Open Letter Of Thanks To Sarah Day, Madison Actress Makes Smiles And Laughter

There are certainly many people in life who we cross paths with that make a strong impression and perhaps lasting memories. We might think of those encounters and even tell family or close friends of a rewarding and fleeting experience. But because in most cases we are not even aware of the name of the one who lifted the mood or brought a laugh we never get to say thanks. It might also be the case that the person who impacted our life was not close enough to offer a verbal thanks.  In my case, however, thanks to this blog space, I can offer my words about someone who simply brightened my life for several hours Sunday night.

James and I had tickets to see Sense and Sensibility at American Players Theatre in Spring Green. After a day that started cloudy and gray, sunshine and only a few puffy clouds ushered in showtime.  The book by Jane Austen came to life with fast-moving scenes enabled by seamless set changes conducted by what was assumed to be the household staff.  There has never been a performance from over the decades at APT that was not delightful. 

But this year, for me, it was far more impactful.  It was the first large public event we have attended since 2019, before the COVID pandemic. It was the performance from Sarah Day, with her sprightly and finely tuned delivery of lines in the role of the lovable Mrs. Jennings, (pictured in orange/rust-colored attire below) that made me aware, again, of why theater matters.

Photo from Liz Lauren Cap Times

During the pandemic, this home struck close to CDC guidelines, and because James works with an aging population suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia in his guardianship business, and since we had no interest in becoming infected with potentially long-term consequences, we steered away from large gatherings. But with an outdoor setting that APT has so well created over many years, and with our expectations that later in the season a larger percentage of people would be vaccinated, we opted to attend a performance. 

So, it may not be hard to understand why I was misty-eyed when Day first jauntily walked onto the stage and started her matchmaking of the unwed Dashwood daughters.  I had so missed this type of entertainment, this sense of community from both those performing on a stage and the people who watch and participate in the moods of the actors and actresses.  If theater allows us to know what it means to be human, and reflect a mirror on ourselves, then the absence of that in our lives certainly leaves an empty space. For the past few years, that part of me was inactive, but with Day’s wit and energy on stage over the course of the play, I was rejuvenated.  The whole ensemble which was most splendid was clearly part of the tonic this soul needed.

During one conversation between two daughters center stage, Day comes to the aisle where I was seated and stayed in character as she looks downwards, into the audience.  She sipped a glass of refreshment served in the play, mouthed words as if in conversation with another actor nearby her, and winces and uses her facial expressions to align with the dialogue of the women.  Not for a moment was she not in character and that just completes the professionalism and thoroughness that allows the theatre to be such a rich experience for me.

Could I be in such a great mood this Monday morning had I attended any other theatre production Sunday night?  I am sure I would be after the drought due to the pandemic and my love of theater. But the fact is it was APT and Sarah Day who were the lifters of the sails that make me write this post today. I simply need to say thanks.   

Madison City Council Correct Not To Ban Tear Gas

I was very much opposed to Madison Alderperson Juliana Bennett’s proposal to enact a ban on the Madison Police Department along with mutual aid agencies from using tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control within the city. It was a reckless and short-sighted proposal that was constructed with the aim to make for a progressive signature for an alder rather than concern about the greater needs of the city and the residents who reside here.

By the time of the city council meeting Tuesday night, a concerted effort was made to bridge a compromise so that law enforcement can still use those measures should they be required but mandates the city’s yet-to-be-hired first independent police monitor to do an after-action review of any use of tear gas. Police Chief Shon Barnes accepted the compromise and the matter passed the council 14-4.

Since I find the independent police monitor to be as needed as a third nipple I much agreed with the rationale of those who voted no on the after-action review. The Wisconsin State Journal reported “Alds. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, Charles Myadze, Sheri Carter and Tag Evers voted no. Those opposed said the police have been responsible in investigating tear gas use and that the reporting requirement was micromanaging or redundant because the independent monitor already has the capacity to do investigations.”

While police work to make sure protesters are safe when pressing their message, we should also want and expect law enforcement to be most determined to quell and stop the smashing of windows, the tearing down of statuary at the statehouse (!) and to stem the undermining of basic law and order. As such, I fully support the police using tactics that will meet the mission as needed. I wrote with much hope on August 28th on this blog that citizens should reach out and contact alders to demand a vote against the Bennett proposal. I know many people across this city did that very thing.

I am glad that pragmatism (for the most part) was the path chosen by the council on this matter. After all, the vast majority of those paying the taxes in our city have faith in the ones wearing blue and hired to do their professional jobs to keep us all safe.

Trans American Broadcasting Reunion On Madison Isthmus, 40 Years of Friendship

The annual Trans American weekend reunion was held on the Madison Isthmus. Granted, this is not the largest reunion in the state, but since we are not aware of any other broadcasting students from Wausau or former on-air talent connecting in this way we are proud to post some pics. Every third weekend in September our gathering coincides with a neighborhood festival and a small parade that passes in front of our home on Sunday. Saturday afternoon we gathered on the lawn overlooking Lake Monona, with dinner that followed. A 30-minute ‘in the studio’ podcast of our thoughts and recollections will be posted here in about a week. For now, Bruce Miller is in white, George Manesis is in black, and Gregory Humphrey is in yellow. What is most certain is that radio management changes and announcers come and go, but friendship remains. These guys have been a part of my life for 40 years. From vacations together, to weddings, to laughs, and at times tears we have been a part of each other’s lives. And it all started because we had an interest in radio.

Thanks To DDoSecrets For Alerting Madison About Former Alder Gary Halverson’s Oath Keepers’ Membership

Late Wednesday alderperson Gary Halverson finally did the right thing for his fellow alders along with the entire community by resigning from the Madison City Council.  Since it was reported earlier this month that he had been a member of the highly disreputable and dangerous Oath Keepers for about four months in 2020 there has been growing pressure for his exit from government.

When it was first reported that Halverson had ‘somehow just joined up’ with a right-wing anti-government organization because he was duped by not properly vetting it, alerted many people that his lack of candor was on full display.  No one who only has a surface awareness of the news along with the topics of the day could not be aware of the name Oath Keepers or the extremist views they hold and the threats they make on our democracy. As a neighbor remarked when this was talked about on our lawn, what does it tell us about Halverson’s intellect if he really was incapable of knowing just the rudimentary facts about the Oath Keepers?  If that is to be believed, then he was way over his head with the wide array of issues being juggled in city budget deliberations!

Halverson is not dumb, however.  He is rather quite smart.  That is why I was most concerned and truly taken aback when a non-profit operation, Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets), released a stash of information about the membership of government and military members of the Oath Keepers. With Halverson’s name listed!  This information is most beneficial as it allows further insight into the array of tenacles this far-right group has in the nation.  As we have known for many years law enforcement has been keeping their antenna tuned to the far-right based on information they gather, along with the illegal behavior they undertake, such as with the Jan. 6th insurrection.

Members of the council and others across this city have not been reticent about calling out Halverson and demanding his resignation.  That is because the vileness the Oath Keepers have loudly and openly espoused was not enough to deter a member of our city council from signing up. This blog has been continually speaking about the need to adhere to our democratic principles and foundations. What played out since 2015 when Donald Trump conned the Republican Party has been a clarion call for the rest of us who care about the country. We know anti-government extremists must be kept in check.  Furthermore, we know from just watching the headlines since January 2017 why such elements must not hold elected office as it can create a dangerous opportunity for them to use their power to advance their ideology in ways that can dramatically affect their constituents and undermine democracy.

I applaud and thank DDoSecrets for research and data that alert the citizenry to the information that we need so to do our part in helping to secure democracy.  We can not take our freedoms for granted. Founding Father John Adams comes to mind for his steely resolve about our nation and his words below make the case about the Halverson matter.

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right…and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.”

Madison had every right to know about the membership of a city alder in the Oath Keepers. Our citizens had every right to demand the resignation of someone who was in an organization that runs counter to the democratic ideals of our nation and the people.

Gregory Humphrey’s Second Book Moving Along To Completion

When people say off-the-cuff at a barbeque or dinner party, and usually after a couple of beverages, ‘I should write a book’ it sounds as if the experience will be effortless and just smooth sailing with smiles the whole way through from start to finish.  After completing my first book Walking Up The Ramp I am more than able to dispel any fanciful idea that the process is easy or not taxing on the stress level.  Meaningful, yes. Introspective, certainly. Time-consuming, absolutely. Enriching…well, check the many meanings of the word in a dictionary and one will actually fit!

As I am in the final stretch of my second book, knowing full well the lure of the summer sun and warm nights having too easily pulled me from my desk I can say the journey of writing and packaging this effort is well worth my investment of time and resolve.   But the self-imposed deadline for the publication to meet the change of seasons from summer to fall will not be met.  But I do see land ahead! Like any good journey on water, it all gets better when seagulls fly overhead, and I can say that is the case here.

As I ponder this project that started last November, I am reminded of a cartoon that sums up the book-writing experience for folks like me who do not have a New York agent.

Stay tuned for updates, the project will be worth the wait. 

Penny Mustard Furnishings’ Ads Harken To What Is Best About Radio

I very much enjoy the radio, with WGN (AM 720) in Chicago being the home spot on the dial for at least 40 years. While there have been many wonderful personalities over the years who were invited into my home or car such as Paul Harvey, Orrin Samuelson, Steve and Johnnie, and the “Girlfriends” as they made me think, laugh, or cry there have also been radio ads that linger.  Not as brain worms because they are so awful there is no way to remove them but rather because they are perfectly done, year after year after year.  Well-crafted ads that remain long after the radio is turned off due to the way they play to the strengths of the medium which benefits advertisers and listeners, alike.

The Huth Boys growing up.

Penny Mustard Furnishings radio ads are ones that I never tire of hearing, and with their newest freshly opened store located in Madison, more people will get the chance to know what I mean. The business is located in the former Ganser Company and Pier 1 Imports along the Beltline. 

The ads feature folksy humor and down-home values at times about family and the importance of being a good person.  I have, over the years, much enjoyed their ads on special days like Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day.  While the ads are clearly aimed to sell home furnishings, they also underscore what radio is best at doing.  Creating images in one’s mind and being a companion either while home chores are underway, or a car tip is in progress.  No rudeness or bombast or trash talk—just sharply written and genuinely presented radio ads that do not seek to insult but to make for a smile among listeners and, hey, let’s check out that business for our next home needs. As a former radio broadcaster, I value their style of radio ads.

I constantly applaud those who respect radio listeners and know ad buys connect best when businesses know the importance of being invited, just like one would a person at the front door, into the home. Penny Mustard Furnishings is such a business, and while I have no stake in the company I do thank them for having high standards for their ads and public relations. The type of folks it would be a pleasure to chat with over a cup of coffee.

Here Is Why Anthony Hamilton Is Worthy Of Your Vote For Dane County Sheriff

When it comes to public safety, I have continually opted for the course that best meets the needs of keeping society secure and follows the process of law and order. Even before the past 24 hours, or so, I was already a voter who was planning to cast a November vote for Anthony Hamilton as our next Dane County Sheriff. That decision was based on the clear need for more officers to be hired in the department, and what I consider a stodgy hiring strategy at a time when a public desire for safety increases.

Following news reports this week of a search warrant process that was not carried out in a fashion that we must demand from law enforcement, was just additional evidence as to why a change at the top of the Dane County Sheriff’s Department must take place at the ballot box.

Going into this election I have heard and talked with officers who have spoken about the feeling of being stretched thin with overtime and fewer fellow deputies to meet, at times, the needs of the county. That to me is the central and core issue of this race, and the topic that meets the voters at their home or their place of business.  The citizenry has a rightful expectation to know that law enforcement is staffed to meet the current array of problems that might require their involvement.

We know this summer that Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett stated the staffing situation is such that the department is short 40 deputies.  Though safety reasons were the leading cause for the closing of part of the outdated jail there was also a shortage of staff that aided in making that decision. While arguments can be made about the ways to recruit and hire new deputies, the fact there is such a shortage in the first place is enough concern to drive a voter to make a change in the leadership of the sheriff’s office.

Then the news from yesterday landed with a most embarrassing thud for the county.

Republican Dane County sheriff’s candidate and detective Anthony Hamilton has sued the Sheriff’s Office in federal court alleging that officials conspired to remove him from the SWAT team for raising concerns about a search at a hotel in March 2021 he considered illegal.

Hamilton’s removal from the SWAT team stemmed from an armed standoff at the Magnuson Grand Hotel in Madison where Hamilton and other law enforcement agents searched a hotel room, the lawsuit said. During the search, Hamilton voiced concerns that the search was probably illegal, the lawsuit said.

Sheriff’s officials later lied in their reports about the incident, with Sgt. Mark Schroeder, who participated in the search, saying that he had ordered Hamilton to obtain a warrant, according to the lawsuit.

Law enforcement at the scene first said they had received permission from the hotel’s manager to search the room because no one had been living there. In an interview on Tuesday, Hamilton said he later learned that the hotel had been renting the room off the books, which technically made the search illegal.

The reason this finds me exercised today is that over and over on this blog I have pressed how the process of governing needs to be transparent, and made clear for those who follow the proceedings, so that win or lose, all can state honestly that the rules were known and applied.  The process must not be tainted or altered to get the desired end. From the antics of my local neighborhood association to the pure lunacy of the Donald Trump White House, there is no escaping that process matters. As it was required to do so with the law enforcement matter in which Hamilton was engaged.  What we are again witnessing is a fact. When an established process is tossed aside for expediency it makes for harsh consequences.

For the record, I have not met or talked with either of the contenders for the sheriff’s office this fall.  But I am aware of the distrust that falls upon the shoulders of the men and women who wear the law enforcement uniform, and how that translates into our politics and social tensions.  Dane County simply must have a rational hiring process so a full department can be ready to serve the public, and once hired officers must go about their business of not only serving and protecting, but also burnishing a better image for the public.  I believe our sheriff’s department must do better but can only achieve what is desired with new leadership. 

A new sheriff. 

Anthony Hamilton.

Madison Police Must Have Right To Use Chemical Tactics To Stem Riots, City Council May Vote To Curb Their Use

Once again, the tail wishes to wag the dog in Madison. The latest example is a short-sighted and dangerous attempt by the City Council to limit the range of tools Madison Police have available to them in times of crisis and danger to the public.

Longtime readers know I view a legitimate protest march being vastly different from a riot.  In 2020, when national concern was registered about the death of George Floyd many local people marched and demonstrated peacefully. Madison Police used the resources of their department to make sure marches were safe by closing streets and routing traffic away from the crowds. Local police are not averse to assisting the right to free speech in the public square, in fact, they help enhance it.

But as the daylight would give way to darkness, however, the marches were taken over by a violent element that was not driven by any consideration for policy changes through a due process of governing. There was no higher calling about social justice or honoring Floyd.  Instead, the looting and mindless ransacking of businesses on State Street and around the State Capitol continued night after night.  What was as disturbing to me as the destruction itself was the attempt by some social ‘advocates’ who tried to morph the two—trying to rationalize the wanton criminal behavior as some extension of anger about policing in general.  The absurdity of such a dialogue was mind-numbing.

Trying to find kinship between a protest march and a full-blown riot is like trying to align a tomato with a suspension bridge.  It simply can not be done.  While police work to make sure protesters are safe when pressing their message, we should also want law enforcement to be most determined to quell and stop the smashing of windows, the tearing down of statuary at the statehouse (!) and to stem the undermining of basic law and order.

As such, I fully support the police using tactics that will meet the mission as needed. It then comes as no surprise that I am very much opposed to 8th District Alderperson Juliana Bennett’s proposal to enact a ban on MPD and all other mutual aid agencies using tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control.  Living on the Madison Isthmus I can attest to the great alarm homeowners and fellow residents felt as the live news reports showed the destruction occurring while we stood on our balcony and looked out towards the statehouse dome wondering what morning light would show for damage. As we know the damage was widespread and extremely costly.

The reason we should care about the allowance for such chemical tactics to stop a riot was perhaps best summed up by Bonnie Roe a local concerned citizen. “What if tear gas could not have been used by MPD to help an MFD firetruck get through an unruly crowd, during a night of civil unrest in August of 2020, to put out a fire before many gallons of gasoline were ignited, causing a massive explosion and endangering many lives?”

This resolution from Bennett was referred to Madison’s Public Safety Review Committee where on August 10th it passed on a 4-1 vote. All three of the Alders on this committee favored the ban, so there is much concern from those who favor law and order about the passage of this matter. The next city council meeting on September 20th will deal with this resolution where an expected vote will be held. The matter only requires a simple majority (11 out of 20) votes to pass.

The implications of its passage should not be lost on Madison residents.  That was spelled out by James L. Palmer, II, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. He stated, “Drastically impairing MPD’s ability to resort to de-escalation tools – especially when it has done so on a very limited basis – would be a regressive policy change that would only serve to compromise the safety of the community and the police. Furthermore, it would likely undermine the city’s ability to rely upon the mutual aid of its neighbors who are unlikely to risk these serious public safety implications

I would ask, for the sake of sanity and sound policing for the benefit of the vast majority of law-abiding in our city that you contact your alder and demand a NO vote on the resolution to undermine Madison Police.

So why do I care about this issue?  I wish to conclude this post with a personal explanation.  As a boy growing up in Waushara County, there was one thing that could be counted on each summer with certainty.  There would be at least one major thunderstorm that would be so dramatic as to produce straight-line winds that would snap large trees and rip a roof off a barn or old shed and carry it into a nearby field.  Following the weather reports on the radio and the tracking of clouds at home, we could figure out where some storm damage might be viewed.   Dad was a 40-year elected member of the Hancock Town Board and so needed to know what road cleanup was required after a storm.

I am much aware of those drives in the country as Dad assessed the storm damage. I also recall the first time I parked at a ramp following the 2020 State Street rioting. There had been scores of newspaper photos and television coverage, but seeing for myself the enormity of the damage to every single store, block after block, was hard to fathom. This past week I caved to one of my weaknesses—gyro sandwiches—and after devouring one walked State to again pass empty storefront after empty storefront.  Yes, some are the result of a pandemic.  Too many, however, are the result of a riot.  A needless series of violent and outlandish actions. Our city must have the tools at our disposal to stem riots in the future.

I again urge my readers to contact your alder and demand a NO vote on the resolution to disallow the use of tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control by Madison Police.