"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)

Monday, April 28, 2014

UMM has an interest in reining in "Northstar"

John Geiger, publisher of "Northstar"
April Fool's Day obscured the shock value of the new "Northstar."
The University Register put out its absurd issue in connection with April 1. Meanwhile the alternative "Northstar" presented itself as a mock Register. It called itself the "RegiSTAR." Any casual consumer of UMM media might be confused by all this. For me, the usual unacceptable offensiveness of "Northstar" got diluted. There was so much silliness on printed pages out there, one just wanted to dismiss it.
I have never liked all-out efforts in print to mark April Fool's Day. The best April Fool's Day humor, in my view, is subtle, tucked in with the serious stuff. A friend and I orchestrated one of these many years ago for the Morris community newspaper. All but one item on page 1 were the usual. But tucked in there was a story about a new Runestone having been found.
There was enough humor in the article to make people suspicious early-on. It ended with initials carved on the stone, which, arranged in order, spelled out "April Fool." The article quoted the wayfaring Vikings as saying they had encountered many dangers such as "Lions, Bengals, Bears and Rams." They also noted "There isn't much to do in Kensington."
The April 1 "Northstar" even used the logo of the University Register at top-left. Underneath they put "University RegiSTAR." In theory there's an intellectual property issue there. The University Register would not like to be confused with the Northstar. It took more than a glance for me to get all this figured out.
Should the Register assert its intellectual property interests? It probably won't. The Register has a mild disposition. It's the typical campus newspaper put out by students. I would rank it above average.
I think the Register has learned to quit reacting to the Northstar. Is that good? It's a mixed bag. The mental health of the Register writers is probably best served by not feeling the impulse to rant about Northstar. Northstar has all the refinement of someone farting in church. It's extreme conservatism.
A well-placed source tells me we can look for Northstar continuing into the next academic year. It's a little disturbing that the Register and other campus voices calm down or go silent vs. the Northstar, because this would indicate that the over-the-edge publication is quietly being accepted into the campus media ecosystem.
I am aware of only two student papers on campus, supported by student fees. It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to put out a printed media publication on a college campus. A campus is a marketplace of ideas, constantly alive with intellectual curiosity. It is a shame that privilege is being abused by Northstar. It communicates on a level that might be equated to a junior high cafeteria food fight.
It's dangerous too. It's fine to argue in a reasoned way that white students - we're not really "white" - have been getting the dirty end of the stick, as it were. No one goes out of their way to advocate for white students, one could argue. I wouldn't mind reading a reasoned piece about this.
Is it time to end all affirmative action? It's an interesting question. Has feminism gone over the line to where it grates on people? Good causes can have their excesses. All very reasonable matters to consider. Abortion always hangs around as an issue.
How does the Northstar address all this? Page 1 of the April Northstar gives us this huge photo of Andrea Dworkin, the feminist. This might be a tease for an inside essay critiquing feminism. Maybe that would take too much discipline.
How does Northstar present the photo of Dworkin? It's with the caption "Andrea Dworkin, your average looking feminist." OK, so this individual is "ugly" in the view of Northstar journalists, and can be considered a template for feminists.
Do I need to point out this isn't a respectable way to make a point? That it's not consistent with what I assume UMM to stand for? Would a high school newspaper advisor allow something like this to get by? Haven't we as a society gone beyond the criteria for judging women's looks as presented by the "rat pack" of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.?
I heard someone ask if Northstar as a student organization has a faculty advisor. Hell, I don't know, but there's no evidence of such a thing.
UMM students should be encouraged to respect all the adults who lead them and set an example for them in their campus experience.
I hesitate making points like this, because I learned when very young that I was destined to never be able to understand what makes UMM tick. To never understand why the liberal arts weren't just desirable, they were like a fortress to be defended with boiling oil.
I'm concerned that with this new passive stance toward Northstar on campus, having been mollified, the outrageous publication will slide into being part of the expected "scenery."
Getting racial
The inside back page is headlined "white student union." An article on page 10 refers to "the newly formed white student union." The article announces that a meeting is upcoming to remember Thomas Edison "as part of White History Month." Is there really such a thing is White History Month? The Northstar constantly tells us to look for satire on its pages, so it's hard to know what to believe. Would Thomas Edison want to be associated with a publication like this?
The article ends as follows: "Edison is only one of many other white figures to be remembered by the (white student union). Other key figures are George Washington, David Duke, John F. Kennedy, Jim Crow, Joseph Stalin, Jesus and Gandhi."
Why would a UMM campus publication wish to cite David Duke as emblematic of anything good? He's the KKK man. "Satire" is not a sufficient cover for this. Jim Crow? Was Jim Crow an actual person? I know the name is anathema to anything considered credible in academic circles.
What's the point? If you have a valid point to make - and you probably do - why not do so on the kind of level commensurate with UMM's intellectual standing? Why bring in hateful names, terms or symbols?
I really hate to even bother making the following observation, but the inside back page has the Confederate flag. Real classy, Northstar. The Confederate flag is not a legitimate symbol for anything good. It really died as a meaningful symbol in the 19th Century. The Confederacy lost. Since then it gets propped up by causes wanting to extinguish centralized authority, the kind of authority that isn't friendly to bigots.
The flag stood for the right to legally subjugate non-white people. Today it's an actual threat when presented - not innocuous or funny. What will visitors to the UMM campus think when they see the Confederate flag symbol, under a headline announcing the "white student union," in a student publication? 
It's absolutely not called for. It's irresponsible.
Abortion is an issue that should be approached delicately. The Northstar is predictably like a bear with boxing gloves, asking "Who needs a baby when WE have a coathanger?" It asks: "Don't wanna wait 'til marriage? Or wear a condom? Come HANG out with us!"
What does the Northstar feel it is accomplishing with its outrageously crude journalism? Why is the door staying open for it to publish next year? Might a new editor come along to "tone it down?" Apparently no one can give responsible guidance. What happened?
I have a theory that maybe the UMM administration got caught off guard. UMM perhaps had some innocent and common sense policies for student publications, which weren't sufficient to prevent the aggressive conservative regime taking hold and abusing their position.
Apparently the Northstar has its own lawyers. What about the University of Minnesota lawyers? On the cover we read that the first copy of Northstar is free and all subsequent copies are $5. At first I thought this was meant to be funny. I am informed that this conclusion is wrong.
If I wanted to pay for extra copies, who would I pay? The worker at the coffee kiosk on the main floor of the Student Center? Where would the money go then? Does UMM have an interest in knowing where the money goes? Isn't it just assumed that a student publication supported by student fees is free-circulation?
UMM can no longer assume anything about the intentions of a faction of UMM student journalists. Maybe policies will have to be made more complicated. UMM has an interest in ensuring that publications on campus adhere to a certain level of civility. Right now, maybe, the U's own attorneys or administration have been cowed by the Northstar's attorneys.
Conservatives pursue their interests like an enraged wild badger. Extreme conservatism may be reaching the stage where it's "jumping the shark," as demonstrated by the Cliven Bundy thing in Nevada. The May issue of Northstar, if there is one, will probably try to make that whole Bundy thing seem cute. And it'll be labeled "satire."
I have never been on the same wavelength as the University of Minnesota-Morris. But if I'm off base with my assertions, I'll eat my hat.
John Geiger is publisher of the Northstar. I wonder if his parents know what all he has been up to here at our "jewel in the crown," the University of Minnesota-Morris.
The editor is Andrew Geiger. Are they brothers? I remember a major league baseball player in the 1960s named Gary Geiger. The managing editor is Rachel Wingenbach. I'm surprised that both a publisher and editor are needed. Usually with a campus paper, "editor" is the top of the totem pole.
Let's get past graduation. Let the flowers bloom on the U-Morris campus.
Time of the essence
It could be the UMM administration with University lawyers have a plan to ensure there is no Northstar next year. They wouldn't want to divulge details.
There is actually much at stake. No college wants as part of its environment the kind of language and symbols presented in Northstar.
If Northstar does return, UMM staff might start to accept it. Staff defers to administration. The staff are privileged to work at UMM. They could learn to accept the Northstar as in behavioral psychology's "learned behavior."
Too few people think for themselves today. They certainly did in the 1960s with the war protests. Now it's time to think clearly again. Can you believe that the Morris community newspaper accepted Northstar as part of its own product twice? What does this say about the Morris community paper and its Fargo owners?
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, April 26, 2014

For want of a "fob" at the old "Met"

They say that a decade begins with the year that ends in "one," and not "zero." Whoever insists on this is a wet blanket. I don't need to consult with "the professor" from "Gilligan's Island" to try to understand what a decade is. If it walks like a duck. . .
I mean, when I look at the year 1970 I think in terms of the '70s. I think in terms of "Happy Days" and not "Gilligan's Island." I also think of our Minnesota Vikings in their most definitive decade.
We have only been riding the coattails of those '70s teams, ever since, right? That was two stadiums ago. Fans could not have rejoiced in the Vikings more, from their seats at the old "Met," Metropolitan Stadium.
A vast parking lot surrounded the Met. You couldn't press a button on a "fob" in those days to locate your car. We lived according to "analog" systems. There were various signs around the lot to help you locate your car, you just had to remember the sign. We had to "think" more back then, rather than rely on tech shortcuts.
Manual typewriters were still standard. "Electric typewriters" weren't much better. We used "white out."
Today those signs around that sea of a parking lot would be sponsored - we'd see names of private entities. "The Met" would be named for a private entity.
To understand how quaint those times were, remember that when the Metrodome was planned, we decided to name it after a politician, Hubert H. Humphrey. It's even more quaint to realize we'd lionize a Democratic politician this way.
We may have a Democratic governor today, Mark Dayton, that toady for the new Vikings stadium, the empty shirt as it were, but remember how close Tom Emmer came to being elected. Emmer was a fire-breathing righty. Had he won, all the divisive stuff that has happened in Wisconsin would have happened here too.
Democrats have a hard time selling their ideas today. I do think that will change, but an economic erosion will probably have to happen first. We'll need a reminder that the private sector isn't interested in taking care of all of us.
Unmatched decade
Every Vikings team since the 1970s has played in the shadow of what we reveled in during that disco decade, that decade of "Smokey and the Bandit." We reveled in the "purple people" of Page, Marshall, Eller, Larsen and others.
The nation watched as our Arctic-like conditions became as much an opponent, seemingly, for visiting teams as those "purple people." We embraced the elements as a badge of our hardiness, but at the same time we were worried that we'd be marginalized by how we lived with such conditions, that much of the rest of the nation would think we were simply nuts.
The conflictedness is a big part of being Minnesotan. We escaped it by building the Metrodome, then we decided we needn't shy away from the elements so much. So, we got the "TCF" stadium for the Gophers. And then, Target Field for the Twins. The 1970s seem so very long ago.
It's important to preserve memories of Met Stadium, Bloomington. A nice little museum would be nice. In my mind, the Vikings' first Super Bowl in 1970 kicked off the 1970s, even if "the professor" (from "Gilligan") might say the decade didn't begin until 1971.
In 1970 I was 15 years old. It was a perfect age to be mesmerized by the Vikings. I had no clue about the very deleterious effects of football injuries. We knew about the basic bumps and bruises of the game, to be sure - the "knee injuries" - but we had no idea that Wally Hilgenberg was literally out there killing himself. It wasn't necessary for anyone to do that for our entertainment.
It wasn't necessary for Jim Marshall to be out there playing in the line past the age of 40. I hope Marshall had a skull of rock.
Vaulting to first "Super"
The temperature was eight degrees when the Vikings took the field to play Cleveland on Sunday, Jan. 4, 1970, in the NFL title game. The bone-chilling temperature might have been offset some by clear and sunny conditions. A northwest wind of 12 MPH created a windchill of 15 below, not that I totally put stock in "windchill."
"Windchill" is the sort of concept that might be cooked up by "the professor," played by the recently deceased Russell Johnson. Johnson left us in January. Rest in peace.
"Gilligan's Island" has long been considered the epitome of 1960s vacuous popular entertainment. Maybe it's time to re-think. That group of actors might be embraced now as a classic comedy team. They made it look easy like all fine actors do. I wouldn't mind embracing Tina Louise (LOL).
The 1970 Super Bowl stands out in part because it was the only non-Fran Tarkenton Super Bowl of the four. Tarkenton is ingrained in boomers' memories as the Vikings quarterback. But in 1970 we had a fascinating character name of Joe Kapp as the Vikings QB.
The Vikings were the overwhelming favorite. A simple examination of the Kansas City Chiefs' roster shows that K.C. was a team to reckon with.
On January 4 at the Met, the Vikings played one of their defining games of the era, beating the Cleveland Browns 27-7 in the NFL title game, amidst that intense cold.
Kapp scrambled and managed to knock out a Cleveland linebacker name of Jim Houston. You would think our "front four" would dish out such punishment. But it was Kapp, the "man of machismo" (the description of him on a Sports Illustrated cover) who, facing third and four from the Cleveland 47, took off for 13 yards and a first down, pummelling Jim Houston along the way.
The 27-7 win put Minnesota in its first Super Bowl, inaugurating the '70s (in my view) in a stunning way. The Super Bowl! Five years earlier the Twins were in the World Series. And to think that prior to 1961, all we had was the Gophers and a AAA baseball team called the Millers.
Jim Marshall performed long and meritorious service, but he seemed overshadowed by Alan Page and Carl Eller. Marshall was long of tooth, age 41, when he ended his playing career at the Met. Before the December 9 game in 1979, he rode around the perimeter of the field in a classic red convertible. The temperature was 42 degrees.
This would be the iron man's last game at the Met. The fan turnout was 42,239. The sun shone and there was no wind. Marshall played solidly in the Vikings' 10-7 win over Buffalo. Bud Grant said "the weather didn't cooperate. It was the nicest December 9th I can ever remember."
The Dome would make the weather irrelevant.
Tarkenton calls it quits
Fran Tarkenton's retirement was not as smooth or predictable. Maybe it's a trait of truly talented people that they don't script their retirement well. Tarkenton, the seemingly undersized QB, left fans guessing after the 1978 season. Finally we learned there would be no 1979 for him.
We were left to remember his last game at the Met, on December 3, 1978, against Philadelphia.
He seemed no different on that day than when he dazzled as a youngster 17 years earlier. The Vikings trailed the Philadelphia Eagles 27-14 at halftime. "Sir Francis" rallied the team to a 28-27 win, throwing a whopping 56 passes on the day, completing 30 for 289 yards. Tarkenton's final, winning drive moved the Vikings 90 yards in the fourth quarter and ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ahmad Rashad with 1:49 left.
The conditions? Not so pleasant as when Marshall would retire. Tarkenton's finale was amidst blustery conditions, 20 degrees and snowy, a day that furthered talk of how a covered stadium would be preferable.
Tarkenton went on to be a right-hand man for Tony Robbins, the self-made motivational guy who showed up for insomniacs on TV. Tarkenton was sort of like Ed McMahon to Robbins. 
Fran's reputation was not sterling. Businessman Irwin Jacobs would toss the dart "loser" at the famed signal-caller, after a turbulent period of partnership. It seems that Stu Voight was similarly ill-suited for business ventures. Joe Senser couldn't ride his name through his family's misfortunes.
We can forget that all these guys are human beings. Like O.J. Simpson. All those years of pugilistic football play can leave them literally handicapped. We learn more about that every day. We defer to experts with credentials like "the professor."
"Gilligan's Island" can be placed beside Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges in the annals of classic comedy, far better crafted than we realized at the time. Memories get richer like fine wine.
Let's toast the memories of the 1970s Vikings, whether the decade began in 1970 or not. Let's hope the former players can stay stable with their health. And let's have our sons of today play soccer instead.
The Vikings of the 1970s were "doomed" to lose four Super Bowls, just like the gang on "Gilligan's Island" was doomed never to be rescued. (Calvin Griffith once said Jim Eisenreich was "doomed" to be an all-star.)
And yet those characters on the island seemed fundamentally happy, just as the Vikes fans toasted our "purple people" in the disco '70s. Too bad the U.S. wasn't completely out of Viet Nam before the decade started. And I mean by 1970, not 1971. Hardly "Happy Days." The fighting in "Kung Fu" was better than the fighting in the ungodly jungles of Viet Nam. God seems to have ingrained fighting in our being. No wonder we get visits from the likes of "Klaatu."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jergenson tosses gem, girls rally for win

Weather cooperated for the Tuesday, April 22, baseball game between the Tigers and Melrose. Weather has indeed been a hindrance. I'm writing this post on a very dreary and wet Thursday morning that suggests there will be no games today. Maybe we're all about to develop webbed feet.
This is my second MACA spring sports post.
Click on the permalink below to read about the following: the 11-3 softball win over Minneota on April 11, the 7-3 baseball win over Lac qui Parle on April 11, and the 5-4 softball win over BOLD on April 10. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks so much for dropping in. - B.W.
Baseball: Tigers 6, Melrose 0
Bryce Jergenson was a standout with his pitching arm in the 4/22 home win over the Dutchmen of Melrose. Fans at Chizek Field enjoyed the success.
Jergenson got all the offensive support he'd need in the first and second innings. The Tigers plated two runs in the first inning, three in the second. The Tigers' final run came home in the fourth. Melrose put up a string of zeroes against the most effective Jergenson.
Austin Schoenberg had the only Melrose hit off Jergenson. Schoenberg singled to left in the third. Melrose actually got the bases loaded in that inning. Jergenson bore down to escape the threat.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta scored its six runs on eight hits, and had a nice "zero" under errors. The Melrose line score was 0-1-2. Jergenson struck out seven batters in his seven innings. He walked three.
The losing pitcher was Ben Klaphake who got roughed up right away. Tyler Braegelman also pitched for Melrose.
Jergenson was a standout at bat also, going two-for-four with a double. He scored three runs. Noah Grove made noise offensively, doubling twice, driving in two runs and scoring two.
Corey Storck was a force, going a perfect two-for-two with an RBI and run scored. Nate Anderson had a double and drove in two runs. Gage Backman had a one-for-three afternoon with an RBI.
MACA entered mid-week with a 1-1 conference record, 2-1 overall.
It has been hard getting the outdoor spring sports season going. Maybe we all ought to continue indoor sports for this time of year.
Softball: Tigers 12, Melrose 5
The 12-5 score suggests this game was a cakewalk for the MACA softball Tigers. It's misleading. The game was close through six innings. In fact, MACA trailed by one run when coming to bat in the top of the seventh!
The seventh inning told the whole story in this game. The Tigers rallied for eight runs, taking charge in this 12-5 win over the Melrose Dutchmen at Melrose. MACA scored its 12 runs on 12 hits. The error total: three. The Melrose line score was 5-7-2.
MACA improved its season record to 4-1.
Melrose took a 2-1 lead in the first inning. MACA scored one run in the third and two in the fifth. Melrose kept pace with two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.
Kayla Pring and Brianna Abril shared the MACA pitching load. Abril fanned five batters and got the win. Pring set down two batters on strikes.
Lauren Reimers was totally in the groove batting. She went three-for-three with two of her hits doubles, plus she drove in two runs. Becca Holland had two hits in three at-bats and drove in two runs.
Chelsey Ehleringer had a hit and an RBI. Abbie Olson went two-for-four with an RBI. Bobbi Jo Kurtz had a one-for-two afternoon. Brooke Johnson went one-for-three with two ribbies. Abril and Nicole Strobel both went one-for-four.
Kayla Austing and Madison Rausch each had two hits for Melrose. Justine Reverman and Holly Hillerman each had one hit.
Will the uncooperative weather now abate a little? We'd like to get truly into the swing of the 2014 spring schedule!
Softball: Tigers 20, NL-Spicer 3
New London-Spicer has the upper hand over MACA in girls basketball but not in softball. The Tigers came on very strong to defeat the Wildcats in April 21 play.
MACA achieved its third win of the season with a 20-3 romp over the Wildcats.
This game seemed over right out of the starting gate. Lauren Reimers connected for a three-run home run in the first inning. That blast was part of a crushing nine-run rally. Reimers would finish with six RBIs on the day. She was two-for-four in the boxscore.
Not only did the Tigers score 20 runs on their seven hits, they completed a most enviable line score with zero errors. The NL-Spicer line score numbers were 3-5-2.
All three of the Wildcats' runs were scored in the fifth which was the game's last inning (due to the ten-run rule).
The Tigers kept punching on the accelerator, adding five runs each in the second and third innings, and then one in the fourth for good measure. They didn't have to bat in the fifth.
Three Wildcats hit safely: Megan Thorson, Sienna Kampsen and McKenzie Peterson.
Reimers had the memorable boxscore line for the Tigers. Becca Holland doubled and drove in three runs. Megan Gillespie, Brooke Gillespie and Emma Zosel each had a one-for-one day, and Kayla Pring went one-for-two.
The MACA offensive onslaught meant that NL-Spicer had to experiment with several different pitchers. These were: Kenzie Peterson, Espi Austvold, Alyssa Fredrick and Lindsay Vagle.
You don't often see this many pitching changes in a prep softball game, as Morris Area Chokio Alberta employed three hurlers. The MACA trio was Kayla Pring (the winner), Lacee Maanum and Brianna Abril. Pring fanned four batters and walked one while giving up one hit and no runs. Maanum and Abril each had one strikeout.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 21, 2014

"There Ain't No Gettin' Over" (our county fair)

Frank Sinatra was known to want to shoot movie scenes in one take. It's a worthy ideal, this desire to get something right the first time. Ronnie Milsap once told me about one of his hits from the 1980s that he recorded in one take: "There Ain't No Gettin' Over Me."
I had the privilege of interviewing Ronnie when he came here during our "run" of having big-time singers at our county fair. The first of those singers was Donna Fargo. 
It was an interesting phase of Stevens County history: bringing some absolutely top-notch names from country music here. We got the Statler Brothers.
This phase began after the Wheaton fair had succeeded with this. Wheaton got lucky, according to West Central Minnesota lore, booking an act just before it got "big," and then hosting that group for that less than market value price. Was it (the group) Alabama?
We all talked about "the Wheaton fair." Wheaton parlayed its initial success. Morris stood pat with its pretty pedestrian county fair, until finally our leaders followed the fashion of getting those big names. I remember the Milsap concert well.
I remember interviewing T.G. Sheppard in his bus. It was more than an interview as it developed into a conversation. I interviewed Janie Fricke.
You may not remember Charly McClain (a woman). She was one of those meteoric stars with country music. Charly came here with a fellow performer who I believe was her significant other. He had the last name of "Massey" and I recall he had acted in soap operas. The couple was very nice to interview. I remember that as soon as I hopped into their bus, Charly commented on my Boston Red Sox cap.
"The Kendalls" came here to sing when they were semi-big. Ah, "Heaven was just a sin away." 
It's amazing that the big names of that time came to such small towns. Donny Osmond came to our Stevens County Fair. I don't remember if Marie was along. The puppet "Shotgun Red" (from TV's "Nashville Now") graced our fair.
Truly we were no longer shown up by Wheaton. Morris should never be shown up by Wheaton. Morris was once shown up by Hancock in high school athletics. We had athletic programs that could get shown up by several of the very small schools in this part of the state.
Yawning time in our history?
Tying all this subject matter together, one might conclude there was a time when Morris was a little complacent, which is a better word than lazy. We were just supposed to feel comfortable here.
Today we have a county fair that stands out as a real gem. Considerable work and commitment go into it. Back in the late 1970s, believe it or not, the Stevens County Fair was basically "marking time." If you had commented that the fair was a relic of a bygone time, you wouldn't have gotten much of an argument.
Oh, I know that sounds sad. Some of you might wrinkle forehead and say "Oh, I don't think so" or "don't be so negative." I'm just trying to recall history as it was. I remember a well-known barber in town - no, not "Floyd" although he could have been - who said of our fair: "If it wasn't for the 4-H kids, there wouldn't be much there." (This was not Dave Evenson.)
Such dismissive or cynical talk was hardly uncommon. Many of us dutifully went to the fair anyway. Subconsciously we all knew the American spirit wasn't going to die, in spite of the economic "stagflation" and the malaise of the Jimmy Carter years. (I don't think he ever actually used the word "malaise.")
I first started covering the Stevens County Fair for the media in 1979. There was no indoor (or covered) arena for livestock exhibiting. I remember the city crew (including Marlene Reineke) bringing some aluminum bleachers to set up next to the livestock building. The show area was on the opposite side of the building from where it is now.
I heard talk about an "indoor arena" as if it was a big future goal.
The seating capacity for the 4-H foodstand was much less. The tables for customers were around the perimeter of the inside only. The dedicated Flossie Mathison was in charge.
All the stuff I'm writing about got expanded later. We shot for the moon and it appears we made it. The commercial exhibits went from a rickety sort of wooden building to our lavish Lee Community Center of today. We might take it all for granted. Do not take it for granted.
There was a time when the Stevens County Fair was much more small-scale. We were sort of "shamed" into going after the big-name entertainment like Ronnie Milsap. Did it work? I think from an economic standpoint it was "challenging" continuing to bring these stars here.
Eventually our economy adjusted for the benefit of all, as the door got opened for casinos and their showrooms. It was better for both the stars and their fans. Meanwhile our beloved rural outstate county fairs went back to the kind of "dirt" attractions we all love.
I wonder where Charly McClain is now. I wonder if she stuck with Mr. Massey. I remember my friend Jim McRoberts joking about how talent-challenged Mr. Massey seemed. "I could have gone up there and sung as good as him," Jim said. That gave me a visual that I found amusing. Jim is a great guy but his talents are in the grocery business.
I remember the days when if Wheaton and Morris were to play in girls basketball, the score would be something like 100-10. Wheaton used to bring a virtual mass of fans, most wearing red, to the UMM P.E. Center for high-level post-season games.
Obviously Morris had kids who had just as much "talent." I'd go around town trying to remind people of this, and I got in tremendous trouble doing so. Kelly McCann of Kelly's restaurant had a daughter in Hoffman-Kensington athletics which was one of those pretty ambitious small-town athletic programs. I told her one day about the problems trying to even discuss the Morris school's deficiencies with our townspeople. The sage Kelly said: "They don't want to hear about it."
Behind the scenes, I think certain town leaders were really pretty aware. It takes time to address issues like this. There are always some regressive, dug-in forces, people in their complacent, comfortable and entitled positions who simply don't want things to change. A sociologist could expand on this.
Morris in the 1980s needed some time to get going on some fronts. We eventually followed Wheaton's lead and got Donna Fargo here, followed by other luminaries of the time. I remember taping some of my interviews with these people and I probably still have those cassettes. It surely was exciting. I feel bad having used my "press pass" to get into the shows. I should have bought tickets. We surely needed the revenue.
The Jimmy Carter malaise is long behind us. Life moved so very slow. If a young person of today were to step into a time machine and go back to then, he/she would faint from culture shock. And yet the American spirit of optimism was never really dimmed, it was just a little dormant.
Ronald Reagan did much lighting that positive fire. I'm a Democrat but I'll concede there are times we need Republicans, just not tea party Republicans. Just not maniacal Republicans like Michele Bachmann.
The forces of private enterprise and individual initiative needed to be unleashed. They most certainly were, and there comes a time when we need to tap on the brakes a little. That time is now.
I think the time is near when we'll have a major economic collapse. The county fair will survive that, just as it has survived everything save for the polio epidemic (which shut down our state fair).
In just four months we'll have the 2014 Stevens County Fair. How therapeutic it will be, when the warm weather again arrives. It will arrive, won't it? Oh, and the trial for our high school principal is set in August too. What fun.
Addendum: The Ronnie Milsap song title I reference at the start of this post has a complicated "name" story to it. The song's official title was "(There's) No Gettin' Over Me." (The parenthesis thing makes it complicated too - aren't those irritating sometimes?) The official song title with the parenthesis never appears in the lyrics. Fans came to know the song for the title I use in the headline and first paragraph. Perhaps the record company didn't want to promote bad grammar. Let's enshrine this 1981 song as "There Ain't No Gettin' Over Me" (or our county fair).
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 18, 2014

Let's pray that Alan Page can retain sound mind

Associate Justice Alan Page
It's an unspoken worry but one that has had to make the rounds. Alan Page is on the Minnesota Supreme Court. We elected him. We pray he doesn't show symptoms of mental decline from his years of playing big-time football. He played for Notre Dame and was a fixture in that special era of Minnesota Vikings football known as "the purple people."
The Minnesota citizenry, so enraptured at the time, were naive and hardly gave a thought to what those poor souls might be experiencing out on that field at Met Stadium. Wally Hilgenberg, RIP, was a casualty.
Fred McNeill and Brent Boyd are still alive and dealing with symptoms that we can presume will only get worse.
At the time of their playing heyday, we would have loved trading places with any of those Vikings out there. Now we know we were the lucky ones. The vicarious experience was 100 per cent better.
Maybe the venerated Alan Page will be lucky and somehow skate past the consequences of all his physical, intense play as a lineman - "in the trenches" as they say.
Ah, war terminology applied to football. We used to think it was cute. George Carlin had a routine that played on this. The comedian compared football and baseball terminology, the latter suggesting a peaceful, pastoral game, played in a "ballpark." Whereas, football involved such things as "bombs and blitzes," the comedian said while laughter erupted.
Carlin said that in contrast to the pleasant "ballpark," football was played in a stadium - "War Memorial Stadium" (an actual place). That was the payoff line: "War Memorial Stadium."
Back in the days when "Monday Night Football" was new and novel, there was a regionally produced pregame show that had an intro segment showing the most violent possible hits. We heard the audio of players making the kind of exclamatory sounds that accompany such hits.
We were supposed to be mesmerized and impressed, respecting these men willing to go all-out in this macho "man's game."
Holy cow, how quaint and regressive now, these attitudes about football being such an exhibit of ultimate manliness.
There's nothing manly about the older men we see in the news today nursing the effects of years of playing football, not able to hold a job etc. In high school they were at the top of the social totem pole with their ability through sheer strength and speed to knock opposing players on their rear end.
And to think our schools, of all institutions, should have been a party to promoting this model of how we designate heroes. We are so human an animal.
One of the "cute" anecdotes of Vikings history has Carl Eller smashing a chalkboard at halftime of the Minnesota-Washington divisional playoff game in 1973. Washington was leading 7-3 at halftime. The Vikings went on to win 27-20, and according to the team's lore it was Eller's fit of anger that helped "inspire," I guess, when it was really just an exhibit of anger management problems. 
The Vikings beat the Washington. . .Redskins. Oh my, there's a whole other issue. It gets lots of attention today, this racially denigrating nickname of the Washington team. I recall no such talk in 1973 which was the year I graduated from high school.
Big-time football is whistling past the graveyard. It has to address the "Redskins" name, it has to confront the horrible toll of head injuries, and now it must discourage all anti-gay talk and attitudes - anathema to what big-time football has stood for, i.e. "manliness."
We learned with Junior Seau that the sheer length of his career may have doomed him. He just couldn't leave the game. He played linebacker which is a physically brutal position. He once said he had only one concussion but "it lasted 20 years." He and Dave Duerson represent the worst of what can happen from a football career.
Many other former players are falling into a challenged category. They may once have been "studs," to use the terminology of a less-enlightened culture. Today they might forget their names or be unable to control their bathroom functions. Welcome to the real world, and try dismissing the "dream factory" that is big-time, big money entertainment, a world that takes talented people and exploits them, discarding them when more attractive (younger) options emerge.
It happens in Hollywood like in football. But in acting you are not dealt countless concussions and sub-concussive hits.
The absolutely most pathetic aspect is that our high schools are a party to keeping the football animal alive. There are more and more skeptical voices all the time. But change takes time.
The "legacy" attractiveness of football will be extremely formidable to overcome. Football coaches, that big fraternity of "macho" males, will try to discourage the "negativity."
Let's re-define "positive" and "negative" on this. Let's apply the wisdom of someone like Alan Page. Let's cross our fingers and pray for him.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 14, 2014

Prosecution wants to drop charges but can't?

Justin Anderson, prosecutor
The local corporate media could be doing a better job reporting on the case involving the high school principal. The coverage has been superficial.
Maybe a "Q & A" format could be used to broaden the understanding of this unpleasant affair. I can't imagine anything more unpleasant.
A better job by the media would help discourage mere speculation, i.e. gossip, among the public. Would it be out of line for the media to try to get some public statements from the defense side? We see defense attorneys on the HLN television network all the time picking apart cases.
It is always very important to try to understand the defense side. The defense often wins.
Therefore we cannot assume that the prosecution and law enforcement side of the case monopolizes the truth. We got a big revelation about that on Friday (4/11) with the front page article about the total exoneration of Todd Hoffner. Hoffner is, as you most certainly know, that former Minnesota State University-Mankato football coach who may again be the football coach there. The prosecution went all nutzoid with perverted thoughts about what Hoffner had done. Keep an eye on prosecutors for overzealousness.
In Morris we have the Grant County attorney to deal with. That's a pretty obscure position, being Grant County attorney. That individual would probably like the limelight some. He'd like some notches in his holster.
Grant County is a pretty barren and non-descript place compared to Morris. We have the grand University of Minnesota-Morris. What does Grant County have? I'm not sure - it's really just a place that you drive through.
The earliest impulses of the Grant County attorney in our local celebrated case now appear to be just that: impulsive. What else might we expect from Grant County, which might just as well be home to the Mayberry deputy?
The word on the street in Morris Friday was that "the prosecution wants the charges dropped, but the defense attorney won't let them." I heard this from a person who is a lawyer by profession.
Unless our area legal community is just starting to fall apart, I have to take seriously statements like this. When a rumor like this comes to the attention of the corporate media, i.e. the newspaper and radio station, maybe they could help illuminate. They are not up to that. They just want to sell advertising.
There is only one grocery store in Stevens County and yet we need all that advertising. Do we have pea-sized brains or what? We must have pea-sized brains if we actually believe the prosecution cannot drop the charges.
Have some coffee and then ask yourself: Who else but the prosecution has any power to drop charges? How could the defense side have any leverage in this? Well, it doesn't.
We are left to analyze the rumor for what it really might mean. It took me about ten seconds to come up with a reasonable theory. And it is: The prosecution wants to drop charges but wants the defense side to agree that there will be no counter action by the defense.
Of course the defense isn't going to agree to that. The defense is representing a man whose life will never be the same. He has been totally smeared by the power of the state. People who represent the state - and that includes the police - get so intoxicated on their power, get to feeling so self-righteous, they forget the consequences of their actions.
You might think: My, a dropping of the charges would be a win for the defense! If it's technically a win, it does nothing to put Craig Peterson's life on track again. His life may never get totally on track again, and it's in the recognition of that reality that attorney Robert Dalager is properly motivated. Kudos to him. He'd be negligent if he just stood by as charges were dropped and figured "well, that's it." It most certainly is not "it."
Many of you with the pea-size brains might counter by saying: "Well, the principal got himself in this mess with his questionable behavior." Yes, he may have shown questionable behavior as we all do, because we are all God's children and are sinful.
The issue here is the power of the state to ruin someone's life. The issue is the formal charges.
Minus the charges, the worst that could have happened to Mr. Peterson is that some rumors could have floated back to Supt. Scott Monson, who then would have administered something like a tongue-lashing behind closed doors. Life would have gone on. Peterson's career could have gone on. Any bad habits in his personal life could conceivably have caught up with him, and maybe he'd have to change jobs.
He could have cleaned up his personal life if that was a problem. We all have problems and human failings. The state with its awesome power should intervene only when necessary. Some prosecutors (and police) ought to be punched in the balls. (I'm making this point rhetorically, so don't go charging me with making terroristic threats.)
If this Grant County fountain of wisdom wants to drop the charges, why? Does he not feel that first degree criminal sexual conduct was committed? If he does feel this was the offense, then most certainly he should stay on course with the charges. If he doesn't, then should we accept that this whole thing has been some sort of bizarre charade?
Oh my, if it's a charade, then Mr. Dalager should most certainly proceed with counter action, holding anyone's feet to the fire who deserves it. The people who persecuted Todd Hoffner in Mankato are having their feet held to the fire. Impulsive decisions are being punished.
The Mayberry deputy can go back to his normal work, of making sure "Otis" gets put to bed in his cell at the normal time.
Click on the permalink below to read the post I wrote about the Todd Hoffner situation at the time the story broke.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Support Morris Public Library Foundation!

Melissa Yauk
First of all, let's emphasize that this coming Saturday, April 12, is Melissa Yauk's birthday. She's our Morris Public Library director. I don't know if she'll be there that day, but you might want to share best wishes sometime.
Melissa is a native of Wadsworth IL, located north of Chicago.
The Morris Public Library isn't standing pat with how it serves the public. Its board is working with an architectural firm to develop a "new vision" for the existing space that will incorporate collections, technology and community gathering spaces.
Very few of our institutions are standing pat these days. We are all responding to the transformative effects of technology. There was a time when some people predicted that libraries might wither on the vine because of technology. When you visit our library today, you sense it's more abuzz than ever.
A lot of the "buzz" comes from kids which is a mixed bag: I mean, it's wonderful that the library can be such a "family" place, but kids and their noise are not a nonstop pleasure for everyone.
I'm guessing library employees pull their hair out trying to enforce noise guidelines. They know that "quiet" is an ideal for many. However, realistically you are going to have to accommodate some conversing, sometimes at less-than-subdued levels.
Libraries went through an adjustment years ago when audible conversations became tolerated. This was in contrast to the old Carnegie Library atmosphere in Morris when I was a kid. There, the iconic Margaret Grove presided and would "shush" us if we didn't absolutely whisper. It was a real treat to see our current library display Margaret's high school graduation photo from way back when. We all loved Margaret even when she humbled us.
Kids were disciplined with a more stern eye back then. Society later softened up as we realized we maybe should nurture kids a little before they got drafted and sent off to Viet Nam to be killed.
There was a time when, if you caught hell at school you'd catch hell from your parents when you got home, then a new era took hold when if you caught hell at school, your parents would turn their fire on the teacher. Libraries too reflected the change in tone of our culture. They "lightened up."
Mixed bag for library policy
Today, as someone who uses the library regularly, I have noticed that the staff applies "discipline" on a sort of arbitrary basis, to send a "message" that there continues to be expectations. One person will be reprimanded for answering his cellphone without going to the entryway. Then I'll see someone else blatantly launch a cellphone conversation with impunity.
One library employee told me with great exasperation one day that a patron had complained about audible conversing among library staff. I remember the late Wally Behm and Don Fellows, two regular patrons and supporters of the library, conversing with no attempt to lower their voices. Wally had a voice that could penetrate.
Back in my young adult years, I went to the Morris library mainly to consume magazines. Our changing media universe has shaken things up. I don't need to see the world through the eyes of some East Coast elite media writer. Today we have the Internet. The library has computers! We have a whole unlimited universe of news and opinion to wade through, gratis. As a kid I'd have to pinch myself (as if dreaming) to envision such a world.
"Time" and "Newsweek" filled their role once. In an earlier time, "Life" and "Look" magazines held forth before our "mass culture." We like having shared values as a culture. We in fact have niche interests. Today we live in communities of people of shared interests, those communities blossoming online among people who may never be physically near each other.
Some people feel as though this threatens churchgoing. I have mentioned the "doomsaying" about libraries. My old friend Glen Helberg, RIP, thought libraries were in trouble due to all the new tech means of getting info. Wrong-O.
I do personally believe that newspapers are in trouble. Newspapers have in fact been through a negative spiral. It has already happened. I would like to see Morris-centered news, information and commentary evolve to where it's all in an online-based ecosystem. We have seen steps toward this (as with "Friday Facts") but not as fast as I expected or wanted.
I don't feel old but writing about the Morris Public Library pushes me that way. Is it true that our library building is now 45 years old? Heck, I remember when it was shiny new. Margaret Grove's career carried over to the new building, which means she "crossed the tracks" from the Carnegie building (now the museum). It seemed curious seeing Margaret in the new building. She seemed so much more at home in the confined but charming space of the old Carnegie Library. The old library was a treasure measured by the standards of its times.
Armory was an east Morris edifice
I remember well the building that occupied the space where today we find our Morris Public Library. So much time has passed, I can't assume that everyone knows what building that was. It was the armory!
The old armory was a truly grand edifice and was a community hub just like today's library. There was a big gymnasium and a downstairs auditorium. I remember going to that auditorium and hearing a Boy Scout tell me all about Davey Crockett. I played elementary basketball in the gym under coach Marvin Laabs. Marvin was an elementary school teacher at a time when male teachers for that age level were a novelty.
I remember one of my female teachers - I'm not sure which one - who didn't like passing around those circulars advertising books for sale for kids. She strongly asserted that such purchases were not necessary, that "you can get all the books you need from the library." Bless her.
I did buy a few of those paperback books anyway, like "Up Periscope" and "Snow Treasure."
The first book I ever read, checked out through Margaret at the Carnegie building, was the tale of an anthropomorphic red-tail hawk named "Rufus." I took a liking to stories about anthropomorphic creatures.
Library opens on east side
It was in 1969 that the "new" Morris Public Library opened across from the Post Office and next to the Morris Sun Tribune building. Why on earth did the Sun Tribune have to leave that spot for its out of the way location on Pacific Avenue?
The library underwent a remodeling in 1999. But it still seems to be racing to catch up to expectations and standards. As someone who remembers the armory that once held forth there, in its brick splendor, I'm a little jarred reading about how dated our library is, how it comes up short of the recommended standards of today.
Then again, I remember when the Metrodome was "new" too, how it solved all our problems etc. Sheesh. Time marches on.
The library board is working with that architectural firm to keep the wheels of progress turning. The Morris Public Library Foundation has been formed to facilitate. It hopes to raise $35,000 by the end of the year to support the vision. As of March 1 the efforts have collected $20,000.
I submitted a check for $1,000 on behalf of my mother and I, as a memorial for my late father Ralph E. Williams. Please follow my example.
The library is a gem. I'd say Melissa is a gem too except some of you might get the wrong idea. I will assert she is competent. (There, that's a "safe" way of tipping the hat to her, right?)
"Although the library is supported by local tax dollars, we know that government resources are stretched thin," a Foundation flier reads. "We want our local library to remain exceptional."
The Morris Public Library Foundation is administered by West Central Initiative. You will get a nice letter from the Initiative if you make a generous contribution.
History tie-in with UMM
One final note: The property where the library sits has special importance for our family and the University of Minnesota-Morris. It was in the grand old armory, back in 1960, when UMM music gave its debut concert. It was November of 1960, the same month in which the nation elected JFK, that "the UMM band, dressed in its navy blue uniforms trimmed with maroon and gold," performed.
The quote is from the Morris newspaper. "Camelot" and UMM getting ushered in together. . .
We have heard through the years about the "disconnect" between the UMM campus and community, but on that November 5, UMM connected with community 100 per cent as my father Ralph directed those musicians in a concert for Stevens County 4-H youth and their parents! What an event! An audience of around 1000 was present. I can close my eyes and embrace the excitement that must have been felt.
"A band of this size was not anticipated the first year," the newspaper article stated, so kudos to my late father for all the recruiting and enthusiasm.
Two years later, Dad would take the UMM men's chorus to the Seattle World's Fair (a.k.a. Century 21 Exposition). Click on the permalink below to read a post I wrote about that venture. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course."
In 1964 I was along when the men's chorus took their spirited sound to the New York World's Fair. You may click on this permalink to read a 2012 post I wrote about that. Thanks for reading. - B.W.
My father appreciated public institutions. He'd be delighted we gave our little boost to the Morris Public Library Foundation. He is acknowledged as UMM music's founder on our family memorial at Summit Cemetery, a black bench on the open east end - the new section. Please stop by and visit sometime. Hum the "UMM Hymn."
Please follow our example in helping the Library Foundation. And, happy birthday to Melissa on 4/12.
Addendum: Fred Willard when he played "Jerry Hubbard" on the 1970s TV show "Fernwood 2nite," pointed out that many people say "libery" (without the middle "r" sound) instead of "library." Also, Lou Gelfand when he wrote the "ombudsman" column for the Star Tribune, made note of a typographical error common to newsrooms everywhere, and always prompting chuckles: "pubic" instead of "public." Hence, we might see an occasional reference to the "pubic library."
Addendum #2: We all sang "happy birthday" to Clarence "Kett" Ketterling at the Morris Senior Community Center today (Wednesday). Dr. Ketterling was most tickled that I remembered his campaign theme when he ran for Lions district governor: "A good bet with Doctor Kett." He won. He was a dentist in Morris. I had Dr. Jorgensen but I would have been equally blessed having "Dr. Kett" who had a daughter in my Morris High School Class of 1973: Colleen.
Sympathies to the family of Wanda Dagen on the death of her mother.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

The irony of a principal getting into trouble

Craig Peterson, MAHS principal
Maybe there's some poetic justice in the principal of the high school getting in such serious trouble.
A big part of the principal's purpose is meting out discipline. When I was a kid, principals were humorless gray-haired older men. If they were middle-aged, they were still humorless. They represented "uncool."
Remember the principal who called "Lightman" into his office in the movie "WarGames?" That was typical. He wore a white dress shirt. Matthew Broderick played the outcast (but genius) "Lightman."
You'd think that movie was too dated to be appealing now. The computer technology would be way too dated. Movies that are fundamentally good with their stories can overcome an obstacle like that.
"WarGames" with Broderick and Ally Sheedy presents such a story: as engaging today as it ever was. That movie is dated in ways that go beyond tech. Another exhibit is its innocence. Lightman is, in effect, a suspected terrorist (with his computer hijinks). Remember those agents with sunglasses surrounding him as he tried to leave the convenience store? He ended up being treated far more humanely than he would today.
The "twin towers" of the World Trade Center were still standing when "WarGames" was made. It's a 1983 movie. We wouldn't even want to see what could happen to "Lightman" today. The twin towers came down in 2001 and our attitudes changed quickly, to where we at least put up with our leaders like Dick Cheney endorsing aggressive ways of handling suspects.
But remember, Barack Obama is actually the one who got Osama Bin Laden.
"WarGames" gave me the image I embrace of Matthew Broderick. I have never even seen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I saw Broderick in the "Godzilla" re-make and thought it was just a treadmill performance. "Godzilla" was basically a failure even though technically it was well done.
I saw "Godzilla" in Alexandria at the time when movie theaters were pushing the envelope for how many commercials and previews were shown before the main attraction. I almost had smoke coming out of my ears, such was my anger. Eventually at least one movie patron tried to sue over this. It's the kind of suit that doesn't succeed but it's a "shot across the bow" toward the industry it's targeting. Same with the lawsuit filed by someone chagrined over a newspaper laying off about half its staff and cutting its size right after the aggrieved party sent in a new subscription check.
Businesses had better pay attention to these "shots across the bow." The movie industry seemed to back off with its bad (greedy) habits. Newspapers? Their retrenchment has been staggering, but it seems they will always be with us. Maybe Morris area people really want the Menards or Fleet Farm circulars bad enough to keep getting the Morris paper.
Dicey subject for town paper? 
The Morris paper is telling us the story, at least the superficial facts, about the escapades of our high school principal who appears to be doing nothing now. He's on paid leave from the school. He got in trouble for the kind of conduct that probably shouldn't be reported in a family newspaper.
I once got in trouble (in some circles, OK with one person) for taking a photo of a banner at a high school sports event that read "Like a bat out of h---." (Yes, with the hyphens). My critic was absolutely ballistic. I wonder what he'd say about the paper writing about alleged forced oral sex.
The supreme irony here is that the accused party has the job of high school principal in which he's supposed to discipline our youth for their misbehavior. Now he's looking at (at least one) 30-year prison term. It's first degree criminal sexual conduct. It is going to be hard reconciling his professional role with the criminal charges even if he's acquitted. The word around town is that "his reputation is finished." That's concerning of course.
We read about the police report and wonder whether any misbehavior rose to the level of the charges, to say the least. You can argue that it's misbehavior. The criminal charges seem like killing an ant with a sledgehammer.
I have had occasion to discuss this matter with a couple of esteemed members of our local legal profession, one retired. I asked this retired individual whether the first degree sex charges were called for at all. He seemed to smirk at first as if I might be a little naive, needing a little "education." He filled me in: Prosecutors can be expected to "shoot for the moon" sometimes, as a reflection of basic bargaining strategy. You start out with the most extreme charges, knowing there's no way you can score on that, and you end up happy getting something in between.
The extreme charges might scare the bejesus out of someone, to the extent he'll agree to something more moderate and be thankful for it. In the meantime, the prosecutor can chalk up a "victory" for himself.
Except that we shouldn't have a system that behaves like this, where prosecutors are thinking more about "winning" than about simple justice. It's contemptible really.
The lead prosecutor works for Grant County so he's not going to be sensitive to our interests. According to my "counselor" on this matter he can't even be counted on to be sensitive to the interests of justice, as his extreme charges may be nothing more than "posturing" to try to ensure he eventually "scores."
The police chief and the two prosecutors had better hope they can get a conviction on one of the counts. If they don't, the public blowback will be substantial. We may be talking firings, as in "clean out your desk by 5 p.m."
This matter is ugly, unseemly and embarrassing for Morris' image, an image that is important considering we have an important state institution here: the University of Minnesota-Morris.
We have been fortunate thus far in that the Star Tribune of Minneapolis hasn't leaped in. That could change at any time. Maybe the Star Tribune is disbelieving about the whole thing, as they sense the "posturing" angle and don't want to sensationalize it, I don't know. I think people would read such an article and ask, "You mean this is what first degree criminal sexual conduct is?"
It looks like Glen Taylor might be buying the Star Tribune. 
That Hancock coach who got in trouble many years ago only served about two years in prison, and his misbehavior was with underage girls. In Craig Peterson's case here in Morris, we're talking about a 30-year-old woman. And Peterson is looking at at least one 30-year prison sentence.
The other legal person with whom I have conversed recently, said maybe I shouldn't be surprised at the severe nature of the charges, given the nature of society today and our standards: sort of a "zero tolerance attitude" as it were.
I'll tell you this: Women are extremely delicate, and in light of this, any time a man and woman engage in sexual stimulation outside of marriage, the man should perhaps ensure there's a written "contract for sex." This is hardly outlandish. It would save our legal system lots of trouble.
A "contract" might present a sort of "catch 22." It's practical but it could cross the line of illegality, to prostitution from the woman's perspective. I heard a radio discussion about this once.
God created us with these cotton pickin' sexual urges. Maybe we should be mad at God. I'm mad at God in that he created me in a way that women don't seek any social closeness to me. I'm fortunate in the sense I'll never have to face a lengthy prison term for alleged misbehavior with women. But I'm still angry. 
Wally Behm's guiding hand
Wally Behm was the Morris High principal when I was in school. Del Sarlette who was quite ahead of his time with his video hobby, put together a humorous piece that had Ray Swenson getting called into Wally's office by Wally. Del then inserted the "1812 Overture" as audio and shook the camera. It was like an earthquake, get it?
That's the old way we understood discipline as administered by the gray-haired principal types. Wally also had to fear vandalism at his home on Halloween, remember? I don't think our Historical Society preserves this kind of stuff. My online writing does.
Craig Peterson is represented by Robert Dalager (and perhaps two other attorneys, according to word on the street). Mr. Dalager and his associates will be striving hard to win, and I somehow think they will be driven more by principle than the other side.
Ever wonder why lawyers are so stressed? A lawyer once explained why their job is more stressful than that of a physician. When a physician treats a patient, he doesn't have to worry about another physician in the building trying to kill the patient. To make it clear: Legal work is adversarial.
My blood boiled recently when I was having breakfast with a retired Morris teacher who said the Hancock teacher/coach who landed in prison "didn't have a good attorney." I remember talking to a media person at the time that mess was fresh, who said "the people who were at the trial knew what was going on," i.e. there was criminal misbehavior. A good lawyer can't just wipe that away.
I remember the late Mike Fluegel telling me that Dennis Courneya actually had a very good lawyer, last name of Kurzman as I recall. I remember typing about one heckuva speeding ticket that Mr. Kurzman got at the time he was working on this case.
The reason a teacher might sympathize with the Hancock coach is that teachers are absolutely notorious for sticking together, to the extent they might need some mental health counseling for this. Codependency?
How much longer will we be referring to Craig Peterson as "principal" and not "ex-principal?" Maybe it would be nice if the switch could happen before the Star Tribune of Minneapolis rolls up its sleeves. But a source tells me that long-term budgeting for the school indicates that nothing is going to change soon.
Should we be concerned? Oh, the government just vacuums more money out of our pockets to pay for this. We as constituents just have to shrug. You can't fight City Hall.
Maybe we should have a big town meeting like for the proposed (and failed) new county jail. Maybe "Gabby" from the movie "Blazing Saddles" could address us all, in his "genuine frontier gibberish." All of us out here on the frontier are pretty perplexed.
Could it be that Peterson is being targeted with such inflammatory charges because he's high school principal? In other words, are the prosecutors bending over backwards to make sure there's no "favoritism" being shown the principal, because of his community role?
OK, what this reminds me of, is when that husband of a Minnesota Supreme Court justice got charged with shoplifting, remember? It turns out, the conventional wisdom after the matter was dropped was that prosecutors bent over backwards to show this man was no one special, that there would be no deference to him. However, as a child could plainly see, such thinking is itself a pie in the face to justice. Fairness is fairness.
Now we have to wait a whopping four months for Peterson's trial. Just what this community needs: four more months of street talk about this. The legal system is tortoise-like, and it's running up the bill for keeping the defendant on paid leave. All the legal people connected to this are surely collecting generous compensation.
All because the bowling alley was closed one night? We are so human an animal.
Maybe Mr. Peterson shouldn't have even hired an attorney. Why not just show up when summoned and present info to the best of your ability. In fact, maybe being sent to prison isn't such an awful deal, as long as you can be assured you won't be attacked physically by other inmates. You get a nice little cot to sleep on, three meals a day, and you don't have to deal with contractors.
I remember when Juanita Broaddrick emerged from the shadow of the "Clinton scandals" and divulged she was the target of some of Bill's questionable behavior. Larry King seemed to listen incredulously as Broaddrick said "why should I have to hire a lawyer?"
Why does everyone who seems to be in trouble have to hire a lawyer? If you really think your behavior can be explained, that you're innocent, why not just come forward and profess this, if you're a reasonably articulate person?
Lawyers would sniff at this. They also used to tell us "oh, you have to have a will." Oh, and "you have to have it updated." I have found that if a family establishes proper "joint tenancy" with assets, a will is literally not necessary.
Is the whole legal system a racket? Lawyers are, after all, "officers of the court."

Q. What's the difference between a lawyer and a boxing referee?
A. A boxing referee doesn't get paid more for a longer fight.
Sifting through police report
What reservations do I have about the police report in the Peterson case? I'm left wondering, for one thing, about why there apparently was no 9-1-1 call. I mean, here we have a man now charged with first degree something-or-other, with at least one 30-year prison term staring him in the face, and his alleged victim at no point called 9-1-1, or attempted to call (while the incident was happening). Interference with a 9-1-1 call is itself a significant offense.
The police report as reviewed in the KMRS-KKOK online article about the case, makes no reference to any attempted 9-1-1 call. We read that the alleged victim went to SCMC and was administered a "sexual assault exam and kit." But isn't the defendant asserting the sex that the two had was consensual? What, then, would a sexual assault "exam" prove?
This whole incident happened three days before Christmas. What a shame. The two individuals had "drinks" together, "several" we are told. The rest of what happened will be debated, furiously I assume, when the trial finally gets underway four months from now.
This matter could be dragging down morale in the Morris community. It's happening gradually.
Does the police report assume too much in favor of the accuser?
I remember when my old boss Jim Morrison said "I miss the days when the local police knew everyone in town."
No system is perfect. We don't want a system where police "know everyone" in the sense they show inappropriate favoritism. In 1950s America, that was probably the case. What Jim meant, I think, is that police should be aware of who the real troublemakers are in a community, and distinguish them from the rest of the public, i.e. "the majority of men who live in quiet desperation."
There are desperate people who forget to put on their seat belt. They may live hand-to-mouth. Seat belt fines started out at $40. Now they're up to at least $110. This pattern has to stop sometime. Heaven help us if it doesn't.
Our family was in Fergus Falls last week and upon leaving that community, I forgot how to get to the Interstate. Not wanting to follow the male stereotype of "refusing to ask directions," I did in fact decide to seek help. I saw a police vehicle parked along the curb with the shape of a human being in the driver's seat. It would have been the perfect guy to ask directions.
In the old days we expected police to be common sense helpers of the citizenry. Today, no. Simply answering a citizen's question would be wasted time in the officer's mind, as he would have nothing tangible to show for how he spent that time. He gets tangible rewards by giving out citations. The citations bring in funds that support his agency.
This is what Republican governors like Tim Pawlenty bequeath to us: a system where because of the (Republicans') need to keep taxes low, fees and fines make up the difference. This is where the onerous fines of today come from: Republican leadership. I'm sure many of you haven't realized this.
We're on our way 
I eventually was able to get directions from a very nice woman who was putting gas in her car at a convenience store. She was so very nice and vivacious. I should have asked if she was single. I found I had to drive a ways to get to the Interstate. We got home fine and found the driving much easier than in the morning when we dealt with a semi-blizzard (in late March?).
Police today are predatory so just try to avoid them. And to think we have to deal with climate change too.
The nature of assault or rape
In a situation where rape is being alleged, what kind of evidence can be concrete? We all know there are certain slam-dunk rape cases. If it walks like a duck. . .
Shades of gray seep over the situation where a man and woman engage in accelerating levels of what might be called "heavy petting," foreplay or whatever. All kinds of tactile sensations get involved. So even if a woman asserts that she "pushed" at a man, as if to discourage him, we must question whether this is prima facie evidence, eh?
Even if a woman claims to have said "no," I'm not sure there can't be shades of gray here, especially if there was mutually accepted lovemaking leading up to this. There are porn films where the woman says "no" and it's a reflection of the sexual euphoria she is experiencing (or faking). You're not familiar with that? Well, let me fill you in.
What a tangled web sex can weave. We can't live with it and we can't seem to live without it.
Maybe we should have hired Torrey Westrom as our county attorney. He's blind.
Males and their disposition
What about the notions embedded in males' minds that a woman who says she rejects you might not really mean it? This is not on the margins.
Clint Eastwood in "High Plains Drifter" has a woman attacking him with scissors, furious of course, whereupon he grabs her on the wrist with his superior male strength, and gradually forces her into a lovemaking stance. She acquiesces. Eastwood was the hero character of course.
I remember in the Western movie "Texas Across the River," the heroine saying at the end to the swashbuckling Dean Martin character ("Sam Hollis"): "I wish that when I said 'no' before, you hadn't paid any attention to it."
Boys get these notions in their minds. It's nothing to sneeze at.
We all want what's right
If you have read this far, I just want to assure you I do not condone misbehavior. I think that when a man and woman go through progressive stages of sexual stimulation, mutually agreed-upon, and this is done after your garden variety "night on the town" with alcohol, the authorities might well feel exasperation and perhaps just refer one or both parties for counseling.
Jesus Christ, 30 years in prison? Or, two 30-year terms? Why not just burn him at the stake? Again I'll suggest that maybe cigarettes aren't such a bad thing because they're a sedative, they perhaps help us take life and its tribulations in stride a little better. Cool it.
A major stock market crash might accomplish the same thing, make us focus on our main priorities (of eating and surviving).
The Morris Police have no credibility, in my view. And the prosecutors might as well be baring fangs. We in Morris must guard our image. We lack the amenities that Alexandria has.
Several days ago the prosecution could have dropped charges and said it was all an "April Fool." Click on the permalink below to read a 2010 post I wrote about April Fool's Day. This is a "can't miss" read if you know the Martin sisters: Sharon and Sheila.
Still no sign of that missing plane near Australia (I think). If I keep following the CNN coverage, I'm going to start talking like Richard Quest.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 4, 2014

Winter of 2013-14 tests resilience

"Car clumps" can be hard or soft.
We used to talk about Siberia like this. The weather has made our Upper Midwest seem a forlorn and desolate place.
We have had winters with more snow. But there is something about the sheer persistence of this past winter that has gotten into our psyche.
It's something we can't even dismiss with the "sing-song" voice cadence revealed in the movie "Fargo."
A new TV series continues the legend of "Fargo." It continues the themes of that movie but with all new characters and story line. Get ready for more of the "sing-song" voice. The voice cadence belies the burden we feel as Minnesotans, scraping ice off our windshield or walking over snow with the "crunching" sound underneath.
We kick the "car clumps" off the bottom of our vehicles. Sometimes we walk over snow that seems hard enough to support our weight, when suddenly we find it isn't quite that hard. We have to "extricate ourselves."
We talk about the weather like it's an ominous ghost that is about to inconvenience us again. Sometimes we look to the horizon and don't really see the horizon, we just see a shade of blue. The western Minnesota landscape becomes totally non-descript. A famous quote about Oakland CA is that "there is no 'there' there." Whoever said that should have driven from Glenwood to Sauk Centre this time of year.
Our ability to be in denial about the weather vicissitudes is tested. We use the sing-song voice to try to be upbeat about things that are happening in our community. We talk about church. We ruminate about our heating bill staying higher than it should be.
I have sworn that we aren't going to use our air conditioner this summer. However hot it gets, it'll be fine by me.
Keep in mind that the upcoming summer exists only in theory. We only assume it will come. We use faith to assume summer is coming. Stubborn patches of snow remain, which we learn to just disregard. The snow of early spring is ugly snow. The drifts get dirty. New snow is wet and disappears fast.
Calvin Griffith had to get used to Minnesota weather when he came here. Calvin brought major league baseball to Minnesota. Baseball symbolizes summer. He once recalled an early Saturday morning game his Twins had to play, in order to accommodate the Gophers football game that afternoon. The Twins were playing Detroit.
In the fifth inning the snow started cascading down. The game was called off. Calvin could have used the sing-song voice to indicate "life just goes on," or to change the subject. He recalled thinking to himself: "What the hell have I gotten us into out here in Minnesota."
Looking back years later, Calvin, the acclimated Minnesotan, said "Now I know better." (Us Minnesotans always "know better.") He added: "My memories are pleasant."
In 1962 when the Twins were in their second year, a storm on April 12 snowed out the opener vs. Los Angeles. The storm dumped a foot of snow on the southern two-thirds of the state. The Twin Cities recorded six inches by 6 p.m. on the 12th, making a total of 81.3 inches of snow for the year. Then on the 13th, we got the coldest April 13 on record. A look at the thermometer showed two degrees above zero early on the 13th.
In May of 1976, in the midst of those disco '70s, when we took in those "Smokey and the Bandit" movies, a Twins game was snowed out at Metropolitan Stadium. The Twins were marking Bat Day, a day of some annoyance if you sat under one of the decks. The boys loved it I'm sure. A quick spring storm left 1.2 inches of snow in the Twin Cities that morning. It was May so of course most of the snow was melted by game-time, but the field was soggy and there was snow on the shadowed ground.
These images inspired us to get the Metrodome built. The Metrodome was like a "Fortress of Solitude" (from "Superman") that we could present the world as a way of showing defiance vs. the weather elements.
We never want to admit we've been overcome by the weather. We're aware that there are times when it challenges us, when we come close to saying "uncle." We essentially hunker down.
We ensure the basic health and safety of all of us. School can get canceled or delayed often. When I was a kid and school got called off, the announcement was made on KMRS Radio which had a song all set to be played, beginning with the lyrics "That's what happiness is." That was probably the name of the song. Inspired by the Peanuts comic strip?
Us kids were happy when there was no school in the '60s. That's a politically incorrect attitude today. Today the kids are supposed to appreciate every minute they spend in school, as they are filled with knowledge helping them "succeed in the world of tomorrow," when in fact they'll enter a world ruled by corporate puppetmasters who won't want to pay them a dime more than necessary. The workplace of tomorrow will ironically be "dumbed down," ironic because we're telling ourselves that education (and college) are so important. Lemmings, we are.
We are dazed as we look back on the winter of 2013-14. Eventually we'll be able to put on those sandals and T-shirts. We swear we should have been able to do it by now. Before we know it, the University of Minnesota-Morris graduation will come and go, with a good chance it'll be held inside again. The UMM graduation has a bad track record with the weather.
The high school graduation will then come and go. By then the weather should be accommodative. We ought to be brimming with happiness, but events of our mortal lives can intercede, like the trial set for August of our high school principal who could end up seeing at least 30 years in prison. It could be a plot detail right out of "Fargo." The two "bad guys" in "Fargo" contradicted everything around them.
The new "Fargo" TV series has a quintessential bad guy too. Our sing-song voice cadence seeks to conceal the sobering aspects of our human existence. "Marge Gunderson" overcame the darkness.
We wonder if the principal's trial will be at county fair-time. You know what that means: mid-August is the time of year we begin to feel a chill in the night air. Make way for autumn. And then that specter of winter again. Winter in Siberia.
Sports suggestion
I have made this point strongly before, that the early spring weather is unacceptable for trying to launch spring prep sports: baseball, softball, track.
Where there is a problem there is a solution. Let's have a one-month indoor season with the boys playing volleyball and girls playing floor hockey (unless you have better suggestions).
Then, in May the baseball and softball could begin and continue all the way through August, with the state High School League coordinating with the American Legion. Track would weave its way in somehow. But these early April games are so tentative on the schedule, it gets discouraging. You look at the game results and you see "PPD" next to several of the early games.
I once heard about the U of M-Duluth baseball team making the normal "southern trip" in early spring, like to Florida, but when they got back, weather was so uncooperative, they had to start getting in shape again before playing games.
Our athletic systems must adjust. More indoor sports would be a solution. A "post-season" wouldn't be necessary as the kids could just play within conference, the accent being on fun. That's a novel idea, isn't it?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com