Monday, December 28, 2009

Church Yesterday

In the big city church life is different. It's not good, and I take responsibility for the not good.

Back in Chicago, in a church basement, in 1965 or 1966, I first heard the Chicago Folk Mass. Grace Lutheran Church, a formerly bourgeois Lutheran outpost was attempting to make church relevant for the hippie crowd. I was a high school zealot for Jesus, and I went to a work camp there, painting the basement to make ministry to hippies possible.

A few years later I returned. Ministry to hippies was in full swing. At 9:30 am on Sunday morning the hippie crowd gathered under the leadership of Pastor Phil Bigelow in the basement that we'd repainted. We sang to guitars. We crooned the Mass. Pastor Phil eschewed the pulpit. He wore a beach towel chasuble. It was groovy.

The Chicago Folk Mass remained. It went commercial. Lots of folks in Lutheran Circles came to know and love the service. We got our guitars everywhere in Church. Then came Avery and Marsh. Summer camp got extended into Lutheranism. The emotional excitement of the end of camp was the goal of many young pastors, including me.

And if we couldn't get our folks as juiced for Jesus as they were at the end of summer camp (or at the end of the retreat, a mini-summer camp), we could at least get them to relax and sing the songs of Zion in a new key.

From all this came

Words on the Wall and not in the book (no notice of copyright needed).

Guitars and microphones for leading the principle worship service on Sunday.

No robes or vestments or outward identification of the leader of worship.

Pastors who think they are rockstars - or who would like to be rockstars - but who can't be bothered to be President of the eucharist.

Preaching devoid of Lutheran theology, more influenced by the Navigators than by the Confessions.

Yes, that's what we had yesterday at Kris' family church here in the Twin Cities. I wish I could say that this was the novelty, but I am afraid it is not.

It isn't the ordination a gay and lesbian pastors (since we were already doing that) that will bring this church to not being this church - it is the praxis of oremus. As we sing and pray, so we become.

But I don't want to be a Baptist - and I do know the difference between us and them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kyle Johnson

I'm still working on the video from Kyle Johnson's recital. I am putting together a single video out of three camera angles and the audio from the Music departments recording system. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the product. It's the most ambitious product I've attempted since being at Bethany.

Thus far I have this single piece complete.

Kyle Johnson plays Batiste from Carl Isaacson on Vimeo.

I think the shifts in view make sense. The sound is much better than I could record with a camera under these circumstances.

I'm glad this system is working to bring the quality of edit I've attained with this piece. It is tedious work. I've come to know the Offertoire better than I ever thought I would. While the visual quality of the piece is marred by the quality of what I can upload before it is converted to flash - and by the quality of the light in Presser Hall - still I'm not entirely ashamed of the work.

Hope you enjoy.

I'm working on a 3 camera shoot for jultide today. The way this piece came together gives me great hope for the jultide visuals.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Death Metal Santas

That's what I'm talking about.

Haven't blogged much. Haven't had much to say that I shouldn't keep to myself. But with this, I just had to post.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Can You Believe It?

Old friend Don Greenwood contacted me - through facebook - with the suggestion that I scan and put online the happy hippy papers I was responsible for when I was an undergraduate. I promised I would, but knew that I had lost the documents.

Found them last night and began to take a look. Eventually I hope that we'll have both the "Period" and the "Augustana Observer" online in this year.

What I discovered as I looked at these publications I saw how arrogant we were back in the day. I couldn't believe it. Augustana opened a planetarium and observatory and we called it "Dr. Nelson's new toy."

We disdained regular headlines. We disdained journalism. Our standards were way beyond low. I couldn't believe me. Once I start getting these things up, you'll see that you can't believe me either.

What saved me, and the publications, were that there were enough genuinely talented people surrounding the chief in order to make the arrogance bearable. You'll see.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Would you look at that

Casually going through the AAA magazine this morning. Because of other plans to take care of emergency roadside assistance, we'll soon be dropping the AAA and losing the magazine. So glad that hasn't happened yet.
There on Page 16, big as life and bigger than Jim Richardson on page 15, is our friend and fellow Rotarian and Bethany alum, Lee Becker. She's working on her painting of the Indian woman squatting beside the road. She's sitting in front of her mammoth painting of an Indian rhino.
How cool is this. It almost makes me want to renew my connection to AAA - but I don't quite have the money.
Congratulations Lee. You deserved the recognition.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Last Kennedy

Ted Kennedy's passing is, for me, a very personal sort of passing.

I was never as fond of Teddy as I was of his brothers. It was Robert who was my hero, despite his service to the anti-communist congressional committee. Robert's change of heart and his anti-war stance brought me to his cause. His eloquence, tied to that simple "I ask why not."

These were my political heroes. But Teddy was the last of the Kennedys, and his passing marks the passing of a moment of hope. With the Kennedys, despite what we knew about their duplicity, we who were young in the 1960s really felt that there was hope that our country could become what we claimed we were, but had failed to be.

With Obama I felt that hope restored. I still hope for our new President, but it is a hope sobered by the passing of that old guard, the old un-repentant liberal Teddy Kennedy. He will be missed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


What is it about projects? Why do they always get bigger in the doing than they were in the conceptualizing?

We started, this summer, to do something pretty simple - replace the last three fuses in the basement with breakers, and thus qualify for a lower insurance rate. That became a major basement project involving the removal of ceiling, busting out plaster, and now considering covering the old floor tile with sheet vinyl.

Well, if we're going to do sheet vinyl in the basement, shouldn't we also do a new floor in the bathroom upstairs? And if we're doing a new floor there, shouldn't we replace that old, hardwater stained sink and the crusty faucet? But if we're going to do that, can we get a new sink that will drop into the vanity that's already there?

By the way, how do you skim coat a basement floor? Do I need to remove tile that feels "loose" to the step? What about the bumps and holes? And do I need to skim coat the bathroom floor before I put down new and after I take up the old? And do I need to take up the underlayment as well? How big is this project going to get?

Wait - one piece got smaller! I was afraid that if I took out the old vanity I'd have to chip tile or place tile. Turns out the tile is all in place behind the current vanity. Well that's one bright spot.

But I'm afraid to start - everything I've started this summer has turned bigger - and I'm back to school next Tuesday. As Charlie Brown once said, "Arrrgh!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Presser Hall Elevator

The elevator is now removed from Presser Hall. All the equipment for the new elevator sits outside waiting to be installed. The doors to the elevator shaft are locked and no one, besides the installation crew from Otis, and a few other select individuals, has access.

But that doesn't mean you can't - well - anyway.

I was talking to one of the installers yesterday. "How's the elevator coming?" "Oh, it has it's ups and downs."

I was talking to Frank Ballew this AM. "Oh no! They took our elevator and gave us the shaft!"

I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Last Sunday, August 2, Kris and I stopped at a Wind farm on highway 14, south of Lincoln. As you hear from the video, the turbines make no noise. The only noise in the video is the sound of the wind itself, and Kris saying, "Hi" at the end.

It was an awesome, eerie sight.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Shopping

More to come, but for now let me just say that the IKEA store in Chicago is going to enable a bit of redecoration at the Isaacson house without breaking the bank. If we had a truck we'd be bringing home a new range. As it is, it's new shades and curtains in one room.

More to come, as I say.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On The Road Again

Off to visit family. All the family, all the time. On Saturday, the end of the first week, we took a walk around Phalen Lake and found the Dragon Festival. Dragon boats and a beautiful new statue.

From Summer 09

The beauty of the statue was matched by the beauty of the day. Sunny, low 80's. The only problem is that the Twin Cities are suffering with an extreme drought. Minnehaha Falls, I hear is totally dry this year. That's really sad and I don't want to see the falls without water.

Apparently the big event of the Dragon festival is the Dragon Boat races, on Sunday. Here's a photo of the Dragon Boat, from the east side of the lake. I've got some video from the West side of the lake I'll post later.

From Summer 09

The best vacation events are those you just happen upon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Juokse sina humma

I came upon this wonderful Finnish tune, Juokse sin humma. The video is Dan Palmquist and the Arvika Blues Band. Tuta plays a Gambian xylophone. I have no idea what any of it means, but it has gotten into my head and won't go away. I hope I can inflict this on some of the rest of you.

The original is also online, sung by Tapio Rautavaara.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Easter Opens

Tonight is opening night for Easter, our 2009 Messiah Festival Theatre Offering.

This is the largest play we've done for Messiah festival since I've been here at Bethany. Naturally, I'm a little anxious that we drum up an audience.

So come. It is a wonderful show that is entirely life affirming - and even - in places - funny. Yes, it is Swedish and Yes, it is Strindberg.

And yes, it is 7:30 pm Friday April 3, Saturday April 4 and Saturday April 11.

It's FREE!!!!!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour

Following notes in several places - most crucially a promo on television - Kris and I joined "Earth Hour" last night.

From 8:30 - 9:30 we turned off the lights. We lit all kinds of candles in the living room. I got out my uke and plunked. We talked, we sang (sort of), I played in the candlelight. It was a pleasant hour and a good way to remind us of how much electricity we do use.

I noticed that the town wasn't dark for that hour - I wonder if any towns in Kansas went dark for "Earth Hour" or if it's too Al Gore.

We liked it. We talked about doing it on a regular basis. If we do, we'll have to schedule it and make sure we live up to our schedule. Regardless, it was a pleasant way to put earth first, even if just for an hour.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Surviving the Day

We all seemed to have survived the day, and what a strange day it was.

Around 1 I went out to get to Scott's and to check on snow removal at Bethany Church. This is what the video looked like:

I'm actually pretty proud of this, considering I couldn't see what was on my screen when I was recording the video.

From the church yard I walked east to Scott's. Someone headed west on his bicycle. Lan Nelson was heading west, said that the home's pickup had gotten stuck in the street and he decided walking would be easier. A few hardy souls were out at store, but overall Scott's was kind of empty.

After getting fresh water and Cheerios for an ailing wife (strange flu like symptoms), I headed home. Then north to the campus to see what was going on there. The Sandzen was open - that was unexpected. Ron Michaels had come to work. I was the only visitor.

To the office. I broke virgin ground when I entered the lower level of Presser Hall. Home again.

What was strange was how quickly the uncovered sidewalk was drying out. The remaining bits of slush and snow melted quickly and where ever pavement was exposed, it dried. Unfortunately, no one was clearing things at the college. We'll have to see how it is tomorrow when Messiah has dress rehearsal.

The other thing that amused me about our response to the snow: the vast numbers of homeowners who had to have their drive cleared. Patty Karstad, for example, had a fellow with a plow attached to the front of his Grasshopper come and clear her drive. Later, her garage was open and the car might have been taken out.

But it seems as if this is the most important thing for many people: to get the drive cleared so that you can get the car out if you want to get the car out.

Here's some before and after pictures from the day before the snowstorm and the afternoon after.

Video Experiment Continues

This short piece is part of my experiementation with the new video equipment the college purchased for the Pearson scholar visits.

Here the experiment centers on the shotgun microphone we bought to go along with the camera. You can tell how sensitive the mic is by the way it picks up the cat squeaks. Unfortunately, it also picks up lots of ambient noise.

On Thursday we'll have our first test of this microphone under actual performance conditions. I'll set up and someone else will run the new video camera when Jimmy Sjöblom presents his first public presentation on sustainability.

Stuck in the Snow

It's Saturday morning, the week we make our final push to Easter performances, and we're stuck in the snow.

The cast can't get back, the set isn't done, and the director is feeling a bit blue. It feels as if he should call off all other activities and focus only on getting this thing done. But that may just be snow talking.

Oh yeah, and on Wednesday the Rotary club is supposed to go clean the highway. But the weather isn't going to let that happen without a fight - and the club President isn't happy with the constant slide from one meeting day to the next. It doesn't work for recruitment.

Oh well, maybe it's just the snow talking, right. A feeling of depression at long grey days followed by a life disrupting snow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In the Evening

By the evening the weather had come round, much less wind, beautiful cloud formations, a gorgeous sunset.

I've been so busy today that I haven't kept up with anything. I know the composting conference is on the campus, but I haven't had any contact. I'm still working at getting the final props, costumes, and set pieces for Easter. Did well today, and think I have a line on a suit coat that's big enough for our big guy.

One of the things I saw today as I was antique shopping was that men's suit styles haven't changed much from 1899 to today. Except for that unfortunate period of the 1970s when we thought that double knit was suitable and something called leisure suits would qualify as a suit.

"Easter" is coming along, just as Easter is coming along. Hope we'll see broad support in the community, since this play is just the opposite of the kind of play complained about in the News Record.

Updates on the Composting Conference if I have any tomorrow.

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Incredible Wind

I was out with the college's new video camera this morning, trying to manipulate the switches and settings in order to get the image to look as it ought. I did OK, but the white balance wasn't quite right.

The video below, now posted on Youtube, shows the new flag. I've covered over the wind noise.

I'm still learning the controls and a I need a "warm balance" card to get the white balance right - however - even with that, the thing about this video is how unstable it is. I had a difficult time standing still.

I don't remember a day when the gusts were quite as strong as they were today. Still, I didn't see major damage - but I haven't gotten out much. I'll see what's up during my evening promenade.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Post on Old Issues

I got a comment yesterday on a blog post from June of 2007. That is old, stuff that's way dead.

I wouldn't bring it up - and maybe this post belongs in the Interpersonal Communication blog I'm posting to - but I think there is something here to discuss.

Frankly, I was offended by the post. What offended me was a kind of condescending tone that assumed I knew nothing about the newspaper business, and certainly nothing about the newspaper business in a small town/rural newspaper.

Trouble is, I do know some. I may not know enough to run one profitably, but I do some thing about newspapers.

The point is, we often tend to assume that all others are neophytes who know nothing about our situation. Therefore, when we respond to others we tend to respond to them as if they were in need of schooling - rather than as adults responding to adults and differing in opinion.

The post in question - and the comment - can be found here. The dispute is the News Record's absence from Leonard's introduction - and their blaming the college for their lack of coverage.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Union Street, west of Chestnut, down at the edge of Peterson Estates, there's a big square boxie building going up. As soon as I get the photo out of the phone I'll post a photo.

I'm not sure what's going on. It looks like a barrack, but I suspect it is a four unit apartment.

What are we building around here? I wonder if we've give good thought to the existing housing stock that isn't selling. Maybe there is a big demand for cheap apartments in town, but I haven't heard much that leads me to believe we do

Petty Annoyances

I was out on my daily walk, listening to an older episode of "This American Life." The episode is called "Music Lessons," and it's one of the best. David Sedaris describes his father's attempts to make a family jazz trio out of his children. Sarah Vowell discusses what she learned from band. Ann Lemont tells the incredibly touching story of a member of her church learning to love, the small miracle that love can be.

I was enjoying Sedaris' recounting of guitar lessons in Raleigh, NC when he made a remark that caught my attention. "The teacher gave me some purple mimeographed sheets . . ."

Those weren't purple mimeographed sheets, David, They were ditto sheets. This is a ditto machine, or spirit duplicator. It was made by the ditto corporation. Mimeograph was a totally different process - much messier - and less flexible.

My first "journalistic" effort was a ditto'd news paper, published periodically, in 1969, at Augustana College. Called "Period," and sold with a brash and uncompromising commitment to making stuff up, it was duplicated on the English department's ditto machine - though I bought the colored ditto masters with proceeds from each issue. It sold for a nickel - a nickel being the dividing line between greed and stupidity - according to the editor. When run by the staff it was a glorious success. When run by me it was mediocre.

Anyway - it was made on a ditto machine. I didn't really learn the ins and outs of mimeography until I got to my first parish - and it was the end of the era of mechanical reproduction.

This is a mimeograph machine. But people younger than, I'd guess, 30, have no recollection of mimeography or dittography. Those between 30 and 40 have only vague recollections. Soon this will all be dead media (I found the image of the ditto machine on the Dead Media Archive at the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU.

Sad to think that this part of my work life will soon be museum exhibit. Too bad Sedaris didn't know the difference between ditto and mimeograph.

Sarah Vowell committed an egregious error that drives me nuts. It's becoming common now, and may soon slip into common usage and even acceptability. During her tale of her high school music career she used the phrase, "begs the question" to mean "raises the question."

It's a phrase that gets a heap of abuse. "Begging the question," however, has not meant "raising the question, and doing so with some urgency." That's what Vowel took it to mean, what many English speakers use it to mean. And while I'm usually not one to insist that words and phrases must retain their denotative meaning world without end, amen, I think I'll make an exception for this.

Mignon Fogarty (a.k.a. Grammar Girl) agrees. "Begging the Question" is the name of a logical fallacy, "in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises" as the Wikipedia puts it.

I wish folks would stop using "beg the question," "begging the question," etc. as synonymous with "raising the question." "Raising the question" works fine - and if people would use "beg the question" properly we might think more clearly, more logically.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Now's the time to start getting ready, and I'm happy to report that the Midsommar Committee is hard at work. They have a new web site, at Midsummers Festival dot org. There isn't much content there yet, but it's a very nice interface.

I suggested that we try to get this young woman here for Midsommar.

She's from up north, sings in English and Swedish, plays guitar, knows the old songs and the new ones. The video above is her singing a song from Chess - which was written in English so far as I know - in Swedish. He name is Elina Järventaus Johansson. I think she has a very pretty voice and I'd love to see her come, if that's at all possible.

I don't know what the committee has planned, and I trust that they'll do the very best that can for the festival. I'm just putting in my two cents worth.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Changes to the Blog

I've added a short, one question poll to the bottom of the page and a click on video bar at the right. I'm trying to keep up, but it's getting harder every day.

Tomorrow is Read Across American Day - Dr. Seuss' birthday. Do something Seussical. I'm going to the Children's Center to read with the kids.

Trehy's Tea Emporium

Irene Neilson has put the Stockholm up for sale. That's pretty sad news for Lindsborg.

Who knows how long it will take to sell. Maybe it will go right away, maybe it will hang on as the Stockholm for quite some time.

In the meantime Bethany College student Chris Trehy is managing the tea room and doing business as Trehy's Tea Emporium.

Chris, a psychology major, told me he came from a long line of folks involved in retail food trade, and that he wanted to give it a try while he could. He sublets the restaurant from Irene for Thursday - Saturday noon meals and does dinners when he has customers who want dinners.

The noon menu is limited - a delicious tomato soup, two open face sandwiches (the exact sandwich varies), desert, and, of course TEA. Lots and lots and pots and pots of tea.

A little on the pricey side for some pocket books, this is definitely not your fast food emporium. It is the place to have "slow food," food lovingly prepared when you order it and served with all the aplomb a Dutch boy can demonstrate. Did I mention that Chris is Dutch and going back to Holland for graduate study? He's Dutch and going back to Holland for graduate study.

Because he's Dutch he understands Tea better than any of us who've not been schooled. The Dutch invented the tea house, you know. Because he's European he has a certain sensibility that most Americans enjoy when they go to Europe. He's not rushed, and won't rush you.

Go and enjoy the cuisine. And the tea. And the deserts.

And tell Chris I sent you.

Augie Choir

It's been that kind of a week - too busy for words.

"The Augie Choir" was hurr, they scribbled on the board outside our HCL/North Central self study meeting room. Prior to that they were all at Messiah Church for a meal. This is the end of the blessing for the meal.

Then a great concert in Presser Hall, with a substantial crowd - particularly for a Thursday night. Perhaps the most impressive part of the evening was the improvisation. I'd never heard a choir do improvisation before.

The Chamber Singers improvised on the tunes "I just went down to the river to pray" and "Amazing Grace." The results were amazing and grace filled. Charlotte Anderson told me that she talked with Dr. Hurty about this technique, and the choir learned it in Sweden. "It's one Swedish thing I want to bring back to the states," I think Charlotte said that she recalled Hurty telling her.

The concert was excellent. At the end the choir gathered in a circle and sang "By the Mighty Mississippi" - a serious musical version with lots of well planned mockery along with it. I was in the middle of the circle. The song ends with choir members kicking off a shoe. The shoes mostly flew my way.

I was there to capture video of the event. I captured it, but it isn't worth playing. The sound it awful. I really need to replace that little camera with something better. We'll see if that happens.

So, thanks, Augie choir. I lost an evening of rehearsal to you, but it was well worth it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

More Construction

The bricks are being attached to the face of the Nelson Science addition. It looks like progress!

New sidewalks are being poured even as I write this. The "no-man's land" between the North side of Presser Hall and the Burnett Center walk way is being converted into another yellow brick road. I love the gently twisting and turning walkways!

The grass between ASH and the Burnett Walkway, however, is suffering. People don't want to walk all the way to Presser to get to Nelson and Burnett. It's sad to see the new grass, so carefully cultivated last spring, be trampled this way this winter. It is inevitable, however, and I congratulate Jeff Barkman on finding a compromise solution - letting a little path die so that more of the grass can live!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What The Heck's Going On?

The lot directly across Harrison Cole from Scott's parking lot is now under construction.

There are large construction vehicles on the property, and all the woody vegetation is rapidly being shredded. Nothing blocking the view of the lot now, just a big empty lot.

What's going into the lot? An expansion of the clog factory? Or maybe a very large house - but it is a house going in, why would you remove all the trees and tree like stuff on the property?

I'm going to have to check with some real-estate people and maybe post on this again tomorrow. Photos for sure.

Earthday News

Earthday is rapidly approaching. April 22 follows close behind Easter this year.

We're getting ready for Earthday on Campus. Noni Strand's Green Team is hard at work making the campus green aware. We're planning for Jimmy Sjöblom's arrival in early March, and I've begun to work on "Butch Words and Weenie Words: The Rhetoric of Anti-Environmentalism," my contribution to the day.

Click and you'll open a podcast of Mark's presentation, plus a little bit of music. Maybe we can get busy and make a few more of these this spring.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A lot of walking

I'm currently enrolled in Karna Peterson's LEARN class - I affectionately call it "fat class" - so I'm doing a lot more walking than I had for several years. I'm up to somewhere between 3 and 5 miles each day, according to the pedometer.

It is fascinating to see walking the things you don't see driving. Fascinating, and, at the same time, a little depressing.

The walking trail is wonderful, so let's start there.

One fascination is the skate park, between Olsson and Saline. It looks almost ready for use, and some of the folks adjacent to it have been out on the weekend giving it a go. Mostly, however, it has been left alone and the rope and pole fence has been observed. There's a sign on the east side of it, along side the trail, but nothing yet printed on the sign. Of course, no word on what when who where why or how. At least not that I've seen in the News Record. I admit, I've missed a few issues of the News Record, so it could have been there.

Another fascination is the old shed behind the MKC station, just to the east of the trail. The corrugated metal roof is blowing up like an old man's toupee in places. The pigeons have a semi-permanent home. As I walk by I see them busily bopping in and out of the holes under the eves.

Of course, the combination of birds and warmer weather reminds me that I have to bird-proof the eves of my garage.

The depressing part of the walk is that there are so many structures in Lindsborg that are dilapidated, run down and otherwise in disrepair. I don't mind a few industrial ruins - in fact I rather like them. But there are getting to be many residential ruins on the edges, under the trees and next to the railroad tracks. That's sad, because it speaks of an aging population that I'm powerless to help reverse.

After all, I'm getting older too.


Well, I was wrong. The skatepark is open! And there are rules posted! Think of that.

No one was out skating today. Let's see, it was 35 degrees and there was a twenty mile an hour "breeze" out of the north. Gee.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

He is Gone

We received news last night that Pastor Martin Ringstrom has gone out of this life.

I am not surprised, but I am saddened by the news. I saw him just last Sunday. Kris helped him get a church bulletin for Charles Christensen. He looked and sounded healthy and strong.

I can't say that I knew him well, but I did admire him. I admired his piety - though I cannot emulate it. I admired his commitment to the church, his "churchmanship." I admired the way he stayed related to his extended family even while he stayed connected to that part of the family that had joined the saints in light.

Because of Martin we stopped in Wahoo, NE to see the ruins of Luther College. The photo in the upper left corner of this post is the Luther Science building as it looked last summer. Because of Martin (at least in part) there is a video of Augustana Synod memories. Because of Martin I look toward my future with considerably less dread. I see in his life the possibility of living to a great age with dignity and even pleasure in one's old age.

Martin Ringstrom is gone and I am saddened by his passing, but I am glad that I had the opportunity to know him. Later this week I'll publish the interviews I made with Martin last spring, in anticipation of the Augustana Heritage Society Gathering VI.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I've seen lots of advertising for the film Doubt recently.

It's a good film and has won many awards. Merle Streep is a critic's choice - says the TV ad. I hope Philip Seymour Hoffman also gets an award or two for his work in the film. Kris and I saw it over the Christmas holiday, and we thought highly of the film.

But I fear that many viewers of the movie will become obsessed with the issue of whether or not Father Flynn was a pedophile. I think that that issue is a minor one compared to the universal issue of doubt and certainty. That, it seems to me, is what the film is about. After all, Shanley called the stage version of this play "A parable."

In this case I don't think Shanley means "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." Rather, I think he means parable as an extended metaphor.

I think this film brings viewers to realize the burden of certitude and the grief of doubt. It's a feeling one gets, not an idea that you immediately derive from either the action, or the dialog of the drama.

Doubt and certitude. The country is full of folks certain about their religious conviction and unable to entertain doubt - at least not intellectually. These folks have done great harm to our political and scientific discourse in the past two decades. I've several colleagues who are absolutely certain of the correctness of their opinions. They do damage to their personal relationships with this certitude.

Me, I'm not sure about much of nothing.

Blago Goodbye

I've not had much sympathy for Rod Blagojevich and I'm not sorry to see him go.

But I wonder about people like the former governor, like the current Republican obstructionists, like the past President. I wonder about people who create their own worlds and dwell in them.

Just about every commentator has noted Blago's corruption. My sister, the commentator I most respect once said to me, "That jackass! He could have made the governance of Illinois Democratic for a generation, but he screwed things up so badly that people won't vote for Democrats for statewide office."

Things Blago claimed as his legacy, the prescription drug packages, for example, haven't gone the way Rod claims they've gone. They have been, mostly, a bust.

His claims on Wrigley Field seem bogus. His movie references are strange and strained. His press conferences are just weird. But he seems to genuinely believe what he asserts.

Likewise, the Bush White House seemed to believe what it asserted. That Iraq was a good idea, that the "war on Terror" is winnable, that the economy is strong and growing. I truly believe that Bush believed those things. Unfortunately, it isn't true.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now for something completely different

No photos and no comedy and no politics.

Eunice Liljegren passed away two weeks ago. I heard the announcement of her death on a Sunday morning. I'd known her and Leon only slightly, but I really felt a connection to the both of them.

When I heard the announcement I immediately thought of the Christmas when we went and caroled at their house and Leon sang along with the carolers. I recalled the day when I dropped by to pick up a cake for "Cakes, etc." I was moved by the announcement of Eunice's passing.

I was moved to write a poem. I'm not a poet, but the moment captured me, and I tried to capture it.

When Oscar took his final ride

Stepping through the church doors,
down the five concrete grey steps to
the big black waiting hearse.
The sunlight blinds us, Jon and me,
and all the pallbearers who

shovel the plain
wooden box into the gaping
jaws. We watch, Jon and I.
Then the funeral director clasps
the door, taps
on the roof and the hearse wheels away

the crematorium its
final destination. We walk, Jon and I,
north on Rockwell, across Brown
Line tracks, sniffing the sewer gasses
at Argyle street.

Consumed by crematory fires
he is gone forever.
The sun still shines and
I do not want to give up
the neighborhood, the church,
the sights, the sounds, the smells,
of my childhood.

Hope and Fear

From Inauguration

Many of the folks at the college spent the morning watching the inauguration. It was inspiring to be among the crowd, even though I had to spend much of my time taking photos for the newspaper and the yearbook.

From Inauguration

Several times during the President's inaugural I felt myself chocking up. I heard myself mumble inside my head "I need to be inspired, I need to be inspired."

I was inspired by what I saw and what I heard. I was particularly moved by the line: "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord." I was looking for a third "On this day," to complete the series - that's the speech teacher in me. Overall I felt it was a great speech, entirely appropriate for this moment in our history.

Rick Warren, on the other hand was highly inappropriate. He was to give an invocation, not preach a sermon. He was to give an invocation for the whole country, not just the Christian part of it. What was with using the Lord's Prayer? Pastor Warren has to be reminded that this was a national event, not a church event. He prayed the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindus, the Jains, the Ba'hais out of the union.

Later that day I was listening to the critics on NPR. "Good, but not great," was one of the critic's comments. What was the memorable line? It was pedestrian. Blah, blah, blah.

What speech did he hear?

I think it was a great day for the country and the beginning of an important period in our country's history. I'm glad I was alive to see it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A New Beginning

dems 013
Originally uploaded by Ike60
Lindsborg's Villa Ro community room was the site of the new meeting of the McPherson County Democrats.

The presence of a core of young adults who may become the foundation of a Young Democrats Club was part of the energy of the evening. The crowd in this room was a part of the energy of the evening.

The major change came in the willingness of the new leadership to talk about the potential to put more Democrats in local offices. There are a number of Republicans who are vulnerable, if you ask me (nobody did, but I'll give my opinion anyway).

I think Clark Schultz is vulnerable. I think that we could capture a seat or two on the McPherson County Commission. I think that there are non-partisan seats where Democrats could be elected - though elected not as Democrats but simply as citizens.

The key, it seems to me is excitement, enthusiasm, and better ideas.

I heard Newt Gingrich on NPR this AM. "Republicans have to become the party of better ideas." I'm sorry, but I haven't heard a better idea from Republicans in my lifetime.

But Democrats could be, ought to be, the party of better ideas. It all could begin in McPherson county.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Failure of Capitalism

A common expression on the political and economic right is "discredited marxism."

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall the right - and many in the center left declared that leftism, Marxism, socialism, social justice liberal Christianity - and even liberalism - were all "discredited." I can understand the urge to declare a set of ideas and ideals "discredited" when an actual expression - an always tainted actual expression - of those ideas and ideals fails to work. It is a hasty generalization, but an understandable generalization.

Back in my undergraduate years I recall my American Christianity instructor quoting A. N. Whitehead's view of history. History, actual lived history, always had a combination of high ideals and disgusting alliances. Human beings, my religious training tells me are always driven by our concupiscence, our tendency toward sinfulness. Why should communism, socialism, any type of utopianism be any different.

It is understandable that, following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the failure of Soviet Socialism, right wing idealists should declare that the ideology they opposed was "discredited." It did, after all, fail.

What, I wonder, will right wing ideologs now say about capitalism? Hasn't it proven itself as big a failure as Communism? And will business schools revamp their curricula in order to teach people what actually works? It doesn't seem that what's being taught in our MBA programs - from which the captains of our finance and industry have graduated - works.

Will that happen? I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I just watched both Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow's programs. Both programs featured a report that a Bush Administration official announced that we cannot prosecute the so called "20th hijacker" because we tortured him.

The left is sure that we ought to investigate and prosecute Bush Cheney Rumsfeld for War Crimes. If we don't, one argument goes, the world court will.

I'm not happy with the ways the current resident has shredded the constitution, and I believe that there are potential war crimes to be investigated. But I don't know that it would be good for the country for this administration to investigate and prosecute the past administration. Where would this end?

I just don't know what I would do if I were the incoming Attorney General. Fortunately, I don't have to make that decision.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tjungondag Knut

It's close to over, but glad slut till jul. Har ni dansat julgrannen ut? Inte oss heller.

Det är ett gammal tallesätt enligt Nordiska Mussets websäjt att sjunga "På tjugondag knut dansas grannen ut." Vi åt middag med de gammla,men dannsade inte.

Snart kommer fastan och Handels Messias.

New Democratic Party Leadership

While the country is gearing up for the inauguration of Barack Obama next Tuesday, the McPherson Country Democrats also have reason to celebrate. Click the title of this post to go to their we site.

New leadership of the party, with Ryon Carey as chair, Susan Buffington as Vice Chair, Ellen Neufeld as Secretary and Jayne Norlin as Treasurer. I believe that Neufeld is the only returning leader of the party. They've even started a blog.

Frankly, I'm glad to see this change in leadership. I do not mean to speak ill of those who led the party for the last - what - twenty years. I know they were sincere and devoted to the good of the country and the good of the party, but they needed to retire several years ago.

I went to the pre-election rally at the McPherson Senior Citizens' center in September. The focus was entirely on local races, most of which Democrats hadn't a ghost of a chance at capturing. We had Lee Jones, the candidate who would ultimately lose the primary to Mr. Gas Hose (who thought that semi-pornographic ad was a good idea?), who would lose the race to Pat Roberts. We had Cynthia Nelson from Lincoln County.

We missed state party leadership. We didn't have any leaders who could excite the folks who came to the meeting.

What truly bothered me at this meeting was I never heard the top of the ticket mentioned. These may have been Hilary Democrats, but by the time we had this meeting Obama had not only won the nomination, but we were into the fall campaign. I went home from that meeting deeply discouraged about the party in this state.

Seeing the new leadership I once again optimistic about the Democratic Party in McPherson County. Maybe we can bring progressive leadership to local and state government. I sure hope so.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Catherine the Movie Producer

Catherine the Movie Producer
Originally uploaded by Ike60
It's been a great year at Rotary so far. The programs have all been above average - like this one with Catherine, the producer for Au Pair Kansas.

We had to wait for Catherine, but she was well worth waiting for.

Other highlights of the fall - the AT&T manager who brought phones back to Greensburg. The helper dogs. The books of War.

January began with the bones of Forensic Science, and this week it continues with the Child Care Center. We'll hopefully find a way that Lindsborg Rotary can help out at the Child Care Center - one of the meanings of our theme "Make Dreams Real" is involvement in the lives of children.

Then we'll hear from Darrell Purdy, Bethany's director of housing and leader in a program that makes dreams real for people with handicaps. That's January 21st.

Finally, we'll hear about the latest business to open in Lindsborg - the Coffee Roastery in the old Blacksmith Shop - and we'll have our coffee fresh roasted in the Levin Room.

So, would you like to hear any of these folks? Lindsborg Rotary will always welcome you.

Why I Love Group Work

Each time I teach Small Group Communication I manage to have a day that stands out in my memory as "the day."

The first year at Bethany it was the day we played the communication games the class members created. Here's a photo of Tyler Boyd playing one of the games. I don't know which or what or why.

From Small group 06

This year the great day may have just happened. Today was "Laises faire" group day, a day in which the appointed leader (the instructor) refuses to lead, but rather allows (or forces) the group to take responsibility for its own life.

The anxiety of being faced with this does a number of things for and to a group. This year's group turned to small talk and humor. The humor made the morning, but the group's willingness to look squarely at its own behavior made the class worthwhile.

Here's the group in other action: a Picasa photoalbum:
Small Group 09

Here's video of the group in action:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Poetry Reading

Returned from a reading of the Poet Laureate of Kansas,Denise Lowe. The poetry was wonderful.

Lowe's style in reading her poetry was a common one for poetry readings. Her style was somewhere between a flat chant and well, I'll soon post a video of one of the poems. Or part of it.

I've heard this style before. The first time I heard it was the first time I heard a recording of, I think, T.S. Eliot. Hey, give the memory a break, it was nearly forty years ago.

To the point, this is a common style for poets reading their own poetry. To my mind - and this is admittedly a biased mind, since I've been known to teach Oral Interpretation, and count as one of my most important graduate school courses The Oral Interpretation of Poetry - there is a better way to interpret one's own poetry.

I heard this style. Elizabeth Bishop, in a simple and un-histrionic style, interpreted her own poetry. This was also almost forty years ago, so the memory needs the same break I pleaded for above.

Bishop came onstage in a spangled gown and read her poetry, with an emphasis upon her South American poetry. Her reading of Manuelzina changed my views about poetry. I cannot, to this day, read that poem without tears.

So why do poets read their poems in this style - a style that seems to me to be just bad Oral Interp? Perhaps they want to allow the poem to stand on its own, without the benefit of theatricality.

Ya have to wonder, if the rhapsodes had done the same, would theatre ever have arisen in ancient Greece?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

How can we speak hope?

Just home from worship. Loren's sermon was a good one, but left me with the desire for dialog and perhaps examples.

He spoke of the hope that belongs to the Christian as a child, born, not of the flesh but of the will of God. Then he said we should speak hope to our children, to our neighbors throughout the new year.

But he never said how, and I wish he would have at least given a few examples.

How shall we speak hope when Israel invades Gaza? How shall we speak hope to the 600,000 Iraqi Christians displaced from their homeland. How shall we speak hope when our government continues to rattle the same swords and voices in our country speak loudly for continuing hostilities with Cuba, with Iran, with Venezuela. What are we who have hope to say to this world?

I don't know. I wish Pastor had offered some thoughts about how speaking hope comes home.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Home Again

Been a good break. We're homeward bound tomorrow, Friday. We may make it all the way, we may not. It all depends. How's life been in Lindsborg this past week?

Final news from Minnesota: the senate election still isn't finished.

Final final news from Minnesota: there's still lots of snow on the ground and it looks like it may stay here until May.

So, leaving the land of ice and snow and back to the world of wind and rain.

Painful To Watch

Didn't do much to celebrate the New Year's arrival. Bought some cheap bubbly, watched Charlie Chan at the Circus, then tuned in the televised New Year's Eve celebrations.

Carson Daley was sad. Here's a guy that once had a huge following on MTV, and now his show is canceled and he's out in the cold bidding to become the next Dick Clark.

Sadder still was Dick himself. See below (you first hear Dick at 42 seconds):

I know that he's had a stroke and that he is making a courageous recovery. For that I salute him. However, he sounds as if he's trying to hold onto former glory, or reclaim new glory. He sounds like a sad recording of himself. His stroke has caused him to try to form words in new ways, thus we see prominent canines that are usually hidden. It looks like he has fangs in the back of his throat. The only thing that looks good is his haircut.

But then there's that strange party on the platform with Ryan Seacrest. Ryan talks to Lionel Ritchie, possibly because he's the only other adult on the platform. Both of these guys now want to suck up to the Jonas Brothers, and it is as if Taylor Swift isn't even there.

Then, when the ball drops we watch the excited platform party and not the ball dropping. What's that about?

Overall, sad, even pathetic, painful to watch.

I'm going to watch another Charlie Chan. It may be dated, but the pains are due to the era in which it was made. Oh, maybe the same can be said of Dick Clark, but which parts of him am I thinking of?

Sorry, that wasn't nice.