Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ven two Minnesootins meet oop nort

There is an old joke that because of the vast differences in manners of speaking English from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other, an Englander has to learn a new language when he comes to the United States and an American has to learn a new language when he travels to the British Isles. Some might also say still another variation of the English language must be learned to understand spoken words and to be understood in Minnesota. Read on below to learn more .... and, by the way, if the print on the illustration is too small to be legible, click on it to enlarge it.

How to talk Minnesotan

In my never-ending quest to add confusion to the world, I want to say/write a few words about speaking Minnesotan.

The first time someone ever said anything to me about my accent, I was in training with the Marine Corps. My reply was, "What accent?"

The guy asking me was from New Orleans and had an accent that simply did not quit. Another fellow from New Orleans, conversely, had absolutely no discernible trace of any accent -- at least none that I could hear. It was then when I first began to realize I must sound as strange to someone from Texas or Alabama as they sound to me .... remember, at the time I was only a few months out of high school, still a teenager, hardly a man experienced in "the ways of the world."

A book by Howard Mohr published in 1987 and currently experiencing a resurgence is entitled, "How to Talk Minnesotan." The book was largely based on idiosyncrasies and colloquialisms of the region. For instance, with a most residents having Scandinavian ancestry he noted that locals consume a considerable amount of lutefisk, but do so more out of a sense of duty than with relish. (Personally, I never have tasted it .... I cannot stand the smell of it.)

A film entitled, "Fargo," was released in 1996.Fargo is a city in North Dakota and the action in the motion picture takes place between there and the Minneapolis/Saint Paul metropolitan area. While the action includes a kidnapping and a few murders, the centerpiece of the movie is the way Minnesotans sound when they talk. Here are a couple of examples: 

Minnesotans often string words together: "Have to" often is "hafta" and "I'm going to" often is "eye-mina" and "what are you" often is "wha-cha" and "up north on the lake fishing" often is "oop-nort onda-lake fichen."

Thanks to the Scandinavian background, the Minnesota accent has a sing-song quality and the word "yah" frequently replaces "yes." Here is a common sentence: "Ya, shure, you betcha."

You get my drift ????  Rather than trying to describe it further, I have included a pair of video clips from the film to provide a taste of talking Minnesotan. While the conversations in the clips are a bit exaggerated, they sounded pretty normal to me .... welcome to Minness-ooohhh-ta. The film was made in Minnesota and is "drop-dead funny" and is a classic .... if you never have seen it, it is well worth your time.

Whatever .... this being the final day of January 2018 and to note that only two months of FramWinter now remain, this piece seemed like one more fine way of disrupting sense and sensibility and playing havoc with the good order of the universe.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Once upon a time

Say a prayer for .... presumably, behind this group of huddled Marines, a Navy corpsman is working on the wounded Marine mostly hidden by his huddled buddies. No doubt, each Marine in the group is saying a prayer for his comrade in arms. The photograph came from the Second Battle of Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury in Iraq. The United States military called it the heaviest urban combat for the Marine Corps since the Battle of Hue City in Vietnam in 1968. Both battles now are part of Marine Corps legend and lore ....

Just another anniversary for me

Today -- January 24 -- is my Marine Corps anniversary. It is the day I signed on the dotted line with the Corps.
The enlistment ceremony took place in the room of a hotel which no longer exists. A captain swore me in while a gunnery sergeant witnessed. Also present was a high school buddy who had unexpectedly shown up on his way to Navy boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. I recall that day every time it rolls by on the calendar and, periodically, I make note of it in a post. Today is one of those times.

There was nothing remarkable about my days in the Corps. Memories of it always fill me with pride and sometimes make me shudder. As I occasionally say, there were good times and there were bad times, but, all-in-all, it was a beneficial experience and I am glad I did it.

There have been some Marines whose exploits bring shame and dishonor to the Corps and to themselves. Lee Harvey Oswald was one. There have been some Marines whose exploits bring both glory and honor to the Corps and to themselves as individuals. William Kyle Carpenter is among them. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a grenade in Marjah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, to save the life of another trooper in 2010.

Carpenter survived, but his recovery took a few years and countless operations and resolve/courage which seem to have reached super-human proportions. He was medically retired from the Marine Corps because of the severity of his wounds. He returned to his home in Flowood, South Carolina, and has since received a degree in international studies from the University of South Carolina. Rather than try to tell Carpenter's story, there are two videos here to accomplish that task.

I had the privilege of meeting one Medal of Honor recipient: Richard Keith Sorenson was born in Anoka, Minnesota, in 1924. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and was one of twenty-seven Marines who threw themselves on grenades during World War II. Only Sorenson and three others survived the experience. His act took place during the Battle of Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, in 1944.

Unlike Carpenter, Sorenson was able to remain in the Corps, spent a couple years as a civilian after the war, then rejoined and eventually became an officer. He died at age eighty in 2004.

Well, enough of that. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch the videos about Kyle Carpenter. He truly is a remarkable young man and a hell of a Marine.

Semper Fi, baby ....

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Doug, Greg, Jesse & Cole

A wood engraving once was the one and only way to create an illustration for a newspaper, and this engraving shows an artist's conception of the infamous Jesse James/Cole Younger gang botched bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, on September 7, 1876. The target of the robbery was the First National Bank, located on the side street behind the Lee & Hitchcock building. Here is a post meant to mention three of four "whatever" facts about Northfield .... like anyone really cares other than me ....

Tying up some sort of loose ends

I am reminded that Northfield, Minnesota, has two institutions of higher learning. One is Saint Olaf College, with Lutheran and Norwegian roots, which I mentioned in my December 24, 2017, post. The other is Carleton College, founded in 1866 as "Northfield College" by members of the Minnesota Conference of Congregational Churches. It was renamed Carleton College after Massachusetts brassware manufacturer William Carleton donated $50,000 to the fledgling school. Both are private liberal arts colleges.

One of my better friends graduated from Carleton. Actually, we partied off and on while he was a Carleton student and I was working as a journalist in a town not far from Northfield. I moved along to another newspaper in another town and we went a few years without seeing one another. Then, out of the blue, Doug walked into the newspaper where I was employed to apply for an opening as a sports reporter. I saw to it that he got the job.

Doug Bezechek originally was from Iowa. He was sort of a "wild and crazy guy." After several hours of drinking one night, he decided to walk home when his car would not start. Rather than go the long way, he chose to swim across the Cannon River. He did not make it all the way. I learned of his death when I arrived at work the next morning. I still think about Doug and wish I would have been with him that night ....

Moving on .... Carleton has a fellow named Gregory Blake Smith on its staff. Having written a number of novels and short stories, Smith, who teaches American literature and creative writing, would seem well qualified for the position. His most recent novel, "The Maze at Windermere," was released only a few days ago. It is difficult to describe this tale in only a few sentences, but here goes:

The novel contains five distinct stories spread over three centuries. Smith cycles through these eras, again and again, from today back to the late Seventeenth Century. In the final section, the divisions between these stories collapse, but they are tightly folded in translucent layers of time so that contemporary and previous eras appear to mingle while retaining their respective hues.

Since this piece is not a book review and since I have more on my mind yet to write about, I think I will let it go at that and advise you to either buy the book or to search out "real" reviews and read them. I have a copy, but have yet to sit down with it. After I have read it, I might have more to say about it .... depending on if it is as good as his earlier work.

Northfield has another claim to fame other than its two colleges. It was the town where the Jesse James/Cole Younger gang was sort of shot out business during a failed bank robbery on September 7, 1876. For a number of years, the city has staged a reenactment of the event. I was present as working journalist for one such "mock shoot 'em up production."

Some "highlights" of the raid are these: Gang members Bill Stiles and Clell Miller were killed during the botched holdup, along with two residents of Northfield. Charlie Pitts was killed, and Cole, Jim and Bob Younger were captured when a posse surrounded them in a slough on September 21. Frank and Jesse James had been wounded in Northfield, but managed to escape to Nashville, Tennessee. There has been a number of films made about the James brothers, and the "Northfield raid" often forms a significant segment of them. 

The Younger brothers pleaded guilty to murder and were given life sentences at the state penitentiary in Stillwater. Bob died there of tuberculosis in 1889. Cole and Jim were paroled in 1901. Jim committed suicide in a Saint Paul hotel room in 1902. Cole "partnered up" with Frank James in a touring "wild west" show. He died in 1916.

Frank James did some jail time, but never saw the inside of a penitentiary. His jobs included being a shoe salesman and a burlesque theater ticket taker before teaming with Cole Younger. Jesse James was murdered by Bob Ford in 1882 in St. Joseph, Missouri .... although every now and again some dispute that "fact" .... Frank managed to last until 1915, dying in Kearney, Missouri, the town in which he had been born.

All right .... enough about Northfield and its history .... do a bit of research if you are curious .... actually, due to a number of classmates having graduated from Saint Olaf; my Carleton buddy, Doug; Smith's stories; and periodic encounters with Jesse James films; I think about Northfield with some frequency .... and, with the town only thirty miles away from where I now live, I drive there periodically to make certain the place has not vanished ....

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tell me another word for "midpoint"

Wait .... I think I see a polar bear lurking in the distance ....

What is the essence of winter?

For anyone who might be operating under the misguided assumption that Minnesota winters are mild, I offer this photograph of my backyard ....

Well ???? Do you believe me ????

The photograph, in reality, is of Cierva Cove on the Antarctic Peninsula. Remember, I do like to tease.

I use the photograph because today -- January 16 -- marks the midpoint of FramWinter. For those unfamiliar with FramWinter, it begins on November 1 and ends on March 31. There often are frigid temperatures and significant snowfalls -- even blizzards -- in October and April, but the really "mean stuff" generally does not arrive until November and usually does not go on after March has run its course. The hallmarks of the first one-half of this FramWinter have been less snow than usual, but much colder than normal.

The reason the Fram calendar was "born," so to speak, was because neither the centuries-old Julian calendar (Julius Caesar/introduced in 46 B.C.) nor the more recent Gregorian calendar (Pope Gregory, introduced in 1582) fit the climatic world of Minnesota. Solar time is solar time and is fine for marking astronomical events, but the earth is ruled more by weather and by planting seasons .... hence, winter is more of a five-month than a three-month event in places like Minnesota.

Get my drift? Whether you do or you do not, here we are at the midpoint of FramWinter ....

Just for the record, it snowed in a number of states in July 1816 and crop failures were widespread in the United States and in Europe, prompting the year to be characterized as the "year without a summer." My personal Minnesota experience includes light snow once during a picnic on September 1 and measureable snow during the last week of May. You just never know ....

And, also for the record, polar bears only are found in Arctic regions and not at all in Antarctica.

One song is included with this post. It is Sarah Brightman and her rendition of, "Figlio Perduto," which translates to, "Lost Son." The music actually was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven as his, "Symphony No. 7," with the lyrics a translation by Chiara Ferrau of a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. My understanding is that Brightman was the first to record it .... and, it is utterly, breathtakingly beautiful.

So, with that, Happy MidFramWinter, baby ....

Something special ....