Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: the other way

I was looking back at my blog posts for the year, giving my memory a jump-start as I tried to focus on all the good things that formed my own personal 2011.. For instance --
Mostly good health...

A new car...

Spending time in my 48th, 49th and, finally, 50th state -- Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon...

Lots of good theater, my favorites of the year being True West at the Torch Theater, Neighbors at Mixed Blood Theater, God of Carnage at the Guthrie... Plus the Broadway touring productions of Les Miz and West Side Story...

Fun trips to Portland and Las Vegas...

Exceptional co-workers...

A great family reunion in New Jersey in August...

A great family, for that matter... I'm starting to realize how unusually close our family, including extended family, is... We are so lucky!...

Oh, and then there was the decision to bring my nephew James into our household to attempt to help him get a headstart in adult life.  That has been mostly a good experience, I think.  It at least helps me remember what it's like to be a naive eighteen-year-old.  And there are some days when it helps me remember what it's like to be  a naive fifteen-year old!

Then there is Jerry, who amazes me more and more as time goes by.  By the way, it's our anniversary:  we met 13 years ago tonight, New Years Eve 1998.

And I can't forget my loyal blog readers.  Cyber-hugs to you as we each welcome 2012, a year that, like any other, will bring us all frustration and reward, tears and joy.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: one way to look back at it

Sometimes you hear a person say, "I sure am glad to see this year end!"

I am never glad to see a year end.  Life is too precious and too quick.

If a person were to look back at 2011 from that angle, I can understand it, though.  2011 was rough for a lot of people:  economic hardship, illness, loss...

And if I were to think back that way, I could do it too:  People that I care about are hurting... I had health problems -- something I'm not used to! -- that required surgery and landed me in a hospital for a week... And the number one personal trauma for me this year -- the death of my brother Ronnie.  My family is still struggling with that one loss.

It would be easy to say, "Wow, 2011 was a crappy year..."

... But, on the other hand.........

Thursday, December 29, 2011

dancing to tschaikovsky

My friend and co-worker Mary O. hates The Nutcracker ballet, but that's only because she worked for a dance company once and while working there had to listen to the score for six months straight.  Now, when she has to call the IRS and gets put on hold and has to listen to "The Waltz of the Flowers" hold-music over and over again for a half hour straight, she goes nuts.

Me, I haven't had such an experience, so I still love Tschaivosky music and The Nutcracker.  Whether it is serious ballet is a whole 'nother discussion.

The Minnesota Dance Theater every year does a terrific Nutcracker, and it's one of my guilty pleasures, so we are taking Mary (my sister, that is -- not Mary O., who would probably have a mental breakdown!), Becky, and Tom to this afternoon's performance.  This year the show is being held at the newly-restored Cowles Center, the former Shubert Theater, which just opened this fall for dance only.  We attended the theater's grand opening but this will be the first actual program we'll be seeing there.  The board of the Cowles Center is hoping that this venue will do locally for dance what the Guthrie has done for theater.
Added later:  Sometime after I wrote the above, I read my horoscope for today:  "Taking in manmade beauty will be one of the most invigorating things you could do today.  Art stimulates your mind and life in ways you won't be able to explain.  It's one of the wonderful excitements of living."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

young adults at the mall

It's after 9 PM, so if I'm going to blog today, it better be now...  After work this afternoon, I drove down to meet the rest of the gang at the Mall of America, where they had been  shopping and watching James build bears while I was working my butt off in my office... We went to the theater at the mall and watched the new Diablo Cody-written movie Young Adult.  It was okay, a bit unusual -- a mostly unlikeable lead female character.  Then we met Jon for dinner at Kokomo's.  I was just telling Mary that I sure do like it when she and Becky visit us, but I think I always gain weight while they're here... Hmmm, I wonder what my New Year's resolution will be in four days.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

one more week in the cornfields

I've been browsing the news sites this afternoon, and I keep seeing headlines about there only being one more week until the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses, and I'm thinking, "Who the heck cares? -- It's only the Iowa caucuses!"  The Iowa caucus is only important because the news media have made it important.  Somebody will win, everybody else will lose, somebody will drop out for under-performing, and there will be a momentary "front-runner", all of which in the real world means nothing because it's only a bunch of very-much-in-the-national-minority, usually-bigoted right-wingers who happen to show up for their caucus.

What I would like to see is for Ron Paul to win the Iowa caucus, only because it would throw the Republican mainstream into a temporary tizzy, trying to figure out how to reconcile his way-out-there political positions with the possibility of him having even a remote shot of ending up as their nominee.

Monday, December 26, 2011

a cushion between holiday and ordinary stuff

It's sort of cool when Christmas falls on a Sunday, then Monday becomes for most people another day off... You can recover (especially if you had 13 people for Christmas dinner) or you can continue the experience...

or you can shop, which is something you do when my niece Becky visits...

Tonight I took my sister Mary to the Timberwolves season opener... a very fun game. I've become a big fan of point guard Ricky Rubio, who is new to the Wolves this year.  I've never seen a basketball player who can pass like he does.  Should be a fun season if that guy can stay uninjured.

... and now it's late evening and I'm trying to prepare myself for being back in the office at eight tomorrow morning...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

christmas 2011: minneapolis, minnesota

Left to right:  Joan, Becky, me, James, Jerry, Tom, Mary, Jon, Ryan (holding Corey), Ruthie (holding Kylie).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

christmas 1963: the u.s.a.

It's December 24th, and I'm up north, but it's a brown Christmas -- unusual in Minnesota, but I'm okay with that.

This "White Christmas", sung by Darlene Love, is from the album A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector. I was a major fan of music-producer Phil Spector's girl groups (the Ronettes, the Crystals) back in the early '60s, but I didn't even know about this recording until some years later. That's because, at least I think it's because, it was released on November 22, 1963, the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, and that holiday season became one of the most subdued Christmases ever in this country. This is a very upbeat album, and people weren't in the mood for upbeat.

Things changed over the years, and the songs from this album eventually became some of the most-heard every Christmas season. In my house, we always have it (now the CD version) playing as we open gifts. Phil Spector, meanwhile, sits in prison as we speak and probably doesn't care whether this Christmas is white or sky-blue pink.

Whatever music you are listening to, I wish my blog readers a Merry Christmas. I hope this is one that creates good memories for you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

christmas 1968: wildflecken, west germany

It was my first Christmas away from home, away from family and friends.  I was stationed at a fairly remote Army post about nine kilometers from what was then the barbed-wired East German border.  The post was on a mountain overlooking snowy valleys and was a training base originally in Hitler's era and then after the war for American and West German troops.

This was before I had been appointed company clerk so I was just an infantry grunt, which meant that I was still occasionally subject to being on KP ("Kitchen Patrol").  It was my misfortune to be on KP all day on that particular Christmas in 1968.  Talk about adding insult to injury -- peeling potatoes and washing dishes instead of having a day off!  It was a rude awakening after always having had wonderful Christmases at home with my family (My mom, I think, was the best, most efficient Christmas shopper of all time).

Fast-forward to Christmas Day 2011, when I still might be peeling potatoes and washing dishes but doing it for family instead of for sad draftees.  Jerry and I will be hosting quite a crowd this year:  My sister Joan and my two sons, Jon and Tom; my sister Mary and my niece Becky, visiting us from New Jersey; my nephew James and his friend Tim; and my niece Ruthie and her family.  I hope they know how much I appreciate having Christmas with them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

another turning point

It's Winter Solstice, or at least I thought it was, but now I see that in the Central Time Zone, Winter Solstice actually hit us last night at 11:30.  Whatever!  It's a day that, if you live north of the Arctic Circle, you will see zero daylight today.  For all of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it's the shortest day of the year, sun-wise, the good part of which is that it only gets better after today until Summer Solstice arrives in June, and June is too fine a month for us to be worrying about the days starting to get shorter again.

A definition of the word solstice:  "a furthest or culminating point; a turning point."  Turning for the better, I hope.  Think of that in the bleak winter months to come.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

love & war & the sea in between

I haven't traveled in evangelical circles in a long time, but I do know that the magazine Christianity Today (founded in 1956 by Billy Graham) is a big deal in that community.  A big deal in our family is that my niece Michelle's husband, Josh Garrels, has just had his latest CD, Love & War & The Sea In Between, named Album of the Year by that influential magazine.

Here is a link to the article about Josh and Michelle:  and here is a link to Josh's website:

Michelle is my sister Nancy's daughter. During our Oregon trip in October, we got to spend some quality time in Portland with Michelle and Josh and their two beautiful little kids, and I also got time to chat with Josh about his career and his creative direction.  I wish him well in his musical journey... and congratulations.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

iraq war hangover

The past few days, there has been somewhat subdued news coverage about the final withdrawal of military personnel from Iraq -- the so-called end of the war -- the focus of reporting being on the troops being home for Christmas (which always makes me wonder -- If they want to be home for Christmas, why did they enlist?, but that's another topic).

To me, there has been in the recent reporting a notable lack of analysis of what an incredible mistake that war was -- or is that by now such an obvious conclusion that it never needs to be discussed again?

My thoughts remain on the families and friends of the 4,484 American troops who died there unnecessarily, not to mention the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians who were killed.  Then there are those who were horribly wounded, some permanently -- the psychological scars, the resulting suicides, you name it.  Meanwhile, the monsters who insisted on this war to benefit their corporate pals (hello, Halliburton!, hello, Exxon!) still walk the streets without conscience.  Now they have turned Iraq into a potential ally of Iran, the country that will be the next source of corporate profits in that war to come.

Monday, December 19, 2011

'les miz' hangover

Okay, okay.... Over the years, I had seen the Broadway musical Les Miserables twice before and have liked it, but this "re-imagined, re-invented" version that we saw yesterday is ten times better. J. Mark McVey as Jean Valjean is amazing, especially his rendition of "Bring Him Home". If this touring company comes to your city, don't miss it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

do you hear the people sing?

Way back sometime (mid '90s?), I was staying at my brother Ronnie's house in New Jersey for a couple days, and his daughter, my niece Ruthie, was going through a Les Miserables obsession. "Les Miz", that is, the Broadway hit.  Her high school choir was doing selections from the show, and she, an excellent singer by the way, was going through the house singing Les Miz songs, and that was the first time I had heard any of them.

I went on to buy the CD and eventually to see the show twice over the years -- road versions of the Broadway production when they came to the Twin Cities.

But Ruthie, who moved here to Minnesota several years ago, has still never seen it.  Until today.  We're taking her to today's performance.  After all, I owe her.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

basketball is back, among other things

Gosh, a week from tonight it will be Christmas Eve, and two weeks from tonight we'll be seeing another year end.  For me, it's going to be a busy couple weeks prior to the beginning of 2012, work-wise and otherwise, and I'm trying to stay on top of it.

Tonight, Saturday evening, I'm doing some office work at home, while I admit to having the Timberwolves-Bucks basketball preseason game on the TV off in the background.  Jerry and Tom are at the game.

Some good things coming:  My sister Mary and my niece Becky will be visiting us for Christmas, staying for a week, and we are very anxious to see them.  Tomorrow:  Jerry and I are taking my niece Ruthie to Les Miz at the Orpheum Theater.  The Minnesota Timberwolves:  They will be more fun to watch this season, maybe evcn avoiding last place.  For now, though, I gotta finish this work.

Friday, December 16, 2011

more reasons to hate walmart

Yesterday, a news story came out -- the U.S. Census Bureau has found nearly half of Americans to be "poor"...  This is shameful, as the United States deteriorates into becoming a third-world country.

Yesterday there was also a report listing the Forbes magazine wealthiest Americans.  Six members of the Walton family, the family that originally owned Walmart (descendents of Sam Walton, the founder), have a combined net worth equaling the total net worth of the least affluent 30% of the whole country.  A company that produces huge profits by stomping on its employees, its vendors, its country, and its communities deserves destruction, not this kind of obscene wealth.

Last night on the Evening News, Brian Williams gave the story about half of Americans being poor, but there was no mention of the Walton/30% thing.  Toward the end of the newscast, there was a Walmart commercial.  Big surprise.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

car story 3

... and this is the final sequel to the car melodrama.

We just couldn't do it -- buy cars on the same day, that is.  I mean, we didn't want to give people the impression that we can afford any of this when the opposite is true, so I got my VW last night, after a tearful farewell to the old one, and Jerry picked up his car this morning.

Today my buyer's remorse has been minimal.  This car should last me until sometime after I'm dead -- or too senile to be allowed on the road.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

car story 2

You know I love my car, my 2006 Volkswagen GTI.  It's the best car I've ever had. Hence, my dilemma.

This is the deal.  My car was in the shop last week, and I ended up spending a bunch for routine maintenance as well as a few problem fixes.  It made me realize that my car is no spring chicken anymore, even though it is in great shape and has relatively low mileage. It's also in high demand, so the trade-in value is good.

So, while I was at the dealership, I looked at the new GTI, the 2012.  I test drove it.  It has all these high-tech features that the 2006 didn't have. 

They found one for me, red of course, and I can go pick it up tonight if I want it.  It's basically the same car I have now, except six years newer, with cool features, and four doors instead of two.  It feels really self-indulgent to buy a new car, but my friend Mary O. convinced me that, even though I will have guilt, it's actually a sacrifice I'm making for my back-seat passengers who are sick of climbing back there.  And you know how self-sacrificing I am.  :-)

Then, a few minutes ago, Jerry called, the BMW dealership called this afternoon:  His car is ready.  It looks like both of us might of us might be buying new cars tonight, doing our little bit to stimulate the economy.

Tomorrow's post might be about buyers' remorse.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

car story 1

If you memorize my blog posts, then you undoubtedly recall my November 27 post, "goodbye to the subaru", in which I tell you about Jerry handing back his leased Subaru and buying a BMW, in this case a used BMW, a 2011.

He dropped off the Subaru on the last day of November but still doesn't have the BMW; in fact, he hasn't even seen it.  See, the car he's buying was a loaner at the BMW dealership, and the car was still on loan to a customer.  The customer, however, as it turned out, was out of town for an extended time, and the car was sitting in his garage.

So the dealership loaned Jerry another car -- a Toyota Corolla!  He drove that un-BMW for a couple weeks (and liked it a lot), then they finally gave him a loaner BMW, which he's now driving.

In the meantime, he has signed no papers and evidently can walk away from the deal if he chooses to (which he won't), so what's the hurry?

Monday, December 12, 2011

knee deep in the hoopla

I had the '80s channel going on Sirius Radio, and they were doing the Top Ten songs from this week in 1985, which included this song, and it's been going through my head ever since.

It was one of the biggest hits of the '80s, actually. But then again, I recently saw another "Top Ten" that named "We Built This City" as the worst song of the '80s. Take your pick.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

driving like a bat outta hell

Jerry has a weird, mildly annoying habit of telling guests when they leave our place, "Drive like a bat outta hell, and leave your seatbelts off!", and last night was no exception.

It was card night:  three teams -- Jerry & I, Tom & Ruthie, Ruthie's husband Ryan & Ruthie's mom Vickie (visiting from North Carolina); the game -- Hand &; Foot.  Tom and Ruthie killed us, but let's not dwell on that.

While playing, we were indulging in red wine, Ruthie and Ryan to the point where they knew they shouldn't drive, so Vickie, who does zero indulging, offered to drive.

It was after midnight when they left, and we got a text from Ruthie about a half hour later.  Vickie, who is generally a pretty conservative driver, had been pulled over by the cops for speeding.  Somehow she talked herself out of getting a speeding ticket, but Ryan got a ticket for not wearing his seat belt.

I hope they weren't really listening to Jerry.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

but at least he can sing

It's a James holiday music weekend for us.

First, there was James's college choir concert last night, which was actually quite nice for a small choir.  Then tonight and tomorrow there are the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus holiday concerts -- 150 guys in the chorus, with James being the youngest ("Jailbait James", they call him).  We'll be there in force to see him in tomorrow afternoon's performance -- eight of us --  his uncles, aunts, grandmother, cousins.... Let us hear you, boy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

at eighteen

I wonder how clueless I was at 18.  Was I as clueless, for instance, as our 18-year-old houseguest appears to be?

Was being 18 in 1965 really all that much different than being 18 in 2011?

Thinking back, I'm pretty sure my two sons, Jon and Tom, had a better grip on life at that age than either the houseguest does or I did.  Could it be partly that they grew up in the city and that James and I grew up in a small town?

Patience, Howard, patience.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


"I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test"
    from that old David Bowie song, "Changes"....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

site of infamy

It's Pearl Harbor Day, you know. Or maybe you don't know. Seventy years ago today, the Japan bombed the heck out of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, killing a couple thousand men and crippling the U.S. Pacific Fleet, an event that led to the United States immediately getting into World War II.

Pearl Harbor is just west of Honolulu, and we visited in 2007 when we were in Hawaii that first time.

Sorry about all the wind noise in this video, but at least you get to hear Jerry's voice at the end.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

february 1968: newark, new jersey

It's partly because it's a year of protest against an untrustworthy government, and it's mostly because I'm reading the book Hell No, We Won't Go: Vietnam Draft Resisters in Canada, that's causing that day to be on my mind.

It was an early morning during the winter of '68, the Selective Service Office, Bridgeton, N.J., the county seat.  I didn't have any legal choice about being there:  Show up for your military induction physical or risk arrest.  They loaded a few dozen of us guys onto busses for the three-hour ride to the federal building in downtown Newark, a trip of total dread for most of us potential draftees.  The choices were not good.  Either you are just about to get snatched from your life to go fight an obscene war in Vietnam or these Army doctors are going to find something so physically wrong with you that you are unfit for service.

The process was, as intended, degrading -- people yelling at you, treating you with scorn, giving you a preview of military life -- but I came through it, much to my distress, with flying colors.

On the bus trip home, I sat next to a Vineland guy who turned out to be one of the most interesting guys I had ever met.  He too had passed the physical and was ready to move on -- to Canada.  He knew all his reasons for being against the war and for emigrating, and he had his escape all planned out.  I knew a lot of guys were considering the Canada option, but he was the first one I knew who was actually going.  He gave me a lot to think about and consider, including the possibility of moving to Canada.  I came close to doing it.  I've always wished I had kept in touch with him to know what happened, and I've always wondered what life would have been like if I would have had the courage to follow my conscience.

My parents met me when the bus arrived back in Bridgeton and -- I know this is weird, looking back -- were disappointed that I hadn't somehow failed the physical.

Two months later, I received my draft notice.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

tastes like high-tech pizza

Maybe that Herman Cain moment got me in the mood for pizza or maybe anything gets me in the mood for pizza, but, whatever, Tom, James and I just ordered some pizza while we watch the Vikings game.

Having pizza delivered is not what it used to be, at least at the big-name chains.  They have elaborate ordering systems on line, so I sit here trying to figure it all out when it probably would have been much easier to just pick up the phone and call.

On the Domino's site, you can actually track your pizza -- the name of the person making your pizza, the name of the person who put your pizza in the oven, who takes it out, and then the name of the guy just about to knock on your front door with your pizza.

But the last pizza we got at Domino's was pretty bland, even after all that personal attention, so today we ordered from Pizza Hut -- their "big box dinner" special that we just saw advertised during the Vikings game (Corporate manipulation at its best).

The Pizza Hut site doesn't track the preparation, but it does tell us that our pizza will be delivered at 1:08.  We'll see.
Actual delivery time:  1:03 PM.   With 9:32 left in the 2nd quarter, the Vikings are losing to the Denver Broncos, 7-5.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

herman and the other munsters

The Republican presidential-candidate comic reality show continues.

The candidates that have zero chance of ever being elected are the ones who are the most entertaining to us on the other side, and that's why it's kind of a shame that Herman Cain, a pizza man with roaming hands, is dropping out of the race.  He was good for laughs, at least.

And then there's Ron Paul, who is scary but in a non-threatening, senile-grandfatherly sort of way.  I have to give him a lot of credit today though.  He is refusing to participate in a debate on 27 December that will be moderated by none other than hairstyle-gone-amuk self-proclaimed genius, Donald Trump.  Rep. Paul says that such a spectacle would be "beneath the office of the presidency".

(All of these debates have been beneath the office of the presidency, but that's beside the point, I guess).

If Mitt Romney refuses the Donald Trump Show, I'll be impressed.

Friday, December 2, 2011

spending an evening with 'charley's aunt'

Guthrie photo by T. Charles Erickson
Another blogger night at the Guthrie Theater last night, the play this time being Charley's Aunt, a comedy by Brandon Thomas that first premiered in London in 1892.  This was the first time the Guthrie has staged this often-produced play (which I hadn't seen before), and they of course do it in superb Guthrie style:  exceptional sets, costumes and actors, led by the cross-dressing John Skelley as the pretend Charley's aunt.

Sally Wingert, a local favorite and an actress that we have seen in quite a few plays, played the real Charley's aunt and was good as always, but I noticed this time in her Playbill biography that she had had a bit part in Fargo, one of my favorite films.  Needless to say, this morning I had to figure out what her Fargo role was, and here it is, per next scene is in Gustafson's Motors showroom (the Oldsmobile auto chain is owned by his father-in-law), where lowly, sad-faced, and sleazy Minnesota executive car sales manager Jerry browbeats and scams a customer (Gary Houston) and his wife (Sally Wingert) in his glass-enclosed cubicle (decorated with golf statues) to purchase TruCoat, and threatens that they will experience "oxidation problems" if they don't pay the extra $500 for the factory-installed finish.

Remember that scene?

Anyway, thanks again to Guthrie for the tickets and an enjoyable evening of entertainment.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

the audience went crazy

A news story:  "MANAMA, Bahrain — Marine Gen. James F. Amos, the face of opposition in the military to lifting the ban on gays serving openly, now acknowledges his concern has proven unfounded that repeal would undermine the war effort. In fact, he says, Marines have embraced the change.

"In an Associated Press interview, Amos called the repeal in September 'a non-event.'"

Meanwhile, the Republican Presidential contenders in their debates are still pledging to un-do the repeal, and that pledge gets wild cheers from the rabidly right-wing crowd.

But what would "un-doing the repeal" look like?  Everybody who has come out of the closet since the repeal would be kicked out of the military?  Executed?  Or would they be grandfathered-in?  And what would that look like?

Those candidates love getting the debate audiences to cheer, but consider:  These same crowds cheered the option of letting uninsured people die, and they booed the openly gay serviceman who was asking a question.  If the debaters want anything more than a cheap thrill, they need to realize that the general electorate isn't quite that hateful and demented.
By the way, I think it's hilarious that Rick Perry thought that the voting age was 21.
P.S.  Happy Birthday, Ruthie... Hugs to you!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

1961: millville high school, new jersey

It's funny, the things you can't forget...

One of my Facebook friends posted something that mentioned her high school freshman algebra class causing her many problems.  That prompted responses from several other Facebook friends because we were all in that same class and shared the same trauma.  The problem wasn't the algebra, it was the teacher.  She was by far the meanest teacher I have ever met -- a total bully. I still have nightmares about that class. The responses from the other friends: "Yes, she was scary....especially when you got called to the board to solve a problem!!!"; and "OMG me too! 1st period freshman yr.  Like throwing the Christians to the lions!"

But then, as they continued to post, they said that after school, one on one, she was sweet and kind.  I obviously never had a one-on-one moment with her, but I'd like to think she had that other side, that nobody is Pure Evil.

Monday, November 28, 2011

natalie back in the news

Natalie Wood, a superstar at the time, played Maria in the movie version of West Side Story (Rita Morena played Anita), 1961. Twenty years later, 1981, she drowned after falling off a yacht near Catalina Island. The circumstances were mysterious -- did her husband Robert Wagner drown her? -- but eventually, after plenty of tabloid stories, somebody determined that it was just an accident.

Now, thirty years after that, fifty years after West Side Story, here in 2011, the case has been re-opened because of some so-called "new evidence." How could new evidence about a drowning turn up after 30 years? I think that story will go away again.

This particular song came back to my attention this weekend because James has been playing the Glee version of it, which isn't half bad. Natalie Wood didn't have a singing voice, she is lip-synching it. Marni Nixon, who was also the singing voice for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, owns the voice that you hear.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

goodbye to the subaru

When I first met Jerry, 13 years ago, he drove a Toyota Rav 4.  After that, he had a way-too-big Toyota Four Runner, followed by two beloved BMWs.  Then, three years ago, in a moment he has since regretted, he went to a Subaru Outback.  Not that there is anything wrong with a Subaru: it's just that a BMW is a hard act to follow.

All of the above were leased, and he turns them in every three years and never looks back.  I buy a Volkswagen and keep it until it's almost dead, and even then I have a hard time saying Goodbye.  He doesn't bond with his cars like I do with mine, which makes him perfect for leasing and not buying.

Until now.  The lease on his Subaru expires this week, and he's not going to lease his next car.  He's going to buy -- can you believe it?   And he can't handle the thought of anything other than another BMW.  He's buying a two-year-old BMW and plans on hanging onto it indefinitely.

So as of this week, Jerry is going to commit to a vehicle, and we are back to being an all-German car family.   Ach der lieber!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

meanwhile, back at the coffee shop

It's a rainy but a fairly warm Saturday morning, considering that it is late November.  You know I love waking up early on the weekends and doing something before the rest of the world is out and about.  Jerry, though, likes to sleep in.  James works at a store at the Mall of America and didn't get home from his brutal Black Friday work day until after midnight, so he, obviously, was sleeping in too.

So I went over to my coffee shop at 13th and Hennepin and hung out and found a corner to read in (currently reading a 1996 book called Hell No, We Won't Go:  Vietnam Draft Resisters in Canada -- which I will maybe discuss in a future post) and drank my coffee.  Why this is more satisfying than making coffee at home I don't know.  Why this is more satisfying than sleeping a couple extra hours I do know.

Friday, November 25, 2011

black is black

It's Black Friday, which means different things to different people:  a day to enjoy fighting crowds at the mall, maybe getting pepper-sprayed at Walmart; or deliberately not shopping, hanging out at home instead.  I'm one of the not-shopping people.  To retailers, at least in legend, it is the day when their profits go from the red into the black.  Whatever.

Thanksgiving was good for us.  We and Jon and Tom and Joan all went out for dinner.  I didn't want to get up early on my birthday to throw a turkey into the oven, which felt good at the time, but now I sort of regret not having any leftover turkey.

A month from today is Christmas.  'Enough said about that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

a senior moment

You know how it is, or maybe you don't -- the "senior citizen discount" thing.  At some places being a senior citizen means 55 and over, or 60 and over, 62 and over... or the big kahuna, 65 and over -- so you have to ask for a definition of when the discount kicks in.

As of today, I never have to ask that question again.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

1976-1978: mankato, minnesota

The day before Thanksgiving.  In the U.S., it is maybe the busiest travel day of the year, everybody getting back to where they once belonged.

My first real-life experience with the madness of the day before Thanksgiving was back in 1976, my first winter in Minnesota.  While in college, I had a part-time job at the Greyhound bus terminal, selling tickets, loading luggage onto busses, that sort of thing.  On that day there were incredible lines -- mostly kids leaving the university for the long weekend -- overcrowded luggage compartments, freezing temperatures outdoors, exhaust fumes.... And then I'd be coming back the next day to work again, on Thanksgiving Day, because the bus runs 365 days a year, you know.  The big difference between the days is that nobody travels on Thanksgiving.  Feast and famine at the bus depot, the famine coming when everybody is elsewhere feasting.

'Hope you have a great Thanksgiving, wherever you end up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

super nothing

I was telling Jerry, it's time to give up.  This country is doomed, and I need to stop having moments of optimism...

...on the other hand, I already had zero optimism about the Congressional "Super Committee" that was supposed to come up with deficit-reduction answers by tomorrow, 23 November.  The committee has announced it has failed, hopelessly mired in political short-sightedness, and now some unknown "automatic" cutbacks are going to happen, blah blah blah...

... I need to put my mind elsewhere.  Let me know when the civil war is over.

Monday, November 21, 2011

hey there, robin...

I was reading that Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees is in bad shape physically. He has liver cancer, and photos show him to be extremely thin and frail. Very sad. His twin brother Maurice died in 2003. These three Brothers Gibb wrote a lot of good and memorable music.

Seems to be a good day to post a Bee Gees video.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

scrooging again

Thanksgiving Week is upon us, so beware -- not that there is necessarily anything wrong with Thanksgiving, I guess.

But then suddenly Christmas season is upon us, and it falls upon us earlier every year; this year, for instance, I notice that Target stores are opening at midnight Thanksgiving night to give overly anxious shoppers a headstart on "Black Friday", that nightmare shopping day.... and then the race to 25 December begins.

James and I have another headstart to Christmas -- I was given some more "blogger" free tickets to a preview of the Guthrie's A Christmas Carol this evening.  The Guthrie Theater has done A Christmas Carol for 35 straight years.  It's always an extravagant production, changing a little each year.  Maybe it will get us in the mood.  Or maybe we'll be bah-humbugging out into the cold.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

the pressure of being the one holding the remote

There are three other guys in the room (Jerry, Tom, James), and I'm the one holding the TV remote.  There is no way to pick the right thing to watch that will make all four of us happy.  Oh the curse of modern technology!...

Friday, November 18, 2011

you need to pay attention, dude!

A friend of James's was at our place last night: A good kid, about 22 years old and a college student, lives about an hour from the Twin Cities.

At some point Jerry came home, calling a small sign that said "We are the 99%".  He had just been to an Occupy protest with about 400 other people over by the University of Minnesota.

James's friend:  "What is that, 'We are the 99%'?"  He had never heard of the Occupy movement at all.

I blame the kid for not making himself being better informed, of course.  But I also blame the media for giving so little attention to the story that a college kid can exist at this moment and not even know it's going on.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

back to the streets

As I sit here in my office on a Thursday morning, the 17th of November, I am watching a livestream video from the Occupy Wall Street website.  There are thousands of protestors there in New York this morning, trying to "shut down Wall Street", police are over-reacting, people are being arrested, etc.  If you go to any of the big news websites right now, you would have no idea any of this is going on.

... and tonight, on the evening news, this story will be pushed down into a two-sentence summary following the Penn State sex scandal and other more sensational entertainment bits.

... it's the "ignore it and it will go away" strategy from big business/big media.

My current thoughts on the Occupy movement:

--  I love it.  It's good to be involved in protest marches again.
--  I'm happy to see young people who are educated on the issues and who care.
--  I wonder what will be next.
--  I'm particularly interested in the Occupy Berkeley group.  It was at the University of California - Berkeley that the protests of the '60s began. Anybody here know the name Mario Salvo?  I remember those days well.  Once that movement began, there was no stopping it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

stones wisdom

"Getting old is a fascinating thing.  The older you get, the older you want to get."

-- Keith Richards

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

mid-autumn sports update

The records so far of the two NFL teams that I care about:  Philadelphia Eagles have won three, lost six; Minnesota Vikings have a record of 2-7.  The other teams:  who cares, unless you happen to play Fantasy Football, which so far I have managed to avoid.  As a result, watching football this season is not taking much of my time, which is undoubtedly a good thing.

NHL Hockey:  I need to say this quick before it ends -- the Minnesota Wild are in first place in their division, and that might not last too long!  The Philadelphia Flyers are in first place in their division too, so hockey is going well at least (Too bad I hardly ever watch hockey).

The big story in NBA basketball is that there is no season so far.  The lockout continues, and nobody outside of the league itself understands what the issues are, other than that it's about money.  The two sides -- owners and players -- are still far apart in their negotiations, so there might not be any season at all.  From a personal standpoint, the good thing about that is that I will start getting refunds soon from my Timberwolves season tickets, although I do admit feeling a little sad about having no Timberwolves games to go to.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

the burning bush speaks again

Rick Perry one day, Herman Cain again the next.. I'm in a rut...

... but how can I resist?  That stage of debating candidates has to be the worst ever.

Herman Cain yesterday told a crowd that God told him to run for President.  In fact, Herman Cain compared himself to Moses, which maybe means that God spoke to him from a burning bush.  But didn't God also tell Michele Bachmann to run for President?  No, that's not right -- I forgot:  He told Michele's husband that Michele should run for President.  Can't God make up his mind, or did He know that Michele would bomb out anyway?  Or is He just starved for bizarre entertainment?

... and, in last night's debate, the other candidates actually somehow made Ron Paul look like the voice of reason.  Maybe Ron is the next one to get the Divine Call.

... one more thing:  When these fools tell them that God told them to run, are there people out there in the audience who actually fall for that line?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

frozen brains on stage

My thoughts on Rick Perry's brain freeze during the Republican debate this week....

I have brain freezes all the time, so I guess I can't ever run for President, which of course is bad news for the country and the world.

He obviously wasn't coached well enough.  Had he ever even heard of the Department of Energy before he was told (by the oil companies, of course) that he wanted to eliminate it?

Who are the Media to determine that Perry's campaign is over because of this gaffe?  Why does a person have to be an all-star debater to be President?

Friday, November 11, 2011

eleven eleven eleven

I need to post this while it is still November 11 in Europe.  My friend and co-worker, Mary O., is in Spain for five weeks and keeps current with my blog even when she is over there meditating.  She is also a numbers person and into dates that sound kind of cute (which you might remember from my posts "nine ten eleven" or "ten ten ten") and has been looking forward to the date 11.11.11 more than any of the others.  I mean, 11 is kind of a lucky number for some people, plus just think of it -- all ones! -- 111111!  A date like this won't ever happen again.  "22.22.22" just won't cut it, since there aren't 22 months in any year (although maybe by then there will be!) and besides that's just twos!

It's also Veterans Day (formerly "Armistice Day", commemorating the signing of the armistice to end World War I, signed at 11 a.m. on 11.11 back in 1918).  Some people have the day off today as a holiday, most of them not veterans. I, a veteran, am working but might go hang out with the Veterans for Peace group at OccupyMN later on.  Have a good 11.11.11, all of you.  We all were lucky enough to live it together.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

gitche gumee

Today's date rang a bell with me early in the day but rang louder this evening when we were at Mazlack's Bar in Northeast Minneapolis.  We knew somebody in the band, that's why we were there, and the band sang The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the haunting song made famous by Gordon Lightfoot.  It was on 10 November in 1975 that the Edmund Fitgerald sank on that enormous body of water a couple hours north of here, Lake Superior (known to the Native Americans as "Gitche Gumee").

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

the life of a hacker

Does anybody know why hackers hack?  I notice that several of my Facebook friends had spam messages sent out to their Facebook friends today with a web link that nobody dare click on and woe be to anyone who does (Virus?  Identity-theft?).  But what satisfaction does the hacker get if they do?  Money, somehow.  Or it just the challenge of being a nuisance that excites them?

I get spam comments to most of my blog posts too.  Fortunately, Google zaps them before they reach you, my lovely reading public, but I do see them because they get forwarded to my email and they are usually in a Russian-looking language.  Yet they keep coming, and I just wonder what the hackers get out of their comments if nobody ever reads them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

winona without ralph

Eleven years ago, I wouldn't even have walked across the street to see Winona LaDuke.  Eleven years ago right now, we were going through the whole bush-Gore recount debacle from the 2000 election, for which I totally was blaming Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, and Winona was Nader's running mate.

I still blame Nader.  bush "won" the election, leading us to unnecessary wars and economic disaster, so as far as I'm concerned Nader has blood on his hands.

But Winona LaDuke, I'm hoping, saw the error of their campaign.  She endorsed Kerry in 2004 (even though Nader ran again that year) and Obama in 2008.  There was a time when I had great admiration for Ralph Nader, but sometimes you need to be pragmatic, and convincing some voters that Gore was as bad as bush was irresponsible on Nader's part.

Last night, though, we went farther than across the street -- ten blocks down the street, to my church, actually -- to see and hear Winona LaDuke.  She is a long-time activist for Native American and environmental causes. She gave a fairly informal talk but had some good insight on current issues relating to Green issues and seemed to be a very likable, practical and knowledgable person.  An evening well spent.

Monday, November 7, 2011

give me the gas

My long-time dentist is retiring next month! I actually like the guy, so I'm a little sad about that... although I will feel no sadness this afternoon, when he gets to do nasty stuff to me for the last time. I need a crown and some other work that I'd rather not know the details of. "I'll kind of miss you," I told him the other day, "but I'm not going to miss your sadistic tendencies!"

So he will hook me up to the nitrous oxide, and I'll only feel mental pain (I hope)...

... until he is done and I get his bill -- the biggest horror of all. It will help him sail off into a blissful retirement.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

an hour

One of the best feelings in life is waking up on that one Sunday morning a year when you look at the clock that says "8:05", when you know that it is really "7:05" because the time changed during the night.

Jerry, who is not usually one to wake up early, wanted to go somewhere for breakfast, so he and I, just the two of us, went to The Egg and I cafe in South Minneapolis, where I had oatmeal with brown sugar and an English muffin that was unfortunately hard as a rock.  And great coffee.

So leisurely.  We don't get it often enough.  Then Jerry was off to work, and I had no excuses, so I went to church.

By 5 P.M., it was dark.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

random thoughts, or maybe not so random

It's one of those days when I can't write what I'm really thinking.  Suffice it to say this:

I miss my brother Ronnie.  There are so many days when I want to pick up the phone and call him, and of course I can't.  It's been five months now.

People handle grief in many different ways.  Occasionally they surprise me.

Certain words are so easy to utter without any depth of feeling.  Soulmate, for instance.

Certain words aren't uttered when they should be.  Betrayal, for instance.

Some people get what they deserve.  Some people don't.

Friday, November 4, 2011

oh brian, brian, brian!...

Now that we have been DVRing and watching The NBC Evening News with Brian Williams every day for a few months now, I see patterns in NBC's reporting that disturb but don't necessarily surprise me.  There is a whole world of news every single day, but what gets reported instead seems to be the entertainment news, some pseudo health breakthrough, or feel-good stories about octogenarian military veterans getting medals or schoolchildren succeeding against all odds.

Yesterday, for instance.  The big news stories of the day, in my opinion, were the financial crisis in Greece (which has Europe and the world on pins and needles) and the massive protests in Oakland, California in support of OccupyWallStreet.  You had to watch for ten minutes before you heard brief tidbits of information about these two stories.  Before that, you had to sit through long updates on the Michael Jackson doctor trial, followed by the Herman Cain sexual harassment story.

... and, I gotta say this:  You know I think that Herman Cain is a dweeb (see my October 19 post "cain is not able"), but who cares whether he had to settle a sexual harassment allegation twenty years ago?  I'm always suspicious of these  kinds of allegations and large settlements anyway.  Was somebody just a little too (intentionally?) sensitive to crude remarks?  Didn't they ever go to high school?  If we all sued everybody who ever made a sexually suggestive remark in our presence, wouldn't we all be in court nonstop?...

Back to NBC News.  Do you know that NBC is owned 51% by Comcast and 49% by General Electric?  It's no wonder that real objective news of the 99% never gets out.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

the six hundreth

I was noticing that this is my 600th blog post.

When are YOU going to start a blog?  I just spend ten minutes or so day at this, and surely you can come up with something better than some of the drivel that I've produced!  Sure, it's self-indulgent, expecting people to care what you think, but it's fun too.  Give it some thought.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

edge, bodies, etc.

Jerry has this new thing when it comes to general admission theater seating -- he loves being first row center.  We did that recently for True West and Neighbors, and being on the edge of the action in those cases added to the reality of the experience, especially in True West where beer cans and typewriters are being thrown around the stage.

Last night, the play was The Edge of Our Bodies at the Guthrie Theater.  Our tickets were complimentary once again because the Guthrie now generously lists me as a "blogger" (hence, a media presence?).  There are three theaters at the Guthrie, and this play was in the Dowling Studio, on the ninth floor of the building, a smaller space than the other two stages, focusing more on new or cutting-edge works.

The Edge of Our Bodies, written by Adam Rapp, is mostly a one-woman play, featuring Ali Rose Dachis (pictured above) as Bernadette, a "coming of age" 16-year-old.  The story is interesting, but what makes the show is her riveting and intense performance as we see the change in her...

..Which brings me back to us sitting in the front row.   The actress is literally ten or twenty feet in front of us, and I feel sometimes that she is making direct eye contact with me, and I'm sure other people feel that too.  I look at Jerry, and his eyes are closed... I nudge him several times.... Does he think she doesn't see him sleeping?  He tells me  later that he was not asleep, but how would this actress know if he is asleep or not?  Or do actors on a stage not really pay attention to what audience members are doing?  Despite nudging him and watching him fidget, I definitely enjoyed the play, though.  We just need to re-think the front row thing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

more sacred stuff

Halloween is done, it's November.  The first of November, actually -- All Saints Day (whatever the heck that means)...

... and it's time to once again review the important news headlines of this day --

Herman Cain, pizza guy and Presidential candidate, is defending himself against revelations that he has paid unknown amounts to settle sexual harassment accusations somewhere in his background as Godfathers' CEO.  Amusing!

The seven-billionth person alive on earth was born somewhere in the world sometime yesterday.  Upsetting!  It's getting too crowded!

Oh, here is a really really important story -- with a local twist.  First some personal background:  A few months ago we were at a Timberwolves/New Jersey Nets basketball game, and at some point during a time-out there was an announcement that Kim Kardashian was in the crowd, and there on the big screen was a shot of her waving at us Wolves fans.  This meant nothing to me, but luckily my niece Ruthie was sitting next to me and informed me that Kim Kardashian is some sort of famous reality-show something-or-other, engaged to one of the Nets players, Kris Humphries, a Minneapolis dude.  So Kim Kardashian is one of those celebrities famous just for being a celebrity, and marrying an NBA star would add to her list of non-accomplishments.  I'm thinking at the time, "Hey Kris Humphries, whoever you are, you can do better!"

And my thinking was correct (as it usually is!).  Kris bought her a $2 million engagement ring, 20.5 carats, they had a made-for-TV-and-tabloid wedding, and yesterday, after 72 days of blissful married life, they announced  they're getting a divorce, which I'm sure will also be a TV-and-tabloid event.

 "Sanctity of marriage" takes another hit!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I mentioned to Jerry that, even though it was #50 for me, Oregon may have entered my list of Five Favorite States -- meaning, I guess, the states that somehow feel right for me in some sort of indescribable way... which of course led to a discussion of what are the other four?  And here, in no particular order is the list:  New Jersey and Minnesota, the two states where I have lived the longest; Vermont, a beautiful quiet getaway place; Hawaii, which almost goes without saying (it's just a shame that it's so far away); and now Oregon.  Oregon just has the right feel to it -- the people, the attitude, the resources, even the granola/aging-hippie stuff.  And then there is Portland, which we are still discovering.  There is a bumper sticker Aunt Myrt was telling us about -- "Keep Portland Weird" -- and, as my son Jon says, "Weird is almost always good."

We visited Occupy Portland yesterday, and it is way different from Occupy Minnesota.  Tents and tarps and people cover two whole downtown blocks here (tents aren't allowed at the Minnesota encampment), and it is a lot grungier than its Minneapolis counterpart... But it feels like it is there to stay indefinitely.

This afternoon we fly home.  We'll come back here sometime, I know.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

occupying portland

We are staying in a downtown Portland hotel for two nights, flying back home tomorrow.

Today we explore Portland a little to get the feel of a city that we hear good things about, and we also get to spend some time with my niece Michelle (my sister Nancy's daughter) and Michelle's husband Josh and their two small kids who I haven't met before.

Also, we plan on visiting Occupy Portland, one of the more successful of the country's Occupy encampments, which is just a few blocks from our hotel.  We are hoping to take my Aunt Myrt to the protest later to show her that it isn't the icky thing that she thinks it is.  I saw part of the local news last night... The coverage of the Occupy was totally negative and distorted, so it's no wonder some people sitting in front of their televisions are scared of it.  I wonder who owns that TV station and which sponsors they are most dependent on.

Friday, October 28, 2011

moving on

We had two days of good weather here on the beautiful Oregon Coast (and good weather is definitely not a given in Oregon -- you plan that it will be rainy and then you're pleasantly surprised when it isn't)...  As I sit here this morning overlooking the ocean, the sun is shining, but I see in the forecast that rain is coming later in the day...

The timing is okay.  We are heading back to the city, back to Portland in a little while, after stopping at the coffee shop here for some breakfast. We loved our stay on the Coast and visiting with friends here.  My #50 state is living up to all my expectations.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

a little resort town on the ocean

I am sitting in the living room of my friend Mary W., looking out over the Pacific Ocean.  It's a beautiful morning here on the Oregon Coast.  We had a nice drive down here yesterday from Portland (about three hours drive), the leaves are turning, the scenery was good.  Today we go down the coast a few miles, might even hike a little (VERY little, that is)...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Greetings from Portland, Oregon, where I have accomplished a self-imposed goal.

If you go back to my August 3, 2008 post ("see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet"), I was muttering about having been in all but 14 of the 50 states and that maybe I should make it a goal to see all 50 before I'm dead.  One of the reasons was that traveling to Europe became too expensive for us (the dollar vs. the euro and all that).  The other reason was, why not?  Since then, my sister Joan has told me that I stole the idea from her, but I have no recollection of that and, besides, is it such an original idea? and I hope she makes it too (she is 12 years younger -- she has more time than I did!).

So we hit 13 of those 14 states since August of 2008, and Oregon is #50, and this is one state I was really looking forward to visiting, for several reasons:  1) it's a blue state (usually); 2) it's supposed to be beautiful; 3) my Aunt Myrt lives here; 4) my niece Michelle & Family live here; 5) my friend Mary W. lives here (on the coast) and 6) everybody tells me how much I am going to love Portland.

We haven't seen much of Portland yet, are heading for the Pacific Coast today to visit Mary, then back to explore the city of Portland Friday through Sunday.

My next travel goal?  well, we'll see....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We'll be flying to Portland, Oregon this afternoon and will be in Oregon until next Sunday.  I have relatives to visit in Portland (my Aunt Myrt and my niece Michelle and her family) and we'll also be driving out to the Oregon coast to spend some time with friends.  Should be a fun time!  I'll keep you up to date.

Monday, October 24, 2011

it's Jerry's birthday...

... which we mostly celebrated last night with the family, and then I took him out for lunch today.

Tonight, he, James and I are going to be extras (we think) in a low-budget movie.  Our role (we think) is to be in a theater audience while a play is being done on stage.  The scenes are being shot at the Theater in the Round, which is familiar territory for us.  It might be boring, or maybe not.

Tomorrow, we fly to Portland for five days in Oregon.  That won't be boring.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


My sister Joan and I were having coffee downtown at the Barnes and Noble coffeeshop and saw a gaggle of police cars, lights flashing, zipping past us down 8th Street.  We think, uh-oh. now what's going on?  As it turned out, nothing.  They were escorting first the Green Bay Packer team busses and then the Minnesota Vikings team busses down the street to the Metrodome for today's game.  I'm thinking, why the escort?  Is this a good use of police salary?

... and now I'm home sitting in front of the TV watching the game.  The Vikings are pathetic this season and the Packers are maybe the best team in the league.  The Vikings this week replaced veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was having a terrible year, with our rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.  At the moment that I'm typing this, the Vikings are somehow in the lead, 14-10, but it's still the first half, and the Vikings this year play well in the first half and awful in the second half, so my expectations are low.  If this turns out to be the last year that the Vikings are in Minnesota, last place is a sad way for the team's history here to end.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

the warm daylight

I had to work a good part of today, a Saturday, which wasn't easy because it was a beautiful October day outside.  I did walk over to the Occupation a couple times and sat in the warm sun and had a great long discussion with two guys who were new to the site.  These are just normal guys, not radical at all like the public image the media tries to present of the Occupiers, and were excited by what they saw.  Over the past several days, I've been having good talks with Veterans for Peace members that are represented in the Occupy Minnesota encampment (I'm a veteran, you know, and I'm also for peace).  I'm finding that I also do well chatting with hard-core socialists.  I'm a believer in capitalism, of course -- after all, I'm a business owner -- but I'm a believer in socialism too.  They're both right and they're both wrong.  The answers are at neither extreme and are somewhere in the middle.  At least, that's the way I see it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

friday evening quadlocation

Jerry is in the living room tapping on his laptop, doing work-related stuff, and I'm quietly antsy thinking about what to do with a potentially lovely Friday evening that lies before us.  How often do we get a Friday evening with nothing planned?  James is working, so we are even childless tonight!

..  but, as I see Jerry working, I'm thinking, Maybe I should have stayed at the office.  I have a lot of work piled up, and he and I are leaving for Oregon on Tuesday, and there is no way I can finish all that work on Monday, so there is going to be some weekend office time, for sure, so probably it should have been now...

... but the weather is nice, and I'm thinking, Maybe we should go hang out at Occupy Minnesota for awhile, where they are celebrating two weeks of occupation, and I always find interesting conversations there.

...  but it's the last day we can use a free pass for the gym next door at the Hyatt Hotel, and we are thinking of joining there, so maybe we should take advantage of that.

...  but I know that Jerry is ready to have dinner, so we might have to plan around that.

...  and I know that the best bet is that we will do nothing at all.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

reality show on the shores of tripoli

Another evil dictator is dead, and people celebrate gruesome photos and videos of his bloody corpse.  Barbarism lives on, I guess -- Qaddafi taught his countrymen well.   Remember that old song by The Who -- "meet the new boss, same as the old boss"?  ...  we'll see what kind of changes will become the historical evolution of Libya...

[a side note that I can't resist:  In that debate the other night, did Michele Bachmann really not know that Libya is in Africa?]

... so Qaddafi is gone, and it's unfortunate that he got to live the good life as long as he did.

... but there are still plenty of evil dictatorships in the world, they just don't have household-name recognition yet.  I wonder which one we'll drop our bombs on next.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

cain is not able

It's sort of amusing that Herman Cain, pizza man and would-be motivational speaker, is the current flavor of the month with Republicans who are desperately searching for a decent presidential candidate for next year.  I could go on and on about how dumb his "9-9-9" tax is, but, since it has no chance of ever becoming law, why waste cyberspace on that topic?  But I do find one of his recent remarks even more telling of his mindset.  He said, to the Occupy Wall Street protestors: "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks -- if you don't have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!"

... Meaning, I guess, that everybody who is out of work should maybe start their own business and make their own fortune??...  I wonder what kind of business that would be, that 15 million unemployed people could start and make a living at?  Selling Amway?  To whom, each other?  Opening a retail store and competing with Walmart?  And who are they going to borrow money from to open these millions of new businesses?  Banks are doing very little lending these days, especially to unemployed persons!  I wish the dude would be a little more specific and then our economic problems would be over!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

a blog sibling may be coming

I'm toying with the idea of starting a second blog -- not daily, just occasional, focusing primarily on political stuff.  Right now, the whole Occupy Wall Street thing is going through my mind a lot -- I think the movement is the most interesting development politically that has happened in a long time -- but I can't be too political on this site without getting repetitious and annoying certain of my generally loyal readers.  I also want to respond more directly to the horror that is and will be the Presidential election of 2012 -- for instance, I'm gonna need to say something about Herman Cain's idiotic 9-9-9 tax plan.

... and it's not the first time I ran two blogs concurrently -- remember "The Hellish 28 Days", when I was going through a dietary detox in 2008?  It ran for, well, 28 days and is still sitting out there somewhere --

... so maybe I'll do that.  I'll decide soon.  "Et Maintenant" will always be occasionally political, of course, but just a more balanced rendering of my unbalanced mind.

Monday, October 17, 2011

my huckleberry friend, whatever that means

I was sitting at the kitchen table and looked up at the framed Audrey Hepburn poster that we have on the wall -- Audrey as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Somebody gave it to us, I don't even know who.  But it occurred to me that I needed to post an Audrey Hepburn video sometime.  Today's the day.

And I do admit to liking the song "Moon River".  Audrey didn't have much of a singing voice, and this isn't my favorite version of the song, but it was Henry Mancini's favorite version -- and he wrote it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

hymn for a sunday evening

oh help me... James and his friend Emma are making dinner.  They are going through the refrigerator and the cupboards trying to find something (a) that they know how to cook and (b) that they can stand to eat.

It might be a good evening for me to go for a walk... maybe back over to the OccupyMinnesota site.  There are interesting conversations going on over there.  If I stay here, I'm a little nervous that another re-run of Glee will show up on the TV screen.

... another busy week at work coming up.... Do you ever get the Sunday night blues?  Did I tell you that we're flying to Portland, Oregon a week from Tuesday, staying for five days?  Another getaway coming up.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

more transatlantic eeriness

Referring to my post on 9.25.11 ("oh! i forgot to tell you the scott joplin story!") and my post on 10.11.11 ("1957-1959: underground in new jersey").... This isn't quite as weird as the Scott Joplin thing but sort of weird anyway:  My friend in Germany, Elke, again.  Neither of us have ever read a Stephen King book before or had any desire to, and we have never in our many emails discussed Stephen King before.  What are the odds of this happening?:  we both just happen to be reading the King non-fiction On Writing, a fairly obscure book that is eleven years old?  She and I have some sort of mental telepathy thing going on, I think.  What's next.

Friday, October 14, 2011


A guy joins a monastery and takes a vow of silence: he's allowed to say two words every seven years. After the first seven years, the elders bring him in and ask for his two words. "Cold floors," he says. They nod and send him away. Seven more years pass. They bring him back in and ask for his two words. He clears his throats and says, "Bad food." They nod and send him away. Seven more years pass. They bring him in for his two words. "I quit," he says. "That's not surprising," the elders say. "You've done nothing but complain since you got here."


[sorry, it's been a hard week at the office, and I was too tired to think for myself today. I'm heading to Happy Hour.  -- H.]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

blackout on my belt loop

I knew something had to be wrong. When I turned on my BlackBerry "smart" phone yesterday morning, there were no personal email updates since early the previous evening.  That never happens.  And I wear my phone on my belt all day while at work, and I'm usually getting phone vibrations and/or message sounds all during the day.  Yesterday, nothing all day.  It wasn't until later in the afternoon that I saw a news item -- BlackBerry had had a rolling blackout starting in Asia and Europe and hitting North America night before last.  It seems to be back now, but who's to say?

My left hip enjoyed the vibration-free day, though.  Most of the email messages that I get on my personal email tend to be political send-me-money pleas or $10-off coupons from Buca di Beppo or some such place anyway, so there's generally no urgency for me to read (and delete) them.  People that are dependent on their BlackBerry emails for business purposes must have had a tough day, though.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

the latest reason to love ben & jerry's ice cream

... their support for the Occupy Wall Street protestors, of course...Free ice cream, even!

But the movement is made up of many beliefs, many groups, many factions, and it's amusing that some protestors didn't like the idea of accepting corporate support...

...which, from my point of view, is silly.  The movement can't be against capitalism.  It needs to be against unbridled, unregulated, monopoly-crazy, "too big to fail" capitalism.  There's a big difference.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

1957-1959: underground in new jersey

I've never read a Stephen King novel, but I've seen several of the movie versions of his novels, enough to know that I probably don't need to read any of them.  But I'm now reading his non-fiction book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, which is a little bit autobiography and a lot about his thoughts on the creative process, about writing.  And I'm enjoying the book a lot, being a frustrated would-be writer all my life.

I wouldn't have expected to have much in common with Stephen King, horror story writer, but here's something:  When he was in elementary school, he and his brother had a sort of underground newspaper that they passed around school (and sometimes got in trouble with).  To print the copies, they used a hectograph, a gelatin printing process thing which most of you have never heard of and which I had sort of forgotten ever existed.  You can't imagine, thinking back, how primitive they were.

And how I know about them is that I used to have one.  I had an unauthorized newspaper back in school (which occasionally got me in minor trouble), 4th grade through 6th grade, when I was a student at the Vineland Christian School. My newspaper had the important-sounding name of the Cumberland County Press, and for the first few editions I used a hectograph, which my dad got for me somewhere, to print the copies.  He must have seen that I was struggling to come up with a quality product using that messy thing, so he found me a used mimeograph machine somewhere, which was messy in its own way (typing onto stencils, inking up the machine) but light-years beyond the capabilities of the hectograph.  My little newspaper, which I operated out of our dingy cellar,  became sort of a gritty alternative to the school newspaper, The Sunbeam.

Think what I (or Stephen King!) could have done with desktop publishing!

Monday, October 10, 2011

they are the champions

People generally don't hear much about women's sports, except maybe during the Olympics, and most people probably don't even know that there is a Women's National Basketball Associaton, but here in Minnesota we are excited that the Minnesota Lynx, sister team of the Minnesota Timberwolves, are the new 2011 WNBA champions.  The Lynx had the best record in the league during the regular season and beat the Atlanta Dream in the finals, three games to none.  This has been an otherwise bleak year for Minnesota pro sports teams (the Vikings, the Twins, the Timberwolves, and the Wild), and the Lynx have shown the men how to win -- with determination, skill and class.  Congrats.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

it's Tom's birthday

According to my laptop, it is 8:24 a.m.  It was at this exact minute thirty years ago that my son Tom was born.  I wish you a very Happy Birthday, Tom.  Let's have a great party tonight!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

coffee and tea

It was early this morning.  I stopped at the coffee shop, decided to take my coffee over to the Plaza to hang out some more with the OccupyMN people.  There wasn't a big crowd at that hour -- just the diehards and some people who had spent the night still asleep in their sleeping bags -- but the morning was beautiful and I sat there for a while reading my book and occuping some space.

Right-wingers and corporate apologists are looking for ways to generalize the protestors in some negative way -- anarchists, Communists, who knows what -- and of course there is no truth in those generalizations.  It was interesting for me, at least in this Minnesota group, to see the political diversity represented that didn't seem to fit in:  there were a few Ron Paul people with their "Audit the Federal Reserve signs", for instance; or Jesse Ventura, our one-time governor and ongoing conspiracy freak.

This of course is a protest that is yet to be totally defined.  It's sort of an un-Tea Party group of fed-up citizens, but, let's face it, the Tea Party probably can't be specifically pinpointed either.  Many think that Tea Partiers are racists, for example, and in reality I'm sure there are a few of them who are not.

Friday, October 7, 2011

occupation across the street

My 9.28.11 post ("billy clubs, tear gas, pepper spray") touched on the topic of the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York and how I was encouraged by the fact that such a protest was even happening.  Since then the demonstrations in Lower Manhattan have continued and grown larger and have spread to dozens of other cities around the country.  Today, Occupy Minnesota has begun here in downtown Minneapolis.  It's being held at the Government Plaza, adjacent to the Hennepin County Government Center, which happens to be right outside my office window.  So I get a front-row seat.

I've already walked over there to mingle with the demonstrators a couple times, and as of midday today there are probably about 300 people there, carrying signs that read slogans like "Human Need, Not Corporate Greed!" and chanting things like "This is what democracy looks like!"  Of course I love all of this.  Progressives are coming to life.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

it never rains in southern california

My niece Ruthie, who is in Los Angeles for a couple weeks (long story), made me laugh with her Facebook post yesterday:  "I think someone wants me to stop wanting to live in Cali one day. Cold and rainy here all day and sunny and hot in Minnesota?!?!?!? Los Angeles hasn't experienced a major rain event in months.....until the day after I arrive. *sigh

It's true -- our weather here in the Twin Cities this week has been spectacular and beautiful.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, my sister Joan is in New York City for her semi-annual Broadway visit.  She sees three shows in two days each time she goes and looks forward to her NYC trips more than anything else all year long -- not just for the shows, but to be in New York. It's her reward.  This trip, she first saw The Mountaintop, which she wasn't crazy about.  Last night, she saw The Book of Mormon, which she liked a lot (and we all know that she loves Mormon boys, fictional or real), and tonight she is seeing a revival of Follies, this time starring Bernadette Peters.  Tomorrow she flies home already and will be planning for her next visit, probably be in April.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

tragedy and death

After the play last night, we went down the hall at the Guthrie to what we call the Wookie  Bar (a/k/a the Target Lounge) and discussed it (The Burial at Thebes) with the bartender a little.  I'm no expert on Greek tragedy and maybe nobody is, and I noticed that most of our conversation was about the music, composed by local musician J.D. Steele, and not about the relevance of the story.  The play was good, the music was good (although I wasn't necessarily sure how the two fit together), the acting and the singing excellent.... and by the end of the show, dead bodies are strewn on the stage -- always a crowd-pleaser...

...and, in an ending like that, I, with my easily distracted mind, always wonder how the actors playing the dead characters can lie so motionless; after all, some of these scenes last a while!  And what if he or she needs to sneeze? -- that would certainly disrupt the moment, having a dead character sneeze!

Overall, an enjoyable evening for us, and we thank the Guthrie for the tickets.  Not a happy ending, though, for the children of Oedipus!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

bloggin' at the guthrie

The Guthrie Theater, world-reknown in the contemporary theater world, is on the other side of downtown Minneapolis from us, and we attend most of the plays being done there during the year.  We know we're lucky to have it as well as all the other choices of rich theater options in this metro area.

The Guthrie is also one of my "likes" on Facebook, and the other day they posted a status update on Facebook looking for bloggers to potentially see one of the current offerings, The Burial at Thebes by Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, a re-working of the old Greek play Antigone by Sophocles.

I guess that I'm a blogger of sorts, so I responded to the post, and Jerry and I are invited guests at tonight's performance...

...which means that I probably should blog my thoughts about the play in the next day or two after we see it.  Since it's a play that I had zero familiarity with, I Googled my way into learning enough about it to be semi-coherent in my reactions, so I'll try to steer away from sentences like "It was Greek to me!" or "Jerry, wake up!"

a link to the Guthrie:

Monday, October 3, 2011

it's not exactly magic

One day last week, my son Jon was lamenting that he couldn't get a particular song out of his head -- "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John, and I'm sure he's not a fan of either Olivia or this song... But you know how that goes.... Songs sometimes just replay over and over in your mind, and it doesn't matter if you like them or not.

So this video is for Jon, and, if he actually watches it, he'll hate me for it.

(if a Google ad pops up at the bottom of the video, "x" out of it).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

1965: lost in south carolina

Having an 18-year-old college freshman in the house has me remembering the year long ago when I was a similar creature.  I, like James, moved pretty far away from home for college.  I, unlike James, knew nobody where I went, and, when I remember how naive I was, how incredibly sheltered I had been, and the weirdness of the school, it's a wonder I survived that phase of my life at all.  But when I see him and other people his age making what I think are not the best decisions or being less than motivated, I make myself remember what it was like.  It's hard to not try too hard to spare him any mistakes. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

waiting for the applesauce

It was way too nice a day to sit here at the laptop blogging or Facebooking.  It was one of those days they call a perfect autumn day.

Jerry and I started with breakfast at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, which has become one of my favorite breakfast spots, and after that Jerry wanted to stop and shop a little, and I gave it my best but finally said, Hey it's way too nice a day to be shopping.  We came home and sat out in the sun for a couple hours where I finished reading my book, A Thousand Splendid Suns (a mostly interesting story, oddly structured, not particularly well-written, but I'm glad I read it), then we took a walk through Loring Park and stopped at the Dunn Brothers coffee shop over there on the other side of the park and and sipped our drinks and enjoyed the moment.

Now the sun is down, and it's Saturday night.  Tom is here, Ruthie and Ryan are stopping over later.. Jerry is taking a power nap while I keep an eye on his applesauce as it cooks on the stove... and it smells good...

... and the Phillies won their first playoff game this evening.

My kind of day.

Friday, September 30, 2011

a last-minute soft spot for the hard rock

The Minneapolis Hard Rock Cafe is closing tonight -- slow business, wrong location, who knows why? -- so James and I had fun having dinner there last night, sort of a nostalgia goodbye even though I had only been there two or three times before.  It's too bad.  World-class cities are supposed to have a Hard Rock Cafe where people can find souvenir t-shirts and shot glasses, are they not?

I guess a Hard Rock is a place you go when you're traveling, it's not a place you go when you're a local.  We've been to Hard Rock Cafes in, for instance, Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London, and maybe Minneapolis just doesn't have enough tourists who could find this restaurant. Plus, I realize that Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts are not the big deal they were in the early 90s, that's probably part of it too.  Things change...

... all of which is way more than I intended to say about the Hard Rock Cafe.  It's a big corporation that won't miss its Minneapolis location. But how sad these employees were!  Our waiter talked about what a great place it had been to work, how much fun it had been. In the gift shop, everything was 75% off, and people were grabbing what they could to buy, and the cashiers were sad too.  It's not easy finding a job that you like -- or, these days, any job -- and now these people need to start over somewhere else.  There's a lot of that going around.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

football in minnesota

Jerry went to the Vikings game this past Sunday with his friend Jean, who has had season tickets forever (Watching the Vikings this year is very painful, but that's another story [They are 0-3]).  A woman who has a seat near Jean's is the ultimate Vikings fan:  all the purple gear, the horns, and is very enthusastic, cheering on her team.  Well, at this game there was somebody seating behind her who didn't appreciate all that enthusiasm, so that person complained to security that the fan was disturbing her enjoyment of the game, and a security idiot actually came down to the Vikings fan and gave her a verbal warning to tone it down.

What??  This is an NFL football game, not somebody's living room.  This woman was not being abusive, vulgar, obscene, any of that.  She was doing what football fans are supposed to be doing -- making noise and standing when people in front of her stand up.  The team doesn't want quiet, placid fans in the stands.  Can you imagine security people at a Philadelphia Eagles game or a New York Jets game telling fans to tone it down?

The Vikings fan Sunday apparently did not tone it down enough, and she then received a written warning about it from security.  I'm serious.

Meanwhile, the efforts to get a new Vikings stadium, which the team owners are demanding and really do need to be competitive, are stalled, and this could potentially be the last year of a Minnesota Vikings team.  Next year everybody might all be watching football undisturbed in our living rooms.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

billy clubs, tear gas, pepper spray

Pay attention to the Wall Street protestors.  They have been demonstrating against corporate greed and social inequality for the past week in Lower Manhattan and have hunkered down in a park somewhere near Wall Street.  It is a peaceful group, and their concerns are legitimate, and if I were nearby I might be joining them.

But police brutality has been raising its ugly head.  Some of the cops are beating up and arresting people in an unnecessary over-reaction.  The cops of course would say they have good reason, but, unfortunately for them, these are 2011 protestors, which means they are carrying cameras and cell phones, catching the unprovoked abuse on video, all of which inspires sympathizers to join the protestors.

The reason to pay attention:  You are going to see lots more of this.  A movement is coming -- my fearless prediction -- and there will be efforts to repress it, and the repression will strengthen the movement, and who knows where that leads.  Class warfare could start doing a turnaround.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

needahand past, present, future

You may have heard this story before... part of it, anyway.

It was ten years ago this past summer that I registered the domain --  I picked it up from the new-at-the-time John Irving novel, The Fourth Hand.  The book is about a guy whose hand is bitten off by a lion, which leads to him getting a hand transplant, and in the story there was a recurring fictional website named, the purpose of which was to match up hands from recently deceased people with people who, well, need a hand.  I checked on it, and, even though this book was a top-ten bestseller at the time, I was surprised that the domain was somehow available, so I grabbed it.

I had had zero experience designing a website, but I cobbled together something using Microsoft Frontpage, focusing at first on the works of John Irving, and I heard from John Irving fans all over the world.  The site was a bit primitive but had a chat room and everything.  It continued and evolved until a couple years ago, when the company that hosted the site sold to another company and somehow in the transition, probably due to Frontpage issues (Frontpage has become antique in the web-developer world), my website sort of disappeared.  I maybe could have found a way to salvage it, but by then I was over it, I guess.

Now, typing in the URL will just forward you here to this blog site, which is fine for now, but I've been thinking about doing something with needahand -- develop it, sell it, or what?  It's a good name for some kind of website, and almost all of the good names are already taken.  I'm done with the John Irving thing (after seeing him a couple years ago and disliking him), so where would I take a new site, what direction?  I need to brainstorm this... If you have some good ideas, let me know.

Monday, September 26, 2011

more of the same

Continuing the train of thought from yesterday -- here's a sample of some Scott Joplin music... "Maple Leaf Rag"... and this was the best YouTube version that I could find.... I don't think my fingers work well enough anymore to ever be able to play it well.  The guy in the video does a great job.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

oh! i forgot to tell you the scott joplin story!

I told you in my September 16th blog post about the Piano Club I went to, then the next day I told you about my good friend Elke in Germany and how well we know each other.  But listen to this...

At the Piano Club meeting, the members were playing mostly Beethoven sonatas and such, and for some reason a lady asked me if I ever played any Scott Joplin music.  Scott Joplin was a composer of mostly "Ragtime" music back around the beginning of the 20th century.  I told her I used to play one of his songs, "The Entertainer" (which was the theme music for the Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie The Sting back in the 70s), otherwise no.  She told me she loves playing Scott Joplin and that I should buy a Scott Joplin music book and especially learn to play "Maple Leaf Rag".  I nodded and said I might do that.

Here is the weird part of this story.  Elke, in her email the next day, told me that, in going through her late mother's things, she had found a book of Scott Joplin piano music, and would I like for her to send it to me?

How the heck did she know??  We have never mentioned Scott Joplin to each other -- who thinks about Scott Joplin? -- and I had no idea that her mom had ever even had any piano music.

Coincidence?  Or eerie transatlantic vibes?