Week #12 — and the official arrival of spring — brought us a variety of weather. But any time we’re playing golf in March, that’s an early spring around here.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
We’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Show 3 or 4 different movies each day (one screening each) — some big names, some lesser known films or indies.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.