Week 33 – ALS Ice Buckets, its controversy and our selfishness therein

Ice bucket mania…..

I’m not one for stunts.  That’s my take on the whole ice bucket thing.  Donate, yes … do a stunt?  Not necessarily.  I will say this, too — it has brought awareness about ALS to a new level of conversation.  Thanks to those who are willing to do this… but wait, there’s more.

But, certain comments and attitudes I’ve seen bother me – and one particularly caught my attention.  A gentleman, who is a pastor or minister of some sort, wrote an extremely long piece about how he has all kinds of compassion for ALS patients and all that, but from what he knows, since the ALS foundation does stem cell research, he cannot do the ICE BUCKET thing and give money to an organization that does such a thing, since his church takes the stand that embryonic stem cell work is unfavorable.

Well, okay, I get that.   Yet, it seems to me that this kind of attitude throws out the baby with the bath water.  Look at all the organizations out there that do some sort of good that are derided for some of their efforts… and granted, some of those acts are truly questionable, but yet, do we have to INSIST that it’s all or nothing?

To the best of my knowledge, the ALS foundation does more than stem cell research.  They do other kinds of research.  they are there for ALS victims.  Shouldn’t that count for something?

And we could make a list.  YMCA and the Boy Scouts have had their politically incorrect aspects… but yet, a good many of the things those groups address are desirable.  The Girl Scouts have been taken to task for the nutritional lack of their cookies.  As much as the liberals berate the NRA, they offer gun safety training.   AARP is reviled a bit for its liberal leanings.

And let’s not ignore the churches.  This sect is considered goofy for believing this, that one causes wars, this one is too liberal, that one is too conservative…. and of some of them can’t even get along within their own system.  Churches, though, are also home to soup kitchens, some provide shelters for the homeless — and clothing drives and Christmas basket drives …

Which brings me back to my original beef… the gentleman who wouldn’t do the ice bucket challenge because the ALS foundation does stem cell research… and has me ask some questions:

Isn’t it a bit nuts to expect that an organization … ANY organization…. would share the exact values as a person?

Isn’t  it a bit nuts to ignore the good of any group … or any PERSON for that matter … just because they have some ideas that we find ‘wrong’?

Isn’t it rather, therefore, rather selfish to keep your time, talents and money to yourself just because a group isn’t 100 percent in agreement with your own values?

And shouldn’t we (and yes, I include myself in this one) all be a bit ashamed of such behavior?


On a more personal note, I wish to thank all those who presented my home town with the Lakes Area Music Festival this year …its sixth year.  We saw an opera, full orchestra concerts, chamber music, art songs, and so much more.  Live music provided by professionals … such as a good 17 from the Minnesota Orchestra, from Julliard and Eastman schools of music, from the Colorado Symphony …and so much more…

And these concerts were FREE…. go to a big city and you’d pay fifty bucks or more for such performances…and thanks to the hard work of over 200 volunteers and the dreams of Scott Lykins and Taylor Ward and others, and we get this fine program…  There will be some more festivals to come – and I can hardly wait.





Week 32 – DON’T HUG ME as performed at the Paramount in St. Cloud – Fun – and annoying, too.

Wilma and I have done a few versions of DON’T HUG ME, so we are quite familiar with the show — the script, the songs, the intended humor – and in fact we’ve met the playwright (Phil Olson) and his brother, so we feel quite qualified to make some comments on the performance of DON’T HUG ME that we saw in St. Cloud this past Thursday.

So this is my first review of a show that wasn’t all it could be…. and let’s deal with the upside first. For those not familiar with the DON’T HUG ME series of plays, they center on a married couple named Gunner and Clara Johnson (the parts that Wilma and I played) who run a bar in Bunyan Bay, Minnesota. The songs are short, the humor ranging from mildly funny to some real slapstick stuff, some bordering on adult type humor, but never getting beyond the edge of ‘family show’. Four of the five cast members have done DON’T HUG ME before – some have done it a great deal. ROSS YOUNG as GUNNER gives us a good look at a crusty older Minnesotan who dreams of the warmer winters of Florida. MEGAN HUBBELL plays his wife Clara with a bit of wifery similar to Alice on THE HONEYMOONERS. She is the only cast member with no DON’T HUG ME experience. EMILY MOORE plays Bernice, the bar employee, who is looking to get out-of-town in some constructive way. MICHAEL LEE plays Karaoke salesman Arvide, who manages to put a positive spin on any situation. DOUG ANDERSON plays the slightly dim Kanute, who runs a chain of sports stores. They have their characters down — the lines, the songs, the moves, the dances — and that is what you would expect, what with their experience in professional theatre including such sites as The Guthrie, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, Bloomington Civic Theatre, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, and more.

Which brings me to an annoyance in the performance. In one of the scenes, Kanute leaves the bar in the dead of winter without his coat, hat and mittens. AS he hits the outside, the script has him saying, “Holy Crap.” in reaction to the cold. Well, accidentally or not, that word CRAP gets changed to another four letter word for crap, starting with an S and ending with HIT … in just moments the rest of the cast on stage were giggling at the unexpected utterance… not a real big deal, but it went on … and on… and on…. Is it just me, or is it annoying to see such a seasoned cast crack up so much… to be unable to retain control and stay in character? We just found it annoying. That’s what we’ll remember about the performance.

Otherwise, the characters were fine — some good slapstick humor with Arvide’s cellphone, some good bickering between Gunner and Clara — nice job from all of them really. Bernice and Arvide provided that fun tentative relationship that so often exists with young couples. All of them did a fine job with the songs – singing within their character in good, strong voices.

And some technical observations…

The cast seemed comfortable in a set that was maybe too large — the Paramount offers a wide proscenium, so the set ran from left to right to a point that made it tough for the audience to watch something happening on one side while actors reacted on the other.

The cast was miked — and often the mikes were too hot, bringing a level of distortion to some of the lines and music…. the accompaniment was recorded – it was the same music Wilma and I used 8 years ago — I would encourage a reworking of the recording – with the leaps and bounds in technology, it would be quite easy to put the soundtrack in a computer and revoice the thing, making it sound a bit less ‘electronic’.

I know the Paramount Theatre is constantly working on itself — remodel this, redo that… just a heads up … seat 11 in row J has a loose cushion on it. Not that big a deal — just a heads up.

We did enjoy the show — we laughed, even when we knew what was coming. We fondly recalled the songs from the time we did the show …. The show only ran two nights — I hope it was as full on Friday as it was on our Thursday night… and I’m sure the audience enjoyed it both nights … I just wish the annoyance hadn’t been there.

Week 31- Maestro Pauley at the Festival, a political musing

The excitement of the Lakes Area Music Festival — In my hometown, the sixth season of the Lakes Area Music Festival has begun.  I have spoken of it in past weeks, and will continue to do so as the concerts arise.

Concert 3 (of 7) just performed yesterday.  It was family concert day, all designed to work with the week-long camp of EXPLORE MUSIC for elementary age students.  49 kids spent five days learning about the songs for yesterday’s concert, focusing mostly on APPALACHIAN SPRING.

The concert started with those kids standing in front of Tornstrom auditorium (a full house of 900 folks in attendance) – and they sang BLUE SKIES and TIS A GIFT TO BE SIMPLE – teachers Alex, Jeff and Kristiana led the kids also through an accompaniment with string instruments.

Then on to the concert itself… conductor Marlene Pauley, who has directed in past years, and performed on clarinet, led the orchestra with a portion of APPALACHIAN SPRING, two movements of Beethoven’s Sixth, Gershwin’s SUMMERTIME (sung by Meghan Attridge), a selection from Mendelssohn’s MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT, and ended with FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLEBEE — Maestro Pauley has become a favorite of the festival with her enthusiastic visits with the audience, and with the musicians — who, by the way, come from this town, the Minnesota Orchestra, Texas, Milwaukee and other spots around the country.

Wednesday will find us listening to Vivaldi’s FOURS SEASONS, and then another FOUR SEASONS in a tango style.  More on that next week.

Oh, and yes, the night before the concert was a different event.  Singers scheduled to be performing at the upcoming opera (HANSEL AND GRETEL) regaled audiences at a CABARET – songs of Broadway…. lets just say it was a fantastic night of some old standards and some music from newer shows that satisfied everyone in the place… (Cragun’s Resort on Friday, Ruttger’s Resort on Saturday)….

DSC02659 DSC02662 DSC02647 DSC02665 DSC02701 DSC02696 DSC02629 DSC02675

Performers at the Cabaret included TOP ROW: Kristiana, Dan, Abbe ROW TWO: Meghan, Taylor BOTTOM ROW:  Leah, Jeff, Jennifer…. pianists included Scott, Andrew and Greg.


My town right here in central Minnesota will be hosting a political fundraiser for a candidate in the area.  At that fundraiser, a very famous national political figure will appear.  The event is to be held at one of the swankier resorts in the area.  Care to guess how much the donation levels are?  Well, here you go…. gold sponsor, $10,400; silver sponsor, $5,200; host, $1,500; general reception, $250.

Can you afford any of these levels?  Do you care enough about a political candidate that you’d pony up even the $250 to see him or her?  What does that tell us about how the political parties and their system regard the ‘ordinary’ voter?

I understand the need to raise money.  But hey, when you bring in a big name, wouldn’t you also WANT that big name to be available to the common man on the street?  Apparently not.

Let’s get this political money monopoly done with, please.

WEEK 27 – Rebekah and Rebecca

You see, there’s this young lady named Rebekah Soukup.  She’s maybe 10 years old.  Her mom, Krista, sees to it that Rebecca and her sister get to experience many things.  You will find the Soukups at a museum or at a play.  Maybe they’ll take in a class somewhere in town, like an art class or a writing class.  Sometimes that experience is just a walk in the woods or playing in the town park.

And then there’s another Rebecca.   Rebecca Yeh, that is.  She just finished a year as Miss Minnesota, which also included being a finalist in the Miss America Pageant.  She’s a scholar, a public speaker, and a musician.  All this, and she attends college where she is more than a student – she’s active in service organizations as well.

These two Rebeccas (or Rebekahs) are connected.   They grew up in the same town – and as a matter of fact, I recently learned that they were neighbors at one time.  The younger Rebekah always admired the other Rebecca in those years, and as Rebecca Yeh advanced into her young womanhood, Rebekah Soukup watched and admired and learned.

This past weekend, the Lakes Area Music Festival offered its first concert of the year.  The program consisted of performers from the area, including a string trio of high school students, a brass duet by a husband and wife, a local singing group that performed a set of madrigals, a cello solo, and a chamber orchestra…. and the concert concluded with Rebecca Yeh playing her violin on the last movement of the Mendelsohn violin concerto in E minor.

The young Rebekah was in the audience, and you can bet she took notice of her former neighbor.  The music was exciting, electric, classic.  Young Rebekah had already visited with Rebecca the violinist before the concert (see the picture) where they reconnected in a great moment even before the audience started filing into the auditorium.  (The audience by the way, numbered somewhere around 500…)


becc and becc


This photo, taken by Rebekah’s mom Krista, is captioned this way:

My Rebekah was elated to see and hear Princess Rebecca Miss Minnesota and LOVES holding the bragging rights to “Princess Rebecca used to live next door to me.” Ever since the Miss America pageant, my Rebecca has been counting the days to get her violin. Thank you Rebecca for your music and inspiration!

Now here’s the deal.  What a wonderful thing that these two have connected – not only as accomplished musician to aspiring musician, but neighbor to neighbor – and all the other ways you can say it.  This kind of connection is not merely idol worship or a young fan and her hero — it is a strong bond of respect.

For these two – and at least on this particular day – music was the generator – or maybe even the amplifier – of this respect.

So then, I can imagine a time in the not so distant future when Rebekah the younger will be on stage with her OWN violin, and Rebecca the Princess will be in the audience, watching and appreciating the performance.

How wonderful for them to have this bond, and how great for us to have the chance to see it.


The website for the music festival is http://www.lakesareamusic.org.  More concerts to come this month …. check it out.

Krista Soukup is a literary agent.  Her website is http://www.bluecottageagency.com.

PS – in a totally unrelated note,  I misnumbered my weeks, so here’s no. 27, out of order, but still a weekly journal nonetheless.  Next week will be 31, right back on schedule.

Some thoughts on this MEME by REVOLUTION

5 things to not disagree with

… this MEME showed up online, and I need to address it.  It was shared by a friend – and it apparently originated with a group called The Revolution, which has a presence on Facebook.  Its cover picture is of the snake flag with the words “Join or Die” that we’ve all seen… its profile pic is that of a drawing of a man presumably from the American Revolution Era, pointing out of the pic in an UNCLE SAM pose, asking those who see it to join the Tea Party.

In general, I have a real problem with MEME type items.  They tend to be too simplistic, too much likely to treat the issue it addresses as black and white.  They tend to be inflammatory – this one here isn’t too bad that way… and they tend to leave little room at all for debate .. as this one clearly dares anyone to do so.

I pick up my laptop with the intent of sharing some thoughts about each of the five matters here.

The first one:   I do not believe we necessarily want to make the poor prosperous — there are those that do, and they may be over shooting their hopes, but I am still of the idea that the government can be of some assistance in giving a leg up.  It is in the second part of this statement that I see trouble.  It is ridiculous to say that a wealthy person will be turned OUT of prosperity by asking them — by legislation or any other way — to give up some of their wealth.  I do not see the government — or ANYONE – expecting a millionaire to become a thousandaire.  Let me make a specific example.  Let’s say there’s a guy out there who is worth a couple four million.  He pays taxes of a certain amount, but hey, he is still worth a cool chunk of change that still qualifies him as being a millionaire.   It seems to me he will not be turned into one of those who isn’t prosperous.

The second one: At first blush, I see this as a generality that just can’t be argued.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  If I freely give someone a gift, I had to work first (in some way) to acquire it…. but then, hey, look.  I DID receive something.  I got paid for a job that allowed me buy that gift.   So, I have demonstrated that this point is indeed debatable.  I so certainly hope that it is okay to give someone a gift, no strings attached… and that it is okay to use what I have to give such a gift.

The third one:  This one is the most solid of the five.  It is the government’s job to collect taxes (taking from one) and then use that revenue (giving it to someone).  I pay my taxes, and my government then dispenses that money to someone to build a road, a school, raise an army … you can make your own list.  The trouble is that sometimes this money is collected from the taxpayer (me) and given to those who already HAVE ample supply — that’s the point of those who are angered by the subsidies given to large corporations – or even individuals –  who already have a great deal of money in their own coffers. (An example from Minnesota:  A couple has been discovered who have been collecting welfare payments in the tens of thousands of dollars while they live on their yacht in Florida, away from their home in Minnesota.  Make of that what you want to.)

The fourth one:  This is such a simplistic statement – and I think it is fair to say that this one and the fifth statement have an alarmist tone to them.  Anyway, does it assume here that there are those who are asking someone with 20 million dollars to give up 19 million so we can create 19 more millionaires?  That’s ridiculous, of course.  I suspect there are few saying such a thing.  I also wonder if this statement is assuming there is a finite amount of riches out there.  Not so sure about that one.  It seems that one hundred years ago, our gross national product was a certain amount, fifty years ago, it was more, and right now, there’s more yet.  Mathematically, this statement may be correct, but the global economy is simply too liquid, too fluid, to fit this statement with too much reality attached to it.

The fifth one: Again with a simplistic statement.  Where are the statistics to say that its half this and half that?  Is this statement claiming that there is no validity to the famous 2 percent?  My own thought is that statistics are like Mark Twain claimed – there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.   Should there be motive to work?  Oh yes, no problem there….. and I do agree that we are getting a segment of our population that see no sense in working.  We indeed need to face that issue somehow.

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT…. and you know what?  As I look at what I’ve written, it occurs to me that we have a very typical family trait here.  We have the older sibling who has something that the littler sibling wants.  In an ordinary world, the older one would see the sense of choosing to share – if even for a short time.  I would hope then that the littler one is appreciative.  But sometimes, that just doesn’t happen…. maybe the older one is selfish and won’t share his jacket for no other reason than “I don’t feel like it”.    And maybe the little one doesn’t really need that particular thing that the older one has and throws a little tizzy about it.  In both cases, we see selfishness as the motive for acting that way.

Then its time for the parent to step in .. there are no pat answers to the situation… there are no quick fixes, but the parent has to make a call.  Ideally, with some decent parenting, the two siblings will work it out.

So, sometimes the parent  … or the government … has to step in.  Hopefully, this is going to happen as little as necessary.  Sometimes we get parents who are too involved…and that’s where some think our government is… and sometimes we get those who think the parent needs to do more…. and that’s where others are regarding our government.

In the ideal world, the siblings would work it out, but we all know it is not an ideal world.

Do we expect our kids to share?  Do we occasionally need to step in and take care of things when they don’t?

Yes, we expect them to share, preferably freely… and to not be greedy, preferably freely … and yes, we need to step in at times in such a way that we are effective parents.

And that’s the real thing that can’t be argued…..



Week 30 – My Fair (Change that to Stupendous) Lady, My Sub-Mediocre Twins

This weekend Wilma and I traveled down to the Cities to join our daughter and her hubby at a Twins game, then a night in the downtown Radisson, and then taking a shot at getting rush tickets for My Fair Lady.  Let’s take them in that order.


We  checked into the Radisson in downtown Minneapolis and then picked up the kids at the state fairgrounds, where they were having a ball at the BMW motorcycle rally – yes, our daughter rides!  She and her hubby have become real adventurers, which I find fun and interesting to watch.  Wilma, however, requests that they not tell her when they’re going on a ride until AFTER they’ve returned home safely.  we parked back at the hotel and started the short 3 block walk to Target Field

My dinner    Zoomer Heidi and Zinger Jon

Supper, you ask?  We got ourselves a table in THE DEPOT TAVERN just a few blocks away from Target Field.  I had a REAL corned beef Reuben sandwich… very interesting taste in the beef; I liked it.  Then of course, there’s a beer or two to be had over such a meal.  The meal offered us a chance to sit and visit.  It was casual, it was nice – it is always so good to be with them….


Then to the stadium, section 220, front row.  Unfortunately, the game started with the Twins pitcher (Kevin What’s His Name) giving up a single, a single and a homer…. Twins are down 3 – 0 and there’s not even an out registered…. hence my choice of headline for this week’s blog…. the Twins – and I am as deep and steady a fan as anyone, so I hesitate to say this – are in sad shape.  Two Twins errors, weak bats that seemed to send little to the outfield, and some real lackluster defensive play.  So henceforth, considering how much tickets cost for a ballgame  ( we went with mid-range cost for the tickets) I shall in all intents and purposes not attend a game in person unless they have a .500 record or better.  One plus:  my nephew and his wife surprised us by showing up in our section to say hello….what a nice surprise!   We endured the entire length of the game (and boy, did I ever consider leaving at about the 7th inning….) and took the kids back to the fairgrounds – where they were camping with their cycles….  At the conclusion of the game, we walked back to the hotel, loaded up in the car, and took the kids back to their bikes at the fairgrounds.

Surprise visitors

Back at the Radisson – and it was okay.  We were a few doors away from the elevators, but we still heard them.  The coffee pot had some grounds in it…. a bit disappointed, but I slept well, so there you are.

And then off to the Guthrie to try to score some tickets for MY FAIR LADY.  We got there quite early, so we walked through the Mill City Farmers Market and grabbed a bite to eat at the little bistro in the Mill Center museum, not to mention buying a few books in the museum store — we are such suckers for those places!

And so — into the rush line we went.  at 12:30 (we got in line at 12:00) the tickets went on sale for $35 — we got two tickets, one in row J, one in row M, center section …. great seats!

Wilma and I have enjoyed several good theatre shows in the Cities… and this was one of the best productions we’ve seen.  Consider this:  MY FAIR LADY is one of those plays from the late 50s/early 60s that has become somewhat of a warhorse.  Preconceived ideas abound that find the audience (at least Wilma and I) sitting there and expecting the same interpretation of the same old show of the same old script of the same old songs of the same old bits… well then, why did we go?  My good buddy Dave Vieths gave us a rave review – and he’s not exactly Mr. Musical, so when he says so…. off we go.  Anyway, we were partly expecting the same old things ….  (photos are from the Guthrie website…)

ows_140474513279548                             MyFairLady


I cannot tell you how so very, very wrong we were.  This production brought us such a fresh approach to the whole show — no imitations of the Rex Harrison role and yet plenty of male bravado from Jeff McCarthy as Professor Higgins… a good, bright Eliza from Helen Aker (of English lineage herself — but just an aside fun thing: she has done OKLAHOMA in England.  Wouldn’t you just love to hear that show with an English accent?)…. the humorous optimism of Alfred P. Doolittle by Donald Corren, and oh how nice it was of Tyler Michaels to give us a Freddy who wasn’t a sappy love-swooning fop — he gave us a semi-silly goof with a whole new way to approach ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE.

What’s that?  You say it was a six piece pit orchestra?  Yes, it was… and all those licks and notes that we’ve all heard from the soundtrack recording are there… kudos to Andrew Cooke for his work there, and for assembling a well oiled group of musicians…

Dance – Costume – sets — it all worked superbly.  We were also tickled to see some familiar faces from Chanhassen Dinner Theatre (Tony Vierling and Kat Brindisi) doing their thing.

The show is directed by Joe Dowling — and it runs until August 31.  To borrow a line from the show,

“Move your bloody arse and get to this one!”



Week 29 The Anniversary of the Moon – so WHERE NEXT?

I know, it’s not Monday again.  I’ve been missing that self-imposed deadline lately.  Just so I get something posted…


The 20th of July — 45 years ago, the United States and the rest of the world watched as Armstrong and Aldrin stepped down onto the moon – the first humans to do so.

That day still rings for me.  My dad was a big one on making sure his kids took in historical things on TV … and this was one of those times.  We sat in the living room and watched the shadowy images.  We were quite able to make things out despite those shadows.  We were led by the now-famous broadcast on CBS, in which Walter Cronkite practically busted with pride as those pictures came back from the moon.  That clip of Walter is still used in movies and documents about man in space.

I have said this before and I will continue to say it.  We haven’t had a moment like that since then.  The exhilaration of that day is unparalleled in my lifetime, and I hunger for such a time again.

It was a bold adventure.  President Kennedy dared us to do it, and we did.  It cost a boatload of money, man hours, and even a few lives with the fire on Apollo 1.  The returns of  space flight has been immense – medical advances, communications beyond anyone’s imagination, textiles, foods …. such a fantastic set of achievements.

Our country has seen such things before – the Louisiana Purchase was no doubt as mind-boggling.  We increased the size of our country by a magnitude of such size that we couldn’t fathom the size of it – and it begat so much: not just the natural resources, but so many other wonders – rivers, mountain ranges, deserts…

Later on, because of that Louisiana Purchase, the industrial revolution found us building a railroad from coast to coast, joined by that famous golden spike ceremony in Promontory, Utah.  Travel and shipping grew beyond what we thought could happen.  What used to be months of travel was now cut to weeks – even days – of time on the road.

And also, again due to the industrial revolution, we saw the manufacture of the automobile.  Henry Ford’s practice of the assembly line gave us a good product that served the citizens of the United States for years to come…. not to mention his practice of paying his employees a very livable wage…. and out of this came jobs related to cars; gas stations, auto repair shops, and affected how and where we did our shopping.

Related to the auto industry, President Eisenhower brought in the interstate highway system.  Imagine how many families made their living to build those roads – to service those who travel upon them.

Have you noticed how the events I mention happened quicker and quicker as time passed?  It was barely a decade between the final mile of the construction of interstate highway mile and the moon landing I started out with.  Since then, have we seen any similar situation?   Maybe we have seen such things in the world of computers and technology… but you know, those are all really extensions of the space program.

I think we are long overdue for a new adventure for our country – maybe we will all see that same pride when one of our research hospitals cures cancer or some similar scientific advance.  Maybe it will be in a new fuel – or the perfection of solar or wind power that will  vastly change the way things are handled.

I don’t know what it will be, but I hunger for one of those moments of national pride… something we all look at each other, grin, nod, and shake hands and slap each other on the back.



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