Friday, May 30, 2008

Brautigan projections

It's been a few weeks since we posted anything by or about Richard Brautigan. I've been trying to find just the right poem or story of his to suit the season or my mood or some current event. But nothing seemed just right.

Until, that is, I heard on the radio a mention of Bill Ratican. Last week, Hibbing, MN held a big festival celebrating native son Bob Dylan and his music -- Dylan turned 67 in late May. Part of the event was a concert at Hibbing High School's famous auditorium. Minnesota Public Radio was giving away tickets and mentioned that the seats were next to the seat where the ghost sits. Bill Ratican (and his ghost, I guess) was my wife's great uncle, who was (among other things) a projectionist at the Hibbing movie house and a stagehand at the high school auditorium. His ghost is said to haunt the place and to prefer a particular seat in the house during rehearsals and performances.

Bill Ratican's ghost reminded me of this Brautigan poem, from "Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt."

Mrs. Myrtle Tate, Movie Projectionist

Mrs. Myrtle Tate, movie projectionist
died Wednesday in San Francisco.
She was 66, retired.

We must remember again the absolute
excitement of the moon and think lyrically
about her death.

It is very important for our Twentieth Century
souls because she was "one of the few women
who worked as a movie projectionist."

Oh, honor this mothersisterbride
of magic lanterns with an endless waterfall of

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Joe Zawinul

In addition to a stack of partially-read books, I am confronted daily by a small pile of CDs that I want to listen to, supplemented by a list of recommendations from various music blogs like Old Blue Bus and Songs:Illinois. The CDs come from our friendly local libraries which, as a way to get some good songs, is even cheaper than i-Tunes.

One of the CDs is Joe Zawinul's 1997 two-disc set "World Tour." I like it a lot. Like many jazz fans, I first encountered Zawinul when he co-founded the group Weather Report, which some historians credit for inventing or at least popularizing jazz fusion. Their song "Birdland" was a hit.

Anyway, I got this CD from the library and, while listening to it, looked around on the Interweb for stuff about Joe Zawinul. To my surprise, I found out he had died last year. September 11, 2007. What? How come I didn't know this?

I'll just say I enjoy his music vey much. He was doing "world music" before it became a genre. Thank you, Joe.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Book stack

The pile of I-really-ought-to-read-these books is getting precariously high and about to get higher. Saturday, local celeb Tom Swift will do a book signing at the St. Olaf book store. His biography "Chief Bender's Burden" is getting good reviews, so I'll probably buy one and add it to the stack.

I've bitten off chunks of these books in the last two months. Just can't seem to settle on one.

Dubliners, James Joyce
The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth: Minneota, Minnesota, Bill Holm
Steve Goodman: Facing the Music, Clay Eales
A couple of pottery books and couple of recent issues of "Studio Potter" magazine
The Minnesota Twins 2008 Yearbook, various anonymous writers (or maybe just one, whose anonymity is deserved)
The Minnesota Twins 2008 Media Guide and Record Book
The Minnesota Book of Days (and a Few Nights), Howard Mohr
Holes, Louis Sachar (the stage script version).

I hadn't realized how Minnecentric the list is until I wrote it down. That's OK.

Three of these were purchased at the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary annual book sale a few weeks ago. Some came as premiums with Twins season tickets. The Steve Goodman book was recommended by a commenter (I think it was the author, actually) on the wonderful music blog "Old Blue Bus."

A few words about that book:

Huge (it's the size of a Western Civ textbook)

Sluggish (it reads like a Western Civ textbook)

Interesting (which, according to Mohr's classic How to Talk Minnesotan, is a nice way to say "I didn't really like it, but somebody else might.")

Eales is a journalist by training and it shows. The book tries and fails to evoke the spirit of Goodman -- his impishness, wackiness, fear, courage, kindness. It describes these things, but in a clinical way. It is a dry, long, boring recitation of facts and dates and figures and events. It's not a story so much as an encyclopedia entry. Eales dug up tons of stuff and interviewed lots of people and meticulously documented, footnoted, and indexed everything. It must have been hard work, so maybe he figured his readers should do some work, too.

It has none of the subtlety, lightness, or quirkiness of a Steve Goodman song. Maybe that's too much to expect.

At the same time, the Twins record book is fascinating. It is a simple, straghtforward, thorough compilation of numbers and dates and names. But of course it doesn't aspire to be anything more. It is endless fun to leaf through and dig around and explore. Mabe that's how the Eales book should be approached -- randomly leaf through it, picking up supriseing little nuggets.

The Holes script will soon be mandatory daily reading. I went and got myself cast as the Attorney General of Texas, a sheriff, an 18th century Latvian pig farmer, and some other bit part. The show will be at the Northfield Arts Guild Theatre in July. Get your tickets early.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


In response to an October 2007 post about ale, several readers told me I should try Bell's, Boulevard, and Fat Tire. So I did.

Bell's Oberon Ale (Bell's Brewing, Kalamazoo and Comstock, Michigan): This is a wheat ale that the brewery labels a Summer ale. I don't pretend to know what distinguishes a summer ale from any other seasonal brew (or brew-of-the-month or a Thursday brew, for that matter). Maybe I should wait until a really hot day in August to give this ale a fair shot. Anyway, It's just OK. A bit too light and citrus-y for my taste. Bell's has a huge lineup of ales, porters, lagers, and other stuff (eighteen, to be exact), so it would take me a year or so to sample all their varieties. Sounds like a worthy resolution!

Boulevard Lunar Ale (Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, Missouri): A very nice medium-dark ale. Looks good in the glass. Hearty without being heavy. They use a little chocolate malt in the recipe, which helps give it some color and some body. Boulevard's pale ale is quite nice, too.

Fat Tire Amber Ale (New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado): This is very good. Caramelly. Smooth. I recall reading that Fat Tire uses a bottle-fermentation process that closely approximates the cask-conditioning used in what Rob Hardy calls "real" ales. Whatever. Fat Tire costs a little more, but its superior taste justifies the small price difference. Cute label, too.

Any other reactions, reviews, or recommendations?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bizarro Baseball World: A Night of Firsts

Here are some things that happened at the Dome last night to make my score card a real fun mess.

Bobby Korecky's first major league at bat.

Bobby Korecky's first major league hit. This was also the first hit by a Twins pitcher in an American League game since the infernal designated hitter rule was adopted back in 1973. Korecky was batting because the Twins had given up the DH by moving their starting DH, Brendan Harris (Yes, Brendan Harris started at DH, which I'm pretty sure was also a first), to second base.

Bobby Korecky's first major league win. (That's Korecky as a collegian in the picture at left). Right place, right time for Korecky, who pitched out of a jam created by Juan Rincon (the Jam Master) in the 11th, then a 1-2-3 12th. Rincon was visited on the mound by the pitching coach in the 11th. During the same at bat, the manager tried to pay a visit to the mound (presumably to change pitchers) but that's a no-no. Gardenhire was stopped by the ump and sheepishly returned to the dugout. First time I've ever seen that.

Alexi Casilla's first major league home run.

Michael Cuddyer's first major league game in center field. He has now played every position except pitcher and catcher. He started in center because Carlos Gomez was hurt and Craig Monroe is old and tired. But Gomez came in to pinch run late in the game, stayed in to play center field (Cuddyer moved to right field), and ended up singling in the 12th and scoring the winning run.

When that run scored, Livan (The Prince) Hernandez was on deck. Livan is a starting pitcher. The Twins had simply run out of position players. If Livan had batted, that would have been another first (two pitchers from same AL team batting in the same AL game in the DH era).

This was also the first game of a very odd Twins marketing effort. For $33.00, you could buy an upper deck general admission ticket that also entitled the bearer to unlimited concessions (except beer) throughout the game. That the game went 12 innings (four hours) was a bonus for the many fans who bought those tickets.

A bizarre experience from start to finish.

Friday, May 16, 2008

New poem (small)

Jim Haas

The grade is deceptively mild.
In winter, drivers going east sometimes can’t
get their cars through the intersection
and drivers going west come sliding through
out of control.

They wonder what just happened.

It’s like the anti-gravity mountain passes
where a car in neutral appears to go up hill
because one’s senses have been fooled.

It’s a trick of light and shadow,
of subtlety and a subconscious willingness to be taken in.

We hate surprises, except that they delight and amaze.
Where fear and desire cross paths.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Women In Politics

My aunt Dixie was the longest-serving elected official in the history of Elkhart, Indiana, having served for eons as the City Clerk. My cousin Sue -- Dixie’s daughter -- is now the City Clerk.

My grandmother was a Massachusetts Republican back when there was almost no such thing. She worked on the senate campaign of Ed Brooke* and the gubernatorial campaigns of John Volpe. She was a delegate to the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago. So was aunt Dixie. Nixon was the nominee, although aunt Dixie really preferred a young actor named Ronald Reagan and Grandma was pledged to Nelson Rockefeller. She never liked Nixon.

These two were pioneers of a sort, both pretty fierce in their beliefs about advancing women’s rights and activism and all that. I guess Republicans were a little different in those days.

My mom went to the convention as a visitor and somehow got onto the main convention floor. We have a wonderful picture of my mom and aunt Dixie and some of the Indiana delegates with then-Senator Homer Capehart. Homer looked as though he’d been up all night drinking and eating pancakes, complete with rumpled coat and stained necktie. (I’ve always wondered if Homer Simpson were modeled after the portly senator from Indiana.)

That convention featured a last-minute, behind-closed-doors deal between Nixon and Rockefeller, his chief rival for the nomination. The deal assured Nixon’s nomination but, according to most accounts, Nixon had it sewn up anyway. His need for such a deal is now seen as evidence of Nixon’s raging insecurities.

I hope Senators Obama and Clinton can reach some kind of accord before the convention, although it might be the highest form of political theatre if the nomination isn’t won on the first ballot.

It will be interesting to see if Michelle Bachmann can keep from hurling herself at John McCain when he comes to this year’s convention in St. Paul.

* Brooke has been in the news lately because Barbara Walters claims she had an affair with him long, long ago. Commendably, he’s maintained his silence on the matter.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The Minneapolis Star-Tribune (AKA Strib) South Metro section had the following entry in this morning's edition under "Police Blotter"

Northfield. Police responded to a report of two young men selling shampoo door to door in the 700 block of Meadow View Drive. Officers advised the pair that they had to get the appropriate city permit.

Soon after reading this, I picked up our office copy of the Northfield News. It has a banner headline about the county sheriff investigating heroin and cocaine use among young adults in Northfield. Several deaths related to the drugs have been reported in recent months.

The first story raises lots of questions. Why would anybody buy shampoo from a door-to-door salesman? You can get a jug of decent shampoo for a buck at the grocery store.* Second, why would city government have anything at all to do with door-to-door sales of shampoo (or dentures or convertible debentures or eyeglasses or shot glasses or anything else)? What ever happened to the free-market economy? Commerce! Enterprise! Caveat emptor!

The second story is very disturbing and also raises many questions, most of them unanswerable.

The juxtaposition of these two items made me wonder about the news judgement of the Star Tribune. Which Northfield crime story is newsworthy? Let's see.... unauthorized door-to-door shampoo sales or young men dying of drug overdoses. Tough call.

* Some friends, one of whom is a retired physician, have recently mentioned that washing hair isn't even necessary. Left alone, they say, the scalp will produce just the right amount of oil. The shampooed pate is apparently an artificial environment -- the tonsorial equivalent of a bonsai tree. I'm still planning to frequently wash what little hair I have.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I'll Grant You That (Part III)

Two recent announcements posted on Too good to pass up.

Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Atlantic Rim Coalbed Natural Gas Mule Deer Study (Phase II)

Rowan: You're going to study mule deer?
Martin: Yup!
Rowan: And what is it about mule deer that you're going to study, Dick?
Martin: Gas.
Rowan: Gas?
Martin: Yup. Natural gas.
Rowan: Dick, I'm sorry, but I don't think I get the connection between natural gas and mule deer.
Martin: Hee! What's not to get?
Rowan: You mean...?
Martin: Yup. The mule deer produce the gas. We're going to study how they do it.
Rowan: You mean you don't know how they do it?
Martin: Wellllll...we don't know enough about how they do it, especially how it's related to coalbeds back east.
Rowan (shaking head): Well, Dick, I wish you luck in your studies. When do you leave?
Martin: We're off to Weymouth in the morning!
Rowan (sotto voce): He's off, all right.

Department of Defense
Office of Naval Research
Mojave tui chub Management at Naval Weapons Station China Lake, California
Modification 1

How hard can it be to manage a little fishy at a Naval Weapons Station? I mean, who has the weapons? The tui chub is considered an invasive species. So...what's to manage? At the risk of sounding indelicate, why not just kill the little bastards? China Lake lies in the Mojave desert between Bakersfield and Las Vegas -- nobody there cares about the damned chub.

Edit: Apparently there are several species of tui chub. Some of them are considered invasive, some are considered native, and some are considered endangered. The species called Mojave tui chub is, I gather, endangered because it left its natural habitat of the Mojave River and is now found only in a couple of small lakes or ponds near the Mojave River. So I guess it's possible that a species can be both invasive (that is, it didn't originate where it now lives) and endangered. My cavalier statement about nobody caring may be generally true but there are a few exceptions. Some biology teachers and students are trying to figure out how to forestall the extinction of the Mojave tui chub. They have a blog (surprise!) . In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, here's a link to "Working With The Mojave Tui Chub."

Monday, May 5, 2008

Brautigan spring

Goodness sakes, the sun has shone brightly for two days. In a row!

My lovely wife and I are considering, along with thousands of other people, planting a garden this year. Some years ago, we tried growing vegetables and flowers and didn't have much luck. The soil around our house is poor, we have no expertise in these matters, and it seems like a lot of work. Many generations of rabbits have made their home beneath our deck and this year's bunny brood will enthusiastically attack any young shoots, I'm sure.

Still, we'll give it a go.

Richard Brautigan's fourth collection of poetry was called "Please Plant This Book." Each poem was printed on the back of a seed packet. It is one of the few Brautigan books I do not own.

Here are two selections from "Please Plant This Book" (1968):


I thank the energy, the gods and the
theater of history that brought
us here to this very moment with
this book in our hands, calling
like the future down a green and
starry hill.


The time is right to mix sentences
sentences with dirt and the sun
with punctuation and the rain with
verbs, and for worms to pass
through question marks, and the
stars to shine down on budding
nouns, and the dew to form on

Sunday, May 4, 2008

First Place?

Don't look now, but the Minnesota Twins are leading the American League Central Division by a half game.

Of course we hope that the lead does not disappear like a desert mirage, but we fear it will. That's the essence of Twins fandom, this year especially -- that mixture of hope and fear.

Is this foreshadowing or teasing? A springboard or the apogee of the season?

Stay (as the saying goes) tuned.