Archive for the ‘Montana’ Category

Posting from: Philipsburg, MT

There has been a dearth of posts, lo, these last few months, such that I deserve to be on my Blogs in Hibernation list. I have been traveling a lot, working a lot, and generally trying to spend less time “living in my head” and just “living.” It has been very enjoyable. I have been taking a lot of pictures and a little bit of video, though, and I’ve been trying to edit it all together into something presentable. Two of those efforts are ready to go, and this is the first.

This is a slideshow from a winter bonfire I attended in January near Helena:

Winter Bonfire in Montana

Photos were taken by me and E. who was nice enough to take a turn handling the camera. If you’re able to view it full screen, I think it’s really worth it. Click the button in the lower right corner with the four arrows to go to full screen. This was meant to be viewed to a particular tune I picked out for it, but I’m not willing to risk thousands of dollars in fines for the privilege of sharing music I’ve already paid for once. If I see you in person, though, and you would like to see it as it was meant to be seen, just let me know.

A friend of ours has been having all manner of trees on her property, which have died due to bark beetle infestation, cut down and stacked as firewood. This bonfire was one of many she has had to burn the limbs and pine needles left behind. Quite a beautiful sight in photos; even more amazing in person.


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Posting from: Philispburg, MT
Listening to: Gael Mead, Into the Mystic

Missoula, I love you. You know I do. But we need to talk.

That intersection where Brooks turns into Higgins? You know the one. When you’re turning left from Brooks onto Higgins at Hellgate High School, you have that faded dashed line guiding the left turners directly into a lane of oncoming traffic. Haha! You are so funny! NOT!

And when you’re unsuspectingly driving out of the parking lot of Big Dipper Ice Cream onto the unmarked one way street? Also not funny.

But most importantly, what is with your chiles rellenos? I have been to Fiesta en Jalisco and El Cazador. Both of these restaurants serve and “omelete style” chiles rellenos. What is up with that? Where do you hide the real batter-dipped, deep-fried chiles rellenos? It’s okay. You can tell me. I’m from Arizona.

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Posting from Philipsburg, MT
Listening to: Martin Sexton, Black Sheep

Last night I went to the historic Wilma Theatre in Missoula for a Martin Sexton concert. Actually, I mainly went for the opener, Chris Trapper, and to scope the place out for my ongoing plan to get Matt Nathanson to add at least one Montana stop to his next headlining tour. The Wilma would be perfect for Matt. I know this because it was perfect last night for both Chris Trapper and Martin Sexton.

To start, I got rock star parking! The public lot behind The Wilma seems to be free after 5 pm on weekdays and also on weekends. Doors were supposed to open at 7 pm so I was well beyond the pay parking period. I drove around the lot and parked here:
Tour Bus

When I was in Chicago in November, I had to park on the street because my sister’s apartment building does not have any guest parking. The first night I had to park a fair walk away, but after that I managed to come and go at the right times such that I always got to park right in front of her building. My sister brilliantly dubbed that “Rock Star Parking.” This wasn’t right in front of the theater, but given that I am parked next to an SUV hauling a trailer, and the license plates are from Massachusetts, and both of the artists of the evening hail from Massachusetts, I think it is a pretty safe bet that I am parked next to the “tour bus” for Martin Sexton or Chris Trapper or possibly both if they are carpooling. If that’s not Rock Star Parking, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, it was just a short walk from there up the stairs to street level and the doors to The Wilma. It was a lovely 65 degrees or so outside with no precipitation which made for an okay time standing in line even though the doors opened somewhat after 7 pm. Here is the lovely and historic Wilma herself.
The Wilma; Missoula, MT

A couple of folks wanting to see a movie sorted themselves out of the concert line and went indoors. Some folks in front of me walked down the street and got what appeared to be burritos to go from the Mexican place a few doors down. I wondered how they were going to finish them before we got inside. Then the line started moving.

One of the great surprises about the evening was that The Wilma treats concertgoers as customers and not as criminals. I gave one friendly person my ticket and got my hand stamped by another. That was all. No evil eye from pissed-off security people. No searching my purse or clothing. No molesting my person. I just went inside.

There I found a beautiful old theater albeit a bit in need of repair. It reminded me a bit of the Fox in Tucson except not as freshly fixed-up. (Perhaps this is what the Fox will look like a few years from now as I hear from my friend A. in Tucson that it has gone broke.) There are rows and rows of movie theater style seats with a reasonably large empty dance space up front. There is also a balcony in the back overhanging the last few rows that looked like it was also open, but I didn’t go up to check. There were two bars and a snack stand (they also show movies there), and I also saw the folks with their unfinished burritos eating them openly so I’m thinking maybe it’s okay to bring outside food in. That would be cool. I was wishing I had brought a bottle of water.

I took the aisle seat in the third row on the right side of the left section behind a woman sitting by herself. She turned around and struck up a conversation with me which kept going as her friends congregated in our section. She was a Martin Sexton fan and told me what a great time I was going to have since it was my first time hearing him at all, let alone live. Her “partner” (I assume this is gay code for spouse wherever gay marriage is not legally sanctioned) was also a Chris Trapper fan which is who I was there to see so we also chatted about that.

I have to give Martin Sexton credit for having very nice fans. In addition to being really nice before the show (I heard many other “Is this your first Martin Sexton show? You’re going to love it!” conversations around the hall), they were all really wonderful during Chris Trapper’s opening set. People were not talking and ignoring the show. They were very respectful and responsive to his audience banter and music. Except for his set being too short and not getting to hear my favorite Chris Trapper tune, Jukebox Lights, it was just about perfect. The song Starlight By Her Side pretty much made up for that one missing link. I don’t have any video from the show, but here’s another performance of it.
Chris Trapper, Starlight by Her Side

Here’s another of my favorites. It’s the official video since I can’t find a decent quality live recording. He expressed his utter hatred of his high school experience and his delight in penning this number and performing it when he was invited to play at his high school reunion. He claimed that every word in it is true. I don’t doubt him.
Chris Trapper, Wish I Was Cool

After Chris Trapper was a bit of intermission before Martin Sexton went on. Shortly before he came out, they flashed the lights and my now full little neighborhood emptied out as people filled the dance area in front of the stage. The place was not sold out, but it was reasonably full and the entire dance area was full with the overflow piling up in the aisles a little bit. Meanwhile, lots of folks in the back were enjoying the show from their seats.

I stayed where I was even though I couldn’t see much. I mean, it’s a concert so I’m really there for the music and I already got to see who I came for. In fact, I saw half of Chris Trapper’s set sitting on the floor a few feet away from him along with two other girls who had moved forward before me. I was glad I stayed where I was for Martin Sexton because the people-watching was great. For example, I have never before seen a couple dry-humping to This Little Light of Mine.

The music was also excellent. Instead of a concert, it was almost a really, really long medley. He didn’t seem to stop very often, and even when he spoke to the audience he often was singing when he did so. Even though he was just one guy with a guitar, his vocal abilities were so incredible that he often sounded like a multi-instrument combo. His yodeling sort of thing is incredible. Again, I have no recordings from this show, but here are a few of my favorite numbers.

Martin Sexton, Can’t Stop Thinking About You

Martin Sexton, Thank You, Failure

As I listened to this last night, I thought nobody should ever sing the national anthem again except this man.
Martin Sexton, Star Spangled Banner/Freedom of the Road

The description in the notes of this one on YouTube is eerily in sync with how I felt last night. It was almost like going to church without the trappings of religion. Very sacramental. And we didn’t even have Amazing Grace last night.
Martin Sexton, Black Sheep/Amazing Grace

I went a little overboard with the Sexton videos, I know. But he deserves it. I will probably post more in the near future because there is something I heard multiple times last night that none of these videos quite illustrates.

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Field Trip

A couple of weeks ago, my manfriend Kel and I took a little field trip to Helena where we visited a friend and checked out the Montana Historical Society. We got in for half price because one of the galleries was closed, and we also got a AAA discount. That is good because from what we saw and heard, it wasn’t really worth full price. Outside you can see some metal sculptures. I particularly liked the giant welded bison skull gracing the front lawn. It kind of reminded me of Arizona where cow skulls are considered western decoration.

Montana Historical Society

Montana Historical Society

Inside, we apparently went through the one open gallery backward by starting at the front of the building. It became clear as we headed in that we were supposed to start at the back and work our way forward. But by going in the wrong order, we got to see and hear the best propaganda first. Here is a nice example.


As far as propaganda that was overheard, there was a docent giving a tour to some high school kids. I don’t recall exactly what my manfriend told me she was talking about, but it apparently had something to do with bank insolvency because she assured the kids that now our money is safe and sound in banks thanks to the FDIC. Uh huh. Yeah. Sure. Right.

My manfriend also spotted historical evidence of His Holy Noodliness in a display of various brands. I think this helps establish that the Flying Spaghetti Monster was, indeed, fond of meat and was not a vegetarian.

Evidence of His Holy Noodliness

Flying Spaghetti Monster Brand

Near the end (or what should have been the beginning) of the gallery was my favorite exhibit of all. You may recall a picture I posted a while back of a buffalo jump. This gallery contained a diorama of a buffalo jump complete with hunters and buffalo. I loved the tumbling buffalo suspended in mid-air.

Buffalo Jump Diorama

Buffalo Falling in Diorama

Finally, we went upstairs where we saw Big Medicine, a rare white buffalo born in 1933 on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. According to the Montana Historical Society:

White bison are extremely rare, historically appearing only once in every five million births. To many Indian peoples such animals are sacred and represent great spiritual power. Consequently, the May 3, 1933, birth of a white buffalo calf on the National Bison Range on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation was greeted with celebration and wonder. The birth was a crowning achievement of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ efforts to recover a population of bison for their reservation. Named in recognition of the sacred power attributed to white bison, “Big Medicine” held great significance for the people of Montana, both Native American and non-Indian. For this reason, in the early 1950s the Montana Historical Society made arrangements to ensure that, upon his death, Big Medicine would be moved to the state’s museum and permanently preserved for future generations. Because he had some pigmentation – blue eyes, tan hooves, and a brown topknot – Big Medicine was a white buffalo rather than a pure albino. At his prime, he weighed 1,900 pounds, stood six feet high at the hump, and measured twelve feet%, 20from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. Although his fame spread worldwide, Big Medicine spent his entire life on the National Bison Range where he received special care that enabled him to live much longer than bison normally do. As a result, however, when he died in 1959 his hide was in poor condition, and in many places, almost hairless. Consequently, his advanced age will forever be reflected in the worn appearance of the mount.

And here is the mount:
Big Medicine

That’s all I’ve got on the Montana Historical Society except to say that they are open on Mondays which seems to be unusual for museums in southwestern Montana.

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Posting from: Missoula, MT
Listening to: LAZERWOLFS, Elemental

Very exciting! After another long spring-like stretch (at least by my Arizona standards), we got another lovely snowstorm this week. It has snowed for the last three days, and I think we got a decent 4-6 inches or so at my house.

I am told by my manfriend Kel that I should also report that I got stuck driving in said snow. My Honda Element Penny made it most of the way up a mountain to deliver a pile of lumber, but not quite. We got pulled out of a snow drift and towed the rest of the way up the hill by a Jeep. Going back down was a little slippery but otherwise no problem at all.

The big Montana news of the last few weeks was an explosion in downtown Bozeman that killed one individual and destroyed multiple buildings and businesses. The cause of the explosion is expected to be released on Friday this week.
Bozeman blast cause to be released

In other news, Montana’s Congressional delegation are supposedly outraged over the bonuses being given to AIG executives that taxpayers are bailing out at great expense.
Outrage Over AIG

Montana’s congressional delegation is joining the outrage on Capitol Hill over big bonuses at bailed out AIG.

The insurance group handed out $165-million dollars in bonuses to executives this weekend, sending shock waves through congress as the company received about $170 billion in federal funding this year. Senator Max Baucus and others want to impose heavy taxes on the bonuses to re-coup taxpayer money that helped bail out the company.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Baucus said. “It’s ludicrous, it’s an outrage. I am really mad. Montanans are really mad. I don’t know what these people are thinking.”

What an actor Max Baucus is. He ought to be nominated for an award.
Before the Fall, AIG Payouts Went to Washington

Two senators who chair committees charged with overseeing AIG and the insurance industry, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), are among the top recipients of AIG contributions. Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee and has collected more money from AIG in his congressional career than from any other company–$91,000.

Yes, yes, he’s SOOO outraged. Please. Spare me.

Finally, there has been somewhat of a brouhaha brewing in recent weeks over a column being published in the Montana Kaimin. I’ll write more about that later as it turns out to be too much to put in this little post. Here’s a hint of what it’s about, though: ESS-EEE-ECKS.

Montana Trivia
I don’t know if this is unique to Montana, but in the last week or so I was surprised to hear radio commercials from at least two fast food restaurants promoting their Lent-compatible options. One was Taco Hell and the other was a lovely little local Butte business with two restaurants called Pork Chop Johns. I never heard anything like this in Arizona. Actually, it might be unique to Butte now that I think of it because both commercials were on a Butte radio station, and I believe Butte has a fairly large proportion of Catholic residents.

Montana Band of the Week
This week I am featuring a Missoula band called LAZERWOLFS. Unfortunately, this could have been better timed on my part as they just did a big Judas Priest tribute concert a couple of weeks ago. Bad me. However, since I do know at least a couple of people who read this blog who might be interested in checking them out, here are their shows. Even though there aren’t any upcoming shows on this page at the moment, I do believe I read somewhere on Mr. LaTray’s blog that there will be more in the not-too-distant future. They also sometimes play outside of Montana so, you know, don’t think you HAVE to come to Montana. And for those of you (and I know you’re reading, too) who do not like to be in crowds of people or go to big cities, you can check out some MP3s. I always like to share the love around when a band gives newcomers a little sampling without making them shell out $10 or more just to see if they are interesting.

Montana Picture of the Week
Reflections in the Clark Fork River under the Orange Street bridge in Missoula, MT:
Under the Orange Street Bridge in Missoula

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Posting from: Missoula, MT

In the last few weeks I received a letter soliciting money for the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. The letterhead includes the emblem of the association and in big letters:

Sherriff Stephen Immenschuh
Granite County
Philipsburg, Montana 59858

The letter is signed by Mr. Immenschuh. The return address on the letter specifies Mr. Immenschuh as well.

Here is a portion of the letter:

Almost every day I witness the lawless, criminal activities of crooks, thieves, rapists, drug pushers, and murderers. Tax dollars to fight them only go so far and competition is getting stronger every day.

The Sheriffs and Peace Officers of Montana want to see tougher laws for criminals, fairer treatment to victims, longer prison sentences, mandatory life sentences and an overall improvement in our criminal justice system.

Apparently, my $20 is needed more than ever to fight the rampant scourge of lawlessness in Granite County! Booga booga!

Except this is quite simply… BULLSHIT. If Mr. Immenschuh is witnessing this scary epidemic of crime I must assume either that he isn’t spend much of his time in Granite County or else he is a big fan of Cops or Dog the Bounty Hunter or something like that.

A look at the crime [sic] statistics for Granite County, MT for 2007 reveals the following:
-0 homicides
-0 rapes
-0 robberies
-2 drug offenses, which may be as minor as mere possession and likely have nothing to do with “drug pushing”

The major crime categories in Granite County are
-71 total crimes against property in the form of larceny, vandalism, burglary, fraud, forgery, or motor vehicle theft
-17 crimes against person in the form of aggravated assault, simple assault, domestic abuse, or a non-rape sex offense (could have been anything from two minors having sex to child molestation)
-15 DUIs

In addition to the two likely victimless drug offenses already mentioned above, there were 26 more victimless “crimes” in the form of disorderly conduct and liquor law violations.

I count a total of 136 crimes for all of 2007 in Granite County, many of which are either not really crimes at all in that they do not have victims or which are not among the most serious crimes. This is hardly the picture of a crime-ridden community that the MSPOA fundraising letter sent on behalf of Mr. Immenschuh paints.

If I were Mr. Immenschuh, I would be terribly embarassed to have my name associated with a letter this ridiculous. I have no idea what the sheriff’s budget is, but if he is truly having trouble making ends meet I suggest that he save money by not enforcing ridiculous laws against peaceful people and stick to real crimes with real victims.

I think I will send a note to this effect back to the MSPOA in their postage paid envelope.

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Book Reports

Posting from: Philipsburg, MT

I used to be a voracious reader, but that trailed off down to a trickle since I graduated from college and went to work. This year, I am happy to report, I have been reading a lot again. Here are some of the books I’ve tackled in the last few months, both good and not so good.

Three Cups of TeaThree Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
This was sort of the book that broke my book fast. I picked it up because it was by a Montana author and I wanted to start familiarizing myself with the people, culture and politics of my new home state. This book was excellent. As I write this, it ranks #16 on Amazon.com’s top sellers list.

It relates the story of a man whose life was saved by the people of an impoverished Pakistani village after his failed attempt to climb K2. He vowed to return their kindness by building them a school. And after that he kept going. He has built more than 78 schools in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan with the voluntary agreement, cooperation, and help of the people of the places he builds.

This is a very inspiring story both of the power of one individual to change the world and the importance of relationships in getting things done. It provides a firsthand view of the diversity of beliefs and practices of Muslims countering the one-size-fits-all negative stereotypes that seem so common in the United States. And it shows a very viable alternative to government-sponsored violence as a method of interacting with these countries.
Verdict: Into my library.

Walking in Circles before Lying DownWalking in Circles Before Lying Down: A Novel by Merrill Markoe
I picked this novel up at Walmart. I picked it up because I am a sucker for books featuring dogs and this one had a cute dog picture on the cover. The premise of the book is that the main character’s dog- and all the dogs at the dog daycare she works at- start talking to her. Her dog Chuck gives her advice about her relationships.

I didn’t like this novel very much. It is mainly a book about people doing stupid things and making bad choices. You know it’s bad when the dogs are smarter than the people. That doesn’t interest me, inspire me, or feed my mind in any way. The only redeeming feature about this book was the dog dialogue. Markoe does a great job of writing the dog’s point of view.

The worst part about this book, however, really ticked me off. The main character’s mother comes up with a business idea to sell an “Every Holiday Tree” with sets of ornaments for a lot of different holidays other than Christmas. I mentioned this to someone and she told me that Walmart actually sells such a product. And I bought this book at Walmart. Funny that. If that is correct, I just paid to get advertised to. Not cool.

Verdict: Trade in.

Calculus WarsThe Calculus Wars: Newton, Leibniz, and the Greatest Mathematical Clash of All Time by Jason Socrates Bardi
This was the second worst of the bunch. Very disappointing. It really didn’t have to be. It was an interesting history of the dispute between Isaac Newton and Gottfreid Wilhelm Leibniz over who had an intellectual claim as far as the invention and development of calculus. These were two brilliant men whose scholarship ranged far beyond mathematics. They each developed calculus independently. Newton did so first, but failed to publish in a timely manner. Leibniz was second as far as the scholarship goes, but published first.

My first beef with this book is how the author repeatedly and dramatically refers to the dispute as “the calculus wars.” It seemed more like the 17th/18th century equivalence of office politics. Some viscious accusations and insults were exchanged. That’s pretty much it. These men were not at their finest, but it is just overdramatizing the situation to call this “the calculus wars”- especially when very little of the book was even about this particular dispute.

My second beef is with how incredibly terribly the book was edited. There were numerous typos and grammatical errors which were very distracting. The book wasn’t even spell-checked- a fact that became obvious when I ran across “sytomps” where the word “symptoms” should have appeared. Flying Titty-Fucking Spaghetti Monster! Are you fucking kidding me? And the author even thanks his editor in the acknowledgements section. How embarassing.

Those annoying features aside, the book was an interesting sort of dual biography of Newton and Leibniz. But…

Verdict: Trade in.

A War of GiftsA War of Gifts: An Ender Story by Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card lost me years ago. I found the first three books of his Ender series incredibly powerful. I enjoyed the first four books of the Alvin Maker series. Songmaster was nothing short of brilliant. I would classify that as his finest work. But the books I read after that really let me down. I eventually lost interest. It felt like he was trading on his good name and just phoning in new work.

Then last year I started seeing someone who had not read any Orson Scott Card. I loaned him Ender’s Game and then Speaker for the Dead. He told me that Ender’s Game reminded him of something he had read in a sci fi magazine when he was a kid. Yes, indeed, that was the short story version of Ender’s Game.

Anyway, although I had sworn off of Card, I was moved by this man to give it another go. As a gift he gave me this short novel. It is so short, in fact, that it is more like a long short story. But it was quite good. It was like reading the old Card again. Set in the Battle School of Ender’s Game, this novel is a beautiful story of rebellion against authority in many forms. And that rebellion comes in the form, not of violence, but simple acts of kindness. It was truly heart-warming and inspiring.

Verdict: Into my library.

Pictures from an ExpeditionPictures from an Expedition
by Diane Smith

This is another Montana book I picked up, and it is a winner of the Montana Book Award. Set in 1876, this novel is the story of a summer spent in Montana by Eleanor Peterson as a scientific illustrator documenting the findings during a fossil dig. Eleanor is accompanied on the expedition by an eccentric artist friend of hers disguised as her cousin.

In trying to sum up the plot, there’s little I can say. The book just relates the happenings of that summer as told by Eleanor many years later to a representative of the Collection Committee at the Smithsonian Institution documenting the work of Augustus, her artist friend, from that period of time. A lot happens but there isn’t much in the way of a tidily organized plot. Nonetheless, the story does not disappoint. It really brings to life the Montana setting, and the political and cultural issues of the time from the evolution/creationism conflict to the government conflicts with native Americans to the propriety of a women working in the field. It turned out to be a very engaging read.

Verdict: Into my library.

Buster Midnight's CafeBuster Midnight’s Cafe
by Sandra Dallas

This was hands-down the best of the bunch. I finished this book, and picked it back up again the next day. It was truly soul-nourishing.

Buster Midnight’s Cafe kicks off at the Jim Hill Cafe and Cigar Store in Butte, Montana probably in the early 1980s with Whippy Bird and Effa Commander being questioned by a couple of tourists about their friend from childhood and award-winning actress Marion Street who died in 1951. Whippy Bird charges Effa Commander with the task of straightening out the sensationalist claptrap written up in a book by a man named Hunter Harper by writing the true and accurate account of their friend’s life and death.

That story begins in Chapter two with Whippy Bird and Effa Commander saving the life of a child named May Anna Kovaks. From that time forward, the three were best friends. All three of their stories plus those of the men in their lives are woven together into a very believable tale. I dearly loved all of the main characters and bawled like a baby at some of the unhappy events in their lives. Definitely have Kleenex handy if you are a sap like me. More than anything this was a story about good people and lives well-lived.

Verdict: Into my library.

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