Archive - 2013

August 6th

Rick Helling, vindicated

Former major-league pitcher Rick Helling, who has several cousins in the Fertile area, blew the whistle on the problems of steroids in baseball long before the whole sordid mess was made public. Good, midwestern values at work here. His family can be proud, as can the rest of us. 

August 5th

Mass in B Minor by Bach

Okay, folks, if you have an extra two hours, here is an excellent performance of the Mass in B Minor by J. S. Bach from last year at the Proms in London. Spectacular. Well thought-out. As good as Robert Shaw's version.  

Bach was Lutheran, but once when he was looking for more money, he applied for a job with a prince in Catholic Poland. For the try-out session, Bach composed several parts of the Catholic Mass. When he got home to Germany, he soured on moving to Poland, but he decided to finish the Mass, which is a masterpiece. It is intellectual, as are all Bach's works, but with magic musical moments redolent of the stuff Mozart doled out in his sleep. 

Bach never had a venue or orchestra this size. One wonders what he would have done with it had he known.

My favorite part starts at 1:02:11. Here Bach outdoes Mozart in the darkness department, exceeding even Mozart's Requiem in masterful expression of despair and gloom. Oh the delicious chord progressions and agonizing suspensions. Bach was all about not resolving anything until the last possible moment. Always leave one note lingering from the last chord while moving on to the next. 

And then it gets even better and more agonizing at 1:05, where the crucifixion is described. 

August 4th


People ask me where I get ideas for my newspaper column. I usually have no problem, but sometimes I have to resort to tricks. Tonight, after struggling for an hour, I made the decision to go to the National Public Radio website. I would find my idea there no matter what. That was my commitment to myself.  I ran across this article, and wrote this column.  

Whew! What if there hadn't been any good topics on the site? 

August 3rd



A young swan saw fit to visit the gardens' pond this afternoon. That is a first. 


August 1st

The other side

Aunt Olive was in fine spirits yesterday when I stopped. We had coffee and banana cake. Very good. Elvis, the nursing home dog, arrives like clockwork five minutes after the snack wagon. By then, I had eaten all the banana cake. Olive dug up some graham crackers, and he was satisfied.

Olive was speculating as to the source of her nightly strokes. She is following in the footsteps of her older brother Roy, she claims. He had several strokes before he died. I pointed out that Olive has already outlived him by thirty years. 

"I have been so many places!" Olive said cheerfully after reciting some of her trips. "I should be ready to die any time!" 

Then she got contemplative. 

"Of course, you wonder what is on the other side," she said. "There's just no way of knowing."

"No use worrying about that," she said, and we moved on to other topics. 

Francis upsets apple cart

I like this guy more and more. Read through the article. Who sounds Christ-like and who sounds like a bunch of prissy Pharisees? 

It is so obvious it is painful! I hope Francis shakes up the whole rotten edifice of the Catholic Church to its core. Look at what his statement, "Who am to judge?" did to the old guard. It undercut every judgemental, stale, dogmatic stick-in-the mud in the church. And he won't recant. And the effect of his statement will only grow with its repetition. 

I am not Catholic, but Francis is fun to watch. 

July 30th


Andrew Sullivan has an excellent take on the FOX news interview. He patiently dissects the disturbing mindset that leads to such idiocy as that displayed by the FOX news host, a malignant ignorance shared by a shockingly large segment of our population. 

July 28th

Reason collides with FOX news

FOX news, which makes billions by tickling the prejudices of bigots of every stripe, fails in its attempt to smear a scholar of religion who wrote a book on Jesus. Oh, he happens to be a Muslim himself. So what. But that's beyond the comprehension of the bigot-baiters at Fox. 


Sorry about the sparse posts lately. I have been preoccupied with getting a book published. I have hired a very good editor, and she gives me assignments which eat up all of my writing energy. 

Yesterday, I decided I needed a change of scenery to get anything done. So, I booked a room in downtown Minneapolis, a suite with an office area. It was a perfect work space, and reasonably priced, at least last night. The whole hotel was pretty outdated and the room I was in was sort of beat up, but it was clean and spacious. So, I thought I might rent it for a few days and work. 

Well, the price doubled for subsequent days. So I got on the web and randomly chose a lodge in Siren, WI for my next stop.

It is ideal. Siren is a town of 800 people, just like Fertile, and this is a lodge like what we could use in Fertile. Everything is rustic timber. The rooms are large. There are a lot of little side rooms where I will be able to sit and work in silence. And the price is great. So, I might stay a few days. 

The task sounds large, but is not. Last winter, I wrote a manuscript of 70,000 words. Upon review by several trusted advisors, and then a professional editor, it became clear that some parts of the book are much stronger than others. The editor broke it to me gently, but large swaths of the book need to be cut. I just cut 15,000 words two days ago. That amounts to fifteen days of work last winter, but I don't think about that. It doesn't hurt because I now recognize that what is being cut is simply bad writing. I am relieved to have the bad writing eliminated before the book goes to publication. 

I also am going to try to add some stories and see if they fit into the book as it stands after the cuts. 

And, the most difficult task of all: Finding a title that will sell. 

What is most enjoyable is that the editor has succeeded in pointing out to me what writing of mine works and why. I now see what doesn't works and I know why. 

Learning is never painless. You must let go of things. Like 15,000 words you thought were good but were not. That can be depressing. And then you wake up relieved to know you will never make that particular mistake again, which is a good feeling. And you press onward, which is the single most crucial element in the entire endeavor. 


July 21st

An incident

Went in yesterday to see Aunt Olla at the Hilton. She was in fine form, and told some stories I had not heard before. Namely, she recalled an incident which happened in Ulen in the mid-1920s where a Negro boy was accused of assaulting a local woman. The mob chased him across fields until they caught him right by the Bergeson farm. Aunt Olla figured the woman was probably making up the story and that the poor kid--he was just a kid--didn't know what hit him when the sheriff's posse arrived from town with chains and guns galore. "He looked so frightened in the back of the car," she said. "I told him I felt sorry for him." 

Another story: A neighbor lady named Geneva would come over to bathe the two youngest boys in the family on Sunday afternoon. They didn't like it, but she was assertive and made sure they got a good shampooing. One wonders what led to that ritual. 

When Aunt Gertrude was a young mother, she needed surgery over in Ada. They had no money, so the neighbors threw a party and raised the necessary amount. My grandfather Melvin drove Mama and Olla over to the party. He was all of sixteen. They had a Model T with the top down. Well, Melvin (they called him Mike) wanted to go home but Mama was visiting...and visiting...and visiting. She was particularly fond of Mrs. Dunham, and the two just wouldn't shut up. When finally Olla and Mama got in the car, Mike drove so fast home that Mama and Olla thought they were going to get thrown from the car. He was furious. 

Eldest Brother Roy made a hammock out of a bedspring which the kids thought was great fun. Olla didn't dare sleep in the hammock, but she did sleep on the porch one night. She took the spot right near the door as she wanted to be able to get inside in case Gypsies came. Roy also poured a sidewalk from the drive up to the house, an unheard of luxury at the time. He was a forward thinker, even at age 18. But Roy always had to lay down the law with Olla, as she would rather play than work, even into her 20s. 

Olla figures it was probably for the best that their Dad died at age 42 or the kids wouldn't have had nearly the fun they did. "He would have put a stop to it," she said, while Mama was a gentle soul who never minded if the kids stayed up until dawn playing cards. 

Mama once ventured to Grand Forks for a gathering of Stavanger Norwegians. Her only instructions to Olla, who was hopeless with chorse, were to feed her chicken who had a brood of chicks. Of course Olla completely forgot and there the chickens were stone dead when Mama got back. But she didn't say anything.