All posts by harrywelty

Dreaming in French

For the last couple weeks I’ve been trying to write in French. Its not so hard with cell phone translators to clear up the grammar and vocabulary that is just beyond my reach. I even try to joke in the language. Given a question to answer in french asking what five items were in my refrigerator I wrote that it contained an “ongion,” (onion) some “lait,” (milk) a verre de lait (glass of milk) and “deux chats.” I couldn’t recall any other foodstuffs on the spot. I did however follow up by expressing regret “desole” about the chats. “Deux chats” means two cats.

Its a “tres” (very) modest accomplishment but I’m catching on bit by bit. I used to ask people who were learning English if they dreamt in English yet as I’ve heard that this is the true sign of having mastered a language. I’ve been dreaming about practicing French but not dreaming in French. I’ll take what I can get.

I should have even more time over the summer to intensify my studies. I have found a couple other cell phone apps that put me in touch with people who speak french and would be willing to reciprocate if I help them practice English.

I would not let another filing for Congress slow down my French lessons. Nothing but some disaster will keep me from my appointment with France this September. Filing for office is not the same as campaigning for it. I am not interested in campaigning. I am however against giving President Trump more allies in Congress. I would challenge Pete Stauber over his unqualified support for the closest thing to a wannabe dictator that our nation has ever sent to the Oval Office. Hearing Stauber tout Trumps successes turns my stomach. It only makes it worse that Pete is a good guy.

I was thrilled a few years ago when Pete took the place of a DFL hack on the County Board. Even before that I recall having Pete pull up in a squad car to shoot the breeze with me as I campaigned in the Lakeside neighborhood. That Donald Trump’s elbow rubbing with Pete might get him elected appalls me. Pete deserves me in the ring with him calling him to account for his guilt by association.

But I will likely ignore yesterday’s cutesy video threat about running because I don’t need the distraction even to help save our democracy from the likes of Trump. I only put it together while playing with a new feature that Microsoft sent me.

I also got a second video sent to me which I will share in a moment. Its from a year ago when I tried out for a part in a video meant to entice Hollywood money for a movie screenplay about Duluth’s infamous 1920 lynching. After the shooting was over I got caught up in Duluth School Board politics and almost forgot about it. Then on Friday at the Damiano Center while dishing out potatoes and gravy a fellow server mentioned that she had seen me in the video. Its author/producer, Dale Botten, was an old high school chum. One thing led to another and Dale sent it to me via email. I was not among those whose work ended up on the cutting room floor. I play the character “Mike.”

My acting career will no doubt go the same direction as my old dream of strolling the Longworth Building’s hallways as the Eighth District’s congressman.

That’s OK. I still have more Not Eudora columns to crank out……including one this afternoon.

When the nail does the hammer’s work for it

I found the contrast between two items in the latest Duluth Reader worthy of comment.

First up, John Ramos was one of two or three people who decided to see the Duluth School Board’s get to know you session. Loren Martell had little good to say about it last week and John explores the meeting further. It was facilitated by a staffer of the Minnesota School Boards Association who took the three hour session to hammer the point home that a school board member must keep his/her head down and tell no one in the community what’s going on by means of giving them platitudinous “elevator speeches” and by telling them Sgt Schultz style that they know nothing and that they must talk to someone in the administration who does know what’s going on.

I’m afraid I’ve come to the realization that is how the statewide organization representing the 300 plus Minnesota school boards sees things. Go along to get along defer to your superintendent don’t argue.

A couple years ago I shocked a seasoned MSBA staffer when I explained that I had been prevented from participating in one of our school Board contract negotiation sessions in violation of our school board policies. I guess this newer MSBA facilitator would recommend I not even take my concern to the MSBA.

Here’s a long post from me on the episode and my discription of how I reacted at the time.

It didn’t take me long to start fuming. At 11:15 AM I texted the Superintendent: “ I don’t do livid. I’m close to making an exception. You are violating school board policy and you have a very unhappy SB member in your foyer.”

In the batter’s box: I can’t seem to find the Reader’ book review of “Beneath the Ruthless Sun.” Its the second review of the book about 1950 racism in Central Florida. Here’s another review that I can link to. If the African American community had followed the go with the flow sentiments of Ms. MSBA they’d still be getting lynched today.

Stuff I found in the belfry

After forty years attending Glen Avon Presbyterian Church, all the while an agnostic non member, and a quarter century in the choir I was asked last year to serve on a committee – building and grounds. I was delighted to be asked and my recent freedom from the Duluth School Board has even made it possible for me to attend the Tuesday night meetings without any fear that they could conflict with our once a week School Board Business Committee meetings.

Among the long standing projects that I’ve had a personal yen to do something about is the space just below our church’s bell tower. For years it was a crowded space with years of detritus accumulated inside. Recently it has had some water damage from water that has blown in through the louvers that offer partial protection to the tower’s carillon. We have a spring cleaning coming up Saturday that I’ve been helping to organize. To prepare for what will only be a morning of work I’ve been hauling stuff from the room below so that our volunteers can reach the walls and repaint them. Having done that I’ve prepping the walls by scraping off moldy paint turned to dust. Its been grimy work requiring a shower two afternoons in a row. Today I will slap some primer/sealer over the spots where I removed all the old paint.

The most interesting thing I discovered was this plaque honoring the members of the church who answered their nations call to arms for World War 1. I asked my wife to put it on the church’s facebook page as a bit of advertising for the Saturday clean up. It seemed fortuitous that I should discover it on the eve of my fall trip to France which is prompted by a desire to honor my Grandfather’s heroics in that war.

I think some of us will try to find a place to put it up once again.

The other thing I found was also yellowed but it was of a much more recent vintage. It was one of a half dozen News Tribunes that were kept for some purpose, goodness knows what. Now they are just something for the Fire Marshall to frown at. I brought this one home as I had stopped collecting Trib clippings about the Duluth Schools after my fight for a vote on the Red Plan had come to an end.

My own view of this sorry bit of history is that it was yet one more miscarriage of justice that typified the leadership of the Duluth Schools dating back to the panicked hiring of Keith Dixon twelve years ago. This still unfolding disaster has been big part of what has animated Lincolndemocrat since its birth in 2006.

Today a new and greater threat, this time to the nation, animates the blog. Both threats have had the power to wake me from a truncated night’s sleep and thrust me into fretfulness that can only be salved by climbing out of bed and heading to my office to crank out new posts.

Its 4AM now. Maybe I’ll try to catch some more zzzz’s before I spend my Friday at church and at the Damiano Center serving up lunch.

Not writer’s block but writer’s glut

No doubt someone in your life told you that if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. I’ve never taken that as an order not to speak either how I feel, or what I think, or the truth as best I know it.

That said, I am not particularly interested in filling up space when I have nothing much to say or just to keep readers peaking at the blog to see what’s on my mind. As I believe I’ve written before, I often have much on my mind when I don’t blog. That has been an ongoing experience for me since Donald Trump began running for President. My head is getting very heavy.

I often keep my cell phone by my bedside in case some idea for a post or a column pops in my head at night. If I jot it down quickly I might be able to fall back asleep……or not. This morning at 3:30 I jotted at least three promising kernals of something down. Then after an hour of not being able to stop thinking about them I got up and began practicing my French. I love Duolingo. Its all algorithm and does not suffer from sentiment. It is very patient with me and never tires of my mistakes.

The more I defer posting the more ideas fill up my cell phone’s notebook. There is one story I read from Wired yesterday that is worth sharing. Its about Trump’s nemesis Robert Mueller. I’m tempted to title my next Not Eudora Column “My Vietnam.” the story is about Meuller’s Vietnam experience. As the Wired story points out it quite different than Donald Trump’s Vietnam.

The article reiterates something I’ve heard that Trump said about himself, probably during one of his smarmy visits to Howard Stern’s radio booth. Its characteristic of the man we have saddled ourselves with:

“Donald Trump famously drew five draft deferments, including one for bone spurs in his feet. He would later joke, repeatedly, that his success at avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while dating numerous women in the 1980s was ‘my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.'”

You can read about a really brave soldier if you peruse the Wired Story. Some of it reminds me of my Grandfather.

Elevating the Duluth School Board

I have not made a school board meeting since my “retirement” in December. I’m grateful that Loren Martell keeps attending. Recently he attended a “retreat” for Board members to get to know each other outside of the Board room. Loren was not impressed.

I will add that Art Johnston and I begged for such a retreat unsuccessfully for three years. Whether the current board members need to introduce each other to themselves seems doubtful.

Loren writes about the facilitator’s recommendation of using “elevator speeches” and acting (feigning?) unity in the face of internal divisions. On the other hand she also advocated openness and seemed taken aback to learn that agenda setting sessions were held behind closed doors with only two board members present. Here’s Martell’s description of her reaction:

“The next thing Ms. Gilman inquired about was the procedure for putting something on the agenda of Board meetings. When she discovered that only two Board members attend the agenda sessions along with the Superintendent’s team, she asked if the meetings were open. When she found out they were closed meetings, hidden from the public, she said, “That would be something to think about.””

To Conquer Hell

I discovered another book of mine pertinent to my upcoming visit to France. Its To Conquer Hell by Edward G. Lengel. The author is a cousin of that battle’s most famous soldier Alvin York a war hero that has not escaped mention in my blog.

The book came out in 2008 but I’m not sure when I acquired it. Quite possibly I bought it after seeing that it mentioned my Grandfather but I’ve not read it yet.

Yesterday I found my Grandfather’s chapter. I discovered it after checking the index for the New York unit he was attached to – the 369th infantry, made up of African Americans. To my surprise there was scant mention of the composition of the unit; just a short description of my Grandfather’s heroism. That seemed a huge over-sight.

Its only been recently that I’ve come to appreciate the battle’s name “Meuse Argonne.” It was the last battle on the Western Front and brought an end to the war. It was THE American battle with Sgt. York its most storied veteran. It began on September 26, 1918, and we plan to arrive at the battleground exactly one hundred years to the day afterwards. We will stay until Sept. 29th the day my Grandfather, shot to hell, was ordered back to the aid station to get himself patched up.

The Meuse-Argonne is said to have been the bloodiest battle in American History. Even so, it pales compared to some of the horrendous slaughters earlier in the war inflicted by and on French, German and English forces.

Violence on MLK Boulevard

Today I will crank out my next Not Eurdora column. I have so many topics to choose from. I’ve gotten in the habit of jotting them down in a “notebook” in my cell phone and was going through the notes early this morning. One thing led to another and I began going through my old emails to purge them. Some, like my jotted down notes are meant for later reference and possible mention in the blog. One of them was linked to this excellent five-minute explanation of the segregated housing patterns in the US. Thank God for National Public Radio.

BTW. As a kid in 1950’s Topeka, Kansas, I walked to school past a neighborhood that had a high concentration of African-Americans and that was quite likely red lined. And when my wife’s family moved from Des Moines, Iowa, in the mid sixties a realtor brought a black family to look at their home causing panic in the neighborhood. It may simply have been a ruse to threaten home prices and get the neighborhood to pony up to buy the house and prevent a black family from moving in.

I was an 18 year old senior in High School when Martin Luther King was murdered and only senility or death will make me forget its aftermath. Have things improved. Sure they have. But this video also touches on policing and I had a recent experience with non color blind policing in the West End where my wife and I first moved when we came to Duluth. Coincidentally, our starter home, purchased in the same West-End neighborhood in 1978, had been owned by a black family before we moved in.

300 years and counting

Longer than England and France were united African Americans have worn dark skins which make their lighter shaded neighbors fret. American Catholics suffered for about a hundred years of abuse but unless they genuflected in public or were from Mexico they looked like other European settlers to America. Irish-Americans also had their “no Irish need apply” signs but that was mostly about Catholicism. The telegenic John Kennedy put most of that paranoia to rest. What his charm couldn’t smooth over the Republican Party’s appeal to the Catholic clergy and the South’s adoption of an issue where they could reciprocate Northern scorn – abortion – built a bridge between the once uneasy allies of the FDR coalition Catholics and Southern Baptists.

But blacks were still black and kept at the margins despite the election of Barack Obama after a disastrous Bush Presidency. This remarkable achievement convinced most white Americans that black grievance was at and end and I can not deny the progress. On the other hand I never once sat my white son down to tell him obey all police to avoid being shot. Three stories related to this crossed my path this weekend.

The first of the three stories appealed to my love of geography. It concerns a map that Abraham Lincoln poured over during the Civil War and which helped him devise a successful stratagem to woo some southern states away from the rebellious confederacy. The original story is in Slate here:

The second story came from the PBS program History Detectives. It was a follow up on a previous story that suggested some black slaves fought for the Confederacy. In the case first examined a few years ago the answer to one such example turns out to be no. The fellow below was from Mississippi which had a law preventing slaves from fighting for the state. In this case the black slave was more of a valet to his master.

The third story involved the gifted Nora Neale Hurston one of the famous writers of the Harlem Renaissance in the Jazz age. I’ve had her book “Their Eyes were watching God” for a couple years. I handed it to Claudia who told me it was a very good book but for the time being, like so many other of my books, its circling the airport awaiting for clearance to land.

The New York Times story was about the publication of her work Barracoon. Her subject was the fellow below, Cudjo Lewis. She interviewed Mr. Lewis about 1930 when she learned he was was a slave brought over on the last ship, a Barracoon I presume, to bring slaves to America. (I presume the operative word here is “legally.”)

Hurston wrote some of her stories of African-Americans speaking in their southern patois much as Mark Twain famously did. The publishing houses demanded that Hurston alter the pidgeon English dialect that she faithfully transcribed and she refused feeling that it denied Mr. Lewis his true voice. Today that slight has been rectified and the book will soon be on the shelves of America’s bookstores.

And finally a forth related item that I was reminded of in the Times story. Cudjo Lewis told author Hurston how strange it was to be placed with long time slaves who he could not understand and who no doubt regarded him with some perplexity. This reminded me of a movie I thoroughly enjoyed long ago. The movie Skin Game came out in 1971 when I was a sophomore in college. It starred my parents favorite actor James Garner and Lewis Gosset Jr.. Ed Asner plays a cruel slave catcher.

Its set in the pre-civil war south. Its about two friends who defraud southern slave owners by selling them Louis Gossett Jr. over and over. Each time Gossett is rescued by his seller Garner and then they skip off to grift new victims. As you can imagine its a dangerous game and in the climax the tables are turned on the con men. Gossett finds himself housed in a barn with three or four African warriors, who like Cudjo Lewis were straight off the slave ship. I suspect this movie still stands the test of time although I noticed it was not listed as one of the best movies about slavery on at least three Internet lists I found. Here’s the IMBD list. I think this is an oversight.

BTW – James Garner was one of the Hollywood actors who championed Civil Rights. My parents loved him for his TV western Maverick.

Duty, Honor, Country

Ah that’s better. I’ll give you an update after I get my hour of french practice in.

Before we left for Florida a second cousin of mine notified me that his father, the last remaining nephew of my Grandfather had tucked away three shell casings from the three rounds of rifle shots that were fired at my grandfather’s funeral in 1972. He asked if I wanted them and I told him he should feel free to keep one as a keepsake from his father and that I would likely keep one and give one to another cousin.

There is a tradition I had not known about American military funerals. One shell casing from each of the three rounds fired is given to the family along with the American flag that draped the veteran’s casket. The casings stand for Duty, Honor and Country. The two that I have are for the moment placed upright above my computer in front of my Grandfather’s photograph. I don’t know which is missing, duty, honor or country.

For a year or more I’ve contemplated visiting the battlefields of World War One to honor my Grandfather. I’ve also long contemplated writing a book about him and the America he experienced and fought for. In these perilous American splintering days that book is more important to me than ever but in recent weeks as I’ve read about France, the war George Robb fought in has been nudged aside as I’ve read and studied about our two nation’s long entangled history. Two hundred years ago the French King made our liberation from England possible and paid for it with his life. American’s have felt a debt to France ever since.

In more recent years so called patriots, mostly Republicans, have taken to ridiculing the French. They even abandoned French Fries for “Patriot Fries” much as during World War I Germany’s sauerkraut was renamed “Freedom cabbage.”

I have broken some of my chains this last year. I’m off the Duluth School Board and I’ve given a rest to the notion of writing a book NOW, TODAY. I have instead obligated myself to writing a once every two week column for the Duluth Reader but I’ve pulled back my posts to Lincoln democrat. I’m also reading more than ever although a lot of that is still news related.

Today we worked out an itinerary. Tomorrow we will start booking rooms.

Vive la France (I’m sure my Grandfather said that many times a century ago)

Georges Méliès

A very cool video from Google’s greeting of the day of a Disney-like figure in France, the innovative movie maker, Georges Méliès. I want my grandsons to see this to get a sense of France, as I would like to imagine it, before Claudia and I visit in September. Yesterday we bought our tickets. I have been learning French (and madly practicing it on Duolingo) for the past five months and am on the cusp of being able to speak it with four months to go before lift off.


https://www.google.com/?doodle=32727724&hl=en&gl=us&source=sh/x/do&nord=1

This is also the land of Voltaire, Jules Verne, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, the inventor of hot air balloons and Jacques Cousteau who opened the oceans to us.

Duty, Honor, Country sans one

Darn, I’ll need to rotate this…….more later.

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My photo sharing ap is being very balky. Its late and …

We just ordered our tickets to France. This gentlemen above, tipped on his side was my original reason for going. Now its more than that. That’s too big a subject to tackle in a late night post when I really need to hit the sack. I’m even too tired to study french at the moment. I will be speaking the language when I arrive next September……I may not sound pretty but I will speaking it.

I just discovered that Duolingo has been keeping track of my work. Since my birthday in December I’ve put in 129 hours. Most of these hours were in March and the April just completed. Duolingo says I’ve learned 2910 new words. Now if I could just learn to conjugate them all, spell them, properly àçcëñt them, put them in the right order and use them in a sentence……

Good night.

White House correspondents, our new civility police

If you type “civility” into lincolndemocrat’s search function you will discover that I find it a desirable virtue that is too often used as a means of discouraging honest discourse…..like my constant fault finding with Duluth’s ruinous Red Plan. The editors of the Duluth News Tribune have never forgiven me for doing their job.

Over the weekend the Washington press corps has been doing it’s own nose pinching over Michelle Wolf’s wickedly honest, truth telling about our President.

Guess what? Michelle’s old colleagues have nothing nice to say about the press’s craven tsk, tsk, tisking.

Enjoy:

Michelle Wolf’s Old Late-Night Bosses Come to Her Defense https://nyti.ms/2HDsDBH

A fire, a fire sale and 91st bday party

Sometime while I was mid-flight to Florida to attend my father-in-laws 91st birthday celebration Superior’s Husky oil refinery went kaboom. We checked updates during the day concerned for those we left behind. It cut some workdays short in our family but nothing worse for now.

Last night a friend sent me the DNT’s story about the school district’s fire sale price set for Duluth Central.

All is not sunny in Florida either. The Palm Beach Post reported today that huge swaths of the everglades mangroves (up to 90 percent) have been killed by hurricane Irma.

One more reason why my loyal readers will remain reduced to 7

Yes, I lost a reader due to too much emphasis on the state of black America. My departed reader assured me that I had obviously been subjected to too much propaganda. Well, true to form the first of the New York Times pieces I will link to is about America’s new holocaust museum in Alabama. Duluth will be sending a delegation to this memorial as our infamous lynching is part of its story. If its mention of the treatment of an angry young wife who railed at her husband’s murderers is propaganda……well, I will continue to subject my readers to it.

The other article was a review of the book written by a reporter who covered Hillary Clinton for ten years right up to her defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.

And this same author separately explains the advice she was given before writing a book. It was: read lots of books. Since I keep putting off authoring my own book/books I found the advice sensible.

And last night I sent in my next column to the Duluth Reader’s Submissions email. The column will be titled: Swallowing Ham’s Sandwich. I can’t link to it yet but it begins:

The story of Noah’s Ark begins in chapter six of Genesis. My grandsons would tell me that Chapter six was afraid of Chapter 7 for good reason. Why? Because 7-8-9.

France

This is my bookcase of French related books that I’m working on. I posted a similar picture of the books on China last year. It was one of a number of posts to my “China” category. I have begun a similar category on France which this post is now a part of.

My (now) seven loyal readers will recall that it was my Grandfather’s exploits in France that was the primary driver for this trip. I have in fact polished off a couple books on that subject in the past seven or eight months. But that reading has led to a more intense interest in the nation which gave us our liberty and for which we have twice returned the favor.

I just finished reading Ina Caro’s book “The Road from the Past” to Claudia. (NOTE the preceding link is to a very unflattering WaPo review of the book which was, the book that is, just what I hoped it would be). Shortly afterward we decided to watch the movie Julie and Julia which was a charming little movie about a writer who set out to and succeeded in cooking all 524 recipies in Julia’s Childs first book on French Cooking in one year’s time.

I’ll be posting more about France as I go along. I’ve already made some discoveries I hadn’t expected. For instance I have always thought of English as a Germanic language. But Britain and France’s long entanglement left about one third of our vocabulary coming from the frogs. I must admit that has made it much easier for me to pick up their lingo as I chip away at it every day.

I’m currently on a 54 days in a row tear studying it. I started five months ago and have about four more months to go by which time I hope too have added a few brain cells upstairs. In fact, I think I’ll add a few more right now. Maybe I’ll edit this later or peut être pas.