Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who are these two?

November 30... a big day for me 41 years ago. It was the era of the Hong Kong Flu.... and so much more!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Saturday after Thanksgiving....

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Tell your friends and neighbors to stop on by Duluth's Canal Park on the Saturday after the big turkey day. As you know, I have these books to sell. So... come on down to buy my book, Cooler Near the Lake, for your self or as a gift. Or... just come on down and say hi.

I'll be signing books...
Saturday, November 28.....Northern Lights Books in Duluth's Canal Park, from 12-1 pm

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2012: A spaced-out odyssey...

Intimations of mortality on recollections from childhood…
By Jim Heffernan

“I get angry at the way people are being manipulated and frightened to make money. There is no ethical right to frighten children to make a buck.” – A NASA spokesman refuting recent claims that the end of the world will occur on Dec. 21, 2012. (New York Times, Nov. 17.)

Well now, who is not shocked…shocked…to hear that there are people who would try to make a buck by frightening children! Boy, how low can you go?

I only wish Walt Disney were still alive to face the music for all of the bucks he made frightening children. There are numerous examples in Disney movies, but to me the most frightening was the evil queen in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” who tries to do in sweet Snow White.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all,” the evil queen, with a widow’s peak to die for (did I say die?) and an ominous black cloak with a head-framing collar, says and then shrieks when told the fairest is poor, innocent Snow White. What child didn’t have a bad dream after that scene, and the one in which she offers good-hearted Snow White the poison apple? I shudder today.

For shame, Walt.

Speaking of making a buck frightening children, don’t forget that malevolent duo Abbott and Costello, unknown to today’s younger generations but when they showed up in the movie “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” when I was a kid there wasn’t a dry seat in the theater at the matinee. Way to go boys. Frightening children. Where did they get the ethical right to do that? And just to make a buck. A measly buck. My head shakes back and forth with disdain.

Then there were the Mummy, the Wolf Man and Dracula circulating through the movie theaters scaring the pants off of even older girls, and boys too, who heartily approved, but we won’t go there at this time.

I still quake when I see Bela Lugosi, everyone’s favorite vampire, Count Dracula, moving in on the neck of some fetching blonde asleep on a bed of roses, or flying around in the form of a bat, or opening up his casket after the sun goes down to go forth and suck the blood of unsuspecting victims. Yikes. How did the children of that era survive the shock and freight? And what for? To make a buck. Just to make a buck. It’s unconscionable.

I’m getting scared just writing this, but before I run and hide under the bed I must mention “The Thing” (The original “The Thing” of the early ‘1950s). To make a buck, the producers frightened me into regression of my personal development. I had reached the age when I could stay home alone at night when my parents were out, but after seeing “The Thing” – he came from outer space -- I needed babysitters again, if not diapers.

More likely, to avoid staying home alone, I’d accompany a parent to wherever they were going. I went to “Prayer Meeting” at our church with my mother just so I wouldn’t have to stay home alone and be murdered by The Thing for my blood. Like Count Dracula, The Thing thrived on blood; human, dog, any living creature he could get his massive, ugly hands on.

And what for? So some Hollywood studio could make a buck scaring children. For that I had to sit through adult prayer meetings and listen some skinny old bald guy who looked like Ichabod Crane (don’t get me started on the Headless Horseman in the movie “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”) read the Bible’s begats? The begats! Just to make a buck. Not the begats, “The Thing.”

Oh, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m becoming unmoored. These repressed memories have got me on edge. I’d better quit while I’m still behind.

But wait! Is that “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” in the pool? Everybody out of the pool! Pronto.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

City deer hunt: a look back at the plight of the plastic deer...

Plastic Deer Threatened in City Hunt
by Jim Heffernan
(This column originally appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on Sunday, September 25, 2005 and is also reprinted in my book, Cooler Near the Lake. The column created quite a stir nationally when some took it seriously. (Click HERE) I guess this might be considered some of that "outrageous nonsense" I'm accused of writing every now and again. Enjoy the hunt.    Jim)
Here’s the latest fair and balanced news…

Homeowners who decorate their yards with life-sized plastic deer are complaining the sculptures are being damaged by people stalking real deer during Duluth’s special season for bowhunters.

“My decorative doe, Felicity, had an arrow sticking out of her hind quarter,” Orval Pussywillow of Hunter’s Park complained yesterday. “This has got to stop. We paid good money for our beautiful deer.” Pussywillow said his four plastic pink flamingos and a lawn ornament depicting the posterior of a fat woman bending over were unmolested.

Local police said they have received numerous complaints from throughout the city that plastic deer are being shot with arrows by hunters mistaking them for the real thing. One citizen, who declined to be identified “because I work with a bowhunter,” said she has outfitted her plastic deer with blaze orange vests to protect them from arrows.

Randy Waxwing, spokesman for the Lake Superior Spear, Boomerang & Bowhunters Ltd., said residents with plastic deer in their yards should remove them from now through season’s end December 31st to protect them during the municipal bowhunting season. “You can’t blame our people for shooting plastic deer; they’re so lifelike. Many of our own members have plastic deer themselves as inspiration for hunting season. Hunters love deer; that’s why we kill them.
Waxwing did point out that association members are complaining to him that their hunting arrows are being blunted by hitting plastic deer and not the soft flesh of real deer. “It’s a two-way street,” he said. “Good hunting arrows cost plenty.”

Thelma Twelvetrees of Thelma’s Yard, Garden and Southern Belle Figurine Emporium, which sells ornamental deer, said sales are down since the city bowhunting season was announced. “People don’t want to fork over good money for plastic deer only to have them shot full of arrows,” she said. It was not known how the decline in faux deer sales would affect city sales tax receipts.

Meanwhile, Msgr. Ernest X. Chasuble said religious leaders are concerned that fake donkeys in Christmas nativity scenes will be shot at by hunters when churches erect crèches on their lawns beginning around Thanksgiving. “Also wise men riding camels. What if they hit a wise man? Or the Holy Mother, for that matter?” Chasuble asked.

Concern about safety around Christmas crèches outside local churches was seconded by Worship Duluth, successor organization to the Duluth Church and Sunday School Bureau, in a news release. “The Christmas message of ‘Peace on Earth’ is diluted when you find arrows sticking in outdoor religious displays,” the news release stated. Religious leaders said either the hunt should be suspended during the holidays or characters in the displays should be adorned with blaze orange garments.

Officials also predict that ornamental reindeer in secular home displays will be affected.

Finally, Professor Michael Angelo, head of the Sculpture and Human Sexuality Department at the Arrowhead College of Carnal Knowledge, said plastic ornamental deer are an important part of American art on a par with department store mannequins. “I once saw a fake deer with a nude female mannequin astride it. Priceless,” said Angelo, 43, who is registered with the police.

Film at 10.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My violent weekend...

The opera ain’t over till the advanced interrogation ends
By Jim Heffernan

I’ve had a violent couple of weeks, aside from the violence we’ve all experienced in the news.

Mine has come in a pair of Puccini operas presented live by the Metropolitan Opera in New York and beamed to theaters around the world, including Duluth 10, on the waterfront.

People who have never seen an opera and think they’re, well, kind of snobby and boring, might change their minds watching “Tosca” and “Turandot,” the Puccini pair showing here recently.

While they are love stories, they prove once again that the road to love can be very bumpy indeed. Never bumpier than in some operas – especially these two.

Poor Floria Tosca, the title character in that one, set in Italy a couple-hundred years ago. She must endure untold indignities just to rescue her lover from what the most recent Bush administration called “enhanced interrogation” but what is known in the world of opera as “torture.” Lots of torture in the world of opera.

Tosca’s boyfriend undergoes any number of enhanced interrogation procedures, including a head-binding gadget that draws as much blood as a crown of thorns. This is before he is brought before a firing squad and shot.

“Tosca” is not for the faint-hearted. Nor is “Turandot,” the other in this pair of Metropolitan Opera screened offerings. This one is set in ancient China where nasty Princess Turandot reigns and is known for rebuffing prospective lovers by beheading them.

One of her suitors, the Prince of Persia, is quickly dispatched after failing to live up to her standards, nameless here for brevity’s sake. Wasn’t Iraq’s Saddam Hussein a lowercase prince of Persia? I believe he was before his neck was stretched. His fortunes and ill-tempered practices while he ruled would fit right in in the opera world.

In “Turandot,” adding insult to injury, the victims’ heads are put on poles for all the world to see, the ill-fated Persian prince’s the only body-less head we have seen alive one minute and dead the next. There’s more torture and threatened torture too, inflicted upon the opera’s most sympathetic character, a woman who under the pressure of her circumstances decides it’s better to kill herself with a guard’s dagger than continue. Goodbye to her.

Of course these goings-on in both operas are accompanied by some of the most glorious music in all of opera. It’s Puccini after all. “Turandot” features Luciano Pavarotti’s famous theme song, “Nessun Dorma.”

Still, despite the redeeming quality of the music, all of this torture had a familiar cast to it. Some things never change.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cooler Near the Lake: Holiday book events...

Thanks to "Reading Mom" from Minneapolis for the nice words she said about my book, Cooler Near the Lake, on
     Heffernan's sense of humor and gift with words combine to make this a great read. The book includes columns previously published in the Duluth News-Tribune over the course of this gifted writer's 34 year career. Many of them are universally laugh-out-loud hilarious, while others are touching commentary on life. There are a number of columns that provide very interesting accounts of history, including brushes with famous people and big moments in Northern Minnesota history. Although it's hard to put down once you get started, it is the kind of book you can read a chapter of when you have time, since each chapter is a separate essay. This book would make a great gift for anyone who enjoys commentary/humor type writing or for anyone with a connection to Minnesota -- especially Duluth and the North Shore. Highly recommended!

In case you've just now heard about the book, enjoyed reading it in the past and now want to give it as a Holiday gift, or just want to have an extra copy for certain rooms of your house... you have a chance to buy a specially signed copy by the author (me!) at one of these upcoming book events. Just stop by and say hi even if you're not buying a book. And, please, tell your friends and neighbors about the book and the events!

Saturday, November 28..........Northern Lights Books in Duluth's Canal Park, from 12-1 pm

Saturday, December 5............Moose Lake Area Historical Society,8th Annual Holiday Book Event
(Readings by area authors, coffee and goodies) 10 a.m. - 1 p. m.
Blacklock Gallery, 521 Folz Blvd., Moose Lake MN

Sunday, December 6...............Bookstore at Fitgers in Duluth's Fitgers Brewery Complex, from 1-2 pm

Sunday, December 6...............Spiritual Deli on 3 W Superior St., Duluth (I'll be there after 2:30 pm.) Holy Cow Press and x-Communications will have a book sale with profits going toward our local Chum program.

Saturday, December 12..........Village Bookstore in Grand Rapids, from  2-4 pm

Sunday, December 13............Barnes and Noble bookstore at Miller Hill Mall in Duluth, 2 -3 pm

Monday, November 2, 2009

Consolation prize for Green Bay loss...

By Jim Heffernan

The Green Bay Packers, having lost again to the Minnesota Vikings, led by their former quarterback, Bret Favre, on Sunday (Nov. 1), have nothing to cheer about, but there is a bright side.

Green Bay is the only National Football League (NFL) team to publicly embrace the Green Revolution; the only team to openly label itself “green” among the many teams competing in the league. For that they deserve a great big pat on the back.

There are indications that a few other teams are as environmentally conscious as the Green Bay Packers, but are hesitant to go public with it, taking more or less a “don’t ask, don’t tell” stance about how green they really are.

The Green Bay Packers have no such concerns, having labeled themselves green years and years ago, even before the Jolly Green Giant came out of the closet.

So they might lose a game or two, or more, and get beat by their arch-rivals the (Purple) Minnesota Vikings, but when they call the roll up yonder, and when global climate change finally drowns us all, history will record that Green Bay led the way to environmental consciousness in the National Football League.

Way to go guys. Compared to that distinction, winning is nothing. Let history be the judge, and your conscience be your guide.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Obama salute style said salutary...

By Jim Heffernan

The military takes its salutes seriously. True military men (and presumably women, too, but I didn’t serve directly with any) go to great lengths to perfect the salute so that it looks just right: the correct angle of the arm from the elbow to the brow, the perfect flat hand position with thumb and fingers tight and straight.

The Sunday New York Times (Nov. 1) ran a commentary by guest writer Carey Winfrey (“A Final Verdict on the Presidential Salute”) in which the writer, an ex-Marine, passed on President Obama’s salute, calling it “impeccable in every way.”

I’m glad for Obama. This might seem like a trivial thing, but people who know a little something about saluting – that’d be everyone serving or who has served in the military – notice things like the way the commander in chief’s salutes.

It’s surprising how difficult it can be to get it right. President Bill Clinton was never able to pull off snappy, admirable salutes as he alighted from his helicopter on the South Lawn, or anywhere else, for that matter.

So what? A lot of military types resented it. It helped to dilute his implied authority as commander in chief. On top of which he was a Democrat, and true military men (and presumably women, too) often are suspicious of Democrat presidents. I had voted for Clinton, but I winced every time I saw him salute knowing how our warriors would react.

I think George W. Bush’s greatest achievement as president was his salute. Like me, he’d done time in the National Guard, so there was that military background. I am a moderately good saluter. Saluting doesn’t come naturally to me but I can put on a good show. On active duty you had to salute to get paid, so you catch on fast.

But President Clinton, and now Obama, never served in the military, so saluting is bound to be more of a challenge. I’m glad Obama’s salute passes the muster of the New York Times, but we’ll have to see about the Wall Street Journal. Fox News? I don’t think so.

Here’s something I didn’t know until I read The Times commentary: President Ronald Reagan started all of this presidential saluting. Presidents before Reagan didn’t salute, just like they don’t ordinarily wear uniforms even though they are in charge of he armed forces. Bush (W.) did wear one to announce “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq in 2002. You wonder if that flight suit will find its way to the Smithsonian. Maybe after the war is over.

Reagan, if memory serves, was a pretty snappy saluter. Of course he’d served in the military during World War II – on the 20th Century Fox lot in Hollywood making training films. If you’re going to star in military training films, you’d better know how toss off an effective salute. It’s not that important for a commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States.