Sunday, April 30, 2006

Buckskin Bible Revue--Layin' Down Tracks

After having heard of this CD, Big as a Chicken, from one of my sisters, I finally checked it out and quickly placed my order, and not just because the lead singer is my brother Jay. His group, the Buckskin Bible Revue, plays a get-down, jiggle-foot bluegrass/rock/punk combo--mandolin, fiddle, and slide guitar complementing the standard instruments. Damn fine, judging from song samples listed on the website, as follows: 1. Part of the Van
2. Two Bucks
3. Lifeblood
4. Check List
5. Imaginary Circles
6. World Spinning Round
7. Times
8. The Bananas
9. Payin My Dues
Check out their playdates, too--Wish I could be there!
  • May 9th '06--Sockeye Brewery - Boise, ID
  • May 12th '06--Terrapin Station - Boise, ID
    (Opening for Free Peoples)
  • May 21st '06--Eagle Island Experience - Eagle, ID
  • June 10th '06--Warm Lake Idaho (private affair)
  • July 13th '06--Common Ground Cafe, McCall, Id. (w/Tony Furtado)
  • September 15th '06--Hyde Park St. Fair, Boise, Id.
Pass the word!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Voice of the Young

I've been a fan of Neil Young for years, mostly for his poetic sensibility, but also partly for his ballsy, hard-rocking, ass-kicking grunge mentality when called upon by circumstances. I also like his versatility, willing as he's been to try a wide range of styles over the years, from rockabilly to stoned-rock to synthesizer to pure folksy mellow. But he's also got a sharp political sense (consider his "Ohio" in response to the Kent State shootings), and--Canadian or not--he just released an album online that is highly critical of the present administration. He's giving it away--you can stream the entire album, Living With War, for free. He's got something to say. Check it out at Neil's Garage.

Something Old: Something New

Last night we attended the athletic department's "barn dance," which wasn't a barn dance at all but rather a dance in the armory complete with plastic decorations in the shape of steer skulls and cowboy boots. It was pretty well attended, mostly by an older set who came to kick up their heels and cut the rug. What do the kids know--dancing's a good time, and once upon that time I could stay on the dance floor all night long.
The band, Something New, was no group of youngsters, but their repertoire of 50's and 60's hits was a good match for the crowd, and they were certainly a practiced group, with some medleys that were well-constructed and performed. The lead singer, Randy Woods, interested me most, giving his all on such vocal standards as "Unchained Melody" and "The Midnight Hour," often effectivey harmonizing with the others on Beatles tunes or other multi-part harmonies. His sidekick, John McCormick, played a great lead guitar and had an impressive falsetto that he put to good use.
In all, well worth the seven bucks to get in, along with the $3.50 per ticket you could redeem for something they called "new age" beers.
Plus, I met a guy who was a SD high school cross-country and track runner that I probably (sort of) competed against--Randy Fisher, a DSU athletics guy. It was a good time.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Student Researcher Finds a New Father

Go ahead and let my title mislead you. The picture shows recent grad PB articulating his concept of fatherhood to Dr. B, a new father himself.
Our College of Arts and Sciences held a reception yesterday for the students who got grants for research they did. I was lucky enough to supervise this project on the theme of fatherhood in Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, working with an excellent student who should do well in graduate school and beyond.
He also just read last night in Vermillion to celebrate his inclusion in the VLP's new creative writing issue. Way to go, P!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What Beadle-People Eat for Snacks

If you're in need of snack food, you lately have a profusion of it in the Beadle Hall break room, where General B. would be proud to see the old and the new--old snacks and modern microwaves. Yum! Posted by Picasa

Lining Up for a Leap of Faith

It's 157 days away, but the Twin Cities Marathon registration starts today, and it fills up fast, so after grabbing my first cup of coffee, I sat down and pegged October 1 as a day I'll try it all again, 26.2 miles of running, despite last year's foot problems two weeks before the race that kept me from even going to the cities. If you're interested, the TCM people also hold a 10 mile race and a 5K race that same weekend. They figure 250,000 people come to watch the marathon, and that's no joke. Having people lining the entire course from the Metrodome to the capitol, cheering and shouting encouragement, makes it a bit less an individual leap and more a kind of group mental and physical effort, satisfying in ways that the long solo runs are not.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Land of Infinite Variety

A light dusting of snow coated the yard this morning, a reminder that winter here has endurance beyond the last of March. By early morning the sun had carried the spring back into our minds, and late today the light cool breeze and the warm sun competed into the sunset. After an easy walk with the wife and dog, I lay on the picnic table in the back yard, talking to my son on the phone and watching a flock of big dark birds swirl high in the sky above me, carving lazy designs in the bright, unbroken blue--beckoning so that for a moment it seemed as though if I didn't hang on, I would fall up into it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Shoes with a Bright Future

Prom night requires some folks to pull out the stops, and having the right shoes is a must. So, here's a pair of beauties that light up the night, battery operated jobs that are like having a personal disco dance floor. Cool or what?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

To Fargo, Howard, and Home

The weekend weather hear was fantastic, in the seventies with no wind or bugs, the sun shining and the birds twittering. But I was on the road most of Saturday, a trip to Fargo to the Red River Conference, where I heard papers on Martin Buber and a Neil Bissoondath, German and Caribbean writers. The conference there focused on world literature, so my being a specialist in American lit kept throwing people off. But our makeshift session made for a great fit, and the discussion afterward was lively and inspiring, focusing on the nature of identity and emigration, in part. My only regret--I didn't get to see or have lunch with my son David up in Fargo.
I got home in time for a cookout and a pleasant evening with friends here at our home, and Sunday brought a trip to Howard for services and a kraut and wurst dinner. Good stuff. This afternoon the wife and I tidied up the place a bit, working outdoors in the sun. After all the intellectual activity, it was a treat to fire up the chainsaw and fell a pesky tree in the backyard. It was big enough to give a satisfying WHOOMP! as it hit the ground. Plus, I got the mower ready for the summer, mowed the grass, vacuumed the car, cleaned the garage, and listened to a great James Taylor album. Then I went jogging and survived a near-tussel with a little evil demon of a dog. I've cleaned my office and now I'm easing into Monday. Cheers!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Running from Conference to Conference

A busy day. This afternoon I read a paper on growing up in Ft. Pierre at the Dakota Conference and tomorrow I race up to Fargo for another conference where I'm reading a paper on a book by James Welch--The Heartsong of Charging Elk, one of his best books. That one is the Red River Conference on World Literature. I hope it goes well.
I enjoyed meeting some people today at the conference, one of whom was Bernie Hunhoff of the South Dakota Magazine. We had a good discussion about poetry and other kinds of writing in his magazine. I was also pleased to meet the people at the South Dakota Historical Society Press, who seemed mildly interested in the things I was writing. Two of my students were at the reading, which made me feel good, and one of them is reading a paper tomorrow there on a story by JB.
Plus, the wife and I enjoyed a great meal at Spezia's in Sioux Falls and a good drive home in the cool and still evening air. A good day. Now I need to sleep and get up early and go to Fargo!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Anti-Bridge

Here in Madison, we don't always do things the way others do, and there's more than one way to cross the creek. Behold the Anti-Bridge, which I suppose is a place for people to stroll down to the waterline and cool their tootsies, but it certainly suggests some other options--a welcoming spot for creatures evolving, or . . . what else? I welcome your creative suggestions for just what this could be.

The Eyes of Walter are Upon You

Scary, huh? He doesn't lunge at the end of his leash or gnash his teeth at strangers, although he does scamper aimlessly from one scent to another, seeking out something that never seems to be there, something that lingers at the base of every tree, every twig, every blade of grass. He is on the job--Walter, the dog with a snore that can rattle windows and a view of the world like no other, not like two others.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dog on a Leash

People keep dogs in town, but most dogs don't seem to appreciate being kept in a yard or tied up. Some seem desparate, frantic, when they see someone moving around, and they'll leap and bark and lunge to the end of their tethers trying to attack or warn or scare away someone walking by. It's an unpleasant scene, the poor dog straining at his chain, its boundary identified by the circle of bare ground in the yard.
Nearby, one neighbor keeps two hounds in a small cage, and they bark at any noise, whether it's there or not.
Our poor old little Walter, a Boston terrier, would usually rather be inside on his master's lap, but the fenced-in back yard usually gives him enough space to roam. He's small, just like our house and our back yard, and so is our little town, a place where we usually look the other way from people who keep dogs on chains so the poor animals can pester people out for a ride or a stroll.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hoo-Rah LaLa

I just got my first CD from LaLa today, Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, the first Dylan album I bought back when it came out in 1974. So far, so good with LaLa. Check it out: Now I need to get someone to want MY CD's.
I liked this album partly because my dad got to like it, and, after I got out of the service and was still feeling restless, I would work on my van out in the street by our house and if he came out I would put on "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts," and he would sit and he would tell me how fine it was that I was free as a bird and could head out for the west.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Why I Pay Taxes

A single person can't do a whole lot on his own, no matter what a few successful people might say. The idea is, you turn over a little something to support community projects, national goals, a way of life--and you have ownership in how your money is used, whether you believe in the ideas or not. So we end up both proud of and tainted by how the money is spent, maybe new playground equipment for the city park or maybe a cruise missle. Today I made my peace with those taxes, sealed them up and sent them in. I scraped my initials once in the wet concrete for a curb the city was putting in; I try to put my mind on the good things my money might be spent on, a curb or a triathlon or a land fill or a library or a child's art project, where I imagine my initials. The rest? I'll keep paying my taxes so I have a right to stand against them.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Three Sports, One Race

I’ve been running for over thirty years, including more than 20 marathons, but last fall a foot injury sidelined me and I didn’t run, except for a few trial jogs, until Saturday, when I ran 2.25 miles to finish off my first triathlon. It was an experience. On a windy day in South Dakota, the pool is calm, but going out with the wind on a bike means you’ll turn and “Whoa!” you’re down four gears and looking for a good tuck. I was fine until I whipped in, jumped off my bike, and tried to plug it into a bike rack made for 20-inchers, then jammed it into another rack while nudging several high-dollar models into reclining positions. It was time for a run, and after working out the kinks, the legs worked okay, and my friend Roger Reed welcomed me to the finish and the plastic flags snapping in the wind. Former students, colleagues, and local friends helped make my first triathlon a good one. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Stuff for the Land Fill

What do you get if you get a new Arrow shirt? Well, let’s see. You get a bunch of crap that makes the shirt look good on the shelf, but it’s a project getting the shirt ready to wear. Check this out. Besides the big pasteboard backing, you get cardboard and plastic collar rings and a plastic unit attached to the collar button. Oh, perky, perky collar! Plus, you get the cardboard tag with the “care instructions” and the price tag. But note its nifty grommet! So it doesn’t wear out swinging from the plastic attaching cord, presumably, while it lays on the shelf. Then the little things appear—a plastic thing with a notch, a clear plastic sticker that indicates size, a little sticker on the back of the collar that also indicates size (L), and three cool paper-clip like dealies. If you look close, one side reads “Valuable,” and the other side “Handsome.” And, finally, just so you don’t forget what a danger it used to be getting a new shirt ready, there’s a stick pin in the collar. What? Just in case the collar button falls off? Finally, a sticker from Inspector 36 in the pocket who must have approved the arrangement. Maybe I should send all the crap back to Arrow just to set them straight. Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 14, 2006

Time Keeps on Ticking, Ticking, Ticking, Into the Future

Dr. D points out that there are plenty of ways to tell time. Maybe the most intriguing of them is The Human Clock, where user-taken photos display numbers corresponding to what time it is, some of them constructed, some "found." Another he mentions is The Death Clock, which tells me that, with my BMI and my attitude toward life, I should live until November 10, 2041, a little over a billion seconds from now.

The B's Have a Baby

Thursday morning our friends J and C B had their first little baby, a girl. Congratulations to them and best wishes for a happy, healthy baby and mother. I've been looking at the hospital "Cradle Roll" to see a picture of the babe, but so far none has appeared. We visited them on Monday evening since they were going Tuesday to get the ball rolling and bring the nine months to an end and the rest of their lives to a beginning. Seven pounds, four ounces later, and it's begun.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Book Lover's Treasure Trove

Our town's libraries are culling their books, and people are pitching in those books they don't want, so book fans get to pick over the tables, and you never know what you might find.

My favorite here is Anguish Languish, a 1956 book by H.L. Chase. I had never seen a copy, though I had enjoyed "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut" and heard there were other stories like it. My time has come. Text is here.

Don't ask about some of these. Pac-Man? Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Taste of Easter Soul

Here's a pic of me, the mom, and the wife. We're all looking dapper just after the big concert in Madison at St. Thomas. We had a good crowd and a good concert, and we greeted happy folks as they left, many familiar faces. Dr. B. and I tenored our hearts out, and now we get our Monday nights back to ourselves, though we'll miss our MasterSinger fellows until we meet again in the fall. In the meantime, here's one song (via my iRiver) from the concert: Be Still My Soul.  Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rosemary in Town

Mom came to town yesterday to hear the MasterSingers put on our concert in Howard, and it was so darned good she's sticking around for the performance tomorrow. I hope it's worth it. It should be; the acoustics in St. Thomas here in Madison are much better, and there will be a bigger crowd, but I was pleased with the sound in Howard Friday night.

One thing that improves the entertainment value and attendance are the kids we performed with. Third-graders can't do very much wrong.

Tonight we went out to Geno's on Lake Madison, where we enjoyed a pleasant meal, food that you can't prepare by simply dropping a frozen whatever in a hot vat of oil.

So, some pleasant conversation, good food, some papers graded, and some student blogs checked out. Not a bad day.

Friday, April 07, 2006

So we beat on, boats against the current . . .

We finished with The Great Gatsby today in my American Literature II class. Mostly it was me talking, but many students weighed in with ideas, so that was a good thing. I like that we were able to make connections between that and "Rosicky," Huck Finn, and "Big 2-H River," for example. I love the ending and read it aloud to the class. Even the post office loves Gatsby.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Sun that Comes in the Mail

Have you seen The Sun? We just got our April issue today, and it promises to be another worthwhile magazine, full of thoughtful and thought-provoking essays, poems, stories, and odds and ends. One of my favorite sections is "Readers Write," a collection of personal pieces that focus on a theme. This month it's Decisions, where readers address the topic however they wish. The magazine is left of center, concerned with spirituality, and always surprising. You can get a free issue to check it out at Peace.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Release Your Inner Ad-Man (or Woman)

As the NYTimes points out, we all have a chance to hit the big time by making that perfect ad for the new Chevy Tahoe--yeah, right. It's pretty easy, though, and you get to work with video clips, and they don't censor you, so if you want to call the car a big tub of tin, then you can, and then you can send it to your friends. It's at

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sweets for Old-Timers

Call me a fogey, a fossil, an old-timer, a codger. I admit it. I like some of the old-timey candies. My wife knows that. She got me these candies for my birthday, and I've been packing them around for four months (except the Chick-O-Stick, which I ate immediately), but today stress has made me seek them out, so here they are, out in the open, candies from my youth.
These companies aren't all so backwards they don't have websites, though. Classic Caramel Company, Atkinson Candy, and Annabelle have an online presence. Otherwise, you can go to Old Time Candies or other and find them (including Clove, Teaberry, and Beeman's gum). Annabelle is in Hayward, CA, where my brother lives, so maybe he knows someone who knows someone . . . Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 03, 2006

23 Years and Better Than Ever

It's my daughter's birthday today, so you can click on her link here and see what she's got to say about it, or you can take my word for it. Her man Chester put on a great surprise party for her Saturday, with a cotton candy machine and a projector for some awesome PS2 and DDR games. He managed to get people in to MLPS from Duluth, Fargo, and Sisseton without her knowledge, and she came home to a big surprise. Then today, she took the day off and enjoyed a beautiful spring day very much unlike the blizzard that greeted her arrival in Laramie, Wyoming on Easter Sunday, 1983. I've been trying to be a good dad ever since, with mixed results. The daughter, though, turned out just dandy, and she just keeps getting better every day. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Footloose Teens in a Small Town

Howard High School, a small school just west of Madison, put their annual play on today, two performances, matinee and evening. It was a musical, Footloose, the play made from the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon, wherein a big-city boy comes to a small hick town where dancing is banned. Will he be successful in getting the townsfolk to kick up their heels again? What do you think?

It's always a treat to see the efforts of so many people come to fruition. In small towns like Howard, families might approach these performances with a mix of dread and hope, but they turn out in droves to show their support and to see just what might happen. And in those performances, there are always some people whose talents--singing, dancing, acting--are surprisingly good, not to mention the others who are essential in making the play happen. That's the role of art programs in these small places. It's one thing to see art as a thing that other people create, but having a play like this gives young people an opportunity to see what effort goes into producing theater and gives those who have a talent for it a chance to discover what they can do.

Whether it's the Royal Shakespeare Company doing Othello or some rural high school students singing and dancing, it all takes effort. And very often, the effort pays off. Way to go Howard.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Workshop Fingers

During the workshop Thursday M. gave me a brownie with a gold twisty-tie, and because my fingers are best off if they are busy, they made this lovely artifact, so I took a picture of it. Where else would someone put such a picture? Blog it! Posted by Picasa