As Minnesota is pulled down by gravity and sun

My children and my wife make sport over me whenever I began talking about natural phenomena. They all call out “glaciers!” when I get going. That’s because I got overly enthusiastic once when my kids were little explaining how even now, ten thousand years after the mile thick glaciers retreated under the sun the ground in Minnesota continues to recoil upward. Its just like a mattress after a sleeper leaves the bed. Its only a very little annual recoil, but still.

Gravity is having the opposite effect on my snow sculpture outline map of Minnesota. In concert with the sun it is pulling it down and making it squatter. I wouldn’t mind that so much but because I undermined the area under the Olympic rings it began a slow topple towards the hill below it. The picture in the last post from last night was taken after I was satisfied with its appearance. Half an hour later I looked out my front window to check on what seemed a dicey situation and discovered a fist-wide crevice half way up the sculpture where Minnesota was about to break at about Hinckley’s latitude. Instead of joining my wife to pick up our grandsons from school I raced out to prevent a disaster like California’s sliding into the Pacific.

Before I could pause to take the picture above I first shaved off much of the snow in the top front of Minnesota removing it five or six inches deep to take the weight off below. Then I replaced snow under the rings to give the lower sculpture firmer support. Then I punched holes in the back where the rift had opened up and shoved more snow inside so that there would be less of a void along the back of the sculpture.

In the process of doing all this the Sculpture suffered. The sides and circles got dinged and scraping away so much snow from the front exposed the Cat in the Hat. The cat portion was faded pink and an ugly blemish. I decided that the quickest fix was get out more red dye/paint and make the blemish a heart, rather like the one discovered on the proto planet Pluto. (that’s fun to say although it may be a dwarf planet)

That didn’t work out so well. The snow I painted was wet and in short order the valentine became a bleeding mess. One of the editors at the Reader came over to snap a picture and texted me to ask if the bleeding heart had been from a vandal. I sent him the clean picture but it was too late for it to become the front cover of this week’s Reader. Working on the sculpture may also have cost me my column in the Reader. I had thought I could get it done quicker but frittered away the afternoon that I had planned on using to write the “Wayning of America.” I turned it in at 9 PM and in my subject heading I simply typed, “I hope its not too late.”

If it is I’ll just put it in the blog.

This morning I scooped up some snow, put it in a plastic bin and took it to my basement to warm up. I also dug out the offending red blob and tossed it under my spruce tree. I used the melted snow to fill in the crater. I think the chances that Minnesota will last one more day have improved to 50/50. I wasn’t sure it would last overnight but it did with some new narrower crevices still visible this morning. The colder evening temps have stabilized it a little.

I’ve confessed before that I don’t mind the attention that my snow sculptures generate any more than an actor opposes applause. The loss of the Reader front cover has been made up for by Facebook. The preceding post is essentially what I put in Facebook 18 hours ago. Since that time it has gotten over 500 “shares.” I don’t recall getting 10 or 20 for any previous post. Its a felicitous sculpture on a subject dear to the hearts of any Minnesotan – our Olympic representatives. I suspect their success helps make up for the blowout loss the Vikes suffered in the Conference Championship before the Superbowl.

I’m enjoying my moment in the sun too; more so than my sculpture which will soon melt away.

I subscribe to the Duluth News Tribune but…

I encourage you to help fund John Ramos who (as of this posting)is one hundred dollars short of his goal of $3600 which he is asking for to continue reporting in the Duluth Reader. And furthermore – if he’s already crossed that border I’d suggest you donate anyway.

Lending weight to this plea is this story from Florida of a man who finds himself taking his city to the Supreme Court over their Loren Martell moment.

From my post about the Martell moment:

“Last night the board passed a largely empty but right-minded policy to thwart bullying in the schools. Whoopee! Kids will get to watch a video! Maybe the Board should watch it. Just before that Chair Grover shut of[f] the microphone of a speaker who had not yet used up his allotted three minutes and had Duluth police put him in handcuffs and removed from the School Board meeting…”

Loren wasn’t actually hauled to jail but my long standing beef with the editors of the Trib still stands. They are too cozy with the ruling powers of this city. Heck, their neo-con owners failed to warn against dictator wannabe Donald Trump in their 2016 endorsements. And when it came time to defend a vocal politician’s speech the Trib’s editors could only ask Art Johnston to resign and stop bothering the Board majority when the administration conspired to ruin Art’s reputation with vile accusations. Our defenders of the First Amendment took a siesta.

If I am at war with anything it is milquetoast moderates who believe civility is the equivalent of good government. Hell no. Sometimes you do need to wave the “Don’t tread on me flag.” Sadly that flag has been claimed by waaay too many members of what Teddy Roosevelt called the “lunitic Fringe.”

I don’t agree with Mr. Ramos on everything. He’s reported the greased wheels behind the development of a kayak center in Western Duluth but I’m inclined to agree with the city councilors who made this recent case for funding it.

On the other hand no one but John reported the behind the scenes efforts to assure the plan’s passage. Neither will you find behind the scenes explanations of what’s going on in the Duluth Schools than from Loren Martel, if he chooses to continue reporting in the Reader, or me here on the blog. (by the way the Board’s new legislative platform calls for the demolition of Central High – you read it here first.)

Here is a little more transparency. Bob Boone is not thrilled by Mr. Ramos’s Go fund me site and John is not thrilled by the modest payments that Mr. Boone is able to offer him. Bob worries that his other writers might follow John’s example. I doubt that this will happen but can understand his concern. Even so I plunked a modest $100 into the fund myself. Its a fraction of the modest wages that the Trib pays its reporters who scrupulously refrain from commenting as openly about what they consider to be the ridiculous things elected officials say and do unlike John.

I hope Boone and Ramos set their differences aside. I hope Loren returns to his reporting. I have no say over either situation.

I can however direct you to Art Johnston’s trashing of the local DFL. A friend sent me this link to it in the Zenith News, yet another alternative publication. My friend thought Art sounded bitter. I agree and yet I enjoyed his mostly accurate evaluation of how the DFL runs Duluth.

As for my own writing. I’d love to be compensated. It would give me the illusion of writing something worthwhile but I don’t need it and don’t plan any Go fund me campaigns. If nothing else in the Age of Trump writing helps me keep my sanity.

As for one of the “former” education reporters at the Trib. I notice that once again today she has a piece on the local schools although not the school board. And about arming teachers……I unconditionally agree with the teachers. Donald Trump’s talk of arming them is asinine. Its a complete surrender to panic. American public schools….the next Guantanamo Prison.

Half read books

I have finished reading two books so far this year but have been unable to upload them to my lifetime reading list for technical reasons I do not yet understand.

They are:

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The Last of the Doughboys Richard Rubin

Fierce Patriot (Wm Tecumseh Sherman) Robert L. O’Connell

Finding out how to fix this will require time – time I’m reluctant to spend. I’ve got a bunch of things to accomplish – since my return from Florida. I’ve got to shovel more snow. Begin a snow sculpture. Find out why, now that we have snow, Lowell Elementary is not clamoring to have me come and fulfill my commitment to sculpt them something. Make up the hour and a half of French language self-study that I’ve ignored while on vacation with my grandsons. Write another column for the Reader. And read more books.

I have not neglected the news over the vacation. I managed to find a couple hours each day to keep up with what’s going on in the world. Donald Trump’s election seems to have assured dictators everywhere that the cat’s away thus making it possible for the mice to play. The latest is the President of China who is bulldozing through a law that will allow him to become China’s lifetime leader (AKA Emperor).

I am grateful to have so many well reported stories in the New York Times to read although they have the tendency to make the world sound alarming. At least that grim view is thoughful – I got a small dose of the Republican Party’s news organ Fox News while in Florida. That is such thin gruel that I regard every minute spent watching it as a waste of, or more likely an annihilation of, brain cells.

I am about halfway though a highly regarded history of Western Europe written in the 1960’s called the Age of Revolution by an historian, Eric Hobsbawm

NOTE I just read what is found on that link and the link in it on Hobsbawm himself. Very interesting. Although a communist he is regarded even by conservatives as having been the penultimate synthesizer of the 19th century’s history. He evidently read all the books in his bibliography which no doubt took a significant portion of his life to complete. He still had another 40 plus years of life to look forward to afterwards.

I’ve currently detoured from my Grandfather’s life to find out more about France which I intend to visit this year. That visit became all the more likely because while returning home from Florida we were persuaded to purchase an American Airlines membership including a credit card that will get us to and from Paris for a couple hundred bucks. I searched out a good book on the first half of 19th century France because of David McCullough’s book The Greater Journey about the many Americans who made a pilgrimage to that nation. I haven’t finished that book either.

This line of reading puts me in touch with my Grandfather. Troops like him said: “Lafayette, We are here.” upon reaching French shores. Americans had an almost reverential attitude for France since its King financed the Revolutionary War insuring our victory and his own abdication execution after impoverishing France.

This post was going to continue on with a litany of other books I’ve recently gotten halfway through like Dark Money, Founding Rivals and American Lion. Not finishing them is a sorry reflection on my need to sleep.

I have another book that my reading has prompted me to dig out. Alexis de Tocqueville’s, Democracy in America. This was one of a dozen books Congressman Newt Gingrich sent off to Russia by the bucket full to teach them about Democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. That was before Newt fell under the spell of America’s wannabe dictator Donald Trump. I won’t hold that against De Tocqueville.

BTW – a month ago I finally memorized all the Presidents of the United States in order and now repeat them in my head at night to help me fall asleep. Just now I repeated them to myself in reverse from 45, Donald Trump, to number 1, George Washington. What a fall from grace.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

For the past several weeks Supt. Gronseth’s right and left arms have been negotiating contracts for their own superintencies. Amy Starzecki is headed to Superior, Wisconsin and Mike Cary will take over at Cloquet. These are two of the smartest administrators I’ve worked with and they are leaving at a time of financial penury for ISD 709.

Cloquet and Superior are lucky indeed.

Make of this what you will. The Trib will no doubt paper this over with cheerleading since they look on worryworts with such disdain.

News from Palm Beach

Attendance dropped as much as 90 percent at a gun show 52 miles and four days removed from Florida’s deadliest school shooting amid controversy over how prominent signs should be and whether the event should be held at all, the show’s promoter said Sunday. “It was very awkward timing,” said Kevin Neely of Brooklyn Firearms Co. “People are angry,” he said. “Do I blame them?…
http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/attendance-signs-down-gardens-gun-show-faces-awkward-timing/4WH8qOeSITWpOFNLnus8GN/

Before the Black Panther

I am very pleased by the success of the new Black Panther movie.

My littlest grandson, as white as he can be, has been salivating to see this movie for a month. Maybe we will take him to see it while we are in Florida this week.

For struggling minority kids this will be even bigger. The Panther, not poor suicidal Tom from To Kill a Mockingbird, will give them a much bigger lift.

It reminds me of Shaft in the 1970’s who gave black Americans their first ever big bucks celluloid hero. That movie spawned the blaxploitation Era of movies with black supermen.

Shaft was the brainchild of Minnesota’s own Gordon Parks whose book a Choice of Weapons I suggested as an alternative to Mockingbird. After years of Step’n Fetchits in our movies Parks knew that Black America needed to see much stronger role models.

In the Era of Obama it’s not so critical but it’s still necessary.

The downside of a good stereotype

Here’s a quick read from NPR.

We’ve come to Florida’s Atlantic coast with the King of Stereotyping our golfing President. And due, I guess, to the Parkland massacre he’s breaking stereotype and isn’t out on his greens.

2018-02-18_08-50-29

We got our grandsons away from the non-stop Parkland coverage on FOX news to throw breadcrumbs to Great Grandpa’s muscovy ducks. This is supposed to be a vacation

Nolan’s retirement has opened the floodgates

But this and other stories – the latest school massacres, years of Russian political meddling, the latest embarrassment for evangelicals who pronounced that Donald Trump is God’s instrument on Earth – can wait. We are taking our grandsons to Florida north of the massacre.

I’m not taking my computer but there is always the chance I might hazard a post on my cell phone. Or not.

Visitors during the upcoming period of quiescence are encouraged to type interesting topics into lincolndemocrat’s search function in the upper right hand corner to see what turns up. I have put millions of words online to search. As I always tell people. “I have more opinions than you can shake a stick at.”

Be advised, I spell out the “N” word in the following column – four times!

Don’t worry. I’m sure the defenders of Harper Lee and Mark Twain won’t mind.

Oh, and the Reader found or made up this cool graphic for the column I wrote: Kicking the “N” word out of ISD 709


ONE LONG FOOTNOTE:

For the second time in the last couple of weeks Linda Grover (a fellow columnist) tackles the same subject I have. Her’s is a more measured response whereas mine is a pissed off reaction to some national finger pointing at Duluth’s prissy, parochial, sensitivities as imagined by a bunch of smug, know-it-all elitists.

The one thing both columns share is an awareness of what its like to have your race made a subject of scorn in a classroom. Linda Grover, a proud Ojibwa Indian, recalls Twain’s “Injun Joe” as being a pretty hard pill to swallow. I’ll bet Sammy would have felt the same way.

Sammy was an Osage Indian kid in my sixth grade class. After hearing the author of Killers of the Flower Moon on NPR last year I have added the book to my reading list. I can’t help but wonder if Sammy’s grandparents were murdered for their mineral rights too. Solving the murders is what made today’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ironically, today President Trump is trying to kill the FBI with the help of a lot of Republican Congressional stooges.

Coda Coda

Before the day is out I will write a second coda of sorts to the previous post which I billed as a coda or the last word on the subject of the Twain and Lee books being taken out of 709’s curriculum. Saner heads have spoken out since the DNT first suggested that this curriculum change was an assault on civil rights. Perhaps the best so far comes from a Denfeld teacher Brian Jungman who concludes with these thoughts:

I would ask that white readers consider what would happen if the district required a book that explains why women should be treated equally and the dangers of sexism but that did so by mentioning the c-word more than 60 times. I don’t think we would be surprised to find out our female population was offended. So why does the n-word — when used to that same degree — get a pass?

Atticus said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” I think this is what we need to do because my worry here in this debate is not that we are being Atticus. I worry that we might be Atticus’ Maycomb, Ala.

My coda will be for my next Not Eudora Column in the Duluth Reader coming out Thursday. I’ve already written two of them but each day some new angle begs for a better response. And what I will likely respond to is this self righteous email written to our current school board (no longer including me) that cries out for a riposte:

To members of the Duluth School Board,

Good job Duluth. Let’s ban more books. How about a public book burning. While your at it why don’t you ban these important books in order to reveal your Fascist colors. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Call of the Wild, The Autobiography of Malcom X, Beloved, Catch-22, The Jungle

But that will be for later today before the Duluth Reader’s submission deadline. For now I want to keep practicing my French. I’ve averaged about thirty minutes a day of practicing the language for two months. I hope to be semi-conversant before I arrange a visit to France in September on 100th anniversary of end of World War I. I’ve also begun a self-directed course of French History reading. I’m holding off on writing more about my Grandfather for the time being but that too involves the issue of the integration of black American’s into the life of the Nation. And I’ve got another trip planned this time with grandchildren. And I have three days of church activities ahead of me before my departure including an Ash Wednesday Service, a choir practice, a men’s group meeting, a pancake flipping dinner and the church building and grounds committee meeting. Pretty busy week for an agnostic like me.

The blog may suffer as a result of my other preoccupations but I don’t plan to.

CENSORING MARK TWAIN AND HARPER LEE? Coda

One of Duluth’s teachers who was brought up short by our Administration’s decision to pull Harper Lee and Twain out of the curriculum makes this argument quoted in today’s DNT editorial:

“There is no substitute. There is no novel that accomplishes what ‘Mockingbird’ does, and why anyone would deny (it) to students in a time when intolerance, violence, ignorance, and self-righteousness are rampant, I cannot possibly understand.”

I DISAGREE! Continue reading

Washington’s slaveless plantation

The public radio program “This American Life” features wondereful stories including this one by Azie Dungey. She recounts her summer as an employee at George Washington’s home, now a national park Mt. Vernon. A black woman she was hired to portray a real black slave on the President’s Virginia plantation. She was expected to stay in character as visitors asked her about her life on the plantation. As mentioned in the previous post Americans are distressingly clueless about black Americans and Azie shares her experiences with a selection of this surreal ignorance.

A taste:

“or they immediately asked questions with obvious answers that they just hadn’t thought through. Why don’t you go up to Massachusetts and go to school instead of being a slave. one person asked? Right, as soon as I can get rid of this very obvious brown skin, steal a horse and a map that I can’t read, I will be on my way.

Or they’d go into immediate denial mode, like the old woman who out of nowhere yelled at me, George Washington had no slaves. I said, yes, he did. She responded, no he didn’t. And this went on, back and forth until her son got embarrassed and pulled her away.”

You can listen to the entire hour long program including Ms. Dungey’s selection here.