the second half and had no more difficulty with conversion plays. Jordan Fletcher kicked successfully on the last four Tiger touchdowns. (It should be noted that on the Tigers' second TD of the night, there was a pass try that was incomplete.)
Tyler Hansen scored the Tigers' third touchdown on a run from the 18. Eric Riley carried for the fourth score, covering nine yards. The wealth kept getting spread around for the scoring, as Beyer scored from the seven and Tim Ostby from the 22, wrapping things up. The home side of the field had much to feel good about.
The game's statistics show Riley averaging over ten yards per carry of the football - a significant accomplishment. His 14 carries netted him 149 rushing yards. Quarterback Beyer racked up 113 rushing yards on 14 carries. Tyler Hansen was just two yards shy of the 100-yard plateau and this Tiger was handed the football 17 times. Tim Ostby gained 20 yards on three carries, and Jake Torgerson got a carry good for one yard.
Beyer completed seven passes in 19 attempts for 77 yards and was picked off once. Torgerson also exercised his passing arm.
Hansen, Ethan Bruer and Riley each had two receptions and Mitch Kill had one.
Minnewaska Area football came out of the night still seeking win #1. Laker Andrew Amundson completed seven passes in 19 attempts for 102 yards. Sam Long was the Lakers' top ballcarrier (20 yards) on a night when their running game was pretty much stuffed.
Morris Area rushed for a very healthy 391 yards.
Attention Tiger fans: You might want to check out the Tiger football page on Maxpreps. Here's the link:


There is also a Morris Area football Facebook page. Here's that link:


The review of the previous week's win over BOLD is on this site, and if you're catching up, you can either scroll to find it or click below:


A personal note:
Yours truly got out to the sidelines in bona fide media fashion Friday at Big Cat, for the first time in what feels like an eternity.
The passage of time brings change, like how I need reading glasses now to check some of the settings on my dependable Canon camera. It's a conventional 35mm camera.
Have digital cameras progressed to where they can handle fast-moving football? I'll have to check this out. It costs money to have film developed (which I do at our Thrifty White store).
The gang working the sticks were very agreeable to chat with. It's a thrill to feel a part of the Tiger scene again, and we'll just take one week at a time from here on out.

Update from the Tiger volleyball world:
The Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta girls paid some dues on the volleyball court this past week. Some of the luster from their early-season success has faded, but it's a long season yet.
The team is bearing down to escape the kind of losing fortunes they were dealt by ACGC and BOLD. On Thursday against the ACGC Falcons, the Tigers came out on the short end in road WCC-South volleyball. The Tigers definitely had their moments as they won two of the games. But the marathon five-game affair went into the win column for the host.
The Tigers took games 2 and 3 by scores of 25-21 and 25-23. Their 2-1 advantage seemed to give them a feeling of momentum, but momentum can be a fickle commodity in this sport.
Erin Schieler racked up 24 kills and had but one hitting error. Dani Schultz came at the Falcons with three ace serves. Mackenzie Weatherly was efficient setting the ball and achieved 20 assists. Schieler had four blocks and Carrie Roske had 43 digs.
On Tuesday against the BOLD Warriors, here, Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta volleyball was humbled in three games. Schieler asserted herself in the losing cause with ten kills, plus this Tiger had three ace blocks.
Fall sports enthusiasm appears to be growing across the board!
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are these new football stadiums deluding us?

I have regularly shown some skepticism about the new generation of football stadiums for both the big-time as well as smaller programs.
I have recalled the one time I attended a game at the ballyhooed St. Cloud State Husky Stadium, and noted how SCSU's progression with its football venues has paralleled Morris'.
Morris has abandoned an intimate, neighborhood type of venue (Coombe Field) for a setting that just doesn't seem as inviting ("Big Cat"). St. Cloud State has gone from cozy Selke Field to an airy monstrosity located next to the opulent hockey arena.
And while we're at it, let's look at our venerated University of Minnesota. The U and its football fraternity, constantly groping for ways to escape mediocrity and then pleading like a crying infant for the remedy, have a new stadium to replace the Metrodome.
The Dome once replaced Memorial Stadium. I remember seeing a game at Memorial Stadium when Tony Dungy was the Gopher quarterback and Keith Fahnhorst was in the line. Cal Stoll was the coach.
I attended games at St. Cloud's Selke Field, even playing in the pep band a couple times, and joined in with that rather distinctive ebullience and zest for life associated with St. Cloud State students. Words can't fully describe.
And my association with Coombe Field here in Morris was long and deep.
Maybe it's time for a report card!
How have we come out after the building boom which was fed by the good economic times that now have to be referred to in the past tense? What did all that money buy us?
The U of M Gophers are in their second season at TCF Bank Stadium. Apparently going to a stadium that is named after a bank doesn't evoke particularly warm feelings. In its first year, a lack of student body support became the topic for a prominently displayed Star Tribune article. In its second year, we're learning most vividly that "The Bank" has done nothing to help the U's competitiveness.
The Gophers lost to University of South Dakota Saturday. The Star Tribune had the orgasmic pleasure of writing the headline "Coyote Ugly." (USD is the "Coyotes." Permit them to howl.)
Two years ago the Gophers lost to NDSU (the Bison). Last year they almost got clipped by SDSU (the Jackrabbits, a nickname I love).
Here, in the land of sky blue waters? I think the Minnesota legislature needs to step in.
Success cannot be guaranteed in the Big Ten because all those schools are big-time. Someone has to finish at the bottom, and there isn't necessarily a lot of shame associated with that.
But the U of M should not be losing in a showcase sport to these North and South Dakota schools.
I'll admit that I didn't give much thought to the Gophers Saturday until I heard the game's final score. It was 41-38 which means that it was a wild, sandlot type of game. There is no excuse for the Division I Gophers letting the USD offense run wild like that.
My limited interest or awareness was partly due to the fact that our family has a Mediacom TV arrangement, therefore there are limited Gophers events available for us to watch. After a while you naturally lose interest.
But the Gophers' fate on the playing field will always be something for us Minnesotans to monitor.
The governor and legislature need to start becoming hands-on. I have written in the past that U of M football might benefit if we could get an in-state Division I football rivalry going, and I have suggested St. Cloud State (my alma mater) as possibly the best candidate for that.
Whatever NDSU in Fargo can do, St. Cloud State has to be able to likewise do. St. Cloud State has its relatively new football stadium, which has potential for add-ons, and it's not hard to envision Division I football eventually taking root there.
But no! Not only does this scenario now seem distant, we have the St. Cloud State administration suggesting that this school might actually cut football! I was flabbergasted to learn of that. I wrote an entire blog post about this.
So, we have TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis giving virtually no infusion to the Gophers football program, and Husky Stadium in St. Cloud providing the backdrop for a football program that might actually get axed.
These new venues were not cheap to construct. What did they accomplish?
And what about our own Big Cat Stadium here in Morris? On Friday our high school team, the Tigers, played its first home game of 2010 there. The weather was horrible so we couldn't have expected much of a fan turnout. Sure enough it appeared very low.
Not only that, fans don't seem to be fond of sitting on those bleacher seats. The hardy ones who do come, seem to prefer standing, either at the front or higher up at the rear.
But there are rows upon rows of empty bleacher seats, even when the weather is favorable and more people come. If this is how people prefer watching football (i.e. standing), why are these stadiums designed the way they are?
In our increasingly obesity-conscious culture, why are we encouraging people to just come and sit and perhaps munch on concessions, as a gesture at the shrine of elite athletics, especially for a sport that may have a cloud hanging over it because of a sudden and increasing awareness of head injuries?
We saw the sport of boxing get practically marginalized by this. It's now considered almost barbaric by many.
Is football heading down the same road? We now learn that Lou Gehrig may not have died from Lou Gehrig's Disease. He had head trauma throughout his athletic career which included football, in an age when football was rougher than it is today.
UMM has a small college program at a relatively low tier in the collegiate football universe. Nothing wrong with that but I'm not sure we need the likes of Big Cat Field to showcase it, any more than the high school needs it.
The high school varsity has just three more regular season home games slated there. Home playoff games are never guaranteed, but this year's Tigers are in good position to get one. After that, Big Cat Field becomes a showcase for high school playoff teams that often travel a considerable distance to get here.
Maybe Morris can still demonstrate that it can bust its buttons over Big Cat Field. A good opportunity presents itself tomorrow (Friday) when rival Minnewaska comes here. Will we actually see those bleacher seats filled, or close to it? Will the weather cooperate?
And will the U of M Gophers decide they'd rather be in that Chilean mine than to make another appearance at their shiny new stadium, which maybe should be located in Vermilion, South Dakota?
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"What a tangled web we weave" indeed

Maybe we'll eventually see it: "Denny Hecker the Musical."
At some point you have to detach from the seriousness of that mess.
How many of us, in the back of our minds, see the endless headlines about the auto mogul's troubles and think about wheeler-dealers we've known. Certain people just have a talent for getting the best deal and cutting corners and stepping on toes in the process. They're unfazed. They can get by with it for years.
I suspect that many aren't even caught. As the soap opera involving Denny Hecker lingers on, I'm reminded of the "Gomer Pyle" TV episode in which Gomer (Jim Nabors) recites an old piece of folk wisdom, with conviction: "What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive."
How true, and it's good to be mindful of the wisdom here, but how could lawyers make a living if it weren't for this human failing? Lawyers are an important part of our economy so we shouldn't dismiss the Hecker types as if they're totally undesirable. Lawyers absolutely salivate over a situation like Hecker's. They take to it like a bear to honey (like the bear we had in Morris, remember?).
A whole lot of people in the wake of the Hecker trainwreck get drawn in and need legal representation too. As long as any material assets are in question or at stake, lawyers will buzz around this mess like flies around cow dung.
I have offered up the observation at the Morris McDonald's restaurant with the morning crowd (of philosophers) that everyone will lose interest in Hecker when he no longer has any money. Until then, his adventures will make the front page of the Star Tribune.
It's a glaring indictment of our system that Hecker was allowed to get so big in the first place. He joins the ranks of the Enron crowd and other weasels from the go-go years of our "mirage" economy, when squealing anchors on CNBC would announce that the magical Dow had jumped upward another 200 points. Or 400. Whatever. They might as well have done a "high five" too.
I never bought it. My old boss at the Morris newspaper, Jim Morrison, will affirm that I stayed skeptical through it all. I know too much about economics history and I was impressed by some very firm and prescient words from conservative columnist George Will.
Will, in the midst of the sugar-high bull market period, reminded us of a cornerstone of economic thought. Profits, he said, are really not that easy to come by. He reminded us in a most fundamental, sober way that a profit is achieved "when you can charge more for something than what it cost you to make it."
It's doable but it doesn't routinely push profits to dizzying heights. It's laughable that Enron became a household word, even getting a baseball stadium named after it (for a while). These days CNBC is regularly re-running the movie made about the fall of Enron and the folly of Enron: "Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room."
Ken Lay of Enron was a confidante of George W. Bush and was spoken of seriously as a candidate for Secretary of Energy. Today we look back at those guys as nothing more than clowns, a puzzling sideshow in the progression of history. Bush might put on the clown makeup too.
They say we shouldn't write off George's brother Jeb as presidential timber, because Jeb is "a lot smarter" than George W. Thanks a lot. Why couldn't we have gotten the smarter version in the first place?
A lot of the iconic figures of Wall Street's go-go years belong in a hall of infamy now. These people were setting an example for rank-and-file Americans who were pouring money into Wall Street with such things as 401K accounts. So let's restrain our laughter a little.
I remember when Forum Communications sent an HR person to encourage all of us knaves in the Forum's rank and file to sign up for a 401K. Yes, they were encouraging us, not just informing us, and toward that end the HR lady brought with her a VHS tape to play, with an entertainment sheen to it.
My goodness, the stock market "through history" has always gone up, so don't mind those little bumps in the road we come to now and then.
We were then given a form to fill out which we were supposed to return to her before she left. That gave us about ten minutes. All we had to do was check a box for what kind of investment fund we wanted to shape our retirement.
I needed more than ten minutes to write a typical newspaper article. There was a very unserious mood about it all.
"Don't worry about what box you check, you'll get rich!" is how I could have paraphrased what we were told.
I glanced at the Forum employee next to me and she checked the box for the fund with the highest historical rate of return. Naturally this was some dizzyingly high figure. How could you pass that up, what with the number right in front of your eyes? Most knaves even know that a higher rate of return equates with a greater amount of risk.
I wonder how that particular fund is doing all these years later, now that the market has cratered. The Dow reached 14,000 in the summer of 2007 but it hovers around 10,000 now. A lot of experts are predicting another serious downturn.
As I sat there as one of the Forum's knaves, pondering what box to check, I was reminded of something that Harvey Mackay once wrote. Mackay was once enlisted as a prospective investor in a new European football league. But he was put off when he attended a meeting where the approach just seemed too hard-sell.
Mackay was asked to declare in front of the group if he was interested. He instinctively rejected this psychological pressure, did a turnabout from his initial receptiveness and said "no," bluntly.
Mackay didn't like the approach.
I didn't like the approach when my then-employer approached us about 401Ks. The names of those funds were supposed to impress us so much. You can make up your own. How about "Adventure Fund?" Or "Enterpriser Fund?" Or "Sky's the Limit Fund."
And on and on. I have read that the typical 401K investment fund is actually mediocre. But how are us knaves supposed to know? We just check the box that excites us the most.
Just like we might have bought a car from Denny Hecker.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tigers dominate foe in wet home opener

The above photo shows the Tigers, wearing the black uniforms, playing offense during the 28-0 win over BOLD Friday at Big Cat Stadium. Photo by B.W.

Morris Area 28, BOLD 0
The Tiger faithful were a hardy lot Friday as their team made its 2010 home debut amidst rain. The intensity of the rainfall varied throughout the game. At times it stopped and at times there was an onslaught.
"Onslaught" also describes what the Morris Area football Tigers did, in the eyes of the visiting BOLD Warriors. BOLD looked pretty meek on this night. They in fact scored zero points while coach Jerry Witt's Tigers rolled up 28. It was a show that certainly compensated for any of the adversity caused by Mother Nature.
Yours truly arrived at the game at halftime and found it to be fun. This is the closest I've been to Tiger football since my career in the legacy media was winding down in 2005. - BW
It was a terrific spectacle at Big Cat Stadium Friday. I got to see a Tiger defense that was just as overpowering as what BOLD's "zero" on the scoreboard suggested.
BOLD was held to just 128 yards running the football and 14 yards in the air.
The Tigers scored in three of the four quarters. Eric Riley, who would be a special force all night, scored on a run from the two to begin the Morris Area scoring in quarter #1. Jordan Fletcher's toe was true for the conversion point. The tone was set for the evening as the heavens spelled "rain" (or mist).
Riley rolled up nearly 200 yards from scrimmage on the night. As a team the Tigers rolled up 306 rushing yards on 43 carries, in this 28-0 win. There were nine pass hookups good for 150 yards. A big chunk of that passing yardage came on a 75-yard scoring play that had Ryan Beyer throwing the football and Eric Riley catching. That big play came in the closing minutes of the first half.
The opening of the second half brought perhaps the most intense rain outburst for a while. But the orange and black faithful were unfazed. Their team had lost its season opener the week before, to a defending state champion. The Friday turnabout in fortunes against a historically stubborn BOLD program was truly savory. BOLD won the previous five meetings between these teams. The Warriors have become a more familiar foe since joining the WCC-South five years ago.
Let's review the four touchdowns that the Tigers scored Friday: Riley had his two-yard scoring scamper in the first quarter. Beyer tossed a 13-yard scoring pass to Mitch Kill in the second quarter, and later in the quarter we had that big 75-yard scoring pass from Beyer to Riley. The last TD came in the third quarter and featured a Beyer pass to Brady Valnes covering three yards.
Fletcher kicked successfully after each of the four scores.
Riley set the pace running the football with his 120 yards on the night, and Tyler Hansen came up just shy of a hundred yards. Tyler's 17 carries netted him 93 yards. Tim Ostby was handed the football six times and this Tiger accelerated for 54 yards.
Fletcher wasn't just a kicking specialist on this night, and his ballcarrying work produced 23 yards on two carries. Three other Tigers each had one carry: Tom Holland (10 yards), Ethan Bruer (three yards) and Cody Hickman (two yards).
Beyer was efficient with his throwing arm, tossing eight completions in 13 attempts for 140 yards. Mitch Kill completed his only attempt for ten yards. The MAHS passing offense was interception-free.
Two Tigers had multiple pass receptions: Ethan Bruer (three catches, 18 yards) and Mitch Kill (two for 41 yards). These Tigers had one catch each: Eric Riley (75 yards), Tyler Hansen (three yards), Tim Ostby (ten yards) and Brady Valnes (three yards).
Hansen and Beyer did the Tigers' punting.
These Tiger defenders achieved quarterback sacks: Tyler Moser, Cody Hickman and Tim Ostby.
Other Friday pigskin action included Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City steamrolling LP-GE 56-0, and Lac qui Parle Valley edging Montevideo in a 16-13 final.

Next: home game vs. Minnewaska Lakers
Odds are we won't see another deluge from the heavens this coming Friday, when another home game is set. Rival Minnewaska Area is coming! Game-time is 7 p.m. at Big Cat.
The Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta volleyball Tigers had mixed fortunes this past week, winning Tuesday over Paynesville 3-0, then getting edged Thursday by Benson, 3-2.
Get in the groove with Tiger spirit for 2010-11!
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Goalpost incident was day of infamy here

I suspect it has been a while since anyone wrote anything for the public record about the goalpost incident. No one wants to dwell on something this unfortunate. But it needn't be swept under the rug either.
The University of Minnesota-Morris student who died in the incident deserves to be remembered, for one thing. I'm sure many Morrissites can remember where they were and how they reacted when they learned of that very public tragedy (if they weren't part of the crowd).
It was Homecoming weekend amidst a perfectly fine fall weekend. I was at the UMM Homecoming football game for the first half but wasn't present for the second, thus I didn't see the incident. I'm rather glad I didn't. I suspect that the fans who were there feel haunted by it.
In the days that immediately followed, it was hard to get people to open up about it. I had to try because I was in the news media. I ended up quoting from an ESPN2 web article, which had a pretty decent account from a UMM student fan. It was hard to come out a winner when your task was to write about it. And my journalism was not taken in stride by all.
My awareness of the incident began when I was dining at the Morris Pizza Hut restaurant that evening. I began hearing "buzz" from a nearby table about something disturbing that happened at the game. Some UMM students were seated at that table. One of them called a friend who was out and about and that friend came and joined them. They all then began sharing what they knew up to that point. They were not yet aware that someone had died, only that someone was badly hurt.
As a journalist, I was always prepared to get blindsided by something or to expect the worst sometimes. But I wasn't prepared for any of this. I had made my rounds that day surrounded by a pretty happy atmosphere.
Usually the biggest worry felt by college administration for Homecoming weekend is an excessive air of celebration, but not in the context of someone getting killed on campus. An instant pall was cast on everything. The fact that UMM achieved one of its rare football wins (for that era) was rendered meaningless.
My alleged sin was to quote from an eyewitness account that included someone running with a hammer toward the scene of it all. Since this was a property destruction incident, I'm not sure that a hammer really should have been so eye-opening. It was really just a side note.
Maybe the people who chose to criticize me were looking for a red herring type of issue. I suppose the real issue had to do with oversight and control. Several weeks later I finally got to see videotape of the incident on the KSTP evening news. The whole scene looked even worse than what I envisioned.
The person who started the criticism of me also criticized others in the media who used the word "mob." But in watching the video, I felt that a reasonable person might well conclude that this was a "mob."
UMM's chancellor at the time, Sam Schuman, would later say that he wished he had personally gone down to the scene to tell the students to knock it off. Maybe they would have listened, he said.
When someone dies, everyone can think of regrets. Maybe I should have just overlooked the incident from my journalistic perch. Chalk it up to discretion.
If I remember correctly, the game summary information wasn't posted on UMM's website in time for me to use it. Perhaps that's no coincidence. Maybe everyone was told to just scatter. Maybe that's why I got a ton of phone calls at the newspaper office through the rest of the weekend, leaving me feeling monumentally exasperated. I got two calls on Sunday alone from NBC's Today Show. Imagine, here in Mayberry.
Maybe I should have gone out hunting for whatever game was in season (pheasants, whatever), except I'm not a hunter. So there I was at the newspaper office feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. And yet, when the criticism of my work came forth, one of my alleged shortcomings was "lazy journalism." Lazy journalism!
I would have liked someone making that assertion to follow me around in a typical week. But emotions were getting the best of people at that time of squirming, shame and regrets. We can probably be thankful that cellphone cameras hadn't quite come on the scene yet, because if they had, photos of the tragedy might have gotten into the grubby hands of those sensationalist national media people.
KSTP didn't get the video until the initial shock of the story wore off. By then the national media would have judged the story too stale to pile on further. Those national media people - they're animals, or "jackals" in the eyes of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.
I'm sure there are certain people who will laugh at me for saying this, but the goalpost incident might have had something to do with my eventual exit from the media and my employment. Newspaper executives don't like controversy. Executives at Forum Communications, a many-tentacled newspaper empire that includes the Morris and Hancock papers, are a restrained group that scrutinizes profit figures.
In my opinion, they're well aware of the shrinking state of the newspaper industry and are trying to extract as much revenue from legacy customers as they can, before everything just falls over a waterfall.
Right now they're negotiating dangerous rapids. I expect that the Forum braintrust is none too happy with what their editorial writer in Grand Forks (the Herald) did recently. Not only was that writer criticizing a Minnesota politician in oddball fashion, he was criticizing a Republican. The Forum has great affinity with the Republican Party.
Writer Tom Dennis likened Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tom Emmer - are you ready for this? - to a spokesman for the late toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
It was probably one of those impulsive things that made sense to the writer at the time. I often worked under oppressive deadline pressure, which is one of the reasons why I now like the new media so much. We write when we feel like it, when we're ready, about things we want to write about, and we can always revise and delete as we wish. I almost have to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming.
I'm not dreaming but I am unemployed. I haven't even had health insurance for four years. Things are getting tough out there. It's a scary situation I'm in, and one that makes me feel isolated. But I was turning into a zombie trying to survive in a profession in which I already had 26 years logged.
I once read that 2005 was the peak year for newspapers gleaning ad revenue. I left in 2006. I imagine the crisis signs in the business were beginning to appear. Today it's obvious that the new media world has such overwhelming advantages over the legacy system, it's perplexing that we even see newspapers around anymore.
The final nail in the coffin might be when the U.S. Postal Service finally comes under the kind of sharp austerity measures that are clearly called for. The government shouldn't continue subsidizing a system that increasingly just thrusts things like credit card offers or advertising circulars in our face.
Someday we'll look back and be surprised at how we put up with it, just like we wrinkle up our forehead when remembering that cigarette smoke once made the air turn blue at places like DeToy's Restaurant in Morris. DeToy's is now in the business of serving good food to hungry people. It's not a hangout.
Someday soon we'll all be relying on online resources for finding out what's happening in the Morris area. No ink on your fingers. No more waiting a week and a half - ridiculous - to see some paragraphs of coverage about something that could have been covered within 24 hours.
The old system should be given a ceremonial boot.
The goalpost incident was a horrible thing that never should have happened. It happened in part because the game that day was the last to be played at UMM's old field, a perfectly good field for enjoying small college football.
Now we have Big Cat Stadium which is shared by the college and high school. I have opined before, that the stadium is working out better for the college than the high school. We'll see how the attendance patterns develop this year.
The student who lost his life in the goalpost incident was Rick Rose, who came to us from the Pacific Northwest. We should never forget him. It's hardly a silver lining, but let's keep in mind that more than one student could have been seriously hurt or killed in the incident.
And heck, even I could have gotten hurt if I had not been such a "lazy journalist" and if I had been out there, with camera, jockeying to get in position to take photos of the students who were climbing all over the goalposts, causing them to wobble before finally they crashed down.
These were not the kind of goalposts that you just "take down." I could make an analogy with the world of comedy and how you deliver a pie to the face. You don't do it with just any pie. You don't do it with a real pie. Vaudevillians developed this craft and they used whipped cream and cardboard.
The UMM goalposts were permanent fixtures that were not meant to be recklessly pulled down. Collapsible posts made of lightweight material might be OK, but in today's litigious world, let's just forget it.
The UMM goalpost incident was a true day of infamy for Morris. The weekend became ugly for me and I'll never forget it. It may be that the wheels were put in motion for my eventual exit from my profession.
I know, you're probably thinking "big deal." But it's my life and it's important to me. I can only take one day at a time now.
Rick Rose, RIP.
Good luck to the UMM football team? I really don't care that much. Maybe we should spare our youth the head injuries that come with football. Maybe we should spare the young fans the expectation that they ought to get lubricated on game day with alcohol. What a primitive set of customs.
Maybe we'll see it all fade just like that "blue" air at restaurants.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We need a cartoonist's incisiveness

I'm not quite sure how the craft of cartooning is going to make the shift from print to online. Lots of cartoons can be accessed over the Internet, because after all, what can't be accessed over the Internet? But I suspect that the vast majority of this material is conceived for print.
Cartoons were a wonderful vehicle for the ink-on-paper media. A cartoon can make a strong point or bring a laugh (or smile) without commanding more than a moment of the reader's attention.
I noticed this power a long time ago. I had the privilege of producing a cartoon for the St. Cloud State University Chronicle over the last half of my senior year. It was clearly inspired by Doonesbury, as much as the Monkees were inspired by the Beatles.
Doonesbury grew directly out of the youth counterculture of the late 1960s and early '70s. It exists today but I'm tempted to refer to it in the past tense. Well, I think even Paul Revere and the Raiders are still on tour.
Doonesbury carried the banner, ideologically, for what most young people were asserting at that time. I wouldn't need to re-hash the issues (but watch me, I will).
I wish I could say what Doonesbury stands for today. I remember a few years ago that the strip apparently got controversial about something, and someone asked why there wasn't more of a tempest about it. A letter writer to the print media explained why: "I don't read it anymore."
Zonker the hippie had his day. The issues of that day got addressed in large part. Richard Nixon left office and we learned that presidents were disposable. It just seemed as if Nixon had been around forever (eight years as Ike's VP, for one thing).
We all moved on and I'd argue that a lot of us lost that grasp of ideals, almost unknowingly. Today a lot of us fat and content boomers sit back and sort of passively accept what the U.S. is doing militarily around the world. We realize we maybe ought to have some reservations, but we don't want to work too hard thinking about it.
Rocking the boat today isn't as acceptable as it once was. Questioning the TARP legislation is something we would have readily, probably vociferously, done when young. We are way too quick to defer to the corporate world about everything. How would a young Garry Trudeau have guided us in our more idealistic thinking? How would he have reminded us of the primacy of human values?
You might need reminding that the Doonesbury cartoon was very raw when it began. All cartoonists have shown evolution with how they draw their characters, and Trudeau's work most definitely has made leaps in this regard. His raw, seminal work spoke for a new generation and a new, unbridled way of looking at the world. It jumped out at you.
There were all sorts of lines that previous generations wouldn't cross. Your personal appearance fell in that category too. I'm reminded of a Minnesota Twins yearbook at that time - is the "yearbook" still a big deal in this age of new media? - that had the usual page headlined "They cover the Twins." Ah, the press page! We saw mugs of a lot of the established press people looking so clean cut, with their ties fixed just right at the base of their necks.
And then we saw. . .Joe Soucheray! Yes, you might not suspect it now, because "Sooch" seems quite the mainstream guy today, but at least in terms of appearance he came off as a hippie. He jumped off the page at you. We were reminded that times were a-changin'.
The people who would say "that's disgusting" were eventually drowned out. Sports owners realized pretty quick, I think, that marketing their product would require some generational adjustments.
Ka-ching! Eventually that's what the owners respect. So we finally got rock and pop music played at the old Metropolitan Stadium when we still had the "old guard" ownership led by Calvin Griffith.
Oh, Calvin - RIP - what a throwback you were. You perhaps personified everything that those boomers found objectionable in our culture. But we loved you anyway. Those rebellious, restless boomers eventually went out and bought copies of Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation." The tome was an unhesitating salute to a generation that we once felt was overly preoccupied by money and too indifferent about the Viet Nam War and civil rights. Ah, but the war ended, the dragon of inflation was finally slayed (because in economics there are ways of doing this if you really want to), and ol' Tricky Dick got his butt kicked out of office. Jim Crow was sent on retreat in the South.
Not even the passage of time (typically a strong remedy) can help us feel better about Nixon. When the Star Tribune's Colin Covert reviewed the movie "Frost Nixon," a big reason why he scored the movie down was that he felt it made Nixon too likable. I would guess that Colin is about the same age as me. Good movies are supposed to show that curious mix of good and bad that is in all of us. With Nixon the scale was tipped too much in one direction.
The Republican Party talking points about Nixon today are that he was "a sick man" at the end of his presidency. But his sickness didn't keep him from writing several books after he left.
Did he just drink too much? It wouldn't have been surprising, given the generation he was a member of. Calvin Griffith was known to be fond of the cocktail hour. But Calvin just owned a sports team, he didn't command the military of the strongest nation on earth.
I learned from a memoir type of book by Bob Schieffer (CBS News) that Nixon actually wasn't the commander at the end. He was seen as so imbalanced, he couldn't carry that mantle anymore. If I remember correctly, Shieffer wrote that any attempted commands by Nixon to military leaders around the world would have to be relayed to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
I wonder how many readers really realized how significant this was. In effect we had a "coup" but of course it was a benevolent one. Coups are extremely dangerous anyway, because, what if it morphed into something not so benevolent? In case you need a refresher, coups happen because no one can stand up to the military's power. A system must be in place to ensure that the military acts with total respect for civilian authority.
The problem with the military today is that there isn't enough shared sacrifice on the part of Americans. We aren't adequately sensitive to the toll of conflict we're exacting in our military adventures abroad.
That toll, including a large number of American lives lost, needs more scrutiny in our political discourse. We were too indifferent about George W. Bush's insistence on a visceral response to what happened on 9/11.
Our current Afghanistan campaign is a continuation of that. All these years later, and our deficit crisis is growing to scary proportions largely because we're sitting on our hands just like we accused the older generation of doing when we were young and grooving on "Doonesbury."
The selective service was a huge factor in getting the boomers to foment almost total revolution in that bygone era. It got to the point where National Guardsmen were shooting and killing college students in the U.S. The U.S. incursion into Cambodia enraged the youth so much, colleges cancelled graduation ceremonies because of the potential for violence.
"Doonesbury" led the charge in promoting a clearer view of the issues at that time. The power of cartooning was never more evident. Today Mr. Trudeau continues his craft in what I would call vestigial form.
I imagine he's making fully valid points, but it's just not getting people's attention anymore.
And Paul Revere and the Raiders are probably still doing "Kicks."
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, September 4, 2010

MAHS boys strike first but bow at NL-Spicer

The curtain came up for a new season of prep football for Morris Area Friday. The Tigers were on the road to play New London-Spicer. It was a monumental assignment for coach Jerry Witt's gridders as NL-Spicer is the defending state champion in Class AAA.
NL-Spicer boys athletics also garnered No. 1 in boys basketball last winter. A key player from that basketball campaign, Jayme Moten (remembered in large part for his frequent smile), is calling the signals for the Wildcat gridders this fall.
The Tigers did fairly well holding down Moten's contributions Friday, but it was not a winning night for the Witt crew. The Tigers were defeated 20-14.
The early stages did look promising for the Tigers. It was the orange and black crew getting on the scoreboard first with a big play pass. Ryan Beyer was on the throwing end and Cody Cannon did the catching. The referee signaled "touchdown" on this 37-yard play that came in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
Moten finished the night just five of 16 passing with two interceptions, but he got excellent mileage on his completions. Like when he connected with Tanner Tobkin for his own 37-yard TD pass, answering the Tigers' initial score.
NL-Spicer fans expected the score to be tied at this point, but the extra point try went awry.
The Tigers entered halftime clinging to a 7-6 lead.
Would it hold? It did through the pretty uneventful third quarter, a quarter that saw no further scoring by either team.
The game's complexion got more interesting in the fourth. Moten scampered into the end zone from one yard out. The Wildcats opened up some breathing room on the scoreboard thanks to a 55-yard scoring run by Ronnie Johnson.
The Wildcats would need those points because the Tigers' Tyler Hansen reached the end zone on a seven-yard scamper with about eight minutes remaining. Jordan Fletcher kicked for the extra point as he had done after the Tigers' first score. But there would be no further scoring on the night by Morris Area, and the valiant upset bid came up short.
Still, the orange and black fans who made the trip for season opener night could feel heartened by what they saw.
Beyer finished the night with passing numbers quite similar to Moten's. In other words, the completion percentage was low but the yards per completion figure was high. In Beyer's case the numbers were five-for-15 for 111 yards and one interception.
Ethan Bruer hauled in three of those passes for 62 yards. Cannon had just the one catch but it was that long TD. Brady Valnes had a nifty 12-yard pass reception.
Tyler Hansen got the bulk of the work carrying the football. Tyler gained 78 yards in workmanlike fashion, on 19 carries. Eric Riley and Beyer each had eight carries of the football with Riley picking up 25 yards and Beyer 35. The running game was rounded out by Cody Hickman and Ethan Bruer.
Defensive highlights were turned in by Bruer and Tim Ostby each with an interception.
The NL-Spicer running attack was spurred by Ronnie Johnson with eleven carries for 86 yards. Tobkin led in receptions with five, good for 37 yards.
Shawn Hatlestad had an interception for the Wildcats, and Dalton Lindstrand recovered a fumble.

Next: the home opener!
Morris Area football is set for its home opener which will be this coming Friday, Sept. 10, against the BOLD Warriors. Game-time is 7 p.m. and Big Cat Stadium is sure to be abuzz. Will the pep band play?
The volleyball Tigers were also on the road for their season opener last week. The Tigers visited Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley Thursday and were in sweep victory form. They took three straight with scores of 25-12, 25-18 and 25-22.
Cross country debuted with the big annual home invitational last Monday, and tennis has been in action for some time (as it's an annual early-bird fall sport).
Keep your eye on the calendar to be aware of when the Tigers can be enjoyed at the home venues!
Lots of excitement is in store.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beck and his crowd are a regressive voice

It is a testament to Glenn Beck that he can build such a large following even in this age of tremendously fragmented media. I could describe Beck as a media creation. But it's not as if he was just propped up by the media. It's not as if his "handlers" or agent are responsible for how he has broken through.
All evidence suggests that Beck has pulled the strings himself. I would describe him as savvy rather than intelligent. Intelligent people don't oversimplify issues the way Beck does. But he is truly savvy in recognizing his target audience and reaching them in huge numbers.
It doesn't seem that long ago when Beck had a rather obscure half-hour show on the Headline News Network. He seemed reined-in at that stage of his career.
Any shackles were taken off when he burst onto Fox News. He joined the menagerie of driven, conservative, passionate on-air people who view people left-of-center (politically) as if they had some disgusting disease. They carpet-bomb "liberals" incessantly.
Fox News has found a huge audience of people who scare easily. These people are scared of the complicated new world we're in, a world of cultures, ethnic groups and lifestyle choices that represent a crazy quilt. But it's the Fox News people who seem to be truly crazy. They have become a vehicle for the "tea party." Indeed, where would the tea party be without Fox News?
These people are making noise now but they're on the losing side. The crowd for Barack Obama's inauguration was far more representative of today's America than the "Restoring Honor" rally overseen by Beck a week ago.
Beck's people want to "restore" an Ozzie and Harriet America. Of course, there was a lot of misery back then that stayed in the background. All of the convulsions that we saw in the 1960s were really there in the 1950s only they were below the surface.
I once read that the celebrated boomer generation, which for better or worse I represent, pushed the counterculture and the new left, and while the former has survived quite fine - flourished in fact - the latter has not. Boomers have found merit in conservative economics. A fair number of them have gotten on board with the "tea party."
Beck was able to put together quite a massive show in the nation's capital.
Estimating crowd size can be a terrible headache for journalists, as former Star Tribune ombudsman Lou Gelfand used to point out from time to time. Journalists knew that any pooh-poohing of the crowd size number for Beck would get them shot out of the saddle by that reactionary crowd. So they seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt in this regard. Let's just say it was a large crowd.
But, representative of America? Not really. The true strength of this crowd will be tested in the fall when Rand Paul, Sharron Angle and Joe Miller (hard-core righties) go in front of the voters. Another litmus test will be Michele Bachmann's reelection bid here in Minnesota.
Tarryl Clark has come forward as a sane and reasonable candidate to challenge the wild-eyed and zealous Bachmann, who has become an embarrassment to our state regardless of her political stripes.
Tarryl is from my old haunts of St. Cloud so I feel special affinity with her. She's also a more attractive woman than Bachmann. (That's not a pertinent angle but I'm exercising my First Amendment right.)
Bachmann and the tea party are pushing the Republican Party to the right. Establishment Republicans are growing nervous about this. Generic (i.e. non-crazed) Republicans would appear to have a major opportunity for gains this fall. Will they be derailed by the Fox News crowd and the likes of Paul, Angle and Miller?
Remember, Fox News is entertainment and follows the values of the entertainment world. They aren't after what's right or what's virtuous. They're after eyeballs to please sponsors. The sponsors want an audience paying close attention.
Even though the tea partiers are but a narrow slice of the real America, they are vigilant about trying to protect their particular vision of America, i.e. "Ozzie and Harriet" (or "Father Knows Best").
Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally was supposed to be non-political. I suppose, then, that it was religious. Frankly I'm not sure what it was other than regressive. It was regressive in the same way that the Confederacy dissented in vain from a burgeoning America in the mid-19th Century.
I also can't help but see a parallel with the people now leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA knows what it is doing. It is moving toward greater inclusiveness with the kind of attitude that is just taken for granted by today's young generation. The ELCA has found it appropriate to strip some male references in church literature. Why this would be a huge deal to anyone is beyond me.
The U.S. Constitution is supposed to be the "final word" too, but it says nothing about having an air force.
People make reasonable adaptations through time. Good grief, there was a time when women couldn't vote in the USA. And when black people were considered property.
Why can't the rebels from the ELCA just cool it a little? It's hard enough to get a lot of people to come to church today.
The established Lutheran churches of Morris need support. But we have here in this usually-temperate town a movement reflecting those "rebel" sentiments, represented by that new church that will be located just to the north of town. The building will be literally moved from its current location, south of Alberta, to here.
I'll call these people traditionalists rather than rebels. We are, after all, a temperate community.
Some big bucks are needed to make this new church a reality. I wonder how those dollars could have been better used to benefit our community. Like through supporting our established churches.
The new church will be close to Cimaroc Kennels, so a friend of mine is now calling this new church "the dog kennel church." I can't get that term out of my mind now!
I'm also reminded of a slightly modified popular phrase: "Dog is my co-pilot." I trust dogs far more than tea partiers and their socially conservative credo.
ELCA spokesman John Brooks has said "We reach out to other Christians in the spirit of understanding, reconciliation and unity."
The whole Beck crowd ought to take those words to heart.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com