Category Archives: Stories

Disaster

October 8 was the anniversary of three terrible fires in 1871-The Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire, and the Port Huron Fire.  There were other, smaller fires  in the region that raged the same day as well.  It was dry in the Wisconsin/Michigan lumber regions, and the conditions were just right for a perfect storm of fires.  Thousands of people died. Some posit that meteorites from a passing comet may have started the fires, but that seems unlikely.  Small fires used to clear land, as well as very dry conditions and a very windy cold front that blew through, are probably the causes.

Once, out here on Halloween about 15 years ago we had a terrible range fire in the two counties just north of us. Warm and drought conditions during the fall had left the pastures very dry. On Halloween, a very windy cold front came through and, somehow a fire started and hundreds of acres and cattle were lost.  It was terrible, but not as terrible as the fires of 1871.  I can hardly imagine what it must have been like.

A friend of mine is obsessed with the Titanic Disaster.  She even went on the 100th anniversary commemorative cruise out of England and had period costumes sewn for the occasion. She knows everything there is to know about the Titanic.  I only like hearing about disasters if there is a happy ending to the story, which there rarely is, although I must admit I spent a good chunk of my adolescence reading about the Black Death.

What disasters have you experienced. Which famous disasters fascinate you?

Me and the Movies

Today’s post comes to use from Steve.  Photo credit:  CNN.com

I fell in love with movies when I was a kid. Every Saturday I’d walk six blocks to the Capitol Theater, a dime and a nickel in my jeans pocket. The dime bought a ticket good for two movies, usually two cowboy movies or two Tarzans. The nickel got me a box of Mason Dots. When empty, the Dots box functioned as a rude sort of horn so I could signal my disgust when a cowboy hero smooched his girl.

In 1953 our family got a television set so we could watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We went on to fulfill that classic Fifties cliché: we bought TV trays so we could eat TV Dinners while watching TV shows. But nobody in our family cared much for television. The programming back then was limited and lame. I much preferred movies.

I saw several wonderful films in the years just before and after graduating from high school. A short list from that time would include: The Apartment, Tunes of Glory, Lolita, Wild Strawberries, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Seven Samurai, The African Queen, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, Wild River, The Miracle Worker and Tom Jones. Those movies convinced me film-making at its best can work wonders.

Decades later I mostly gave up going to movie theaters because by then I had a superb home theater in my basement. I compiled a library of films on tape or DVD disks. In the 1980s movie rental shops suddenly sprouted like mushrooms after a rain. I welcomed them because I loved watching films in the comfort of my own home. At the checkout counter at Blockbuster a clerk once mused, “You’re a good customer. You’ve rented over 200 films from us this year.” I gulped. Blockbuster was one of three rental shops I was using that year.

All of that has changed. I now struggle to find one film a week worth viewing. In the past I waited impatiently for each week’s new rental offerings. When I joined Netflix I had nearly two dozen films on my queue. Today my queue has only three movies, and my expectations are low for two of them. The irony of this is that I have more free time now than at any time in my life, and yet I struggle to find films worth watching. I wonder how things came to this.

Perhaps watching several hundred movies has spoiled me. After seeing so many films they begin to look the same. Plots become formulaic. Dialogue becomes predictable. As a writer I can see how film writers manipulate plot lines and character to produce crises that feel phony or forced. Actors who once seemed fresh can become boring after you’ve seen them in similar roles several times. Maybe I’m jaded.

Or maybe Hollywood has mostly stopped making films that could interest me. I want to blame Star Wars. Ever since Star Wars rewarded its makers with incredible ticket sales, movie companies have struggled to produce a few incredibly expensive movies. It now costs between 200 and 300 million dollars to make a summer hit film. Production houses concentrate on films that appeal to teen boys, including teen boys all around the world. And movies seem obsessed with zombies, spacemen, dinosaurs and superheroes. Any good idea for a movie is sure to be franchised . . . and quite a few bad ideas, too.

Last week I read an article celebrating “the new canon,” the twenty-three best films made since 2000. I hoped the article would point to promising new films for me. Instead, the list was filled with films I had seen and didn’t enjoy. Most film on the list struck me as bleak, cynical and violent. I was startled by how differently the author of that article and I felt about these films. For him they were modern cinematic classics. For me most of the new classics were unacceptably gloomy and ugly.

In spite of efforts to avoid gory movies, I sometimes goof. A positive review caused me to rent a film called John Wick. I’ve never seen anything so bloody. Wick kills 77 people. Of course, there will be a sequel. I just read that the body count in John Wick 2 is 128, which is just what I would have predicted. Any guesses on the body count for John Wick 3?

Has your taste in films evolved over time? Do you have any favorites to recommend?

 

Run Down

I had a long day yesterday. No fault of mine – just an enormous number of little fires to put out besides the one that needed attending. A hard deadline this morning meant I just had to push through and accept that I would be working quite late. As a confirmed morning person, I reacted to the impending late night by abandoning the healthy lunch I brought for pizza, downing one can of caffeinated pop and then one bottle of caffeinated pop.  Then I had a bag of chips and a bag of trail mix for dinner.  Dreadful behavior and of course, I eventually ended up at home late with a headache and a queasy stomach.

How do YOU get a second (or third) wind when you need it?

Sherlock Bones

You all know I’m a little obsessed with all things Sherlock Holmes. I don’t usually go looking for Sherlock but occasionally Sherlock comes to me when I’m not paying attention.

Last week I was looking for something else and stumbled across Sherlock Bones and the Missing Cheese, a children’s picture book.  In that same foray I discovered that there is a video out there also named Sherlock Bones with a terrier starring as the illustrious detective.  I also discovered that there is a series of books pairing Sherlock with Elizabeth Bennet, another character who has lived on past her initial publication.  All of this took about 5 minutes!

The Missing Cheese book was at the local library, the Sherlock Holmes and Elizabeth Bennett is in paperback for a price I’m willing to pay on Amazon.  Unfortunately the video is more than I’m willing to pay.  I’m working to find it on some other library.  Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, the children’s book has great illustrations and the story line is fun, however, the poetry itself leaves a little to be desired. But in the category of new ways to portray Sherlock Holmes, it gets an “A”.

Tell me about a favorite character, or an author you follow loyally or a series you can’t get enough of.

Entrepreneurship

On the way home from work I spied a card table on the boulevard with a little girl sitting behind it. I pulled over quickly; a card table on the boulevard with a child means just one thing – a lemonade stand.

When I was a kid, money was tight. My mother’s go to response when my sister or I asked for something was “there’s no money for that this month”.  We were not poor by any means but there weren’t a lot of frills.  So I was always trying to figure out ways to make a little bit of money, for candy or ice cream and the occasional Scholastic book.

One of those ways was a Kool-Aid stand. I could almost always convince my mother to part with one or two of the little Kool-Aid packets that we had in the pantry as well as the sugar.  Construction paper and crayons were essential as well as paper cups.  I sold the Kool-Aid for five cents and we lived on a fairly busy street so I could usually rake in a buck if I stayed at it long enough.  I’m sure my folks spent more to fund my financial forays than I actually made.  I never asked my dad about this but I’m sure he thought I was learning a good life lesson.  My mother was probably just happy to have me occupied for a few hours.

I’m not sure if I learned any life lessons but I did become a lemonade stand aficionado. I always pull over for a lemonade stand; I’ve even been known to go around a block if I don’t see the stand soon enough to pull right over.  These days juice, Kool-Aid or lemonade goes for a lot more than five cents but I’m always glad to pay it.

What can get you to pull over?

Telling Tales

Today’s post comes to us from Cynthia.

Every April for the past 11 years I have gone to a weekend Norwegian language camp for adults at Concordia Language Camp near Bemidji MN.  Last year one of the attendees gave a presentation on the Norwegian poet Olav Hauge with several references to Robert Bly’s translations. So this past April I volunteered to do a little presentation about my friendship with Robert (and Ruth) and tell three fairy tales.

I met Ruth and Robert when they first moved to Moose Lake, MN, in 1980…a town just down the road from Mahtowa, where I live. Many of our first conversations were about fairy tales.  On Robert’s 63rd birthday, Ruth organized us to do an enactment of “Vasalissa the Beautiful” as a gift for him.  It is a Russian fairy tale that features Baba Yaga, a witch who lives in a house that revolves on a chicken leg. I played the witch. We had recently butchered chickens and I used rooster legs for my hands.  Robert fell asleep. When he woke up he asked to keep the legs.

In 1984 while traveling around Ireland on a tour with Robert, Ruth and Gioia Timpanelli, I was mesmerized by Gioia’s telling of the Irish legendof Diarmuid and Grania.

Sometime around 1986 or so, Robert began an annual Valentine’s Day free reading in Moose Lake. He read his poetry;, he read other poets’ poems. And he almost always told a fairy tale.

So started me on my love affair with fairy tales. But then Ruth and Robert moved to Minneapolis so I had to learn to tell the fairy tales myself.  I loved telling them to children when I taught day care, but this year I discovered that telling them to adults is equally fun. At Norwegian camp I told three of my favorite Asbjørnson and Moe tales: Askeladden (The Ash Lad), Lurvehette (Tatterhood), and Tre Bukkene Bruse.  I told the first two in English, the third in Norwegian.  For fun, I am sharing Tre Bukkene Bruse with you in the Norwegian, because it is such fun to tell it that way and I trust you will recognize the story from your childhood even if you don’t know norsk.

Tre Bukkene Bruse

Det var engang tre bukker som skulle gå til seters og gjøre seg fete, og alle tre så hette de Bukkene Bruse. På veien var det en bro over en foss, som de skulle over, og under den broen bodde et stort, fælt troll, med øyne som tinntallerkener, og nese så lang som et riveskaft.

Først så kom den yngste Bukkene Bruse og skulle over broen.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen.

“Hvem er det som tripper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Å, det er den minste Bukkene Bruse; jeg skal til seters og gjøre meg fet,” sa bukken, den var så fin i målet.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” sa trollet.

“Å nei, ta ikke meg, for jeg er så liten jeg; bi bare litt, så kommer den mellomste Bukkene Bruse, han er mye større.”

“Ja nok,” sa trollet.

Om en liten stund så kom den mellomste Bukkene Bruse og skulle over broen.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen.

“Hvem er det som tripper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Å, det er den mellomste Bukkene Bruse, som skal til seters og gjøre seg fet,” sa bukken; den var ikke fin i målet, den.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” sa trollet.

“Å nei, ta ikke meg, men bi litt, så kommer den store Bukkene Bruse, han er mye, mye større.”

“Ja nok da,” sa trollet.

Rett som det var, så kom den store Bukkene Bruse.

Tripp trapp, tripp trapp, tripp trapp, sa det i broen; den var så tung at broen både knaket og braket under den!

“Hvem er det som tramper på mi bru?” skrek trollet.

“Det er den store Bukkene Bruse,” sa bukken, den var så grov i målet.

“Nå kommer jeg og tar deg,” skrek trollet.

“Ja, kom du! Jeg har to spjut, med dem skal jeg stinge dine øyne ut! Jeg har to store kampestene, med dem skal jeg knuse både marg og bene!” sa bukken. Og så røk den på trollet og stakk ut øynene på ham, slo sund både marg og ben, og stanget ham utfor fossen; og så gikk den til seters. Der ble bukkene så fete, så fete at de nesten ikke orket å gå hjem igjen, og er ikke fettet gått av dem, så er de det ennå.

Og snipp snapp snute, her er det eventyret ute.

What was your favorite childhood fairy tale?  Do you have a favorite now?

 

 

 

Some Truthiness

Friday during Sherrilee’s “Destructo Kitty” post, I referenced one of those scroll-through-25-pictures articles, which wasn’t a very grown-up thing to do – who (besides a retired person) has time for that? The list (of truths to accept if you’re a real adult) was clearly compiled by a much younger person, but I did find some of the “truths” that resonated with me.

I also found one or two that made me snort tea. Here’s the link if you want to read the commentary, but the “truths” are listed below.

You’ll know you’re a real adult when you accept these 25 truths:

  1. Life’s tough. Get a helmet.
  2. If you want to play hard, you really do have to work hard.
  3. If you mess up, it’s your responsibility to fix it.
  4. Your driver’s license photo will never, ever be flattering.
  5. Sometimes you have to give people the benefit of the doubt.
  6. You have control over your life.
  7. Making compromises is a good thing. Compromising yourself is NOT.
  8. Success is just about perception.
  9. Some people are just big jerks.
  10. School doesn’t come close to teaching you everything you need to know.
  11. Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s a choice you make.
  12. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.
  13. Money won’t solve your problems.
  14. You are not the center of the universe.
  15. Things are rarely as cool as they seem.
  16. You can’t make everybody happy.
  17. Sometimes you have to put yourself first.
  18. Jealousy is a huge waste of time.
  19. Change is good. Sometimes.
  20. You’re not getting any younger.
  21. Sometimes you just don’t have the answers.
  22. It’s never too late to change.
  23. Even if you have “more important” things to do, you NEED to get a good night’s sleep.
  24. You can’t have it all.
  25. The only time you should look back is to see just how far you’ve come.

Which one (or two, or more) of the above resonates with you?