23 April 2011

The Latest Outpost Comes In Strong



The Billings Outpost, that is, Vol. 14, Issue 28, April 21, 2011. The photo and the headline tells almost the whole of the story. The details don't matter that much. The sensible part of the electorate loves to see nothing happen. Lots of thunder and lightning and even branding as a veto is good entertainment, something we all need. But we hope they just irritate the hell out of each other and leave the rest of us alone.

This particular issue of the Outpost really caught my attention. Besides the governor's veto story, there is a good article on the new, hoped-for downtown library. The architect seems to have his head screwed on the right way. With at least one high school close to downtown and the university even closer I always wondered why we didn't combine forces and use some money from District 2 (that is us folks) and some from the State of Montana (that is us too folks) as they fund the university. Maybe we could even get the homeless to chip in a little bit as they will surely get some use from it. I'm pretty sure we are going to take the low bid and when all is said and done the new library is going to look crappy, kind of like Dehler Park. But the Arizona architect has a good story. Who knows, maybe we will all feel well-heeled enough on Election Day to make it look good. Let's hope the private donors will be generous.



Talking about architecture looking good reminds me of the new Federal Courthouse. The old one had no redeeming value at all so I was glad when they figured out a way to tear it down and start over. I have trouble translating a picture, even a big picture like the one facing 2nd Ave traffic—that is a hazard by the way: be careful as you are driving through—into a real building. I'm not sure I can see how the new bank building is going to look either, except that I wonder if it will cover up some of the new library. At least the new courthouse doesn't seem to have that brooding, sinister appearance that many government buildings do. I doubt they are trying for the "C'mon down and we'll make a deal" look that the car dealers aim for. But next to the old county courthouse it may suffer in comparison.

The headline Japan, Libya Pose Threat also caught my attention. This is a longish article by Wilbur Wood, maybe small essay would be more descriptive. Though starting from ordinary newspaper stories of the damage done by the recent tsunami, and then weaving in elements of the trouble in Libya, adding a few surreal elements from conspiracy theory, and suddenly on the inside page we—all of us 'energy slaves' are being summoned to the streets: "Human energy ultimately cannot be controlled any more than wind and sunlight, rain and snow, freezing and melting, Earth's own heat erupting or water flowing where it will."—this is the last paragraph: sorry I don't understand it either. Did Ayn Rand write this? Anyway, it is at least entertaining.

But wait, there is more. I told you this was an issue worth waiting for. There is an excellent book review by Robert Lubbers of The American Bird Conservancy's Guide to Bird Conservation. It's about bird survival or lack of it and you guessed it, we are all guilty. One of these days someone should write about human survival or lack of it. Seriously, it looks and sounds like it's worth reading, whether borrowed or bought. On the opposite page is an article about "beetles in decline in forests." This is a good thing. I guess beetles don't have much PR fund-raising knowledge. I suspected that this was going to be something to do with global warming but that was not mentioned. Maybe the author thought his audience knew all about that anyway. There are the usual cranky letters to the editor, still fun to read, even if out of date,  whether you know the writers or not. Roger Clawson makes a modest contribution on the (un)Civil War—"America's history still reeks of gunpowder, blood, splintered bone, and ruptured bowels." Now you're talkin' war, Roger. There are some short and sweet obituaries. After I started reading these in the Outpost, I went back and revised my own. Still too long I'm sure.
And finally, after paging through the television schedules—why don't people just surf around like everyone else—you get to a charming review of the upcoming Tosca, starring Cassandra Norville as Floria Tosca, Jeffrey Kitto as her lover mario Cavaradossi, and Billings' own baritone Douglas Nagel as the wicked Scarpio, in addition to his other jobs of artistic director and producer of Rimrock Opera. The meat of the article tells about many of the other jobs involved in the production, especially the chorus and the props and the costumes. It promises to be a big deal and it will be, I'm sure.

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