Thursday, July 31, 2008

Adventures in the Big City

We got a late start because of my wife’s work-related obligation, which was supposed to have included dinner, but the food didn’t come.

On the way out of town, there was a slow train blocking the crossing so we had to take a little detour. That’s one disadvantage of living in a small town – a single long train can cut the town in half like a giant ax.

The place we normally park near the Dome was full, and the alternate place was, too, so we ended up in a big parking ramp a few blocks from the Dome. At least it was cheap.

The plaza outside the Dome was packed – student night, dollar-a-dog night, and a battle for first place in the division had brought the crowds out. That’s OK. Big crowds are exciting and can pump up the home team, eh? Before we even got to our seats, Livan “El Principe” Hernandez had given up a solo home run to Carlos Quentin. A sense of foreboding was building.

A few rows from us, the obligatory drunken, foul-mouthed fan was in full throat and had lost all entertainment value by the third inning. He finally got escorted out in about the seventh inning.

The fan right behind us regaled everyone within earshot with her opinions of A.J. Peirzinski’s new hairdo. She didn’t like it.

Livan was relieved by Boof and Boof pitched well until he was visited on the mound by the pitching coach. The next batter hit a two-out, bases-clearing double. I may just be imagining it, but that sequence seems to happen a lot. Pitcher gets in jam, Anderson has brief talk with pitcher, pitcher promptly gives up big hit or walk. Somebody should be analyzing this. We need a new stat called RAPCV – Results After Pitching Coach Visit. So Boof’s trade value went from ‘not much’ to ‘near nothing’ in about five minutes.

The Twins did make a few nice plays. And we got to see Bobby Jenks pitch with a seven run lead. How often has that happened?

We didn’t eat or drink anything at the Dome because it was too crowded to stand in line at the concession stands and everything is so damned expensive anyway. Even with the losing and the loudmouths and the hunger, the game was still kind of fun. Almost caught a foul ball.

The parking ramp was jammed. Long lines of people at the pay station, longer lines of cars snaking up all six levels. We decided not to waste time or gas sitting around in a parking ramp, so we went next door to get a bite to eat and wait for the traffic to clear. The bar wasn’t too crowded and the waitress took our order right away and they were selling tap beer two-for-one with our Twins ticket stub. But the kitchen was closed so all they could offer my starving wife was a bowl of pretzels. The waitress seemed to disappear for the longest time, and when she returned she said that they were out of the beer we’d ordered. OK, so we are still thirsty but we aren’t in a huge hurry. The substitute beer took forever to arrive and it was served in tiny plastic cups. Very classy. Even at two for one, it was no bargain.

A big section of the highway going south out of downtown was closed, so our route home included a leisurely tour through the streets of south Minneapolis, where my wife grew up. We decided to take Portland all they way down to 66th, then take 66th west to the freeway. At the intersection of Portland and 66th, we encountered a brand-new roundabout, still under construction. I hate roundabouts. But by then it was late and there wasn’t any traffic, so no big deal. I would certainly avoid that intersection during rush hour, though.

Glad to be home.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Six things (or, nostalgia is curable)

Three cool things I didn’t have as a kid:

Postage stamps. OK, we had stamps. I’m not THAT old. But the kind you peel and stick instead of lick and stick? Those are a brilliant innovation.

Window clings. The elegantly simple use of static electricity instead of messy adhesives. Nice. These came in quite handy when daughter changed college affiliations three times in less than three years (accepted at Simmons, then decided at the last minute to go to the U of M, then transferred to Occidental* after her freshman year.) Also handy when selling a car.

Refrigerator containers. My mom had a world-class collection of Tupperware. She had to go to these lame-ass parties to get it. And it was expensive. But if you had leftovers (and for my mother, leftovers were treated like sacraments), you had Tupperware. It was apparently the only game in town. Now, the plethora of cheap plastic containers is amazing. Every shape, size, color. We are truly blessed.

Three not so cool things I didn’t have as a kid:

Roundabouts. Sometimes called traffic circles, these suddenly seem to be the darlings of traffic engineers. I have driven on roundabouts in the eastern US and in Europe, so I know they’ve been in use for a very long time, but here in the great middle west, the plains states, where we have bad winters and worse drivers, roundabouts just don’t work very well. Traffic experts like them because they enable a more or less continuous flow of traffic, but I think that’s exactly the problem. At least when cars stop at a four-way stop, they can’t bang into other cars while they are stopped.

Check engine lights. There are two ways to interpret the signal from a check engine light. 1. “EMERGENCY! STOP RIGHT NOW AND CALL A TOW TRUCK! ONE MORE MILE AND I BLOW UP!” or 2. “Hey, buddy, how’s it going? Y’know, there might be some little issue with your car. Maybe the catalytic converter only has, like, 3,500 miles left? Or it could be somebody didn’t screw the gas cap in tightly enough. I don’t know. You might want to get that checked out sometime. Or not.” The worst kind is the intermittent kind. PANIC! Don’t worry. HELP! Never mind. OH MY GOD! It’s okay, really.

Free shipping. Who are they kidding? We all pay for shipping.

* On the Occidental College bookstore web site, the window cling that says simply "Occidental College" in block letters is described as a "rear window strip." Does it not work on the side windows? I know it's not a good idea to put it on the front window. It could be distracting, especially if the driver is approaching a roundabout with the check engine light on.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How to grow dwarf peppers

Buy regular pepper plant sprouts early in the spring.
Green, yellow, red.

Buy a bunch of tomato plants, too.
Roma, cherry, Big Boy.

Plant the pepper plants very close to the tomato plants.
A few inches, a foot at most.


The tomato plants will grow large and bushy.
They will hog the light, forcing the pepper plants to cower and cringe.
The resulting peppers will be undernourished, puny, shrunken.

We haven't picked any yet, so we don't know if they will be all the sweeter for having suffered so, or bitter. But they are kind of cute.


Here is one of Brautigan's earliest published poems, from the series printed on seed packets and bound together as "Please Plant This Book."

Shasta Daisy
I pray that in thirty-two years
passing that flowers and vegetables
will water the Twenty-First Cent-
ury with their voices telling that
they were once a book turned by
loving hands into life.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Here's a video of Brazilian percussionist Kiko Freitas playing on a song called "Vento Bravo" with the group Nosso Trio. Kiko's solo begins at about the 5:30 mark. Be patient -- it's worth it.


I especially like how he changes his left hand grip seamlessly. The glasses remind me of Joe Morello.

Something Else That's Been Bugging Me

New link on the right side: Issa's Untidy Hut, which is a sister blog of the Lilliput Review. I added it mostly because its proprietor recently posted a short clip of a movie featuring Richard Brautigan and two of my other favorite writers: Jim Harrison and Tom McGuane. At one time, these guys were the backbone of the Montana literary Mafia. Check it out.

A new video from Drummers World will be posted here this weekend. A fantastic Latin/Fusion drum solo from a young man in Brazil who reminds me of Joe Morello. I just gotta get to the right computer to make the 'embed video' feature work.

The Twins start a three-game series in Cleveland tonight at the regressively-named Progressive Field. Jacobs Field was a nice name and lent itself to a clever diminutive form: "The Jake." What kind of nickname can be fashioned from Progressive Field? "The Prof?" "The Pro?" Don't bother.

If you happen to be in or around Northfield on election day this November, don't forget to stop by a polling place (there are many to choose from) and write in Brendon Etter's name for mayor. His write-in campaign is off to a rousing start, with dozens of slogans, a lawsuit or two, intriguing proposals, and preemptive apologies. Local politics have been quite entertaining in recent years, but not in a good way. Etter's candidacy changes that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

To Drill or Not to Drill: What Would Brautigan Say?

So drill already.

Why postpone the inevitable?

If we drill for oil as much as we can possibly drill in as many places as we can think of, there are really only two scenarios.

1. We will quickly exhaust the earth’s supply of oil and then be forced to scramble to find other sources of energy (or find ways to survive without).

2. We will discover that there is an almost limitless supply of oil and we needn’t worry quite so much about it.

The second is highly unlikely, but what’s the problem? Suck the planet dry. It will still take a generation or three to determine with any certainty what massive exploration and drilling have actually done to the supply of oil. If our successors are smart (not a given, but not a bad bet), they will have figured out some options that are safer, cleaner, and more fun.

I believe that Rep. Michelle Bachman is almost certainly insane, living in some kind of fantasy world. But I agree with her on aggressive oil exploration. She’s wrong about the effect on gas prices – more domestic production won’t bring prices down. But why not drill now instead of fighting about it for decades? And for every barrel of crude extracted from the earth, the oil company should pay $50.00 into an alternative energy development fund run by a consortium of prestigious universities. Like the Manhattan Project.

Call it the Cheney-Gore Center for Energy Independence. Hell, put it in Texas, if that would buy some Republican votes.

Yeah, there are some environmental concerns, what with pipelines and tankers and refineries and such. But that’s why we have the EPA, eh?


For some perspective on time and nature, here’s a verse from Richard Brautigan. (First published in “Lay the Marble Tea” 1959)

Yes, the Fish Music
A trout-colored wind blows
through my eyes, through my fingers,
and I remember how the trout
used to hide from the dinosaurs
when they came to drink at the river.
The trout hid in subways, castles
and automobiles. They waited patiently
for the dinosaurs to go away.
NOTE: The illustration at the top of this post is of permafrost/tundra in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Though the ground is frozen to a depth of several feet to several hundred feet, the surface does respond to temperature changes. The thin polygonal plates develop over some years of freezing and thawing. The colors and patterns are beautiful.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Pots of June

Here are a few pieces -- three of about fifteen -- that came out of the kiln last month. These are experiments, as nearly all of my stuff is. Playing around with colored slips, engobes, and underglazes.

Mostly the results were good. Some will be available for sale later this summer at the Northfield Arts Guild shop.

Some may become wedding gifts (our oldest son has reached the age when many of his friends are getting married, which naturally makes us feel a little old).

Some may end up as Christmas gifts, especially since older sister (a master organizer, which is a good thing) has decided that gifts in this year's annual family exchange will be hand-made.

A bargain at any price!


[NOTE: It would be nice if these pictures lined up neatly on the left and the text flowed neatly on the right. Alas, I give up trying get Blogger to do what I want it to do.]
[NOTE: If you click on these pictures, they get freakishly large.]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brautigan's friend's garden

Our comically tiny vegetable garden has produced a few tomatoes and a puny pepper, some weeks away from maturity. It is such a pitiful sight, I'm embarassed to be seen watering it. Perhaps we'll do better next year, having learned a little (he said, with the unjustified optimism of Jim Leyland or Trey Hilleman).

Here's a Brautigan verse that seems appropriate.

From "Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt:"

My Concern for Your Tomato Plants
I stare at your tomato plants.
You're not, I'm not pleased with the way
they are growing.
I try to think of ways to help them.
I study them. What do I know about tomatoes?
"Perhaps some nitrate," I suggest.
But I don’t know anything and now I've taken
to gossiping about them. I'm as shameless
as their lack of growing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Depth Chart: The ghost of Michael Cuddyer

Michael Cuddyer tells Denard Span to
get back in the dugout.
And stay there.

Checked the official Twins site today looking for trade rumors, although the official site is the last place I'd really expect to find such rumors.

I'm thinking that Boof's days as a Twin should be numbered, but I don't think any other club would jump at the chance to acquire Mr. Bonser.

Just bouncing more or less randomly around the Twins site, I looked at the depth chart. Michael Cuddyer isn't listed anywhere. Not in right field (his regular starting position), not as a backup third- or first-baseman. And not on the disabled list. Michael, where are you? Who'd we get for Michael? What did Micheal do to anger the manager or the front office?

His omission from the on-line depth chart is obviously inadvertent, but that got me to thinking -- Cuddyer might be very good trade bait. Mr. Span has certainly impressed since being called up to replace the injured Cuddyer. Kubel and Young could split time in left; Gomez is pretty solid (at least defensively) in center; Span looks good in right. Monroe is a serviceable veteran backup.

So, what could we get for Cuddyer?

Don't get me wrong, I like the guy, and I'm not saying he should be traded. It's just fun to speculate, especially during the all-star break. Cuddyer for Beltre, straight up?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Acting Up

One of my college teachers -- Dr. Kinzer, I think -- was a fan of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, a famed acting couple from the golden age of Broadway. I remember Dr. Kinzer quoting Lunt on the secret to great stage acting: "Speak loudly and try not to bump into things." Sir Lawrence Olivier said once that he learned acting from Lunt. I discovered today that Lunt and Fontanne built a lavish estate near Milwaukee and the house, called Ten Chimneys, is now open to tourists. Check it out here.

On Joe Posnanski's amazing blog, there is a rollicking debate about who's the better actor -- Tom Cruise or Kevin Costner. Of course, the great thing about that debate is that both of these guys have been in some truly bad movies and in some classics. Bull Durham is still one of my favorites.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Show Must Go On (and On)

The blogging frequency is down a little bit here at TFIM because the Northfield Arts Guild production of "Holes" is in the final week of rehearsal (the dreaded "tech week.") Ordinarily, the Arts Guild theatre schedule would not have any appreciable effect on this here blog, but I'm in the show. Eight performances in two weeks plus tonight's final dress rehearsal. Plus all the wild cast parties. Plus this day job that kind of gets in the way.

If you are in or around Northfield between July 10 and July 20, come see "Holes." It's funny, touching, inspiring, fast-paced, and inexpensive.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Seven and a half songs

On June 17, Penelopedia tagged me with a ‘meme’ and I didn't know it until yesterday. And I didn't know until today what this even means. Tagged? Meme? Hey, this doesn't hurt a bit! I don't mind being tagged with a meme, especially if it has to do with music and bragging. So I'm supposed to blog about seven songs I'm listening to. I guess the vast legion of readers will jump right over to iTunes and buy these songs, eh?

1. All The Time In The World by The Subdudes from the CD Primitive Streak (High Street Records 1996). An eclectic group with New Orleans roots.

2. High Water by Bob Dylan from Love & Theft.

3. Too Soon To Tell by The Subdudes from Primitive Streak. Bonnie Raitt appears on slide guitar and backing vocal. Nice.

4. March of the Lost Children by Joe Zawinul & The WDR Big Band on the CD Brown Street (2007 Heads Up Records), featuring the justly famous Alex Acuña on percussion. This tune is a good bridge to the next one because it has kind of a 60's jazz feel to it.

5. Cool Blues by Jimmy Smith from the CD of the same name (Blue Note 1958; 2001 re-issue). Lou Donaldson on sax, Art Blakey on drums. I've written before about seeing Blakey and Donaldson play. This record is quintessential Jimmy Smith.

6a. Procession by Joe Zawinul from Brown Street. Fine use of a barking dog.

6b. The Clothesline Saga by The Roches on A Nod to Bob tribute CD (Red House Records). This is a little-known Dylan song, done with great mystery and humor by The Roches.

7. Interesting by Mavis Staples from Time Waits for No One. Paisley Park Studios (year?). Prince himself, who produced the album, plays drums on this number.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jumper Cables

It's odd to think of jumper cables on a hot July day in Minnesota. The cables lie neglected in the trunk or hang ignored in the garage. But yesterday I got a call from my daughter in California. She and her friend wanted some fatherly advice on jumper cables. I was surprised to learn that anyone in southern California owned jumper cables, but there they were in Los Angeles, trying to jump-start her friend's car. It seems her friend's sister had borrowed the car and left the lights on all night. Even in California, that will drain the battery. So they came up with a pair of jumper cables, as out of place as an icebreaker in the Caribbean, and had to call dad back in Minnesota. Glad to help out.

It reminded me of a Brautigan poem. This Brautigan poem.

Herman Melville in Dreams, Moby Dick in Reality

In reality Moby Dick
was a Christ-like goldfish
that swam through the aquarium
saving the souls of snails, and Captain Ahab
was a religious Siamese cat
that helped old ladies
start their automobiles.

(from Lay the Marble Tea, 1959)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Saw on the TV news that a young man had constructed what was described as a "homemade firecracker," which he then blew up in his yard. The thing was so powerful that it blew his hand off. The TV reporter said that local authorities had charged him with possession of an explosive device and some other minor offense.

It’s pretty clear that the young man broke some laws. It’s also pretty clear that the natural and very unpleasant consequences are far greater than any consequences that might ensue from prosecution. What exactly is the point of bringing these charges? We’re going to teach him a lesson?* We’re going to teach others a lesson?** I’m sorry, Mr. Prosecutor, but I’m pretty sure whatever lessons are to be learned have already been learned. This gentleman is supposed to say, “Gee, now that I’m facing a stiff fine and some court costs, I guess maybe blowing my own hand off was a mistake. I hadn’t realized that before.” Sometimes, the power of the state is trivial compared to the powers of fate. Prosecuting this young man seems just a little pointless and redundant.*** If it had been his neighbor’s person or property he’d blown up, then by all means slap him in irons and haul him to the hoosegow. Roll out the heavy artillery of the criminal justice system because you’d have a worthy target in the offender and an aggrieved victim for whom the system may be able to provide some redress.

And as for deterring others, I think that’s just as much of a stretch. Most people who are predisposed to such recklessness and stupidity have convinced themselves that the bad stuff won’t happen to them (“Well, when I play with explosives, I’m way smarter than that dude who blew his hand off.”)

* This is the theory of specific deterrence, which holds that swift and certain punishment is more effective than any punishment meted out inconsistently or long after the offense.
** This is the theory of general deterrence, which has been shown to be pretty weak and ineffectual, especially in Western cultures.
*** I was going to say that it’s like rubbing salt in the wound.