"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)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Newspapers' decline accelerates after a lull

"Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel," the old quote goes. I supplied that to Neil Thielke before he went up onstage for an emceeing stint at East Side Park for one of those Thursday night things. The idea is, you'd better be careful taking on a newspaper.
Historically it's true. But newspapers are not having to acquire as many barrels of ink these days. Talk of newspapers' decline swelled about ten years ago. For a time it seemed like Hollywood worrying about television. The big screen was hardly going to be wiped out, despite television's burgeoning presence.
Any time certain experts are predicting in arm-waving fashion, the demise of an American institution, be skeptical. If something is really destined to go away, it will just happen. There will be no air of sensation about it. The reason: people will have just found the means to an alternative way of getting things done.
Newspapers are in a genuine pattern of decline at present. Ten years ago the erosion was evident but not totally destructive. The histrionics were shown by well-known media analysts Michael Wolff and Jeff Jarvis, and they got a fair amount of attention for their pronouncements. A cynic might say that was what they were looking for.
I occasionally checked Jarvis' blog called "Buzzmachine." He does have a lot to offer. He is an academic with true insights. But I caught his post about how newspaper preprint advertising was going to disappear within three years. Preprint ads are those circulars or inserts that are stuffed in papers, a pile of which you'll find in each week's Morris paper. People who don't do a lot of consuming are annoyed by this. You have to deal with these, i.e. dispose of them. Maybe it would have been nice to see preprint ads gone within Jarvis' suggested timeline. My goodness, this was several years ago, and he suggested a timeline of three years.
Jarvis said he had industry contacts (i.e. in the industries that advertise) who were consulting with him on this. Ah, I've been in the media neighborhood long enough to recognize posturing when I hear it. I remember when our local Pamida store (of the famous potholes in the parking lot) went into arm-waving over disgust with an upcoming advertising price hike. I recall our advertising rep quoting the store management as saying they'd refuse to pay it. But they must have ended up paying it. The squawking was just the usual back and forth of business.
Those polluting advertising circulars have hung in there for years, getting blown into rain gutters and all over the place.
Michael Wolff, a biographer of Rupert Murdoch among other things, many years ago said 80 percent of newspapers would go under within 18 months. Boy, that really would have been news. It would have been spectacular which is precisely the reason why we should have been skeptical.
The media overreacted tremendously to the closure of two newspapers that were outliers, not in the standard media market monopoly model. Those two papers, as you might recall, were the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News. I sneered as I saw the likes of network news anchors report these closures as if they were reflecting a broad tailspin of the print media, something that would happen soon. Instead we saw the print media go into some retrenchment but (apparently) land on their feet. The whistling past the graveyard subsided for quite a long time.
We'd read occasionally about layoffs. But all the familiar old titles were still pretty much around. Panic over? Well, no. The trend of pressure on those austere old titles just needed more time. Changes in popular behavior just don't happen so suddenly.
We can see the renewed panic on the micro level in Morris MN. Maybe you haven't noticed that the Morris Sun Tribune has gotten smaller yet again. Recently a pattern of 20-page papers has developed, down from the long-time average of 24. Of course, the paper used to come out twice a week (during my long tenure there). The page size has been shaved several times. Less has not been more.
The paper has been trying to cling to its legacy (up-in-years) customers who just assume that "getting the paper" is part of standard life. This treading water has worked to a degree. But the older generations are naturally moving on, forcing adjustments with churches and myriad other threads of our society. People are rapidly moving from the traditional funeral/burial format to cremation and even natural burial. An advantage is to save virtually thousands of dollars. Money talks, as my old friend Glen Helberg always implored. Glen chose cremation. I am deeply regretful that my family didn't make that commitment.
We have not had the Morris newspaper delivered to our home for several years. When I left the Sun Tribune I tried buying a subscription but was turned down - I was told I'd just get a complimentary copy, apparently in recognition of my years of yeoman service. After a couple years, I was simply cut off. I breathed a sigh of relief when learning I was in good company: Jim Morrison told me his father Ed got cut off at the same time. Obviously the paper staff had a meeting to go down a list of people getting "comp" subscriptions and started crossing off names.
Forum Communications has never been known for its class - it is a Machiavellian business. Well, congratulations. You guys are also part of a dying business. It may not have happened ten years ago but sure as shootin' is happening now.
The Sun Tribune's shrinkage down to 20 pages happened in the weeks leading up to Christmas, historically a robust time of year for newspaper advertising. Obviously the uptick in newspaper ad spending did not happen this year. Instead the hole got deeper.
The newspaper will harass its news employees as if they're the problem. But of course they aren't. They're scapegoats. Management will turn to the overblown sports department and decide there's an issue there. Thrashing around over sports coverage issues is a constant. Once in a meeting when sports was brought up, Jim Morrison got a resigned look in his eyes and said "I don't want to get in a big discussion about sports."
The Sun Tribune newspaper had a chronic problem through the years I was there, of employees who had an emotional investment in local sports. This group included (most notably) the advertising manager, to whom Morrison was so deferential, she really should have been general manager. But then what would Jim's job be?
The newspaper has scrambled by deciding to charge for obituaries, an unethical move no matter how you look at it. I don't need an obituary of a family member in the local paper. A death is a private family tragedy and not a community spectacle.
Shoppers demonstrated in 2016 that they're doing ever more of their holiday shopping online. Retailers' spending on paper advertising declined more than 30 percent in the holiday season. It was the biggest decline in at least four years. The measure declined 15 percent in 2015.
Jon Swallen of Kantar Media said: "Newspapers have been a challenged medium with declining circulation and revenue."
Those preprint ads that shower us each week, mostly from non-Morris businesses, are in fact fading in use now, quite belatedly following Jarvis' forecast. Swallen said: "Retailers may have reached a tipping point in terms of their use of newspapers and share of ad budget."
And the esteemed Paul Gillin of "Newspaper Death Watch" comments: "After a spate of closures and layoffs in the latter part of the last decade, the newspaper industry appeared to find its footing over the last few years. But now that oasis of stability may be drying up."
More: The 13th annual Pew Research State of the News Media Report documents another year of alarming declines for newspapers - the worst since the 2008-09 recession.
We are in fact adjusting our habits so newspapers are not an assumed, standard part of our lives. We are moving on. So, once that process has been completed, it simply will not be "news" because we will have adjusted and acquired new habits.
We moved on from high-button shoes, didn't we?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Thoughts with the passing of Christmas, 2016

Christmas has come and gone for 2016. The pace of life slowed more than it normally does. Christmas Eve Day was on Saturday and Christmas was on Sunday. A holiday that falls on Sunday doesn't really count because it's a day we'd get off anyway. Therefore, Monday takes over as the day off.
This logic applied to Christmas Eve Day as well, Saturday, which is normally a slow day for people. So that day didn't really count as a holiday either, causing the slowdown to spill back to Friday.
I tried visiting my tax preparation office at about 3:30 p.m. Friday, tugged on the door and found it was locked. Then I saw the sign informing that they closed at 3 p.m. Their official hours go until 4:30. I had gotten a letter from them just recently that included a reminder of their business hours. But they weren't about to abide by that on Friday, the day before Christmas Eve Day. You see, Christmas Eve Day was Saturday, a day they'd take off anyway.
The effect of having Christmas Eve and Christmas Day over a weekend, was to spread out the "slow" time for the holiday so much more. I wonder how much loss of productivity this caused. I complimented our Morris Public Library director on being open two hours on Saturday, Christmas Eve Day. Kudos to Anne Barber the librarian. But I do miss Melissa Yauk, now a long ways away in Idaho. It doesn't seem right for Melissa to be gone.
By the time we got done with Monday, I had had it with the disrupted routine.
The late Glen Helberg and I once discussed how holidays are hard on unemployed people. Everyone else relishes the "reprieve." For us it's just four more days: Friday through Monday. And I suppose the same scenario will present itself for New Year's weekend. The Eve on Saturday, New Year's Day on Sunday. Again, you can't treat Saturday and Sunday as real holiday days - that would be unfair - so they ''stretch" things to Friday and Monday again. More lost productivity I guess. More depressed times for us non-working people who sort of languish.
Mom and I have no relatives close by anymore. We try to go to church but our church has been in flux for a long time because of instability in the pastor position. We go to First Lutheran. I don't demand or expect some sort of award-winning pastor. We have had great difficulty even trying to tread water.
There was a time when I was still with the Morris newspaper, when I had Christmas CDs that I played at the shop at night, usually when I was the only one there. I might be there until 3 a.m. on a Tuesday night. Sometimes I'd ride my bike home. I'm sure a memo got shared around the police department about this weirdo at the paper who might be out and about keeping burglar's hours.
I played Christmas-themed CDs at the shop rather late. This might start right after Thanksgiving. It seemed I felt a genuine Christmas spirit right after Thanksgiving, which seemed natural and proper then. Some of these CDs were special compilations by Del Sarlette featuring music with trumpet players of note. I love Jack Sheldon with "A Jazz Musician's Christmas."
I photographed the Parade of Lights through the first few years. There was a time when I composed a "telegram from Santa" that appeared in the Morris paper, complete with the word "stop" for periods. I photographed Santa arriving in Donnelly.
These days I'm surprised by how little motivation I have to trot out the Christmas stuff. I try to resolve to do better the next year but it never seems to happen. I examined my own mindset about this. I was sure I had not developed an inclination to simply be bitter or skeptical about anything. That's not my nature.
But in a way, I have just developed a little bitterness based on what I would cite as outside forces. I have become disappointed in Christianity. The media constantly report about the "evangelicals" as if they define Christianity. I wish they'd give us a meaningful definition. Through the presidential primary campaign, we'd hear the drumbeat of the "evangelicals" who naturally are on the right wing of the political spectrum. Listen to Mike Huckabee and that fits the template.
I attend a church in a synod with the word "evangelical" in it. But the media aren't thinking at all of me when trotting out "evangelicals." They think of Huckabee. Now, why is this?
The people loosely described as "evangelicals" are confrontational. They have a chip on their shoulder regarding various issues. The media absolutely feed off confrontation and controversy. So we hear about the "evangelicals" and all their pitched battles. Makes good news copy.
Meanwhile my Evangelical Lutheran Church of America looks bland and boring. That is because we are gentle and inclusive people. We are temperate. The "evangelicals" with fire in their eyes look at us like we're misguided, like maybe we aren't even Christians. They can't possibly know what's in our minds or soul.
The ELCA approach is like how Christianity was broadly understood in the Norman Rockwell days. Those wonderful middle class Americans, bred by the GI Bill and having learned from true adversity, seemed passive as they headed up the church steps on Sunday. My generation of the boomers decided to mock them to a degree. Some of us mocked the ladies who prepared meals in the typical Lutheran church basement. We decided a lot of those people were hypocrites.
We began hearing about "born again" Christians who professed to be superior. And then along came the Moral Majority which really drew a line in the sand. The more hyper-motivated Christians got the most attention, created the most buzz. And, most significantly, according to many sociologists, the Moral Majority and their ilk slowly started alienating a lot of younger people. Those younger people didn't like the rigid, non-inclusive stance that Christianity began to take on, at least in the popular consciousness.
God would have looked on most disapprovingly. Church numbers have been heading down primarily because of this alienation. I stayed away for about 35 years because I was disappointed in the mainstream Christian denominations sitting on their hands when they could have used their considerable influence to get the boys out of Viet Nam. But I'm going again now in the year 2016, soon to be 2017. I'm a boring ELCA Lutheran.
We have a wonderful ELCA pastor in town in Dell Sanderson. I can't even tell you the name of our own interim pastor. The pastor's position at First Lutheran has been a revolving door.
Allow me to synthesize the main point I'm making in this post: the degree to which the so-called "evangelicals" have come to define Christianity, has slowly gotten me discouraged at Christmas. I figure that if Fox News and Donald Trump are going to be the leaders in saying "merry Christmas," sticking a thumb in the eye of non-Christians, I really don't want anything to do with Christmas and maybe not even with Christianity.
Maybe the tide will turn. Maybe the gentle Norman Rockwell template will return.
Addendum: Ever notice that photo of the late Willie Martin with his arms held up in exuberance on the Willie's Parade of Lights float? I took that photo. If I'm fortunate enough to go to heaven, Willie and Del Holdgrafer will be the first two people I look up. Willie was amazing. You might say he was "super astronomical."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 23, 2016

Boys defeat NL-Spicer, girls edged by Osakis

The MACA boys showed command in the first half of their December 20 game against New London-Spicer. Normally the NL-Spicer teams give us all we can handle, but on 12/20 the Tigers surged to a 32-19 halftime lead. The second half was a different story. But the orange and black came away with a satisfying 69-60 win.
The Wildcats had a 41-37 advantage in the second half. It was a case of hanging on for the Tigers. This was a non-conference affair at home.
The game summary appeared on back-to-back days in the West Central Tribune. Don't know what that was all about. BTW did you see that swan song piece by Katie Erdman in the Morris paper (owned by the same company as the Willmar paper)? Actually we associate Katie with the Hancock paper. Hancock used to have its own newspaper office but then it got moved to Morris. I can't imagine the Hancock paper without Katie. Her farewell piece made it sound like things were getting unpleasant for her at the paper.
Why would anyone want to impose unreasonable pressure on her? The Forum is known to do these types of things.
Three Tigers each scored 13 points in the win over New London-Spicer: Camben Arndt, Jacob Zosel and Jaret Johnson. Lukus Manska put in nine points. Then we have Connor Koebernick with eight points, Tate Nelson with seven and Tim Travis with six. Four Tigers each made one 3-point shot: Nelson, Arndt, Zosel and Johnson. Top rebounders were Johnson (9), Manska (8) and Arndt (7). Arndt and Zosel each had three assists.
Here's the New London-Spicer scoring list: Mitchell Halvorson (15), Brandon Adelman (13), Hunter Sjoberg (11), Jackson Ness (6), Jake Schmidt (5), Ander Arnold (5), Jonathan Kaelke (3) and Eli Kilpatrick (2). These three Wildcats each made a three-pointer: Adelman, Schmidt and Kaelke. Halvorson and Arnold each had six rebounds. Halvorson and Adelman each had five assists. Sjoberg had three steals followed by Schmidt and Arnold each with two.
Girls: Osakis 58, Tigers 55
Osakis has one of my favorite team nicknames: "Silver Streaks." Osakis streaked to a 58-55 win over our Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tigers on Tuesday. Action was at the Osakis gym.
We were down by six at halftime, 29-23. We outscored those Silver Streaks 32-29 in the second half, but Osakis' first half advantage held up.
Ashley Solvie was the top point producer for the Tigers, with 19. Correy Hickman and Maddie Carrington also achieved double figures with 16 and ten points, respectively. Carrington made two 3-point shots while Hickman had one long-range make. Jenna Howden and Nicole Solvie each scored four points while Malory Anderson scored two.
Rebound leaders were Ashley Solvie (9), Hickman (6) and Nicole Solvie (5). Hickman dished out five assists and Nicole Solvie had three. Hickman stole the ball five times. Howden and Liz Dietz each had three steals.
OK, so Katie Erdman is departing from the local print media. I can't imagine anyone else being more capable of being at the helm of the Hancock paper.
Technically speaking, someone else's name appears as the "publisher" of the Hancock paper. I don't think either the Morris or Hancock paper has a local "publisher." I think the more accurate term would be "manager."
I have heard people wonder what Katie's departure means for the future of the Hancock paper. The Hancock paper is a member of the "Peach" advertising group (similar to our shrinking "Canary"). It was my understanding that Hancock had to distribute a stand-alone newspaper in order to belong to the Peach group. Of course, my knowledge may be getting a little dated.
We have regularly seen 16-page Canaries lately. Those used to be rare. Why now? I can't be completely sure, but I think car dealers are slowly backing off from the tremendous amount of print advertising they used to purchase. Car dealers are finding more economical means to reach out to customers. Plus, I have a theory that people simply don't have to buy cars as often in their lives. Cars are made better and last longer - no more assumption that you need to "trade" every four years.
I won't miss the print media at all - all its waste and redundancy. Most of all, good luck to Katie Erdman in her future. Merry Christmas from cyberspace.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Girls learn New London-Spicer as tough as ever

New London-Spicer girls basketball appears as sizzling as ever. Lest there be any doubt, look at the score from when the Wildcats hosted our Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tigers on Tuesday, Dec. 13. The Wildcats improved to 5-0 with their 67-29 win over MACA. Ouch!
The Tigers will be challenged in a big way trying to follow the volleyball team to the state tournament. But a long season lies ahead. The holiday break beckons. I have discovered that UMM has had to lay off the term "holiday," once considered safe as a way of not connoting religious significance. Now the line has to be completely drawn. I discovered this at the reception held at Oyate Tuesday. Holiday-type cheer was definitely felt regardless of the way the event was billed.
The MACA girls owned a 4-0 record going into the NL-Spicer game. The Wildcats delighted their home fans with a swarming type of defense. They passed the ball crisply and were rewarded with high-percentage shots. The game's tone was definitely set.
Much of the Wildcats' spark came from Shea Oman, the talented point guard, a junior. Oman scurried around to get steals and assists.
Mike Dreier continues to be at the helm of the Wildcats. What a long background of winning this coaching fixture has. I wonder if he still looks like he wears a toupee. Rick Lucken and I used to speculate on this. Dreier had to smile as his charges built a 39-10 halftime lead.
Oman scored the team-best total for NL-Spicer: 18 points. Kabrie Weber and Morgan Swenson joined Oman in double figures with 14 and 11 respectively. Erin Tebben put in six points, then came Brooke Beuning, Emma Hanson and Payton Mages each with four. These three Wildcats each contributed two points to the cause: Sam Johnson, Mackenzie Rich and Michelle Johnson.
Oman had a sharp eye from three-point range, making three long-rangers. Weber sank two from three-point territory. Tebben led in rebounds with nine. Oman was tops in assists with eight followed by Weber and Beuning each with four. Oman stole the ball eight times.
OK, let's move on to the Tigers, who had Correy Hickman lead the way in scoring with 13 points. It was pretty anemic after her. Malory Anderson, Nicole Solvie and Ashley Solvie each scored four points. Jenna Howden and Carly Wohlers each added two points. Hickman made the only MACA three-pointer. The Solvies were tops in rebounds, Nicole with six and Ashley with five. Hickman led in assists with four, and Anderson's three steals made her the tops there.
Boys: Tigers 80, ACGC 74 (OT)
Once again the MACA boys pushed a game into overtime. Each of their first two games ended up as an overtime affair. And both times the Tigers came through with the winning tools. Our success Tuesday was over the Falcons of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City. We outscored ACGC 13-7 in the OT extension to win in the 80-74 final.
If that score seems familiar, it's because it was the final score in the Tigers' opener vs. Minnwaska Area. At halftime it looked as though overtime would not be required, as we led 40-34.
In winning we overcame ACGC's prolific scorer Gabe Eisenbacher. Eisenbacher led the Falcons' second half surge to get the score tied. He ended up with a game-best 26 points. The Falcons came out of the game with a 3-2 record, while the orange and black sits perfect at 2-0.
Five different Tigers made at least one 3-point shot. Tate Nelson made two of our 3's while these Tigers each made one: Connor Koebernick, Camden Arndt, Jacob Zosel and Jaret Johnson.
It was Johnson leading the scoring list with 21 points. Zosel was No. 2 on the list with 17 points. Three other Tigers scored in double figures in this most balanced effort: Arndt (14), Nelson (11) and Tim Travis (10). Lukus Manska scored four points and Koebernick scored three. Arndt and Denner Dougherty co-led in rebounds with seven each. Johnson wrapped his arms around six rebounds. Three Tigers each dished out six assists: Nelson, Arndt and Zosel. In steals, Travis and Manska each recorded three.
Eisenbacher was complimented in ACGC's scoring by Payton Kinzler with 15 points and Erik Belgum with eleven. Jaren Kaddatz scored nine points. Kinzler succeeded three times from three-point range. Adam Johnson had the team-best nine rebounds. Kaddatz dished out eight assists. Johnson stole the ball four times.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Listen to my song "Pulse" inspired by tragedy

Hope for the future. Remembering what was good. Such are the themes that emerge when you write a song based on a tragedy, or inspired by a tragedy. The Pulse nightclub seemed like such a wonderful and innocent place for young adults to gather and enjoy each other's company. It was in Orlando FL.
It has been six months since the horrific event that impressed the name of the place on everyone. The six-month anniversary is being marked. Myself, I decided that the club was worthy of a song of remembrance and hope. The hope is based on how we can strive to erase the sense of conflict that can influence a madman to do the unthinkable. I invite you to listen to the song I wrote, called "Pulse," recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Bob Angello. It's a wonderful guitar/voice presentation. Here is the link from YouTube:
Thanks to Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck MN for getting the song online. If you have media needs that require a "geek's" expertise, contact the Gulsvigs. Our family lived in Starbuck for about six months when we first settled in the Morris area. In my memory it seems longer than six months. I still remember the laundromat with the stuffed animals! Here in Morris, Carl Benson of Benson Drug had the famous reputation of the "stuffed animals" motif.
We rented a place next to the Samuelsons. The Samuelsons ran the drug store and had a collie dog named "Rexall." These were lake places on expansive Lake Minnewaska. My dad had grown up on the shores of that lake in the Glenwood area. He graduated from Glenwood High School in 1934. The Great Depression was hovering. The famous gangsters of that time were having their heyday. John Dillinger was famous.
Howard Moser once told me that those notorious souls would stay on the loose by crossing state lines. Once a line was crossed, the pursuers had to shrug and say, "well, they're the problem of (the other state) now." 
Gangsters were heroes in the minds of some. They stole from institutions that appeared oppressive in some ways. My father grew up acquiring the classic traits of Depression-influenced young people. They were noted for keeping their frugal, conservative traits throughout their lives. My father did. Such people could grate on us younger, less-scared people with their attitude. They memorized the prices of everything. They were highly reluctant to discard anything. There was no TV yet. A business like Gulsvig Productions would have struck them as something out of Flash Gordon.
My father wrote choral music. He never prodded me to experiment in music composition. Maybe he was too familiar with the rat race of professional music to want to encourage his son. It was essential for me to be in band or choir. Looking back, I'm genuinely puzzled. Band seems to have left no skills for me to use permanently. We performed music where sections were labeled A, B and C etc. I learned nothing about popular song structure.
Academic music people seemed to look down on "popular music." We would have to be total self-starters. We'd have to acquire a guitar. Our public schools would have nothing to do with the guitar instrument, or piano either. Private piano lessons would have to be sought. Why? I have long held a theory about this. The purpose of school is to promote conformity. School stands for nothing if not for promoting conformity. It's a model for going out in the world and dealing with all the world's unpleasantness such as holding a job that might stink most of the time.
I can paraphrase something I once read: "School is unpleasant because the purpose of school is to prepare you for a world of work that you'll likely find unpleasant much of the time." You take orders. You follow instructions.
To ply songwriting a la Woody Guthrie with a wonderful guitar at your disposal, flies in the face of the conformity aim. It is so easily anti-conformity.
The guitar and piano are instruments of individual expression. Our traditional school model thus feels threatened by this. Society can feel threatened by how songwriters weave their view of the world and of inconvenient topics. Look at Pete Seeger. Do you recall any pro-Viet Nam war songs? Well, maybe there were one or two. "The Green Beret?"
Artists took up a primary role in the ranks of Viet Nam war skeptics, to say the least.
In my case with my song "Pulse," I strive for passivity and an underlying love, and faith in, humanity. We need to put aside religious schisms and the schism between gay and straight. The "Pulse" club was gay-friendly but its clientele was not exclusive that way. It was a place of love and unconditional friendships. It's the last place in the world anything destructive could be imagined.
God bless the departed souls and their families. "Good will conquer evil, Satan will be crushed," as my song lyrics say.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 9, 2016

"I Say Merry Christmas From Yesterday"

Isn't there a part of all of us that reverts back to childhood at Christmas? My Mom might well feel like FDR is president again. She graduated from high school in 1942, in between the Great Depression and the height of World War II. And yet people made do at Christmas to celebrate the best in us, defying all the adversity in the world.
This is the third year that I have written a song to mark the Christmas season. The title is "Merry Christmas From Yesterday." It suggests that we almost literally step back in time to re-create our childhood and our childhood surroundings. My song was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Bob Angello. Bob gives me some very nice guitar/voice recordings. A really good song doesn't need to be dressed up a lot.
Once again, Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck put my song online on YouTube. If you need help with media transfers or other "geeky" type projects, contact the Gulsvigs. I invite you to listen to my song "Merry Christmas From Yesterday." You may click on this link:

Christmas is pretty simple for Mom and I nowadays. It's the opposite from when our family was larger and more of a mainstream type of family, more active in consuming. We are at a stage now where we consider getting rid of things, "de-cluttering."
I visualize when we lived in St. Paul and Dad taught at the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. Life was so peaceful and pleasant for me then. No domineering schoolteachers. No bullies to be wary of. I had to start dealing with bullies as soon as we came to Morris. Yes, I was protected from reality and its harshness when we lived in St. Paul. But God bless that stage in my life, its tranquility.
I admit being fascinated by TV as soon as I discovered it. TV ended up shaping the fundamental outlook on life for my generation. You can look at back issues of Mad Magazine to appreciate that. Ironically or sadly, Mad Magazine seemed to poke fun at all the symbols of the good life that us boomers were receiving from our parents.
I remember our TV from my preschool years, obviously primitive by today's standards. It had a maroon cabinet. I enjoyed watching "Captain Kangaroo." I was a little apprehensive about that "Bunny Rabbit" character because he didn't say anything. I had to wonder what he was thinking. "Mr. Green Jeans" was very appealing. "Dancing Bear" would stop by. The Captain would introduce cartoons like "Tom Terrific."
Your blog host with Santa, 1958, at Dayton's
I remember the game show "Concentration." I remember one of the greatest contestants who had a Jewish name. I mention this because this is how I gained my first background on who Jewish people were. I even remember her name: Ruth Horowitz.
I was probably an unusual child in that I took strong interest in the evening news shows. The Cold War gave an uncomfortable backdrop to all that. I learned about the Iron Curtain. That oddly likeable Nikita Khrushchev got impressed into my consciousness. He was a symbol of something we were taught was evil, yet he seemed human and reachable. We had our famous "caretaker" president, Dwight Eisenhower.
The '50s eventually became the stuff of strong nostalgia for my generation. There is a natural human impulse toward nostalgia. Of course, we tend to remember the good things far more than the bad. We can easily forget that boredom was once a problem for our young generation. Today, thanks to the limitless tech stuff, boredom has been eliminated and replaced by data saturation. So we have problems like distracted driving.
It's hard to imagine living in the pre-digital world. Somehow we got by. And Christmas was a constant that brought joy.
Our family had the traditional family Christmas celebrations. A genuine Christmas tree with bulbs and tinsel, gifts at the base, cards from friends/relatives displayed in a prominent place. We made sure my father got a wrapped box of peanut brittle. Our dogs got a chew bone to occupy them. The dogs sensed that something special was afoot. (We had one dog at a time.)
On Christmas Day we got together with my uncle Howard and his wife Vi of Glenwood. Our two families went back and forth hosting for the various major holidays. My uncle was probably rich as Croesus but he never had cable TV! He was a prime example of the Great Depression generation with its conservative nature. They seem to never get over those traits - watching every nickel spent and being very reluctant to throw anything away. Compare that to today where we have new "generations" of tech stuff coming out all the time, forcing us to discard stuff. It contradicts the very nature of those older folks.
The newspaper industry began to go through successive generations of tech stuff, and this contradicted the nature of the family that owned the Morris paper for most of the time I was there. The late Ron Lindquist once said to me that every time he suggested getting new equipment of some sort, the first response would be "can we get a used one?" Once the tech revolution got established, that attitude was no longer practical.
Technology helped newspapers to a degree, but in the long run it hurt, because all those tech inroads helped create new communication outlets that have displaced newspapers. You're reading one right now.
I guess my placid St. Paul years are the underpinning for my Christmas song of 2016. I think many of you can relate. Merry Christmas.
Addendum: Thoughtful feedback
I'm pleased to share this feedback on my song from a friend.
Hi Brian,
We just listened to this great song! You are good at this! This truly depicts the days of yesterday. We often think about how the family time seemed much more simple back then, with good black and white shows to watch and great comedians keeping it real. Those were the good old days! (Now I am showing my age!) The future Christmases will be a bit different, with the demanding cellphones and tablets and computer technology that takes away from the good old Yahtzee, Monopoly and Scrabble board game days. (Though as a Grandma, I bring these games out and get them to agree to play with me.)

Thanks for sharing Brian!!

- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Correy Hickman again leads MACA in scoring

First, let's recognize Pearl Harbor Day: Today (Wednesday, Dec. 7) is Pearl Harbor Day. Outside of the harbor on that fateful day, the destroyer Ward, its crew primarily reservists from St. Paul, attacks and sinks a Japanese midget submarine, the first shots fired on the date of infamy. Inside the harbor, Minneapolis-born Captain Franklin van Valkenburgh is killed on the bridge of his ship, the USS Arizona. He would be awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress.
Tigers 55, WCA 33
The MACA girls had winning margins of 30 and 22 points in the Case IH Invitational. The 22-point job was done on day 2 of this Benson-hosted affair. Our day 2 opponent was West Central Area. On Saturday, Dec. 3, our Tigers went to work in a 55-33 triumph.
Correy Hickman led our team in scoring in both games. Her output was 21 points in the 55-33 win over the Knights of West Central Area. She was sharp all over the court as she recorded six steals. Malory Anderson and Ashley Solvie each had five steals.
Ashley was tops in assists with four. Nicole Solvie attacked the boards to get seven rebounds, while Riley Decker and Jenna Howden each had five rebounds. Hickman built her team-best point total with three 3-pointers. Maddie Carrington had the other MACA 3-pointer.
We got our third win of the young season by building a halftime lead of 40-17. Wow! We cruised in both our games in the Case IH event.
Ashley Solvie's point total was nine. Nicole Solvie and Howden each put in eight points. Carrington's three-pointer constituted her point total. These three Tigers each scored two points: Anderson, Decker and Liz Dietz.
Wrestling: Tigers 54, New London-Spicer 28
Early-season success came in the form of a 54-28 win for the Tiger wrestlers over New London-Spicer. At 106 pounds, Ethan Lebrija was on the short end of a 13-5 major decision versus Blake Vagle. Josh Rohoff was a forfeit victor at 113 pounds. Austin Berlinger lost by fall in 2:29 vs. Nathan Vosika-Scherzberg. Ben Travis came on strong to win by fall over David Barthel in 3:24.
Jacob Boots got pinned by Sam Stageberg in :21. Gideon Joos won by fall in 5:42 over Tim Thein. Jared Rohloff was a fall victor over Nathan Thein in 3:30. Chase Metzger was a forfeit victor at 152.
Matt McNeil roared to a win by fall over Cade Barret in 2:40. The West Central Tribune reported that "name not available" of the Tigers won by fall over Nick Reiter in 1:35. Congratulations, "Name Not Available." We dropped the 182-pound weight slot via forfeit to NL-Spicer's Josh Soine.
Bain Laine lost by fall to Sebastian Bitzan in 2:34. Gage Wevley was a forfeit winner at 220 pounds. It was ditto for Gavin Warnock at 285 pounds.
Band concert December 19
There is no better way to embrace the holiday mood than to attend the December band concert at Morris Area High School! Come and enjoy our state of the art concert hall. Wanda Dagen directs the musicians. The music is set to start at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19. Musicians in grades 7-12 will be featured.
Band and choir do not get the kind of media attention that sports does. You can be sure the music supplies just as much enrichment.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 5, 2016

MACA girls take command in 60-30 win

The MACA girls hoops team played in the Case IH Invitational at Benson. The Tigers impressed in their Friday play, downing host Benson most handily. We shot out to a 26-15 lead by halftime and never looked back.
The orange and black prevailed 60-30. We were more dominant in the second half than the first. Correy Hickman stood out on our scoring list with her 22 points. Ashley Solvie achieved double figures too with her 14. Jenna Howden put in seven points and Riley Decker contributed six. Malory Anderson added four points to the mix. Liz Dietz, Jennifer Solvie and Nicole Solvie each scored two points. Jordann Baier added the final touch with one point.
Hickman sank a pair of three-point shots to build her team-leading total. Decker connected once from three-point range. Ashley Solvie led in rebounds with nine, followed by Jennifer Solvie with six. Hickman raced around to get five steals.
The top Benson scorer was Danielle Himley with 12 points. Amanda Nissen put in five points for the Braves. Megan Amundson and Victoria Pagel each scored four. The list continues with Kaitlyn Berreau (three points) and Grace Lee (2). Berreau made Benson's only three-pointer. Himley snared seven rebounds. Pagel stole the ball three times.
Wrestling: Tigers 45, BOLD 31
Isn't it time to get rid of that "MAHACA" name? People pronounce it phonetically and it sounds ridiculous, IMHO. We should just be "Morris" or "Morris Area." I realize that "Morris Area" is the specific name of our school in Morris. So what? It still describes what the wrestling team is, a team representing the Morris area, just as all schools in population centers are area-wide propositions. It's just assumed.
Very small towns are not as identity-conscious as they once were. Gone are the days of mom and pop stores on main street that created a Norman Rockwell-esque atmosphere. Back then, towns sought to thump their chest by beating other towns in high school sports, as we saw in the movie "Hoosiers." Those days are gone and we actually ought to be thankful.
Most very small towns today are just content being quiet and safe. All the more power to them.
Our wrestlers defeated BOLD 45-31 in early-season action, I wrote about Feuchtenberger wrestlers many years ago. The tradition lives. Jed Feuchtenberger got his arm raised via forfeit at 106 pounds. I hate forfeits. It's a black mark on wrestling. I wouldn't even want to review a match that had more than three forfeits.
Ethan Lebrija pinned Jesse Manderscheid in 2:49. Austin Berlinger didn't fare so well, dropping a 13-4 major decision to Mathew Dooner. Ben Travis at 126 pounds pinned Zeke Walton in 5:18. Jacob Boots won by fall in 3:47 over Jordan Amberg.
Gideon Joos was on the short end of a fall outcome in 3:10 at the hands of Anthony Maher. Jared Rohloff was a forfeit winner at 146 pounds. Chase Metzger won by technical fall over Jaden Huebsch, 20-6. Brady Cardwell was on the short end of a fall outcome in 1:24 vs.Drew Maher.
Max McNeill of the Tigers won by a 10-2 major decision over Riley Gass. Tristan Raths lost by fall in 3:51 to Tim Pepple. Bain Laine was edged in an 8-7 decision vs. Hayden Tersteeg. Gage Wevley at 220 pounds won by fall over Brady Ridler in :48. BOLD's Zach Foesch won by forfeit at 285 pounds.
We're ready for a long winter, snow or no snow, of exciting Morris Area Chokio Alberta (or MAHACA) sports. Oh and there's Storm hockey. I guess the hockey girls got a reprieve.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 2, 2016

Congratulate Truman Carlson on Noah's honor

The photo by Shari Gross shows Noah Carlson, No. 8 of Rushford-Peterson, carrying the football in the Prep Bowl game against Minneapolis North.
Why in heck isn't Noah Carlson a finalist for "Mr. Football?" This magnificently gifted athlete helped to carry Rushford-Peterson a long way. It's a community in Southeastern Minnesota. Our Tigers once made the long trip as we made our climb to Prep Bowl. I was struck by the bluff environment of that part of the state. A magnificent bluff was within view of the stadium. We won that night. We went on to Prep Bowl where we lost to Breckenridge.
This year, Noah Carlson and his Rushford-Peterson teammates made that impressive climb to Prep Bowl. And like our Tigers of that bygone year, they couldn't quite finish the deal in Prep Bowl. But what a memorable season the Trojans had. Carlson, the great grand nephew of our own Truman Carlson, may not be a "Mr. Football" finalist, but he has quite the alternate prize. A panel of sportswriters across the state thinks Noah is the very best! Noah was named the AP State Football Player of the Year after rushing for the second-highest total ever in our state.
Truman smiled as he followed his sterling relative cover 2,785 yards on the ground. Noah produced 41 touchdowns. He supplied the chief fuel as his R-P program reached state for the first time since 2008. Yes, the end came in a 30-14 loss to highly-touted Minneapolis North. We're talking Class 'A' football. The finale was in the Oz-like surroundings of the new U.S. Bank Stadium.
Our Tigers played in the old Metrodome. The Chokio-Alberta Spartans won two state titles at the Dome - I'll never forget it.
Carlson is really all over the field, because in addition to carrying the football he plays safety, kicks off, punts and returns kicks! He has made just as big a mark in track and field as in football. How about five state championships in the spring sport? He obviously is of great interest to college athletic programs.
We learn that Noah got a knee injury in the second quarter of the Prep Bowl game. It was reported that he was "visibly hobbled" as a result. You see, that's the problem with football. We certainly hope that this is an injury the effects of which will pass. But risk is inherent to football. I'm crossing fingers that Noah will accelerate in college athletics, hopefully just track/field, seamlessly from high school.
Noah is an old-fashioned multi-sport athlete in this contemporary era where specialization is more common. He had a big role in Rushford-Peterson's state championship hoops team in 2015. Wow! And last spring, he turned on the jets with the Rushford-Peterson-Houston "co-op" team that won the Class 'A' state track/field team championship.
This stellar athlete has offers from Michigan and Minnesota to compete track in college. Iowa has eyed this young man too. I remember a member of the "Carlson clan" playing quarterback for Iowa State many years ago: Dean Carlson. I seem to recall Dean getting the nod to play in post-season all-star games. Quite the talented and committed family.
Truman was athletic director for Morris High School when I was in school. The happiest days of my sportswriting career might have been when I was just a "stringer" in the early 1970s. I dropped off articles early in the morning at the Sun Tribune office, usually when Art Harren seemed to be the only one there. I remember Ken Harren giving a terrific Memorial Day speech. That was back when Morris High School had its marching band in the parade and the parade used main street.
Truman enjoys retirement these days. I see him regularly at our Senior Citizens Center. Be sure to stop by the Center tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 3) for the annual bazaar. You can have both breakfast and lunch there.
Truman was a well-liked biology teacher who always showed a temperate, reasonable outlook on his job and on life. But I do think he was relieved when his tenure as AD was over. The job obviously has stresses, imposed not only by the community but by teaching peers. The latter pressure may in fact be the worst, or at least it was then.
Carlson was AD when girls sports first got going. What a step that was, in the evolution of our public schools.
I was guilty as anyone of thinking that girls sports could never draw up fully equal to the males in terms of legitimacy and quality. I remember being surprised that the females could make the three-point shot in basketball when it was new. I confess to my short-sightedness.
Back when I was a stringer for the Morris paper, I covered only Morris, not the surrounding towns. It wouldn't have crossed my mind to cover the surrounding towns. Heck, we were "Morris" with the orange and black letter jackets!
I covered Morris back in the old "District 21" days. Back then, the initial stage of all the tournaments involved a number of neighboring small towns in close geographic proximity to each other. The UMM P.E. Center would get filled for the basketball tournament. Today it's quite different. Teams will travel right away in the tournament, more than a token distance, and our opponents might be from a considerable distance away. So, gone are many of the old small town rivalries and their often-unpleasant emotions. That's a good thing.
But I have reservations about the considerable amount of travel. I think it's dangerous, really: the long distance coming home late at night when a motorist might get fatigued.
Had I remained a simple stringer for the Sun Tribune, I might have had to abort this during the 1980s for a couple reasons. Our school's athletic program began to encounter duress in the 1980s, culminating in a full-blown community controversy in about 1988. It would have been nice to step away from that.
The Sun Tribune had a problem of employees who had children involved in the various extracurricular programs of the small schools surrounding Morris. They brought their sports emotions to work with them. Morris athletics had no advocate on the staff. I still lose sleep occasionally as I reflect back on that. I might argue that the person at the top should have rolled up his sleeves, called certain people in and told them to simply check their sports emotions at the door. These people would "get over it" faster than you might expect. I don't want to name names because I'd be beating an old dead horse.
I enjoyed my trip to Rushford-Peterson to cover the football Tigers under coach Jerry Witt back in that Prep Bowl campaign. I'll never forget looking up at the bluff, which the local press person told me was called Magelssen's Bluff. The Tigers had a crowd-pleasing passing game that season. I still don't see how we could have lost to anyone in Prep Bowl. I got our cartoonist Del Holdgrafer to do a drawing to mark the occasion of our Prep Bowl appearance. We miss Del.
Congratulations to Truman Carlson and his stellar great grand nephew, Noah Carlson. We'll be following Noah in his college athletic exploits.
The Minnesota Vikings played Dallas last night (Thursday). I only tuned in occasionally out of curiosity - I never watch football for a prolonged time in real time anymore. The Vikings' uniforms looked terrible. I don't even like the slightly modified uniforms of the recent past. Our uniforms were terrific through most of our storied history.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Early December can bring abundant snowfalls

Snow at the old Met Stadium
We will be into December two days from now. You will recall winters where the onset of true winter weather came well before this. We might be glad that we have been spared the harsh winter stuff. But a part of us would like a nice crisp white blanket of snow.
Winter is preferable here in comparison to the heart of the Midwest, like Missouri. A person with an Iowa background once told me there is a certain type of ice that is characteristic of the state. Be advised of this if you move there. But in Minnesota? An abundance of white fluffy snow characterizes. It tends to be a dry snow which is good.
We bundle up but we actually enjoy the outdoors in winter. The conditions further south can be blah by comparison. People just choose to stay indoors.
Remember when all our pro sports were outside here? Football games revealed to the nation our hardy qualities. The most extreme weather showed that maybe we had questionable judgment living here. We are in a position now, two days before December, of having that harshness visiting us.
It was December 4 of 1966 when an onslaught of snow befell a Vikings game. We were playing the Atlanta Falcons who were in their first season. There were 37,117 tickets sold but many fans had reservations about the conditions: Only 20,206 were used. That wonderful white snow started cascading down from the heavens at 6:30 a.m. By kickoff the snow was falling in an unyielding way. Visibility at the airport was 3200 feet. It was a struggle to keep the playing field well enough defined. The temperature was 23 degrees.
Fran Tarkenton did not play in this game. This was the chapter of Vikings history when the great quarterback was having difficulty getting along with coach Norm Van Brocklin. So Tarkenton stood along the sidelines, ironic since this game was the first time his play could have been televised back to his home state of Georgia.
Our quarterback on that snowy white day was Bob Berry. You might remember that Berry ended up having a nice tenure with the Falcons. But in '66 he and Tarkenton both had the horns on the side of their helmets. Berry had talent but he couldn't find his footing with the Vikings. On December 4 he literally couldn't find his footing. He said "I couldn't set up in the snow."
I chuckle because it seemed like a convenient excuse. He completed just 12 of 33 pass attempts but worse than that, threw five interceptions. As Keith Jackson would say, "whoa Nellie." The Vikings lost 20-13. Tarkenton later complained "I was cold." Chuckle.
Then let's consider the December 14 game of 1969. Our foe was the 49ers of San Francisco. Suddenly a snowstorm developed that dumped over two inches of snow on the field in about an hour's time. Yes, we in Minnesota are most familiar with such a phenomenon.
Met Stadium football crowds were famous for having snowmobile suits as typical outerwear. Rumor had it that fans enjoyed certain types of liquid refreshment to deal with the cold too. No one much worried about getting a DWI back then.
Officials had to sweep yard lines in order to manage the December 14 game. Those sweepers ran ahead of the plays. It might seem like a curling performance!
This time the Vikings won the weather-influenced game. Ah, Joe Kapp! Indeed this game was in his distinct era as the purple signal-caller. We loved this "man of machismo," as he was called on a Sports Illustrated cover. Kapp passed to Gene Washington for 52 yards and the key touchdown. We won 10-7. The Vikes turned the screws on the 49ers with a fumble recovery by Earsell Mackbee and interceptions by Mackbee and Roy Winston.
Don't those old Vikings names put a smile on your face? It's important for those Met Stadium memories to be preserved. The fan turnout for the Vikes win was 43,028, and yes there were countless of those snowmobile suits. Imbibing too, no doubt.
Ed Sharockman said that early in the game, players played conservatively and cautiously, most concerned with not falling down. I immediately remember Sharockman as the guy on the Vikings who was into the stock market. I remember him doing a commercial endorsement where he's reading the Wall Street Journal at the start. Those were the days when far fewer people owned stocks - it seemed like a distant novelty, reserved for very rich people.
The players were not nearly as rich as today. It was a different world, one in which we were thankful just having major league sports. The Vikings and Twins began in 1961. Before that? Well, we had the football Gophers. A much different world.
One constant all along: the vagaries of our Minnesota weather. We are about due right now to maybe get a blast. Be vigilant, as always.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, November 25, 2016

Here's my song re. Armistice Day blizzard, 1940

Historic storm indeed
My late father always told his story about the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. Betty Waage of Morris had her story preserved in the well-known book by William H. Hull. Hull's book came out in the 1980s. He reported having collected many more stories than could be accommodated in his book. Today with online, all stories could be out there, of course.
I am pleased to have written a song about this incredible Minnesota event. It's called "The Blizzard of '40." It was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Franklin (Frank) Michels. Frank epitomizes the very polished Nashville musical community.
Thanks to Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck MN for getting the song online. If you have media transfer needs or anything of that kind, contact the Gulsvigs. I invite you to listen to my song about the big Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. Here is the link from YouTube:
My father was two years out of college. He was ten years from getting married. I wonder if he had a wild side. He was a bandleader during college. He got to meet Glenn Miller.
In 1940 we were not yet drawn into World War II. We heard regular news reports about all the distress in Europe and the rise of Adolf Hitler. But would it end up affecting us? There was strong resistance to getting drawn into foreign entanglements. We might forget, today, just how strong that resistance was. Who could blame us? We had been through the hell of World War I.
Armistice Day was the time for remembering the sacrifices made in "the big war," a term which at that time denoted World War I. I refer to Charles Lindbergh in my song. Lindbergh was a leading voice for the America First movement. He became controversial because he seemed a little deferential to what was happening in Germany. He lost some of his hero luster. But in the lead-up to WWII, his staunch opposition to American involvement won great sympathy around the U.S.
America First died overnight as a result of the attack by the Empire of Japan on Pearl Harbor. We went from being isolationist, mostly, to being all-in with the world conflagration. Was our involvement really inevitable? Should our Pacific fleet have been concentrated in one place? Did FDR act like he had a chip on shoulder, daring the Japanese to do something drastic?
WWII changed the course of countless people's lives. Many young men gave their lives. Those who survived had the transformative effect of taking advantage of the G.I. Bill. The great post-WWII American middle class was born. In recent years it seems to have become endangered. We may be sliding back to a time where there's a marked division between "haves"and "have nots." We keep electing Republicans. We are bringing this on ourselves.
My father was a hunter. How fortunate he was not out in a duck blind on the day of the famous blizzard. The perils encountered by those poor hunters became one of the most well-known chapters of the storm. Some did not survive. Hunting was a bigger part of our culture then.
Our transportation system was not as well-suited as today, for dealing with such a storm, obviously. Cars were not as resilient. Some people used alcohol instead of antifreeze. Winter outerwear was not as effective. "We could have used more goose down filler," as I state in my lyrics.
The blizzard struck on Monday, November 11. It was Armistice Day but there was a feeling of routineness. But then, to recite the title of Hull's book, "all hell broke loose." The situation deteriorated rapidly. Cars became stalled to block roads. Visibility for drivers became nil. People all over just started holing up to get through it all. Hull wrote "it was as if all nature were on a rampage, unleashing its raw power on the universe."
My song reflects the considerable research I have done on the storm. I hope the song adds in some small way to preserving the sense of magnitude we have about the historic event. Betty Waage was living in Morris at the time. She can tell you about it.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com