"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)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Schmidgall's 23 points fuels Hancock win

The Hancock girls sprang onto the court at West Central Area (Barrett) Thursday and achieved win No. 7. The Owls closed out the 2010 phase of the schedule with a 56-43 win.
They were in control at halftime, owning a 27-14 lead over the Knights. The second half was a 29-29 standoff.
West Central Area began this season with five straight wins so they have a quite proven attack.
Hancock's success was despite some sputtering in long-range shooting. Just one of nine three-point tries went down, and this was by Shae Brown.
Jen Froemming was a force for the host Knights and she poured in 20 points. Kendra Schmidgall of the Owls outdid that, recording 23 points to pace the Owls. She set the pace in rebounds too with her ten.
Courtney Greiner was in double figures form shooting, as she posted 14 points. Courtney also grabbed eight rebounds. Olivia Koehl added six points to the mix.
Brown and Serandon Bigalke each scored five points and Sami Schmidgall put in three.
Bigalke led in assists with seven followed by Brown with four. Greiner was the steal leader with five and she was followed by Schmidgall and Brown each with four.
Schmidgall blocked four shots.
The Owls were 20 of 51 in total field goals. Their rebound total was 36 and they committed 13 fouls.
The Knights' Froemming is a senior guard. The 20 points by this diminutive (five feet-six) athlete made her the only double figures scorer among the Knights. She made the only WCA three-pointer.
Danna Sabolik scored six points for the Knights. Shawna Jenson and Abby Peterson each scored five. Kelsey Hammer scored three, and Hilary Lindor and Tianna Christensen two each.
The Owls came out of Thursday's action at 7-1 and the Knights at 5-2.
Click on the link below to reach the Hancock girls schedule page on Pheasant Country Sports:

Click on the link below to read some highlights of the Owls' first six wins:

Let's get into 2012! Tuesday, 1/3, action will have coach Jodi Holleman's high-flying crew visiting Dawson-Boyd (to play the Blackjacks, one of my favorite team nicknames).
Then on Monday, 1/9, more road action is presented as the Owls will visit MACCRAY.
The Owls will bound onto their comfortable home court on Friday, Jan. 13, to face the Trojans of Ortonville.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sensenbrenner would rankle Mrs. Santa

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-WI
Now that Santa Claus is back at the North Pole we can get ready to celebrate New Year's Eve.
We used to call Santa a fat man but that was when more of us were slim ourselves. Carrying some extra pounds seems to bring no notice today.
The irony is that we've seen fitness clubs spring up in many places. Evidently keeping slim used to come naturally whereas today it takes a concerted effort.
Many people of course have given up. And very few people seem to care about those excesses. It's much rarer today to hear an offhand comment about someone being "heavy-set" or "fat."
So let's just call Santa jovial. Actually that's part of the old stereotype: "Fat people are jolly."
Jim Bouton wrote in "Ball Four" that the players of his era had a nickname for Harmon Killebrew: "The Fat Kid."
Harmon was really pretty athletic. He didn't have a stomach that "jiggled." Players of his era apparently weren't into steroids yet. Can you imagine how Harmon could have performed on such substances?
Can you imagine what the sports medicine knowledge of today could do for Killebrew and Tony Oliva, prolonging their careers? We can close our eyes and imagine "Tony O." hitting stinging liners all over the place.
Harmon Killebrew, a.k.a. "The Fat Kid" left us this past year.
Harmon wasn't really fat. Fat players wouldn't be able to play in the infield, and Harmon spent much time there. Yes, he played first base which is sometimes where less-athletic players are parked. But Harmon also played many games at third base. You can't be a slouch athletically and play third.
Harmon was a natural athlete who could "make the plays." To the extent he was considered less-than-average defensively, I'm sure it was due to mobility issues. No one ever called him svelte.
Remember how we used to say some men had a "beer belly?" That was just fat. It was protruding. We'd chuckle of course. Seriously it wasn't healthy. I needn't refer to it in the past tense, but today our alcohol-related terminology has diminished.
"Booze" is a shadow of its former self. The harshness of DWI penalties has pretty much taken care of that.
So if descriptions like "The Fat Kid" and "beer belly" have faded, to what extent do we still acknowledge some people as being, well, "weight challenged?" (Yes, that would be the proper term today.)
Jim Sensenbrenner has given us a window into the old way of looking at things. He's totally anachronistic. He may even be racist. I don't use foul language on this site but if ever I was inclined to describe someone in such terms, this would be the occasion.
Let's just say this "jerk" (or "total jerk") described the First Lady of the U.S. in terms that might normally come from junior high-age boys. He's a Republican. That's no coincidence, is it?
A little research shows he's a 17-term Congressman. Maybe he's brain-dead from having been in government so long. Any other theories on how he'd become so brain-dead?
I guarantee you that women everywhere, even the zany tea partiers, are going to be offended by how Sensenbrenner constructs his words. Someone needs to talk some sense into ol' Sensenbrenner. Probably a futile proposition now.
This "lifer" in politics decided he didn't like Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiative. Such an initiative appears very timely and helpful given the state of so many bodies around us. The idea that government can have a guiding hand shouldn't be concerning.
The initiative has everything to do with better health.
We don't make judgments that equate excess weight with looking bad or un-sexy, whatever. There is much to be said for injecting some extra discipline into our eating habits. We are surrounded with too many eating and drinking distractions. You might say it's a nice problem considering those parts of the world where basic nutrition can be elusive.
But we are abusing our luxury. Many of us will make resolutions after New Year's to achieve that discipline. I will be among them.
The First Lady is especially concerned about a trend toward obesity in children. Fortunately when you're a kid it's easier to make changes in your life.
We seem to have conquered excesses with alcohol consumption in our society, with some exceptions of course. Drunk people are no longer "funny." This turnabout has come over a relatively short time. Dramatic changes can indeed be achieved.
The First Lady might be remembered as the main catalyst for the changes we need in diet and health. I feel strongly that it can all be achieved without "fitness clubs" at all. It's remarkable common sense to just eat sensibly. "Graze" on fruits and vegetables. Drink water.
Do Republicans really want people to be unhealthy? They certainly don't seem to want anyone in government to lead with inspiration.
Congressman Sensenbrenner, who seemed to want nothing to do with the First Lady's objectives, couldn't just make civil and constructive comments. Remember, he's a Republican. He doesn't even have the excuse of being from the Deep South. If he were from the Deep South we could dismiss him having the intelligence of a zombie.
But he is from Wisconsin which has become a strange political flashpoint. The state veered loony-conservative and is now having spasms of apparent buyer's remorse. Had we in Minnesota elected Tom Emmer, we might be going through the same thing.
Conservative rhetoric was powerful in 2010, almost mesmerizing. But now we're seeing the exact effects of when the righties get elected.
The rhetoric by itself was innocuous. It "sells" with a lot of people. We don't like government, right? Oh, but we do. We want stuff from government. And we want our national leaders to set examples with commitment to virtue and health. The Obamas have been doing exactly that.
There was nothing innocuous about what Sensenbrenner said. Showing a nice Republican flourish, this fossil conservative said something that will have him associated with infamy in the minds of women everywhere, guaranteed.
He said of the First Lady that "she has a big butt." (I waited 'til the end to type that.)
What would Mrs. Santa say?
So Republican, so ignorant.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Should we ever hope Vikings lose?

Andrew Luck might be the reason the NFL could start a draft lottery like we've had in the NBA.
Us Vikings fans had a "twilight zone" kind of experience Friday evening and Saturday morning (Christmas weekend).
As we consumed the sports media, we were bombarded with messages that seemed to imply rather strongly we should hope for our team to lose.
I wasn't surprised the subject was brought up. I just expected it to be somewhat understated. It just seems "not in good form" to watch a pro sports event and want your favorite team to lose.
You might say it's a bad habit.
Maybe we ought to lose big two years in a row so we could really stock up on franchise players.
All my references here, of course, are to the draft. The draft is designed to promote competitive balance. A "draft order" is established that rewards the most win-deprived teams.
In theory this ought to prop up the losing teams and keep the winning ones from becoming dynastic. A new or young fan might be fooled into thinking this all makes sense. As a young fan I enjoyed doing my "draft homework" and watching which key players ended up where.
I'm no longer like that. It didn't take long to realize the celebrated NFL draft, which is marketed as a big event unto itself, is a crapshoot.
So, Vikings fans, if you really think it's vital to cheer for those losses, forget it. NFL history is filled with draft busts, along with free agents who become Pro Bowlers.
Many fans agree with me on this. What really irritates me was the drumbeat of suggestions emanating from the media as we approached this past weekend, so draft-focused and so discouraging as to suggest one's favorite team ought to lose.
John Lennon once said "life is what happens while you're making other plans."
How appropriate. If the Vikings can win here in the present, it should be totally gratifying to their fans.
When your team wins, it shows tools and attributes that can be ongoing. They can be parlayed into the future, as we watch a number of unheralded players slowly mesh into a successful unit.
Listening to that siren song of the draft, as if one mega-name prospect can come in and produce wins, is folly. It's so easy for neophyte fans to overlook this. Winning is about meshing a number of attributes and developing savvy and deception to beat opponents.
It's very hard to size up prospects in college, to truly know if they have the necessary tools. We can listen to the siren song of Andrew Luck. The Stanford quarterback looks to be the No. 1 pick in the next draft. There is no assurance he can transform a team.
He might be a good pick but it might be better to have two or three first round picks further down. Of course we can't possibly know. So for crying out loud, let's quite being fixated on the draft. Just take the picks you get and do your best with them. It's more important to have a good overall system.
We certainly learned that as we watched the Detroit Lions languish for a number of years. I have warned in previous posts that the Vikings could fall into this losing pattern too. If it can happen in Detroit it can happen here.
I'd like to be a fly on the wall at top NFL executive offices now. I'd be surprised if they aren't talking about a draft "lottery" like we've seen in basketball. Basketball recognized years ago that it was a disease for so many fans to have their eye on the loss column.
There was more urgency felt in basketball and for a reason: There are only five players on the floor for a team. One player can really take over with superstar talents.
The NBA team with the worst record is not guaranteed the first pick. The lottery injects chance (unless you're a conspiracy theorist and think the big-market teams are favored).
The lottery still doesn't solve everything. A team that knows it isn't going to win the title might be tempted to fade in order to get into the lottery. We just have to hope that doesn't happen.
The NFL's worst team gets the prize of selecting whoever is the anointed top prospect. The media seem to have a big say in that. Andrew Luck is their 2012 choice.
The NFL is a totally quarterback-driven league today so it's logical that a prolific thrower like Luck be so anointed.
The NFL needs a lottery. So important is the quarterback position today, fans and the media salivate over a chance to acquire someone whose talents seem to almost suggest comic book superhero status.
Whether legitimate or not - it's not - such a distraction and fixation on something other than winning is unhealthy for the league. It's unhealthy for us fans. And a few lashes for some choice media people might be in order too (verbal lashes).
I was first taken aback Friday night (12/23) by the KARE-Channel 11 newscast. Their "teasers" right at the start got the ball rolling: It was implied we should want the Vikings to lose so we have a shot at drafting Luck.
The point was made too nakedly. There ought to be more subtlety.
There ought to be a mere suggestion that maybe it would be nice for the Vikings to win. How bizarre if we conclude otherwise. Is this the twilight zone?
The league needs to move on this, to take action, ensuring that a team's fans can feel totally natural rooting for their team.
I'm a boomer-age fan so I remember well the "purple people" phase of the team's storied history. I think it's accurate to say the first big draft bust we remember for the Vikes was someone named Leo Hayden. He was a runningback from Ohio State, right?
Later we would get a similar runningback failure: Jarvis Redwine, particularly heartbreaking because what a neat name he had!
Redwine even came from the "football factory" of Nebraska. He was used to playing at a high level. Actually as I reflect on Hayden and Redwine, I'm not sure either one got a good enough chance to prove himself. But they were retired to the dustbin of NFL draft disappointments, just like wide receiver Mardye McDole.
Packer fans will remember Tony Mandarich (even if they don't want to).
Mandarich is the best support possible for the old saying: "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is."
Top quarterback prospects are far from a lock. Consider Joey Harrington (Lions), JaMarcus Russell (Raiders), Ryan Leaf (Chargers) and Akili Smith (Bengals). Added to the problem is the fact the top prospects are in most instances expected to have immediate impact. Aaron Rodgers got a chance to be understudy and look where he is today: the best.
This mania of the draft being some sort of panacea or fix-all has got to stop. I'd expect better of Chip Scoggins, columnist for the Star Tribune, who fed the mania Saturday. Scoggins advised in the headline "don't be too big to fail."
I'm surprised how over the edge ol' Chipper went. He must realize he has competition these days in 1500 ESPN. The 1500 ESPN website, where Tom Pelissero supplies the best Minnesota Vikings analysis available, is becoming a full-fledged reason to not even buy the Star Tribune.
I might not have read the paper Saturday except it was Christmas Eve Day and my usual companions at the Morris McDonald's restaurant didn't show up. I grabbed parts of the house paper, sharing with other "scavengers" like me.
I read Scoggins proclaim in his second paragraph that "the Vikings are very much alive in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes."
They'll stay alive, Chip wrote, "if they can only stink a little bit longer."
How about some nuances, Mr. Scoggins?
The anticipation of failure, the scribe continued, "has fans feeling positively giddy."
So much for backing our Minnesota team.
Scoggins reports that Luck is "being hailed as a once-in-a-generation talent."
I immediately thought "this is Tony Mandarich redux."
Again, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
More: "A season that has revealed widespread ineptitude suddenly is strangely fascinating."
Nauseating, I would say - nauseating to consume such tripe from our state's flagship newspaper. At least I didn't buy it.
We don't have to kneel at the throne of Sid Hartman anymore. The media have been liberated.
Now it's on to New Year's weekend. The Vikings' last foe is Chicago. The Bears' season ended when Jay Cutler went down with injury. Both teams will be limp.
I just hope the purple crew is oblivious to the draft and just goes out there and makes us proud.
Is there any other way to be?
Update (written after the Vikings-Redskins game):
I'm actually writing this portion on Monday, the day after Christmas, and as I ponder the game over my large mocha frappe at McDonald's, I'm wondering why we need to have so much of a sense of trainwreck after the Vikes won.
Winning in D.C. should always be a plum. It's good for the Beltway to be humbled.
Much of the reason for the glum mood is obvious. Adrian Peterson was seriously hurt. Christian Ponder left the game with a concussion.
I wish we had won the game with our second-line troops all the way. Nothing wrong with sending those guys out there when you're out of the playoffs. Let Joe Webb and Toby Gerhart take over. And others.
These guys are on the roster for a reason so let's see what they can do. It's not as if they're completely unproven. Webb beat Michael Vick and the Eagles on national TV last year. Gerhart has easily shown he's a more-than-capable runner.
So if we lose? In that unfortunate circumstance, the silver lining is that we're still in the Luck sweepstakes. It's not like we wanted to lose. We just tested our depth chart, which is always intriguing.
For sure, the Chicago Bears would have loved to have someone like Webb available to play quarterback after Cutler went down.
The Monday Strib sports included an op-ed about how it's always laudable to win. It countered some of the talk suggesting losses are desirable because of the draft.
I agree that winning is wholly laudable. But you can't fault any team for testing its second-stringers when all hope for the playoffs has fizzled. If you win, it shows the second string talent indeed has potential. Losing translates into that consolation prize of the draft, which we don't want to talk about too much.
That lottery may be coming. It's coming because the quarterback position is so important today, the opportunity to draft a franchise QB distracts fans and gets them to want losses - a real no-no.
I'd argue that Webb and Gerhart could well have led our Vikes past Washington. But if they didn't, there are two rather substantial dividends. One, the health of Peterson and Ponder are preserved. Secondly, we could draft Luck (and presumably get good trade value with a healthy Ponder).
Once a QB has a concussion, the "concussion ticker" is activated and the individual gets a reputation of perhaps being concussion-prone (like Steve Young). And after two or three more of those, the advice becomes hot and heavy to get out.
What did we gain having Peterson and Ponder play Saturday? They might have helped us beat Washington, yes. But this stinking win, which fans aren't going to remember much longer than 15 minutes, wasn't worth the cost of Peterson being perhaps destroyed, and Ponder having his "concussion ticker" start.
Maybe we could have drafted Luck and hitched our wagon to him for 15 years, making two or three Super Bowls along the way. Peterson would be the workhorse behind him for much of that time.
Although it's questionable whether the Wilfs could have orchestrated all this. Remember, we're supposed to build them a stadium.
The backdrop for that is all the turmoil in the Minnesota legislature having to do with ethics transgressions by Republicans. Who would have thought?
Anyway, the Vikings are clearly back at square one now.
Prior to this season I wrote the Vikings "could be on the verge of a dubious new chapter." That was my headline.
In effect I was saying "look out, Vikings fans, we could be the new Detroit Lions."
I feel as strongly about this possibility as ever - maybe more so.
I feel sad and sorry for Peterson. He's a throwback to when teams could truly build around runningbacks. Today it's all about the quarterback.
And Andrew Luck will not be donning the Viking purple.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hancock girls true to standards, start out 6-0

The HHS roster was balanced in its scoring as the Owl juggernaut got win No. 6 on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at home over Ashby.
The Owls took charge to assume a 29-16 lead at halftime. They showed an even more authoritative stance in the second half, outscoring the stunned Arrows 31-8. Wow!
Do a little math and you get a 60-24 final. It sets just the kind of tone HHS fans want entering the holiday pause. The standards are easily being upheld from last season (or the whole broad history of HHS girls hoops).
The Owls own a 6-0 overall record. In conference play: 2-0. They have a state-ranked sheen.
Coach Jodi Holleman has ample reason to smile.
Seven Owls contributed to the Tuesday scoring attack. At the top of that list is Courtney Greiner whose output was 14 points. Then we have Serandon Bigalke with 13, Shae Brown with 12 and Kendra Schmidgall with eleven. That makes four Owls in double figures, and the list continues as follows: Olivia Koehl (7), Sami Schmidgall (2) and Karol Algarate (1).
Brown and Bigalke each hit a three-pointer. The team's shooting numbers were 21 of 56 in total field goals, two of seven in 3's and 16 of 30 at the freethrow line.
The rebound total was 44 with Greiner and Koehl each snaring nine and Schmidgall getting one.
Schmidgall and Brown each dished out four assists and Bigalke contributed three. Brown and Greiner each stole the ball seven times and Bigalke had five steals.
Schmidgall blocked four shots.
Cassie Jordon with 13 points led the Ashby scoring.

12/16 road action
It was TGIF for Holleman's crew on Friday, Dec. 16, on the road against conference foe C-G-B, a game that brought win No. 5. It was a no-suspense job with a final score of 59-22.
The halftime score was 34-14.
There was no hesitance putting up three-point shot attempts. It was bombs away as the Owls attempted 20 shots from 3-point range, making five. Schmidgall and Brown each had two of the makes and Bigalke had the other.
The Owls were 18 of 51 in total field goals and 14 of 24 in freethrows.
Of their 38 rebounds, Koehl with her ten was team-best. Schmidgall and Greiner each collected eight boards.
Greiner chalked up eight assists and Bigalke five. Koehl with her six steals was tops there, followed by Greiner and Brown each with four.
Let's roll up our sleeves for the scoring list: Schmidgall (21), Greiner (12), Brown (10), Koehl (8), Gabbi Nienhaus (4), Bigalke (3) and Karol Algarate (1).
Alissa Stueve led Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley's scoring with eight points.
Truly the Owls built on their fifth-ranked status in state on this night.

12/13 road contest
The margin looks pretty wide most of the time when you look at Hancock girls hoops scores. The final score on December 13 fits right in. It was a night for coach Holleman's squad to carve out win No. 4 in a 62-35 final. The victim: Battle Lake.
The Owls were pretty proficient with the long-range shooting weapon on this night. They sank five of 12 three-point shot tries, playing as the visitor. Brown led that charge with three made long-rangers. Bigalke sank two from beyond that stripe.
The Owls were 24 of 54 in total field goals. In freethrows: nine of 15. Their rebound total was 18, a department where Bigalke and Greiner were at the fore each with four.
Bigalke set the pace in assists with eight while Koehl had four. Greiner and Brown showed aggressive play as each stole the ball seven times, and Bigalke had five steals.
Schmidgall looked smooth shooting the basketball and this Owl topped the scoring with 17 points. Greiner poured in 16 points. Brown and Bigalke made double figures too with 13 and 10 respectively. Koehl added six points to the mix.
Cheyanne O'Neal led the host's scoring, putting in eight points for Battle Lake.
This was a non-conference game.

Coming up:
The Christmas pause will give way to a road game just before the new year: 12/29 at West Central Area.
Then we get into 2012 - where does the time go? - when the Owls get going with a 1/3 road game vs. Dawson-Boyd (the Blackjacks).
Still another road game presents itself Jan. 9 versus MACCRAY.
Finally the Owls get back home where they'll be primed to entertain the home fans with (hopefully) a win over Ortonville on 1/13.
Good luck to the Owls as they hope to reflect last year's premier quality of play that ended up in the top tier of state!
It's always a pleasure for yours truly to shed some light on the HHS climbing. I still have my sweatshirt from 1988: "Hancock's at state in '88!"
And Happy New Year!
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 23, 2011

A very merry Christmas here in Whoville

We in Morris are kindred with Whoville in spirit if not in the nature of our town skyline. A dominating feature of our skyline all my life has been the old (1914) school building. The old school campus was once a focal point of community life but is now as cold and dormant as the Titanic at the bottom of the sea. Now we read that the City of Morris is prioritizing the idea of razing it - an inevitable development to be sure, but puzzling in some ways. Why is it the city's issue? Why not the school district's? What happened to the "green community" that was supposed to take over on the old school property, to considerable fanfare? A design for that actually won an award. Perhaps that community and similar dreams belong in a world like Whoville - just as fantasy-inspired.

Animation is a great tool for communicating about Christmas. Historically it has reached out mainly to kids. In recent years it seems to have developed a broader appeal.
"Saturday morning cartoons" were a big deal when I was a kid. Today we have the Cartoon Network. Just by accident I discovered the "Grinch" special - yes, the original one with Boris Karloff's voice - on that network. I was able to catch most of it and found I could anticipate just about every line.
Such is the nature of our favorite Christmas specials. They become embedded in our minds. They define the season almost as much as family togetherness. We aspire to a Whoville-like Christmas spirit each year.
I remember being on the St. Cloud State University campus and listening to "Alvin and the Chipmunks" Christmas songs played over a P.A. system and heard over essentially the whole campus. You might say we were "big kids." Maybe I should have paid more attention to my studies.
Today the SCSU administration is trying to pound down any images of frivolity associated with the campus. It's called "re-branding." I don't think the Chipmunks' singing would be consistent with that.
When I was in high school here in Morris, a group of us learned how to use the reel-to-reel tape recorder in the MHS band room in such a way that we could record our own "Chipmunks" music. We recorded "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." I believe someone played the duck call on that.
Our percussionist was someone who today teaches meteorology at St. Cloud State. A little frivolous behavior didn't hurt him any. Today he helps us deal with the weather. He might guide Santa Claus.
Back then he was busy helping do "covers" of such "classics" as "Yummy Yummy Yummy." I played the trumpet on that one.
We even got one of our "interpretations" played on the Morris radio station with only the grudging approval of the owner. The owner slammed the door to his office after being in on the consultation with us. Let history record that "Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain" was played on KMRS.
I remember going to the "Grinch" movie at the Morris Theater. This was the re-creation of the animated classic and had live actors. I went with the right attitude, wanting to be entertained and inspired in the Christmas season. So I basically enjoyed it against my better judgment.
Today the critics seem to agree with my better judgment. The classic should have just been left alone. Whoville really cannot be re-created outside the Dr. Seuss-inspired realm.
The greatest Christmas story is "A Christmas Carol." This book in its time actually helped to prop up Christmas itself.
I was delighted recently to discover the original classic book by Charles Dickens at our Morris Public Library. It was part of a display of Christmas books easy to observe as one entered and exited.
Kudos again to our wonderful chief librarian, Melissa Yauk. We can always count on our library to reach out in such dynamic ways.
The original book probably isn't for everyone. There is archaic language in many places. This is another country in another time with a lifestyle much more basic. Of course it can be viewed as fascinating in that sense.
If you know the basic story line - most of us do, I suspect - you can wade past some of the dated and confusing language and still enjoy immensely.
I read the chapter "Marley's Ghost" and promptly had a dream about ghosts that night. I'm writing the first draft for this post on the morning after that experience, aided by a mug of the usual steaming instant coffee to ensure I'm attuned to reality.
The ghost in my dream didn't take me back to my past. Perhaps the apparition could have taken me back to my print media days, back when that medium was hale and hearty and not scared and defensive every single day. We just heard of another big newspaper company - Lee Enterprises - going bankrupt. It owns the Winona paper among many others.
The Morris paper is now owned by a chain. For most of my career it was not. For most of my career it was an easy-going place where everyone didn't have to watch their back.
The newspaper business isn't alone in becoming more stressful and less secure for common working folk.
Family businesses that had a basic humane sense - never mind many of them were run by apparent skinflints - have given way to a cold new reality.
It's easy to be cold when you're distant. Today many businesses are simply local satellites for a big company that only considers the bottom line and next-quarter profit goals from a distant office.
The old skinflints look downright benevolent. Because they lived here, they connected with everyone. They were invested in the community. You might see their pictures along the rows of "past commanders" at the local Legion club. Every town had patriarchs like this. Yes, they were nearly all men.
There was a time when they were a focus for considerable grumbling from the common folk. That seems to be gone now. They're seen as pillars now, having been largely displaced in the local business ecosystem by those distant executives who ruminate Scrooge-like on profit margin. Those execs toss a few scraps to employees.
And when employees make an issue of something, like in the Target company regarding working on the night of Thanksgiving, the behemoth company through its surrogate the Star Tribune (recipient of ad money) scolds, saying such employees should "be thankful they have a job."
Who said anything about the employees not being thankful having a job? They just want to see some sensibility.
Many of those execs might benefit from visits by those three ghosts of "A Christmas Carol." They ought to spend some time in Whoville.
The ghost in my dream was hanging around out-of-doors. It was along Green River Road which used to be one of my jogging routes. Now I have an excuse not to resume jogging! A fair amount of my jogging was done at night.
Perhaps the idea of an outdoor ghost sprang not from "A Christmas Carol" but another book I checked out recently from our library. Reading "A Voyage Long and Strange," an excellent book by Tony Horwitz, I came across a Viking saga in which a woman, seeking to use an outhouse in the middle of the night, "found her path blocked by ghosts."
These people gave us the Runestone.
"A Christmas Carol" has been burned into our consciousness by many adaptations. I doubt that many of us have attempted to read the original classic. I can understand foregoing it based on the archaic language. But I still recommend it.
It starts out "Marley was dead, to begin with."
I was fascinated to see that only a few sentences in, Dickens goes off on a tangent. He had just used the expression "dead as a door-nail." Then he muses in a very long paragraph on that expression itself - a classic "aside" and we've only begun reading. This is the type of thing bloggers are accused of doing.
If it's Dickens it must be genius, in the same way "Strawberry Fields Forever" is considered a classic (by John Lennon) even though if I had written such a thing and submitted it as a demo, it would be rejected with choice cusswords.
What an interesting world in which we live.
In my newspaper days I looked forward to ambling over to the Met Lounge and having two or three Tom and Jerrys, free, on Christmas Eve Day. The place was filled with sweaty working and professional people.
In those days the Morris newspaper was still twice a week, making for a more intense and deadline-filled work week. The newspaper also provided a much better service to the community than today. Today it survives mostly as a legacy institution that older people cling to.
Lee Enterprises knows what's happening.
The newspaper here is owned by a chain out of Fargo. It wouldn't surprise me if, after the holidays, there is some sort of dramatic announcement that will have fewer people working at the Morris operation. Publishing once a week instead of twice is a dramatic reduction. If you're math-challenged you should know that's 50 percent.
The atmosphere must be dead at that office for much of the week. They didn't need to bother moving to Pacific Avenue (where we got a wonderful view of the vacated UBC building). Today a newspaper hardly needs an office building at all.
Of course, it's a short step from that to realizing we don't need a newspaper at all. Indeed we don't. The news we need in our daily lives is moving online with each passing day. And you don't need to pay for it.
Newspapers were probably just entering their malaise when I left. I left under duress, complaining of overwork - an assertion I'm sure management would pooh-pooh. It's easy for them to say.
We had that proverbial "new website" - I believe the more precise term is "iteration" - and it was being talked up as if it would be a big new division of the business. As such it would require a lot of additional work. We'd be selling ads for it. My, what a dynamic new dimension.
I don't doubt for a second that a website can be dynamic. They are nothing if not dynamic. What I questioned then, showing prescience, was whether a website for newspaper content would really enhance a newspaper's business performance or do just the opposite! The virtual world is on a whole different level from print.
For a newspaper to go "online only" is ridiculous because where would the money come from? I'm sure news can go online only, just not from newspapers.
Has the Morris paper made strides since my departure?
You can judge for yourself. The customer is always right. The customer is now being asked to pay $1.25 for the paper at a store. So, advertisers, that can only mean fewer eyeballs.
This is a business where, let's face it, people are increasingly scrambling for the lifeboats. Tech advances are causing "creative destruction" that is felt disproportionately by print media. The Borders chain is a victim.
The Draconian pressures I felt might be appropriate for some probationary employee recently out of college - a young person with resilience about such things. It's not appropriate for someone in his 50s.
I think most working people understand what I'm talking about without elaborating further.
My newspaper job was the only thing that defined me in the whole world. Other employees had their families. I had my newspaper job.
I realize the lot of working people is getting worse all the time. So I have lots of company. Hats off to Ed Schultz (MSNBC) for the trumpet he's sounding.
All I can do is carve out a very small niche in the journalism world with "I Love Morris." It's in my DNA.
And merry Christmas.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" a holiday gem

"Mr. Magoo" might be viewed as politically incorrect. The character pokes fun at sight-challenged people.
Our society used to have a less restricted sense of humor. Wiping out the less-tasteful excesses is naturally a good thing.
Such a laudable drive can have its own excesses.
Once in a while we can laugh at ourselves, even at characteristics we have no control over. I remember reading once that an issue was being made of Johnny Carson's "Aunt Blabby" character. Yes it made us laugh at some of the traits of older people. But my gut sense was that it wasn't disrespectful.
We have to trust our basic senses sometimes. Sometimes we can just follow our impulse and laugh.
Or feel joy, as when we watch a Christmas TV special from the 1960s called "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol."
Remember the character Thurston Howell III from "Gilligan's Island?" The actor was Jim Backus, whose voice brought Magoo to life in the special.
The special was commissioned by Timex. It first aired in 1962. I remember it vividly from several Christmases, as I'm sure countless boomers do.
It charmed us in a time when many nasty things were going on in the world. We saw escalation of the Viet Nam War and the ugly resistance to civil rights in the South. Richard Nixon wouldn't go away. Oh, finally he did (in 1974).
As children us boomers would sit transfixed at the TV and be charmed and educated by a holiday classic.
"Educated" is a proper word because we were being exposed to a literary classic.
"A Christmas Carol" was written by Charles Dickens and was so powerful, it made the holiday more prominent than it had been. Right now I'm reading the original book, checked out from our Morris Public Library. How many people have taken the trouble to do that?
We have seen several productions of the story over the years so we feel we are most familiar. The book is naturally fascinating but there are rather substantial "archival" hurdles. Written in a different time and in a non-U.S. culture, there is much language that can seem befuddling. I'm fighting through all that. It's a worthwhile effort and in the process I might learn something from the antiquated references.
I will forever associate "Mr. Magoo" with Scrooge. He portrays the "good" Scrooge as effectively as the antisocial one. We want the good one to linger in our memories of course.
Magoo certainly couldn't see very well. We wouldn't want him working at the Morris Liquor Store during compliance checks (LOL).
Would blind or semi-blind people find him funny? I would hope so. It's funny in the sense of pure levity, like Aunt Blabby, and I see no disrespect.
The late Leslie Nielsen made a "Mr. Magoo" movie. I didn't see it. I'd be surprised if that portrayal worked.
Nielsen made a number of movies after he re-invented himself as a pure comedian. Much of the time he wasn't really acting like a comic, he just continued his old stiff straight man persona only with comic lines. "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" vaulted him to the top.
But he made other movies that were closer to being the "direct to video" kind. He's to be lauded on his career.
The Backus voice was essential to appreciating the "true" Magoo. Voices other than the original might suffice for Yogi and Boo Boo and Fred and Barney, but the Magoo voice is not so routine to replicate.
Backus made our Christmases rich by giving Magoo (as Scrooge) life - tremendous life.
"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" was a musical. Musicals didn't ordinarily interest me much but this was an exception.
Mention the term "Razzleberry Dressing" to someone my age and that person might well remember where it came from. "Tiny Tim" sang of such fare in the song "The Lord's Bright Blessing."
A young Scrooge sings "Alone in the World." And how can we forget "Ringle Ringle?" The creative effort here was highly inspired - kudos to Timex. It wasn't just a job to be done according to a certain budget, the way it might be today.
The Broadway team of Jule Styne (music) and Bob Merrill (lyrics) wrote original songs for Magoo's "Carol." The two went on to give us "Funny Girl."
I have asserted that many boomers will forever associate Magoo with Scrooge as if the two are one and the same. It applies to me. And I can cite support for this. It comes from the National Public Radio show "Talk of the Nation." In 2006 many listeners said Magoo was their favorite Scrooge.
Through the years as I have come upon other versions of the story, I have found all of these lacking when compared to the 1962 cartoon with that classic Backus voice. I'll admit that some of my fondness might owe itself to my young age when getting introduced.
I'm sure some of the cinema versions have been well reviewed.
I was delighted several years ago to find the Magoo special available on DVD at our Coborn's store. Nothing at Christmastime could have made me happier. I shared my delight at the time with Dean Mithun, store manager.
Coborn's!! Once a fixture in the Morris shopping scene, Coborn's has left us, the plug perhaps having been pulled by a true Scrooge-like person.
Coborn's was making money. It supported many employees. Maybe it wasn't making quite enough money.
Maybe the plug got pulled through back-room dealing where certain heavy hitters decided it would be better to "consolidate" the grocery business here. That's a common ethos today, to promote "efficiency" in such a way that the Bob Cratchit-like working people get squeezed. This is a reason we see the "Occupy" movement growing. The "good" (reformed) Scrooge would be behind them.
Playing the DVD, all the warmth of the original viewing experience comes through. There is a slight archival issue with the sound quality.
I learn through research that the show lasted as an annual special into the 1980s. But, not after that? Was it just displaced because of the "progress" of new specials being made? Is it possible the "political correctness" angle played in, as pertains to Magoo's sight-challenged nature? I don't know.
I'm reminded of when a cable movie channel planned a "Charlie Chan Marathon." A tempest broke out. The critics won. Had the channel not planned a marathon, the movies could continue into today mostly "under the radar" just like the myriad westerns that seem disrespectful of Native Americans. Will many of those westerns someday be so excised?
What about old comedies including The Three Stooges that show African Americans in menial domestic worker roles and who "scare easily," as with mysterious noises. Their eyes grow big and they can take off running. This is an old disrespectful stereotype. But such material still appears on our TV screens.
"Chan" meanwhile may be banished.
And Magoo? He doesn't seem to surface too often in our current entertainment culture.
I'd love to see kids today exposed to "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol." I'll gladly loan my DVD to anybody. I hope it can grab kids' attention as well as "Spongebob" but I'm not sure. It impresses on them the Christmas spirit as well as anything.
"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" is written as a Broadway theater play. The cartoon is divided into acts with a stage curtain. The delightful opening shows the near-sighted Magoo arriving at the theater in calamitous fashion. He's risky to have around the stage scenery!
This is laugh-out-loud material from the days before the "LOL" initials.
Lest I think this special has faded too much from our consciousness, it was spoofed in an episode of The Simpsons.
The Dickens story gets somewhat condensed in places, but many scenes are faithful to the original (like Marley's face appearing as the door knocker - an eerie scene especially for kids).
Some lines are spoken exactly as Dickens wrote them. In fact, I learn through research that there was "little or no simplification of the language to suit the younger audience."
Many of the most endearing kids' presentations get that way because there was no condescending. Let's respect kids' insightfulness.
For the record, the full name of the lead character is "Quincy Magoo." At the start we hear Backus as Magoo singing "It's Great to be Back on Broadway" with gusto. It's captivating.
Backus made a mark in Hollywood playing characters with an upper-crust New England-like air. Postwar he got on many prime-time radio programs like with Jack Benny. I have on DVD a Jack Benny New Year's Eve TV special from 1954. I also bought that at Coborn's.
The Coborn's building today might well be haunted. It's where we used to be able to get a quart of milk at 2 a.m. if we needed it. It's gone with the wind.
Today Willie's Super Valu is our grocery store. I hope their near-monopoly doesn't make them complacent.
We loved Backus as Scrooge but in the collective consciousness of the boomers, he's Thurston Howell III with his wife "Lovie" (apologies to the coach of the Chicago Bears). "Gilligan's Island" was the epitome of the kind of vapid entertainment that Hollywood's entertainment industry gave us when three networks dominated and everything had to be watered down ("least common denominator") to appeal to the full public.
No Discovery Channel then. The original model took root with shows like "Mr. Ed" and flourished with an array of shows none of which taught us anything. But as boomers we loved it all.
"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" showed a cartoon could introduce us to a literary classic. We saw potential of the (TV) medium.
Nothing exudes as much warmth at holidaytime today than to view "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol." And enjoy that "razzleberry dressing!"
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"It's a Wonderful Life" not really wonderful

December is when we see many entertainment features that wouldn't be appropriate for any other time of year.
When I was a kid, in the days before tapes and DVDs, you had to be sure to catch a particular holiday feature when it was scheduled on TV. You had only one chance. The "big 3" TV networks reigned.
Then, the spectrum of TV channels widened significantly. We saw the once unheard-of phenomenon of a particular show repeating itself on the same channel, maybe in the middle of the night. When I was a kid, there was "snow" on the screen at night. In early morning there was a test pattern.
There were growing pains with the expansion of TV channels. It was in that environment that "It's a Wonderful Life" became very high-profile. The Frank Capra Christmas movie was in the right place at the right time (albeit pulled from the storage bins).
It was an attractive option for TV programmers in that new frontier of a plethora of TV channels.
There is some legal mumbo jumbo that would help explain why. It's complicated but let's just say "public domain" was an element. That window is now closed so the movie is not seen as often.
Yes, legalities and economics rule, unbeknownst to many of us who twirl the dial - wait, there's no "dial" anymore - looking for fun Christmas TV fare.
The Capra movie will be considered a classic for a long time if for no other reason than many people slightly younger than me will associate it with their childhood. My generation feels nostalgic about "Bonanza" (with "Hoss," remember?).
Guys in their 40s will smile when reminded of watching Australian rules football on ESPN. Or, the days when MTV actually played music videos! OK, many older people share the sentiment!
"It's a Wonderful Life" came out in the year after World War II ended.
Many felt Capra, the producer and director, wasn't in his best form. The movie was not judged a classic at the time it was current. It disappointed at the box office.
Perhaps because top-tier Hollywood names were associated with it, it was nominated for five Oscars. It won none.
It wasn't until decades later that "It's a Wonderful Life" and "classic" might be uttered in the same sentence. Tremendous new life got breathed into it, in much the same way as The Three Stooges became a smash hit again thanks to late-afternoon "kiddie" TV shows. Who could have predicted?
This is why Hollywood lawyers are so busy protecting "rights" of their clients. There are Byzantine details of which we aren't (and weren't meant to be) familiar. We just "twirl the dial."
And because "It's a Wonderful Life" became so ubiquitous about 30 years ago, well, it must be a Christmas staple. It is now, regardless of the reasons why.
It doesn't deserve to be. Let's weigh some pluses/minuses.
In my view, "It's a Wonderful Life" does reflect the top-notch movie craftsmanship for its time - no doubt about that. It's a sharp-appearing movie. You can tell its creators wanted to tell a fairly complicated story.
Capra was known for populist themes. He was fresh from the war (like all of us) and had produced "propaganda" features to help the war effort. Whether this derailed his normal genius, we don't know. Maybe his best work was just behind him.
My own judgment is that the movie is based on a published work that didn't lead to the best results. It's based on a short story: "The Greatest Gift."
I don't know how strictly the movie followed the book - what liberties were taken etc. There are tons of Christmas stories out there. Couldn't Capra have commissioned a new one?
The movie is dreary in many respects. It shows considerable suffering and hardship. It shows the dichotomy of rich and poor. I don't think the dichotomy follows the real world. The movie portrays rich/poor in a way that exists more in a Hollywood scriptwriter's mind. In this sense it's an affront to the intelligence of the audience.
The critical reviews of this movie at the time of its release were mixed.
On the positive side I'll say the basic premise of the movie was excellent: a discouraged man who mutters "I should never have been born" is shown the fallacy of such a thought by an angel who is seeking to rise in the angel hierarchy. The angel shows what the world would be like if in fact George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) had never been born.
The angel's power reminds of the ghosts in "A Christmas Carol."
The angel is played by Henry Travers who I feel is a major bright spot. The screen comes to life with his initial appearance, and he lifts your spirits just watching his countenance and how he plays his other-worldly role with genuineness and spark.
Travers lifts the movie from a pervading mood of gloom and defeatism.
The poor (or the un-rich) are truly downtrodden in this movie. It's as if they'd face certain misery without George Bailey. It's as if they'd be downtrodden peasants with no hope vs. the likes of "Mr. Potter," played by Lionel Barrymore.
Here the movie falls into a common Hollywood problem. We see characters that are caricatures from real life. "Mr. Potter" is grossly overdone just as the common folks fall too much into a stereotype.
Movies are often guilty of such pigeonholing. Movies oversimplify and they ask us to "suspend reality" a lot. It's like artistic license: sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. A dirty little secret among creative people is that they often don't have a clue whether a particular artistic venture will sail through these shoals.
"It's a Wonderful Life" doesn't quite make it.
The plot becomes seriously flawed as the movie nears its climax. "Uncle Billy" (Thomas Mitchell) absent mindedly misplaces the money, right? We have all done that sort of thing. We don't appreciate being reminded of it, especially by such a grotesque example of such a huge and essential sum of money.
"Mr. Potter" discovers he has the money. He knows where it came from. In real life, what person in his right mind would simply keep it? He knows it will cause unspeakable anguish. I wouldn't do this to my worst enemy.
"Mr. Potter" becomes more than just your usual selfish and narrow individual. He becomes "bad" in a caricatured, comic book type of way. So the movie loses its plausibility. It's monumentally depressing at this point.
We imagine ourselves in a "spot" like Uncle Billy, panicking to the point of desperation and having to tell your boss, who then becomes delirious with anger.
"Uncle Billy" seemed a little absent-minded to begin with. For him to flub so seriously and not be helped out by Mr. Potter, is too dreary a plot development for me to want to fathom. It's not entertaining.
The movie doesn't redeem itself at the end. For Bailey to be bailed out simply by free-will offerings just seems shallow and not too plausible.
George's treatment of his family at the height of his discouragement is disturbing. He seems on the verge of outright domestic abuse. He doesn't seem to have any real rapport with his kids.
He cheers up at the end because his friends give him money. How many of us could count on our friends like that? Even if we'd been selfless all of our lives?
What if his friends hadn't come through? The angel may have cheered George but this doesn't pay the bills (or the sanctions). Didn't George face the prospect of jail? At least Scrooge had money to begin with.
What real-life person would have looked on like Mr. Potter, knowing Bailey's life was potentially ruined just because he, Potter, had stumbled on a sum of money that wasn't his? Not to mention Uncle Billy's life being ruined.
We all know drama depends on conflict, on good vs. bad and rises and falls of key characters. When applied properly such formulas entertain.
"It's a Wonderful Life" misfires.
If the faults of this movie are due to the story "The Greatest Gift," then I'll repeat that the movie creators picked the wrong story. With the right story, Capra had plenty of genius left to render a true classic.
"A true classic" describes "Miracle on 34th Street" which deservedly is in the top list of all-time movies.
Many of us might place "It's a Wonderful Life" on such a list but I feel it's not due to merit. It's due to those days when many of us tuned to ESPN (in its infancy) to watch Australian rules football. Networks were stretching and groping to fill air time.
"It's a Wonderful Life" was available and economical to run. We assumed it was a great movie, not having read the legal mumbo jumbo that explained why it was on TV so much.
Have you noticed it's not on TV so much today? It's more scarce due to enforcement of something called "derivative copyright."
We can enjoy "It's a Wonderful Life" if for no other reason than it takes us back to our younger years when we became familiar with it.
On its own merit, the movie is not a classic.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

UMM men, women shine on "Gremmels"

Brendon Foss was "in the zone" helping propel the UMM men's basketball team to victory on December 9. The former Hancock Owl couldn't be stopped on his home Jim Gremmels court. The opponent was Mayville State.
Both the UMM men's and women's teams defeated the Comets of North Dakota on this night. The success helped accent the growing feeling of holiday cheer among the UMM partisans.
Foss was in the Tebow-esque groove (to coin a term) as he just couldn't miss. Sophomore Foss, who has made a seamless transition from football to basketball this academic year, went six-for-six in field goal shooting (two-for-two in 3-pointers) and six of six also in freethrows. Plus he collected five offensive and five defensive rebounds.
All this in the UMM men's 84-51 win.
The success avenged a previous loss to the Comets. Unfortunately this was just UMM's second win against four losses, but the success of the night (and the reversal vs. Mayville) gives a hint of positive things to come.
The University of Minnesota-Morris women's team won 70-66 over the Comets. Kendra Wycoff hit clutch freethrows at the end to help ensure the win.

Reviewing men's win
Coach Paul Grove's Cougars shot 60 percent in the first half to carve out a 44-25 lead. For the game their stat was 53 percent which was their best since the season opener. Their harvest of 53 rebounds was actually their best since back in the '06-07 season.
Other stats for the night included 18 assists and a mere eight turnovers.
Brendon Foss' perfect shooting propelled the talented sophomore to a double-double: 20 points and ten rebounds.
Derek Schmidt came at the Comets with 14 points, and Logan Orazem put in eleven.
The Cougars never trailed. A dramatic Foss dunk put UMM up 23-6, giving indications this was truly a night that belonged to the maroon.
Orazem put the wheels in motion in the second half with a "3," putting UMM up by 22. Back-to-back 3's by Foss pushed the margin up to 27.
Foss' 20 points were a career-high figure. He's making both Hancock and UMM proud.

Reviewing women's win
In the women's game, coach Tim Grove's Cougars looked like they might be cruising too. The lead stood at 13 but the closing stages wouldn't be so routine. UMM had to bear down to snuff out a late Comet rally.
The Comets got within a hair's breadth thanks to a 3-pointer that made the score 67-66. The time remaining: 32 seconds.
Mayville realized they had to foul. So the Cougars would have to take a deep breath, stay poised and make freethrows. Wycoff was up to the task. A pair of made freethrows by Kendra pushed the UMM advantage back up to three.
The Cougars forced a turnover, whereupon Mayville had to again foul. Now, eleven seconds are remaining.
Alyssa Silva made the first of two freethrows. The ultimate 70-66 win was sealed. Silva finished the game five of six in freethrows and scored nine points.
Freshman Allie Sannes looked quite at home working under the basket. She came through with a career-best 15 points. Abby Fragodt contributed 13 points to the winning cause and Emily Mehr 12.
The game began with the Cougars shooting out to a 6-0 lead. If only this whole night could have been that easy.
The Comets enjoyed a run that enabled them to lead 9-8. The Cougars bounced back to score eight straight points, so the scoreboard showed an encouraging 16-9 lead. A three-point play by Emily Auch, freshman, got the Cougars to 16 points.
The lead later became 12 in the first half. The score stood 37-33 at halftime. The Cougars built up a 51-38 lead in the second half.
The Comets were undaunted and got the score tied 54-all with less than seven minutes left. The Cougars steadied their attack and never trailed in the time remaining.
The lead was precarious with two minutes left. Jenni Noordmans, former Hancock Owl, connected for a most timely "3." Her shot came off a loose ball.
Finally the horn sounded with the University of Minnesota-Morris having a four-point margin and tucking this win away in the 70-66 final.
Their record coming out of this game: 3-4.

12/7 men's game
Non-conference action had the Cougars visiting Valley City, ND, to face the Vikings on December 7, and it was a losing night. The Cougars fell 78-54.
It was a bad early sign that VCSU went on an 8-0 run at the outset.
Derek Schmidt began UMM's scoring with two freethrows. The Cougars' attack got stabilized to the point where an Evan Reller score shaved the deficit to one point (15-14). Alas, the host Vikings went on another 8-0 run. It would be an uphill night for the Cougars.
Schmidt finished the night with 14 points, topping the list. Reller put in nine points and Foss eight.
UMM stayed within striking distance in the second half, at least for a short time. Schmidt and Zach Meyer fueled UMM's fortunes for a time. The deficit was as few as five points.
But VCSU shot out on another of their runs. They eventually assumed a comfortable position on the scoreboard.
UMM had only three freethrow attempts in the first half (making two).

11/30 men's game
The Cougars trailed by 20 at halftime, playing at Mayville State, but bounced back valiantly to really make a game of it.
A little more steam was needed. At the end the Cougars were shy by just one point, 72-71.
Mayville shot very hot in the first half, to the tune of 66 percent including nine of 13 in 3's. That shooting touch largely abandoned them in the second half.
The Cougars outscored the Comets 39-20 in the second half. The offense and defense were both clicking. The Cougars made four three-pointers in the second half. They had a rebounding advantage for the game, 31-29.
Brodie Raymond, St. Peter product, had a memorable night with 16 points, team-best.
Derek Schmidt, from East Grand Forks, put in 12 points, and Melrose product Evan Reller had ten.

Women: two road setbacks
The University of Minnesota-Morris women came out on the short end on 12/7 despite 17 points by Jenni Noordmans and 16 by Emily Mehr. The squad was bested 71-63 by Valley City State University at Valley City.
Victory also eluded the women on 11/30 at Mayville State. Mehr poured in 18 points but it wasn't enough as UMM fell 88-76. Connor Lewis from Barnesville was a perfect five-for-five from the field and posted a career-best 13 points.
Let's all blend the holiday cheer with more hoops excitement!
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 12, 2011

Can we survive circus aspect of politics?

What would Theodore White think of today's presidential campaign? We'd probably be embarrassed to show him, just like we'd be embarrassed to show Frank Capra a movie like "Bad Santa."
There used to be a basic civility behind politics. Serious people who understood the political system sought the highest office. We still have such people, like our current president.
Barack Obama was able to withstand the slings and arrows of our current process. Heaven help us when such people no longer want to get under the microscope.
The biggest change, I feel, is that conservatives no longer show any restraint. The ones who suspend reality to become (verbal) bomb throwers get the attention. What would Theodore White think of Glenn Beck? How would he begin to write about this sneering self-promoter?
We still have writers who attempt to do what White did. White, you'll remember, wrote the "Making of the President" series. He appealed to the tastes of the Greatest Generation. It was the days when Walter Cronkite gave us the evening news in a restrained and sober fashion.
Those brands of news ignored the carnival barkers. They looked at the extreme right wing as a curiosity.
The rhetoric from the right has a chafing quality. At its worst it's dangerous, reinforcing jingoistic tendencies. That's why it's concerning that the political right of today has a platform like Fox News.
You might say Fox was begat by Rush Limbaugh. Obama deserves a medal for navigating through the minefield that Fox threw in front of him. There was no issue too minor or trivial to try to throw at him. They groped for anything that might discredit him or even his wife.
They tried getting some traction with a rumor about how Michelle once allegedly used the word "whitey," perhaps just once and at a party or some such trivial setting. A college party? If offhand comments made at college parties are going to be taken seriously decades later, we've truly become the clown show.
I use the term "clown show" because this is precisely the term used by Chris Matthews to describe the Republican race. Is it possible that our media environment of today brings out the worst and ugliest of conservatives? Does it attract the most impulsive, incendiary and megalomaniac conservatives?
Do these goons then just run roughshod over more sensible and realistic rivals?
Mitt Romney is probably the consummate gentleman. I'm certain he has conservative sensibilities. He also knows he needs to get elected. Toward that end he drifts to the center and sometimes appears self-contradictory. It's not that he's disingenuous, he's just a politician.
The Cronkites of the world extended courtesy to these people, knowing they were realists.
A tenet of my own political outlook is that conservatives (the pure ones) are meant to act as a voice of restraint, and in that role can serve a useful purpose. But it scares me to death to think that such individuals could seize a majority in government. People who would elect this ilk know not what they do.
But they are led today by a pied piper known as Fox News. Theodore White seemed conservative but I don't think he'd recognize Fox News. I think he'd wrinkle his forehead. I think he'd worry about the health of the country.
When we had three TV networks and news was a public service rather than a profit-generating arm, there was an overriding sensibility. But then the media universe exploded. Not only could we watch three NFL football games on Sunday, we could watch Australian rules football on ESPN.
We could watch "It's a Wonderful Life" seemingly every day in December. Remember those days?
The media became like a vast frontier, much of it unsettled or rough-hewn like the old west towns. Then it got settled. This meant that the most rabid, paranoid and irrational conservatives could find a home. Fox News was born, nurtured by people who saw the success of Limbaugh and the audience that awaits such stuff, salivating.
In order to criticize Fox News we must understand it. I have no doubt the executives are ideological conservatives but this is not the wellspring of what they do. Fox News is a corporation that makes money. It devises a formula. There's a little bit of "Mr. Spacely" in Roger Ailes.
Fox News doesn't exist to help guide the U.S. into a healthy and prosperous future. It exists to serve that large and angry audience of people who feel government at all levels simply oppresses them. These are the people of whom Thomas Frank writes in his book "What's the Matter with Kansas?"
And it becomes a heckuva business model.
The people who speak to this crowd, like Glenn Beck, were never meant to actually lead. They are more properly in a role of circus sideshow. If they stay that way, we can breathe a sigh of relief. The danger is when such voices get more traction. Fox News is the vehicle for just such a trend to start.
Conservatives know that making people scared works. We must fear Obama because of his past associations. We must attach "socialism" to him, even though European style socialism hardly looks like the menacing specter that crazies on the right suggest.
Conservatives have a bastion in the frontier principle of self-reliance. It's easier to argue for conservatism in its purest form than the alternative.
Government so often looks like the boogeyman. And the likes of Beck seize on such inclinations to create a huge audience of admirers. In the process they pocket a ton of money for themselves.
Can you imagine Cronkite and his peers talking seriously about the tea party? Can you imagine them discussing the tea party in terms other than being a novelty out on the fringe, a here-today, gone-tomorrow type of statement?
Can you imagine that deep and authoritative voice of Cronkite giving any sort of credence to Sarah Palin? Palin is receding into the background now, content with her saddlebags full of the gold of appealing to her crowd.
Mitt Romney is the type of conservative Cronkite would have respected. Romney isn't afraid of the political center. He knows you can't lead through a narrow ideological lens. He compromises not because he is weak but because he is realistic.
It's not "expedient" to want to lead based on reality. The reality is that we cannot all live by our ideals. That frontier principle of self-reliance, viewed with such reverence, breaks down in the face of messy realities.
European style socialism doesn't look so bad when you go to the dentist's office and find that your checkbook had better be fattened up.
Let's let Republicans get their way with "entitlement reform" and see how much support they have left.
I don't want to see my tax dollars going to support wars of choice. We need help here (in the U.S.). We need to develop such things as high-speed rail regardless of what the Chip Cravaacks of the world think.
When conservatives lead it's like a big wrecking ball. They win because they can play to our fears. The puppetmasters know the script. That's how we got the Willie Horton TV ad that propelled the elder Bush. At least the elder Bush was the epitome of the Greatest Generation so we could trust him to a certain extent.
These new conservatives are an entirely different story. They are on the warpath. They want to knock down a lot of things but it's uncertain what they really want to create. They want ideas that bother them to just go away.
A lot of them still pound down gays even though that battle seems to be behind us now. The regressive voices lost as they always do. But the regressive voices have a dangerous platform in Fox News.
Brett Baier may have singlehandedly taken down Romney's candidacy. To review, he did a combative interview of Romney about a week ago. It did lay bare some of Romney's seeming inconsistencies, as if such a trait were poison in politics.
Crafty people in the media can wield tremendous power. And the people at Fox News know all the nuances. They may be leading us out of Kansas and into oblivion. And do they care? Their loyalty is to their company's bottom line and not to the future of the nation.
I'll bet you $10,000 on it (LOL).
If only we could all wake up and just smell the coffee. That's not all we'd smell, based on Donald Trump's efforts to climb past Beck in the far right poster boy sweepstakes.
A Trump-organized debate? Among Republicans, of course, presumably the most screeching ones with conservative rhetoric.
We need that (umpteenth) debate like we need (two parts of the anatomy that excrete solid waste).
(I learned that expression from a trombone player, LeRoy - parenthesis not used.)
How would Theodore White write about Trump? White would throw up his arms, befuddled, and decide he'd be better off writing fiction. Which is what the reportage on the Republican candidates seems like now - an alternative universe where Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and others are taken seriously despite the loony reality.
What's to become of this country? Can we get a grip on ourselves?
We must have faith that the answer can be "yes."
"Yes we can!" redux.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 9, 2011

The new media under "territorial" law now

Here we go again. The legal system is thrashing away like someone in the water who doesn't know how to swim.
It's not for lack of competence, it's for lack of precedent.
Judges are smart people and they know our world changes. But the changes in the media make for no easy transition. The changes are profound and ultimately a huge blessing.
As with all blessings we take it for granted after a while. We habitually go online to consume news and information. Mostly it's free.
The stuff we consume is all over the map but it's organized in a pretty reliable meritocracy. We have to depend on people using fundamentally good judgment. Of course, that hope breaks down pretty quickly. We are so human an animal. That's why we have judges and juries.
And now there's another legal case bringing considerable talk about journalism in our electronic future. The judge is Marco Hernandez. He's probably a sage individual.
But he's looking out over pretty undeveloped terrain - a lack of case law - and it reminds me of the Clint Eastwood movies about territorial government. A lot of us thought these were just westerns. But the movies were inspired by the painful, seminal stages of the birth of our full nation.
A "territory" wasn't quite ready to be a state. It was civilized but not quite to the point where law could be installed reliably. It was ramshackle but it was headed in the right direction.
We want to make sure journalism is headed in the right direction. The problem is that the changes we're seeing are so profound. Even the judge seems floundering in some of his language.
At the focal point is a blogger. Blogging can bring out the best and worst in us, so it just reflects the human condition.
Again, I hate the term. "Blog" rhymes with slob and there are stereotypes that grew up in the early stages of the Internet. The corporate mainstream media sniffed. Then the corporate media found their legs were being taken out from under them.
We were once so dependent on the corporate media because it affirmed our democracy. The Fourth Estate indeed!
We were naive as a society to think these big institutions existed and thrived because of their news reporting and investigations. The corporate media are undergirded by advertising. I'll quote a media writer whose name escapes me now: "Newspapers have never been in the business of selling the news, they are in business to sell print advertising."
As businesses use the new media to find more economical and effective ways of reaching customers, they can leapfrog over newspapers which once used their monopoly status to build a heckuva gravy train. Thus, papers had the luxury of doing things like investigating Watergate.
Today Watergate would unravel through layers in the new media. A precursor was the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Actually, so pervasive are these new media tools, Watergate never would have reached the extent it did. Democratized media encourages accountability in a big way.
The best-known journalist connected to the Jerry Sandusky scandal might be Buzz Bissinger who writes for the Daily Beast.
Joe Scarborough ("Morning Joe") says one of the big blessings of the new media universe is that "you don't have to be let past the velvet rope" to practice real journalism.
To repeat: it's a meritocracy.
Recently I have posted on deficiencies of a sports department of an area daily newspaper. And yet by our traditional definitions, the guys over there are "journalists" and I'm not.
Definitions and perceptions are at issue in the new legal case. It springs from the Pacific Northwest. The blogger is Crystal Cox.
From what I have read on the Forbes website, Cox is not a sympathetic figure. There should be some sort of sanctions against what she does online which perhaps smacks of some sort of OCD. That said, we must be very careful about what sort of legal precedent is set.
It's one thing to share casual opinions and another to lay down legal precedent. Everyone agrees this case raises questions about press protections and the nature of the press in our new electronic age.
Cox defamed a fellow named Kevin Padrick, according to a Federal jury. At issue are suggestions (from Cox) of fraud, bribery and other crimes. The monetary award: $2.5 million.
Padrick says "Crystal Cox has no journalistic standards."
Hoo boy, here we go. Media lawyers worry that not only are bloggers endangered by the ruling, there could be spillover into traditional media. Because after all, all the lines are blurring.
Judge Hernandez ruled that Cox doesn't qualify for certain protections given journalists. He rejected Cox's claim that she is in fact "media." He ruled that the eccentric (I would say) blogger isn't subject to Oregon's retraction statute or shield laws. Newspapers and broadcasters have this fall-back option.
The fundamental problem here is drawing some sort of line between, well, "legitimate media" (or "corporate media") and "unattached" journalists.
I could play around with terms further. That's because of ambiguity that makes us scramble to draw an accurate picture.
Ultimately the legal community will have none of this. Casual or knee-jerk judgment will not do. The legal community strives for precision, precedent and consistency.
There will be considerable hair-pulling before this process is over. That's why these legal people get paid the big bucks.
A huge problem in showing deference to the traditional media is that it's on the run, shriveling up as we speak. Many say we should now define "journalism" as a practice - is someone practicing journalism? - rather than using affiliations, background or education.
The judge in the Cox case makes the mistake, I feel, of falling back on the old notions. He said that in the Cox case, there is no evidence of "any education in journalism, any credentials or proof of affiliation with any recognized news entity, or proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking or disclosures of conflicts of interest."
I realize the judge is groping. We're trying to make a territory into a state. It's a challenge.
The judge is confusing generally held ideals of journalism with absolute rules which if violated could lead to a civil sanction.
People who can properly be called journalists really come in all stripes, and these include advocacy folks.
Must a journalist, legally defined, have "education (formal)" in journalism? Heavens, I hope not. It's not like practicing dentistry. Can't an English major describe the world around him/her and be considered a "journalist?"
As far as "affiliation with any recognized news entity," my God, these "entities" are laying people off all the time. They're running scared. They're meek. We don't want to rely on them so much any more.
Let's look to the likes of Bissinger.
The judge mentions "credentials." Is he implying that maybe journalists should be licensed? Joe Scarborough once suggested (hitting the nail right on the head) that the only way to create a legally recognized class of journalists is licensing. Of course this whole notion is repellent.
I needn't elaborate.
I once described Johnny "Northside" Hoff, the Minnesota blogger in his own legal imbroglio, as "a bear with boxing gloves." Cox looks like a blogger with a machine gun.
We mustn't be surprised that some online practitioners are going to push the envelope. It's how the legal system reacts that we must watch in very sober and serious fashion.
We're trying to leave our territorial status behind.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Since their openers, hoops teams have cooled

(This post gives updates on MACA boys and girls basketball and MBA boys hockey.)
Our winter sports teams might need a little time to build up a head of steam. It might take a little more than singing two different school songs (LOL).
Oh, things went fine for the hoops season openers. The girls won theirs over BOLD in a game already reviewed on this site.
The boys did fine at the start, downing Minnewaska Area in a game that was reviewed in an odd way in the daily newspaper that purports to cover the Tigers. Frankly it appears the writer got a little disoriented when writing the article and thought Minnewaska won.
We have to keep in mind that putting out a newspaper is kind of a sausage-making process. Those cotton-pickin' deadlines can impede quality. Also, we all know that newspapers are under siege because of the rapidly evolving communications universe.
When I click on "publish," I know I can always come back and make adjustments later. I'm horrified to think of a situation where once you "go to press" and the ink is applied, that's it. Also, I'm never looking at any "deadlines." I write when I feel comfortable doing so - when I'm ready, well-rested etc.
The economic travails of newspapers suggest they'll have greater trouble attracting quality people to do the work. Maybe that's the problem we're looking at here.
I hope the cockeyed Minnewaska game "article" - it's only four sentences long - doesn't get lifted and repeated in the Morris newspaper which is owned by the same Fargo-based company.
I didn't really want to get into this sidebar about press stuff, but circumstances necessitate. The headline (subhead really) for the 'Waska game was accurate as was the fine-print boxscore. It's the other stuff that got flubbed. But, four sentences?
Can't Morris fans promote higher standards than that for the PR aims of their teams? Can't someone invest as much effort and care with this as some people do with their Facebook pages? Really?
C'mon, let's move forward in the spirit of Stevens Forward! which has long promoted the idea of a "virtual community" here.
Yes, I'm investing a lot of effort myself. But it's not my aim to be the de facto PR arm of Tiger athletics. Let's all at least think about these issues I'm broaching.

MACA boys 41, 'Waska 39
Coach Mark Torgerson's boys debuted with a flourish in front of the home fans, working to a two-point win. The Tigers led 25-18 at halftime. The Lakers outscored the Tigers 21-16 in the second half.
The Tigers had to overcome shooting problems from long-range: one-for-seven numbers from three-point land. Sam Mattson made the three-pointer.
In total field goals the Tigers made 13 of 29. In freethrows: 14 of 27.
The Tigers had two double figures scorers: Riley Arndt (13 points) and Austin Dierks (10). The scoring list continues with Logan Manska (5), Chandler Erickson (4), Sam Mattson (3) and the following Tigers each with two: Brody Bahr, Lincoln Berget and John Tiernan.
Manska stole the ball twice. Dierks with his seven rebounds led in that category.
The final horn sounded with the Tigers up 41-39.

MACA girls: loss to Lac qui Parle
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta girls took the court Tuesday for their fourth game, having beaten BOLD and lost to Osakis and Wheaton-H-N, the latter in a rare Saturday game, score of 47-33 (here).
On Tuesday the foe was Lac qui Parle Valley at Madison. The outcome: a 42-34 loss for coach Dale Henrich's squad.
Lac qui Parle is headed in the other direction and came out of Tuesday at 3-1. But the season is still very young. Henrich hopes to tweak the attack and get to .500.
On Tuesday the Tigers were outscored 23-19 in the first half and 19-15 in the second. The long-range shooting was encouraging: three-for-six numbers in three-pointers with Katie Holzheimer making all three. Holzheimer had the team-best scoring total with 13 points, plus she stole the ball seven times.
Beth Holland joined Holzheimer in double figures with ten points. Nicole Strobel put in seven. MaKenzie Smith and Courtney Gades each contributed two points. Strobel attacked the boards for eight rebounds.
Jen Kack was a force for the host Eagles with 21 points including a "3."

Boys hoops: BBE 71, Tigers 43
Non-conference action wasn't kind to the MACA boys Tuesday at home. The Jaguars of BBE upped their record to 3-0 with a 71-43 triumph as the visitor, buoyed by balanced scoring.
The BBE attack had four individuals scoring in double figures. Billy Borgerding and Kirby Montbriand each found the range for 16 points. Their efforts were complemented by Connor Goodwin and James Kuefler each of whom put in 12.
The Jaguars are considered the kingpin of Minnesota Class 'A'.
The game seemed pretty well decided at halftime with BBE up 42-18. They cruised in the second half.
The home gym wasn't a comfortable place for MACA to try three-pointers on this night. Their stats in that category were a woeful two of 17. Logan Manska had both of the successes.
John Tiernan topped the MACA scoring list with 16 points. Lincoln Berget scored nine, Manska six and Riley Arndt five.
These Tigers each put in two: Tom Holland, Chandler Erickson and Tyler Henrichs. Danny Nelson scored one.

MBA boys hockey: 6-4 setback
Action on the ice Tuesday had the Morris Benson Area boys facing off against Litchfield-Dassel-Cokato. The Storm succumbed to a hat trick by Max Hyberger. Two of his scores were unassisted. MBA fell in the 6-4 final.
The Storm got outshot 25-23.
Mac Beyer was a bright spot for the skating Storm with two goals.
LDC seized the key momentum in the first period, climbing to a 3-1 lead. Brody Gimberlin scored the MBA goal (at 10:05).
Luke Schwarz shot the puck into the net at 14:13 of period No. 2, assisted by Gimberlin and Kelly Engquist. Beyer scored at 15:43 with the assist from Taner Gimberlin.
The fourth MBA goal came from the stick of Beyer in the third period - assists from Tanner Picht and Taner Gimberlin.
Paden Strutz had 19 saves working in the net for MBA. LDC's Braeden Wahl accumulated 19 saves.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Snoopy's Christmas" & our longing for peace

We live in a time when war can't be suspended just because someone wants a "truce." The gentlemen's rules of war have faded. Today the enemy wears no uniform. It can slither among us undetected.
We have waged a "war on terror" but it's hardly a conventional war. We can never be sure the enemy is vanquished. The vigilance looks as though it will be endless. Perhaps it's a proposition where victory can never be declared.
The vigilance brings with it a price like the exasperation we feel when we hear of the excesses of the TSA.
We rattle sabers with Iran and groan. We remember the excruciating process of intervening in Iraq and wonder if it was worth it, if maybe the solution in that country could have come by other means.
Mass intervention of a military force? Force to compel submission of a country?
We intervene in places where Christmas doesn't mean anything. The major wars of the 20th Century followed a different model. That's why in World War I there was a Christmas truce. We are reminded of this in a Christmas song that was well known to the boomers (my crowd) when young.
It's interesting that a song so apparently silly, based as it was on a comic strip, should give us the reminder of something so somber as the World War I truce. World War I was nothing but horrific.
Had a Middle Eastern country used the kind of weapons we saw unleashed in World War I, we would retaliate with scorched earth. But the 20th Century was marked by total fury over who would control Europe. It's amazing that WWI didn't settle the issue.
Intense as the conflict was, the combatants remembered Christmas. This historical episode is illuminated in "Snoopy's Christmas."
Perhaps this song still gets played on oldies radio stations. I don't think the young generation is too familiar. It certainly comes across as a novelty song.
But there's a wholly serious, thought-provoking dimension.
The song's basis is the "Snoopy" character of the Peanuts comic strip. We all know that's the dog, who never actually "says" anything but has thoughts right on par with the most philosophical of us.
He enjoyed pretending he was a WWI flying ace. His foe: the "Red Baron" (of the German side).
The song came out in 1967 when I was in the junior high. Had I been of draft age, I might have been sent to Viet Nam. Viet Nam like the Middle East is a region that's not going to show pacifism for Christmas. I think we can say 1967 was the height of horror in the Viet Nam war for Americans.
And it was in that year that The Royal Guardsmen came out with "Snoopy's Christmas." This was actually a clever "parlay" by the Guardsmen. Already they had the hit "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron." They carried the original over for a Christmas version.
I remember a few years ago, Kim Ode wrote a column for the Star Tribune remembering this song most fondly. It might be one of the most nostalgic things you can point out to a boomer. We could feel truly warm about it if we could wipe away memories of Viet Nam.
Usually nostalgia means it would be fun to go back to a particular time. We watched "The Wonder Years" TV show with a certain fascination as we remembered things like the first moon landing. It could have been a rich time. Instead the specter of war and military conscription brought rage and detachment by my crowd.
It would have been nice to have a "truce." It would have been nice for Lyndon Johnson to say "we're getting out."
It's interesting that the WWI truce was initiated by the Germans. The song by the Guardsmen reflects that historical fact: It is the Red Baron who extends friendship first.
The Germans gave beer to the British.
The song begins with a male chorus singing the German yuletide classic "O Tannenbaum." The heart of the song is classic '60s pop in its tone. Chimes ring to enhance the Christmas feeling.
For some reason the song became especially popular in New Zealand and remains so today.
The memory of the Red Baron is kept alive by frozen pizza.
The artist behind the Peanuts strip, Charles Schulz, has left us. He was a WWII veteran. It took two great wars to settle the issues of Europe. And even in the wake of that settlement, there was great conflict in the form of the Cold War that colored my generation to a great extent.
When I was a kid, it seemed some of these things were fixed (i.e. imprinted) permanently. I mean, things like the war in Indochina, inflation (or "stagflation") and the boogeyman of Communism.
God created man in such a way that we cannot be without some grand conflict. So today we have "terrorism" and the vigilance of the TSA, reflecting the scared stance we took in the Cold War. If it isn't one thing, it's something else.
A cynic would say we need to fear something in order to acquiesce to the continuing military industrial complex. President Eisenhower warned us about that. Eisenhower hated war because he had seen so much of it. He was the last person who would want to see militarism fed like some insatiable beast.
Today there are Republicans who would argue we can't cut a penny from "defense" spending. I put the word in quotes because I'm influenced by Ron Paul. Paul suggests a word that would be more accurate and promote more reservations, like maybe "militarism."
We're not fighting the Wermacht anymore.
Republicans and other reactionaries like to beat their chest. It's a test of machismo.
We have to start taking care of our own now. We must listen more to the grievances from the "Occupy" movement. We of all people, us boomers, should understand where such a voice springs from.
All the youth want is fairness. They feel they are entering a world where the deck is stacked against them. The hurdles are more foreboding than when the boomers entered the workforce. Too many of us seem oblivious to that.
We assume AARP will go to bat for us and keep us comfortable. The young people feel exasperated. We listen to politicians like Newt Gingrich who says the "Occupy" members need to "take a bath and get a job."
Isn't this rhetoric exactly the same as the "America, love it or leave it" refrains we heard when we were young?
Our current wars have been bad for our economy. It's questionable what we have gained. We face an enemy who would never slow down for Christmas. Such "truces" are now the stuff of nostalgia.
War is bad. Terrorism is bad. God created us with such proclivities. Bot God also instilled a pervading common sense and compassion that make us recoil from war, as reflected in "Snoopy's Christmas," a song with a joyous tone that truly reminds us of our better side.
Snoopy takes to the air to fight the Red Baron - he's actually just on the top of his dog house - and it's Christmas Eve. The Red Baron extends actual friendship. The combatants share a holiday toast at the end and then fly their separate ways.
The sound of the chimes makes this song distinct from the first "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" song.
"Snoopy's Christmas" puts an instant smile on our faces. If only the Viet Nam conflict could have abated in a way reflecting a similar sensibility.
"The good guys" won the world wars of the 20th Century. We assume the presumed forces for good, will prevail at present. We wonder if Iraq would have been drawn into the Arab Spring and undergone a transformation, sans any mass U.S. military intervention.
Us boomers should be natural pacifists. We ought to be in the spirit of those who offered beer in the WWI truce.
It's the first week of December when we're all falling into the Christmas spirit or at least trying. But we live in a time when "money is speech" and "corporations are people."
Mitt Romney says "corporations are people too." If they are, let them all get a lump of coal for Christmas.
Snoopy was a prime character in an ensemble that gave us "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Whatever travails swirl around us this holiday season, let's all just slow down, forget the profit goal for the next quarter and feel love and compassion.
I suppose we need to show the spirit of a truce. Let's feel the spirit of "Snoopy's Christmas."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com