"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)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Star Trek's "Errand of Mercy" was pacifist

The Star Trek episode "Errand of Mercy" came out in 1967. Kids like me who were transfixed by the series got poised to watch the show on March 23, 1967. They say 1968 was the year when this nation came apart at the seams with conflict and cultural transition. But 1967 was more than a precursor year - for example, Vietnam was totally a hellhole by then. How blessed it would be, for me, if our biggest problem was the Minnesota Twins getting edged out for the American League pennant by Boston at the very end!
"Errand of Mercy" was episode #26 of the famous original "Star Trek." Lest there be any doubt, the series steadily plants itself as an American artistic classic, not just a pop culture classic. It takes time to appreciate these things. We didn't adequately appreciate the series in its early days of syndication. It seemed passe, little better than the rest of the swamp of TV programming at the time. And syndication meant it might be seen in the afternoon which we all remember was a "dead zone" for TV. You'd see Flintstones cartoons or the Mike Douglas talk show (with guest Totie fields, perhaps). Nothing against any of the professionals who gave us afternoon TV in the '70s and '80s - they just had to create a homogeneous product.
Today the Star Trek episodes appear often on cable channels like BBC America. It comes across now as having significant artistic merit. Something about the TV landscape - more "niche" programming - accentuates that now. We're not so quick to sniff at TV shows, not like in the days when we'd hear the term "boob tube." Remember that?
A statement about conflict
A scene jumps out at me in "Errand of Mercy." The episode was significant because it introduced the Klingons with John Colicos playing "Kor," their leader. I was almost charmed by the original Klingons who seemed basically human, i.e. like us. It seemed their bark was worse than their bite. We heard about bad things they might do, but saw little if anything of it.
What about that gripping scene (in my mind) in "Errand of Mercy?" Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Kor are cornered by aliens who they are having a hard time understanding. Suddenly they are aware that the apparently passive, innocent and vulnerable "Organians" aren't so weak after all. Suddenly with a threat upon them, Kirk and Kor seem kin. They seem bonded. I'm intrigued how they communicate like they have shared interests, like they're almost brethren! The talk of conflict between them does not disappear. But again I'll say that the violent trait of the Klingons seemed mostly that: talk. We get the feeling that the Federation can be just as confrontational with their impulses.
I am going to make the bold suggestion here that a subtle anti-war statement was being made. The year 1967 was a little early for overt anti-war statements to be made, right? People had to step lightly, and people in the arts know how to do that. Here we see Kirk and Kor stand side by side as if they suddenly feel a need to react together. The message: The Federation and the Klingons were not as dissimilar as we might be led to believe. The two sides are quick to cite the tired old reasons for war - "you cut off our trading routes" etc. - that lead to so much needless bloodshed.
The heroic aliens of Organia were pacifists. They proclaimed that the Federation and Klingons would someday find peace but that in the meantime, too many people would die. Prophetic?  Today the U.S. has normalized relations with Vietnam, the nation created after the North Vietnamese finally overran the South, going city by city in the mid-1970s and leaving the U.S. virtually humiliated, seeking to escape with those depressing scenes of helicopters leaving rooftops so frantically. What did our warlike tendencies do for us in the 1960s? It created hell and caused cynicism for a generation of America's youth.
So here was Star Trek in 1967 spinning a story in a prophetic and symbolic way, subtly suggesting that us humans can be total fools with our warlike tendencies. The gentle Organians possessed the wisdom.
Background of the plot
The planet Organia is presented as non-aligned (for the purposes of conflict) near the Klingon border. The Enterprise crew believes the population of the planet to be primitive. The Enterprise attacks and destroys an approaching Klingon vessel. The script is careful to have the Klingon vessel opening fire first! Hey, we cited the Gulf of Tonkin, right? The Gulf of Tonkin was a prevarication.
Kirk and Spock beam down. Sulu is left in command of the Enterprise. Ruins are seen in the distance. The environment is an illusion created by the Organians to provide familiar points of reference for visitors. The Organians are unconcerned about the Klingon threat. They don't seem to view the Federation people any different than the Klingons. We're all just barbaric to them. Kirk and Spock try to conceal their identities.
I loved Colicos as Kor. He comes upon the scene with an air of authority, almost triumph. Kirk and Spock attempt some guerrilla action. Finally the Organians allow Kirk and Spock to be arrested. Spock of course has the ability to resist the Klingons' "mind probe." The Organians free Kirk and Spock from confinement. Kor orders the execution of 2000 Organians. We don't really see this of course. ("Bark is worse than their bite.") The Organians act undisturbed. The Federation people and the Klingons are left baffled and here we see the start of the apparent bonding of the two sides.
The Federation and Klingon fleets are getting into the position for war. Kirk and Spock try to rouse the Organians into resistance. They are able to capture Kor. Finally we see the truth about the passive Organians. They are not humanoid at all. They are advanced incorporeal beings. They incapacitate both sides in the burgeoning conflict. They impose a peace treaty which of course both sides find objectionable!
Kirk says to Kor that the impending war is going to have to be called off, whereupon Kor delivers the most memorable line of the episode: "A shame, Captain. It would have been glorious!"
This is the episode where Leonard Nimoy as Spock says "pure energy," a line later pasted into the song "What's on Your Mind? (Pure Energy)," from the group Information Society. The song got to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Nimoy got a "special thanks" in the song's credits.
Wishful thinking
Would that the gentle Organians could prevail over Earth's hostile forces in the 1960s. Would that they could disarm everyone. (Would that they could help the Twins win one more game, LOL.)
The year 1967 was a hellhole for America's young men who were susceptible to the draft. We can too easily forget.
Kudos to Gene L. Coon for writing "Errand of Mercy" which sought to point out how warring sides are really both a reflection of the worst in us.
A footnote: John Colicos played "Judge Flood" in the series "Gunsmoke" and became the last character to be shot and killed in that series.
Star Trek gave us lessons on a lot of fronts. Another example is from the episode "Miri" which I write about on my companion website, "Morris of Course." I invite you to click on this permalink to read my post inspired by "Miri." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 22, 2017

Maddie Carrington makes seven 3's in win!

Tigers 69, Melrose 62
Maddie Carrington outdid herself Thursday night (12/21) in GBB play. Surely all the Carringtons will feel the festive Christmas spirit to the max. We wish that circle still included Laura.
Tiger GBB standout Maddie made seven 3-pointers in a road victory. The success was at Melrose. The orange and black made the trip down I-94. On the way home, they could savor their 69-62 win over the Dutchmen. The win was our sixth. Melrose came out of the night at 4-4.
Riley Decker had a fine long-range shooting eye just like Carrington. Decker made three 3-pointers and Malory Anderson made one. That harvest of 3's really made the difference. We owned a 34-24 lead at halftime.
Carrington topped the orange and black scoring list with 27 points. We had two other double figures scorers: Anderson with 18 points and Decker with ten. I'm happy to see my occasional waitress at DeToy's, Jordann Baier, in the scoring mix with four. I'm also happy to see Carly Wohlers of the noteworthy Wohlers clan, with whom I've made trips to Nashville TN, also score four. Liz Dietz, Alexis Pew and Jenna Howden each scored two.
Rebound leaders were Anderson (10), Dietz (7) and Wohlers (6). Dietz had four assists to top that category. Anderson stole the ball five times and Decker had four steals.
Melrose's top scorer had 27 points just like our Maddie Carrington. Maikya Luetmer scored 27 for the Dutchmen. Ashley Rademacher was a force for the Dutchmen with 17 points. These three Dutchmen each scored six: Cassie Klaphake, Courtney Wensman and Madison Dufner. Klaphake made two 3-pointers. Rademacher collected 12 rebounds. Luetmer dished out seven assists. Klaphake stole the ball five times.
The Tigers carry a 6-3 record forward.
Boys hockey: Prairie Centre 8, Storm 4
The Storm put the puck in the net four times but it wasn't enough in a game versus Prairie Centre. The first period was telling as the Prairie Centre skaters shot out to a 5-2 advantage. The scoring cooled the rest of the way.
The wild first period story began with Cole Crosby scoring at 3:42, assisted by Andrew Bick. Ian Gould made the score 2-0 at 4:46 with assists from Preston Sorenson and Andrew Custer. Seth Deters put Prairie Centre up 3-0 with his goal at 7:41, assisted by Hudson Pung. Then MBA got on the board with a Zach Bruns goal assisted by Jack Riley, at 8:27.
But PC seized the momentum back. Hudson Pung scored with a Deters assist at 9:27. Deters scored with a Hunter Fletcher assist at 9:50. MBA got the last goal of the period: Hunter Gades got the puck in the net assisted by Bruns and Riley at 10:11.
Each team scored a goal in the second period. Cody Wolbeck scored for PC with assists from Bick and Sorenson at :57. MBA's Bruns scored with assists from Mike Halvorson and Riley at 3:05.
The third period scoring began with a shorthanded PC goal by Fletcher assisted by Crosby at 5:02. Riley of the Storm scored with a Bruns assist at 12:59. Prairie Centre got the night's last goal, power play style, as Deters put the puck in the net with assists from Fletcher and Gould at 14:09.
Chase Engebretson was our goalie and he had 41 saves. His goalie rival was Isaiah DeFoe who turned away 28 shots. This prep hockey contest was played on December 21 at Prairie Centre.
(I wonder if Andrew Custer is a descendant of you-know-who.)
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Melrose (with an Olberding) beats Tigers by 3

Melrose 51, Tigers 48
Melrose stayed unbeaten at the expense of our MACA Tigers Tuesday (12/19). The Dutchmen climbed to 5-0. Our MACA boys led by three at halftime, 30-27, but lost that advantage in the second half. Our record dropped to 2-3 as we fell in the 51-48 final at home.
The Willmar paper keeps referring to us with the initials "MCA." They have done this for a long time. The initials should be "MACA" of course. When I'm scanning the subheads in the sports section, I have to look twice to notice "MCA" because I'm really not looking for it. Apparently the Willmar people feel they are more wise in their judgment, so they write "Morris/Chokio-Alberta." There is a right way and a wrong way to do everything.
I don't know if it will happen in my lifetime, but maybe we'll go back to plain old "Morris High School" again. It would simplify things. Those old small town identity issues aren't what they used to be. Today we all just answer to distant corporations anyway.
The Tuesday loss came in spite of four Tigers scoring in double figures. Jackson Loge, a player now being hyped by the Morris newspaper, scored 13 points. He was joined in the double figures circle by Cam Arndt (12), Tate Nelson (11) and Jaret Johnson (10). One other player scored: Kyle Staebler (2). The stat report in the Willmar paper has "NA" for three-point shooting. Why is this info not available?
Arndt snared eight rebounds to lead in that category. Loge and Johnson each had five rebounds. Arndt dished out four assists and Johnson had three. Nelson stole the ball twice.
Three Melrose players stood out in scoring: Reegan Nelson (16), Traeton Keaveny (15) and Damon Van Beck (10). Preston Keaveny scored five points and Tim Arnhalt had three. And hey, there's an Olberding in the scoring list! That makes me feel sentimental. Nicholas Olberding scored two points in his team's win. A past superstar for Melrose was Mark Olberding who went on to a pro career. He was spectacular. He's my age.
Wait a minute: the three-point shooting stats for Melrose are reported! The game was played in Morris. I assume the Morris coaching staff was responsible for calling in? What's up? Traeton Keaveny made three 3's for the winning cause. Van Beck made two long-rangers, and Arnhalt and Preston Keaveny each made one. Nelson led the Dutchmen in rebounds with seven, while Van Beck and Preston Keaveny each had five. It was Preston leading in assists with five. Nelson stole the ball four times.
Tigers 57, Lac qui Parle 31
A rare Saturday game had the Tigers matched against Lac qui Parle at LQPV, out in the middle of wilderness or so it seems. After the Lac qui Parle and Minnewaska schools got built, in a time when small town emotions could be so extreme on these things, the legislature (according to legend) proclaimed "no more cornfield high schools." But we have LQPV and 'Waska as a legacy.
The Tigers downed the Eagles of Lac qui Parle Valley pretty handily, 57-31. Both teams are around .500 in the early-season. Our defense applied the clamps firmly in the second half. The Eagles were held to nine points!
We do have three-point shooting data from this game. Jaret Johnson made two 3-pointers while these Tigers each made one: Tyler Reimers, Jackson Loge, Tate Nelson and Connor Koebernick. Camden Arndt didn't make any 3's but he was team-high in scoring with 15 points. Johnson was right behind with 14 points and Jackson Loge had 10. The rest of the list: Koebernick (8), Reimers (3), Nelson (3), Kevin Asfeld (2) and Kyle Staebler (2).
Setting the pace in rebounds were Arndt (8), Johnson (6) and Loge (5). Arndt had six assists and Koebernick had four. Nelson and Koebernick each had three steals.
Lac qui Parle had no one in double figures scoring. Austin Bonn and Ross Olson each scored eight points, and Braiden Kittelson had six. These four Eagles each scored two: Caden Bjornjeld, Isaac Gades, Thomas Daniels and Maverick Conn. Evan Benson added a point to the mix.
Addendum: I'll again share the old tale of how "Valley" got put in the Lac qui Parle Valley name. It was all political, owing to those old small town sensitivities. "Lac qui Parle" had been the name of the area's wrestling program and it was headquartered in Madison. So when the new school was proposed, there was a concern that calling it "Lac qui Parle" might hint that Madison was special! How quaint. So the name of the new entity got tweaked and we had this "Valley" created.  I was doing newspaper writing during that period of hyper small town sensitivity, and it was not pleasant. It was foolish. "The tail wagged the dog" in connection to Starbuck getting so much push in creating Minnewaska, a school that could not be built one foot closer to Glenwood than to Starbuck, and people were ready to get our their rulers. Today, I don't think Starbuck people ponder these matters at all.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 18, 2017

Carrington nails three 3's in 49-46 home win

Tigers 49, 'Waska 46
Fans at the home gym enjoyed a 49-46 win by the girls basketball Tigers Friday. A deadlocked score at halftime gave way to a three-point advantage by the Tigers in the second half, 26-23. The success was against Minnewaska Area. We upped our record to 5-2. The Lakers came out of the game at 3-4.
Click on the link below to read about the girls' 66-44 win over Montevideo. This post also includes two recent boys basketball losses. The post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
Maddie Carrington helped make the difference vs. Minnewaska with her three-point shooting. As she often does, she led the orange and black in this department. She made three from beyond the 3-point line. Riley Decker made one long-ranger.
Maddie topped the scoring list with 19 points while Malory Anderson complemented her nicely with 14. Decker put in five points. Also scoring were Carly Wohlers (4), Liz Dietz (3), Jenna Howden (2) and Kylie Swanson (2). Dietz was tops in rebounds with nine while Anderson snared seven. Carrington and Decker each dished out three assists. Anderson was the steals leader with eight while Carrington had six.
Ellie Danielson was a scoring force for the visiting Lakers with 23 points. Her long-range shooting eye was most reliable with four 3-pointers. Emma Thorfinnson was second high with 14 points. Three Lakers each scored three: Rachel Erickson, Hannah Hoffman and Kendra Kuczek. Kuczek and Hoffman each made one "3."

What Art Schlichter tells us
Art Schlichter! The man became a pathetic example of compulsive gambling. But was it just a case of a sad human failing? The former Ohio State and pro quarterback is profiled on "American Greed" on CNBC. Was greed really his weakness? His life fell into a cesspool of pathetic behavior.
So what are we to conclude? Before concluding anything, be aware that the famous QB had 17 documented concussions. Now I view him in a whole new light.
Defense attorneys are learning how to use a background of head injuries in defending a former long-time football player. The solution might be for our society to phase out the sport. Schlichter discovered football because his public school, what should have been a benevolent influence in his life, dangled football as an activity offering for him. He became a hero which I suppose caused him to put up with the injuries. And the rest is history.

Keeping an eye on D.C.
The Republicans appear on the verge of getting through their tax cut bill, what they call "the middle class tax cut bill." I would argue this is not a reasonable conservative approach. It is radical. It is radical in the sense that there is a risk of upsetting the apple cart. If the economy is already in good shape, as President Trump claims it is, why employ a drastic change?
The stock markets march to new highs. Yet the Republicans push a tax cut bill that could have ramifications beyond anyone's taxes being cut. And of course the "middle class" part is just posturing, just a massaging of the English language.
They say the Republicans want to push this bill only so they can show they "got a win." Is this how legislation should be accomplished? They say the Republicans are being manipulated like marionette puppets by the "donor class" of Republicans. Are the rest of us going to sit back and shrug, in effect?
The great American middle class was created by World War II. It has had a long run. Ironically the "middle class tax cut" being promoted by Trump and the Republicans could expedite the end of this phase of U.S. history. The rich will get richer.
The horrifying scenario would be a tilt like what we saw in 1930s Germany. An even more disturbing scenario would mirror what happened with the French Revolution. Who's to say that an all-out economic catastrophe wouldn't sow the seeds for what we saw happen in France? And if tens of thousands of people massed outside the White House, who's to say certain political leaders wouldn't be delivered to them? The military leaders aren't going to order the deaths of so many people. Simply to protect themselves, they would cooperate with the assembled masses, right? File this away. It could happen.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Please listen to my Christmas song for 2017

This is my fourth year writing a Christmas song to share with friends and the public. My 2017 song has a topical and timely air. It's inspired by the challenges being faced by the souls in Puerto Rico. It's called "See the Light Puerto Rico." The singer is the wonderful Debra Gordon of Nashville TN. Thanks again to the Frank Michels studio of Nashville. I invite you to listen with this YouTube link:
Puerto Rico has this unusual status of being a "U.S. territory." Isn't there some way the island could join the rest of us as a full-fledged state? We welcomed Hawaii and actually had a president, Barack Obama, come from there. Perhaps the storm that ravaged Puerto Rico could be viewed as a challenge. Instead of increasing defense spending, maybe our government could roll up its sleeves for re-building Puerto Rico.
The island could be developed in a way that maybe we could finally put the welcome mat out for being a state. Maybe the logistics are too daunting. But it's a nice thought, right?
My Christmas song is inspired by the star of Bethlehem. You'll see a Nativity image on the YouTube screen. And BTW let's acknowledge Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck for getting my songs online. If you have any media transfer work to be done, contact the Gulsvigs.
Our family lived in Starbuck for a few months when coming to the Morris area in 1960. We lived next door to the Samuelsons. They referred to our residence as "the Nelson cabin." They had a collie dog named "Rexall," named for their drugstore franchise. Many years later I'd get re-acquainted with Donnie Samuelson when we both ran 10Ks. I still remember the laundromat with the stuffed animals! In Morris we'd get a business with the same reputation: Benson Drug with Carl Benson as the owner.
Let the light inspire
My song suggests that the light of the original star of Bethlehem might bathe the suffering people of Puerto Rico, that they might find divine strength and inspiration from it. The Nativity story has always appealed to me. The peace and tranquility appeal to me. One of my past Christmas songs is about the Little Drummer Boy, specifically the Rankin-Bass TV special about the Drummer Boy story. Did you know the Little Drummer Boy is not in the Bible? The TV special always made me misty at the end.
As a kid I'd have to make sure to watch the special at the announced time on TV - there were no VHS tapes yet. That was the nature of TV then: you'd better be sure to watch a certain show at the appointed time. If you missed it (or had to take an extended bathroom break during it), you might figure you're out of luck for ever seeing it. Isn't that something? In those old days we talked about "re-runs." For some reason, the "first run" of any show had special prestige as if subsequent re-runs (or the whole summer viewing season) were quite second-rate. Today our seemingly boundless TV universe is packed with programming that is quite re-cycled. We don't judge it as being old or stale. We just choose what we want to watch, and it might be a Star Trek episode from the late 1960s on the BBC America channel.
The original Star Trek will live forever. How on earth could that show have ever gotten "cancelled?" Remember the Saturday Night Live parody of when Star Trek got cancelled, with Elliott Gould as the network executive? His vehicle appears in the window of the Starship Enterprise. Someone asks "what's that?" The answer was "a '68 Chrysler." I remember the actor playing "Sulu" stammered on one of his lines. The skit concluded with a totally dated line, a mystery to today's young generation if not 95 per cent of the public. The Captain Kirk character recites "Live long and prosper," then gestures with his fingers and says "promise." That was a takeoff on the Promise Margarine commercials that William Shatner did on TV.
The original Star Trek TV series has never been replicated properly in all the other franchises of the concept. The show fell off some in its quality in its last year due to budget restraints, but that final year was a blessing in that enough episodes got "in the can" for the show to later go into syndication. And the rest is history: Star Trek in syndication! It sure lasted better than "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea."
I hope you take the time to listen to my 2017 Christmas song, and to feel the warmth of the Nativity spirit.
A favored holiday for me
I much prefer Christmas to Easter. Easter is an uplifting time only in the sense that Christ ultimately triumphs over his torture and crucifixion. I hate the Good Friday portion of the whole Easter thing. Is it because of Mel Gibson that we now get so much emphasis on Christ's torture? I hate it: the seeming sadism aspect. I hate it so much, every spring I write a blog post that suggests I'm an atheist. Essentially I'm not an atheist because I do believe in a creator. Maybe I'm spiritual in the same sense as the Ojibway Indians.
Well, now's the time to slow down and let the benevolent spirit of Christmas settle in. Let's hope the people of Puerto Rico can get past their adversity. I certainly think this would be better accomplished with a Democratic president rather than Donald Trump. I greatly admire Carmen Yulin Cruz, that valiant mayor of San Juan. Maybe she should have been Time Magazine's Person of the Year.
The nature of the media today makes it hard for any new Christmas song to break through as a classic. We had much more of a shared culture before. I suppose there were "big shots" determining what Christmas songs would be popular and famous. But why did they anoint "Jingle Bell Rock" that way?
An apple, but not close to the tree?
My late father was a prolific composer of music. He never encouraged me to try to develop that craft. He wanted to teach me hunting and fishing. I follow my own drummer as a songwriter now. I invite you to locate my YouTube page and listen to my other songs there.
By writing topical songs, I'm assured of getting a decent audience for many of my songs. That's because people do Internet searches with key words related to the various topics I've written about, like the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. If I were to write a simple relationship song, it would be hard breaking through to get listeners. I actually have one such song: "It's Been So Long."
Regardless of what I have recorded, I love the process of creating poetry and lyrics. My straight poetry is shared on my blogs like my poem about the 1962 New York Mets or baseball player Rusty Staub! (Wasn't "Rusty" the name of a kid character on the old Danny Thomas TV sitcom?)
Merry Christmas to all in this mild winter of 2017. Climate change?
We share the Christmas spirit in this atmosphere of trepidation caused by the Donald Trump presidency. We celebrate it in the atmosphere of suddenly elevated concern about sexual harassment. The whole "patriarchy" is being called into question. Is Santa Claus a part of that? I remember fondly the times I photographed Lois Smith as "Mrs. Santa" when I worked for the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper.
My most famous photo might have been of Laura Carrington joining Gary Findlay at Gary's victory celebration at Sunwood Inn, marking his election to the state legislature. Laura had previously been a Democrat! We miss Laura. She had no aversion to sharing her political views. I miss covering the various Christmas-related events around Morris, including Santa's arrival in Donnelly! And to all a good night.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Our $ gift to UMM is now perpetually endowed

Martha and Ralph Williams by the piano at home
Dad at his alma mater, U of M-Twin Cities, in 1946. War is done!
Mom in her well-known "gait" across campus, on behalf of campus P.O.
Our family does not celebrate Christmas like it used to. We're down to two: Mom and I. The relatives with whom we were close are nearly all gone. We used to celebrate primarily with my uncle Howard (Dad's brother) and his wife Vi of Glenwood. They had no children. They were wealthy but lived in a frugal way, almost as if we'd never come out of the Depression. None of that hindered their happiness.
Gifts of material things are no longer important to us. Our dining room table is adorned with two little Christmas-themed figurines that cost me a dollar at the recent Senior Bazaar. The figurines promote an atmosphere that is fully satisfying to us both. A few years ago we began attending the Christmas Eve service at our church, something we should have done all along. Church is in lieu of the many traditional things we once did for Christmas: the tree, the gifts etc. Our family does not need more "stuff."
As far as giving is concerned, we accomplished this most thoroughly with our financial gift to UMM music. We have actually improved on that gift since I first announced this on my blogs. It started out as a "quasi-endowed fund." I never really felt comfortable with the word "quasi." I was made aware of the perpetually endowed fund option. This would require more money of course. But we went ahead and did it.
So our fund will now be endowed in perpetuity, lasting until our sun turns into a red giant. By then maybe we'll be ready to have UMM transferred to a planet in another galaxy. The perpetual option seemed necessary to me. My father graduated from the U of M-Twin Cities. He taught for a long time at the U's St. Paul School of Agriculture in St. Paul. I was in my preschool years when Dad taught in St. Paul. I have warm memories from that phase in my life.
Then we came to Morris and UMM. I remember vividly UMM's "circle drive" in our first days here. Music concerts were at Edson Auditorium. They seemed to be well-received there. My father's biggest claim to fame turned out to be his men's chorus. He had creds in all areas of music. He led a jazz type of dance band when in college: "The Campus Nighthawks." He arrived at the name when purchasing some music stands that already had the "CN" initials. How about that? Jazz and big band music was pretty male-dominated then, but they had a female singer.
My father directed the original UMM orchestra which put out a vinyl record. As the only music faculty member in year one, he of course did everything, so he directed the band.
Our gift to UMM specifies choir as a priority - Dad was a prolific choral composer. He ended up in a long and well-enjoyed retirement, while Mom ended up working at UMM further. My mom was a bookstore employee for a time and then became supervisor of the campus post office. She was known for having wonderful rapport with the student workers there. She got the Martelle Award one year. I was poised on the grass with my camera for that (at graduation).
We are delighted to make our perpetually endowed gift to UMM, which means we're up to $25,000. My dad would say: "You can't take it with you."
I'm really not sure what kind of future UMM has. Music is a nice little refuge in academia because it is non-political. We hear a lot about political strife at UMM, the righties vs. the lefties, gay vs. homophobes, atheists vs. Bible thumpers etc. I have written in the past that the institution should work to tamp down all the political venting. I have suggested "that's not what the students are here for." Maybe it just can't be avoided.
Can UMM continue to thrive as it puts liberal arts on the traditional pedestal? We hear about colleges across the USA having to trim their liberal arts priority.
Maybe UMM can overcome through sheer superior reputation of its offerings. We want to root for this if practical. But let's keep in mind that our revered local campus has gone in and out of phases before.  It was once an ag school. It's hard to predict the future with certainty.
But we hope for leadership that is infused with wisdom. Close your eyes and hear the old "UMM Hymn" in your heads.

Addendum: Mom and I attended the 4 p.m. concert Friday at the recital hall. It was a wonderful concert but it did not go well for us. Mom is not always sharp mentally and she began talking at too great a volume as the concert ended. I was not expecting this. We will not be able to attend any more, and I'm sad about that. I'm glad she got to shake Simon's hand through the course of the evening. The concert was a terrific blending of media promoting the best type of Christmas air. I especially liked the locally produced video.

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Malory Anderson scores 20 in MACA win

MACA girls basketball notched its third win in as many games Saturday night at Benson. The Tigers took the championship in the Case IH Tournament. We put finishing touches on that with a 62-34 win over the Knights of West Central Area.
Click on the link below to read about the Tigers' first two wins of the season, over ACGC and Benson. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
Tigers 62, WC Area 34
Maddie Carrington continued making an impression with her three-point shooting. Carrington made three long-rangers. The other MACA "3" was made by Liz Dietz.
Malory Anderson had the team-best point total of 20. Carrington put in 13 points and Carly Wohlers had eleven. Dietz added five points to the mix and Jenna Howden had four. Several Tigers each scored two points: Jordann Baier, Riley Decker, Jen Solvie and Jaden Ross. The list wraps up with Kendra Wevley and her one point.
The Tigers had totally asserted themselves by halftime as they owned a 34-10 lead.
Anderson was the pacesetter in rebounds with eleven while Riley Decker collected six. Decker produced four assists and Carrington had three. Howden and Carrington each had two steals. The orange and black cruised in the second half with a 28-24 scoring advantage. Anderson's contributions in scoring and rebounds suggest she'll be a key contributor as the 2017-18 schedule proceeds. And don't overlook Carrington's sharp long-range shooting eye! All in all, the team has lots of nice attributes to put a smile on coach Dale Henrich's face with Christmas nearing.
Now it's Garrison Keillor
I recently wrote a headline for a post recalling how Al Franken came to UMM in a triumphant way to speak at graduation. It now appears that Franken has engaged in some unacceptable behavior toward women. In the current climate, such untoward behavior can bring the equivalent of the death penalty as far as your career is concerned.
No one should get a pass regarding such behavior. Unless you're Donald Trump, I guess.
More recently we've seen iconic Minnesotan Garrison Keillor get dragged into the dubious spotlight. I wonder if these men will have their entire careers wiped out as if they accomplished nothing, as if their eventual obituaries will berate them with the untoward stuff and overlook everything else. What will Charlie Rose's obit look like? That journalist is having past awards taken away. These people did work that actually had a positive impact, that reflected considerable talent. Can't we acknowledge that, and still see to it these men will have consequences for their untoward behavior?
Our culture really has undergone a change. We're somewhat in denial now but there really was a time when the Dean Martin Variety Hour on TV projected our values. Lecherous men were given a pass much of the time. I guess that was a reflection of the "cocktail culture."
A scantily clad woman would come up to Dean and say "I'm having my whole body tatooed with a map of the United States." Then Dean would sing something like "California Here I Come." The audience laughed uproariously. That really was our culture. We tolerated cigarette smoke everywhere. Seat belt use was not mandatory.
Of course it was a cockeyed world because the public mostly sat quiet and acquiescent as the government escalated the Vietnam War. I suppose we have created a better world today. Vietnam couldn't happen again because the media have expanded exponentially from what it was in the 1960s, those days of the Big 3 TV networks.
On the dark side, the new media have been harnessed so effectively by the regressive voices of the extreme right wing of politics. So maybe we won't end up with a better world after all. Maybe the U.S. is sliding toward something like 1930s Germany. It's not far-fetched to think this way. Get prepared. We may be seeing a pedophile going to Washington D.C. as a senator. Is this a bad dream?
We remember both Franken and Keillor coming to our University of Minnesota-Morris. I covered one of Keillor's appearances for the local commercial media. The UMM choir performed my father's "UMM Hymn" for a Keillor appearance at the P.E. Center. I have warm thoughts about Keillor and about Franken. I remember Keillor stepping forward and starting his applause before the choir even let go of its last note of the "Hymn." That song was tailor-made for his show, given its sentimentality.
I guess Keillor and Franken both wear a scarlet letter of sorts now. Let's be careful how harsh we are in our judgments. Man is an inherently sinful creature.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwillyh73@yahoo.com

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Understand the nature of Republicans

Why do we tolerate the so-called Beltway as such an atypical place? It's 1 a.m. as I write this and we're seeing the Republicans do their thing in the U.S. Senate. The bill relating to taxes, whether you call it "tax cut" or "tax reform," has just passed. We see a group of men in their 70s and 80s with white hair, wearing suits and ties, celebrating.
The Senate will not have the last word. There is still time for resistance to build up against the Republican donor class. It is the phantom-like donor class that is pulling all the strings. The elected people just try to weave populist rhetoric to justify these actions. Are people going to wake up? Will my generation of the boomers wake up belatedly to realize what the GOP really does when it has power? Thomas Frank has written a book about this, called "The Wrecking Crew."
Republicans cannot handle the real responsibility of government. They don't believe in government. The boomers are this huge wave of people entering the non-productive (or post-productive), senior phase of their lives. Tucker Carlson of Fox News has described AARP as a far-left political organization. What AARP is, of course, is an advocacy group for people who are going to need government assistance to get through their twilight years, like it or not.
European-style socialism has it right. In America, the problem is that the well-funded right wing uses rhetoric that appeals to so many people. As the impact of this GOP tax measure slowly sinks in, I feel there will be an awakening process. My boomer generation had better realize that as the deficit balloons, Republicans will use that as justification for attacking and cutting Social Security and Medicare. Republicans would love to virtually dismantle those programs. Jeb Bush has said he'd like to see Medicare "abolished."
Republicans push for this stuff and they don't even care what people think of them. The check on Republicans would be for the electorate to wake up and produce what has been called a "blue wave." Simply elect Democrats. Let's push for younger people and more women to be sent to D.C. as our representatives. Let's make that bizarre "Beltway" a place that more genuinely reflects America. John Conyers is 88 years old? Why have we allowed this to happen? Dianne Feinstein is 84 and seeking re-election? Why has it come to this? I'm pointing my fingers at Democrats here. What is it about our system that allows some of these representatives to hold these positions in apparent perpetuity?
Let's push for younger and more vigorous people to assume those roles while the elder folks can go into retirement.
Heaven help us, the boomers and the public at large, if we don't get that "blue wave." Just vote for anyone with a "D" next to his/her name. "Conservatives" with their deep pockets will use their media arms like Fox News to go on the attack vs. progressives. They will use "oppo research" which can make anyone look bad, because we're all human beings who have made various missteps. It is common to hear attacks on progressives in terms of "embellishing his/her resume." The problem is that anyone trying to report on a life story covering many years might misremember some little detail. Look at that guy from St. Cloud who tried challenging Michelle Bachmann. A nit-picking misrepresentation of his background with the United Way was used as fodder for attacking him as a "liar."
I am waiting for the worm to turn. I am waiting for the "blue folks" to be the ones getting the benefit of the doubt on matters like this. Democrats have to learn to be more assertive and to start intimidating the other side, just as the Tucker Carlson crowd has assaulted their adversaries. More people need to recognize the right wing media for what it is. Go ahead, Project Veritas: try to get some video footage that embarrasses the pro-blue crowd. Go ahead because I don't even care - we simply must elect representatives who really advocate for "people" causes and not just cater to the Republican donor class.
Are we awakening too late? I expect to see Star Tribune coverage that deconstructs what the Republicans are doing with their tax bill. I expect to see Star Tribune coverage that reveals what the Republican Party is really trying to accomplish at the expense of the American people. Thank God for the likes of the Star Tribune and the "mainstream media" (so derided by the conservatives).
The mainstream media have actually gone too far in trying to be courteous to the political right wing. When I see Chuck Todd bending over backward this way, I wonder what's really going on in his mind. We are at the point where Republicans won't even allow Democrats to argue in official proceedings that Republicans "only care about tax cuts for the rich," because, Republicans argue, such statements "attack the character" of Republicans. Elizabeth Warren was told to sit down and be quiet when she tried to present an argument against Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Democrats need to fight back more and not worry so much about courtesy. Is Donald Trump courteous?
Leon Panetta says the current doings in Washington D.C. indicate we may be in decline as a nation, that we are losing our ability to govern ourselves. We could have Hillary Clinton as president governing from the middle. Of course there are aspects of Hillary Clinton that I'm not terribly fond of. But she would have kept alive the basic decorum and dignity of the presidency. She did beat Trump in the popular vote. I resent that she was the supportive wife of a man who coaxed an intern in the White House to perform oral sex on him, in the White House. Bill Clinton could have resigned and allowed Al Gore to take over. Wouldn't Democrats have been relieved for that to happen?
Didn't James Carville chafe at you by constantly talking about how it was "just sex." We seem more enlightened now. Kirstin Gillibrand makes that clear.
My fellow boomers, you had better wake up and smell the coffee soon. Republicans always try to dismantle the New Deal. And now they have all the power.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Remember when Al Franken came to UMM?

Thanksgiving weekend 2017 will be remembered as a time when we were deluged by reports of sexual misconduct by powerful men.
I remember when Al Franken came to our U of M-Morris to deliver the commencement address. His stature seemed so high then. It seemed like a triumphant time for all here in Morris. Now Franken is on his heels.
We have Ivanka Trump, daughter of the president, saying that not only will pedophiles go to hell, "there is a special place in hell" for such offenders. As if there might be a preferable place in hell. I once talked with Neil Thielke about whether we ought to categorize sins, some being worse than others. Neil was skeptical. It's not for us as mortals to make such a judgment - we all just need to acknowledge our sinful nature.
Ivanka's father has spoken as if he wants to see Roy Moore win in Alabama. A Moore victory would spell lots of complications for the Republican Party. Would Moore require special security if he goes to Washington D.C.? I remember when our community of Morris had a problem with a misbehaving priest, and we learned through media coverage that he was being handled in a certain way "for his own safety."
Child molesters present a problem for our conscience - they really do. Is there really a "moral" dimension here, or is this a condition related to one's mental state? I would assert that people like Moore have a problem with their brain chemistry. They have compulsions that they cannot control. They know that society disapproves. Moore "denies" the accusations like crazy. He knows full well what he has done. He is a profoundly conflicted human being.
In Jerry Sandusky's case, his background with football might explain his brain problems. I'm not sure there's really a moral element there. I would discourage any talk of "the depths of hell." The well-known atheist Ron Reagan Jr. talks about how he's not afraid of "burning in hell." I quite agree with his stance on this.
It's good that Sandusky is in prison because the innocent victims of his disposition need protection. The taint of criminality is not necessary.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I had the opportunity to view C-Span coverage of a Congressional hearing on football's health dangers. We learned there is a new element to worry about: a whole generation of men in their late 50s and early 60s who played football at a time when the risks accelerated. I invite you to read this blog post of mine by clicking below. It's on my "Morris of Course" site. Thanks for reading. - B.W.
The late Glen Helberg and I used to talk about how holidays are depressing for unemployed or inactive people. My family (of my mom and I) essentially have no relatives to share with any more. We celebrated Thanksgiving for most of my life with my uncle Howard and his wife Vi of Glenwood. They are gone now.
We used to enjoy the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Assumption Church. I still remember the big spread of pies to choose from. That's gone with the wind now, perhaps a reflection of how the Morris community in general is declining. It doesn't mean that Morris isn't still a nice place to live. Holy cow, the Morris paper slid back down to 16 pages again. It's startling to see this now that the run-up to Christmas is on, normally the most robust time of year for papers.
The Morris paper scratches and crawls to keep its "sig ads" a.k.a. "sucker ads" going. We saw an example with a full page that said nothing more than "Happy Thanksgiving." And then we saw the list of businesses willing to get our their checkbooks and throw their money away on something like this. Some of these businesses are doing this with non-local people making the decisions. I think the guy acting on behalf of Riverwood Bank has his office in Baxter. It's just a budget item to them. "Happy Thanksgiving." Yawn.
Sports, sports, sports
Now that the Morris paper has gotten so terribly small, I think the excessive size of the sports section has become more of an issue. There is a "sports" heading at the top of the second section of the paper. I'm sure we all think it's terrific that our school has a variety of sports offerings for our kids. That's not the issue at hand. The issue is whether we need to see all the minutiae of details in print all the time. If you were to do a poll on this, I'm sure the answer would be overwhelmingly "no."
Ever wonder why "Senior Perspective" is so appealing? There are several reasons, but one is that there's no sports. Hallelujah. We love the large type size of "Senior Perspective" along with its very appealing feature-oriented content - something interesting on every page! Our community papers seem to ignore the wisdom inherent in those advantages.
The Morris paper claims it has "combined" with the Hancock paper. This is literally impossible because if anything, the Morris-based paper has gotten smaller since the claimed "combo." I assume all the obits that used to appear in the Hancock paper must now be squeezed into the Morris paper. Most people just go online for obit news.
The people who are interested in UMM Cougar sports are served totally by the online world too. The Morris paper includes all this stuff because of old habits and old expectations. Sports started becoming a problem for papers when participation in sports began growing markedly. We saw girls get totally equal opportunities. Then came the addition of various sports to join the old mainstream ones. The sports section became a political football as it were. All the teams had advocates screaming at the paper about the need for serious attention. There was a problem of just keeping up with the demands.
Another problem was that the many readers out there weren't interested in consuming all this stuff. Papers felt they had to "cave" to demands from sports parents, which while understandable, wasn't realistic from the standpoint of the paper's interests.
Most people see this the way I do, and many just shrug and continue to consume the paper anyway. But keep in mind that Hancock has lost its paper and the Morris paper is steadily deteriorating. It showers us with advertising circulars for Alexandria businesses every week. Well fine, maybe within a few years there will be an area-wide newspaper centered on Alex, mailed to people on the old Morris/Hancock subscriber list. Don't the old Hancock Record subscribers now just get the Morris paper? Oh, I think this scenario is quite likely, probably within the next five years.
It wasn't necessary. The Morris paper could have stayed stronger longer. But the opportunity for that is past. It will be up to the Fargo-based management to make the ultimate determination.
Should Al Franken resign? He just has a little sex demon in his head like we all do. Let's not start categorizing sins. Bill O'Reilly has said he's "mad at God." This was after the news came out that he paid $32 million to a woman over a harassment issue. Yes, it was God who made us this way with such peccadilloes. Or maybe we're all just descended from space aliens and Earth primates, and our very existence is a mystery. "Ancient Aliens" is a fascinating show on the History Channel. (Remember the early days of the History Channel when many of us poked fun at it, as the "Hitler Channel?")
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Don Ellis' "Final Analysis" made UMM history

Don Ellis seemed way ahead of his time when he was in his music heyday. Examining his music today, he would still seem ahead of his time. His approach drifted away from convention. You might think it was dry or incapable of being appreciated by the "masses" (like me). So wrong! Ellis' innovative music could be intoxicating to listen to.
This was impressed on us at our U of M-Morris in the days before Jim Carlson came on the scene to lead jazz. While many UMM jazz concerts have blurred together in my mind, one stands out from the pre-Jim Carlson era. The UMM jazz ensemble performed a Don Ellis tune called "Final Analysis." I was already familiar with the tune from an Ellis album.
The subject came up recently when I reminisced with Del Sarlette. Del was in the jazz band back in that developmental time for college jazz. So was Tom Garberick, the well-known Morris drummer who mastered the "skins" (drums). Mentioning Tom as drummer should prompt lots of nostalgia.
I was in the audience for the performance I'm alluding to. I reminded Del that he "nailed" a trumpet solo early in "Final analysis." I teased him about how the solo might have been the most distinctive in UMM music history. Hyperbole, yes, but I truly remember "Final Analysis" as if I had been to the concert just recently. Clyde Johnson was the director at the HFA Recital Hall. I'm certain Clyde remembered that performance for a long time too, likely because of the way his band righted itself after the kind of disoriented state that could easily happen with an unconventional Ellis tune. Del reminisces:
Ah, Don Ellis' "Final Analysis." Fun tune, but the only time we ever got that Beethoven-style ending right was at the concert. Clyde had a look of immense relief on his face when we finished. If you remember, Tom Garberick was our drummer that evening. He couldn't read music, so had taken the album ("Live at the Fillmore") home and memorized the song. Quite an accomplishment given all of the weird time signatures (17/8 etc.). That one also had the strange electric guitar/synthesizer "duet" in the middle. Nobody but the band knew it, but those two guys (Chris Santillo on guitar, Omar Metawah on synth) got lost in the middle of it. They sort-of got back on track, but the band was looking at each other not knowing exactly how we were going to get out of it. Then, Tom just started playing a familiar riff and everybody jumped on board. Mr. Santillo died of cancer a couple of years ago.
I had the opportunity to play musically with Clyde a few times. We were together in the Donnelly Threshing Bee parade once. We also played some gigs with the Tempo Kings orchestra, a Sammy Kaye style orchestra that could travel far for its engagements. As a young person I thought the extensive travel to be exciting. I wouldn't view it that way today. We in the band joked that if it was our plan to pick up Clyde at, say, 6 p.m., we should tell him we're coming at 5:30. Get the point? But we all had fun together.
Del and I were in a generation that loved a certain set of touring big bands. Many of us got attracted to Maynard Ferguson. That enthusiasm got extended to the likes of Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Count Basie and Stan Kenton. We also became quite aware of Don Ellis. I'm not sure Ellis ever went on a national tour with his music, but we never had the opportunity to see/hear him in person. We all learned he was in a precarious health state, specifically with his heart. Alas, we lost Ellis before the '70s ended.
Going on YouTube today to hear "Final Analysis" plus other Ellis numbers, I get misty.
Ellis' trademark was truly innovation. I'll repeat that this trait did not contradict crowd-pleasing potential. It helped greatly that Ellis had a sense of humor and readily incorporated this, as with "false endings." He developed as a trumpet player. He even played with Ferguson's band. Playing with the great Maynard Ferguson gave him the pedigree to wow my generation. He was one of the trumpeters joining Maynard in his popular "Three More Foxes" improvisation tune.
Ellis formed his own orchestra in 1965 and opened eyes (and ears). His bands were distinguished by unusual instrumentation - would you believe, up to three bassists and three drummers? - and most markedly by unusual time changes, e.g. 7/8, 9/8 and even 15/16. Boy, all of that is sure over my head. He got into rock rhythms and electronics. He invented the four-valve trumpet and used a "ring modulator" and all types of wild electronic devices.
By 1971 the Ellis band included an eight-piece brass section including French horn and tuba! This reminds of some things Stan Kenton did that were not as crowd-pleasing. Kenton talked about the sophistication of his band in a defensive way - Ellis had no need for that.
Ellis employed a four-piece woodwind section and string quartet. Appreciation of his work has increased since his death.
Ellis' own trumpet playing combined dazzling technique with a hot jazz feeling. He scored the music for ten films including "The French Connection" (1971) for which he got a Grammy. His "eastern" music was rendered with great flair. What a dazzling resume and bio he compiled before he left us too soon. I'm sure he would have been delighted hearing that UMM jazz performance at the Recital Hall way back when, as pieces were getting put together for Jim Carlson's triumphant arrival to lead UMM jazz in a legendary way!
RIP Chris Santillo. RIP Don Ellis. Maybe UMM jazz of today should tackle "Final Analysis" as a historical tribute.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving: an innocent story w/ hopeful air

We're approaching Thanksgiving once again. I remember that at Longfellow Elementary School, we made a big deal out of the Pilgrims and Indians story. We probably did some appropriate artwork. Of course, the happy story of the Pilgrims and Indians interacting would not be a prelude. Indians would be displaced in an unpleasant way. The European culture would run roughshod.
We still impress upon our kids the promise represented in that original story.
I wonder why we still have Columbus Day. For years I had to be reminded early in the day that it was in fact a "holiday." I had to know because of the nature of the work I did for the Morris newspaper: the Post Office would be closed.
The P.O. is closed for every imaginable holiday. I remember in a chat I once had with a post office employee, he recalled a phone call where he was asked if they would be open for "Easter Monday." He said he was stunned for a moment before he answered. He had never thought about "Easter Monday" before.
Easter Monday does in fact have significance as a quasi holiday, at least among certain Catholics: it's "Dyngus Day." I'd like to see that celebration get a little more traction. It's a day of feasting and celebration in contrast with the self-restraint imposed by Lent.
Dyngus Day sure seems preferable to Good Friday and its story of Christ's torture and ultimate death. Is it just me, or does the Christian faith give more attention to the torture/misery aspect than in a previous time? I get so discouraged by this, I have written 3-4 springtime blog posts where you might get the impression I'm an atheist. Don't take those posts at face value - I just resent the gore in the story of Good Friday.
I think that by comparison, "Dyngus Day" is wonderful. Dyngus Day got a little extra attention a few years ago when Anderson Cooper of CNN got the giggles when reporting about it. He had a hard time composing himself. I guess the term "pussywillow princess" set it off. He was invited to be the "pussywillow prince" at a major Dyngus Day celebration the next year. I'm not sure if he accepted.

History not so cut and dried
Ah, Thanksgiving. It was an event marking the opening of a new continent, at least for the Europeans, right? That's not really true. By the time the first English people settled, other Europeans had already reached half of the (eventual) 48 states.
Giovanni da Verrazzano is not remembered nearly well enough. He was an Italian in command of a French ship. In 1524 he toured the Eastern seaboard. At one point he directed a crewman to swim ashore where natives were seen. The natives took the crewman to a fire, not to roast him but to warm him!
Sailing north, Verrazzano observed a wide bay which is today New York Harbor. Alas, in 1528 this intrepid man went to a Caribbean Island where he was seized by cannibals and eaten. Verrazzano was famous in his own time. He has since fallen into obscurity. He is remembered with a bridge named for him in New York City. Years ago this bridge became high-profile as the masses of runners in the New York City Marathon crossed it. National Lampoon did a satire where the bridge collapsed under the weight of the runners!
Spanish conquistadors examined the interior of the continent in 1542. They rafted the Mississippi River! In Kansas they showed horses to Indians who had never seen them. I read that Columbus Day has actually been replaced in some places by "Indigenous People Appreciation Day." What a wonderful idea. Wonderful for here in Morris?
In 1602 a band of English explorers built a fort on the island of Cuttyhunk. Religious freedom was not their passion. They came to seek riches from digging sassafras, considered a cure for the clap in Europe. The commodity was valuable. This would not be acceptable for artwork at the old Longfellow School.
Longfellow is where I heard about the assassination of JFK. Lillian Peterson (later to be Ehlers, living over 100 years old) was called into the commons area for a couple minutes, and when she returned she grimly informed us third graders of the shooting of JFK. I can't remember if we were let out of school early, but I think we were. At home we watched the continuous TV coverage of the assassination and its aftermath. It was the first big TV news spectacle.
Let's hail the Norse people for their settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in 1000 A.D. As a Norwegian, I say let's raise a toast. The Sagas gave us spoken accounts of the Viking age (A.D. 800 to 1050). They are fascinating because of their blending of reality with the paranormal. Leave it to my forebears. We get the story of the person who was unable to use the latrine during the night because "the path was blocked by ghosts." That ever happen to you?
Did the Vikings get to Kensington? Who knows?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cauldron of far right stuff reaches sex

Donald Trump is the best thing that ever happened to MSNBC. Ironic, of course, because that network is the most likely to have commentary skeptical toward the president. This is a president that lost the popular vote. He is trying to lead us in an extreme direction. He does and says things that are patently absurd all the time. MSNBC reveals that, often with the kind of smirk and incredulity that such behavior invites.
Trump binge-watches Fox News. He has special affinity with the morning "Fox and Friends" which is like a caricature of what Fox News stands for. Many people simply don't have the time to consume a whole lot of cable TV news. Or they might opt to watch other things on TV of which there are myriad. However, cable news has the power to throw out topics that leach into our main street discussions.
The media landscape of today has given the far right ideology the kind of footing it lacked before. There's a big audience out there that really applauds this stuff. It's one thing to be entertained by the rhetoric - who really wants "big government?" - but something else to truly turn the reins of power over to people who spew it.
Republicans are assaulting the Affordable Care Act over and over. They are striving to wipe out the individual mandate. Of course, if we are to have any kind of meaningful health care system, the cost must be shared. It must be shared with healthy people, and the reward for them is that they'll get help if they need it. These cheap catastrophic policies can seem real good until something bad actually happens to you.
The cost of health care can be spread by the insurance principle. The ACA props up insurance pretty well. The cost can also be shared through taxation which is a tried and true redistribution tool. I guess Republicans want neither. You all are learning, if you didn't know before, what makes Republicans tick.
There is a part of us that wants Republicans to be right, really. On the basis of pure principle, it's easy to find merit in a lot of what Republicans espouse. Who likes government? There is always waste to be found in government. Government simply does not operate like the private sector. But do you really want to place your own personal health and happiness in the hands of the private sector? "You're on your own."
The Republicans came within a hair's breadth of destroying the ACA earlier. Had Norm Coleman won our Senate seat instead of Al Franken, it likely would be done by now.
I am writing this at 2 a.m. when we are all quite consumed by the Roy Moore thing. Amazing. If I, Brian Williams, former writer for the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper, was known to be banned from Morris establishments because I was hitting on high school girls, I'd be shamed into leaving town. In Alabama a guy like this can run for the U.S. Senate. He is taken seriously even by those who ought to reject him outright.
What if I, Brian Williams, were to write that pedophilia is to be understood by the Mary, Joseph and Jesus story? People might insist that my blog be shut down. Yet this argument is seriously made by a person of high standing in Alabama. Let's remember we are talking about Alabama. It's too bad because the state has actually made inroads toward the 21st Century. The Moore episode is a big backslide supporting the ignorant stereotype of the past. Alabama was part of the Confederacy. "They lost." But the Alabama of today deserves better than to have this discussion about Roy Moore percolating.
Getting back to Mary, Joseph and Jesus, most people find the argument offensive on its face. The right wing evangelicals appear to be doing more damage to the foundation of responsible, non-political Christianity, the kind of Christianity presented by my own personal church which is ELCA Lutheran. We're plain vanilla and I'm so thankful for that.
People maintain that the virgin birth brought us the savior of humanity. But there is a credible argument that the virgin birth story was actually the product of a bad translation, sort of like when Saddam Hussein's translator gave us "mother of all land wars." The translator got carried away. Remember Jimmy Carter's Polish translator?
Well, I like the story of Christ's birth. It is a gentle, pleasant, uplifting story with the "Star" that now is the focus of a new movie. Christmas is a time of total joy in contrast to Good Friday and Easter - I guess I'm pinpointing Good Friday with its story of the absolute torture of Christ. Has the Mel Gibson movie made the torture story more high-profile? I resent it. Maybe this is why each spring, I write a post that suggests I'm an atheist. I would never write such a post at Christmas.
The Roy Moore story presents an avalanche of revelations about sexual assault and harassment. Bill O'Reilly pays $32 million to a woman who he certainly must have harassed. The Weinstein thing has brought on a ridiculous piling-on. We have conservatives who step forward to say, after some hesitation, they "believe" the women accusing Moore. But what should these people say about the accusers of Donald Trump?
Shall we all pile on this Weinstein fellow? At a certain point the whole effort becomes redundant. I have to ask: what kind of sex education did these offending males receive when growing up? Quite likely they got none because of the shame and embarrassment we all feel about approaching the subject, the old Victorian norms. If males grew up with nothing but shame and mystery surrounding sex, should we be surprised that some of them end up misbehaving?
We'll probably never be able to peel away the mystery around sex or its taboo nature. Bernard Goldberg in his signature book "Bias" addressed this. He was talking about a case where someone alleged she got AIDs from her dentist. Doubt grew when an insurance company began applying pressure to ensure the truth - this is one thing that insurance companies are really good at. Goldberg wrote: "People are notorious for lying about their sex lives." Amen and hallelujah.
Consider someone who counsels people on matters relating to sex. They'll prescribe acceptable norms of behavior, but then we must ask: How do these counselors behave re. sex in their own lives? Ahem. We lie about sex.
One of the current notorious cases in the news has to do with an entertainer who has masturbated in front of women. Is that really assault? Do we veer off into a sort of gray area? Again, what kind of sex education did that entertainer ever get? Any at all? Did he follow the old norm of "learning in the schoolyard?" That's how I learned.
We hear about that minor Star Trek actor now accused of assault, which he denies. I sure hope this doesn't eliminate all the Star Trek re-runs on cable TV. Will we never again see the movie "Beyond the Sea" because of the revelations about Kevin Spacey? If not, that's a shame.
We're still forced to see old cowboys and Indians movies that are unacceptable in the way they portray our indigenous people.
I suggest we have an "amnesty" program for offending males that calls for sensitivity training. They can hold off on running for the U.S. Senate.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sinclair Lewis' prescient novel re. U.S. politics

I remember hearing about Sinclair Lewis when I was quite young. I heard about his connection with Sauk Centre MN. What I heard was not entirely breathless praise. To the extent I heard pooh-poohing, it seemed vague and scattershot. Turns out, this was probably a reflection of Lewis' writing genius. He saw the world around him through his own distinctive lens. He never got on a bandwagon through expedience. He sought truth wherever it might lie.
Today, Americans do not like being told they elected a truly dangerous president. Yet can we really deny the foundation of such a thought? Of course we can't, nobody can. We have fallen for the human tendency of finding appeal in a blowhard populist who seems to just want to blow up convention. Remind you of a Sinclair Lewis book? The parallels ought to scream at you. It was 1935 with the Great Depression raging when Lewis put out "It Can't Happen Here."
Of course it can happen here - that's the whole point. While Germany was careening toward its fascist disaster, we had to wonder if similar potential existed within the American psyche. It's something we don't want to be told. A tried and true writer will penetrate the conventional notions and reveal the truth about our nature, as if peeling a banana. Lewis did this with his classic dystopian novel "It Can't Happen Here."
The book has found quite renewed popularity as reflected on Amazon.com. The Trump-like character in the book is Berzelius Windrip. Lewis wrote the book with the ominous backdrop of Hitler's rise to power in Europe. Fears grew that a like phenomenon could happen in the U.S., with the catalyst personality perhaps being Huey Long (the Louisiana senator) or Charles Coughlin (a radio priest).
We have always considered "Main Street" to be Lewis' signature work. Given what all is happening in America now, we could see "Main Street" displaced by "It Can't Happen Here." Within a week of the 2016 election, "It Can't Happen Here" was sold out on Amazon.com. Is there any doubt that Lewis should be totally lionized within literature, when you consider the timelessness and staying power of his work?
"It Can't Happen Here" is surely a dark story. It's one that many Americans of today would find inconvenient or offensive, given its suggested parallels. I say the book by itself should put Lewis in the pantheon of greatest authors.
I read "Main Street" in high school but I don't remember much about it. It would be good to re-read it. I heard Chris Matthews of MSNBC use the term "Babbitry" one day - I assume this is derived from Lewis' "Babbitt" novel. I'm not sure of the precise meaning. Google would help me within seconds of course. For pundits to today use the word "Babbitry" is another testament to Lewis' staying power.
I remember hearing that Lewis was physically unattractive. A perfect personal attack toward someone who you don't like for other reasons. We don't judge people by "unattractiveness" anymore. And besides, I've seen photos of Lewis and consider him to be quite ordinary looking. He's not obese.
Lewis was certainly not a glad-hander with the influential people and institutions around him. He could be quite the deconstructionist or cynic. Lewis delivered his Nobel Lecture in December of 1930, titled "the American Fear of Literature." He was critical of American letters, asserting that readers and even writers tended to be "afraid of literature which is not a glorification of everything American."
Lewis was the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. You can see how his general attitudes, not averse at all to skepticism, might engender some resentment. To where we had to criticize his physical appearance? Such is human nature.
The Sauk Centre community of today has appeared to sucker for some of the less-than-flattering views of the author. We read that Sauk Centre has lost some of its excitement of being associated with the author. Perhaps a majority of the town voted for Donald Trump. Maybe that's it. Ignorance is bliss, eh?
I remember hearing when I was young that Lewis suggested kind of a backward air for places like Sauk Centre. I'm sure there were daunting challenges for living in small town America in the 1920s. But was Lewis seeking to diss such places? Or, were readers already disposed to thinking this was Lewis' intent, reflecting kind of a small town or "middle America" defensiveness which was once quite common.
I heard that Lewis would approve of Sauk Centre and like places today. But did he ever really seek to diminish that environment? If there was any doubt about his true attitudes, this should answer the question: Lewis had his ashes buried in Sauk Centre.
I wish to emphasize here that the old divide between "backwater America" and the metropolitan centers has been eliminated by our strides in tech and communications. Remember the "Trautman" character in "First Blood" talking about "Jerkwater USA" in that barroom chat with the sheriff? The movie scene is dated in two ways. We don't think about so-called "Jerkwater America" anymore, and people don't just sit around bars ordering alcohol-laced drinks from scantily-clad "barmaids." DWIs have taken care of that. (The sheriff ordered "wild turkey," remember?)
Is the U.S. careening toward the kind of crisis as portrayed in "It Can't Happen Here," a crisis in which so many people wondered "Why didn't we try to do more to stop this?" Don't you find yourself asking that question more and more now?
Let's laud Sinclair Lewis as one of the shining lights of literature all-time, whether the community of Sauk Centre agrees with this or not. Maybe Sauk Centre really is a backwater place, not the Sauk Centre of the 1920s but the Sauk Centre of today. Sauk Centre was a prime rival of the Morris Tigers when I was in high school. I never did like that town.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The harassment purge in historical lens

Remember how the movie "Deliverance" (with Burt Reynolds) ended? Those guys finished their horrific vacation with the knowledge that a dead body might someday wash up from the river. So, they'd be haunted.
Today, ever since the whole Weinstein thing erupted, we see a like phenomenon. A whole lot of high-profile men are whistling past the graveyard. They know that in the past, they crossed a line in their behavior with women. The impulse today among many of us is to react by saying "well, they have it coming." Or, "they should have thought more about their behavior back then."
These issues are not as one-dimensional as they might seem. When Bill O'Reilly feels he has to pay a woman (Lis Wiehl) $32 million to make a sex harassment lawsuit go away, money enters the picture and that always clouds things. How many women have dollar signs dancing in their eyeballs? For God's sake, how did we get to this point, where a figure like $32 million comes out in connection to such a case?
I remember a friend of mine, a devout Catholic, bristling from some of the revelations about Catholic priest misbehavior, saying "what does money have to do with it?" Very good question. As a secondary issue, how can we view O'Reilly as some sort of representative of the common folk - the way he likes to portray himself - when he can get out his checkbook and do this? (I knew how to pronounce "Lis Wiehl's" first name as soon as the story broke - the same cannot be said of some cable news anchors.)
I exchanged emails with an old friend as we bandied about some of the recent sensational headlines. I made the point about how society has grown so unforgiving about certain forms of behavior that we once tolerated (or where we chose to look the other way). The World War II generation launched a lifestyle after the war that included a lot of smoking and drinking. Didn't the cigarette companies give free cigarettes to the GIs? Even without a lot of scientific data, people have long known that cigarette smoking was undesirable and bad for you. Didn't the baseball player Honus Wagner call for his baseball card on cigarette packages to be discontinued? Isn't that why that limited-distribution card became so wildly valuable?
And yet look at all the years that passed before we banned smoking from public places like restaurants? Such moves seem totally logical and natural today. We shrug and say, well, we had to pass these restrictions. I agree. But most of my adult life was spent in an environment where I might walk into DeToy's Restaurant and find the air to be blue with cigarette smoke. Most of my life was spent in an environment where seat belt use was voluntary. Today the Morris Police will chase down anyone they see not wearing their seat belt, to the point where their behavior approximates a high-speed chase. I would argue that it could endanger public safety. But this is where we set the bar these days.
Boy, only an idiot would not use his seat belt. But wouldn't that have been true 20 years ago as well?
At present, we may be seeing something like a witch hunt growing toward men who may or may not have engaged in sexual harassment in the past. Are we at the point where it might be risky to simply ask a woman on a date? I am extremely fortunate, sitting here at age 62, as I have never asked a woman on a date and I have never played football. I don't have to worry about my mind slipping away. I don't have to worry about a woman from my past coming forward and saying things that could render me unproductive for the rest of my life.
God created us with these crazy hormones that can induce such crazy or dangerous behavior. Look at the Catholic priests. Am I saying that I tolerate behavior that might be defined as criminal? No I don't approve of it, just as I do not approve of parents allowing their sons to play football. But football is still legal. The process of the sport's decline is slow but it is happening. And then someday we'll look back at our unenlightened tendencies of allowing our sons to play it.
My friend with whom I emailed challenged me, saying I ought not find a parallel between sexual harassment and certain other questionable behaviors. Obviously it seemed like I might be trivializing sexual harassment.
I'm just looking at the behavior in a context of the long-term history of our culture. We once lived in a culture where a police officer might see you driving erratically at 2 a.m. and ask you, "are you sure you're in good enough shape to get home?" Yes it's true. Secondhand cigarette smoke was assumed and common. The Bob Woodward character in "All the President's Men" asks Carl Bernstein, "Is there any place you don't smoke?" They were in an elevator.
And men like Harvey Weinstein felt empowered to behave inappropriately toward women. We had a teacher/coach here in Stevens County who spent time in prison for his inappropriate behavior with female students. We had a school administrator in Morris charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct - first degree! - in a case where charges were dropped with no explanation as to why.
The administrator's case was an embarrassment for our community and a serious inconvenience for our school district. How can you lose your high school principal in the middle of a school year? How would anyone else even know how his office was organized? Don't tell me that whole affair wasn't a logistical headache for our school, even if the board said otherwise. What would you expect them to say? I still feel the administrator should have been fired even with charges not resolved. The charges were just too sensational for any school district to live with. We have to consider the cost of putting the individual on paid leave also.
And now the school needs a ton of money for building maintenance. Money, money, money. Vote "no" and force the school to practice more responsible management. The school will try to vacuum money out of your pockets every time.
Bill O'Reilly says he's "mad at God." The brilliant David Brooks writes an odd column that subtly implies he has his own problems with sexuality. Sex is a big black hole where we feel fundamentally mystified. I am not trivializing misbehavior. But we must wonder why God created us the way He did. My generation of boys went to Annette Funicello beach movies and wondered why we were developing erections. I'm sorry if you're offended reading that - I'm just writing the truth.
Boys could enter a minefield where we'd be tempted to engage in inappropriate behavior. There was a "boys will be boys" credo out there. That is completely wiped out now.
If the new standards are so absolutely correct, why couldn't we have used better judgment in the past? If a prominent member of the community was known to be preying on young boys, there was a hush-hush reaction and parents were simply careful to tell their own sons to stay away from him. That was our old culture. Times change. As an amateur social scientist I carefully observe such things.
As young boomers we laughed at a Cheech and Chong bit about how an underage girl was mistaken for being older, by some klutz we were supposed to laugh at. It was humor! It's an outrage today.
The entertainment industry knows all about such cultural shifts. Poor Mark Halperin will never be seen on cable news again. I saw David Corn's name the other day. It's a purge. And purges are always scary. We need Corn on TV as an articulate progressive advocate.
I'll repeat what I have written before, that the mystery of sex is a manifestation of how the human species may be a hybrid between Earth primates and space aliens. Just think about that motorcycle gang in the Annette Funicello movies (LOL)!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, November 3, 2017

MACA volleyball seeks Section 3AA title

Tigers 3, Paynesville 1
The stage is set for the Section 3AA volleyball championship match, in which our high-flying Tigers will vie. Coach Kristi Fehr will lead her proud orange and black unit into action at 6 p.m. Saturday at Southwest MN State, Marshall. The challenge is great. Our opponent Marshall is ranked No. 9 in state. They also have the "Tigers" nickname. Marshall's Tigers are ranked No. 2 in Volleyball Hub Class AA rankings. They have been flawless in post-season action so far, not dropping a single game.
But they'll surely have to take our Tigers seriously. We're fresh from a 3-1 win in the 3AA semis over Paynesville. It was our 21st win of the season against five losses.
At Marshall we'll be seeking our third straight state tournament berth. We were consolation champions in last year's state affair. Marshall has six state titles under its belt. Wow! Oh, those Tigers have finished runner-up five times too. Over the past 40 years, Marshall has been in state 26 times.
The orange and black will surely rule on Saturday, whether it's MACA's version of those colors or Marshall's.
Paynesville was no slouch to overcome. With a record well over .500, the green-themed Bulldogs were a worthy opponent on Thursday at Minnewaska. Games 1 and 2 were quite suspenseful as both ended in a 25-23 score. MACA took the first game and Paynesville the second. We came on strong in the third game to win 25-13, then we edged the Bulldogs 25-22 in the fourth and last game. Paynesville ended its season with an 18-8 mark.
Three Tigers each batted one serving ace at the Bulldogs: Karly Fehr, Jenna Howden and Riley Decker. Fehr was sharp as usual in setting, accumulating 42 assists. Two Tigers had double figures in kills: Jenna Howden with 20 and Jenna Larsen with ten. The list continues with Kenzie Hockel (5), Lexi Pew (4), Bailey Marty (4) and Fehr (3).
Here's the list of ace block contributors: Pew (4), Larsen (3), Hockel (3), Howden (2) and Fehr (1). Decker was tops in digs as she typically is, on this day accomplishing 24. Marty had 19 digs, Fehr 12 and Howden six.
For Paynesville, Jenna Lundquist had a serving ace. Molly Stang was busy as setter for the green, picking up 25 assists while Lundquist scurried around to contribute 19. A pair of Bulldogs co-led in kills with 12: Skylar Bayer and Abby Schaefer. Jacquelyn Hoeft pounded down eleven kills. Their list in this category continues with Brynn Johnson (5), Stang (4), Lundquist (4) and Ashley Ley (4).
Hoeft and Megan Utsch each had a blocking ace. Olivia Riley was the cog in digging for the green with 33. Beyer had 19, Stang 12, Schaefer ten and Lundquist eight.

Football ends season
I review the Tigers' football game vs. Pillager on my "Morris of Course" site (my companion website). Highlights were few as we bowed to the powerful Huskies at Pillager. This post also reviews the volleyball team's 3-1 win over Litchfield in the debut match of post-season. We had a bye prior. Click on the link below. Thanks for reading. - B.W.


Winter nears, inevitably
Prolonged volleyball success helps keep our mind off the inevitable arrival of winter.
Prior to the fall season, a nice schedule page on slick paper was distributed by the Morris paper. However, am I correct in assuming that this feature went only to people who buy the paper? Up until recently, the paper might have distributed the schedule with the free "Ad-Viser." Man, the paper used to distribute a lot of those, almost like pollution, but it ceased to exist. The Ad-Viser is no more. That can only be a negative for advertisers. Less is certainly not more in this case.
Unless special provisions were made, the MACA fall sports schedule flyer went only to people who buy the Morris paper, and that is a very limited number of people. That circle gets smaller all the time. Perhaps some "sponsors" could arrange a direct mailing of that flyer to reach many more households? It would be a PR plus for the school district.
I imagine it won't be long before a winter schedule is prepared and distributed. But to how many people? The staggering decline of the Morris newspaper product is becoming a community issue. Let's all be proactive and try to harness the new media, the web, in an optimal way. You don't need me suggesting that to you.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Listen to my song about Charlottesville conflict

Poor Charlottesville VA. The community knows how it will be perceived for years and years. A community that I'm sure is wonderful, unwittingly became a flashpoint for old Civil War grievances. White supremacists and the "alt right" crowd gathered there. It got ugly and a person got killed.
I have always been fascinated by the Civil War and, just as important, Civil War memory. I have written a song based on the conflict in Charlottesville, called "I Thought the Civil War Ended." It was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Bob Angello. This is one of those songs that I occasionally like to have recorded with just voice and guitar. I figure if a song is good, it will be impressive in that minimal form. I hope you will consider my song good. Because it was recorded in Nashville, maybe I should say "I hope y'all will consider my song good." It was put online by the always-capable Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck MN. I invite you to listen with this link from YouTube. Thanks a lot. - B.W.
Robert E. Lee is a complicated figure from U.S. history. Should he be viewed primarily on the basis of the treason he committed, by leading a war against the Union? A statue of Lee was a catalyst for the conflict in Charlottesville. Local government had already approved of taking the statue down. After that, though, we got one of those predictable "lawsuits." Ah, lawyers. We can't live with them and we can't live without them.
How might Robert E. Lee be viewed more charitably? That's easy. He pleaded, once the war was over, for the U.S. to become one again. It was a common attitude of the generals post-war. The issue had been decided. If Lee had remained belligerent, it might have encouraged a new guerilla resistance to the Union - quite problematic. The odds were decent that a substantial guerilla resistance could arise. Heaven knows the emotions remained high. It seemed rather a miracle that this miserable conflict did not develop. The South was left in ruins anyway.
I'm not sure the South has ever completely recovered. The industrial North moved forward just fine. Here in Morris MN we're pretty far to the west. The Wadsworth Trail was getting established at the time the war was winding down. "Wadsworth" was the name of a Civil War general. "Fort Wadsworth" was later re-named "Fort Sisseton." I remember chatting with the late Ed Kvatum who recalled that as a young person, he saw the old fort just sitting there and crumbling, as restoration and historical awareness efforts hadn't yet sprung up. You can purchase a book about Fort Sisseton at the Stevens County museum.
Morris has a surprising degree of Civil War connections. Most notably this is with the Sam Smith statue at Summit Cemetery. I think the level of awareness of this statue needs to be propped up a little. We have new generations coming to town who probably get little if any orientation. You can listen to my song about the statue by clicking on this link. The song is called "Ballad of Sam Smith." Thanks again.
In West Morris we have the grand "Stanton House," a Victorian mansion on Park Avenue that was originally put up by Lewis Stanton, the son of Abe Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin Stanton. There are Civil War veterans buried at local cemeteries. I remember reading about an old-timer named Amos Pushor. These guys were old-timers by the turn of the century. Undoubtedly they all had interesting stories.
The Civil War was fought by human beings in the age before killing with industrial efficiency. It may have been the last such war. Samuel Smith was present for some of the best-known battles and campaigns in the Eastern Theater, including Gettysburg. He was assigned to the ambulance corps at Gettysburg. His local statue is a smaller version of the "Running Rifleman" statue at the Gettysburg battlefield. The Gettysburg statue memorializes the famous First Minnesota Regiment. The First Minnesota was called on to plug a hole in the Union line at the end of Day 2 of the Gettysburg battle. The casualty toll was horrible. But, can we consider the First Minnesota's heroics to have been essential to preserving the Union? A "yes" argument can be made.
Personally I have always felt the South never had the resources to "win." Maybe they could have embraced hopes of inflicting so much damage with Lee's pugnacious military ways, the Southern states could have simply gotten "concessions." But President Lincoln appeared not receptive to any of that.
The Civil War was probably the biggest tragedy in U.S. history. All these years later, we have learned due to Charlottesville that the conflict is not totally behind us.
"I Thought the Civil War ended." But it's not that simple, is it.
Click on the link below to hear my song about the First Minnesota Regiment, called "Take Those Colors."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com