All posts by Dale Connelly

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

Baboon Redux – Nature Gets Louder Than Trump

Billions of noisy cicadas are set to rise from the ground in the northeastern part of the United States.   It’s about time something outshouted you-know-who.

The Weather Channel included them in the spring bug forecast, and a TV station in Ohio now claims the relentless critters are crawling out of the dirt even as we speak.

I have written about cicadas before – to be precise in June of 2011.

I was in central Illinois, visiting my father for the better part of a week. We worked around the house doing some routine maintenance – cutting grass, plugging woodpecker holes, fussing with the water softener, replacing broken windows, slathering roofing tar on a leaky overhang, etc.
We did all this in the midst of a prodigious hatch of cicadas, which is a humbling event for humans who are accustomed to feeling dominant, or even merely significant.

The bugs called the tune that spring – a tune that literally filled the air, resembling the constant ring of a busted wheel bearing early in the day, and by mid afternoon becoming a steady rattle, like the nonstop shaking of a huge tambourine. It’s the males who make the loudest noise, relentlessly advertising their sexual availability.

Why can’t they just quietly post some images of their parts on Twitter?

Working outside, we were subjected to a random sideways rain of buzzing, bulgy-eyed revelers who covered the trunks of trees and erupted in clouds from the shrubbery whenever branches were disturbed. At a nearby grocery store, the girl who tended the cart corral did her work with one hand wielding a flyswatter to keep insect invaders from getting tangled in her hair. This small gesture gave her necessary courage to face the onslaught, though she was bailing the ocean with a teacup.

The cicadas will do their work. They have an assignment to hatch, mate, and die, planting the next generation in the process. Six weeks of glory and see you in 2024! There’s no confusion about purpose or wondering ‘what I want to do when I grow up’ in the cicada world. I envy their focus and devotion to the task at hand.

I guess that’s really the task “at leg.”  Thank God they don’t have hands!

Choose an animal to do a six week infestation of your life.  

 

The Flooding Room Scenario

A new projection suggests that if carbon emissions continue unabated, massive ice melt and expanding oceans will threaten coastal communities on a global scale.  I’ve you’ve been paying attention to this, the advent of a new  prediction that there is a huge climate calamity on the way is something that could have totally been predicted.

The relentlessly regular release of dire news into our environment makes me think of that Hollywood movie scenario where the heroes are trapped in a sealed room that is slowly but inexorably filling with water.

When I mentioned this to Trail Baboon’s resident poet, the relentlessly rhyming but terrifyingly simplistic Tyler Schuyler Wyler, he immediately retreated to his frosty garret. Within hours he had calved off a chunk of doggerel so massive, it could support its own family of penguins.

The doorway clicked shut. There was no pathway out
For the windowless chamber was small.
With a single intrusion. A lone data spout
trickled estimates out of the wall.

Global temperature readings dripped into the room,
Dire missives of gases and soot.
As more studies leaked out of this pipeline of doom
I began to think we were kaput.

There was rapid decay in a glacial ice sheet.
caused by currents a fraction too warm.
As the science gushed in I was swept off my feet,
treading data in silent alarm.

As I floated and flailed in this wave of research
it rose quickly with every new proof.
Not a foothold or ledge. Not a grab bar or perch.
Just my head, and hot air, and the roof.

How I prayed for a hatch or a door or a drain.
A release valve to lessen the flood
of alarming insights swirling around in my brain
of a someday submerged neighborhood.

So the moral is “think harder while you can choose
to do things that will lessen the tide.”
Don’t get trapped in a room filling up with bad news
That you wish that you were not inside.

How do you manage your intake of discouraging news?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr.Babooner,

I’m a World Leader who has worked pretty hard to get to where I am – an elite figure who is leading part of the world – thus my title.

But when I say that I “worked pretty hard,” that might mean I cheated a bit and took advantage of some good fortune that was none of my doing. I may also have stepped on a few people and connived a little, financially speaking. Nothing too out of the ordinary for a human primarily interested in his own survival.

We’re all familiar with the standard weaknesses of our species.

Anyway, I have reason to believe a good number of my misdeeds have been documented in the so-called “Panama Papers” that are being combed over and slowly released by an international team of journalists who apparently take no small amount of delight in humiliating people like myself.

There is a remarkably vast trove of documents associated with this, the largest leak in the history of tattling. It is so big and it affects so many people, I’m hopeful that my crimes may not seem so bad when compared to the sins of people even more powerful and more famous than me.  For that reason alone, I’m inclined to wait it out even though my wife says we should sell everything and leave the country immediately.

Dr. Babooner, millions of the unwashed masses are already saying I’m crooked. I love my wife but I don’t want to validate that suspicion by cutting and running, even though it kills me to just sit around right now pretending that nothing is wrong.

What should I do?

El Presidente

I told El that he (she?) has nothing to worry about if the slow release of these Panama Papers drags on through the summer. Come September, it’s likely that the soap opera story of the November American election will Trump all other news and his (her) crimes will be completely forgotten in light of much greater and more showy offenses.

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

Baboon Redux – One of a Kind

All eyes are on our neighbor to the east on this political primary day. In honor of all the stubborn, sensible and surprisingly progressive Wisconsinites going to the polls, I bring back part of a post written by gentle baboon Steve Grooms several years ago.

US Highway 2 cuts across northern Wisconsin, running east and west. It’s a famous road. Not famous is the tiny town of Oulu, which lies just north of US 2. If you want to go to Oulu, you drive a bit east of Brule to Oulu Rock and follow the big blue arrow on it to Oulu.
Oulu was created and is mostly inhabited by folks of Finnish ancestry. They have names like Aho, Lampinen, Kohlemeinen, Reinikainen and so forth. The town doesn’t have much going for it. Its one unusual feature is a glass-blowing gallery. Other than that, Oulu is another tiny unincorporated Wisconsin town just like a thousand other such tiny towns.

And yet there is one other distinctive thing, something in which Oulu’s residents take great pride: the Oulu Rock.

A very long time ago, people needed a way to spot that little road that runs north from Highway 2 to Oulu. Citizens of Oulu placed a large rock at the intersection and painted the rock white and blue, the colors of the Finnish flag. And they painted “Oulu” in large letters, with an arrow to point the way.

Not long ago, the Wisconsin Highway Department informed the folks of Oulu that their rock had to go. Highway design specifications require the erection of a standard highway sign to point the way to Oulu.

The highway bureaucrats were unprepared for the ferocity of Oulu’s response. They didn’t want no frickin’ highway sign and they didn’t need one because they already had a frickin’ rock. Almost nobody ever wants to go to Oulu, to tell the truth, and if they do want to go they probably know the way already! The Finns of Oulu told the highway department folks just where they could stick their standard highway sign.

The highway department countered with all the predictable arguments. They argued for the virtues of standardization. They said a reflective sign would be easier to read than a rock. They said they operated under mandates from the legislature and didn’t have the power to make an exception like this. They said The Law demanded that Oulu accept a highway sign. End of argument.

Cynics say you can’t beat city hall, but Oulu beat the Wisconsin Highway Department. Civic pride and Finnish obstinacy crushed the bureaucrats and their boring laws. When Highway 2 was widened recently, the Wisconsin Highway Department even helped move the rock a few feet north. And it is there today, proudly pointing the way to Oulu.

No other town in Wisconsin has what Oulu has. There are a thousand unincorporated villages in the state, but only Oulu has a highway rock. It is one of a kind.

What is YOUR “Oulu Rock”?

R.I.P. Patty Duke

The untimely and unfortunate  death of award-winning performer Patty Duke at the age of 69 will lead many baby boomers to remember her 1960’s TV series, “The Patty Duke Show”.

Or more exactly, it will lead many to remember the one of the most effectively earwormy theme songs ever to plague mid-century television.   I don’t remember anything specific from the  stories or the characters – just this opening ditty.

But Duke had  intelligence and determination, and those qualities earned her a level of respect far beyond what one might gain from starring in a simple TV comedy.    Only after reading her obituary did I get a sense for the many personal obstacles she faced, or glimpse what she did,  as a teenager, with the Oscar-winning role of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.

That’s an amazing performance, and an admirable life.

What milestone had you reached at age 16? 

 

Baboon Redux – Earth at Night

Today’s post was first offered by Captain Billy of the Muskellunge in December of 2012.

Ahoy!

Me an me boys is mighty pleased t’ see that them scientists at NASA is finally startin’ t’ look at th’ planet Earth through pirate eyes! They has just released brand new detailed pictures of our world after dark, wi’ the sparlklin’ lights of th’ cities glowin’ fer all t’ see!

There’s lots of bright spots, an that gives us hope!

Dividin’ th’ light from th’ dark is th’ same method me an’ me boys uses t’ tell the th’ planet’s booty-rich zones from them what don’t have much booty at all. When we’s sailin’ down th’ coast, deliberatin’ about where t’ go scavengin’ next, we always heads t’ th’ light. Just like yer sposed to do in them dreams about dyin’.

An when we arrives at th’ next happy, well-lit place wi’ our daggers drawn, th’ people is always surprised on account of they didn’t notice us comin’ – they was blinded by their own glare. That there’s somethin’ t’ keep in mind on a planet-wide level.

Our Earth is mighty special-lookin’ from afar – quite attractive t’ interstellar swashbucklers.

I ain’t sayin’ there’s space pirates.

But I ain’t sayin’ there ain’t.

The twinklin’ lights is pretty at night. But if you wants t’ keep th’ peace, best t’ always draw yer blinds an’ sleep wi’ one eye open!

Yer seafarin’ pal,
Capt. Billy

I suppose the Captain has a point – when I go on a nigh time walk, I notice  some houses  carefully draw the blinds and others are less private, challenging passers by to be  polite and look away.

Are you polite?

Baboon Redux – A Splash of Color

While our early spring may not be this much advanced, I was warmed by the recollection of this post from May 2011.

While riding my bike yesterday morning on the way to retrieve a car that has been in storage all winter, I was stopped short by a splash of color on a corner lot.

A friendly fellow named Pete was out tending his tulips. He told me in lightly accented English that he was from the Netherlands, and that gardening is something he does as a gift to share with the community, including lucky passers-by like me.

He was examining the beds. Some late-blooming tulips were mixed in with a few of the earlies, which is not a fatal flaw, but it means with a little bit of shuffling bulbs around, things could work better next year. Pete likes everything to be timed properly, just like the producer of a fireworks show wants to create amazing crescendos.

Also, once the petals fall, it’s tough to remember exactly which color is planted where, so it’s smart to take notes and make adjustments.

He showed me his map of the layout. I admire anyone who is a careful planner.

I felt lucky to have the chance to stop for a look at Pete’s garden – now that I’ve got the car back I’m much less likely to happen down a random street. In this case, a random street with an appropriate name – NE Summer St.

What have you planned for the Spring of 2016?