What are the fruits of those BOOS?

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It saddens my heart to watch us boo our very own neighbors.

As I watched the coverage of President Trump’s appearance at a recent rally in Rochester, Minnesota, that is the thought that struck my mind.

This event just struck me because it was in Minnesota – the place that has gained the image of being “nice”.

I was watching the crowd behind him. That’s what got to me.

There were ordinary Minnesotans there. At least, I assume they were ordinary Minnesotans. Students, farmers, business owners, mechanics, teachers, moms, dads, favorite uncles. No different than the guy next door or the lady who took your money at the grocery store. Ordinary.

There they were, booing those who think other than they do. Booing their fellow Minnesotans. Booing their neighbors.

Booing is what we used to do when we would attend All-Star wrestling matches at the local armory. The bad guys got our venomous shouts and boos. The cheers for the good guys? Oh, it was there, but with nowhere near the energy of booing the bad guy. Somehow booing had more meat behind it – more gusto. It was mindless mob mentality and it was a lot of fun. It was raucous entertainment, and no more than that.

But, is it okay to boo when you learn that there are others who hold different opinions – even if its people who are just as ordinary and plain as you are?

We seem to have descended to booing each other, at least when it comes to political differences. We curse each other in social media. We don’t need much of a motivation to head that way, either. We seem to go out of our way to insult or belittle those who think differently than us … and that goes for both conservatives and liberals who gather here and there for whatever cause, for whichever celebrated figure that appears at such gatherings. Such booing is becoming the accepted standard. It takes little thinking to boo, to follow the crowd.

Go to whatever rallies you wish. Listen to and absorb whatever the speaker is saying. Get caught up in it all. But realize that maybe, just maybe, you’re being played by the hosts of such events.

 

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THE ELEPHANT MAN
At Central Lakes Community College
Directed by Patrick Spradlin

In these days of science vs. faith, in these days of questioning not only our government’s intentions, but each other’s, it is highly relevant to have seen THE ELEPHANT MAN (a play by Bernard Pomerance) in the Chalberg Theatre at Central Lakes College.

The story is about a misshapen man (John Merrick) who benefits from the London medical community after he is rescued from a life of exploitation and disregard. Wrapped around the title character are others: Dr. Treves who directly deals with Merrick, the bureaucratic hospital head Mr. Gomm, the staunchly religious Bishop How, the theatrical Mrs. Kendall and her personal choices she makes regarding Merrick, the carnival boss Mr. Ross who sees nothing but dollar signs, and a cast of others who lend insights to the idea of the ridiculousness of the questions in the first paragraph . . . and all enhanced by a single cellist, who plays appropriate music between scenes.

Nick Kory performs the physically challenged Merrick role with no prosthetics – he consistently conveys the disformed man with posture and disformity that affect his mobility and his speech. We see him grow his character from a scared man to a man of thought and depth. Kevin Yeager as the doctor reveals his acting to show us how the man held an internal battle of science vs. faith. Jenny Kiffmeyer offers a character of refinement as she guides Merrick into an understanding of the life of women of London in the 1880s. The confrontations that the characters Gomm (Bernard), Bishop How (Ford) and Ross (Oliphant) bring to the others deliver the story in detail to the audience. Adding more are the various characters that Merrick meets – the outrageous sideshow pinheads (Wonder and Johnson) are an esoteric pair to watch. Good work, too, to Nichols, to Brutscher and the Bindas for their work.

Through the show, the audience is told that we need to value beauty – even in its uglier stages. We are told to wonder about the logic of science and the mystery of faith. The whole cast, through the eyes of director Spradlin, get this across so very well.

And might I add – the cello performance by Erika Christiansen served well to set the mood and to enhance the emotions. Well done indeed.

The set, perfectly simple for this show, is the credit of technical director George Marsolek, with lighting by Ben Kent (and there were many light changes that mattered.) Stage manager Lori Jaeger led a backstage drill of making sure the show ran perfectly.

Cast: Kevin Yeager as Treves, Nick Kory as Merrick, M.S. Bernard as Gomm, Marc Oliphant as Ross, M. Hollis Ford as Bishop How, Jenny Kiffmeyer as Mrs. Kendal, with multiple roles by Connor Nichols< jesse Brutscher, Gary Binda, Deb Binda, Karla Johnson, Sadie Wonder. Cello music performed by Erika Christiansen

Remaining Performances: Oct. 2-4 at the
Chalberg Theatre. Curtain is at 7:30
Tickets available at the box office at clcperformingarts.com or 218-855-8199

How to Give Up a Salary and Make it Look Magnanimous – But Not Really.

trump     charitable giving

One specific plus cited about President Trump is that he has donated the salary for the job.
Yes, wonderful. You can do a lot with that much money. Such stuff is indeed noteworthy, but let’s look further.

First, let’s say you get a job that pays quite well — let’s say $400,000.

You return that salary, because, let’s face it, you are independently wealthy, popularly considered to be worth at least a billion dollars. You don’t really need that money, so donating it somewhere is easy.

Next, you are allowed to take trips on your boss’s credit card. Let’s say those trips cost 1.6 million dollars, on average, for each flight. You do this at least once a month. In a year, that’s almost 20 million dollars.

You have just spent five times as much as you have on trips as you have donated in your salary.

Let’s review.

Before you got that job, you were already a billionaire. You didn’t need that 400,000-dollar salary at all. (As a matter of fact, that figure is .04% of what you have.) And in that job, you have taken a good many vacation weekends at the expense of your boss amounting to five times that salary.

Giving up that salary is about as impressive as a retired couple I know (on a fixed income of around $80,000 a year) giving $3.20 a year to charity.

No matter how wonderful that retired couple might be, I can’t say I’m impressed with their charitable giving . . . and no matter how wonderful President Trump may be, I can’t say I’m impressed with his charitable giving, either.

 

Book Review: The I-94 MURDERS

I94 murders

THE I-94 MURDERS
By Frank F. Weber
Northstar Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
307 Pages

Minnesota is flyover land, where life is shallow and beige. But wait, not in Frank Weber’s crime novels.

In I-94 MURDERS, Detective Jon Frederick finds himself in charge of investigating a series of murders committed in towns along the interstate highway that dashes its way through the heart of Minnesota. Driven to find the killer, Detective Frederick must use his wits (part old-school police work, part cutting edge forensics) to identify and catch the criminal. Along the way, he must find time for important loves in his life and maintain contacts with old friends – all of which dovetail into a story line that keep the reader turning pages.

Author Weber gives us characters of a wide range – the unredeeming lifestyles of addicts and junkies – cryptically self-important criminals, and at the forefront, there’s Jon Frederick, balancing career and his love life as all these people cross his path. There’s the news reporter who wishes she could find a better gig. There’s the struggling young lady who has left herself wide open in ways that are dangerous to her. There’s the unreliable good friend that Jon just can’t trust. There are Jon’s work partners, who are overcome with either bureaucracy or wavering loyalty. And then, there’s the killer who has secrets that motivate his (her?) crimes. To add to the writing, author Weber gives us the character of the secret side of the internet that so few admit or even acknowledge – and, reader, you had better believe its there and at work.

And yes, such characters are not limited to the seamy side of Minneapolis and St. Paul, where the reader might expect to find such unsavory behaviors. Small towns – and I mean a population in the hundreds – are important sites for the detective as he works with the others. Locations include trashed apartments as crime scenes, seedy bar as interrogation sites, and bedrooms that are filled with comfort in more ways than one.

The world of forensics has a strong presence here – not only the hard science of ballistics and fingerprints, but also the idea that psychological forensics – how people think and act – are just as relevant and accurate as those other traditional ways to capture criminals.

So as in his first novel ‘MURDER BOOK’, Frank Weber delivers a chunkful of detective work, complete with a criminal, victims, and a good twist or two of mistakes, misfortune, and a personal love story – all for the reader to find the comfort of a good chair, light from a good lamp, and a mind ready for the whodunit that defies that flyover land mindset.

ARB TREK #4 – THE RUDY TRAIL

I have been asked to write a few articles for the NORTHLAND ARBORETUM.  The first three have been published in their magazine – this is the next one.

 

ARB TREK #4 – THE RUDY TRAIL

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The Rudy Trail is one of the first I walked in the arboretum, where I first saw deer and felt the hilly nature of the arboretum as the wonderfully connected trails wind their way through the arboretum.

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Leaving the Visitors’ Center, we make our way north along the road.  Just beyond the gazebo in the field, we enter the woods and find the ACORN trail.  100 yards along ACORN, we find the RUDY TRAIL taking a hard right.  Let’s follow that right and see what RUDY has to offer.  There will be plenty – keep your eyes open for birds, deer, and squirrels.  Watch the ground, too, for wildflowers, mushrooms, or tracks of animals that inhabit the area.

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Amid pine trees, we walk along the grassy trail.  To our left, the ground slopes down.  To our right, there is a small ridge that separates us from the LITTLE DAN trail.  Curving through the woods, we come to a good-sized downhill slope, then up again, and around a small curve, where we find the intersection with the ORAN trail off to the right, which will come up again.  For now, we continue on RUDY.

 

You may have noticed there are signs here for the snowshoe trail.  It entered onto RUDY from our right, follows RUDY for 75 yards or so, and peels off to the left.  We’ll continue on RUDY.

 

We pass out of the woods and come to a larger clearing.  Away from the trees, we can see much more, especially to our right.  Ah, there’s another trail – and we will see later that it is RUDY again, as it fish-hooks itself along the center of the clearing.   The trail goes northwest, then curves a hard right as it passes the POTLATCH trail, 25 yards away.  There are a good many dead trees, tall but leafless, where we may see birds perched high as they sing into the daytime sun.  RUDY continues to curve right, and we find ourselves at the portion of the trail we noticed earlier.  Rudy has come back 180 degrees, now 50 yards away from itself to our right.

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A slight uphill, and the trail is sandier.  We’re returning to the tree line.  We reach the peak of that uphill section, and find ourselves at the top of a rather steep slope.  Down we go, now on one of the longer, steeper slopes in the arboretum.  The trees hide the view to the left, where the POTLATCH trail mirrors RUDY, and to our right, where we’ve angled away from the west side of RUDY.

 

At the bottom of the hill, we meet up with the ORAN trail again – we have taken ourselves all around the fishhook section of RUDY.  We take a left where ORAN and RUDY meet, and find ourselves at the FIVE CORNERS intersection, the major crossroads of many of the trails in the arboretum.

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Our tour of RUDY is done, its fishhook shape taking us through a mile of woods and clearing.  We have had the opportunity to see a variety of trees and creatures.  Back to the Visitors’ Center we go, checking off RUDY as a trail we’ve come to know.

 

all photos were taken on the RUDY trail by the author.

Another Ho-Hum thought on the Media

all the media

Fake Media for some is Fox News.  For some, it is CNN.  For some, Real News is CNBC.  For some, it is The Blaze.  For some, the center-line of news reporting is represented by the ones that have been around a long time, like CBS, NBC and ABC – and of course, the old wire services like Reuters and AP.  Whether it is print media or broadcast media, they all have their version of left, right and center.  All of them have their fringe elements, too.  At least, that’s the way it is here in the good old U.S. of America.

Our media is far from perfect.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the theory about how cable TV gave us news networks ad nauseum, which meant those networks had to find stuff to fill the air waves.  The media has gotten stories wrong – remember DEWEY BEATS TRUMAN?  Our media has also gotten it right – the whole Watergate story broke with just two young nosy reporters.  Our media has also celebrated our wonders (MAN LANDS ON THE MOON) and our losses (JFK ASSASSINATED IN DALLAS).

It has given us heroes (LINDBERGH LANDS IN PARIS) and defined our enemies (MANSON ARRESTED).

And the internet?  It is the youngest of the communication siblings, and there are still so many kinks to work out – some are very difficult to deal with, some are a blessing.

Whether its through the audio-video wonder of television, over the airwaves of radio, on your computer screen via internet, or on the old-fashioned original method we call a newspaper, we enjoy our first amendment rights to the freedom of the press.

So the next time you hear the phrase “FAKE NEWS”, and whether you boo the term or cheer for it, you are in fact celebrating the first amendment, in which we are guaranteed to receive our news in so many ways in our country.  We are lucky and blessed to have so many choices, as far-reaching as they may be.

It is either that plethora or media or no choice at all —

You decide.

 

Trusting Ourselves above our Leaders and the Media

seal     media
Here are four examples of our president on video.  (Some produce an accompanying clip, some don’t.  You should be able to click on each of them to get them to play.)

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-trump-pocahontas-comment-20171128-story.html

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/84026237-157.html

FAKE NEWS or REAL NEWS labels aside, I don’t need the big talking heads on TV to interpret these words for me. I don’t need them telling me if he meant them or not. I don’t need them to spin them for me, one way or another.

It is for us to decide on our own whether or not these are words unbecoming the office of president. Our country has thrived on individualism, on being able to think for ourselves, on making our own decisions that run the gamut from deciding what socks to wear to who we are going to vote for.

Whether the spin comes from the White House or the Left or the Right, or from a friend on Facebook, or in a tweeted message from your great aunt from Illinois, make up your own mind.

It is time to give less energy to those outside forces (our leaders and/or the media themselves) and time to increase the value of our own thoughts in our hearts and minds.

The last word does not belong to the president or the media. It belongs to us. Start acting like it.

 

(Post Script – I can also find clips of “I am not a crook” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, which I also found to be unbecoming of the office of the president. It is just that these are in the present, these are here and now, and unfortunately so numerous. Therefore, they are the more relevant to me at this time.)