The joy of watching water (5×8 – 3/31/11)

Pondering Minnesota, stadium proponents hit the line, when people do good, the great abandoned bike mystery, the new American dream, and wearing a hijab for a day.


You’ve probably seen the headlines this morning: Deep cuts in programs to help the most vulnerable in Minnesota, the specter of American boots on the ground in Libya. Yesterday, someone noticed that everything on 5×8 involved people losing something. Sometimes, you just have to watch water flow.

Is that better?


From the sound of KSTP’s report on the plan for the state to help build a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, Republicans at the Capitol have given up on the idea of waiting until there’s a good time to unveil a funding bill while voting for — as today’s headline say — cuts in care for the poor and disabled.

There really isn’t a way to make the two initiatives compatible, even with the claim that public funding will help create jobs. Proponents and opponents debated the subject last night; little new ground was gained by either side. What’s left to say about a philosophical debate that’s been waged for decades now?

A KSTP poll also showed overwhelming support for a new Vikings’ stadium, which would appear to provide plenty of political cover for passing the legislation.

Why do these ballparks and stadiums cost so much? Because of all the technical wizardry that’s now required to get people off the couch, Wired reports.


Chris Belich, 18, of Carlton, will be among hundreds of people packing food for hungry children in impoverished countries this weekend, the Duluth News Tribune reports. He agreed to raise $19,000 and recruit 500 volunteers to put on the event with Feed My Starving Children. So far, he has $13,000. Volunteers still are needed for the fourth shift, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in Duluth.

“It’s really amazing: 19 cents for one meal. It’s crazy.” he said.


An op-ed piece in today’s Boston Globe from author Neal Gabler, “The New American Dream” says that we are seeking perfection that the dream is no longer about seizing opportunity; it’s about realizing perfection.

Thus not only have the terms of success changed but also the very terms of life. For a person who can live within his illusions, the career has to be perfect, the wife has to be perfect, the children have to be perfect, the home has to be perfect, the car has to be perfect, the social circle has to be perfect. We agonize a lot over perfection, and we dedicate a lot of time, energy, and money to it — everything from plastic surgery to gated communities of McMansions to the professionalization of our children’s activities like soccer and baseball to pricey preschools that prepare 4-year-olds for Harvard. After all, we are all on the Ivy League track now.

Or else. And that’s another thing that a perfectionist society has engendered. It has removed failure as an option because we realize that there are no second chances, that mistakes are usually irrevocable, and that you have to assume there are other people out there — your competition! — whose wives will always be beautifully coiffed and dressed or whose husbands will be power brokers, whose children will score 2,400 on their SATs and who will be playing competitive-level tennis, whose careers will be skyrocketing, whose fortunes will be growing. In a world in which perfection is expected, you must be perfect. Otherwise you are second rate.



This little item had become a downtown icon in Saint Paul fairly quickly, after it was abandoned on St. Patrick’s Day. I wrote about it here:


Mystery solved…


“It broke,” this fella told me yesterday when he came into town to pick it up. It became a two-week landmark because his truck had broken down, too. We probably haven’t seen the last of it.

New mystery: Later in the day, the bike-attracting light pole snared another renegade:


Bonus: The Al-Madinah Cultural Center and the Muslim Student Association at the University of Minnesota provided more than 100 free scarves — hijabs — to non-Muslim women — and even men, according to the U of M Daily — willing to wear the traditional covering for the day.

“Unlike most people think, the point is not to hide ourselves because we are lesser,” said Ariel Schwarz, a recent convert to Islam who does not regularly choose to veil outside of prayer but participated in the event. “The point is not flaunting our outer beauty, so that our inner beauty shines through.”


DNR officials have warned that proposed budget cuts could force it to mothball some of Minnesota’s state parks.Which state parks would you especially want the DNR to keep open?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The debate surrounding single-gender education has again gained prominence as Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes for education reform in Chicago. What are the advantages of single-gender schools, and what are the drawbacks?

Second hour: Gabrielle Hamilton, chef, restaurant owner, and writer.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Political analysts discuss Bachmann and Pawlenty presidential bids.

Second hour: Garrison Keillor interviews baseball historian John Thorn

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Preparing for the worst in Japan.

Second hour: How to pay for college.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – NPR has one job-seeker’s success story.

Rushford Hypersonic has been dubbed Minnesota’s first rural nanotechnology company and the world’s only commercial producer of Hypersonic Plasma Particle Deposition (HPPD) nanotechnology coatings. Rushford is also home to a few other new nanotech companies as well as an institute for nanotechnology. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier has the story.

  • John O.

    // A KSTP poll also showed overwhelming support for a new Vikings’ stadium…

    The important detail missing is that the KSTP question qualified support *without* general fund revenues:

    “Should the Minnesota Legislature come up with a financing plan to build a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, if no money from the state’s general fund is involved?”

  • Re: Boston Globe piece – It is unfortunate that the east and west coasts, and the upperclass especially, dominate these discussions, and their middleclass wannabes eat it up. It seems clear to me that there needs to be a rethinking of our goals as a country, as a community, and as individuals. So many things touch this discussion… from the environment, our economic and trade policies, and of course, education. Fortunately for more and more folks, it is more about improving yourself, taking care of your family, and doing the right thing.

  • Rich Dietman

    OK, here’s my plan for a new Vikings’ stadium that doesn’t use a penny of state money, general fund or otherwise. We use the Habitat for Humanity paradigm and everyone who wants that shiny new high-tech complex pitches in evenings and weeknds to build it. All the NFL players will pitch in, too, with cash and sweat equity. (If they strike this season, they’ll have lots of time on their hands.) It’d be a chance to work side-by-side with stars we’ve only seen on TV. Heck, you-know-who from Mississippi might drop by to help hoist a beam or two. And companies that believe the state’s economy can’t survive without the team will contribute materials, maybe in exchange for suites and season tickets. All we need is a name for the sucker.

  • V

    Perfect? Egads, I’m just happy to have something outside of work and child-toting duties. Sometimes, a book, a beer, a cup of coffee, heck a lauigh on Twitter are enough. Or even the lack of something: Shoveling snow, for instance. Yay. Or the lack of a car payment. A 17-year-old car is perfect for that.

  • V

    Er, laugh. Guess neither my spelling nor my typing is perfect. Off to hari-kari now.

  • Cara

    Rich’s idea of the Habitat for Humanity model is terrific.

  • Arid Loon

    Not to pile on the loss theme, but technically Minnehaha Falls is receding away from the Mississippi. But, it did remind me of a Bob Dylan song:

    “People disagreeing on all just about everything, yeah

    Makes you stop and all wonder why

    Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street

    Who just couldn’t help but cry

    Oh, this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though

    No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow

    And as long as it does I’ll just sit here

    And watch the river flow”

  • bob

    Perfection? Maybe in a parallel universe, populated by clueless narcissists. This is the kind of supposition that makes you wonder what the researchers have been smoking.

  • Jeff

    “Fans are watching games on high-definition [television], so when they come out to the ballpark we want things to be in high-definition, as well,” Kirby Kander, the Astros’ senior director of creative services, told

    Isn’t *life* “high-definition”?

    Seems to me that the real reason baseball tickets cost so much is that the players and the owners are grossly overpaid and take too much of the profits. I think that more people would go to a reasonably-priced pro baseball game than an expensive game with wifi and HiDef scoreboards. I loved the simplicity of games at Fenway when I was a kid. No crazy announcers. No loud music between innings — just an organ or the guy on the trumpet who walked from section to section to play “Charge!”. Tickets were cheap enough that my mom and I could afford to go to a couple of games each year. Seats that were $10-$12 in the late 1970s are now $95-$99. Too much!

  • boB from WA

    Watching the falls was good, however I now hear nature calling! And thanks for the piece on young Carl of Duluth. As good as any place to start making a difference.

  • Bob Collins

    I remember the big controversy around 1973, Jeff, when Fenway put a scoreboard out in centerfield with an ad on it. Up to then, there was NO signage other than the Jimmy Fund sign in the park.

    It was considered an assault on the game.

    Of course, now the game is merely a part of the entire “fan experience.”

  • Jamie


    // “The point is not flaunting our outer beauty, so that our inner beauty shines through.”//

    Bull. Since the mid-90s, I’ve heard over and over again the same talking points out of the apparent brochure “How to Explain Islam to non-Muslims, Especially the Part about the Oppression of Women.” This one is a little different. They’ve been coming up with a few different ratioinalizations in the last few years. Muslim women who live in the west seem to be on the defensive about this stuff. If they would just say “I’ve covered my head like this since I was a little girl. I’m not comfortable without the scarf. It’s what I’m used to, and besides I don’t have to do anything with my hair.” Then I’d accept that and even say, “You go grrrl.” OR if they said, “Islam requires that I be covered because my freedom is a threat to our male-dominated system,” I would at least be able to appreciate their honesty. The head (and sometimes all-over) covering is just the most visible or obvious symbol of how this religion and many of the cultures who practice it oppress girls and women. Don’t get me started on how women can’t pray in the front of the mosque with men, or about child brides and so-called “honor killings.”

  • Josh

    while I love going to games at Target Field, I wish more stadiums were like Fenway in the 70’s.

    I don’t need a “fan experience,” I just want to sit outside with a beer and a hot dog and watch a baseball game.

  • Steph D

    Perfection? No way!

    I prefer John Zogby’s take on the American Dream and how it is being refined.

    John Zogby: The American Dream redefined

  • Lucy

    “Sometimes, you just have to watch water flow.”

    There is nothing more serene than the deep contemplation of life while admiring the spectrum of taupes to sooty beiges of artistically sculpted icecaps only nature could design by earthly toned and enriched frothy, bubbly showers of the Minnehaha Falls?

    “What’s up with that brown water Bob?”