Saturday, January 30, 2010

Two faces of politics

Please excuse the absence. We had some personal sadness to deal with. A good friend is making repeated trips to the hospital. Another was killed when she was struck by a car while vacationing in New Zealand. Out of town friends and relatives occupied our memories. Frankly, I just didn’t feel like writing. But gradually, the warmth of old, old friendships helped us find the joy behind the sadness. And that’s what our lost friend would want. Hell, she would have demanded it.

So here goes.

Did you catch the stunning Obama speech on TV? Not the State of the Union, although it was pretty good. But his debate with the Republican caucus was high political drama. How many people do you know who have the political spine to stand alone in front of 140 people who oppose the ground you walk on? Better still, how many would insist that the TV cameras keep rolling? Clearly, President Obama was the smartest guy in the room. And he continues to try to break the terrible partisan logjam that is Washington. CSPAN will repeat the 80 minute program. Worth watching. Five stars.

Have you been following the other drama flurrying around next week’s Tea Party Convention. Two wingnut heroes of the movement — Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) — have withdrawn as speakers while supporters hint something is scammy. Sarah Palin, however, is still on board to get her hundred grand for keynoting. She is calling for the Tea Baggers and the Republicans to merge. But Palin came under Tea Party fire herself – for supporting John McCain in his senate re-election bid. Can you spell litmus? Can you draw a circular firing squad?

In closing, the obvious: It’s damn cold in Minnesota this time of year.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vikings 34, Cowboys 3

This "pants on the ground" stuff is going viral on the Net.

First, view the old guy who made the ditty famous on American Idol.

Next, check out Brett Favre singing in the locker room.

It's a guy thing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gumby is in Heaven Now

This just in: Gumby was Episcopalian. His creator, Art Clokey, once attended seminary but left before graduating. Clokey died recently. Both Howdy Doody and Eddie Murphy ("I'm Gumby, dammit" on SNL) had a hand in making the clay stop-motion star famous.

Raise you hand if you knew a B-25 hit the Empire State Building in 1945.

A new study shows there are more places to go for news but less news to find there. And most of the actual reporting still comes from newspapers. That’s where I stole this bit -- from the NY Times.

Phyllis Diller, age 90, says “the best contraception for old people is nudity.”

Rule of thumb: one hundred and fifty stitches are required for every second of contact between a chain saw blade and human skin. No pun intended.

Two local Minneapolis guys were hungry, it was lunch time and they knew Uptown parking would be scarce. What to do? They solved their hunger rumbles by each flying his single-engine plane to Lake Calhoun and landing on the ice smack in the middle of the city. Lunch was a short walk across the lake. The adventure got them into hot water. Park police issued both pilots tickets. No permit. No kidding.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Old people say the darndest things

A college buddy says he married two women from the same barstool.

Another says he always thought his wife really wanted to be a widow.

This from a sorority sister: ”We had four children. Five, if you count my ex husband.”

"Wear old shoes." That's the caution carried in the newspaper's weather report. A modest thaw is predicted and apparently the toxic waste from de-icing attempts will curl your toes.

Know what I just figured out? Minneapolis is having a really bad winter with all the snow, ice and sub zero temps – but nobody told me. Being the new guy, I thought this weather was normal. Norwegians are sneaky.

Another thing – nobody will tell me how you know if yogurt has gone bad.

Young dodder plants can detect nearby a tomato plant, grow toward it, encircle the hapless victim and suck the life phloem right out of it. Then it goes to law school.

Was this headline in Slate written on purpose? “Obama Will Brief Nation on Underwear Investigation.”

Research indicates the rise in evangelical Christianity is driving moderate Christians to abandon the religion altogether.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Minneapolis winter is showing off

This morning it's eight degrees and snowing -- and the Mystery Woman just left with her 89-year-old mother for a check-up.

Roads are slick.

And they prefer I stay home with the dog. It seems I scream a lot in the car.

Yesterday, we had to drive across town to visit a different clinic. For the first time, I got to see the industrial strength of winter. Parking lots look like ice rinks or pools of toxic waste. Arthritis comes easy. True story: A TV reporter strapped on skates and played in the street.

We ate lunch at Chili's, which was decorated with Chilympiad stuff. Naturally, I tried to get a discount from the waitress, claiming to be the their only customer who had actually gotten drunk in Terlingua. "Nice try, old timer," she said.

In this order, we’ve had snow, snow, snow, rain, a little sleet, more snow, even more. The wind chill is serious. Minus 30 tonight. That plays hell with clean up. Ice becomes iron and is forged to the minor streets and major sidewalks. Major thoroughfares, however, are mostly clear.

This morning, I read a neat thing in the paper. They say if you toss a pan of hot water in the air, it will freeze before it hits the ground. (Didn't work.) In Texas summers, we reverse the ritual by frying eggs on sidewalks. (That doesn't work, either.)

Dog trainers advise against buying a winter puppy from the Midwest. They claim the dogs will never again go outside to answer nature’s call.
True story.

But still, I kinda like it. Locals nod knowingly and whisper to each other something about my attitude next March.

It could be worse. I could have voted for Dick Cheney.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Yes, but it's really cold in Amarillo

New stuff I’ve learned since winter began in Minneapolis:

####!!!****!!!### ice (or snow)
Arctic sunshine
Rumor has it that Arctic air is germ free
Ice boulders falling from wheel wells
###!!!****!!!### slow driver
###!!!****!!!### fast driver
Soon, it’s going to “warm up” to twenty degrees, won’t that be nice?

Bald eagles hang out over the Mississippi during the worst of winter. They tend to stay near open water where they might snatch a fish. However, more and more of the river is icing up.

Some ice fishermen “troll” for fish by drilling hole after hole in the ice with power augers. Trouble comes when they connect the dots.

Flurries are predicted again this week. Maybe an inch. But we only have 143 days left of the possible snow season. The last day is on Tasa's birthday.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Deborah Howell -- In Memoriam

Thank you to John Camp, James Lileks, Pamela Miller and Vince Tuss, Jeremy Olson, Elizabeth Mohr and Christopher Snowbeck, Tim McGuire, Jeff Jarvis, Ken Doctor, Jacqui Banaszynski, Jim Romenesko, Andrew Alexander, Michael Alison Chandler, Michael Cavna, Matt Schudel, Joel Achenbach, David Carr, Kevin Hoffman, West Virginia University President James P. Clements, John MacCormack, Carl M. Cannon, Karen Tumulty, Foster Kamer, Tim Nelson, Bob Collins, Michael Calderone, Katherine Lanpher, John Abell, John Lacy, Steven A. Smith, Sarah Coppola, Joel Kramer, editorial writer for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, the Associated Press, Wikipedia, other posts, comments and tweets too numerous to mention.

You all have written in the past 48 hours or so about the life and death of our old and dear friend, Deborah Howell, and the contributions she made to journalism and to the lives of all who met her.

Good bye, Deb. We love you.

George and LE

Snowing Forward, a perspective

Here's a guy writing about winter who understands ...
You'll enjoy his work.

Editorial | The Rural Life

New York Times, January 2, 2010

Last week felt like a last chance before winter. The snow melted, dying back until the vole trails became thin green paths through the remains of whiteness. The ice unbound itself from the rim of the horse tanks. One warm morning, a bat fluttered past my head, resting on the clapboards for a moment and then arcing around to the east side of the house. Despite the sense of relenting, the ground was still frozen solid.

And then it began to snow again — light, voluminous snow, swelling in the air and muffling every detail. Watching it, I felt a sense of intention in the weather, as if those mild days were just a way of clearing the canvas, scraping away the old paint, before laying down a fresh ground of white.

It is less a fall of snow than a fog, the flakes suspended in air, darkening and brightening the day at the same time. The birds line up on the boughs of a pignut hickory, and swoop on to the feeders by twos and threes, titmice and juncos, a crowd of chickadees and a demure pair of cardinals. Woodpeckers cling to the suet feeders, and squirrels rummage among the shells on the porch. Everyone eats in a kind of mutual disturbance, which the falling snow intensifies.

I know from the weather maps that the edge of the storm is only a few miles to the west. It will be shutting down soon in a last bank of dark gray clouds, so dark that the blue sky shining through their gaps will be the color of diluted turquoise. And then the sun will beam through the cold air and the sense of urgency will dissipate.

I’m reluctant to see the storm finish. At this time of year — winter only begun — I still feel the way I did when I was a child. I want the snow to keep falling, soft and deep into the night and the next day and the week after, until I wake up in a world completely unknown. In that world, there will be no melting back to the vole trails, no going back to spring. There will be only an unknown track into the snowbound woods.

Friday, January 1, 2010

True tales from the north

Forgive me for being preoccupied with the weather. But in Minnesota, if you aren’t, there’s a good chance you’ll die.

In fact, the other night the TV weatherman said it was going to get so cold that “every living thing outside was going to die.” That’s a direct quote; these folks are tough.

Then he gave today’s forecast: high around four, five or six. When it’s that cold, does it really matter? And lows in the neighborhood of minus 15. Whoa, bud. That’s my neighborhood.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune carried an item this morning about the number people (12) needing fingers (plural) re-attached after losing a tussle with the snow-blower machine. I would not joke about something like this.

In closing, herewith is the actual conversation with the Mystery Woman this morning:

“What degree is it?” she asked from the top of the stairs.

“One,” I said.

“That’s not enough,” she pronounced. And went back to bed.

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