"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Small towns jockey vs. the bigger ones

It has been a delight for me to post on Morris American Legion baseball this summer. I even shared 3-4 game reviews for the Hancock Legion team. It's nice to see Hancock having enough numbers to have a team.
Maybe someday there will be one school in Stevens County. Hancock has been holding its own nice up until now. Chokio-Alberta not so much. We'll see.
Considering the enormous size of the Morris Area school campus, it probably should be the county school. The commons areas, such as for the gyms and concert hall, are enormous. Morris has already absorbed Chokio-Alberta for athletics.
The small town programs always hold on with strong emotions behind them. You'll always find a nucleus of people who swear it'll be over their dead bodies that the small schools and their trappings will be absorbed. Eventually reality arrives and the grim decision comes. What I have found through personal observation, is that these nucleus's or nuclei of emotional people fade away from the forefront faster than you'd expect.
People who once asserted themselves so strongly, putting themselves forward as community spokesmen, really aren't. These people have of course had kids in school in very recent years. We have deferred too much to the people with emotions.
It wasn't necessary for those "cornfield schools" like Minnewaska Area and Lac qui Parle Valley to be built. Reportedly they would not be built today. They were a total sop to certain elements in the communities involved. Yes, those emotionally-invested elements that get way overrated.
You would be surprised how fast those elements will go quiet and just get on with life like everyone else.
I heard an amusing story once about how "Lac qui Parle Valley" got its name. It's a testament to the parochial-ness of these matters. The formation of Lac qui Parle Valley had all the elements of which I am speaking. There was even a report of a legislator's car being vandalized at a meeting to discuss consolidation ideas. I think Dawson-Boyd was on the cusp of joining but pulled out - a decision that D-B residents are now greatly relieved about.
It seemed there was pressure back then for small towns to let go of their schools as part of joining the "wave of the future," as if you were regressive or ignorant or something if you didn't. I think those who hesitated were the wise ones.
There is nothing like local service. The more local, the better. I learned that recently dealing with the Mediacom company. I learned the hard way that the best way to get service was to stop in and talk to the local person manning the local office. I cussed about having called that infernal phone number that appears on Mediacom invoices. There was a night and day difference. I even found there was a contradiction in policies, with the more generous and accommodative policies being offered by the local person. I came away thinking that the "boiler room" receptionists were probably working on commission.
Anyway, I think we can lay out an analogy with schools. The more local the better. It always works that way.
"Lac qui Parle" (sans "Valley") seemed a logical school name for the new, apparently trailblazing entity. There was one problem, as explained to me by a person with knowledge of the situation. "Lac qui Parle" had already been the name for the wrestling program that was based in Madison.
Sports! It always screws everything up. That's where so many cotton-pickin' emotions are invested. To call the new school "Lac qui Parle" might suggest, in some very subtle way, that Madison was somehow being given an advantage. Yes, this is stupid. So someone suggested that "Valley" be tacked onto the name. Now we have something totally new!
A friend of mine who's a Morris main street businessman, and who does business over there, said "There's no valley there." But the new name was coined. The new "cornfield school" got off the ground. I visited there maybe 3-4 times a year when my newspaper career was still going. The surroundings seemed desolate and maybe even a little foreboding, when you left at night. You could imagine coyotes howling.
A school should be part of a community where there are huge, synergistic infrastructure advantages. After the Lac qui Parle and Minnewaska schools got built, common sense and logic seemed to become activated.
I think it's a shame Glenwood doesn't have a high school at least on the edge of town. It certainly did in "the old days." My late father Ralph graduated from there in 1934.
The cornfield schools are not environmentally friendly. Everyone must go and come by motorized transportation.
How would Starbuck react? At the time the new school was planned, emotions did run strong, although I'll suggest again it's easy to overestimate the true clout of such people. I heard that when Minnewaska was finally announced as the new school, it had to be equal distances from Glenwood and Starbuck and not one inch closer to Glenwood.
What I'll suggest here is that in any community, there is a silent majority that will accept the new reality and just get on with life. Not only that, the agitated or emotional folks will shut up faster than you might think.
I remember a few folks who were once highly emotionally invested in certain Hancock school issues (wink, extracurricular emphasis), and I don't even know what has become of them now.
It's wise to cool it and not listen to the screamers so much. However, it's also wise not to always assume that "bigger is better." That the small schools simply must close.
We are now saying goodbye to the Cyrus school. I have been there many times and found the atmosphere very agreeable. It is a loss for the Morris area to have the Cyrus school close. It was ditto for C-A Spartan athletics to be gone with the wind.
Will Morris be more and more like an isolated oasis? This is a future we ought to fear.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Morris Legion wins 3-2, makes state!

Bring on state! Those are the words putting smiles on the faces of Morris American Legion baseball fans.
The lofty level of state is set for next weekend in Bird Island. BOLD is the host team. BOLD is the opponent for Motown in today's (7/27) District 7 championship game in Montevideo.
Morris assured itself of a state berth with its Friday success vs. Madison. Morris last played in state in 2001. Madison wasn't going to go down easily. Yes, Morris beat Madison 7-0 a few days previous. But Madison has credentials that demand respect, such as a spring high school record that included 18 wins.
High school and Legion teams have strong connections. Madison, part of the Lac qui Parle Valley combo in preps, took second in the 2012 Class A state tournament.
Post #29 of Morris beat Madison 3-2 on Friday. The score stood 2-2 going into the seventh. What made the difference in the end was a walk.
A "walk-off" walk? Not really, although that's a cute term. The final winning run was pushed home in the bottom of the seventh on a walk issued to Mac Beyer.
Fans watched on edge of seats as Morris methodically and patiently mounted that last rally. It was a walk that started the rally too. Logan Manska tossed his bat aside and trotted down to first base.
Was Madison pitcher Ben Morken showing signs of fatigue? Morken pitched the whole way and found the strike zone elusive at the end.
Jacob Torgerson sacrificed Manska to second. Tanner Picht came up to bat and worked Morken for a walk. Tyler Henrichs followed with a bloop single inside the left field line. The sacks are now full for Beyer, a dangerous hitter.
Can Morris end this one and prevent extra innings? It's likely Torgerson was hoping for this more than anyone, because he like Morken had pitched the whole way. Everyone associated with Morris wanted this one done.
Morken was delivering pitches low. A patient Beyer was awarded the walk and this brought Manska in to score the game-winner.
Morken's control lapses were the exception to the rule for him on this day. He gave up just one earned run among the three total in his route-going effort. He struck out four batters.
Torgerson too was solid with his work on the mound, as he set down four batters on strikes and walked none while overcoming eight hits. Morris played errorless ball in contrast to Madison's four errors. Madison outhit Morris 8-6.
The six Morris hits were by six different players: Torgerson, Picht, Henrichs, Beyer, Bryce Jergenson and Lincoln Berget. Beyer's hit was a double and he drove in a run.
Morris gained a 2-0 lead in the first, helped by two Madison errors, and had to wait until the seventh to score again.
Madison made the game interesting with a two-run sixth. Those two runs were driven in by Nick Burkleo and Jalen Baldwin. Madison threatened to strike again in the top of the seventh. They got runners at second and third, but Torgerson bore down to fan a batter for out No. 3.
Fans were pleased to see Torgerson's arm so resilient, because he had logged four innings in the previous day's game (the 6-5 loss to BOLD).
Making state helps erase some of the disappointment of the spring prep season, a season with a healthy harvest of 17 wins but no state tournament. The Tigers in fact won four post-season games. But state remained elusive.
The previous season had a similar pattern of regular season excelling (15 straight wins in fact) but no climactic state experience. The squad seemed a bit snakebit.
The Post #29 athletes are striving to seize the moment now! It's "destination Bird Island" for the coming exciting weekend.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, July 26, 2013

Post #29 falls to BOLD, still embraces hope

The door stays open for the Morris Legion team to vie in state. Yes, the Post #29 boys were dealt a (rare) setback on Thursday (7/25). They are still alive in the District 7 (Division II) "final four." It's a double-elimination arrangement.
Morris' biggest hurdle would appear to be BOLD. It was BOLD who defeated our Morris squad on Thursday. Now Morris is regrouping, set to play Madison today (Friday) in a game with more than one important consequence.
Winning would keep Post #29 in contention for the district title. Also, we learn that if Morris beats Madison, we'll have a state berth anyway. Reportedly this is due to the fact BOLD is hosting the state tournament. In fact, BOLD was guaranteed a berth in state regardless, as host.
But BOLD played Thursday as if they had strong incentive. At first this appeared not to be the case. Morris made a strong statement early, scoring four runs in the first inning and one in the second.
Would the 5-0 lead hold up vs. a squad with strong connections to the BOLD state champion high school team? It would be a feather in our cap. But alas, BOLD's defense stiffened and the runs started coming in for them.
BOLD won this game 6-5. The District 7 final is set for 11 a.m. Saturday in Monte.
"Mudhens" is the BOLD nickname. There must be a special story behind that. I don't think of Legion baseball teams as having nicknames or any name other than the town. Shall we come up with one for Morris? The Turbines?
Morris played BOLD in the winners bracket final. Monte hosts the entire "final four."
Riley Kramer was handed the ball for BOLD's starting pitching duties. Kramer had to weather a shaky start. Morris scored those five runs in the first two innings.
While it appeared Kramer was getting roughed up, a look at the boxscore shows that the BOLD hurler allowed just one earned run among the five total runs he allowed. He struck out six batters in his route-going (seven-inning) performance. He walked none and gave up six hits.
His bat made noise too. He had three hits in four at-bats and drove in three runs. The other major offensive contributor for BOLD was Trent Athmann who had a three-for-four line including a double, and drove in a run. Tyler Seehusen and Austin Weis also hit safely for BOLD.
Tanner Picht was at the fore for Morris' offense, going two-for-four with a double and driving in a run. Tyler Henrich had an RBI and a hit in his four at-bats.
Mac Beyer, Bryce Jergenson and Lincoln Berget each went one-for-three. Beyer and Jergenson each drove in a run.
The Morris line score was five runs, six hits and three errors. BOLD had 6-8-3 numbers.
The Morris pitching was shared by two: Mac Beyer (three innings) and Jake Torgerson (four innings). Torgerson was tagged with the loss.
Beyer gave up five hits, walked three and struck out none. One of the five runs he allowed was unearned. Torgerson struck out five batters, walked none and gave up three hits and one run (earned).
I invite you to scroll down on my site and read other recent coverage of the Morris American Legion baseball team. Thanks for reading.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Post #29 boys in command vs. Madison

Morris is in the circle of four squads vying for the District 7 title of Division II. The "final four" phase is underway.
Morris excelled in round #1 in a low-suspense game. Maybe it was a no-suspense game, because Madison was completely thwarted offensively.
Bryce Jergenson showed fine form on the mound for Motown. Bryce tossed a three-hitter as Post #29 won 7-0. He struck out six batters and walked two. The losing pitcher was Ben Morken.
This was win #17 overall on the season for the high-flying Morris crew. Now the assignment is to play BOLD who won 8-2 over Osakis on Tuesday. Post #29 will vie with BOLD at 7:45 p.m. tonight (Thursday, 7/25) in Montevideo. Monte is the site for this year's "final four."
Madison and Osakis are still alive, vying in the losers bracket. Of course it's much better being in the winners bracket, and Morris aims to keep things simple by simply continuing to win! Winning has surely been their habit in this summer of 2013.
Thanks again to the American Legion for making this program possible in the otherwise lazy, hazy days of summer.
The Morris line score vs. Madison was seven runs, ten hits and one error. Madison had just the three hits and did play errorless ball. But Madison couldn't figure out Bryce Jergenson.
You might say one Madison batter had Jergenson figured out, and that was Preston Kraft. Kraft had all three hits in as many at-bats. The story was futility for all the other Madison batters.
Meanwhile, Morris bats made productive noise most often. The bats of Chandler Erickson and Tanner Picht yielded three hits each. Erickson went three-for-three including a double and drove in three runs. Picht had a three-for-four showing with two of his hits doubles, plus he drove in a run.
Tyler Henrichs had a double and drove in two runs. Mac Beyer's bat resonated with two hits, one of them a triple. Andrew Rentz socked a triple.
Kraft's three hits for Madison were all singles, coming in the first, third and sixth innings.
The upcoming Morris game is called the winners bracket final. Losers bracket entries Madison and Osakis will play at 5:15 p.m. Thursday.
Each of the Erickson hits vs. Madison drove in a run. Those timely Erickson safeties came in the second, fifth and sixth. The sixth inning was Post #29's biggest inning. Morris rallied for four runs in that frame after having scored one each in the second, third and fifth.
The sixth inning outburst gave Jergenson some cushion so he could cruise through the seventh.
Morris got its 2-0 lead in the third when Picht doubled.
BOLD climbs along with Morris
BOLD won Tuesday with pitcher Logan Sandgren overcoming control difficulties. Logan walked seven batters but got the "W" next to his name. When he wasn't walking batters, he was often striking them out. His "K" total on Tuesday was ten. He gave up four hits and two runs (earned) in BOLD's 8-2 win over Osakis.
Osakis was hurt by four errors. BOLD had just one fielding miscue. BOLD outhit Osakis 10-4.
Lane Stadther's bat resonated with three hits for BOLD. Tyler Seehusen and Sandgren each had two hits. Austin Weis tripled. BOLD has the "Mud hens" nickname. Twins fans will remember the time when our Triple-A affiliate was the Toledo Mud hens.
Weis' triple highlighted a four-run seventh for BOLD. The blast drove two runs in. 
The losing pitcher was Jordan Frederick.
Continue scrolling down to read my post about the three previous Morris victories. Thanks for reading. - B.W.
Come hear Irondale
Another reminder: Be sure to come out to Big Cat Stadium on Friday night, July 26, to see the Irondale marching band in its riveting (and free) annual exhibition. They polished their routine here during the week. I attended last year and it was boffo. It's part formal presentation and part demonstration on how they develop their show. It starts at about 8:30 p.m.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Morris Legion boys in a winning pattern

What could be better than a midsummer weekend of enjoying American Legion baseball victories?
The weekend brought generous highlights for fans of the Post #29 boys of Morris. The two victories both had Brandon-Evansville as the foe.
We're in the post-season phase now which means the two wins spell advancement. Post #29 came out of the weekend savoring the top spot in District 7/Region 1. The action was in Morris.
The success reflected how this whole summer has gone for the Morris squad. Morris outscored B-E 16-2 in the two games combined. Morris ascended to 16 wins as their season total entering this week.
And what's in store now? Motown will take the field to play Madison at 5:15 p.m. today (Tuesday, July 23) in Montevideo.
Morris 7, B-E 0
Morris got going vs. Brandon-Evansville with a 7-0 triumph on Saturday. Mac Beyer turned in the pitching gem with his two-hitter. Beyer and Jake Torgerson were the starting pitchers on this weekend, and both hurled complete games.
Beyer made his presence felt most effectively at the plate too. He backed his own pitching performance with a home run and two RBIs. He had a two-for-four boxscore line. Lincoln Berget's bat was sizzling. Berget had three hits in as many at-bats, one of them a double, and he drove in two runs and scored one.
Chandler Erickson had a two-for-four line, stole a base and crossed home plate twice. Andrew Rentz came through with a hit.
The Motown line score was seven runs, eight hits and one error. B-E hurt itself with three fielding miscues. The two B-E hits were by Brandon Christenson and Craig Campbell.
Winning pitcher Beyer struck out six batters, walked just one and allowed two hits. The losing pitcher was Tom Bosek. Morris scored three runs each in the second and fifth innings, and one in the sixth.
Motown takes a 16-2 season record into tonight's contest.

The Sunday story: more of same
On Sunday of this past weekend, the Post #29 success was with a 9-2 score. Jacob Torgerson looked in command on the mound. His control was pinpoint: zero walks. He set down eight Brandon-Evansville batters on strikes. One of the two runs he allowed was unearned, and he gave up five hits in his seven innings. The losing pitcher was Blake Ohren.
The outcome seemed sealed early. Morris erupted for three runs in the first inning and six in the second. Their final line score was nine runs, ten hits and one error. Each team committed one error. B-E's runs came in the third and fifth.
Morris bats made noise again. The Morris fans applauded as Beyer went three-for-four, driving in a run and scoring two. Tyler Henrichs looked comfortable at the plate, getting two hits in three at-bats and scoring two runs. Bryce Jergenson wielded a productive stick as he went two-for-three including a double, and drove in two runs.
Tanner Picht doubled, drove in two runs and scored one. Chandler Erickson went one-for-three with an RBI and two runs scored. Andrew Rentz had a hit and a run.
Zach Carlson gave some spark for B-E by going two-for-three with a stolen base. The losing pitcher was Blake Ohren who got roughed up in a brief stint.
The district playoffs will create a backdrop of excitement for continued play this evening (Tuesday). It's "destination Montevideo!" Good luck to the Morris Legion nine.
Morris 6, Wheaton 1
Thursday, July 18, American Legion baseball had Post #29 squaring off vs. Wheaton and winning 6-1.
The fourth inning really told the story in this Division II, Region 1 contest. Morris rallied for five runs, sending ten batters to the plate. That rally pushed the Morris lead to 6-0, and the final score was 6-1. Morris outhit Wheaton 8-7 and survived two errors in the field. Wheaton played errorless ball.
Bryce Jergenson was handed the ball for pitching duties. He responded with a workmanlike performance in which he struck out five batters, walked none and gave up just the one Wheaton run which came in the seventh. He scattered seven hits. Brad Staples was the losing pitcher.
The Motown hitting attack included Jake Torgerson and Chandler Erickson both going two-for-three. Each drove in a run. Jergenson contributed a hit and an RBI. Lincoln Berget went one-for-two with a ribbie.
Tanner Picht went one-for-three and Tyler Henrichs one-for-two. Justin Coffman had a two-for-three boxscore line for the loser.
Wheaton 6, Hancock 4
The Hancock Legion boys led 2-0 after three innings but couldn't make this advantage stand up. The score was 2-1 after four. The fifth was when Wheaton began seizing the momentum with a three-run rally.
Hancock did answer with two runs in the fifth, after which fans saw a scoreless sixth frame. The score is 4-4 and the suspense builds. Wheaton pushed across two runs in the seventh to prevail 6-4.
The teams were deadlocked in hits: eight each. The fielding was clean with Hancock having one error and Wheaton zero. Brad Staples went two-for-four for Wheaton, drove in two runs and scored one. Cameron Maudal had a two-for-three line.
The winning pitcher was Brad Dahlen who came on in relief. Maudal pitched as did Tanner Kirkeide.
Andrew Lindor took the loss in a route-going performance for Hancock. Andrew struck out five batters, walked one and gave up eight hits. Three of the six runs he allowed were unearned.
Collin Cunningham and Taylor Holleman each had two hits for Hancock. Each scored a run. Justin Miller went one-for-three with an RBI and run scored. Bryan Shaw hit safely once and scored a run.
Lindor drove in two runs while going one-for-four. Danny Lonneman added a hit to the mix.
Hats off to the American Legion for sponsoring these programs!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, July 19, 2013

MN sports assets becoming bridge too far

Norwood Teague, AD at U of M
"Someday I'll be your boss." That's a saying that a young person might choose for the front of a T-shirt. It's defensive. What it means is that "even though I haven't been blessed with athletic gifts that wow you and make you admire me, I do have attributes. I'll show them someday. I'll be your boss."
Certainly we all have mixed thoughts about big-time sports. We alleviate the drag of our day-to-day lives by watching sports on TV performed by individuals so distant from us, they might as well be space aliens. We don't connect with these people at all. We might as well be watching a metal ball bounce around under the glass of a pinball machine.
For every athlete who makes it to a post-game interview, where we might sense his humanity a little, there are hundreds who have crashed and burned, having "not made the cut" or gotten old, injured, beat-up, whatever.
We pay no attention to those individuals on the scrap heap. We just want to see a collection of healthy and gifted athletes representing our state, city or educational institution outrun and outjump the competition on a weekend afternoon. They had better succeed. They had better win.
They had better keep delivering that sugar high for us.
The people who own these enterprises had better keep drawing the money in, so as to enhance that competitiveness versus foes who are in the same system. In Minnesota the magnet-like pull is incredible. That's because we succumbed to the NFL's siren song that dictated we needed an opulent new home for the Minnesota Vikings.
The inevitability of that was scary. The average person likely says "why in heck do we need a stadium other than the Metrodome?"
Logic lost. The opiate of the masses, a.k.a. big-time sports lulled us. The levers of state government got pulled, greased by the incredibly big-money types, and now we shrug, having apparently accepted that we need increased gambling and certain types of taxes to subsidize.
It's a pill we swallow in order to be assured that the Vikings stay here and command our attention on autumn weekends. That pinball machine needs to keep making noise. We can't seem to find better ways to stay enriched.
We keep putting quarters into the pinball machine which has human beings, not metal balls, getting bounced around and so often discarded due to the ravages of age or getting beaten out by younger, fresher bodies.
U of M plays the game too
Because of the new Vikings stadium, we now have the University of Minnesota in a position of trying to catch up. The U has tried to close the gap for years with all too rare instances of doing so.
The position of the U of M Gopher football team up through the 1950s got whacked. My generation, the boomers, clearly chose the purple Vikings as "our team." The U continues to want to change that. That's fine as far as it goes.
But now we have an athletic director, Norwood Teague, a most contemporary corporate type of thinker, a man of money more than X's and O's, who certainly is talking money - there's no doubt about that.
I view the new Vikings stadium as a bridge too far. The same might be said of Teague's grandiose plans. We might shrug about such plans if they were discussed in the world of pro sports. Jerry Jones builds an obscenely extravagant new stadium in Dallas. That's one thing. It's another for an institution that I believe is educational in purpose, the U of M, to lay out a blueprint with a pricetag of $190 million. That's just for improvements.
The message is that athletes are a preferred and coddled class that must be catered to outside the standard academic framework.
Norwood Teague tells us we need an "academic center" for athletes. Isn't the U itself an "academic center?"
He says we need a "training table." Haven't colleges always had cafeterias? We need a women's gymnastics facility, an Olympic Sport indoor practice facility, an outdoor Olympic sport track and a wrestling training facility.
Mr. Teague expects that it will be 6-8 years before the first phase of the project is built.
Much of this impetus seems to come from having to keep up with other Big 10 schools. At what point does this "arms race" become counterproductive and superfluous for everyone?
OK, we're told the $190 million will be "private money." As if it's "play money."
"Don't worry, it's private money." When I was a kid, $190 million would have sounded like all the money in the world. We would have pronounced it like Dr. Evil. In our Wall Street-drenched world of today, wildly high numbers seem to lose their impact on us. They are numbers that just float around.
But, what else might this $190 million accomplish? What else might it be applied to, that would have a greater effect of improving people's lives? Corporations with such money at their disposal might actually be more generous with the people that work for them, that is, those people who aren't discarded because of "new efficiencies" that networked computers and tech in general are making possible.
These corporations turn a blind eye to real needs. They feed that arms race of big-time sports. They feed that opiate of the masses instead of really helping the masses.
Oh, we can still enjoy sports. It's never going away. But it doesn't need to be elevated to the Sodom and Gomorrah level, where we all know it gets far more resources than needed. We shrug and accept the inevitability of the new Vikings stadium. And now we're expected to shrug about the University demanding an astronomical amount of money - I use that adjective in paying homage to Willie Martin - so that the U might thump its chest and show primacy in athletics.
Let the teams compete with the resources they have. Not everyone can win. Think of the pressure those so-called student-athletes are under. They come and go, as do the coaches.
The real inside world of big-time sports is brutal and unforgiving. We the fans don't want to be bothered by that unpleasantness. That is, with exceptions, as many of us are now truly awakening to the hazards of the sport of football. The awakening is such, the future of the sport may very well be in peril.
Keep in mind this is one of the two major revenue sports in Division I college athletics.
This crescendo of awareness is not going unnoticed by the legal and insurance worlds. Lawyers and insurance companies may well start applying a vise to the sport.
People will still want to watch the Gophers and Vikings on the football field on weekends. Fans will want to watch even if they have conflicted feelings. That's why we'll have to rely on forces other than market forces to push football away from its mesmerizing hold on us.
Lawyers and insurance companies will slowly congregate, not to "spoil our fun" but to clean up a very real mess. The feeder system for football will become endangered, as soon as this fall I suspect, as parents wisely decide they need to take care of their own kids.
How much effort does it take to steer boys away from football to soccer? It could be done in a heartbeat. All these grandiose plans of Zygi Wilf, Mark Dayton, Norwood Teague and Eric Kaler could have their foundations threatened, by forces much bigger than Big 10 opponents.
What if the "higher education bubble" bursts? Already there's some evidence it has begun. What if the overall U.S. economy should implode, as we discover that the Federal Reserve has just been buying us time since 2008?
We will come to our senses. We will realize the ridiculous extravagance of big-time sports. We will pronounce "$190 million" as Dr. Evil would.
And we'll have more respect for kids wearing T-shirts saying "someday I'll be your boss."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer festivals, the rain and the future

The Morris Centennial gave us a preview of what Prairie Pioneer Days could look like. The Centennial has receded in time. It was in 1971, a century after Morris began as a rough-hewn tent town, planted here thanks to the railroad.
Before the railroad we really were the "wild west." The Wadsworth Trail with its horses, wagons and hazards pre-dated those iron tracks. Historians will suggest we stayed quite wild for a time. We couldn't have been more wild than Moorhead, about whom Will Rogers said it was "the wickedest city in the world."
The Morris Centennial really brought Morris alive in that summer of '71. Otherwise we were a pretty laid-back place, sans any kind of comparable summer event.
You might think city leaders would want to parlay that Centennial spirit into subsequent summertime fests. It didn't happen in summer but it did happen for fall. We had the Fall Festival for a time. My top memory is of Lee Temte entertaining at East Side Park. There was no Killoran bandshell then.
Scheduling a fall fest has risk because weather can turn on you. I'm not sure that was ever a problem. I recall that the Fall Festival was more small-time than what came later: our Prairie Pioneer Days (PPD).
I was involved in promoting the inception of PPD. This I did as a print media writer and photographer. I remember how exciting it seemed. It made total sense to have a gala midsummer event here.
I was a musician for the "German band" that wandered and played for the Morris Centennial. I remembered the atmosphere and thinking how neat it would be to re-create it. Our little band, supervised by high school band director John Woell, stepped into the Met Lounge for a few minutes - exciting because for some of us, it was our first visit to the interior of a bar. I would have been 16 years old.
In 1973 the drinking age got lowered so I could legally drink as an 18-year-old. Surely that was dubious status to have. It was folly for our nation to do that, but we felt it necessary since, after all, we were asking young men to fight and die in Viet Nam, for reasons I still don't understand.
The Morris Centennial saw the re-creation of the full-scale alfalfa arch. That was a tremendous undertaking that celebrated the spirit of the community as much as anything could. There is a large photo of the 1971 alfalfa arch on a wall at Willie's Super Valu. I would have been in it had I wanted to, but I didn't make the effort. I regret that.
A miniature version of the alfalfa arch was constructed across East 7th Street for a period of years in PPD's history. The Morris FFA did that. Hats off to them, as this gesture reminded everyone of the grand spectacle in 1913 when Morris and the alfalfa arch were synonymous. Click on the link below to see a photo of the arch in 1913. The photo is from the Minnesota Digital Library.
The miniature arch was phased out. Indeed, it seems Prairie Pioneer Days has lost some of its long-time spark. I'm not the only one noticing that. I would want it confirmed by others before writing it.
I spend only a small amount of time at PPD now, compared to when I was in the print media. Keep in mind I'm older! As a young man I'd go back and forth between the old Morris Sun Tribune office building, now vacant, and the park and other places.
I hope I get some credit for having ridden my bike out to the midway point of the 10K run, along the bike trail, to take photos! I remember the lead runner, Bart Abbott one year, coming toward me and me wondering if I should distract him by asking his name (for caption purposes). Bart didn't mind! He glided past me out through the pristine-like surroundings near Pomme de Terre River.
Yes, I wrote captions for my Prairie Pioneer Days photos! Since my departure from the Morris newspaper, that operation has cut corners and just thrown together a whole bunch of photos in a collage minus captions. It's much harder work getting caption information as you make your rounds. I felt it was something I just had to do.
The Morris newspaper was twice a week then. The page size was bigger too. Seriously, I think the decline of the Morris newspaper is a factor in PPD losing some of its spark. The mid-week edition was good for reviewing events of the previous weekend and previewing events of the coming weekend. For many years we were Tuesday/Thursday of course. We had ample opportunity to build up to the weekend. That's all gone with the wind now.
The paper's emphasis now is on showering us with dumpster-ready ad circulars, many of which steer us to Alexandria. I think all community news should just migrate online. To an extent it's happening but not as fast as I once anticipated.
By now you all know that the 2013 PPD was pretty much obliterated by rain. No parade! It takes a lot to cancel a parade.
Might the parade still be salvaged? It would be smaller and lower-key, but there might be a route in Morris that could accommodate it on short notice.
Many of the community's youth groups had planned on riding on parade units. They'd still be delighted to do that. How about a parade along Park Avenue in west Morris? It would conclude at Wells Park, actually a more spacious park than East Side Park. At Wells the kids could get off their units and organize for recreational activities like perhaps soccer or softball. A couple food vendors could get set up.
What fun! We could be reminded that Park Avenue was once "the drive of the city," an especially high-class place where horse-pulled buggies would proceed along on summer evenings. Perhaps some people wearing period attire could greet the parade units from the front lawn of the Stanton House. West Morris could "get its due."
My current post on my "Morris of Course" site expands on this history of west Morris, while acknowledging that we need some street repair there now! Click on the permalink below to read. Thanks!
What does the future of Prairie Pioneer Days hold? Some people are going to have to show initiative.
Up next: the Stevens County Fair! See you at the 4-H foodstand.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Boys of summer win in Legion ball

Morris 7, Osakis 0
The Post #29 boys won with a shutout flourish on July 9. The score was 7-0 in this American Legion baseball action.
The win was No. 11 on the season for the surging Morris squad. The loss total: a mere two.
Bryce Jergenson excelled again on the hill. Bryce has been most stingy giving up hits. He tossed a three-hitter which was in fact his second straight three-hitter. Bryce was stingy in every conceivable way as he walked none. He set down six Osakis batters on strikes. His mates played errorless ball around him.
The Morris line score: seven runs, eight hits and no errors. Osakis managed just three hits and committed two errors.
Morris took care of its scoring business in the fourth inning. All seven of the Motown runs came home in that frame.
Tanner Picht wielded a hot bat, finishing at three-for-three with two RBIs and a run scored. Danny Tracy had two hits in three at-bats including a double, and scored a run. Jacob Torgerson went one-for-three with an RBI and run scored. Mac Beyer had a hit and drove in two runs. Logan Manska had a one-for-three line with a ribbie and a run scored.
The losing pitcher was Grayson Fortenberry.
Hancock 11, Starbuck 8
Wow! In one of the more exciting Legion baseball games you're likely to see, Hancock escaped a deep deficit to beat Starbuck.
Starbuck jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning. Hancock managed to score just one run over the first five innings.
The game's complexion changed markedly in the sixth. The game changed to the tune of a ten-run Hancock rally! When the full seven were complete, the Hancock Legion boys could celebrate an 11-8 win.
It was a nice confidence-builder for the Hancock athletes who are below .500. The Thursday, July 11, win over Starbuck was just their third. Sub-district playoffs are set for this coming week.
Hancock's Thursday success was despite getting outhit 10-6. There's no big discrepancy in errors either, where the Starbuck total was two and Hancock's three. No Hancock player had more than one hit. Austin Steege went one-for-two with two RBIs and two runs scored. Andrew Shaw crossed home plate twice.
Danny Lonneman rapped a hit in three at-bats, drove in a run and scored two. Brandon Shaw had a one-for-four line while driving in three runs and scoring one. Other batters hitting safely were Jordan Miller, Justin Miller and Bryan Shaw.
The Starbuck hitting standouts were Austin Ostrander at three-for-three with an RBI, and Michael Gruber with two-for-three numbers and a ribbie.
The Hancock pitching was handled by Brandon Shaw and Collin Cunningham. Cunningham got the win with his four-inning stint. Collin struck out three batters, walked three and allowed three hits. Brandon Shaw had some bumps in the road as he allowed seven hits and seven runs (six earned) in his three innings. He fanned a batter but walked six.
Hancock will strive to parlay their sixth inning momentum into sub-district play!
Hancock 8, Wheaton 7
The eighth inning saw the Hancock Legion baseball boys seize the decisive momentum. This was in the Friday, July 5, game versus Wheaton.
Hancock plated three runs in the bottom of the eighth to overcome Wheaton. Wheaton had rallied for two runs in the top of the eighth.
The bats were ringing with hits for much of this game. The hit total for Hancock was 14 which was two more than Wheaton. Hancock's line score was eight runs, 14 hits and three errors. Wheaton's numbers: 7-12-4.
The most decisive blow was probably Brandon Shaw's hit in the eighth that drove in the game-winner.
These Hancock batters finished with three hits: Taylor Holleman, Collin Cunningham and Michael Milander. Cunningham went three-for-four with two RBIs and three runs scored. Holleman added an RBI to his three safeties. One of Milander's hits was a double.
Bryan Shaw had a hit and drove in three runs. Justin Miller, Andrew Lindor, Brandon Shaw and Bryce Schmidgall were the other Hancock batsmen recording hits. Lindor and Brandon Shaw each drove in a run.
Hancock scored one run each in the first and second innings, two in the fourth and one in the sixth, leading up to that big three-run eighth.
Wheaton's hitting was paced by Peder Schmitz and Braden Krump who each pounded three hits.
Lindor pitched seven innings and got roughed up some, but it doesn't matter considering the winning outcome. Two of the seven runs he gave up were unearned. He struck out three batters but gave up ten hits.
The pitching win was picked up by Miller who gave up one run which was unearned. Miller gained the "W" with his one inning of work.
The losing pitcher was Tanner Kirkeide.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Outlook of "baby boom cohort No. 2"

Trumpeter Clark Terry was a quite masterful "scat singer." Perhaps you're familiar but if you're not, how to describe? It's like playing an instrumental "bebop" jazz solo only you use your voice, not an instrument.
What's "bebop?" Let's just say it's very fast as opposed to "cool jazz."
Terry recorded a scat singing showcase that had only one understandable word. That word was at the end, uttered very abruptly, bringing laughs of course from the audience. That word was "Watergate." That notorious word coming from the depths of a boomer's existence seemed to blend in with a scat-singing song.
Watergate was all about deception, lying, nefariousness, sneaking around etc. It stood to reason that scat singing with its unintelligible syllables would be consistent with telling the story.
Eventually of course the whole story came out. Historical annals tell us the news media were the heroes. This impression was built when the entertainment industry got ahold of the story. It was a stretch to make Watergate entertaining but it got done. We got a major motion picture with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.
The movie had the same name as the book leading up to it: "All the President's Men." Wink, wink: This was a takeoff on the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty ("all the king's horses").
Hollywood can exaggerate. But I'm not sure there was much if any exaggeration in the story as presented in the movie. Watching the movie "cold," you might think there's no way two mere newspaper reporters could change history. Surely there are heavy-hitters in the government who would take over. In a sense they did, I feel, in that they just got out of the way.
There were powerful people who let Richard Nixon hang himself.
We the voters had elected Nixon. And despite all the eulogizing for George McGovern when he died, this Democrat was stigmatized as "too left" when he was in the prime of life. So Nixon got elected, a man who assuredly knew where all the levers of power were in Washington. He was the vice president for eight years under Dwight Eisenhower.
In 1962, delivering perhaps the most ironic quote in U.S. history, he told the press "you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."
Nixon could have lived out the rest of his life most happily and successfully. But having been in the corridors of power, it was an elixir he could not resist. He'd not only seek a return, he would use every conceivable lever known to him, including the non-legitimate ones, to secure his power. 
"Cohort No. 2" and its times
Watergate gives a backdrop for that portion of the population known as "baby boom cohort No. 2." Boomers are generally thought of as people born between 1946 and 1964. The so-called "cohort No. 2" was born between 1956 and 1964. Of course there are no absolute lines of delineation. I was born in 1955. My Morris High Class of 1973 had its 40-year reunion recently. I attended for about one-half hour of the festivities.
I think we can conclude this class got imbued with the qualities, generally speaking, of the baby boom cohort #2. Wikipedia tells us that Watergate influenced us. Many of my peers might laugh at the suggestion that Watergate actually influenced them. They'd laugh and say the whole thing was just ridiculous. It certainly seemed to be ridiculous, but does this mean we should just write it off as having been frivolous?
These were our nation's leaders at the vortex of something seen as "ridiculous." Should we not expect more?
Boomers had watched as our nation's leaders led us into the Viet Nam War. We were in the throes of a miserable withdrawal process as we graduated from high school. We of course tried to put the bad stuff out of our minds as we gathered for commencement.
You'd never know anything was amiss on that pleasant early-summer evening in 1973. But in fact we were dragged down, subconsciously anyway, by a world around us that hardly seemed to inspire optimism. We should be so lucky as to associate the 1970s only with disco! The Cold War hovered.
I don't think we suspected "communism" would implode on its own. I put the word in quotes because even Mikhail Gorbachev seemed perplexed by it. Perhaps the word was largely an invention by fear-mongers in the U.S. Gorbachev eventually just shrugged and said he equated the word with "organized crime." Anytime leadership is not duly elected, I suppose it's a crime.
Watergate affected our consciousness even though we might laugh at the suggestion. I believe the movie did well.
Oh, the drinking age got lowered for baby boom cohort No. 2, as a "favor" to us. Well, thanks a lot. Society retreated from that of course.
We came of age in a time when the stock market had a much different image from today. It was sort of a remote, exotic and risky place associated with rich folks. Of course, real rich people don't take many risks.
One of the biggest puzzles in my life is how Wall Street went from that exotic place, to a place where all the common folks of the U.S. were supposed to put their money, in things like 401Ks. Today we wake up in the morning curious about how the "S&P Futures" are doing. Dear Lord, what has become of us?
My peers and I came of age with inflation raging. I swore it would be a constant. A fellow named Paul Volcker eventually came along and solved that.
We had to withstand a recession. We survived gas shortages. Jimmy Carter never actually used the word "malaise" but we felt it.
Wikipedia tells us that baby boom cohort No. 2 picked up traits of being "less optimistic (than the norm), feeling distrust of government, and a general cynicism."
If you're a boomer, you might forget how cynical we were inclined to be. I mean, when you refer to the president of the U.S. as "Tricky Dick." Don Meredith referred to him this way on a Monday night football broadcast. He did have to apologize. But I'm sure he didn't "misspeak."
I remember a joking line among my peers: "Dick Nixon before he dicks you."
Today's young people grow up showered and surrounded with so much idealism, it's dripping and we seem to just take it for granted. We seem to feel we can create a utopia for our kids. Now we're attacking "bullying." My generation understood bullying as a natural extension of human nature that couldn't be eradicated.
We accepted a lot of very sober realities. Where is the future taking us? Heaven only knows.
I'll predict right here that our U.S. economy is going to implode in October or November in this year of our Lord 2013. My old associate Jim Morrison says it's likely to happen sooner. "The Fed" won't be able to save us anymore. Nor will a "bailout." Nor, "all the king's horses."
Oh, I hope I'm wrong. Baby boom cohort No. 2 knows bad things can happen. We endured the "Smokey and the Bandit" movies, after all.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Morris and Hancock Legion teams prevail

Morris 4, Glenwood 1
Bryce Jergenson executed smoothly on the mound for the Post #29 baseball team in its win over Glenwood. Success came by a score of 4-1.
Hurler Jergenson flirted with a no-hitter. He had a no-hitter going into the seventh frame. He got dinged a little at the end but it was of no consequence for the game's outcome. Bryce got the "W" next to his name in the boxscore as his squad picked up its ninth win. He allowed three hits. He fanned seven batters and walked two.
Glenwood employed two athletes on the hill: Jake Amundson (who took the loss) and Austin Ostrander.
Morris gave Jergenson a 1-0 lead through the first three innings, before some cushion was created with a three-run fourth.
The Morris line score was four runs, 13 hits and no errors. Glenwood put up 1-3-1 numbers. Glenwood pushed across its lone run in the seventh which was when they finally broke through to hit safely vs. Jergenson.
The Morris Legion nine began their scoring when Mac Beyer doubled in a run in the first inning. Beyer had a heckuva boxscore line, coming up just shy of hitting for the cycle. (All he lacked was a home run.)
Morris scoring resumed in the fourth when Jacob Torgerson connected for a timely double, driving in two runs. Jacob then scored on a Tanner Picht base rap.
Glenwood may have finally hit safely vs. Jergenson in the seventh but they didn't exactly knock the cover off the ball. There were three singles. The tying run was at the plate when Jergenson squeezed his glove on a foul pop-up over by first base, to bring this game to a close.
Beyer had three hits in as many at-bats including a double, a triple and an RBI. Jergenson had two hits in three at-bats. Logan Manska was a perfect two-for-two including a double, plus he crossed home plate twice.
Torgerson's double was his offensive highlight. Picht finished at two-for-three with a run scored and an RBI. Connor Metzger had a hit in his only at-bat.
Tyler Henrichs went one-for-two with his hit a double. Austin Dierks had a one-for-two showing with a run scored.
The three Glenwood players hitting safely were Austin Ostrander, Jackson Hendrickson and Luke Nielsen.
Hancock 2, Clinton 1
The eighth inning made the difference as Hancock achieved the game-winner in American Legion baseball vs. Clinton.
The teams were deadlocked 1-1 through seven. Hancock pushed across a run in the eighth but still had to retire Clinton in the bottom of that frame. Bryan Shaw was up to the task on the hill.
It was a long and demanding outing for Shaw who had been the starter. He held Clinton scoreless in the eighth to polish off this 2-1 Hancock triumph on July 1. He struck out eleven batters in his eight innings. He walked five and allowed four hits.
The game was a true pitchers' duel that had Logan Nordly on the opposing end. Nordly like Shaw pitched the whole eight innings. Nordly set down ten Hancock batters on strikes while walking six and allowing four hits.
Each team had four hits. They matched each other in errors too, each with one (impressive for an eight-inning game).
Shaw had two of the four Hancock safeties. He went two-for-three with an RBI and a run scored. Andrew Lindor went one-for-three with an RBI. Andrew Shaw had a one-for-two line.
Zack Adelman had a multiple-hit game for Clinton.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Mars Attacks!" more than superficial comedy

"Funny lookin' critters, aren't they?" Joe Don Baker says of the Martians in "Mars Attacks!"
These Martians were originally supposed to be presented using "stop-motion." "Stop-motion" is a laborious undertaking but it can have interesting results. The original "King Kong" was a showcase. The name Ray Harryhausen comes immediately to mind.
"Stop-motion" may have been on the drawing board for "Mars Attacks!" but it was not used. A more economical choice avails itself for Hollywood. That choice: computer animation. Indeed, computer animation (or CGI) was quite the cat's pajamas when it first came on the scene. After a while it became tired, which in my opinion is where it sits now. It worked fine for the 1996 "Mars Attacks!" cinematic release. It was the same year as "Independence Day."
The two movies seem remarkably similar in spite of different purposes. "Mars Attacks!" intended to be funny. I would argue it wasn't mere farce. It wasn't just a series of impulsively created gags. There was a thread of seriousness to it which I hope other moviegoers detected.
I would summarize that theme as pacifism
The Jack Black character was created as the ultimate GI Joe type of military fanatic. The military was supposed to protect our interests in "Mars Attacks!" Consistent with this is the Rod Steiger character, an absolute caricature of the Patton-like military leader. He assumes the worst about the Martians.
All the tanks and guns of the U.S. military were powerless vs. the "funny lookin' critters."
There seem to be three heroes in this movie, none of whom use aggression to get the favorable resolution. Lukas Haas as "Richie Norris" is the complete opposite of the Jack Black character. They're brothers in the movie. Richie is a calm, nerdy, thoughtful guy who runs a donut stand. He's very committed to his grandmother who ends up another of the three heroes. She emerges this way unwittingly with her music tastes.
Music! "Mars Attacks!" is somewhat like "War of the Worlds" in the sense that an unexpected adversary of the invaders emerges. Neither movie shows the military having any power. In "War of the Worlds" it's the bacteria, "the smallest living creatures" (irony intended), that do the vanquishing. In "Mars Attacks!" the force is similarly unlikely. It's the kind of music grandma likes.
Sylvia Sidney plays "grandma." What kind of music? She plays it on vinyl records. Think of Slim Whitman's "Indian Love Call." Yodeling saves the world. Richie learns of this by accident when attending to his grandma. The tables are quickly turned on the Martians.
Then at the end, we see the movie's third hero, played by Natalie Portman, bestowing honors. We have learned through the course of this movie that Natalie's character, "Taffy," completely lacks the pretentiousness of her parents who happen to be the president and the First Lady. It's hard to believe she could even be their daughter. She seems to be the calm and pacifistic type just like Richie. She and Richie keep their heads while everyone around them seems to be losing theirs.
Richie's simple love for his grandma is his bedrock.
"Taffy" has the presidential chef bring her pizza. She seems alienated like she's bothered by all the pomp around her. "Grandma" is a kind-hearted character who isn't totally attuned to reality. She lives in a nursing home.
Richie, Taffy and Grandma seem on a different page from nearly all the movie's other characters. It's as if they are in a different, saner reality. Yes, they are pacifists. They don't even think of an overt aggressive response to the Martians who really just seem like props in the movie. The three take care of their priorities, being gentle and sensible, and we get the assurance that things will work out fine.
Belligerence loses. It's not the guns that win, it's the bacteria in "War of the Worlds" and the yodeling in "Mars Attacks!" The invaders don't belong here. They'll be taken care of.
"Mars Attacks!" sticks with me a lot more than "Independence Day." I have written before about "Independence Day," that it doesn't wear well with repeated viewings. It goes from being an interesting spectacle to seeming ridiculous. The implausible aspects jump out at you. I don't like seeing an exotic dancer cast as sympathetic. How would anyone know how to fly that old captured UFO? It's as mystifying as "Rambo" hopping into that Russian helicopter and knowing where all the buttons are! That's Hollywood!
It has been suggested that "Mars Attacks!" is like a Mad Magazine satire of "Independence Day." Surprisingly, "Mars Attacks" did not do well at the box office in the U.S. Fortunately it did better in Europe.
Tim Burton was a creative brainchild. I think the movie is superbly crafted. The story is effective. The A-list of actors couldn't have done better. Those name actors must have known this was a significant project.
I'm surprised the movie got just mixed reviews. Roger Ebert made an odd comment, that the movie's creators gave the impression they were above the subject matter, whereas such movies succeed best when the creators have their sleeves rolled up with total belief - something like that. He was implying that the subject matter was something like schlock.
But I don't think that was the intent or the reality. I think the intent was to show an invasion scenario with comedic overtones that in the end was done in by the unlikeliest force. The three heroes as identified by yours truly would seem the unlikeliest. Yet they set an example with how they carried themselves. They kept their composure amidst all the madness. It's pacifism on a pedestal.
Everything represented by the Jack Black character came crashing down. Make love not war.
Jack Nicholson gets to play two characters: President "Jimmy" Dale and sleazy Las Vegas hotel developer Art Land. Annette Bening plays a character modeled after Ann-Margret in "Viva Las Vegas."
I should have acknowledged the Jim Brown character earlier in this post. Brown ought to be featured onscreen more often. As I reflect on "Mars Attacks!" the thought has crossed my mind that maybe the whole story was a fantasy in the mind of the Brown character. The story allows him to feel a renewed purpose in his life, to feel some of his past glory again, to thump his chest as "the heavyweight champion of the world" and to get back with his family from which he has been estranged.
Brown's character, "Byron Williams," is a once-great prize fighter now reduced to being a casino greeter. He helps a group escape the Martians. We assume he's dead but for some reason he has escaped their clutches, maybe because he humored them by boxing them? Did they just want to fight a little? He makes it back to his family's home of Washington, D.C. in a very climactic final scene. His character is a very gentle one. He refuses an offer from Art Land to rough up a guy who has crossed Land. Once again it's pacifism.
Let's add the Brown character as a hero in this movie. So many elements worked well together in the movie. Tom Jones plays himself in a most endearing and entertaining way. He sings his signature "It's Not Unusual." He flies the plane while Brown distracts the Martians with his boxing. Bening is on the plane.
We get so attached to all these characters.
"Mars Attacks!" has been described as black comedy and political satire. Also, as a parody of sci-fi 'B' movies. I'm disturbed by all the attempts to describe this movie in merely farcical or "spoof" terms. Such terms cheapen it. It was a uniquely inspired sci-fi story with obviously comedic overtones, but with an undercurrent of seriousness about pacifism, restraint and sensibility as alternatives to panic.
The Steiger character epitomizes the most undesirable character traits. "Taffy" scolds him in the movie, as he has just become too loud.
Way back when, actor Steiger was offered the role of Patton that was eventually taken by George C. Scott. Legend has it Steiger rejected the role because he felt the movie would glorify war. Which it did. "Patton" was made in 1970 when Steiger's attitude was very common. We should stick with it.
Danny DeVito, Sarah Jessica Parker and Michael J. Fox continue the A-list nature of the "Mars Attacks!" cast. The chemistry is perfect.
The concept for the movie began in 1993. It was weighed alongside "Dinosaurs Attack!" But the latter seemed too similar to "Jurassic Park."
An old trading card series planted the seed for "Mars Attacks!" It's the kind of story one might expect growing out of the Cold War, a strange time that was the backdrop for my youth. We feared "the other." We felt a military buildup with readiness was a must. We feared the Russians like we might fear the Martians.
I would compare "Mars Attacks!" more to "War of the Worlds" than "Independence Day." Substitute the yodeling for the bacteria.
My generation poked fun at Slim Whitman for a time after he'd become well-known with a TV album. My generation mocked many things and I hope we've grown out of it.
"Mars Attacks!" has staying power that in my mind far surpasses "Independence Day." Pacifism lives!
Kudos to "liberal" Hollywood.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com