Doug Westendorp – visual musings

My friend Doug Westendorp is having an art sale and book launch on Saturday, April 1st. He has compiled some of the drawings he’s done over the past few months into a coloring book. He’ll also have some of his other work available.

It’s hard to describe the dream-like images in the coloring book. An odd combination of adjectives comes to mind, such as whimsical, lonely, peaceful, and upsetting. If that doesn’t make any sense, it’s because these drawings are perhaps better contemplated than discussed. Each one is a meditation, asking more questions than it answers.

Here are some examples from this series of drawings — both uncolored and colored — by Doug.

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Doug has been making art for many years, as well as teaching visual arts at the college level. He’s also a writer and a poet. You might remember him from my previous post about his son, Aaron, and the documentary film I’m making about him.  Oh, and by the way, he’s also a musician, and some of his music will be in the film.

Artists, of course, work in different ways.  Doug tends to find a theme and latch on to it for a while, until he either exhausts his energy for it or is inspired to move to something else. Since getting to know Doug over the past few years, we’ve acquired pieces from a couple of his different periods of work.

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If you’re interested in owning something beautiful, made by a local artist (who also happens to be a great guy), here’s the info for Doug’s sale next weekend.  If you’re reading this after the April 1st show, here’s Doug’s website. He’ll be glad to meet you at his studio in Minneapolis if you’d like to see more of his work.

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This cut paper design from last year hangs in our dining room.

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Still life by Doug is in the eating area of the kitchen.

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Doug with granddaughter Ramona Rae and daughter Jill at a show of his work last summer.

The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour (you don’t have to be a Lutheran to enjoy it)

I want you to let know about something pretty great that one of my friends is doing.

Although I’m not a churchgoer, several times over the past few years Karen and I have gone to a Christmas Eve service at one place or another. This winter, we decided to check out Diamond Lake Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis. It’s a nice looking building overlooking a small lake, and we drive by it all the time.

After the service, we bumped into Graydon Royce, whom I’ve known for quite a few years, mostly as a golf companion, but you might recognize as a recently retired theater critic at the Minneapolis StarTribune. After chatting for a while about his festive holiday sweater and a few other things, he suggested that we come back in a few weeks, when he would be doing his monthly radio-style show during (actually in place of) the 11:00 service.New Frontier Radio Hour program (1) Knowing of his interests and experiences in all things theatrical, it shouldn’t have surprised me that he was doing something like this — but it did surprise a bit, given that he’s in the sixth year of it, and he hadn’t mentioned it to me before. Geeze, the stuff you DON’T talk about on the golf course . . .

We took Graydon up on his invitation, and were in the audience for The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour,  “broadcasting live from the Great Fellowship Hall of New Frontier Lutheran Church, on the shores of Emerald Lake, in historic Midtown, USA” (which, honestly, looked a lot like a large, multi-purpose room at Diamond Lake Lutheran, which coincidentally also sits on the shore of a lake in Minneapolis, USA).

The “broadcast” is actually a podcast of the monthly installments of the show.  Click here to listen to past episodes, going back to the first performance in September, 2011. While there are many other talented and hardworking people from the congregation involved, both on stage and off stage, the show is Graydon’s brainchild, and he is the host, writer, and executive producer.

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“Everett Erickson” interviews Rev. Jean Sidner and her husband, Art, during the January show.

New Frontier is part radio play (think Lake Wobegon, but with actors giving voices to the characters), part music (members of the congregation + guests), part interview (a different religion or spirituality guest each month), and part sermon-like monologue (by Everett Erickson -AKA Graydon).

Graydon and his troupe of volunteer performers manage to produce a professional quality show because they have a lot of talents and skills -plus the guts to get up on the stage and do it. They’re also helped by some financial support from Thrivent Financial.

The live performance each month is a kind of a big deal.  It’s clear that Diamond Lake Lutheran’s congregation is pretty supportive of it, and I have the feeling that many of the church’s members attend both the earlier service as well as New Frontier’s 11:00 show.

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Announcer Jim Lowry (aka Eric Ringham) introduces the February show, while a host of musicians and actors await their turns at the mics.

If you want to see the show live, here’s Diamond Lake Lutheran’s website.  You have 2 more chances to attend before they break for the summer months.  The next show is on April 23 and then May 14. Get there before 11:00. Of course, you can listen to the podcasts any time and make up the visual images in your mind as you close your eyes and sit in front of your grandma’s big old RCA radio.

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Now THIS is the way to listen to The New Frontier Lutheran Radio Hour!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to take action? That is the question.

To actWe’re now beyond “To act, or not to act”. While it appears that “wait-and-see” continues as the modus operandi for most of those who voted for the person who currently holds the office of President, (although the Trumpcare proposal is causing a few cracks to appear) I think it’s safe to say that nearly all of us who voted against him have seen enough, and that there’s no more time for waiting.

Not since the Viet Nam War have the actions and words of a President produced such a polarized and angry climate.  I don’t think the degree of pissoffedness (or is it pissedoffness?) is not really measured by the public opinion polls. The latest poll has Mr. T at a 37% approval rating vs. 58% disapproval.  What I have observed is this — the 37% has been pretty quiet lately, and the 58% are mad as hell.

We are mad about this madness in Washington (and not just the White House)  and many of us want to be more involved in this fight — this “resistance”.  But we don’t really know where to direct all our new-found energy.

Karen and I were talking to someone at a coffee shop on Friday and “the situation” came up, as it often does these days. The woman we’d just met told us she was going to an event the next day, and that perhaps we might be interested as well.  It was the annual state meeting of TakeActionMinnesota.org, a political action and lobbying group that has been around for 10 years.

So we went.  It turned out to be a very good way to spend 3 hours.

I went to a breakout session on communicating with elected officials, where a large group was divided into tables of about a dozen people, each discussion facilitated by a TakeActionMN leader. Karen went to the health care session.

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My table included (L-R: John Lesch, MN State Representative, Nick Faber, St. Paul Federation of Teachers, a note-taker, and Stephanie Gasca, Minneapolis City Council candidate)

Nick Faber, Vice President of the St. Paul teachers union, led my group’s discussion. Also at my table were a candidate for Minneapolis City Council, a candidate for Mayor of St. Paul, and a State Representative.

State Representative Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, the first Somali-American elected to statewide office in the the nation addressed the larger group. After lunch, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, who recently finished second in the quest for the chair of the Democratic National Committee, mingled and chatted with anyone who was interested, and then got up and gave a rousing call-to-action speech.  I feel good about living in a city that elected both of these people — especially in these strange and turbulent times.

The energy level in the Paul & Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building was high, and the message mostly hopeful and positive.  There’s much work to be done, but it feels like a lot of us are willing to be more informed and more engaged than we have in the past. What will that be for me? I’m not entirely sure yet. It will start with sending a check to TakeAction Minnesota.  Then I will move through the menu of options for involvement and decide what other things I’m willing to do.

Let’s keep in mind that this fight is not about one person. While he’s big and and obnoxious and scary, he’s a symptom, not the disease.

I will, no doubt, continue to complain.  But I have to do more than than. We all have to do more than that. Thanks to Cathy at the coffee shop, we at least got started.

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We even had a little march through some of the streets of West St. Paul after the meeting — in support of the diverse neighborhood that will be hit hard by the current administration’s choices and policies.

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Looking through my Photo-of-the-Day choices, I realized that the theme for last week was “getting together with groups of people” — some friends, some new acquaintances, and a couple of krazy kids. I began and ended the week with new groups doing things that were (mostly) new to me — good bookends for the week.

Here are my photos for Week #11 of 2017.

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(3/12/17) John Trepp is a writer of screenplays. Maureen and John invited us to join his group on Sunday morning for a reading of one of the scripts he’s been working on.  I got to play two parts — “Old Man #2” and a juicy role called “Gardener”.  After our reading of his 100-page screenplay, we gave John feedback about his story and character development. John can be seen sitting in the lower right of this photo, listening to us read his work.

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(3/13/17) One of the great old apartment buildings along the west side of the 4800 block of Chicago Ave. So. in Minneapolis

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(3/14/17) “Ten more minutes, you two! Then you can have lunch — IF there’s any left.”

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(3/15/17) This week’s version of our  weekly Wednesday Happy Hour group.  This week we met at Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis. We’re doing our best to hold it together through the winter until our founder and fearless leader, Mary Livingston, comes back to Minnesota and brings the other snowbirds back with her.

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(3/16/17) Modern Times Cafe on 32nd and Chicago brightens up a gray winter day.

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(3/17/17) Guess which holiday? (Don’t get thrown off by the bunny sweater.)

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(3/18/17) U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (Minnesota 5th District) takes a silly group selfie with some of the attendees at the TakeAction Minnesota annual meeting in St. Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two great theaters in one week

We saw two great shows (a play and a movie) at two very different Minneapolis theaters last week —King Lear at the Guthrie and Manchester by the Sea at the Riverview.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are known as a good cities for live theater, for several reasons. There are many smaller companies around town that have managed to thrive (or at least survive), and several renovated classic old theater buildings that bring in Broadway shows and such. But the Guthrie is the big daddy – it has the name, the reputation, and the history. While some may not like the relatively new (10 years) home as much as the old one, and while some may have other reasons for staying away, the Guthrie Theater continues to be a regional — and national — force in the theater world.

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The (new) Guthrie Theater had just been built when I shot this photo (June, 2006) from under the Stone Arch Bridge. It was designed by architect Jean Nouvel to make the most of (and fit into) an industrial site amid the old flour mills on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. You can see its big, blue, protruding observation deck jutting toward the river.

This was my first King Lear, and I was enthralled by the whole production. (and the less-than-half-priced rush line tickets in the 6th row didn’t hurt.) It was a wonderful night, with the Guthrie doing what it does best.

An article in today’s paper says that attendance at the Guthrie is up this year, under the leadership of new artistic Director Joseph Haj.  But on Thursday evening, there were plenty of seats available.  So join the “Rush Club”, go on a week night, and get good seats at a deep discount.

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A bar at the Guthrie is dramatically lit — and gives a terrific views of the Mississippi River. The ghost-like projected figures of playwrights show up in unexpected places all around.

On the other hand, the Twin Cities have not been so kind to our movie theaters. St. Paul only has two operating movie houses within its city limits, and Minneapolis only has a handful. But one of them is a gem, and fortunately, not too far from home for us.

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Planning for the Riverview started a decade earlier than its late-1948 opening, but construction was delayed by WWII.

 

The Riverview Theater is a mid-century modern beauty that has managed to stay open for nearly 7 decades in a quiet neighborhood at the corner of 38th St. and 42nd Ave. South in Minneapolis. Just as with every American city, there used to be many neighborhood movie theaters, but most are gone now.

Any baby-boomer who walks through the Riverview’s lobby will feel nostalgic.  The colors, the furniture, lights, shapes, lines all remind us of what the world looked like when we were kids.

How do they do it, you ask? How have they survived when so many have failed?  A loyal following of regulars, yes.  An attention to preserving the mood and style of the time, yes. But here’s an idea for a business model for you:

  1. Show 3 or 4 different movies each day (one screening each) — some big names, some lesser known films or indies.
  2. Charge a small amount per ticket ($3.00 . . . and $2.00 for seniors!!!!!!!) and get very large crowds who buy lots of not-overpriced popcorn and other stuff. This place has a lot of seats, and they often fill most of them.

It’s one of those “so crazy it just might work” kind of plans. And it does work.

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So, with two memorable theater experiences, a visit from the grandkids, and 5 more weekdays of being old enough to not have to go to work, life was pretty good last week. Continuing my Photo-a-Day project (for 10 weeks now), here’s a snapshot from each day of the week.

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(3/5/17) Fun with static electricity

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(3/6/17) Apparently we’re not in a drought this spring, even with the lack of snow. Lake Nokomis is overflowing its banks in some places, making for some unexpected reflections (and wet shoes).

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(3/7/17) One more picture from the Riverview Theater.  Have you ever seen a cooler entrance to theater bathrooms?

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(3/8/17) Karen made these colorful ladies quite a few years ago out of scrap materials from re-siding her house. They used to be the “Swamp Girls”, living in the wetland behind her back yard.  When she sold the house two years ago, we moved to a rental house and because she wasn’t sure where we’d eventually land, she gave them to her friend Judy.  When we bought this house last spring, Judy thought they would look great in our back yard — and she was right. They are, from left to right – Kayci, Karen, and Karen’s Mom, each one holding a birdhouse or bird feeder.

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(3/9/17) The windows in the Guthrie Theater’s bridge to nowhere provide some interesting views. Glass enclosures around the openings give funhouse-style looks at the surrounding area. The upside down sign is the iconic “Gold Metal Flour” sign from the top of the grain elevator.

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(3/10/17) My neighborhood coffee shop, “Sovereign Grounds”.

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(3/11/17) Minnehaha Creek, downstream from the falls.

Dueling Jack-in-the-Boxes

Watching Vice President Pence and Speaker of the House Ryan hop up and down from their seats, smiling broadly and clapping furiously behind Mr. T as he read his speech to Congress, made me think about how this whole buffoon-as-POTUS mess we’re in is largely (“bigly”?) about them. By “them”, I mean the leaders of the Republican Party.

Sure, Democrats didn’t turn out and vote like they should have. Sure, Hillary’s baggage and Bernie’s farther-left message were unpalatable to many. Sure, Putin contributed to Hillary’s demise by spreading lies about her. Sure, DT tapped into the mad-as-hell, populist movement and got more mileage with it than anyone expected. Sure, FBI Director Comey’s bad decision-making just before election day was also part of the finish-line surprise. Sure, sure.

But it’s these fellows (Pence and Ryan) and the other elected Republicans, popping up at regular intervals, with painted-on smiles, looking like they were hypnotized and instructed to be jack-in-the-boxes every time the President uttered a secret word that are starting to irritate me the most.

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POP go the weasels.

They let this guy hijack their political party.  They looked the other way as he spoke time after time to screaming, chanting, racist, hateful crowds — encouraging  anger, accepting bigotry and inciting followers to act in repulsive and violent ways.  Well, at first they looked the other way, but now — even as he has gotten both wackier and more powerful — they unabashedly praise him.

During the early part of the campaign, Pence and Ryan, along with many other Republican leaders, did not seem to BE like DT. Neither of them really seemed to LIKE him, either. One would think he must to be personally abhorrent to many of them. So the fact that they now think that having this guy in the White House is acceptable (even popping up and applauding for him) is evidence that somewhere along the way they sold their souls in order to get some kind of personal gain in return.

Of course, the state of the union-type speeches like we saw last week are always hyper-partisan events, and of course, the party leaders always stand up and sit down in response to their President’s words. But we’ve never had a president who is this bizarre before. Somehow, this past week, the hypocrisy of these guys showing such enthusiastic support for this particular man seemed to leap from the TV screen. No, it popped from the screen.

It also makes me wonder if maybe, deep down, they’re not that different from him after all.  And that is a disheartening thought.

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Hey, nostalgia-lovers, need a break from all heavy stuff in the fake, lamestream news? Remember Readers Digest, sitting right next to your toilet, where you could read a “serious”, two (tiny) page article and then turn the page and find some third-rate humor to help you relax and do what needed to be done?

Remember a time when boys dreamed of driving race cars, when girls wanted to be princesses, when the American flag stood for something important, when winter was cold and snowy, when real men showed their love for wild animals by shooting them, when meat was a big part of everyone’s diet, when public art was not even a term yet, and when people with disabilities were either mocked or ignored?

Ah yes, the good old days — “Life in These United States”.

Here’s my version of that — a photo from each day of Week #9 of 2017.

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(2/26/17)  A race car driver and a princess take a little break from their hectic schedules to watch one (short) video about cars and another (equally short) video about a princess. (Gender bias note: 1.They were equally interested in both of the video subjects. 2. Otto sometimes enjoys wearing a dress, but Svea is far less interested in wearing traditionally male-oriented clothing.)

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(2/27/17) Ain’t that America?  I experienced visual sensory overload at SR Harris fabric warehouse in Brooklyn Park.  It’s an enormous building, consisting of several aisles like this one, packed floor-to-ceiling with deeply discounted fabrics. It was comforting that the star spangled banner yet waves o’er the land of the cheap and home of the merchandise made by the underpaid.

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(2/28/17) Usually still in the depths of snow, we ended February in Minneapolis with bike rides, golf course openings, and splashes of green.

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(3/1/17)  Hey — remember February?  Well, today was snowy and windy.  This is a look into the Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary on the north side of Lake Harriet.

Here’s more info about the Roberts Bird Sanctuary . “The Sanctuary, which includes wetlands and woods, was founded in 1936 and renamed in 1947 for Thomas Sadler Roberts (1858-1947), Minneapolis physician and self-taught ornithologist, who is considered the ‘Father of Minnesota Ornithology.’ “  Dr. Roberts became interested in birds as a teenager, and began journaling about the different types of birds he saw.  In those years, cameras were uncommon and most birdwatchers were hunters (as was he).  What I think is cool about him is that he retired from his medical practice at age 57 and became a professor of Ornithology at the University of Minnesota.  He helped found the Bell Museum of Natural History, and many of his specimens became part of the museum’s collection.

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(3/2/17)  At Roger and Cindy’s suggestion (see last week’s photos) we stopped at Hackenmueller’s Meat Market in Robbinsdale.  It’s a great, old-style meat shop that will bring back memories for anyone of a certain age.  Roger grew up nearby and remembers the sawdust floors and meaty aroma of this place from way back when. And yes, we bought meat.

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(3/3/17) These utility boxes are an example of two things,  1.) Brightly colored original art encouraged by the City of Minneapolis to cover up these kinds of ugly streetcorner structures, and 2.) Beautiful art by kids, inspired by a nearby large rabbit sculpture on Minnehaha Parkway.

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(3/4/17) This is a freeze frame from a video I shot today of Doug Westendorp and his friend Kara, performing a song that Doug wrote about his son Aaron. The song, (and hopefully more of Doug’s music) will be in the film I’m making about Aaron.   See my blog post about that project here. Doug wrote “Carin’ for Aaron” when Aaron was a baby — born with physical challenges so severe that Doug and his wife Krista had to fight 24 hours a day to just keep him alive. Aaron is now 31 years old and doing great.

The Great Non-Blizzard of 2017 in Photos

On Wednesday, various weather predictions for Friday ranged from 9 to 24 inches of snow — plus high winds. Not only did we get zero snow on Friday, but at about 3:30, the sun peeked out for a couple of minutes. I’m tempted to say that the snow was knee-deep and post photos of buried cars. But I think I’ll go the other route and declare that the local weather forecast is fake news.

In other big news from last week, the President of the United States said some things that weren’t true.

That’s America these days — global warming and a (literally) unbelievable President.

Here’s a photo from each day last week — Week #8 of 2017.

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(2/19/17)  Ice fishing in shorts appears to be part of the new world order.  But I’ll take this over going swimming in a big parka any day.

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(2/20/17)  It was a rainy, yucky day.  It was starting to get dark and I didn’t have a photo yet,  so I decided to hop in the car and see what I could find. A block and a half from my house I realized that what I really needed to do was hop out and go for a walk — maybe splash in a few puddles with my mom.  It made a yucky day feel kind of happy.

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(2/21/17)  Here’s the highlight of my week (and the reason has nothing to do with the impossibility of hitting golf balls on a driving range in Minnesota in February).  Roger Buoen was out swinging his brand new irons 3 weeks after his final chemotherapy treatment. He’s been my life coach for a few years now (a volunteer position), but he’s taken it to a whole new level with this role-model, teach-by-example thing he’s doing now.  (Note: Please don’t show this photo to any law enforcement officers, however.  You’ll notice he’s hitting off the ground ahead of the mats, in blatant violation of the posted warnings.  But he just had to see how that new 8-iron felt off the turf.)

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(2/22/17) I just love this little old bridge over the creek near my house. (12th Avenue South)

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(2/23/17)  Surprise!!! Karen’s sister LeeAnn, and husband Tony, called us from Pepito’s Restaurant a couple of blocks away and invited us to lunch.  We had no idea they were here from their new home in Florida, but what a nice surprise.  They came back for nephew Chad McNiesh’s military service retirement party.

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(2/24/17)  Minnesota IFP DocuClub founder Melody Gilbert (standing, right) is back after living in Bulgaria for several years, and we’re all thrilled about it.  She’s an accomplished documentary filmmaker who takes the time to help those of us who are learning.  This group has come a long way since I started attending almost 11 years ago.  There are some top-notch filmmakers in the group now, including Jeremy Wilker (standing, left) who is shown doing a camera demonstration.  I’ve been an infrequent attendee of DocuClub over the past few years, but this meeting was great for me — I got some honest and helpful feedback on my project, saw wonderful works-in-progress by fellow video-makers, reconnected with some old friends, and remembered why I used to like coming so much. I’m already looking forward to next month’s meeting.

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(2/25/17)  If Roger’s return to the golf course on Tuesday wasn’t enough to be grateful for, Cindy’s invitation to dinner on Saturday was the icing on that cake.  It’s been a miserable winter for Roger and a very tough one for Cindy. It was great to see them laughing, and so nice of Cindy to cook a wonderful meal for us.

 

 

 

 

My first Photo-A-Day blunder of the year

Week 7 of 2017 was a great week to be outdoors in Minnesota. The weather was crazy-warm for this time of year, and I did get out and shoot photos every day (honest!). But when I went through my week of photos this weekend, my shots from Wednesday were missing!  I mistakenly erased a memory card before uploading all the pictures.  I kicked myself for a couple of minutes and then decided to get on with my life.

However, I am still going to post 7 photos – two of them from Thursday’s visit from the grandkids. So, everything is fine, and any illusions of perfection in my posting a shot from each day have been dropped.

(I really did shoot some photos on Wednesday, though — I swear.)

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(2/12/17)  Neva scores!!! We went to see good friend Neva Kueffer (celebrating with her stick in the air) play a game in her women’s league at the Augsburg College arena. She decided to give us a thrill by flipping one past a very tough goalkeeper. Female hockey has become a big thing in this part of the country, and these women are really good.

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(2/13/17) One of our neighbors a couple of blocks away has created a whimsical contraption in their front yard.  Covered by a cute canopy and surrounded by a colorful fence, this assemblage of little houses  has doors and windows that open and close, and lights that shine — all courtesy of solar panels (and some wind assistance).  It’s an amazing, beautiful little piece of yard art, carefully designed and constructed.  I’m mesmerized every time I walk by it.  One day I’ll knock on the door and ask to meet the person who dreamed this up.

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(2/14/17) Now this is what a principal’s office should look like — no intimidating big desk, just a little round table in the center and about six comfortable chairs arranged in a circle.  That set up tells a lot about my old friend Hernan Moncada’s management style. We taught together at Windom School in Minneapolis about 10 years ago (when he was just a kid).  Señor Moncada texted recently and invited me to stop in and have coffee at his school — Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion Elementary in Eden Prairie, MN. This smart, funny, energetic, young man runs a school with a population of 800 students! I’m proud to call him my friend. I hope the staff and families know how lucky they are.

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(2/16/17) We have a recurring role-playing game at our house that was started by Otto’s sister.  It’s called “Missed our flight and have to sleep at the airport”.   I kid you not.  I don’t think she’s ever had to do that in her 4.7 years of air travel, but Otto also loves to play it  — even when his sister is not around to make the public address announcements.

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(2/16/17)  She’s got style.  Miss Svea arrived wearing an elegant black dress (open in the back), grabbed the earmuffs from the wall hook, and made a bee-line to the front hall closet to find someone’s gloves. Earrings and pearls next time?

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(2/17/17) If you don’t understand the craziness of this picture, you’ve never spent a winter in Minnesota. Today’s high temp was 63, shattering the previous record of 55.  The average high for today is 29 degrees. We have virtually no snow on the ground . . . we’re biking . . . in shorts . . . in Minneapolis . . . on February 17.  

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(2/18/17)  One of the Twin Cities’ best kept secrets is the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, just east of the behemoth shopping center modestly named “The Mall of America” and just below the bluffs from a bunch of office buildings and a Hilton Hotel.  This refuge is part of a 70-mile stretch of land and river that is under the protection of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. You can leave the Big Mall or the MSP International Airport and in 5 minutes be walking in a huge, protected natural setting.  They have a great visitors center and hiking trails down to the water level. I’ve been here several times before with students, but a lot of Twin Cities residents aren’t even aware that it’s here and worth exploring.