30 May 2008

Mallard Fillmore

Bruce Tinsley is not a fan of Senator Obama, the mixed race Messiah of the Left, but he doesn't have the "go-for-the-jugular" approach necessary to be really effective in the culture wars. Or maybe he is just warming up. I will probably find out when Mallard Fillmore is banished from the local paper entirely.

Bruce Tinsley has an interest in the truth, so he is featured in the back pages of the Gazette, along with the want-ads and Sudoku puzzles. So naturally I read the daily strip fairly regularly, except for Monday, whose puzzle is always V. Easy, a waste of time.

29 May 2008

All the Votes are Counted Now

All right friends, it is official. Hardee's Thickburger is the best in Billings MT.

So say we all:

signed KH Mueller
signed J Wellington Wimpy
and countless other carnivores

28 May 2008

Heaven Help Us

Is Senator Obama auditioning for the up-dated part of Gerald Ford tripping over nothing on Saturday Night Live? Or maybe his verbal gaffes have the purpose of showing that he is really one of us commoners who sometimes say silly things because we haven't had our speeches written for us? Maybe both. Hillary already has the part of Eleanor Roosevelt in her later years nailed. Senator McCain may be going for the part of Howdy Doody.

Back to Senator Obama: A possible Historian-in-Chief and President for Life needs to be better informed. See 5/28 Blogometer

27 May 2008

The mystery of Stonehenge

Never say that scientists should not use their imagination, but only physical data. If they had done that we wouldn't have a clue. Of course it had something to do with religion. We are hard-wired for that sort of thing, right from the beginning of the Big Bang. Check out the latest National Geographic, still the best magazine for the money. And Wikipedia of course.

A friend and her mother visited us when we lived in England in the 70s, the 1970s that is. I excitedly showed them Stonehenge sometime in March or April, usually cold and windy in those parts. Not wanting to hurt my feelings they said nothing when we got home. Later I learned that the only comment that Irma, the mother of our friend Sharon, made when out of earshot was, "What was all that stone crap about?" It is much more comfortable reading about it in National Geographic, but only because we've been on the site. It reminds me of watching a cricket match on the TV. No one would have a clue what was happening unless you had actually spent a little time in the middle with someone fairly close by running and hurling a hard red ball at your private parts. Then and only then can one appreciate what is happening on the TV.

26 May 2008

Memories and Memorials

An aerial view of Arlington National Cemetery.

The above is what those guys who went to war in the 40s looked like before their battle. Now, only some are still standing. The others are lying at attention. See above and below. "Dulce et decorum est . . . ." My father, see above, was still smiling when he came home, and he didn't tell any stories that I remember except to point out when he was sinking in a deep pool that he had been able to swim in the Mediterranean and that he remembered looking at the Arno River from an old bridge in Florence. Below is a picture of the veteran's section of Mountview Cemetery, Billings, MT. Not quite as organized as Arlington but they have more practice.

25 May 2008

Thank Heaven!

The official text accompanying this picture is: "Work has started on the backing system to secure the padding on the outfield wall." See the Parks and Recreation website. Terrific.

Whew! I've been worrying about this for a long time. The outfield wall is stone! as you can see above, but they will put some sort of protective padding over the stone. Now we all need to pray that this protection will not encourage reckless behavior.

24 May 2008


August Wilson writes a good play: "Death ain't nothin' but a fastball on the outside corner." So says Troy Maxson, born twenty years too soon, in Fences, one of Wilson's 10 plays about growing up Negro in the America of the 20th century. This one takes place in the 50s. The only clanger I heard was someone complaining about kids having different parents, etc: that wasn't generally true in the black community 'til the 60s and after. This is one of his best, though I haven't seen them all yet. Does the guy above look familiar? Like a guy who was a regular on "Night Court?" Well, you are right, that is Charles Robinson. He did well.

We had dinner at the Ashland Bistro Cafe, near to the square in downtown Ashland. Both the clam linguine and the veal scallopini were worth commenting on. Excellent.

23 May 2008

The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Today we took a trip more deeply into the woods around Ashland and Medford to see how the Rogue Valley grape-growing experiment is proceeding. Both Ashland and Medford look prosperous, and the surrounding country-side has that "Shire according to Tolkien" look.

The pretty and personable Corey at Troon recommended the Magnolia Cafe in Ruch for lunch. She was so right as they had an excellent clam chowder, followed by a bison burger with Rogue Creamery blue cheese, with some crisp curly fries: all Very good. By the way, if you take my advice and stop in for some blue cheese in Central Point, be prepared to have your wallet made much smaller. They have won a few prizes for cheese in competition so you can figure it starts at $20/lb and goes up to $40/lb fairly quickly. Fortunately, you only need a small amount to get the flavor.

We stopped first at Roxy Ann Winery on the outskirts of Medford, which was surprisingly busy at 11am when they opened their doors. They have tripled the size of their tasting room. Two people were very busy pouring all their wares and apparently those of other nearby growers. Then we went on to Troon Vineyards for some Druid's Fluid Red. They have a fairly snazzy tasting place too. See above. As you can see, the architecture is such that a really old Mediterranean kind of place will be what you see in a few years.

This picture goes with one of the paragraphs above, probably the first.

This evening we are off to the Railroad District to eat at Lela's, another one of Corey's recommendations, followed by The Great American Trailer Park Musical at the Oregon Stage Works. See picture above, taken from the web of some other production. Tonight was very well done. Small audience but enthusiastic as were all the players. A nice contrast with OSF.

Lela's was excellent. Recommended.

22 May 2008

Wandering Around Ashland

Flowers are common in the front gardens as well as political signs. Hillary is strong on this street, the Obamaniacs strong in others. It looks like Mr McCain is unknown in Ashland OR.

As in many resort towns, the sandwiches often have names that tie in with the main industry, which in this town is the Shakespeare Festival.

Here are a few random pictures from walking around Ashland in May 2008. Check out my other pictures here.

The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler

A helpful review, both before and after seeing the play.

This afternoon we saw The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler with Hedda being played by the same lady that played her serious version at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival a few years ago. I liked them both because Robin Goodrin Nordli is a very good actress, and attractive too. Chris Duval does a terrific job as usual too.

This is really a crazy show populated by fictional characters from Medea to Boys in the Band to the latest TV show. Hedda and a few of her friends interact with them. The main point is what happens when a fictional character decides to step out of character. Sample more than one review as none of the ones I read really captured the essence of this play about plays. Hedda Adventures And more I am sure, probably all written by failed actors or directors of some sort.

This is where we are living this week. It is a series of rooms cobbled together to make a very nicely done bed & breakfast. The bedrooms all have sitting areas or even separate rooms as in a suite. The breakfasts are just fabulous, so much so that one has to rearrange one's eating habits for the day. Instead of having hardly anything at all except maybe coffee and a piece of toast early in the day and then a fair-sized lunch as the main meal of the day, you wind up skipping lunch entirely and eating an early supper, sort of like an English tea, and then a little snack before going to bed.

I saw a raccoon on the sidewalk this morning on the way to get the morning paper. I tried to follow him but he was very quick to disappear into the brush on the bank of a noisy and joyous Ashland Creek.

21 May 2008

The Clay Cart

Another day, another matinee. This one was a nice adaptation of an ancient northern Indian (that's Indian Indian, pardner) epic play, The Clay Cart. The name is kind of like calling WWII the battle of Stalingrad, but it seems to go well with the alternating serious and joking around the play does. Or maybe it is the modern adaptation? They are usually pretty serious about getting the meaning and much of the words out there for the audience to decide. In fact, they never change the words for the Shakespearean plays, though they may cut a whole scene. I guess The Clay Cart treated seriously the dumb things we do that should be laughed at, and not so seriously the really serious things. The players, of course, made it worth staying for 3 hours.

Harry & David's

So this morning we took off for Medford's Harry and David's. It is a lot of fun to check out this place each time we come here. Such an abundance of good things from the earth. Expensive, yes, but oh so good. A good place to reflect on the abundance made possible by a market system. By the way, the Australians are getting even stronger in their export of pretty good and fairly cheap wine. They are selling 1500 ml bottles of average wine for $8! at H & D.

Like little old ladies or giggling teenagers, all our plays this week are matinees. Which is really OK, because then we can take a little snooze before looking around for a good place to eat. Yes, children, your parents have been known to take an afternoon nap for the last few years.

20 May 2008

Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter

I did two things today: I bought a couple shirts from Tommy Bahama, who calls himself a "purveyor of island lifestyles," and I saw a play in Ashland's New Theatre. See further below. I hope someone steps forward soon with a reasonable name and gives enough money to warrant having a theatre named after him. Let's see now: Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates and many others I'm sure; none of them would miss the money though I suppose they might be accused of being an elitist.

This is a kind of old-fashioned note holder where play-goers could leave notes for anyone I suppose, but especially for our troops still in harm's way. It kind of reminds me of the notes left in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and maybe some Buddhist prayer notes that I saw in Japan.

The play, Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, was about a normal person who volunteered to do an abnormal thing, and that is, of course, for a mother to go away to war, and then had done a very bad thing (see below), and was feeling bad about that, and uncertain if she could go back to being a normal person again. Of course, a bunch of misfits are the ones that convince her that she is OK enough to go back to her family and kids. It was really well done by playwright and players at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival.

This is a new play by Julie Marie Myatt. Jenny is a mother who volunteered to go to Iraq, doesn't carefully check a baby's diaper, and when the mother of the baby detonates the explosive in the diaper, in addition to blowing the baby to smithereens, Jenny's unit and others are blown to bits and she loses her lower right leg. She suffers from PTSD and, quite naturally, low self-esteem. She can't get the memories out of her head, nor does she want to go home to her family, though not sure exactly why. She hangs out in the desert of California with a bunch of misfits who are abnormal and funny enough to gradually persuade her that she is OK and maybe even normal enough to rejoin the normal world.

It said something useful about the returning veterans, mothers going off to war, and then coming back wounded, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a few other things too. It is not the usual leftist rant about the present administration, so I suspect it will get some bad reviews, especially when it goes to Washington DC sometime this summer. I would recommend it highly. That is Jenny Sutter below, thinking about her situation. By the way, there are some deliciously long silences in this play.

19 May 2008

Seattle to Medford

After a leisurely breakfast with Peg and Patrick, we drive to SeaTac, noting along the way the evidence of an elevated railroad which is said to be open for business sometime in 2009. We do claim credit for resisting the urge to go to the Issaquah Cafe for the usual BOB, Breakfast on a Biscuit. The airport is as crowded Monday at noon as any other time but the folks at Horizon Air try valiantly to be extra nice to cheer you up. The retail part of SeaTac continues to grow. Below is a map of the Puget Sound area showing the course of the light rail system to be opened in 2009.

I wonder why the TSA hasn't come in for some parody or satire in the usual places? Maybe they have and amid the dreary sameness of TVland I just missed it. Surely, they must overtake the DMV as the poster child for bad government service: I can see it now on the attack ads. "If you think the TSA is bad, wait 'til you experience _____ (insert the possessive form of your Presidential candidate of choice here) government healthcare."

Daisy Jo giving us a funny look, which is the only way she knows how.

The flight attendants today reminded me of the Horizon stewardesses of old. Had they burst into song at the end of the trip I would have sworn we were transported back to those heady days of 1983, when the airline was having an exciting good time getting going, and before we knew we were on our downhill journey.

Here is our trusty steed for the trip between Seattle and Medford, a Bombardier 400, taking about 90 or so minutes I think: very egalitarian, all leather 2X2, no first class seats; and the seats are all equally hard as the padding seems to have solidified over the years, that or my bottom is more tender these days. I remember when we thought we had really moved into the big time when they bought these planes maybe 15 years ago. They still serve free beer and wine from the Northwest on these flights.

18 May 2008

First Communion for Zachary

We flew out of Billings early Sunday morning, just in time for the 10:30 mass at St Joseph's in Issaquah. Zachary Mazzuca and many other 2nd graders were welcomed to the Table of the Lord for the first time. It was a miraculous celebration. Could that be described as an angelic smile or what?

17 May 2008

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

If you play a trumpet, and you are a friend of mine, or even just an acquaintance, please be careful out there.

The friends and family of Ralph Sappington celebrated his life last night at the Alberta Bair. He had a knack for assembling outstanding musicians; last night was no exception, even posthumously he hasn't lost his touch. It was tasteful and musical, as Ralph always was and is, come to think of it. A guy by the name of John Roberts, from Malta MT, who did some amazing things with a trombone that Ralph had given him a dozen years earlier, seemed to be the musical director. There were some awesome saxophone players and a left-handed guitar player that just wouldn't stop. They were all very good.

The closing number was Just A Closer Walk With Thee, with lots of tear- and joy-filled choruses. Sorry, this version above is a little corny.

The reason for the warning is that during the show I remembered a few other trumpet players that cashed in their chips way too early. I played with Dick Ruedebusch in high school: He sold cars for an income but he played traditional music for a living. As I was returning from a trip east a few weeks ago, I may have stumbled upon the alley just off Wells St I think that led to the nightclub in Milwaukee that he played at while I was in college in nearby Waukesha.

Dick Ruedebusch and his Underprivileged Five Plus Two playing St James Infirmary Blues. Oh yeah. I was shaken by his trumpet sound early one morning as I was drifting off to sleep my first year in medical school, ca. 1962, but I knew that he had recently died in his 40s from a valvular problem with his heart in the days before the surgeons fixed those problems almost easily. There is a place in your temporal lobe where these things are stored, so I instantly recognized his sound: Of course, it was a recording made with Woody Herman. Whew, I got a little shaky there for a minute or two. That might be the cover of the long-playing record if any of you still remember that terminology.

And then I remembered my friend, Don Ferguson, who wrestled with some form of lymphoma that just wouldn't let him go, despite all the best efforts of his oncologists. I was lucky to play in a brass quintet with him and other real musicians some years ago when the concept of "middle age" was just slowly teasing itself through my brain.

And now Ralph, who liked his fellow musicians enough to write some parts that would stretch you even if you were down on 3rd or 4th trombone.

16 May 2008

English accents

I read a note in the interesting blog Crooked Timber about Hugh Laurie's accent. He is the main character in the TV medical sitcom House. It reminded me of a time back in the 70s when I was serving with her Majesty's Royal Air Force. They were putting on a musical in competition with other RAF bases. A friend talked me into going to the auditions. As soon as I spoke, the director said, "OK, we've got Bobby," the only American in The Boy Friend. So I had to learn how to do the Charleston. The guy I shared an office with knew how to do it, so we locked our door over the lunch hour and practiced until I could do a reasonable facsimile of the dance. Our secretaries were fairly wary of coming into our office without prolonged knocking after that of course.

Anyway, the main point I was trying to make was that after we had done the show with the judges present they gave us a little review of what they thought about it. The only comment I received was that my American accent was a little overdone. Rimshot: buh-da bum!

15 May 2008

Advice from a Humble Surgeon

Check out Dr Alan Muskett's advice to the young and their parents thinking about entering the field of medicine in the Billings Gazette of 14 May 2008. You may get the feeling that Dave Barry or PJ O'Rourke has assumed a different name. How about the above disguise of a plastic surgeon?

If you can remember the old Saturday Evening Post, you may recall they used to have a humor section which started with a slow, tempting curve well outside, and ended with a fizzing high and inside fastball to finish you off: that is the way Dr Muskett writes this column.

Some quotes to whet your appetite:

First, a couple of slow curves—

"Let's say you have amazing grades and an astronomical MCAT. That's good, but your application must reflect your intense interest in medicine, an unshakable work ethic and heart-rending compassion. Thus it becomes mandatory to spend your summers in the slums of Bombay working with AIDS orphans, your school weekends emptying bedpans in nursing homes, and holidays organizing the Race for the Cure. Your personal statement on the application should state that you wish to serve an underserved rural area as a primary care provider, even if you want to be an anesthesiologist in Seattle. They never check later."

"The premed curriculum is fairly standard. Required are chemistry, physics, calculus, biology, vertebrate anatomy or some variation and my all-time favorite, organic chemistry. Organic chemistry is like a yearlong colonoscopy with no sedation or facilitative lubricants."

And then something with a little more bite—

"I've had a great career, but I don't remember a thing but fluorescent lights from my 20s and early 30s."

and then the zinger, high and tight—

"Because even though you work on Sundays and nights and sometimes in your dreams, you are in something that's palpably intense, something that measures you and sometimes finds you wanting. Despite the outcome, in the end, you were in the arena, and something real happened, and it mattered."
Yes, very nicely done.

14 May 2008

The Best Cheeseburger in Paradise?

This is inside Buck's Bar and outside the cover of last month's issue of the Magic City magazine. This month's issue is not online just yet, I suppose to encourage people to buy the magazine at the newstand.

I reluctantly report that I took the advice of this month's Magic City, which, not surprisingly, has something to do with Billings MT, and tried a cheeseburger that was supposed to be the very best in this area, I mean #1 mouth-watering on the front of your shirt good.

Now Buck's Bar was a reasonable place on Central Ave with lots of normal people having lunch and drinking beer but the cheeseburger was only average. I am not tempted to try burgers #2 through 5, except maybe I will try the one at Walker's. I have a hunch this was a print version of one of those infomercials you see on TV. I wonder how much it cost?


J. Wellington Wimpy

We knew this guy to be a friend of PopEye and to like burgers—"I'd be glad to pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." But who knew his full name. Chalk it up to Wikipedia and Google.

I was going to recommend the magazine and a similar one on Montana but now I am not so sure. This is what happens if you don't tell the truth: I'm not sure I will ever trust them again.

I don't understand the prejudice against franchise eateries. I mean, if they make a good sandwich, then more power to them I say. Like the Angus Thickburger at Hardee's or the traditional Reuben at Arby's. These are good sandwiches.

By the way, there are apparently a few more magic cities scattered around the USA: Gary, Indiana and Birmingham, Alabama are two that pop up on a Google search, both having something to do with springing up quickly, like magic, just like Billings MT.

13 May 2008

In Case You Haven't Driven Up 27th St Lately

The above picture is an artist's idea of what the new Dehler Park would look like when it was finished.

And now, ta—da: Here are the latest pictures fresh from Dehler Field.

The above picture is from 6 May 2008.

And this is what it looks like 8 May 2008, green side up, i.e. with directions for the differently abled groundskeeper! Some of us are drooling at the sight of the grass. Opening Day or Night is 1 July 2008 for the Mustangs who will have been playing on the road for about 2 weeks before coming home. There will probably be a few preliminary Legion games played there a few days before to make sure the kinks are all out of all the systems.

For example, the sound system. I hope the multiple speakers seen above will be able to do better than the awful sounds coming from the old system. I had to change my seat a few times because of the horrendous noise coming from the old speakers. I hope they get some chairs before opening day. Or maybe we will all stand like at a soccer match.

Or the sprinkler system. I remember a few times over the years that it came on while a game was being played. I think my friend, English teacher and Head Groundskeeper at Cobb Field Lowell Gorseth, who died much too early from a brain tumor, occasionally took a nap at those times. That outfield fence still looks dangerous to me. But then, I suppose the wooden fence of the older Cobb Field was fairly unforgiving too.

While I am thinking about it, I must re-read some or all of A Bart Giamatti's little classic Take Time for Paradise. I would recommend it for everyone, baseball fan or not.

[Giamatti's book is a celebration of baseball's "freedom (for) the promise of an energetic, complex order." "Baseball," Giamatti writes, "fulfills the promise that America made to itself to cherish the individual while recognizing the overarching claims of the group. It sends its players out (around the bases) in order to return again, allowing all the freedom to accomplish great things in a dangerous world. So baseball restates a version of America's promises every time it is played. The playing of the game is a restatement of the promises that we can all be free, that all succeed." ]

The above is a part of Mark B Cohen's (who seems to have a hobby of writing insightful reviews of excellent books that may have been overlooked by the mainstream writers) review of this beautiful little book published after Giamatti's much too early death from a heart attack. And there is more too, about cities: This excerpt reminds me of my father's view of politics back in the 50s. He was saddened by the later common pejorative use of the word, as he was very proud to call himself a politician.

["The defining characteristic of a city over time is political. Indeed, the word political contains at its root the Greek polis, or city. Politics is the art of making choices and finding agreements in public--or the art of making public choices and agreements. Politics is the ultimate act of negotiation in a city, but it is only reflective of the constant activity of the city, as individual, daily choices and agreements and decisions, flowing from the central choice not to live alone but among others, swirl around and make up rambunctious, noisy, restless, demanding, hectic, city life."]

12 May 2008

DC Pictures At An Exhibition

This is Union Station, one of my favorite places in Washington DC. The outside is very attractive. It has a useful function, and there are restaurants and shops scattered around over the whole place. It does need a better way to load taxis.

Korean War Monument Washington DC: Did you know that a lot of other countries sent soldiers to this faraway place? Many of them stayed, many of them missing in action, and gathered together underground in Busan. The ghostly aspect of the above figures may reflect the missing, not sure.

The VietNam Wall with 58,000+ names and ourselves reflected here as we
walk by and wonder why. Is this irony?

Capitol City Brewery, close to Union Station. Good food and beer. They brew it right here on Massachusetts Ave.

The Supreme Court, where our "nonacracy" resides.

The Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool on the Mall.

Part of WWII Monument. There are some interesting details in this but overall it simply overwhelmed. Maybe that is the way the war was?

Inside the Smithsonian.

From the floor of the main hall, Library of Congress. This place and the Folger Shakespeare Library are worth a visit or more than one.

Resting near the Capitol, at least I hope so because I ignored her as I passed by.

VietNam Memorial with standing guard. The Nurse Memorial is nearby too. I will get a picture of it the next time I visit there I promise.

Washington DC has to be one of the most photographed cities in the world. These are a few of my efforts. Pictures At An Exhibition but don't worry if you don't see the connection. My synapses are a little frayed and likely to produce some peculiar connections.

That is Mr Lincoln's Memorial above.

Inside the Air and Space Smithsonian Institution.

And the new Native-American Smithsonian building below. This is really nicely done. I'm not kidding, both architecturally and the content as well. Would I be politically correct?

The building below is on Massachusetts Ave not far from Union Station. New buildings are sometimes built around old buildings, presumably with historic reasons for saving them.

This is part of the WWII Monument, below, which is gigantic but which leans heavily toward the Soviet style I'm afraid.

There are a lot more where these came from. I recommend a visit every now and then. Pretend you are checking up on your elected representatives. You are in fact their slaves for a good share of the year, but it doesn't do much good to lament that fact.

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime
At The BrewPub on Broadway

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix in the Winter Time

Good Cheese Here

Good Cheese Here
Vermont Cheddar & Minnesota Blue


Dehler Park, Billings MT, July 2008 This is what Bart Giamatti recommends for good mental health.

Me and Joan

Me and Joan
Early elderly and middle middle age: We May Know Something You Don't

Mrs America

Mrs America
Fortunately these girls had a good-looking mother

Rimrocks @ Billings MT

Rimrocks @ Billings MT
“In beholding old stones we may feel our anxieties about our achievements–and lack of them–slacken . . . Vast landscapes [and seascapes] can have an anxiety–reducing effect similar to ruins, for they are the representatives of infinite space, as ruins are the representatives of infinite time, against which our weak, short-lived bodies seem no less inconsequential than those of moths or spiders.”—Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral
12 April 2009

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs
A Lot of Muellers Are Buried Here
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