"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)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"The Earth Stood Still" in two movies

Movies today are more glitzy than in an earlier time.
Look what "CGI" can do with movies. Think how much cheaper the movie "Cleopatra" would have been with CGI. There would have been shortcuts to creating "mass spectacle" scenes. You wouldn't have had to create real mass spectacles.
I suppose it was good work for the extras.
All the new tricks do not create better movies. Believe it or not, CGI can get tiresome. There truly is no substitute for story.
The old craftsmanship of drama survives. The new tricks are so much frosting that can be applied. It tastes sweet but is no substitute for the main course.
We want stories with twists and turns and characters that engage us.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" was a science fiction classic made in 1951. It was chosen in 1995 for preservation in the U.S. Film Registry. It was a story about flying saucers and aliens.
So the special effects must have been gripping, right?
It would seem the special effects were just good enough.
I'd guess the moviemakers were nervous about whether the special effects might be too flimsy. It was a black and white movie and I think that helped.
I'm sure many movie aficionados wonder if color is really a step up. Isn't an Alfred Hitchcock movie more compelling in black and white than in color? Wouldn't the "film noir" genre lose an awful lot if these flicks were in color?
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" appeared on network TV in the 1960s. The boomer generation became captivated. We also liked "War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine."
These science fiction stories have been re-told (or "re-imagined") in new versions. Most recently we got "The Day the Earth Stood Still" in 2008 with Keanu Reeves in the role originally played by Michael Rennie.
I have read that one of the reasons the original was so successful is that Rennie was an unknown. It was easier to imagine his character ("Klaatu") as genuine.
One of the most striking scenes has the Rennie character silhouetted at the entry to the boarding house where he inquires about a room. The lighting leaves his figure totally in shadow, accenting the mood of fear and uncertainty gripping everyone as news of the flying saucer gets out.
Might there be danger around every corner?
But the Rennie character steps out of the shadow and becomes immediately ingratiating. He's downright disarming. At no point in the movie to we ever really fear him.
More foreboding, it seems, are the raw and unrefined impulses of all us earthbound humanoids. We retreat into closed-mindedness. Perhaps the Cold War, in full flower, built that up.
The gentle "Klaatu" has a mission to help earth. We need only to take a sedative and listen.
The most thought-provoking aspect of the movie is how the alien approaches us like we're mass brethren on our planet, not separated by national or political boundaries. At least, that's how we ought to view ourselves.
This is elementary for Klaatu. Alas, not for us.
The storyline is much the same in the 2008 "re-imagining" with Reeves.
In each movie, the earth's inhabitants need a very assertive reminder about being sensible custodians of their planet.
Nuclear weapons were the specter in the '51 movie. Global climate change was the focus for the 2008 version.
One wonders on how many fronts these aliens might approach us and tell us to shape up.
Wouldn't "Gort" the robot be helpful preventing a state government shutdown in Minnesota? Or, preventing a similar impasse at the national level, where "liberals" and "conservatives" seem increasingly on a path of mutual destruction?
But the aliens might see these conflicts as too parochial. We need to be concerned about the human race and earth. We have to be prepared to set a good example for our fellow inhabitants of the universe.
Boomers were young in the 1960s when an assortment of cinematic sci-fi classics became imprinted on their (our) consciousness. As kids we could literally get scared.
While we weren't scared of "Klaatu," we were definitely scared of "Gort." I think I'm speaking for my generation here, as the mute and hulking Gort was one of those movie characters that might make you keep the light on in your bedroom for a few nights.
The same with the "Morlocks" in "The Time Machine."
Re. Gort: The '51 movie never showed us just how powerful this character might be. Klaatu informed that his companion could wreak unimaginable destruction. It was left to our imagination how.
This is very powerful storytelling: allowing the viewer to fill in blanks via the imagination.
Gort had an unmistakable ominous nature that we just knew could be bad news. He disarmed military weapons and tanks.
He apparently killed a couple of soldier/guards with a technique much like Mr. Spock's "Vulcan death grip." We didn't see the moment when the soldiers went down; at that moment we just saw the astounded look on child actor Billy Gray's face.
You know, Billy Gray, who went on to play "Bud" in "Father Knows Best." The movie also included the actress who went on to play "Aunt Bea" in "Andy of Mayberry."
All in all, the creators of the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still" were masters of instilling fear by just suggesting scenarios, planting thoughts in our heads.
The 2008 remake ("re-imagining") by comparison wasn't subtle. We saw how Gort could inflict mass death. He did it by turning into a cloud of "nanites."
It was more disgusting than scary to see this unfold on the screen.
If I may offer a brief movie review, I'd say the Reeves version started out very well and very promising. It seemed like a big budget spectacle that would take us for a ride.
I was greatly impressed by the scene where Reeves as Klaatu meets in a fast food restaurant with "Mr. Wu" (James Hong), an alien who has lived on earth as an observer.
Mr. Wu sees the hopeless side of our grappling with environmental issues. But, he has seen "another side" that makes him feel affection for us. He refuses to leave.
This decision would appear to spell death. Klaatu, upon consulting all relevant information, sees no hope. The planet's fate for life-sustaining purposes is the overriding priority.
Klaatu sees the need to "pull the trigger," as it were. While the '51 version suggested this scenario, it never happened, so maybe this is why we might find the Rennie portrayal of Klaatu more endearing.
Rennie finds us to be primitive but he mixes with us comfortably. Reeves complains about his human body which he at first finds completely unacceptable.
Rennie issues a stark warning at the end of the '51 classic. It seems likely his Klaatu will be heeded.
In the 2008 movie, we see all hell break loose with those disgusting nanites made "real" by CGI. Thanks but no thanks to CGI.
The '08 movie was not a step up from its predecessor. The re-imagining was compelling for about the first one-third, and after that it flattens out and becomes largely forgettable.
The reviews were mixed. Typically they said this movie was "heavy on special effects but without a coherent story."
Ah, story. It's so basic to appreciate the need for a compelling story and characters we care about. It's so fundamental but it can get overlooked.
The original movie had substance along with being truly scary. In all its black and white splendor, it captivated a generation from the small screen.
The remake/re-imagining came at us with the idea that an audience was ready-made, i.e. all of us who fell in love with the original.
The original had Klaatu tote around diamonds which became a giveaway for his being an alien. I'm sure Newt Gingrich's eyes would've popped open wildly (LOL).
I'm not sure Newt's "revolving account" at Tiffany's would have covered these other-worldly gems, or come close.
There are times when Gingrich's political ideas seem to be coming from outer space.
Could Gort the robot neutralize the political "tea party?" Only in my dreams, I guess.
But I proclaim the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still" as a distinct classic, deserving of a position in any "Top 10" of cinema.
The wavering tone of the melodic instrument in the theme music sends a chill down my spine.
Never forget: "Klaatu Barada Nikto."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Morris Legion boys impress in two wins

Legion baseball picks up where the high school campaign leaves off.
Morris had a memorable prep campaign with win after win. That trek ended in Marshall. Now the boys are proudly wearing Legion blue.
The athletes play for Post #29 of Morris.
The Motown crew picked up its second win of this wet summer on Thursday, June 23. Playing at home, the blue-themed Morris unit turned back Brandon-Evansville 8-1.
Cole Riley, whose bat was on the money for much of this past spring, was "in the zone" with his three hits. He knocked in a run with a single in the third inning, and connected for a run-scoring double in the fourth.
Tanner Picht doubled, scored two runs and drove in one as part of going two-for-three. Alex Erickson was fleet of foot in stealing two bases and scoring two runs. He had one hit in three at-bats.
Brady Valnes had a one-for-three line and drove in a run. Brody Bahr went one-for-two and Tyler Henrichs had a hit in his only official at-bat: a double.
A pair of familiar pitching names from the high school season shared the mound assignment.
It was Alex Erickson carrying most of the load. Alex threw for six innings, striking out three batters, walking two and giving up four hits and one run (earned). He was the pitcher of record.
Tyler Hansen worked a very efficient one inning of relief, striking out the side in the seventh.
The Post #29 boys jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, then made the score 5-0 in the third. They pulled away with a three-run fourth inning.
Brandon-Evansville scored its lone run in the sixth.
Morris fielded cleanly with but one error, while B-E had three fielding miscues.
Morris outhit the visitor 9-4.
Aaron Lund was the offensive standout for the visitor, rapping two hits in three at-bats including a double. Lund drove in the only B-E run.

Morris 8, Glenwood-Lowry 2
Monday, June 13, action had the Legion nine visiting Glenwood-Lowry and winning with a dramatic, memorable flourish.
This game had crept into extra innings. Morris brought its lumber to the plate in the top of the eighth with special determination.
Wow! When the dust cleared in this rally, Morris had scored six times and pretty much put this game away.
Mitch Kill blanked Glenwood-Lowry in the bottom of the eighth and this game went into the books as an 8-2 Morris win.
Morris scored its eight runs on ten hits and committed zero errors. The Glenwood-Lowry line score was 2-4-6. Yes, six errors, which must have spelled some trouble for the hosts, who almost won anyway.
Glenwood-Lowry fielding actually unraveled in that pivotal eighth inning when Morris seized its victory mantle. Morris took advantage of errors but also pounded out four hits in the eighth.
That rally included a fly ball to center by Mitch Kill that was misplayed, allowing a run in. Also, Brody Bahr connected for an RBI single.
Bahr and Kill were the Morris pitchers. Bahr got the starting nod and Kill came on in relief. Each pitched four innings and it was Kill getting the "W" next to his name. Kill fanned five batters and walked two. He allowed no hits.
Bahr got roughed up a little as he gave up four hits and two runs (earned) while fanning four batters and walking two.
Dustin Helmick, Taylor Kollmann (the loser) and Kevin Jenks pitched for Glenwood-Lowry.
Let's roll up our sleeves for the hitting summary: Tyler Hansen's hitting eye was right on as he delivered three hits in five at-bats including a double, plus he drove in a run.
Ryan Beyer's bat resounded for two hits in five at-bats and he drove in two runs. Ethan Bruer came through at two-for-four and he drove in a run.
Cole Riley went one-for-four and Brody Bahr one-for-three, and Bahr picked up a ribbie.
Trenton Berg and Kameron Drange each had two hits for Glenwood-Lowry.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is UND nickname issue still bubbling?

Isn't there a "silent majority" in North Dakota?
I hate to trot out a term that was probably coined by Richard Nixon. But the term has meaning - the idea of a vast sea of people holding a certain view who aren't injecting themselves into the public arena.
We shouldn't assume the view in question is regressive or misinformed.
In the case of North Dakota, aren't most people totally ready to move on from the UND nickname issue? Haven't they been weary of this for some time? Wouldn't any sensible person have better things to do than worry about a school nickname/mascot?
Isn't there some level of embarrassment setting in?
I think the NCAA has tried to be gentle about this. Change has crept into the picture and it's just time to accept it.
What a ridiculous cause.
Education leaders in North Dakota have been ready to move on. They in fact took steps to do so, but then the waters got muddied by politicians.
I suspect the politicians, perhaps not fully adjusted to our new communications age, have been swamped with emails from the regressive and emotional forces.
Be careful about electronic communications. People with strong emotions use them disproportionately. The more temperate and reasonable crowd just expects you fools to lead.
Please pause and try to consider that a "silent majority" wants you to navigate these uncomfortable waters and just do the appropriate thing. As a political issue this one seems pretty superficial.
There is a money problem as there so often is. An extremely wealthy benefactor once had a hockey arena built for UND that had the controversial mascot symbol all over the place, or so I've read. Apparently this was a deliberate ploy to try to ensure the mascot would remain.
Erasing it would put some contractors to work on a mighty ambitious project.
Why the clinging to the nickname? Maybe it's a case of people resenting outside intrusion. The nickname has been assailed from outside the borders of the state.
The NCAA might seem like one of those outside bureaucratic forces that we like to resent. But the NCAA is in large part a political animal, trying to reflect what society wants.
The NCAA and controversy are hardly strangers to each other. So, these are people who know how to deal with this landscape. They listen to voices of change and try to adjust.
Resentment toward UND's type of nickname has been bubbling up. People have tried to be gentle in coaxing UND in the right direction.
We try to realize that tradition has a pull. We try to realize that many innocent people have gone along with the nickname. But a growing number have come to realize that the mascot and nickname are not innocuous. They are a throwback to a less enlightened time.
North Dakota's education leaders seem to have accepted this reasoning now. Oh, I'm sure most accepted it long ago.
But we're sailing through political waters here. A school like University of North Dakota depends on state support.
I have argued on this site for a long time that higher education is going to be thrown on its heels by the communications tech revolution. Higher education will have to be more concerned than ever about not offending anyone.
The UND Native American mascot issue is out in the open and isn't going away. I came across an update article the other day. This is when I learned that the politicians are muddying the waters, obstructing the inevitable shift that seemed to be proceeding.
The article was from the Washington Post.
I thought "my God, when will this issue just go away?"
It isn't going to go away if change doesn't come.
Politicians are supposed to be custodians of a state's image. If certain North Dakotans think they're going to come off looking heroic by fighting for the current name and imagery, they are out of the loop of reason.
This has become such an old issue. It appears the NCAA isn't going to budge. The NCAA has come this far with a firm stance; it isn't going to crumble now.
North Dakota politicians aren't going to have that much power. You're a long way from the Beltway, guys. Not that the Beltway people would bother pushing a cause like this.
Politicians have some mighty important tasks these days. Getting involved in a school nickname controversy would seem to put the "ass" in "asinine."
Are you prepared to see headlines about this five years from now? One feels the same kind of weariness about this as about the "birthers" vs. President Obama. Frankly, the level of ignorance seems the same.
The "Fighting Sioux" mascot supporters are stuck in another age. It's an age when college sports fans invested emotions in these things to an unreasonable degree. It's an age when male athletes in the marquee sports tended to drink alcohol as sort of a badge.
They disrespected women.
Finally, the old "Hoosiers" model of elite sports - remember the Gene Hackman movie? - gave way to a more civilized approach. My goodness, women's sports certainly helped that.
Women's sports lifted up the idea that sports ought to be a platform for healthy participation by a substantial number of students.
The number of sports offerings increased. Look what soccer has done for our University of Minnesota-Morris.
The idea of heavy-drinking football "heroes" became a relic. Along with this enlightenment came the realization that the UND nickname and logo had to go.
I'm sure administrators at the school have been pulling their hair out over this issue for some time. Many have had their arm twisted, painfully, to be courteous toward the regressive crowd. Nobody in higher education wants to be combative with any element of the public.
The silent majority in the state, I'm sure, regrets the day when the controversial name took hold. I have read that a different name existed prior. I have read this was "Flickertails." What a pleasant nickname to have adorning the school.
If you're a real adherent to tradition, why not just go back to this? The Neanderthals might say the name is "namby pamby" or something like that. Do I have to use the word "asinine" again?
The train has left the station, you guys. Put down your beer steins, if you can, and try to reflect a little.
A college sports nickname isn't even a necessary thing. Why do teams even need them? Why can't we just refer to the University of North Dakota men's basketball team? Nicknames seem juvenile.
A lot of teams fall back on "cat" names as sort of a default approach. Consider that when the National Football League expanded, we got the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
We here in Morris are quite safe with our cat names: Morris Area Tigers and UMM Cougars. Our football teams play at Big Cat Stadium.
Of course, we still play the "Benson Braves." I'm not sure why Benson has been able to retain this name for so long with so little controversy. It's just a little high school, I guess. They know not what they do.
But the University of North Dakota? Such institutions are bastions of forward thinking. What a ridiculous issue to be dogging what I'm sure is a fine institution.
What a ridiculous issue to be tainting North Dakota.
Who are these politicians pushing in the regressive direction? Are they tea partiers? I don't know, but we all know what the outcome will eventually be.
I'll throw out one name, Governor Jack Dalrymple, who is in with the Pickett's Charge type of effort. How atavistic.
Let's erase from our consciousness the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

West Morris has higher profile in summer

Wells Park in west Morris has been a chief venue for little league baseball and elementary softball. (B.W. photo)

Summer is fully upon us in Morris. The graduations are done and the high school athletics action wrapped up with the state track and field meet. Congrats to Cody, Rachel and Tristan on the heights they reached.
The sports are a little more low-key now. Wells Park takes its place in the sports fabric. Generations of Morris youth have experienced the highs and lows of little league baseball there.
I have occasionally suggested that west Morris could have its own festival like Prairie Pioneer Days. Call it West Morris Fest or West Morris Days. Wells Park would be a nice home base.
Close your eyes and imagine the flea market and other doings there. How about a parade along Park Avenue?
Remember, Morris was set up with the idea of the east and west sides being co-equal. The blueprint was much like for Benson but Morris veered off on its own path.
East Morris became the hub for commerce and public institutions.
And west Morris? It didn't really take a back seat, unless you consider the rich residential life to somehow have a back seat.
West Morris is a celebration of the residential life. As such it probably just prefers "quiet." A man's home is his castle.
An event like Prairie Pioneer Days would probably seem like an intrusion. Nice event to visit but you wouldn't want to live around it.
Little league baseball is as close as you'll get to a real public spectacle there. I doubt the surrounding neighborhoods really have an issue with that.
I played little league baseball there in the years before the kids got those nice major league facsimile uniforms. We had team T-shirts.
Girls didn't have a comparable outlet back then. Girls sports took time to work up a head of steam.
It's amazing how backwards our society was at one time. The government had to assert itself for girls to get equal footing.
People who are left of center politically are always the ones giving the push for this type of change. Republicans never do. The change process can be uncomfortable and always runs into naysayers.
Once the change is complete and the public accepts it, Republicans act as if they never would have had a problem with it. Like for Medicare which was dragged into reality in the mid 1960s.
If you have any doubts about Republicans' inclinations, look at what they're trying to do with Medicare today.
Title IX really carried the banner for girls sports. I remember when girls elementary softball came on the scene at Wells Park, overseen by Morris Area Community Education.
I remember the "GEO girls" coached by Sharon Martin. I think the GEO initials have kind of come and gone in carmaking. The sponsor I'm alluding to is Heartland Motors.
The shrieks of fan/parents are just as audible for girls as for boys sports at Wells.
I played there in a less progressive epoch.
Baseball/softball at that level is a laboratory for learning life's lessons. You have to function as a group (team). There is an authority figure (coach) who can be a pain.
There are pecking orders. Emotions get aroused. There is the pressure to perform. Players sprint around the bases to score and commit errors.
I remember playing first base and moving into the hole between first and second to try to field a grounder, only to get reprimanded because apparently I should have let the second baseman try to make the play. First base was left abandoned.
"Play first!" the pitcher barked.
But the pitcher should instinctively run to first to try to cover on plays like this.
This is the kind of finger-pointing that becomes a laboratory in preparing for the "real world."
One of the most commendable things you can say about sports is that the feedback is immediate and direct. It's not done with a memo left on someone's desk. Your mistakes are in full view.
Generations of Morris kids have gotten nurtured this way at Wells Park.
I was playing first base one evening when the sun was getting low toward the horizon, making it hard to see the ball on a pickoff try. Really, pickoff plays at this level can be more trouble than they're worth.
I actually tried "shaking off" the pickoff play (like a pitcher shaking off a sign from the catcher). The pitcher, whose identity I remember, didn't get the communication. The ball got past me and the runner advanced.
Should I report the pitcher's name here? Oh, why not. It was Nick Kieffer.
Wells Park is located close to the railroad tracks and close to where Park Avenue and Pacific Avenue start out on the north end. These two arteries start out in the same place and fan out.
Eventually the east-west streets had to intersect the two, of course. Not the easiest proposition for achieving 90-degree angles.
Didn't Jesse Ventura once joke that St. Paul must have been designed by drunk Irishmen? West Morris prompts the same type of thought.
A businessman friend of mine jokes that west Morris is marked by "five-way intersections." It's an exaggeration but it's inspired by reality.
Whatever the case, west Morris is a prime refuge for families to rejoice in the residential lifestyle. No intrusion of anything like the "cemetery chimes."
I love the hypocrisy of some people who praise the cemetery music and chafe at the irritation some have felt toward it. They'd never tolerate such sounds in their own neighborhood. Hey, people live in east Morris too.
It's just that east Morris is accepted as the place for our main public institutions. Goodness, we almost got a 40-bed jail constructed there. Pinch me to see if I'm dreaming.
I still view the chimes as totally unnecessary, sorry. A knowledgeable source once told me the chimes were first offered to UMM and UMM refused them.
When I was in college, the "loud stereo" was a campus cultural fixture. I suspect that more students were annoyed by this than ever let on.
We let this "squeaky wheel" have the grease because it was some sort of cultural statement. It was a statement of rebellion. I doubt they helped anyone study any better. The Edgar Winter Group's "Frankenstein" might cascade across a campus.
In my assessment, this was a cultural statement only by the students who owned the loudest stereos and felt restless enough to want to be exhibitionists.
There, I've just said the emperor has no clothes. I do that quite often with my fellow boomers, you pot-smoking fools (many of you anyway).
Remind yourself that summer is here in Morris. The weather hasn't really suggested that. It's been an atypical summer with cool and moisture prevailing.
The last couple of days have been ungodly wet. Maybe we're all about to develop fins.
If there's any doubt summer is here, the Morris High School Class of 1971 just had its reunion. A class member approached me at the local greasy spoon Saturday. I "sort of" recognized him but he had to tell me his name.
It turns out he rode school bus with me, although I often elected not to take the bus. Too much bullying. I reflected on that with him. He was not one of the bullies.
He smiled when I was able to successfully spell his last name ("Hartsuiker").
I recalled a common bullying tactic: flicking fingers on the ear of a kid sitting in front of you. Very painful.
I told him that maybe I should have gone to authorities about this behavior, but if I did, I risked getting "beat up in a back alley" sometime.
I don't think "conflict resolution" was a buzzword yet. It was the laws of the jungle.
But we all love 'ol Motown (Morris), don't we?
Enjoy your summer.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, June 17, 2011

The proposed jail and small-town power

This site didn't exist at the time of the earthquake-like controversy over whether a new jail ought to be built here. But I certainly noticed all the doings.
We can see the Morris National Guard Armory from where we live. A climactic meeting was held there, focusing on the controversy. Cars were parked in every which direction.
County commissioners were basically told to "shut up and listen."
The citizenry, or at least a major element of it, took the initiative to put issues and questions before the public without going through any filter erected by the elected people.
This was a town hall meeting on steroids.
This website didn't exist then because the Morris newspaper still seemed somewhat viable. Not that this site is going to fill any void by itself; the point is that a variety of sites will evolve, and that hopefully yours truly is setting an example for how we can proceed.
These things take time. People have their old habits.
The jail flashpoint may have been fascinating but it was unfortunate.
Small towns are organisms that try to discourage conflict. It's hard for us to escape each other. We try to smooth over our differences of opinion.
Small towns don't have quite the same kind of power structure as in years past. Boomers will remember that in their youth, there was a shadowy type of power structure - I hesitate to say "mafia" - that seemed to push decisions a certain way.
It wasn't our imagination. A book about a celebrated murder in Foley in the 1950s went in depth about this. The book's author had an intellectual's eye.
Oh, the power structure had nothing to do with the murder, of course. But it guided how the community would deal with the aftermath.
I checked out this book from our local public library. My best college friend was from Foley, which drew some of my interest.
I was somewhat surprised to find the book at the library because it was controversial. The Star Tribune had more than one article about it.
The author used pseudonyms for a lot of the principals but this wasn't enough to tamp down a certain level of bad feeling.
No community would want to be reminded of this anyway. It would be like someone connected to Morris writing a book about the goalpost incident at UMM.
Of course we could learn a lot from a study of that.
From an intellectual's perspective, we might learn why college students, especially in groups, have a tendency toward unruly behavior in certain situations.
We might be better off discussing this stuff in the open. But I suspect the community consensus might well be: The less said the better. In the future, background on this might be shared in whispered tones.
Might it seem like urban legend?
Speaking of urban legend, we can dust off the old story about 3M coming here. Or rather, not coming here. Boomers with roots in Morris know all about this.
The Morris industrial base stood to be enhanced tremendously. It didn't happen, and the resulting question of "why?" became intriguing.
Was it the specter of unions coming here? That's a popular angle. Did the power structure of Morris at the time just see unions as anathema to their interests?
Never mind that public employee unions were on their way in a big way (here and everywhere else).
A cynic might buy what I just laid out. Most likely there is more than one explanation. The union angle can hardly be dismissed.
Oh, but no one would want to just "shoo away" unions, would they?
It's not really cynical to believe certain interests would, because look what's happening right before our eyes in Wisconsin. Republican politicians can run amok when they get too much power.
We can assume that most small town leaders of that bygone time were Republican. I remember hearing after the 3M matter: "They couldn't get together on who owned the land (where the company would locate)."
I love these explanations that start with "they." Who are "they?"
The English language permits these passive constructions, like "it's going to rain." What is "it?"
I remember a Gary Larson "Far Side" cartoon that poked fun at our tendency to use "they" in order to be non-specific. A man in a closet surrounded by telephones is discovered by his wife, who says "so you're the 'they' in 'that's what they say.' "
People my age could easily trot out four or five names that we'd associate with the Morris power structure. Absolute facts are hard to come by. But we just seemed to know.
We can be assured we were typical. You can just read that book about the Foley incident. You'll find yourself nodding your head.
We can easily forget those were quite different times. The line between rich and middle class was much more distinct.
The book author noted that the poor people were out of the loop and didn't pay much attention to how power was distributed. And the middle class? Many of them resented the power elite, according to the book.
Us boomers tended to throw around the names of prominent people in a deprecating way. Looking back, it seems kind of unfair.
Of course boomers engage in lots of revisionist history. There was a time we walked away from organized religion, especially of the mainstream kind. Today we have mostly drifted back.
Today we are inclined to feel affection, certainly no animosity, toward people who might have been connected to the power network of years ago.
Maybe it's because of economic prosperity. Boomers' parents had all they could do to tuck some money in the bank, and certainly weren't squirreling large sums away in "mutual funds."
The stock market seemed synonymous with hazard. In my mind it still is. Those old community leaders might "play around" in stocks but certainly not the rank-and-file (or "worker bees").
I have to laugh because rich people never really "play around" with their money. They know what they're doing. How do you think they got where they are? It's mythology to think the wealthy approach the stock market like it's a mere casino.
What I worry about is common citizens being drawn into the market, people without that savvy.
Talk to any survivor of the Great Depression about the wisdom of putting your money in any sort of non-FDIC insured place.
What would Morris be like if 3M had come here? It's one of the great "what if" questions of the community.
Now we can also ponder: "What if that big jail had been constructed here?" My, we came close to that reality.
The citizenry had to practically start screaming to stop it. A friend tells me that it wasn't the sheer number of naysaying voices that stopped it. What stopped it was that "people with money" spoke out.
"I could have said something, but no one would listen to me," this friend (initials G.H.) said.
They say money is the mother's milk of politics. (And who is "they?")
I like the old line: "Money's honey, my dear sonny, and a rich man's joke is always funny."
I learned that from Mad Magazine: a caption under a photo that included Nelson Rockefeller. Nelson and some colleagues were having a hoot about something.
Nelson was the famed "moderate Republican" of his time, the alternative to Barry Goldwater and his sharp edge.
Today we have Mitt Romney. The hard righties are warning us about "Obamneycare." This is an oldie but goodie: it's no different from the righties' attack on Medicare in the mid 1960s.
What would it be like having a big jail smack dab in the middle of Morris, a stone's throw from two churches and St. Mary's School? Would we even be able to fill it adequately?
Is it any fun, really, to fill a jail? Isn't it a necessary evil?
Well it's an evil that the community, in the end, decided it could do without.
That's what they say.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shall we have consensus on our lake names?

The sign says Welcome to Pomme de Terre Lake but on official maps it's Perkins Lake. Is either name really the predominant one? And the lake south of Alberta that I came to know as Frog Lake is identified on maps as Gorder Lake.

I remember as a kid fishing for bullheads in Pomme de Terre Lake. In my recent post about signs, I mentioned how the Pomme de Terre lake chain might be "an underappreciated asset" of the Morris area.
Maybe there's a name issue.
Number one, we can't be sure that Pomme de Terre Lake is in fact the official name.
Take a look at the big framed Stevens County map at our public library (just inside the entrance). It seems all official county maps tell the same story: It's Perkins Lake, not Pomme de Terre.
I brought this matter to the attention of our Stevens County Historical Society once. I'm not sure any follow-up research was done.
Is it asking too much that there be a consensus on the lake name? This isn't just some obscure slough, it's a lake good enough for recreational purposes.
You'll see boats pulling around large innertubes with shrieking kids on them.
I presume those bullheads are still around.
I became aware of the name issue through my years in the corporate media. I'd hear offhand references to "Perkins Lake." I learned that the Perkins name had a history out there.
Perkins Resort was once a very popular escape place, especially for the area's youth. There was a pavilion and roller skating.
I know for a fact some married couples first met there. I also know these lakes were once more inviting for swimming than they now are. They were cleaner.
I remember seeing swimming lessons out there. I didn't actually take them. Once I learned how to stay buoyant in water, that was good enough for me (along with "dog paddling" proficiency).
It's fine that the Perkins name seems synonymous with the lake, but should we take the jump of assuming the lake should be called that?
Someone at some time made sure our county maps would say "Perkins Lake."
It's a nice name, rolls off the tongue etc., but when you arrive at the public access there, you'll see a sign saying "welcome to Pomme de Terre Lake."
I'm biased toward this name because it's what I learned when I was young. In my mind it will always be Pomme de Terre Lake.
Perhaps the bottom line here is just that I'm suggesting there be consensus.
One argument for Perkins: This name clearly separates this lake in people's minds from where Pomme de Terre City Park is.
Pomme de Terre City Park is on the east edge of our community, much more convenient for the public.
I'm sure when some people say "Pomme de Terre Lake," confusion arises. You have to clarify you're referring to the lake several miles to the north of Morris, and not where the city park is.
The city park is located on a "sort of" lake that is really a wide spot on the Pomme de Terre River. I learned this lake has its own name. I saw it on a map when I was writing about the bike trail system. It's "Lake Crissy."
Nice name but it hasn't seemed to have gained widespread acceptance. I don't think I've ever heard this name in a casual conversation. People just refer to the park.
It was quite the big deal when the "earthen pool" opened at the park. My, it was a celebrated occasion when it opened and became a magnet for funseekers. There were lifeguards and a concession stand there.
The lifeguards could be a pain. They would get "breaks" that would require everyone out of the water. There were nitpicking rules like "staying off the dike." I couldn't imagine any real danger so it must have been one of those liability things.
Over time the "Pomme de Terre beach" (at the park) lost its popularity. I remember that only a real sizzling summer day, temperature over 90, could ensure people flocking there to any degree.
Finally the pool died. Maybe it was too expensive to maintain. Many people have fond memories from when the earthen pool was in its heyday.
Pomme de Terre City Park continues to have a successful campground. The noise from irrigation equipment can be an issue. I remember as a kid playing "capture the flag" with the Boy Scouts after dark out there.
The scoutmaster was Sandy Munson, a rustic sort of character. (Sandy taught me the term "swampwater" for a glass of pop that was a mixture of whatever varieties were available from the taps.)
The picnic shelters seem to be well used.
There's also a shelter out at the Pomme de Terre Lake access, along with a swing set and a little "horsie" for toddlers to have fun on.
"Middle" Pomme de Terre Lake seems more like an extension of the main lake, not deserving of its own name.
Our local golf course also has the Pomme de Terre name.
Maybe for clarity, we all ought to adopt the "Perkins Lake" name.
But this isn't the only lake in Stevens County with name issues. Sheesh, there's a lake south of Alberta, a tremendous wildlife haven, that has a different official name from the one I grew up with.
I grew up with "Frog Lake." Our family hunted ducks out there. I remember the bluebills roaring overhead late in duck season, sounding like a jet plane.
"Frog Lake" on official county maps is called "Gorder Lake."
So, which is it? Will the time come for everyone to just get on the same page? Apparently in Stevens County, an air of mystery is supposed to accompany our lake names.
Terms for things should be precise, like "Obamneycare" (LOL).
Minneapolis has its own problems with a prominent lake named for a pro-slavery politician. But we're learning that shelving the name Lake Calhoun is no routine matter and might be impossible. There were headlines about this Tuesday.
But it can't be impossible to re-name a lake. Perhaps there's buck-passing going on here. (What? Among politicians?)
We are blessed in Stevens County having our share of lakes and sloughs. I know of some sloughs that seem big enough to be called lakes. Where is the line drawn? Are there scientific criteria or is it just a horse-sense type of thing? I do trust horses.
And while we're seeking precision with names, how about a name for the island on Lake Crystal, west Morris? To my knowledge it lacks one.
A friend suggested "Skull Island." I didn't ask on what basis that name was coined. Must be inspired by pirate movies.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tigers' colors bold in state track & field

The orange and black colors of MACA Tiger track and field were mighty proud colors this past weekend. It was the weekend of state.
Cody Cannon finished first by a hair in his hurdling event, showing a decisive thrust when it counted. Cody wears the state Class A crown in the 110m hurdles.
Rachel Moser, long accomplished as a pole vaulter, finished her vaulting carer with a real flourish. Rachel took the Class A crown by getting over the bar at eleven feet even. She had no misses en route to accomplishing that height.
In the afterglow of state, Rachel told the media she's now a retired vaulter. The final chapter in that career saw her make some stabs at a state meet record before it was all over. She had the bar set at eleven feet/seven inches.
She wasn't able to reach that standard. But what memories she came away with.
These memories (of a lifetime) were made on the campus of Hamline University, St. Paul. The state's cream of the crop in track and field vied at Klac Field.
Fans of the sport reported enjoying the weather this year. Apparently the track record (i.e. history) when it comes to weather isn't that great.
The sun was out. A pleasant breeze was felt. The temperature hovered in the 60s.
Senior Moser has a personal best in the pole vault of eleven feet/three inches. This was set in this year's sub-section meet.
A state meet veteran, Moser was No. 7 in the vault last year and got the silver medal two years ago.
A determined Cody Cannon was a flash in the 110m high hurdles. He garnered the gold with his time of 15.42.
How tight was this finish? Aaron Dunphy of the Marshall School (Duluth) was runner-up with a time just .04 of a second slower!
A senior like Moser, Cannon also competed in the 300 INT hurdles at state. He was the No. 4 achiever in that event.
Cannon retires from prep track with five state medals in his possession. Last year he was on the 4x400m relay team that took third.
Tristan Michealson of MACA ran the 110m high hurdles in state and placed fifth with a time of 15.82.
Team standings are compiled in state and the MACA boys tied for ninth with Minnehaha Academy. Moser gave the MACA girls a No. 25 showing.
Bravo, Morris Area Chokio Alberta track and field for 2011.
These student athletes have earned some relaxation for the rest of the summer.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 11, 2011

We can all tell stories about signs

Note the "no loitering" sign on the edge of the old Coborn's parking lot. We should be so lucky as to have people loitering in the old Coborn's lot. Coborn's is gone with the wind. Now we have tumbleweeds, at least figuratively speaking. Couldn't our economic developer have done more to try to keep Coborn's here? Was the issue the liquor license? Who knows, but Morris hasn't been completely the same since Coborn's, a 24-hour "people" place, left town. Maybe the ghosts of the old loiterers are still hanging around.

Signs can be vague, funny and confusing. Oh, we can all tell stories.
We have all "missed" a sign at one time or another.
I finished a pleasant swim in Lake Minnewaska a few years ago only to notice, when coming ashore, a sign advising against swimming that day. Fortunately I didn't develop "lake itch."
I remember once in my life coming down with a horrible episode of this affliction, and it was after swimming in Page Lake. Sorry, Hancock.
Page Lake does present a nice aesthetic enhancement for Hancock. Please show caution about getting wet.
Maybe as an adult I have developed some sort of immunity. I have splashed around in Lake Latoka, Alexandria, several times over the past few years. Wonderful place. No bad consequences.
Jim Bouton the author of "Ball Four" told a story about missing a sign. The baseball player had to retrieve some items from a stadium when it was officially closed - I believe it was a minor league park - and he scaled a fence.
He got what he needed and departed. He saw a sign: "Warning: guard dog patrolling area."
I had to laugh at that because you got the image of a dog consciously following an assigned route. Bouton imagined the headline in the next day's paper: "(Name of city) pitcher mauled to death at second base."
I can remember missing signs three times in my life, that got me off course.
Look out when you're coming home from Breckenridge. In my case, I was actually coming home from Grand Forks or Fargo. It was getting late into the night.
There's a left turn you have to make outside of Breckenridge. If you don't, you'll end up seeing the World's Largest Mallard outside of Wheaton MN. I doubt the thick of night gives you enough cover (excuse) to deal with ending up in the wrong place.
I followed a "shortcut" from Montevideo to Lowry once. It was a little involved, with several turns along lightly-traveled roads (i.e. "back roads").
I missed one turn. I came upon some industrial-type buildings and found myself asking "what town is this?" It was Willmar.
At this point I could use horse sense to get where I needed to be. I was somewhat late but it wasn't a disaster.
Thinking of "shortcuts" reminds me of when Leonard Anderson ("Trombone Andy" RIP of Wheaton) informed of a shortcut across Mud Lake (in winter of course). We passed on that one.
I was en route from a musical gig many years ago, probably in Marshall (the old "Blue Moon" ballroom, since razed by fire), when I got off course and ended up in Clara City. I had passengers at least one of whom didn't find this funny. That individual was the band director in Hoffman (initials D.D.).
These are all very human mistakes. We're supposed to laugh about them years later.
I'm writing about them now in a spirit of levity. (I learned the word "levity" from a Laurel and Hardy short.)
One type of sign that perplexes me is "road closed." Or, "road closed to thru traffic," or "local traffic only."
The huge problem with these signs is how flexible the definition of these words can be.
Last summer there was a "road closed" sign at the entrance of the road taking you to the Pomme de Terre Lake access. This is a road that comes off Highway 59 North.
I thought, "Surely they can't be serious. Surely the access isn't shut off to people."
I wasn't calling anyone "Shirley."
But I resented the complication and even slightest doubt over what the intention of the sign was.
Later, when talking to some of the most informed people around Morris - this is of course the group that assembles at McDonald's on weekday mornings - I was informed that, heck, of course you could have gone in there.
So it was one of those "road closed" signs with a loose interpretation.
"You just have to know."
The authorities were probably just discouraging wholesale traffic from rumbling through there.
That road is an issue. To the extent any work has been done on it, it has just been torn up and returned to its dirt road roots.
And it's a terrible dirt road, at least between the highway and the access. My goodness, I got behind a truck a couple weeks ago and faced a horrifying cloud of dust. Just as bad was the washboard-like quality the road is taking on.
Good grief, let's get some public works projects going. I know Republicans don't want to spend any money, but we need to take care of our surroundings.
I have written before that the Pomme de Terre access and Pomme de Terre Lake chain are under-appreciated assets of the Morris area. They should have higher visibility.
A bumpy dirt road isn't a step in the right direction at all.
If you look to the south along that road, you'll see a no trespassing sign that I find annoying. You'll see the words "We don't call 9-1-1."
I think I know the person who owns the property and that helps. You aren't inclined to take it literally. Perhaps it's meant to be somewhat funny. Strangers, though, aren't likely to see it that way.
I have a main street business friend who has always been amused by the sign on business front doors: "Back in 20 minutes."
From when?
Handicapped parking signs confused some people when they were new.
Handicapped parking spots aren't for handicapped people, of course, they are for cars that have handicapped stickers.
When I was a kid there were no handicapped spots, or child car seats or bicycle helmets, or I could list about 50 other things. How did us boomers ever survive? Will the kids of today develop their defensive instincts?
I once saw a no parking sign worded "Don't even think of parking here."
At the bottom you'll usually see "vehicle towed at owner's expense." But wait, that sentence has actually been tweaked of late. Now it's "vehicle towed at vehicle owner's expense."
What would be do without lawyers?
Many years ago there were side-by-side billboards in Morris that were a hoot. On the left, the big word was "Priesthood." On the right: "Kiss Ethyl goodbye."
Remember "ethyl" gasoline? When I was a kid, we'd pull into a gas station and my father would say to the attendant "fill 'er up ethyl."
Of course, we don't even have attendants now.
"Pumping gas" was an occupation cited in the song "Do you know the way to San Jose?" That was a signature song from the boomers' youth, when we navigated all the perils of life without the likes of bicycle helmets.
And, before we had to "clean up" after our dogs. And when smokers would light up anywhere.
Ah, signs. We can all tell amusing stories. (I'm getting Andy Rooney-esque now.)
I remember on those musical excursions of days gone by, penetrating the North or South Dakota darkness at some ungodly hour, seeing a sign "Stockholm 20 miles." Or "Havana 20 miles."
A jokester in the back seat would chirp: "Must've taken a wrong turn."
No, only if I end up in Clara City.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tiger baseball concludes, track/field still on

The memories of 21 wins will rise above any sting of defeat when MACA baseball fans look back on 2011.
The Tigers' season ended Tuesday night when an aggressive hitting New Ulm team avenged an earlier loss to the Tigers.
MACA fell 18-8 in the Tuesday action. It was their second loss in 3AA play, thus it spelled their end of the road.
The rematch of MACA and New Ulm was in the losers bracket final. Action was at the Marshall diamonds.
Coach Lyle Rambow's proud orange and black unit closes out the 2011 season at 21-4.
New Ulm continues its post-season play tomorrow (Thursday, June 9).

Fairmont 18, Tigers 2
Is there something in the drinking water down south? Fairmont pummelled our Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tigers Saturday. Fairmont is down by the Iowa border.
MACA and Fairmont, far apart as they are, are together for post-season baseball purposes. Both squads are in the boundaries of Section 3AA.
Fairmont really took it to our Tigers Saturday, erupting for ten runs in the fourth inning en route to an 18-2 win. The site was Marshall.
Fairmont took a 3-2 lead in the first inning.
Fairmont's fourth inning rally seemed to end any doubt. From there they went on to score five runs in the fifth.
The game ended after five innings due to the ten-run rule.
This game was termed a "winners bracket final."
MACA showed a most atypical brand of play. Coach Rambow's squad is accustomed to being very sharp. But on this day, the pitching staff gave up 16 hits and issued five walks, plus there were four MACA fielding miscues.
Fairmont, owner of a 20-1 record coming out of this day, committed no errors.
Tyler Hansen singled to begin the Tigers' two-run rally in the bottom of the first. Alex Erickson likewise singled, then there was an infield single by Eric Riley to load 'em up.
Cole Riley delivered in a fashion that MACA fans are accustomed to, doubling over the left fielder's head. The two runs scampered in. The score stood 3-2 until the fourth.
MACA starting pitcher Eric Riley, who held Fairmont scoreless in the second and third, unraveled in the fourth. Eric would leave after 3 2/3 innings.
Fairmont got to him for eleven hits. Ten of the 13 runs runs he allowed were earned. He struck out two batters and walked five.
On came Matt Lembcke with his pitching arm. Matt did better in the control department as he walked no one. He fanned two in his 1 1/3 inning stint. He gave up five hits and five runs but none of the runs were earned.
Fairmont had one pitcher go the whole way: Logan Peymann. Peymann struck out three batters, walked one and gave up six hits. The two runs that MACA scored were earned.
Tyler Hansen and Alex Erickson both had two hits in three at-bats, and one of Erickson's hits was a double. Eric Riley and Cole Riley both went one-for-two. Cole's hit was a double and he picked up two RBIs.
Jon Ellis and Mac Waletich both went three-for-four for Fairmont.
The Fairmont line score was a sizzling 18 runs, 16 hits and zero errors. MACA at 2-6-4 would have to regroup for another day. That day would come Tuesday when the Tigers would bow to New Ulm.
The Lac qui Parle Valley Eagles had their season come to an end Saturday. Coach Bart Hill's Eagles were dealt their second tourney loss. It was by a 5-1 score against New Ulm.
New Ulm's Kaleb Juntunen nearly achieved a no-hitter. The hurler was one out away when Jordan Redepenning doubled for coach Hill's squad.
Hill is a Morris native and former Morris Area Tiger. He and his Eagles can reflect on a highlight-filled 16-7 season of 2011.
Brandon Bornhorst took the pitching loss for LQPV.

Tigers shine in track and field
Let's hear it for the track and field sport, where Morris Area Chokio Alberta has been showing impact with talent and determination.
Thursday, June 2, was the big day of the Section 6A meet and the site was Moorhead.
Rachel Moser was a headlining Tiger with her prowess in the pole vault. A focused Moser got over the bar at 11 feet/one inch. This tied her personal best. It was good for section championship honors and qualification for state.
The climactic state meet is set for this Friday and Saturday, June 10-11, at Hamline University, St. Paul.
Moser almost qualified for state in the 100 meters but she settled for third. The top two place winners advance to state (and #1 relay teams).
Tiger Cody Cannon showed blazing speed and dexterity in two hurdling events. Cannon took first in the 300m hurdles and second in the 110m hurdles. He'll continue his hurdling exploits at the Hamline facilities.
So will Tristan Michealson who was the athlete finishing ahead of Cannon in the 110m hurdles. Tristan is the 110m hurdling champ and is sharpening his focus for state.
A pair of Minnewaska Area athletes made their mark in sectionals. Laker Brandi Otto was No. 1 in the discus, and teammate Halle Christianson was No. 2 in the 400 meters.
Bring on state track and field - a big spectacle every year!
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 6, 2011

Common folk biting on lure of conservatism

The alarm bells about the American economy are getting louder. We have been lucky up until now.
Experts say inflation could erupt. We have been seeing a "creeping effect" in inflation that has been bad enough.
A Wal-Mart executive famously warned a few weeks ago that noticeable inflation would arrive in June. This is a store chain that has been like a savior in keeping prices low.
We could see a "flash crash" in the markets.
I didn't trust the markets even through the supposed boom times. "Easy money" is never what it appears to be. Figures lie and liars figure.
Through it all we've been fed this high dose of conservative political ideology. Even though we elected a Democratic president, he has seemed hesitant, in my view, to follow his own stripes. He seems more eager to show he is temperate than to show he is committed.
It would be one thing if rank and file Americans were truly committed to the conservative ideology. But I think not.
They seem to be clinging to frontier principles like self-reliance. That's because they're scared or at least disillusioned. America has been changing too fast for them.
Our president doesn't fit the mold they're accustomed to. Even though all evidence points to Barack Obama being the consummate gentleman, they are unconvinced.
Fox News literally harasses the president every day.
Fox News delicately manages its product so it can argue there's legitimate news there. It's a false patina, as anyone who consumes a large amount of their programming will readily realize.
Fox News carpet-bombs the president. This conflict might just be a sideshow, albeit an irritating one, if this nation were not teetering toward some truly troublesome times.
The suffering will be felt by the less well off. It will be felt by the middle class to the extent that grand American institution has even survived.
The common folk are headed toward turbulence and a lot of it will be their own making. They have bought into all the conservative rhetoric and it will be to their detriment.
They bought into it because it was a cultural thing. Conservatism seemed more in line with America's traditional values. "Liberalism" grew to be a pox in their minds.
These things can run in cycles of course and maybe liberalism still has a chance. But time may be running out.
People in Wisconsin seem to have quickly discovered what conservative Republicans are all about. It's really not about them, i.e. the common folk, rhetoric notwithstanding.
Conservatives don't really want to be bothered with the common folk. Oh, they don't actually wish any ill will, they just think everything can turn out fine if everyone just behaves responsibly.
They don't want to hear about your problems. They don't realize how life can be messy. Or if they do, they don't want to be bothered with it.
And most of all, they don't want government to be some sort of big referee that can affirm justice. Or "social justice," to cite a term that hair-on-fire Fox News commentator Glenn Beck considers anathema to everything good.
Beck proved to be a little too much even for Fox. He has been shown the door. Someone else will now be haranguing the president at the 4 p.m. (CDT) time slot.
The tea party people have been totally reactionary. Many of them are senior citizens. America has taken on new shades and it throws them off-balance.
They retreat to a conservative political ideology which they think represents their viewpoints. And powerful interests are more than happy to harness (use) them. They are biting on an attractive but perhaps deadly lure.
Sarah Palin's tour bus scours the eastern U.S. attracting attention like honey in the eyes of a bear. Her views are regressive and non-finessed. She seems to display her anti-intellectualism proudly.
We should be so lucky that these tea party principles would work.
People are slowly waking up as they see the trainwreck that Republicans caused in Wisconsin, and the anxiety growing over Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal. The proposal would end Medicare as we know it.
But surely the public won't stomach this, right? Can't Republicans read the polls on this like everyone else?
Republicans are what they are. Give them a chance to dismantle the welfare state and they'll wield a sledgehammer in a heartbeat.
They have always tried to dismantle the New Deal. Their failures don't faze them. Throw them back and they'll be back again, trying to do the same thing. This is the kind of "animal" that Republicans are.
They think if you just get out of the way of business, everything will be fine. Everything will take care of itself.
Freedom, gun ownership and low taxes will solve everything.
Let's be non-interventionist in all areas except, of course, abortion, where a vigorous government seems to be necessary. Let's be frugal, of course, except when it comes to our military.
A broad swath of the American public has gone along with this way too long. Why?
Why did Minnesota's top newspaper, the Star Tribune, find it palatable to give us the page 1 headline "Parents wary of Obama speech?" This was when the president was going to give a speech to America's schoolchildren at the start of the new school year, remember?
This is a newspaper that once had the reputation of being left-leaning. In this instance they were browbeaten by tea party types into giving credence to the naysaying offered by the tea party crowd.
Tea partiers might just as well be wearing Halloween costumes. This is a movement flailing about, not sure what it really wants, but it seems to want an America that began fading a long time ago.
I have written before that there is an "undertone" of racism in the tea party movement. There's no need to be so subtle. The message behind "Parents wary of Obama speech" is that we really don't trust this dark-skinned president.
America's story is what you might call Anglo-centric. Continental Europeans, especially Teutonic, can fit in fine too. But a dark-skinned man who grew up in Jakarta? Not so fast.
The mocking and the fury coming from someone like Glenn Beck can be explained in no other way.
Nor can the fact that Mike Huckabee is still accepted as a serious political voice even after completely misrepresenting Obama's background in a radio discussion. This kind of mistake would bring an "F" in a history classroom. It was premeditated and vindictive.
What if a Democrat were to misspeak about a Republican in such a way? Fox News would explode with rage. They'd dispatch their "ambush interviewers."
Up until now all this could be dismissed as kind of an odd sideshow. Or freak show.
But if America enters real crisis mode? Can we rally around our president if we need to? If the Federal government has to take some strong interventionist steps, can we get behind the president in this process?
I can't see the tea partiers, the far right or Fox News ever doing this.
Their cries for small government aren't what they seem. They are just scratching and clawing for a simpler America, an America that had all the answers, when our English origins seemed to define us more, when non-white people "had their place" but not as president.
So many of these uptight folk are up in years and they'll need Medicare and Social Security. Socialism will actually suit them just fine. All advanced industrial nations are a combination of free enterprise and socialism.
The people decrying "big government" just don't want to see a half African-American leading it.
This nation endured a bloody Civil War because of race. Was the war God's punishment?
Will God punish us again?
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The ball sailed off Harmon's bat

Our family saw more than its share of Harmon Killebrew home runs.
We saw two the first time we saw the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium. I remember the opposing team was Baltimore. It was a classic Twins win for that time period.
Harmon's two homers were complemented by a late-game relief pitching job by Al Worthington. The term "closer" hadn't been coined yet or wasn't in general use. Neither was "setup man."
You could sense when Worthington's time was coming in a game. The P.A. announcer - perhaps it was Bob Casey even back then - would announce him as "Alan Worthington" with a commanding tone.
Worthington was a soft-spoken man who seemed like a father figure to us young boomers. Of course he was a young man, just old by baseball standards. He had the typical type of meteoric career as a relief pitcher back then.
I saw him at the top of his game, and ditto Harmon.
We have lost Harmon. It's another reminder to the boomers of our own mortality.
The Twins arrived on the Bloomington prairie in 1961, when the oldest boomers would have been about 15.
It's impossible to imagine Minnesota without the Twins today. But before 1961, we really were kind of a "cold Omaha," the term that is always trotted out by new stadium proponents to scare people.
We vaguely recall there was minor league baseball. The Millers, right? Farm club for the New York Giants?
The late news anchor Dave Moore had a hard time getting over the Millers becoming defunct, but the rest of us easily made the adjustment. Harmon Killebrew was here. The former Washington Senators moved into Met Stadium.
We might forget that Met Stadium did not immediately draw a major league team. The Millers spent their last years there.
Calvin Griffith became the hero bringing big league ball here.
Us boomers soon came to have a love-hate relationship with Calvin. We saw him as a buffoon type of throwback. We were concerned that he and his family wouldn't have the resources to stay competitive long-term.
We had affection for him like we might feel for a crotchety uncle who avails himself of the cocktail hour a little too much.
Bowie Kuhn described the Griffiths as "church mice" in the changing landscape of the game, a game in which big bucks would clearly take over. Enter George Steinbrenner. The Curt Flood legal case was transformative.
Calvin is iconic in our minds because he brought baseball here, he got us to the World Series in 1965, and he made possible our irreplaceable memories of Killebrew and other stars.
But Calvin's era passed.
The Pohlads propped up the franchise. Us boomers joined the elation felt in 1987 and 1991 as Minnesota climbed to the top of the baseball firmament.
But I felt a tinge of sadness. I suspect many other boomer-age fans shared it. We regretted that the '65 Twins couldn't quite get past the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The '65 season had been so magical.
Metropolitan Stadium was such a simple, erector set style structure. But it couldn't have been more special in the 1960s.
I can still remember how the ball sailed off Harmon's bat in that mid-'60s game versus Baltimore. Harmon had a way of inspiring awe with his home runs.
There's a legend in his family that his grandfather was the strongest man in the Union Army. He apparently won every wrestling championship in sight. The genes certainly got passed on.
Harmon's homers could sell tickets. Our family seemed to have special luck being present for those blasts. So much so, we felt denied when, in a game vs. the Detroit Tigers, Harmon hit a drive which seemed to be kept in the park by a stiff wind.
Surely it would have gone out on a normal day. We felt deprived. We felt entitled. We just expected too much of No. 3 Harmon Killebrew.
He was an easy man to like at all levels. At the time of his recent death, it was easy to see him as the consummate hero getting past all obstacles. It's entirely appropriate to see him that way.
But it took him four tries to get elected to the Hall of Fame. Finally he got the nod, entering that exclusive circle with Don Drysdale and Luis Aparicio. Drysdale was one of those Dodgers in 1965. Aparicio was a slick fielding shortstop.
Drysdale had his best year in 1968 as remembered in the movie "Bobby" about the assassination of RFK. A kitchen worker at the Ambassador Hotel coveted his tickets to a Dodgers game. I considered it a good movie, a good lens for that time period, but it seemed to fade quickly.
There were baseball observers who considered Killebrew too much of a one-dimensional player. This view was revived when "The Killer" got elected to the Hall. I remember a friend reacting to that "one dimension" criticism by saying "What? You mean RBIs?"
The "one dimension" generally thought of, is home runs. But home runs push lots of runs in, naturally.
What critics assert is that Harmon didn't do enough in other elements of the game. He was considered slow afoot.
He actually was quite faster at one time, but we learn that a pulled quadriceps in 1962 and a knee injury prior to the '63 spring training knocked him down. An alleged lack of speed could obviously affect range in the field.
Harmon was competent at third base, first base and the outfield. But was he fast enough?
If a ball was hit to him, he could handle it. He was a naturally gifted baseball player. The problem might have been the balls he didn't get to. It's hard to know how big a handicap this might have been.
But Harmon's homers should have made him a no-brainer for the Hall right away. He retired as the American League career leader in home runs by a right-hander.
Babe Ruth was of course left-handed. He was also a Yankee, an affiliation which has always seemed to prop up one's status and reputation.
If Harmon had been a Yankee? I don't think we would have had to wait until 1984 for him to enter the Hall.
The Yankees have a special history that at times seems deserved, at times not. The Billy Crystal movie "61*" (yes, with asterisk) made all of the Yankees of the early '60s seem special.
The movie showed our new Minnesota Twins watching in awe as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris took batting practice.
It seemed to be as much a movie about sportswriters and newspapers, as baseball.
Newspapers created legends. So could writers like Roger Kahn. It was a New York-centered universe.
That's why Killebrew's famous homer midway in the 1965 summer became a signature moment for him. It broke the Yankees' back.
There were signs the Yankees were already in decline. Harmon stepped up to bat on July 11 of '65 and hit a two-run homer to give Minny the win at Met Stadium. It was the day before the All-Star break.
Billy Crystal might have sobbed but us Minnesotans were ecstatic. Not only were we excited, we were truly "on the map."
It was still impossible to dislodge most top writers from their New York-centered view of things. Roger Angell, a card-carrying member of that elite circle, would later have a chapter name for a book: "West of the Bronx." He was reflecting on that changing of the guard in the '65 baseball season.
He couldn't omit a reference to the Big Apple. Let's trot out one of Sarah Palin's favorite terms: "lamestream media."
The sportswriters in the movie "61*" were all about New York City.
But we of course had Sid Hartman.
There was an inevitable inferiority complex out here, but winning does a lot to alleviate that.
If we just could have won Game 7 of that '65 Series. Sandy Koufax pitched like he was a god down from Mount Olympus.
The Dodgers' rotation had to be altered for that Series because of a Jewish holiday. Koufax was Jewish. He was a lefthanded terror in the eyes of batters.
You might read on occasion that Koufax was an ordinary pitcher early in his career before "finding himself." That may actually be funny, because what actually happened, based on an authoritative account I read, is that umpires adjusted the strike zone. They started calling the high fastball a strike.
It wasn't so high anymore.
The rest is history. Koufax dazzled the Twins in '65 and we had to wait until '87 and a new generation of Twins - you know, "Bruno" and the rest.
But my memories of "The Killer" will always be tops.
Harmon Killebrew, RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tigers' pitching up to the task - no doubt

The MACA baseball schedule has been most demanding coming down the closing stretch. Who can forget the four games on Monday through Thursday?
The athletes have the basic stamina to handle this, no question, but the big issue can be pitching arms. Would a team have enough reliable arms to face the awesome demands?
"Yes" would appear to be the resounding answer from the MACA Tigers, based on the Wednesday (6/1) success.
The Tigers won with a shutout. The 3-0 win was over New Ulm at Marshall.
We are reaching advanced heights of tournament play. The Tigers entered the double-elimination phase Wednesday.
So did Lac qui Parle Valley, a fellow member of the WCC-South and another team eyeing the 3AA title. Lac qui Parle stumbled Wednesday, losing 11-0 to Fairmont from extreme southern Minnesota.
Lac qui Parle Valley is coached by Morris native Bart Hill.
The MACA Tigers will now try to humble that Fairmont unit which was so much in command Wednesday.
Don't bet against coach Lyle Rambow's Tigers. They'll take a 21-2 season record into Saturday's (6/4) noon contest vs. Fairmont.
Given the intense schedule demands, it's terrific when you can get a complete game from a pitcher. Morris Area Chokio Alberta was blessed by that Wednesday.
It was Alex Erickson taking command with his pitching arm. His two-hit shutout was most enjoyable for the many Tiger fans to see.
So was the solo home run off the bat of Brady Valnes.
New Ulm has the same nickname as Lac qui Parle Valley: "Eagles." Erickson set down the last 12 Eagle batters in order.
He fanned two batters and walked just one.
New Ulm mounted a threat in the fourth with a double and walk. At that point, senior Erickson bore down to begin his skein of 12 straight outs, slamming the door on the Eagles.
The Tigers manufactured a run in the second inning. Eric Riley rapped a single. The hit-and-run was executed with Cole Riley at bat. Not only did Cole make contact, he singled. Eric pulled in at third base.
Now it was time for the double-steal. Cole got thrown out at second but that was a minor concession because Eric was able to race home and score.
It was also in this inning that Valnes connected for his home run which was a majestic blast to left, sailing beyond the fence at Johnson Park.
The Tigers made the score 3-0 in the fifth when Tyler Hansen singled with two outs to score Mitch Kill. Kill reached on a walk and stole second.
The MACA line score was three runs, five hits and one error. The New Ulm line was 0-2-1.
Five different Tigers had one hit each: Ethan Bruer, Brady Valnes, Cole Riley, Eric Riley and Tyler Hansen.
Brody Peterson was the losing pitcher and he gave up five hits and three runs (earned) in his six innings. The two New Ulm hits were by Zach Hoffmann and Kaleb Juntunen.
Lac qui Parle is striving to regroup after a lackluster day Wednesday, a day on which the hit total was a mere one, compared to ten by Fairmont. Coach Hill had to bemoan the three errors committed by his team compared to zero by the victor.
Hill is striving to get his Eagles re-charged for their upcoming Saturday game against New Ulm, set to start at 2 p.m.
Ben Kane of Fairmont was the pitcher who stymied LQPV. The game was abbreviated by the ten-run rule. Fairmont was decisive out of the starting gate, scoring three runs in the first inning and seven in the second.
The losing pitcher was Joey Schreck, one of three called on by coach Hill. The lone LQPV hit was off the bat of Brandon Weber who went one-for-two.
Our coach Rambow and his surging MACA baseball Tigers would enjoy seeing lots of orange and black fan support again Saturday, no matter the long trip south!
Maybe we'll finally see more summer-like weather setting in (but don't hold your breath).
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

MACA softball finishes 2011 season 20-4

Normally, making the double-elimination phase of the tournament is a good thing. But, the MACA girls were reminded how painful this can be when you lose twice in one day.
That forgettable day was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
The Tigers had been through a memorable, success-filled campaign. It was no surprise they were seeded No. 1 for the 3AA-North tourney.
It's a privilege but a challenge to hold that lofty position. Opponents are gunning for you.
The Tigers took to the diamond Saturday at Marshall hoping to parlay their regular season success through sub-sections.
Ouch. The Tigers lost twice. Their foes were from southern Minnesota where softball is strong. New Ulm and Pipestone sure looked strong against coach Mary Holmberg's Tigers.
First it was New Ulm humbling the Tigers. New Ulm turned back the Tigers 5-2 in the quarter-finals.
The Tigers couldn't afford to lose again but alas, they came up quite shy in their next game as Pipestone was the 11-1 winner.
The season is done for the orange and black crew. The won-lost numbers are a stellar 20-4.
There were hopeful signs through much of the New Ulm game. The Tigers led 1-0 after three innings. After that, New Ulm seized the momentum, scoring two runs in the fourth and three in the sixth.
MACA scored its second run in the bottom of the sixth. The Tigers couldn't break through against New Ulm pitcher Kelsey Kannegiesser in the seventh. The Tigers put up a goose egg in the seventh and this game was over.
Kannegiesser had a good outing, setting down eight Tiger batters on strikes and walking two. She allowed six hits and two runs which were earned.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta pitcher Mackenzie Weatherly was hurt badly by unearned runs. Of the five New Ulm runs, just one was earned.
Weatherly struck out three batters, walked two and allowed five hits.
Offensively Weatherly was the only Tiger with multiple hits as she went two-for-three. These Tigers each had one hit: Katie Holzheimer, Dani Schultz, Haley Henrichs and Beth Holland.
The Pipestone game got pretty ugly, as the ten-run rule was invoked. Pipestone led 3-0 when they unleashed their biggest rally: eight runs in the sixth.
Pipestone outhit the Tigers 14-5, led in a big way by Manda Haupert who hit a three-run homer as part of going four-for-four.
Dani Schultz was the only Tiger with a multiple-hit game: two-for-three. Weatherly and Haley Scheldorf both went one-for-three, and Haley Henrichs had one hit in two at-bats.
Weatherly's pitching stats were quite the opposite of her norm, but credit should go to Haupert and her Pipestone mates.
Weatherly struck out five batters and walked two, but she allowed 14 hits in her six innings. She gave up eleven runs of which ten were earned.
Winning pitcher Tiffany Woelber notched seven strikeouts and walked two, while giving up five hits in her six innings.
Surely the upbeat memories of this past spring will outweigh the disappointment of that final day.
The orange and black colors were resilient.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com