All posts by Dale Connelly

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

Worst Love Song Ever

It appears there is nothing in the news this weekend except Ebola.

The name of the virus itself is actually quite lovely to the ear. But actual conditions on the ground in West Africa have robbed it of whatever beauty it may have had.

Even so, certain voices can’t stop saying it. Why? Because with an election less than two weeks away, a single threatening word that suggests disorganization, incompetence and panic is like music to some ears.

Under different circumstances, perhaps there would have been a lovesick song dedicated to our girl … Ebola.

The most riveting name I ever heard:
Ebola, Ebola, Ebola, Ebola …
A  campaign that can work in a single word!
Ebola, Ebola, Ebola, Ebola …
The midterms will hinge on Ebola!
Although it’s hard to catch
I’m sure I’ve got a batch
in me.
On Fox News they’re crying Ebola!
Just listen that spiel
they hardly can conceal 
their glee!
Say it loud and the children scatter.
Say it soft – it’s electoral patter.
They’ll never stop saying Ebola!


What single word gets your attention?

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Talk Show-Offs

Today is the birthday (in 1925) of Johnny Carson, the undisputed king of American talk show hosts.

Carson is famous for being a very private man who succeeded beyond all expectations in a very public job.

The talk show is a curious institution.  No one could have imagined a need for it in the years leading up to its invention.

Before radio and TV came along people had to provide entertaining late-night talk for themselves.   All that was needed was a bonfire and at least one person with enough self-regard that they couldn’t stay quiet.

Now the many available cable channels and every aspect of the internet work furiously to maintain a steady stream of chatter for everyone (or no one)  to see, hear and read.

What no one produces is a little bit of relief.

I wonder how long it will be before some beleaguered content producer, charged with the monumental task of developing a  multi-platform presentation with the capacity to surprise an exhausted  audience, will at long last hire a cast of bright, attractive people to sit quietly in each other’s company, saying nothing?

In radio, that would have to be the last format frontier – an antidote to our noisy world – continuous broadcast of high quality silence 24/7, in stereo.  With a station like WSPR on the dial, you would have to wonder if those people you see walking around with their headphones clamped tightly over their ears are actually grooving on pure quiet – turned all the way up, of course.
Who is your favorite talk show host?  



Negative Energy

Today’s post comes from Congressman Loomis Beechly, representing Minnesota’s 9th district – all the water surface area in the state.

Greetings, Constituents,

With the midterm election now less than two weeks away, I just made the startling discovery that I don’t actually have an opponent this time.  The adversary I thought I was facing is a guy who left me a terse note at a bait shop in Leech Lake three months ago saying he was going to make me wriggle like a nightcrawler on the Hook of Truth.

When you hold public office, people say stuff like that to you all the time, so I wasn’t too troubled about being pierced but I took it as a signal to get busy with fundraising.

I have a talent for sizing people up, even over the phone!  Within a few words’ worth of conversation I can accurately name a person’s political persuasion and at lest two hot button issues.   It turns out there are a whole lot of rich people in America who are looking to reward any high official who happens to vote exactly the way they feel at the moment!

And they all live on lakes!

So I managed to collect a decent pile of money and then I realized there was no viable opposition because the Hook of Truth  guy was only good at turning phrases and could not come up with the filing fee.  He isn’t on the ballot after all.

But I know my funders gave me that money so I could mock and disparage someone, and I’m determined not to let them down!  All I had to do was find a person or entity who I could say was unequivocally in the wrong.

That’s when Lockheed stepped forward with a declaration that they have solved the elusive problem of creating massive amounts of energy with a compact device using cold fusion!

And then some other smarties stepped forward to say there’s no way they could have done that!

I don’t understand what any of them are talking about, but it’s not a difficult choice for me – I’m going with the skeptics.

Here’s the script for my first ad:

A heartbreakingly sad violin plays something classical and brainy.
A small boy rubs his sleeve on a frosted window to make a peephole, then looks out at the night sky.
Jimmy has dreams about tomorrow.
We see the boy from outside, his small face pressed against the glass. Camera pans up to see starts twinkling overhead.
He sees spaceships flying to Mars just like airplanes fly coast to coast today.
Flickering 50’s movies style aliens and spacecraft fill the screen.
Jimmy’s dreams are a harmless fantasy. But Lockheed Martin says his wish is coming true. They claim to have made an advance in cold fusion – something that could, if true, provide power for deep space exploration.
A woman puts her hand on Jimmy’s shoulder – It’s his mother. She lovingly invites him to go to the piano where we can see sheet music haphazardly stuffed into a little carrying case by the bench.
And for this, Jimmy is neglecting his piano studies. For this, he won’t be in his school orchestra. And for this, he won’t play in a terrible rock band when he hits his ’20’s – a rite of passage, bypassed.
Jimmy’s face re-appears in the frosted window, except this time it’s a sad, old Jimmy face. His life has been wasted.
Because Lockheed Martin got his hopes up, Jimmy wasted a promising life waiting for compact cold fusion to become a reality. That’s not his fault. It was always just about to happen.
Jimmy’s tombstone, with engravings that indicate he lived a long, unproductive life, and with a tiny zooming spaceship carved into the granite over his name.
Lockheed Martin’s Cold Fusion Dream: Wrong for Jimmy. Wrong for America.
I’m Congressman Loomis Beechly and I approve this message because I had to use the money against SOMETHING most people don’t understand.


I think that’s a great ad, and I’m only a little bit sorry I had to use it against a fine, rich company like Lockheed Martin. I would have much rather used it to attack some other, smaller, less-well-off person, but I just don’t have any opposition this year!

Maybe next year, somebody with deep pockets will fund an opponent for me, so I can really have a good time!

Politically Yours,
Congressman Loomis Beechly

What makes you Go Negative?

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Autumnal Color Riot Mentality

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Every year we have a wonderful Autumn tradition in our little town – a Pumpkin Festival that provides a lot of good old-fashioned fun for families from the surrounding area.

There is something invigorating about standing outside with a nice hot cup of apple cider on a sunny, brisk afternoon. The bright yellows, reds and rusts of the elms and maples frame a glorious display –  the deep blue of an October sky,  punctuated by crimson beams from police cruisers darting playfully through billowing clouds of tear gas!

Vivid piles of orange Jack-o-Lanterns dot the scene.  The sharp, invigorating air is filled with the falling of the leaves and the rising of rocks, skateboards and buckets as they are petulantly hurled at a line of officers in riot gear.

“I love autumn,” I whisper to my sweetheart.  I bury my face in the shoulder of his jacket to keep my eyes from watering.   My ears fill with a chorus of seasonal sounds – the delightful crunch of the leaves, the determined scraping of a bamboo rake,  and the insistent crackle of a bullhorn as the local sheriff orders us to disperse!

Dr. Babooner, I realize that not everyone fully appreciates the beauty of October, but  I always come to harvest time with thoughts of gratitude for being able to witness a remarkable transformation. The bounty is in.  The summer has surrendered.  The landscape erupts with color.  My car is upside down and burning on the street just a few feet from where I left it.

How can I help others embrace the wonder of this remarkable season?

Pumpkin Spice Girl

I reminded PSG that all beauty is in the eye of the beholder – defined not only by the things you see, but what you choose to overlook.
But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?


Apostle of Jazz

Radio legend, jazz lover and gentleman Leigh Kamman passed away last Friday at 92.

Leigh was a rare individual in many ways, but particularly in the world of radio where the microphone amplifies the voice and also inflates the perceptions of listeners about the qualifications of the person doing the talking. The medium itself adds authority whether you deserve it or not. If you’re just smart enough to walk around the outside edges of a topic, many listeners will assume you know everything inside. Careers have been built on this.

Leigh Kamman was the real deal. With him, you got a radio host who actually knew what he was talking about. When it came to jazz, he was a true devotee, and his primary interest was in sharing the art and uplifting the performers. I can’t recall hearing Leigh say a negative word about anyone except himself. I think about that when I read music reviews where critics use their pedestals to bash performers who don’t live up to their expectations.

As a radio host, I admired Leigh for his ability to set a scene and transport a listener to someplace new. He did the most essential thing when enveloped you in his world. As the Jazz Image theme music – Django’s Castle – began each Saturday night, I waited with great anticipation for the moment when the music would fade and he’d step in with that voice to take us to an unexpected location. “Hanging upside down over the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth” was my all-time favorite. Just hearing the music by Gerry Mulligan’s band takes me back there – you can listen and fill in with your own Leigh Kamman memory.

I know several people who worked directly with Leigh on his MPR program, The Jazz Image. Each one was grateful for the experience, none more than Tom Wilmeth, who wrote this fine profile for the Jazz Times.

One of my favorite quotes is this one, where Tom captures Leigh’s inherent modesty:

Leigh consistently kept the focus on the music, and never on himself. He had spoken to Duke Ellington on numerous occasions, first as a 17-year-old fan at a train station! But he wouldn’t think of dropping this fascinating nugget into a conversation in order to impress. I had worked with Leigh close to three years before I heard him mention, in passing, about speaking with Charlie Parker. I froze at the tape deck with reel in hand. I asked him to expand a bit, but he drifted away to another subject.

When you know a lot about something you can use that information to intimidate others who are less knowledgable. I have seen smart people who are also enthusiasts of one sort or another wield volumes of minutiae to demonstrate that no matter how big a fan someone else might be, they are a MUCH, MUCH BIGGER fan. I guess there must be a good feeling that comes out of that, but I doubt that it lasts long.

Leigh Kamman was a distance runner – he had lived the life and had the history and the raw material to be that guy who made you feel inadequate and dumb, but he was principled and like a superhero, he used his immense power only for good – opening minds, gaining converts and spreading his love for the art form of jazz.

In what area are you an enthusiast?

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Duck Opener

Today’s Post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At ease, civillians!

But at the same time stay very alert, because there are people walking around our lakes and marshes carrying guns, and they’re looking for things to shoot! The Minnesota waterfowl season opened last weekend, and ducks have been in the news ever since.

As a Bathtub Safety Officer, I’m charged with keeping people informed about the hazards associated with slippery, wet, hard surfaces in and around the bathroom, which statistics show is The Most Dangerous Room In The House. You simply can’t combine the disparate elements of water, tile, porcelain, soap, and naked, vulnerable people without taking crazy risks. And this precarious situation was made even less safe by the introduction of rubber waterfowl into the bathroom environment – a move I opposed but people ignored my warnings and now the bathtub duck population has exploded, worldwide!

Where do they come from? No one seems to know! I am deeply worried that there is some sinister force behind the relentless spread of these creatures, which have no official taxonomy but I categorize them as “Bathtub Ebola”.

Rubber bathtub ducks are eye-catching distractions whose distinctive call (“Squeak!”) can be quite alarming to an unsuspecting bather. Unfortunately, these ducks only sound off when they are squeezed or stepped on, usually by a person who has soap in his eyes and is blindly grasping around for a towel. If you are in that situation it means you have probably already lost your balance and injury is imminent!

That’s why I’m declaring a Bathtub Duck season in Minnesota, which commences immediately and ends only when I say so, which is probably going to be never.

Under the guidelines I am making up right now, you can bag as many ducks as you like as long as you remove them from the bathtub area and either pen them up in a safe, non-slippery enclosure, or extract their squeakers and deflate them so they can be of no harm to innocent bathroom users. I realize that this will offend some who think there should be as many of these yellow floaters around as possible, because they are “fun”.

I ASSURE YOU, there is nothing “fun” about these dangerous creatures. Here are two examples:

A giant bathtub duck appeared in Seoul, South Korea this week and after dominating the landscape with its imposing, Godzilla-like presence, it began deflating – much to the delight of the local populace, many of whom took pictures of the weakened rubberfowl. But it has since been pumped up again by its masters, and the people who were momentarily released from its mezmerizing spell have once again fallen silent. Where is the Minnesota duck hunting population when we so desperately need it?


And scientists got the “go-ahead” this week to land a probe on a rubber-duck-shaped object hurtling through space. Which raises the question – could comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko be the extra-terrestrial source of this Flaxen Scourge? The notion that there is a Rubber Duck Mother Ship rocketing around our galaxy is an admittedly wild idea that can only be tested by landing a probe right on its head. I am not a violent person, but I admit I’m comforted by the thought that the first thing the Philae probe will do once it makes contact is thrust a space-harpoon into the comet’s (hopefully soft) head.

Only then will we begin to understand the true dimensions of what we are really dealing with!

Stay Alert!

What was your favorite childhood toy?

Beer Flood Brewery

Waves From Grain

The current news is full of fear and paranoia about the Ebola virus, and of course it is a valid concern but still not the most pressing immediate threat to one’s life and limb.

The sad truth is, any number of unlikely occurrences happening in the right order at an unfortunate time can conspire to quite quickly usher you off the planet. Take, for example, this day in 1814, when a host of people died in the undeniably tragic and yet weirdly delicious sounding London Beer Flood.

Enormous pressure inside a large vat of fermenting porter burst some iron hoops that kept the barrel together, causing other large casks to explode in a chain reaction that flooded an impoverished neighborhood. Eight were killed, mostly women and children in the surrounding buildings and streets.

I suppose this was a time and place where neighbors had little to no influence over the business ventures that took up residence in their midst. Some were probably glad they had a brewery on the block, rather than something truly dangerous and repugnant, like a slaughterhouse. Drat the luck!

In one possibly made-up account of the tragedy, flood survivors taken to a hospital caused a stir because they reeked of beer. Other patients, unaware of the reason for the sudden introduction of such a heady fragrance into the atmosphere of the infirmary, became indignant because they weren’t also receiving the same medicine that others were getting – in what smelled like mammoth doses.

I don’t think being a doctor has ever been easy.

What’s your favorite medication?