All posts by Dale Connelly

I am a writer and broadcaster living in the Twin Cities.
Bubby_Wilkie_4

Excavations in Education

Today’s post comes from perennial Sophomore Bubby Spamden of Wendell Willkie High School.

Hi Mr. C.!

Well, today is the re-beginning of school, and in spite of everything I’ve thought and felt over the past few months and the complaints I’ve made and the different ways I’ve tried to get out of returning to Willkie High, I have to say I’m excited to be going back!

Why?

Well, people like making connections and having routines and seeing old friends and making new ones. And the daily rhythm of being a high school sophomore is a pattern I have perfected! I’ve got my backpack and my notebooks and all my pens and pencils and stuff and I’m ready to go. I’ll collect all the papers my teachers hand out and I’ll take their assignments and bring them home. By this time I know them all by heart. My favorite one is the unit on Stonehenge. We do it every September and I get a real kick out of the idea that Druids dragged huge heavy rocks hundreds of miles to make something big that we still don’t understand and when we look at it all we can do is scratch our heads.

The lesson? People have always done stuff that’s kinda weird.

Anyway, I’ll really try to play by the rules this time and get my work done and handed in on time, but before long I know I’ll start to wonder why I have to study so hard for all these standardized tests and I’m sure I’ll get tired of it, because that’s what I do.

And then around the middle of October, I’ll go into my backyard at home, sneak behind the equipment shed where we keep the lawnmowers and rakes and stuff, and I’ll dig a deep pit.

And then I’ll dump all my assignments and papers and materials into the hole and I’ll cover them up with dirt. And I’ll do this every single week all the way through to the end of school, so when Mr. Boozenporn and all my other teachers ask “Bubby, where’s your homework,” and “Bubby, didn’t you take that assignment home?” and “Bubby, why don’t you get things done?”, I can shrug and say “Oh yeah, it’s probably just buried under some other stuff somewhere.”

That’s how I manage to stay a sophomore year after year at Willke High!

I know it seems like kind of a waste, but the way I see it, someday some cultural archaeologists will come along and dig up all that stuff so they can piece together the history of education in America! Or at least the history of education during this particular time in America, which is bound to seem as strange and mysterious to them as Stonehenge seems to us today.

Your predictable pal,
Bubby

How does your routine change after Labor Day?

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We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner – Trendy Vice Edition

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I admit I’m a gambler, and there are times when I get carried away. I feel kinda bad about that!

I used to go to the Showboat in Atlantic City, NJ. But now the place is closing! So is Revel, another hotel/resort that was opened just 2 years ago, and it was built at the cost of 2 billion dollars.

Talk about coming up a big loser on a risky bet!

In another few weeks, a third casino will close, leaving Atlantic City with only 8 gambling establishments compared with the 12 they had at the start of the year.

I wish I had made a wager on that back in January. Hindsight!

Some experts say it’s necessary for Atlantic City’s survival to reduce the number of casinos, because the traffic just can’t support all of them. Habitual gamblers, they say, will just go to one of the establishments that remains open, so little economic activity will be lost.

Maybe so, but over the years I’ve learned that misery does, in fact, love company. That’s why it grieves me that my favorite vice is not experiencing the kind of growth that can support 12 and even more fancy casinos in Atlantic City.

I mean, it’s bad enough to be stuck in a pattern of behavior that brings you feelings of deep regret, but when I realize it’s not even popular anymore, that leaves me feeling like an even bigger loser!

When I look around at all the different soul-crushing, life-wrecking things I could do, I see that drinking is still a big deal, though I’ve never had much interest in that. Even beer consumption is gaining traction as a bad behavior sub-group. Cocaine, Heroin and meth addiction all continue to bring growing levels of misery to many helpless people. What can I say? They’re not my thing. In the catalog of social ills, even accumulating student debt is getting more attention than problem gambling right now.

Dr. Babooner, up until now it has been an important part of my self-image that I engage in socially destructive behavior. But I feel like I’ve lost my edge. Should I abandon gambling for a more trendy vice?

Sincerely,
Lucky

I told “Lucky” to stop worrying about the popularity of one’s vices. Problem gambling is still plenty bad and it creates more than enough misery to lead any practitioner to feel that he or she is afflicted with something major that is worthy of alarm and attention. I doubt that it is in decline. The news that Atlantic City is closing casinos has more to do with another set of social ill – bad investment decisions and misguided marketing choices. Not to mention plain old hubris, which will always be with us.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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A Non-Strategic Strategy

Today’s post is a press release from 9th District Congressman Loomis Beechly, who represents all the water surface area in Minnesota.

From the Office of Congressman Loomis Beechly
August 30, 2014

WASHINGTON – Today, Minnesota Congressman Loomis Beechly joined forces with the many critics of President Obama who are outraged over comments last week in which the President admitted his administration has “no strategy yet” to deal with the ISIS militants organizing in Syria and fighting in Iraq.

“I am appalled,” the Congressman said. “It is non-strategic to admit that you have no strategy.”

Beechly says that when faced with difficult questions about a complicated military situation like the one in Iraq and Syria,  a decisive leader must “take immediate verbal action”.

“You launch a word-strike at the enemy,” Beechly said.  “That’s geo-politics 101.  Say stuff that sounds angry,  Drop a few sentences that are loaded with resolve.  Shoot some threatening verbiage their way and follow it up with a vague ultimatum.”

The Congressman was also clear about what NOT to do .

“Don’t give the appearance of thinking,” he said.  “The American people are not fans of thought.  Option-weighing is for losers, so just start doing some things and react to how it works out.”

Beechly says he is proud of the fact that he has never given the people of the 9th district the impression that he is thinking about something.

“I’m pretty sure Americans like a decider,” he said. “They favor action over analysis.”

“That’s the situation my constituents face every two years when they step into the voting booth,” added the Congressman, who represents only water surface area and so very few voters actually live in his district on Election Day.

“They have no real knowledge of what’s going on and no time to consider possible outcomes, so they pick a familiar name  off the ballot and get on with their lives.  That’s bold.  It’s brazen.  And when you see the Congress we get as a result it’s clear how this kind of reflexive, instinctive action leads our enemies to despair!”

“Sowing that despair,” he said, “… is the job of leader.  And that’s the job I was elected to do.”

How decisive are you?

Storm_at_sea

Fightin’ Words

Today’s post was discovered on a soggy roll of parchment stuffed into the foot well of a tiny boat in Ye Olde Mill at the Minnesota State Fair. The markings appeared to be the frantic scratchings of some kind of caged animal, but after separate examinations by an INTERPOL agent and a State Fair poultry judge, it was determined that the document is indeed a message from Captain Billy, skipper of the pirate ship Muskellunge.

Ahoy, Landlubbers!

I has it on good authority (th’ cursed Internet) that the Chinese is toyin’ wi’ th’ idea of developin’ some kinda super-fast submarine what would zip across th’ ocean in no time, travelin’ in a ‘air bubble’ under th’ waves.

Artist's Approximation of Captain Billy
Artist’s Approximation of Captain Billy

Needless t’ say, me an’ me boys is highly alarmed.

Super-fast subs would be one way t’ move passengers an’ goods from one shore t’ th’ next shore real smooth like an’ well out of reach of low-tech, wave-tossed low-lifes such as ourselves. Th’ scheme what’s bein’ described in th’ press would make these here submarines as remote an unreachable as a jet airliner is, flyin’ overhead.

Naturally, such a scheme would cut into our profits from boardin’ an’ robbin’ conventional, slow-chuggin’, surface-huggin’, sea-going vessels, unless we was able t’ somehow force these here underwater missiles t’ come t’ th’ surface fer th’ occasional pirate-swarmin’ an’ pillagin’.

Therefore, me an’ me boys hereby demands that all seagoin’ powers sign a compact what commits them t’ keepin’ all commercial ocean traffic within reach of th’ international pirate community! Doin’ otherwise would risk upsettin’ th’ global balance of larceny, otherwise known as th’ creative stress of imminent danger, otherwise known as hooliganism, otherwise known as our livelihood.

Ain’t that right boys?

Seriously, why ruin a good (fer us) thing?

Yer iconic buccaneer,
Capt. Billy

The Captain makes a good point about a technology that could turn out to be quite disruptive to the status quo, though his position on this new transit option makes him somewhat the opposite of the typical foe who demands that the latest innovation go somewhere that is Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY).
Is he a NABMBY (Not Anywhere But My Backyard)?

What latest piece of technology could you do without?

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Inversion of the Burger Pods

How delightful that the perennial American fast-food also-ran, Burger King, is courting a financial inversion strategy that would make it technically Canadian.

This is one I will file under the heading Things I Already Thought Were True. Because there was always a slight Canadian tinge to BK, starting with the fake royalist vibe and including its cheese-smothered, can’t-be-good-for-you ham sandwich of the ’80’s, called the Yumbo, which sounds like something a starving Manitoba lumberjack would murmur when he hears the dinner bell.

I loved the Yumbo so much, I did not see how the bottom line of other junk food chains could compete with its obvious appeal. This is just another example of how completely out of step I am with what most Americans think. Back in the middle of the last half of the last century, when fast food was still a novel idea, a kid could imagine Burger King and McDonald’s competing for total control of our culture. The notion, back then, that one or the other might consume another entity that dispenses massive quantities of coffee and donuts would have been breathtaking and possibly the End of History. To have been able to get french fries and a chocolate old-fashioned at the very same counter would have kept me from reaching adulthood.

My other favorite thing about Burger King was that by wrapping its sandwiches in paper, the company stood in stark contrast to McDonald’s reliance on wasteful styrofoam clamshell containers, otherwise known as Burger Pods. When governments started to ban this kind of packaging and forced McDonald’s to re-configure, I thought Burger King had finally triumphed.

Alas, it was just one skirmish in a forgotten battle.

Today, in realm of trendy things that are taking over our lives and that cannot be stopped or ignored, fast food has fallen far behind the Internet and being drenched by Ice Water from Buckets. But there was a time when we even thought the future would be shaped by the containers our food came in – as frighteningly depicted in this trailer for a film by my friend Jeff Strate of Timid Video:

I did believe that I would never again live in a world without burger pods, though it has been years since I’ve seen one. And I have finally accepted that the Yumbo, like the Triceratops, will never again drip globs of cheese on a thirsty earth.

What did you used to eat that you don’t eat anymore?

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Ask Dr. Babooner – Bad Job Edition

Dear Dr. Babooner,

When I was younger I imagined living off the grid in a perfectly balanced lifestyle that combined meaningful environmentally-sensitive work with sustainable practices at home that left no footprint on our fragile planet with regard to carbon generation or over-use of any other precious resources.

I saw myself living on sunlight and good intentions, and dying as compost.

But in reality I work in California’s Central Valley, drilling deep wells to reach the receding water table. I’m on the job 12 hours a day because demand has gone through the roof, even though there is no roof where I work and everything we do is directed into the ground.

But you get the idea. The job is dusty and hot and it can be dangerous if you’re not paying attention because you’re bored, which I am most of the time.

My employer does things on the cheap and charges top dollar. He tells me not to speak to the customers at all, ever, about anything. I think he’s worried that they’ll find out six months ago I was working a barista at Starbucks. I don’t know why this is a problem. The equipment in that job was noisy and complicated too!

Our customers get emotional because they’re spending tons of money on a bet and their entire livelihood is at stake. Last week this one guy sat in a lawn chair and watched us the whole time, drinking beer after beer and complaining about the government. The deeper we went without a strike the more morose he became, and the more beer he drank. Needless to say, he sprouted a gusher long before we did.

At least he went behind a tree.

People tell me I should be happy to have a well-paying, in-demand job, but I can’t help but think this is all a fruitless effort to continue a kind of agriculture that, if this drought continues, is destined to become, well … fruitless.

Dr. Babooner, I’d like to lecture these farmers about conservation of resources and finding ways to not over exploit the preciously small amount of water that’s available to us, but my boss tells me if I say one word about any of that he’ll fire me and bring in drillers from North Dakota who don’t care about the environment, they’re just looking for a way to get out of the Bakken oil fields before winter hits.

Conflictedly,
Bored, Always Drilling Activist Seeks Sustainability

I told B.A.D.A.S.S. she (or he) should just be quiet and take the money. If California’s drought goes on much longer, the central valley will run dry one with you or without you. And arid-land farmers are usually not open to lectures from the crew they’re paying to dig expensive holes. Keep your earnings and use them to save the world later on, although given your high ideals you probably shouldn’t ask too many questions about what the bank is doing with your savings.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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First Friday at the Fair

Today is the first Friday of the Minnesota State Fair.

For Eighteen straight years while I was working with Tom Keith at Minnesota Public Radio I didn’t have to think about what would happen on this day – it was our routine to do a live broadcast from the grounds. We had wonderful fun each time we went out, thanks in large part to our amazing producers (Nora McGillivray, Silvester Vicic, Mike Pengra) and a loyal audience that, in many cases (I’m looking at you, T.G.I.T.H.) managed to crash the gates before the fair opened at 6am.

The fairgrounds are lovely just before dawn and Pronto Pups smell surprisingly good in the morning air. Our technical crew (Mike Osborne, Rick Hebzynski, Scott Yankus and many others over the years) arrived literally in the middle of the night to have everything ready for us at 6 am.

In the later years, Eric Ringham would appear just before air time with his backpack and his DCOTY (Discardable Clothing of the Year), completely prepared to go hide on the fairgrounds for the “Where’s Eric” game.

Yes, we knew there would be at least one costume change.

Through the years, all of Eric’s pursuers made it fun but Leslie Ball and Ochen Kaylan stood out for their familiarity with the terrain and their eerie ability to unlock the clues. In the final year we took to hiding decoys just to slow them down a bit.

I shed tear for this tradition every time first Friday comes along, and I know many Babooners feel the same way.

You can still hear our final broadcast from the fair online. I’m proud of it – we had Ann Reed, Dan Wilson and ‘Pert Near Sandstone on stage and many of the standard Morning Show characters making what we knew would be their last fairgrounds appearance.

If you don’t have three hours to kill, here are some excerpts. This might be especially helpful for those who read about the Sherpa a few days ago, but haven’t heard Wally’s voice as he describes the product in his inimitable fashion.

What will you do at the Minnesota State Fair this year?