All posts by cbirkholz

Waits, Waits, Don’t Tell Me

The Bible gives us a metaphor about those folks, those confounded ten-talent people. You know them!

Jesus tells a metaphor about using money expressed in talents, which has turned into a metaphor for the fact that we have varieties and numbers of gifts, that is talents as we use the word today. The parable tells us that some people have ten talents. You know them!

My sympathies are with the timid one-talent guy who comes off so badly in the parable. (Matthew 25:14–30, in case you want to look it up.)

Bill Bailey is a favorite of ours on British television, excepting that fact that he has many talents. Some of you may know him as Manny, the flaky assistant in the wacky Black Books. As well as an actor, he is also a stand-up comic, a writer of comedy, and deeply gifted in music, skilled at improvisation in music and in comedy. We know him for QI and others of the many British TV panel comedy shows. We love him especially for his part in Walks with My Dogs, a show in which various British celebrities walk famous trails around Britain with their dogs. The show is laid back, slow-paced, calming. Bailey’s unassuming manner is perfect. He rescues dogs. Of course, he does. He is also a sort of PDQ Bach comedian, working with orchestras, for one thing with his Odd Guide to the Orchestra. His piece about bassoons is hilarious.

Here he is doing a send-up of Tom Waits.

Forty years ago I had a student who was a true ten-talent person. You could count them. Despite her modest and warm manner (people skills was one of talents), she aggravated her friends to no end for it, especially since she found the talents a burden at 16-18 years of age. I would like to tell you her name, such a delightfully Norwegian name. But I will not.

A few Babooners have more than one talent, a couple at least approaching the metaphoric ten number. I, for one, am a wannabe. I am certain that most Babooners move in circles that include a ten-talent person or two. Oh, yes, you know them!

Tell us about ten-talent people you know and how well they have managed them.

Do your multiple talents distract you?

Books: Theory Number 1

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer (Clyde).

I lifted the following from my second novel:

He took out the two novels, Jon Hassler’s Simon’s Night and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, which he brought to occupy the many hours he would pass in the chair. “Hulger, maybe truth about old age is best told in fiction.”

Hulger held his pout; his tail still said J’accuse.

Clair had read both books, Simon’s Night a few times. He brought them for their shared theme of old people who have drifted out of the central river current into the slack water. Dropping both books onto the rock, he opened his journal to write. “Fiction comes in four categories:

1) Stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things to face extraordinary challenges, which seems to be the grist of most current movies.

2) Extraordinary people facing ordinary challenges.

3) Ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, which Hitchcock preferred.

4) Ordinary people facing ordinary challenges, which I prefer, but which is not in fashion in popular fiction.”

Assuming this is proper grist for your thoughts, which type(s) do you read most often?

Throw It on Dayton’s Wall and See If It Sticks

Today’s post comes from Northshorer.

The last time Sandy was in Dayton’s downtown, when it was still a Dayton’s, she looked up at a large photo mural on an upper floor and spotted herself in the photo. We were going to try to get there with our daughter and family to see it, but health issues prevented us before it closed. But a friend of hers took a photo of it and sent it to us.


Sandy is walking beside her friend Maggie. I will leave it to you to find them, which is rather easy to do. The photo was taken in about 1953 when they were in junior high. It was a big adventure for them to ride the bus downtown from the Camden Park neighborhood where they lived. Would parents allow that today? Sandy can tell stories about having to deal with sexual predators of various degrees, so perhaps the age was no more innocent than today.

There was something about the downtown, whether in a major city or a small town.

What exactly was it about downtowns that is absent from our culture today?

Keep Your Foot Paste off My Keyboard

Today’s post comes from Clyde.

Trying to help my fingers type better, I ordered a new keyboard from Amazon, one that has raised keys that clack like a typewriter. I may not have it long; Sandy has keyboard lust.

It came with two things that did not arouse my confidence in the product. The first was the little white plastic object that is the header picture for this post. My son figured out what it is. I will leave it to you to guess. The second was the warranty card, which is in this photograph.

Been a while since I have received mangled translation like this. How delightful.  I await my three bags of after-sales service.

What have you lost in translation: linguistic, cultural, generational, or political?

A Moment of Silence. Maybe Not

Today’s post comes from NorthShorer


What comment do I need to make about these guests beside my patio? Better than any fashion runway, huh? Oops. That was a comment.

I was going to suggest a moment of silence for the beauty lost in all the ugliness. But then that would make for a dull day on a blog.

What wonder–human or in nature–lost in ugliness, busyness, or confusion do you want to commend today?

Name That Breed

Today’s post is from NorthShorer

His name was Lucky. My father acquired him when we lived north of Isabella where my father was lumberjacking after WWII. A man in the lumber camp was leaving and did not want to take the dog. My father took him before the man shot him. It was that kind of age. My father was not objecting; he simply wanted a dog. We then moved down to our farm near Two Harbors. I suppose my father had in mind to have a farm dog.I remember him but have no visual image of him, except for these pictures. Every time I see these and other photos I am surprised by two things. First, how big and rough looking a dog he was. Second, that the only images of him are with me. Apparently we were buddies, which makes sense because of all the time I spent playing in the woods. He lasted with us for a couple years. I can guess what happened to him. He certainly does not look like a cattle dog. I used Lucky as the image for a short story about a half wild dog living on the edge of northern town in 1908.

He was replaced by a collie, who was beautiful, an image of Lassie. She played with the deer in our garden in the snow in the winter time. She was not around very long. Next we briefly had a female mixed breed, mostly border collie. Then we acquired a full breed border collie from a neighbor who did not want the dog anymore. He was THE DOG of my childhood.

What breeds do you see in Lucky?

My only companions of my pre-school years were two older nasty cousins up in the forest, my sister, and various animals.

What do you remember of your companions of your pre-school years?

A Darrowby Downer

Today’s post comes to us from NorthShorer.


I discovered on Acorn TV a series called The Yorkshire Vet, about a veterinary practice called Skeldale House that was once James Herriot’s practice. As a reader of the books and an owner of the TV series, it was a delight to find. In his last years my father thoroughly enjoyed the shows on PBS. It reminded him of his pre-World War II life in central Minnesota. The Yorkshire Vet is a documentary, not fiction, and quite well done, I thought. Herriot’s books are very much fiction.

As I often do for TV shows and books, I searched Goggle maps. Darrowby, Herriot’s fictional town, is really Thirsk, which is where the practice is today. I found The World of James Herriot, the original Skeldale House, as a museum outside of which is a full statue of Alf Wight (James Herriot’s real name). Then Google Maps gave me a shock.

A mere handful of blocks from The World of James Herriot is a Tesco, Great Britain’s huge grocery store chain (groceries plus). Not what you expect to see in sleepy little Darrowby. The TV series was filmed in another village because in fact Thirsk was not then an isolated little village. It then and now abuts three or four other towns. But still. Google maps shows me it is now the centre (may as well spell it British) of quite the population area.

When have your romantic delusions been punctured?

Lego Ore Boat

Look at that massive block carrying masses of taconite. Efficient. Cost effective. Where is the curved grace of a classic ore boat?


Industry once designed for aesthetics as well as purpose.

Can a photographer discover poise and rhythm in industry today?


Wait until you see the Lego bank under construction near me (future blog).

What floats your boat this week?