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.   

Brett Favre, Short On Character, Not The Man We Want Our Sons To Emulate

The story of Victor Hugo is well known.

In the 1840s the writer was walking about when he noticed that a thin man was being taken away by police for stealing a loaf of bread. Hugo will turn that man, who had ragged clothes and human misery all over him into a most memorable book, Les Miserables. The poor man who just wanted bread for his family can be understood. The rich man who took money needed by those in poverty can only be scorned. This week one can only ponder how Hugo would have constructed a Brett Farve story based on the news coming out of Mississippi.

Favre was always less than what his image makers wished to make him.  His years in Green Bay as quarterback for the Green Bay Packers produced enough stories about his antics and shortcomings off the field to alert anyone listening that he was just another typical sports figure, certainly not a role model. Favre, as a married man, further lowered himself with his sexting scandal and redneckish ways.

The last nail in the coffin, however, for what constitutes Favre’s lack of character can be found in text messages made public last week. His conversations with utterly disgraced Mississippi nonprofit executive Nancy New, who has pled guilty to 13 felony counts concerning $77 million in funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families which were improperly siphoned elsewhere in the Magnolia State are truly troubling.

For years Favre has simply denied he received roughly $1 million in welfare funds, the money I should not need to add which was to have been spent on folks who, oh, I don’t know, do not live in a mansion built from being an overpaid sports personality. Last week with the release of text messages we know Favre was not telling the truth. There is no doubt whatsoever that in 2017 Favre was most aware that monies he had no right to have, or use were being improperly channeled for his whims.

The reason this matter lands on CP is my concern about the lack of real heroes when it comes to the sporting world.  Since so much of our culture surrounds sports it seems we should have a bevy of men and women who today’s youth should be able to look up to and truly admire.  But that is not the case. As I read the accounts of Farve it struck me again how no parent would wish their son to emulate him.  I take no glee in that conclusion, but the facts are clear.

There is an old song recorded by Bill Anderson which sums up this mess with unseemly sports figures and our nation’s youth. Where Have All Our Heroes Gone has a few lines that make my point.

This country needs a lotta things today friends
But it doesn’t need any one thing anymore than it needs some real heroes

Men who know what it means to be looked up to by a griny faced kid
Men who want to sign autograph books and not deal under the table
Men who are willing to play the game with the people who made them heroes
Men who don’t mind putting on a white hat and saying thank you and please

I wish I knew more men that I’d be proud of for my son to look up to and say
Daddy when I grow up I want to be just-like-him (Where have all our heroes gone?)

Brett Farve should be asked that question in his next interview.

Good Sportsmanship Should Not Be In Short Supply For Adult Americans

I read in the Monday newspaper that a quarterback was roundly and soundly booed as he made his entrance onto a football field this week.  I generally do not opine on sports and have no thoughts whatsoever on the game between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. Rather why I post today is what happened when the former Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson took the field. It was then that a large portion of the audience displayed their sharp disapproval of the player.

As I quickly read the other paragraphs, I learned the guy they were trying to shame had been very important to the team, so much so that it was during his contractual period with the team they garnered their only Super Bowl success.  There was a rather messy, it seems, off-season trade of his role to the Broncos.

Hence the booing?

I well understand decorum and manners in much of the nation have been packed in a box and placed in the upper reaches of the garage.  People know where they are, but seldom wish to revisit the reasons they learned about them in the first place.  Additionally, there is no longer any reluctance to show off boorish behavior even in the most public of places, even with live television noting all that occurs.

With the huge amount of taxpayer money that has been used for school sports programs, both at the public and college level, and not only for the aim to impart physical education but also to instill a firm grasp of good sportsmanship, we still somehow wind up with the outcome in Seattle. I strongly suggest that taxpayer money has not been used wisely when we continue to witness bad form when it comes to sporting contests.

I can understand the urge to whoop and holler for a team touchdown or growl when a mistake is made on the field, but to act out in a truly low-brow form for someone who just walks out onto the field is so tacky it demands a post on a site that mostly dismisses sports.

Television Shaped The Nation, Streaming Services Lack National Commonality

Sunday the New York Times published several special sections looking ahead to the arts and leisure aspects of life for the months ahead. From movies to the theatre, and TV, too. Which made me think about something. We know that in the years when I was a kid (probably for you, too) the three main networks aired new shows or brought back fresh episodes of continuing series after Labor Day. That model in many ways is not the norm as there is a frenetic push by streaming services to broaden their audience and steer viewers at home away from the main networks. The data shows that streaming services are making great inroads into audience share. And while there are truly wonderfully written, acted, and produced shows on such services there is one larger problem we may not have considered. One commonality as a nation when I was a kid was that ‘we’ sat down and watched Mash or Roots or (pick one) and were able to have a conversation about it on the bus the next day, at the office lunches, or over a beer after work. That connection is long gone as television has altered how we view programming. I believe that has impacted our nation negatively as it is one less thing to be cemented together about, and that does concern me.

I write this as television has made a positive impact on the real America we live in by being a mirror on society. From Archie Bunker showcasing how bigotry actually looks and sounds to “Hawkeye” Pierce bringing the humanity and angst of men and women near the war front into our homes in a way we could relate to and learn from at the same time. Soap gave America its first gay character but Will and Grace allowed for a sweeping acceptance in the nation. None of these are small things in the social development of this land.

As it turned out television was clearly one of the most influential forces in changing Americans’ own definitions and perspectives of what society can look like, and should look like while also better defining the wide use of the word family. Television sets were in the homes of liberals and conservatives alike, and slowly over time, the family sitcoms that Americans watched for decades actually helped in their own way to remake and refashion the traditional American family into the ones we see in our communities. That is no small feat.

So when we lose the television experience as a commonality in the nation to mold and reshape views and outlooks I contend we have lost a proven tool to link us as people and lift us to a better place to live.

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.

Dane County Fairgrounds Dark At 9 P.M. With Clear Skies

Friday night was a perfect example of summer.  At 9 P.M. it was 76 degrees, winds were calm, and the sky was mostly clear.  It is the weekend of the Dane County Fair.  Teenage couples should have been planning a few trips around the top of the Ferris Wheel, and delighted youngsters ready to show off a prized item in the crafts or animal barn to grandparents who surely would then see the wisdom of buying some cotton candy for a job well done.

But as I drove along Rimrock Road the lights of the rides were off, the cars in the massive parking area were mostly cleared out, there were no sounds of laughter and light-heartedness, and no carnival scents of corn dogs hung in the air.

It was truly disheartening to see what the lowest common denominators in our area achieved.

Last year at the fair—and on a Friday night–about 100 youth brawled in the parking lot that required deputies to step in and respond. It was so out-of-hand that Town of Madison police was called in for assistance. Multiple physical and verbal altercations started between a crowd of minors who gathered in the parking lot. By 9:30 P.M. deputies and fair security began to break up a large crowd of more than 50 people.

The outrageous behavior forced fair officials last year to move up its closing time for its last two nights and mandated minors be accompanied by adults.

That is where we still stand in 2022.

It is pathetic that those with no goals in life other than creating mayhem can throw one of the great traditional events of summer almost out of existence.  There is so much revenue lost to vendors and those who work at the fairs.  It truly hurt inside to see the dark quiet on a Friday night at the fairgrounds.

I grew up in rural Wisconsin where it was a real treat to walk the midway as a boy with the dazzling, flickering, and beckoning lights. Life was not always big and brassy, so when the fair arrived it was truly a big deal. You just always prayed for no rain that weekend! The Saturday night grandstand show would always feature some country artist.  We would meet every year some extended family and it was an event all in its own way in the bleachers. 

Corny?  No. Just living life.  And we did year after year.

When I became an uncle and my small nephews and nieces were not sure about the Scrambler and Tilt-a-Whirl, and some of the adults were not wanting to get light-headed, I was the one who made sure there were fair memories made for a lifetime.

So, yeah, it ticks me off to know that Madison and Dane County kids who would enjoy some of their own traditions and excitements at the fair as the sun sets and the glow of the midway takes over are denied that pleasure due to losers who had to brawl last year.  And did so to such an extent the impact has lasted for a year.

The list of the lowest common denominators among us seems to grow each year. Add those who turned the county fair into a darkened parking lot at 9 P.M. on a grand summer night in Madison.

Toto, Where Have We Landed?

I grew up in a rural Wisconsin home with rather firm codes of how to live life. Not old-fashioned as much as one where values were taken seriously. Not just talked about, but lived.

It was frowned upon to cheat on your wife; straying from marriage vows was not looked at as being manly. It was not so much a religious view, but rather one about character, or the lack thereof. Fathers imparted, through their actions, lessons for boys to learn and live as they, too, came of age.

So today, I had reason to think about Danielle Mitterrand who invited her husband’s mistress, Anne Pingeot, and their 21-year-old daughter Mazarine, to the funeral service for former French President François Mitterrand. I recall that news story from many years back and can still recall the oddness of how it landed when first hearing it. Who lives that way? Or accepts living that way?

This all comes to mind as Donald Trump took his third wife to the funeral for his first wife. I felt sad for the grown children who lost their mother but also who had lost years ago that sense of what a real home and stability and a healthy family unit look and feel like. Today the third wife must have also felt like, well, just another spoke in the life and times of the troubled rich. After all, she too, is just a spoke in that family which all spins around Donald.

It just is hard for me to even know what type of ‘family’ dynamics are at play where something like that which played out today is considered normal, or dare I say, acceptable. My perspective of which I write is not political, but rather just the feelings about where I think the guardrails on society should be placed. We can see what does happen when those constraints are not acknowledged.

I have written often on this blog about the need for good parenting and proper role models. That need continues.

Congress Must Codify Same-Sex Marriage, Will GOP Vote For Freedom And Liberty?

Given the ideological ruling from the United States Supreme Court this year, which overturned a 50-year precedent about the right of women to make their own reproductive health care decisions, which also struck at the heart of privacy as an unenumerated right, comes the need to codify same-sex marriage in our statutes.

This week the House of Representatives will vote on the matter, and as news reports questioned this morning, how will the GOP whips deal with the matter among their members?  Can the GOP actually try to gin up opposition to the effort at codifying this fundamental right into law?

With conservatives already seen to be in the extreme seating section of our society, and the majority of the nation reeling from the abortion ruling, will there be an attempt by the GOP to further their distrust among suburban voters and moderates in the nation? Will they provide another log to the culture wars so to play to the angry base of the party, at the expense of their long-term goals?

The reason to have deep concern about this matter rests with the words and actions of the justices, themselves.  Several told the judiciary committee, during their hearings as nominees, of their appreciation for precedent. They convinced enough senators they were sincere. The explosion of the social fabric of the nation, and the threats of more to follow underscore their lack of honesty, regard for the Court, and the laws of the nation.

When they blew up Roe v. Wade it was the words of Justice Clarence Thomas that caught equal attention as the abortion decision, itself. He wrote in a separate opinion that the legal rationale for the decision to overrule the abortion decision could be applied to reconsider other recent landmark cases—including same-sex marriage.

It is truly reprehensible to even need to consider at the margins the loss of rights that a conservative majority on this court might unleash upon the nation concerning same-sex marriage. 

There are hundreds of thousands of couples who have gotten married, adopted children, formed businesses, engaged in legal contracts, and live life in this nation like any other married couple.  We cannot, will not, stand silent knowing, due to presidents who could not muster a mere majority vote from the electorate but still were able to plant jurists on the court, that our fundamental rights can now be exploded and destroyed.

To have anyone tell me that my marriage is not valid, or threatened in any way, or not protected under the laws of this nation is beyond the pale.  That is a line that must not be crossed. 

I have often commented on this blog about sending a positive and reaffirming message to young people who are gay and live in rural and isolated areas.  I grew up in such a place and know the need to have advocates who are fighting in the nation for a better and more just society. I have been a constant voice for gay rights over the decades, and in so doing, trust that it will aid some other young person in this state or around the nation. 

Our nation must not take any action that sends a message to gay youth that their lives do not matter, their individual sexual orientation less important than any other. If conservative Republicans turn their back on freedom and liberty in the congress this week, as it pertains to gay men and women in this nation, then the midterms will be a pitched battle. 

As for me, I walk my talk, and would encourage congress to protect the marriage of Thomas, a black man who married a white woman. As such I would ask that the congress pass legislation to codify Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision legalizing interracial marriage, a topic I need to note the conservative justice did not opine about in his abortion opinion.