All posts by Dale Connelly

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

Sam McGee, Weather Denier

Header Photo “Snowman on frozen lake” by Petritap – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Of course there are noisy climate change deniers who refuse to accept scientific research because it conflicts with their closely held political beliefs.

That’s almost understandable.

But what I can’t comprehend is the much more commonplace lunacy of daily weather denial.

A good winter storm reveals it, especially in more tightly packed urban locations. Some people downtown believe they don’t have to put on anything special to be outside because they’re only going to be exposed for a short time.

And besides, heavy clothes worn in layers just don’t look that nice. But I think inadequately dressed office workers look silly shivering as they wait to cross the street.

When I mentioned this pet peeve of mine to Trail Baboon’s sing-song poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler, he said he also has a certain peeve that pesters him – presumptuous people who rip off the work of other poets merely to get a laugh.

And right after saying that, he presented me with his latest opus, which included an insincere note of apology to Robert W. Service and The Cremation of Sam McGee.

There are fashions worn in a winter storm
that would otherwise seem gauche.
Everybody knows layering your clothes
is a common sense approach.
Even dilletantes in fine restaurants
will adjust to a degree.
For a little while they’ll abandon style
if their name’s not Sam McGee.

All Sam’s garb was sheer and he wouldn’t hear
of a parka or a fleece.
If a shirt or gown had an ounce of down
his frustration would increase.
“It feels very wrong and takes far too long
to suit up for cold or sleet.”
“And besides,” he’d wink, “there’s no risk, I think.”
“I’m just gonna cross the street.”

Right across the way sat a mad buffet
called “The Sacrificial Goat.”
It was hip and loud and it drew a crowd
that opposed the winter coat.
They disdained its buik and they’d tend to sulk
if harsh weather was foretold.
Putting on their things, they’d assume it’s Spring.
‘Cause it’s cool to not seem cold.

So off Sam would skirt in a polo shirt
with Bermuda shorts below
Into two degrees with his naked knees
and flip-flops, to face the snow.
“Winter air feels fresh on my naked flesh!”
he declared. “It’s strength of will.”
“And what’s more,” he spat, “I don’t need a hat,”
as he stepped into the chill.

Quite against Sam’s plan the snowflakes began
to collect between his toes.
And those flopping flips, ‘midst their many slips
became rigid when they froze.
Trying to be brave, Sam’s blue eyes turned grave.
As streetward, on he pressed.
At the crosswalk light, his mouth thin and tight
He tried not to seem distressed.

In the urban grind one will often find
that delay is the routine.
And slow went the time at that corner sign
with Sam blocked by traffic’s stream.
Then a passing truck’s plume of slushy muck
sealed the frosty fate Sam faced.
For his flops got iced and nothing sufficed
to dislodge a man encased.

With each frigid blast nature built a cast
that enveloped Sam, complete.
It was clear and slick and six inches thick
from his head down to his feet.
Looking through the shell one could clearly tell
that his face showed some regret.
A wardrobe reform could have kept him warm.
but he’s not been thawed out yet.

In December’s pale, teachers tell the tale
of the legend Sam became
Heading off to play on a chilly day
All the children learn his name.
Don’t go out of doors with just summer drawers
against winter’s nasty breeze.
you could be marooned in a white cocoon
like the ice man, Sam Mcgee.


Are you (or have you ever been) a weather denier?

Looper Hype Picks Up Speed

Today’s post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

Greetings civilians!

It’s a great day to be alive, and an even better day to stay alive. January, the most frightening month, is nearly over! Which means (to me), that things can only get better from here, unless they get worse.

This, as you know, is my mantra, though I’m reconsidering it at the moment. I’ve heard that chanting the same phrase over and over again can dry out your vocal cords. That’s not good! Maybe all mantras are a health threat. Perhaps I should downgrade this to a simple motto or a mere saying.

I’m checking in with you today to bring your attention to some very alarming news out of California and Texas – two vast places where accepted standards of behavior tend to be the opposite of cautious. These are very troubling states.

In Hawthorne, California, a big construction firm plans to build a test track for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. This is the tube-based 800 mph transit system that promises to get people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes.

I’ve warned you about this in the past. I’ve warned you about everything at one time or another.

But this Hyperloop thing has picked up some extra steam of late, I say that knowing full well that if steam were actually involved in propelling the thing it would be even more frightening!

In addition to the test track, there is a competition going on this very day at Texas A&M University where 120 college and high school teams are vying to design a “pod” that would rocket people through this tube.

"Albert Robida - The Twentieth Century - Pneumatic Tube Train" by Albert Robida - Albert Robida's The Twentieth Century (1882). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons
“Albert Robida – The Twentieth Century – Pneumatic Tube Train” by Albert Robida – Albert Robida’s The Twentieth Century (1882). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Some folks find this notion admirable and exciting. But I think asking teenagers and twenty-somethings to design a vehicle that I might ride in someday will yield concepts that are absolutely terrifying!

After all, we’re talking about an age group that enjoys roller coasters! They are famous for believing they will live forever and nothing bad can happen to them. And have you ever looked at the back seat of a car that has been driven around by high schoolers for a day? Don’t! They have no concept of cleanliness or order. The possible negative outcomes of tossing a half-eaten slice of pizza over your shoulder is something that simply cannot be considered by a teenage driver when there is a new tweet to read or send.

They are creatures of the modern era, which means they have no historical awareness that dignity and travel can co-exist. These are the people designing your conveyance of tomorrow! Why am I not enthused? It’s all about temperament, priorities and expectations.  Look for USB ports, recliners and cup holders. Don’t hold your breath for designs that include cushions, headroom or bathrooms.
.
tube_room

Where is the Hyperloop Pod design competition bringing together the best plans of senior citizens, nurses, nannies, worrywarts, baby carriage safety inspectors and worst-case scenarists? These are the people who have the kind of safety smarts that could lead to a sensible, comforting design – something close to my ideal Hyperloop Pod – which is one that’s securely bolted to the tube so it cannot move!

The leading concepts produced today may travel on the test track before the year is out. I fear I know exactly what they will be like, in the same way you can be assured that when you climb into a sealed tube, you’ll eventually be spat out at the other end!

Yours in Safety,
B.S.O.R.

What do you need to have in your long-distance traveling compartment?

Hoodwinked!

One easy way to explain the incongruities of a complicated and often disappointing world is that nefarious “others” are furiously working behind the scenes to conceal what is truly going on.

But I’ve always had a problem accepting conspiracy theories that describe a vast fraud perpetrated on millions of people by a secret cadre of powerful deceivers. It’s not that I have more faith in people than your typical climate change denier – rather quite the opposite.

More than the faked Moon landing, the shooter on the grassy knoll, or the recovery of alien remains at Roswell, I completely believe in the inability of humans to keep their mouths shut, especially when they’ve got a really juicy story to tell.

Elaborate conspiracies must eventually come to light whenever people are involved, which is always.

And now a physicist has produced a paper that uses mathematics to show how unlikely it is that conspiracies can remain hidden.

According to David Robert Grimes, it would take about five years for the bitter truth to come seeping out of mixed bag of plotters.

If you’re skeptical, take a look at this small section of the paper that explains the research.

Screenshot 2016-01-28 at 8.18.48 PM

I have no idea what any of that says, but those are some convincing looking equations. How can I NOT believe something so clearly mathematical? Get a load of those numbers and symbols! Because I find them baffling, I know they must be true.

When I mentioned all this to Trail Baboon’s Singsong Poet Laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler, he quietly informed me that a major pharmaceutical company had already printed his poem about this very subject in secret code embedded in the side effect warning that accompanies a major anti-flatulence drug.

I like to think I’m pretty smart, and my friend Ted is stupider.
I say this ’cause he’s quite convinced the president’s from Jupiter.

He claims it’s all a massive hoax cooked up by some Hawaiian
who encountered aliens one night when they’d just dropped their guy in

to destabilize the country that would make the biggest fuss
over plans they had to subjugate the populace – that’s us!

So this guy from outer space – he needed many, many cronies
to become the president. He built a phalanx full of phonies

to support a story good enough to make him seem for real.
There are many, many people implicated. It’s surreal

how no one has spoken up about it yet, except for Ted.
Who has made me swear to secrecy – or else I’ll wind up …

Can you keep a secret?

Sea Hunt!

Today is the birthday of TV actor Lloyd Bridges in 1913. Bridges did a lot of different things in his 85 years on Earth, including a stint in the Coast Guard. But he was a favorite in my family for his role as expert frogman Mike Nelson on the 1960’s TV show Sea Hunt.

Because so much of the show was shot underwater, Bridges did voice-overs to describe large parts of the action. Of course there was lots of silent struggling with various people, sea creatures and obstacles (both natural and man-made). I became convinced if I ever went scuba diving, I was going to get trapped inside a shipwreck. Which is why I’ve never gone scuba diving.

To this day, nothing makes me hold my breath like watching actors who are pretending they can’t breathe.

Many of the episodes are available for viewing on You Tube.

Sea Hunt set the high water mark for our family viewing time. Even after its cancellation, every dramatic adventure series that came along was given a shorthand title that referenced this seminal classic, with which they were almost always unfavorably compared.

Star Trek was “Space Hunt.” Bonanza was “Horse Hunt”. The Avengers became “Spy Hunt.” The Fugitive, naturally, was “Guy Hunt.”

Lloyd Bridges and Jacques Cousteau convinced me at a young age that it is smart to take care of the world’s oceans – something I have attempted to do mostly be staying out of them.

What’s a favorite family entertainment from your childhood?

A Curse, of Course

Even for non-football fans, the agony of the Minnesota Vikings faithful was palpable yesterday and no one was isolated from the anguish. It was all around us.

This is part of the entertainment and social value of sports – big losses create a drive to make sense of suffering that ultimately leads rational people to the “it’s only a game” explanation. Irrational people, however, will continue to search for a reason to explain why their fondest wishes stubbornly refuse to come true.

This is where a curse comes in handy. The Chicago Cubs still have the Curse of the Billy Goat to fall back on when their team disappoints. The Boston Red Sox had a long run justifying their misery with the Curse of the Bambino. But if there is no curse, you have to make one up so the world can feel logical and orderly again.

All I know is this – Trail Baboon sing-song poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler retreated to his garret immediately after Sunday’s game with a plate of hot wings that were picked totally clean by the time he emerged with his latest lame ditty:

When the team that you follow is hapless
and each year it appears to get worse,
you’ll feel lost like a traveler who’s map-less
’til you’ve found a believable curse.

A good curse can make sense of the losing.
With a curse there’s a way to explain
why the squandering squad of your choosing,
fails again and again and again.

“We were cursed by a player we traded.”
“There’s this powerful spell gypsies wrote.”
“It’s the vengeance of teams we berated.”
“We were hexed by a mystical goat.”

“There’s a burial mound in our end zone.”
“Once a shaman was carded for beer.”
“Voodoo dolls wear our uniforms – hand sewn!”
“Our team mascot insulted a seer.”

If the fans become flustered and frantic
and their trophy dreams ride in a hearse
the futility gets more romantic
When they’ve found a believable curse.

Have you ever been on either end of a curse?

Embracing Rush Hour

With so many people and (lately) nations agreeing that we have to reduce our carbon output to preserve life as we know it on this planet,  it is reasonable to expect that we will all be driving less in the future.

Except that there’s no way we’re going to be driving less.

Humans, especially American humans, are too much in love with their cars and the ease of personalized combustion-engine-powered travel to give up these convenient machines anytime soon.

Technology may make our cars “cleaner”, though even the most advanced electric vehicles simply trade emissions created at the tailpipe to emissions created at the power plant.

And while computer-driven cars will certainly be more fuel efficient thanks to the removal of the lead foot from the equation, there is some thought that unless we get the laws right, autonomous vehicle technology could result in more miles traveled (and gas burned), not less.

Here’s a startling look at Rush Hour from a director named Fernando Livschitz and his company, Black Sheep Films.  Livschitz did the opening credits sequence to Stephen Colbert’s new show on CBS.

RUSH HOUR from Black Sheep Films on Vimeo.

Hilarious and terrifying, in that it feels like someone is going to die but you’ve gotta love the music and the timing.

Describe a close call you had on the roadway. 

What Rhymes With Affluenza?

Header image from free Photobank www.tOrange.us / CC by 4.0

Around water coolers everywhere, the strange tale of the “Affluenza Teen” is all the rage right now.

Ethan Couch, while still a minor, sought to evade responsibility for causing four deaths while driving drunk by using the defense that his pampered upbringing left him unable to tell the difference between right and wrong.

He managed to avoid jail time with an extended probation, but when it began to look like he would be prosecuted for violating the terms of the probation, Ethan and his mother fled to Mexico.

Yesterday, Tonya Couch was returned to the U.S.  Ethan has appealed his extradition and will remain in Mexico a while longer while authorities work out the details.

He will most certainly be returned, to much fanfare and derision.

When Trail Baboon singsong poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler learned of this  sad (but uniquely American) story, he thought the topic was weighty enough to be worth at least three limericks.

I
Affluenza is quite a disease.
When you’ve got it, you do what you please.
but the symptoms ain’t bad
if your mom and your dad
keep on paying the lawyers their fees.

II
A pampered young man and his mum,
were so careless and reckless and dumb.
they made national news
which essentially proves
too much cake makes a good child a crumb.

III
A young Texan explained, in his view,
He was over-indulged as he grew.
The disease that he got
made him easy to spot.
As the guy with the privileged flu.

What’s YOUR excuse?