Category Archives: Media

Intro to the Classics

We had a lovely time last weekend with our son and his family. We were busy with cooking and eating and visiting and all the things you do when there is a three year old in the house. Grandson loves to dance and has a pretty good sense of melody and pitch, so I thought it would be fun to introduce him to some classical music.

We have a CD of Peter and the Wolf and The Carnival of the Animals performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and duo pianists Alfons and Aloys Kontarsky, with Karl Bohm conducting. Both are narrated by Hermione Gingold. I love her voice and expressiveness. She sounds so plummy, except when she drops into Cockney when she gets to the part where the wolf eats the duck “And he swallowed her rye tup!” The Carnival text was some cheesy poems by Oden Nash, but even that was ok with her narrating.

Grandson loved the stories. We acted out the motions of the animals with the music. He thought being the wolf was the best, even better than being Peter. It is so much fun to howl and roar, you see, even when you are being taken to the zoo. He especially liked marching to the lion’s music and roaring, jumping like the kangaroos, and waltzing like the elephants. I told him to imagine that the finale of Carnival was music for the monkeys in the zoo.

As we were saying our goodbyes on Monday, Grandson rather spontaneously called out from his car seat “Thank you for the lions and the wolfs, and the elephants, Oma”. I was pretty touched, and thought we had a pretty good intro to some good music.

What was your first introduction to classical music? What are your favorite classical compositions? How would you introduce them to a three year old?

Believe It Or Not

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
                                                                             Hamlet

Unfortunately, while I like to believe that Hamlet has it right, I tend more toward Horatio.  Yeti, Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, aliens in Roswell…. not much room in my philosophy for some of these.  It’s not just that I have never seen them but there’s not any compelling evidence (to me anyway) that anyone has even seen them.  I suppose someday I could be proven wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.

So I was very surprised to see Bigfoot cavorting along a backyard fence as I was driving through Richfield!  I went around the block so I could see it again and then another time so I could stop and take a picture.  Like the underwear tree, the bigfoot intrigues me.  Why would someone put a lifesize cutout of a bigfoot in their yard?  Maybe the author of Harry and the Hendersons lives there??

This is the only movie that I know of about a “not proven” creature.  I’m sure there are plenty out there and most likely songs as well.  I’m thinking about that unicorn song by The Irish Rovers that was very popular when I was in high school.

Any good songs, movies, poetry for mythical beasts?

RIP Johnny Crawford

Johnny Crawford was one of my idols when I was a kid.  Although he is best known for his role as Mark McCain on The Rifleman, he was a very busy young man, appearing in not just Mickey Mouse Clubhouse but a myriad of other movies and tv shows.

He also had a musical career with several of his songs making it to the top ten on the charts.  His most famous was Cindy’s Birthday.

He appeared on the rodeo circuit for a time; apparently he was a master at rope tricks, which he had learned during his years on western/cowboy pictures.  He served in the armed forces for a few years as well, but kept returning to acting.  His last picture was a piece with Chuck Conners in which the roles from The Rifleman were reprised.  Apparently Johnny and Chuck had remained close in all the years since their television show.

Crawford’s career was cut off when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2019.  Sadly he passed away from complications of Covid last week.  He was apparently a really nice person and had a beautiful smile right up until the end.

Who did you have a crush on when you were younger?  (Or now for that matter!)

Fun times

I ran across this article in the Rock County Star Herald the other day, found in the newspaper archives from 1892 by the president of the Rock County Historical Society:

“It gives the Herald much pleasure to announce that the committee in charge of the Fourth of July celebration to be held at this place have been fortunate enough to secure for that occasion Prof. A. L. Ward, of Sioux City, IA . , one of the most celebrated and daring aeronauts in the country, who is now under contract to be at Luverne at the time stated and make one of his famous balloon ascensions and parachute jumps. The balloon to be used on this occasion is in the neighborhood of thirty feet in height and is equipped for the performance of the most daring feats ever witnessed in the country.

On the way up Prof. Ward gives a thrilling performance on the trapeze and takes with him a trained dog which creates much amusement and interest in making a parachute descent of his own. After going as high as his balloon will carry him, Prof. Ward discharges a number of explosives and then jumps from his balloon with a parachute. The exhibition will be one of the thrilling interest and no one should fail to witness it.

By the direction of the committee the president was requested to extend an invitation to the fire department. Half rates will be given on all the railroads and efforts are being made to secure special trains.”

I wish Betty, the Historical Society President, had also included a follow-up review of Prof. Ward’s jump. I also wanted more information on the dog. We are seriously planning to move to Luverne in a couple of years. There still is an element of fun in town. This appears to be a long standing, historical trend.

What are some fun times you remember in the community in which you grew up or where you live now. What kind of celebration would you like to see in your community? Under what circumstances would you do a parachute jump?

The Little Guys

This Saturday, April 24, is Independent Bookstore Day – which I’ve written about here before – five years ago now (!) https://trailbaboon.com/2016/04/27/indie-bookstore-day/ .

We have a little bookstore here in Winona called Paperbacks and Pieces. It’s mostly a paperback exchange except for one corner of new books, and a shelf of popular new titles that you can rent. They will do special orders for individuals and book clubs. Pre-pandemic, they hosted author signings (including our Chris from Owatanna!), local speakers, and occasional local group meetings. Spring and Fall would bring a huge Sidewalk Sale – actually in the side street which was closed off for the occasion.  They’ve been everything I want in a local, independent shop. P & P recently changed owners, but I have no doubt they’ll continue in this same vein.  The other local bookstore (not counting Target & Walmart) is downtown, Chapter 2 Books – used and vintage books, CDs, DVDs – which I also try to support; different vibe, and they have a wonderful cat.

The Big Box retailers did awfully well in the past year, according to this August 2020 article from the New York Times .  As we come out of isolation, I know some of our favorite places – restaurants, coffee shops, small independent businesses like hardware stores – have already gone under. A lot of the remaining ones are struggling to survive, hungry for customers as we start to open up again. I occasionally notice on Facebook posting for one of these places, and share them when I can – like this one for Swede Hollow Café in St. Paul, where I loved to go when I lived in the Cities.

Do you have any favorite small businesses in your vicinity that you will support, as we “open up” from isolation?

Have any of your favorites disappeared with the pandemic (or before)?

Signs of stress

I can always tell my level of work stress. All I have to do is look at my fingernails and cuticles. The more stress, the more chewed up are my nails and nail beds.

I have been an inveterate nail chewer since early childhood. I decided when I was very young that I hated my mother clipping my nails, and I started chewing them off. It is sort of like our cats, who hate nail trims (Don’t squeeze my paws!) I think it might have been a sensory issue for me, too, because I am only comfortable with the shortest of fingernails and toe nails.

I was appaled last week to read about the woman with the world’s longest nails. She finally got them cut when their collective length was something like 28 feet. I can’t imagine how a person could even function.

I haven’t bought nail polish for decades. I have no interest in stopping my nail chewing, but I am interested in stress reduction. I have three more years to get through for my job, and I need to be a good role model for positive coping.

How can you tell you are under stress. What is stressing you these days? What do you do to de-stress and relax?

Birthday Bash

Our 5 year old gardening buddy has a birthday next week, and asked his parents for a Gunsmoke themed party. He likes dressing up like a cowboy, and I assume his parents let him watch Gunsmoke reruns. His parents agreed, and his dad found a bunch of wooden pallets he is transforming into a boardwalk. There is a large sign the says Long Branch Saloon. I can hardly wait to see if anyone dresses up like Miss Kitty.

Our daughter also has a birthday in a couple of weeks. She always has anxiety over birthdays, I think stemming from anticipation over childhood parties. We never went so far as to recreate a film set, but she had some nice parties. She stated she has a number of birthday events scheduled by friends in the next two weeks. She is celebrating personally by having a different kind of hot dog a day for her birthday week. We never knew she even liked hot dogs.

My childhood parties were pretty tame, but I will never forget my heartbreak on my 8th birthday when my parents told me that we were moving to a new house in a different part of town, meaning I wouldn’t be next door to my best friend anymore.

What are some of your more memorable birthday parties? What events or celebrations do you dread? What would you wear to a Gunsmoke themed party? Plan your next birthday bash.

Scandal-No Place to Hide

We live in a predominantly Roman Catholic community. We are a town of only 23,000 people, yet we have four Catholic churches, two Catholic elementary schools, a Catholic Middle School, and a Catholic High School.

You can imagine the gasps when, last week, the Catholic School Board announced that Father H, the principal of the Middle School and High School had been permanently relieved of his duties, along with an unmarried, female Elementary Principal and athletic director. They had apparently been consuming alcohol in a school vehicle on their way to a basketball tournament in Minot in March, and then tried to hide what they had done. There is also much scuttlebutt about other misbehavior, but that didn’t make the newspaper. Oh, the scandal!

This is no place to misbehave, because everyone knows everybody else, people notice things, and there really is nowhere to hide. The two Principals should just have worn shirts that said “Shoot me now” instead of trying to be sneaky. Moreover, if you get drunk and disorderly in Minot, 230 miles away, even that news will make it back here. This is a small State despite the vast distances between towns.

What are some scandals you remember from your home town or where you live now? 

Organizing a Salon

I read an interesting review the other day a of new Classical CD, “Music in Proust’s Salons”, in which Steven Isserlis, the cellist, recorded pieces written by contemporaries of Marcel Proust. Proust loved organizing small concerts following fancy meals at elegant Paris restaurants. Pieces by Faure, Franck, Hahn, and Chabrier figure prominently in Proust’s selections for his guests. I thought what fun that must have been for all concerned, and I began imagining what sort of salon I would organize. We have many musical friends, so I would invite them to perform. Some are more classically trained, some are Native friends who play a variety of instruments. The guests would be a hodge-podge of coworkers, church friends, and professional friends. We could have dessert and coffee, finger foods, and snacks. Our living room is pretty small, so we would have to find a community room somewhere so we could have enough space as well as a kitchen. I think it would be lovely.

If money wasn’t a problem, who would you invite to play at a salon you organized?  What would you want them to play? what food would you serve?  Have you read much by Proust?

It’s Statuette Time

One of my close friends is a big fan of the Oscars.  I think I’ve mentioned that every year when the list comes out, she makes a copy, checks of which movies she has seen and then spends the next month or so trying to fill in the blanks by watching as many as she can.  I love her dearly but just cannot bring myself to join her in this mania; I’ve thought for years that the film industry is the most insecure industry – the amount of self-adulation in the way of awards that it needs amazes me.

But because she’s a friend, I did click open the announcement today of what films will be up for Oscars this year.  It’s no surprise that I haven’t seen any of them (I quit reading when we got down to costumes) since I haven’t been to a movie theatre since December of 2019.  However it was a surprise that I had only heard of two of them.  I’ve noticed “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix and I did read a YouTube review of “Mulan” but none of the other movies in any category even rang a small bell.  Normally I’ve heard of a lot of Oscar nominees because I’ve seen the commercials on TV but not this past year.

Did these movies come out in theatres?  If so, who went to see them?  Have they all been out on TV on subscription channels (of which YA and I have only Disney+, because it’s free right now)?  Have other people heard of these films and I’m just more clueless than usual?  Do we even need Oscars this year?

Have you seen any of the nominees for this year?  Will you?  Anything you think the Academy has overlooked?