Some day I’ll get back to blogging again

Back in September, I got a wonderful opportunity to do a weekly photo-based “blog” for MinnPost called View Finder. It’s been great for me. I love taking pictures and giving myself little assignments. Some weeks have been easier than others. Some groups of photos have been better than others, but I like the experience and the opportunity to show my photos. But that project has been kind of draining my blogging energy.

I miss writing about stuff. When I started this blog almost two years ago, I didn’t realize that I would enjoy writing or be any good at it. Writing about whatever interested me — coupled with a few photos — made me more thoughtful and forced me to take time to organize and package my thinking. I’ve gotten away from that. I need to get back to it soon — not because anyone else needs to read it, but because I need to write it.

My last two blog posts have basically been promotions for my first 10 MinnPost View Finders. I’ve now done 18 weeks of it. So continuing my tradition of self aggrandizement, here are my 8 most recent View Finders with links to the MinnPost page where they are found. You can also find all my View Finders on my personal archive page on my See to Sea Productions website.

I hope that I’ll soon have something else to say.


Almost Winter on the North Shore
December 1, 2011

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Starbase Minnesota
December 8, 2011

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Local filmmaker making a documentary about light rail construction
December 15, 2011

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North Mississippi Regional Park is an undiscovered urban gem
December 23, 2011

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Como Park in the winter
January 5, 2012

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Warm Minnesota winter
January 12, 2012

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Martin Luther King Day events in the Twin Cities
January 19, 2012

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U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis
January 26, 2012

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5 More views found

This is another blog post about the other blog posts I’ve been doing for MinnPost, called “ViewFinder”. Maybe it’s a little like looking into the mirror at the barbershop that is reflecting the mirror on the opposite wall, where you see yourself repeated in diminishing size off into infinity. But I like showing the various things I’m working on in different ways to different audiences. Call it shameless cross-self-promotion if you wish.

I’ve done the weekly ViewFinder blog for 10 weeks. It’s a photo-driven entity, but I do some writing as well, mainly to introduce the photos. In my newest post, which is running in MinnPost today, I’ve also added a short video.

Here are links to my 5 most recent ViewFinder posts. If you’d like an easy way to find the first 5 I did, you can go to my previous post on this site.

The Big Gay Race
October 20, 2011

OccupyMN Wake for the Middle Class
October 27, 2011

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
November 3, 2011

Big Water Film Festival
November 10, 2011

Lustron Houses on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis
November 17, 2011

Finding a view

A couple of months ago, the editors at MinnPost asked me if I’d be interested in doing a weekly blog for them. They suggested a photo-based format that would feature a variety of subjects from week to week — events, places, people — anything that I find visually interesting. I thought about it . . . for about a second . . . and then jumped at the chance. It was a generous offer and an amazing opportunity to let me give myself a weekly photo assignment and have a forum for sharing it.

This week I posted my fifth “View Finder” piece, a group of pictures about the section of the Mississippi River that flows between Minneapolis and St. Paul south of St. Anthony Falls. The fall colors had peaked and were beginning to fade.

Here are my first 5 View Finder posts. Just click the blue link to go to the MinnPost page.

Monarch Butterfly Festival at Lake Nokomis
September 15, 2011

My love affair with Keller Golf Course
September 22, 2011

Revisiting Highway 61
September 29. 2011

Twin Cities Marathon
October 7, 2011

Exploring the Mississippi River Gorge
October 13, 2011

Severed roots: Visiting a past I never had

I made my first visit to the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota this summer.

It was about time, since I’m an enrolled member there.

Why I’d never been there before is a long story. I’ll write more about it in a future post, but let’s just say that the way that American Indian culture fizzled and pretty much died in my family through my grandparents’ and my mother’s generations is not unique. The more I’m around other people of Native American heritage, the more I realize that everybody’s doing a certain amount of learning — some were exposed to more of the culture as a child and some are more like me. American society did it’s best to squash out native people and their culture — both literally and figuratively — and it’s actually pretty amazing how much has survived.

I’ve been wanting to go up to White Earth for a long time. About four years ago, I started thinking about making a documentary film about “my reservation”. But I didn’t want to just go there and start shooting video before I had an idea of what I was trying to do, so I kept putting it off.

This summer, MinnPost, the online news site where I do freelance video and writing, provided me a great opportunity (nudge, perhaps?) to finally go. I’m part of a project called Rural Minnesota: A Generation at the Crossroads. MinnPost received a grant from the Bremer Foundation to profile young people in small towns and rural areas of Minnesota. We’ve been doing groups of reports around themes, and the summer cluster of reports was about Native American youth.

I spent two days at the White Earth Pow Wow in June and ended up with four videos, featuring nine young people. They ran last week in MinnPost along with another piece I did about a Dakota man in southern Minnesota. Here’s a link to all of those videos.

(all photos by Steve Date)

I’ve been to few pow wows over the years, but always only for an hour or two. Hanging out for a couple of days, walking around, talking to people, feeling the drum beat and the rhythm of the days gave me a whole new appreciation for it. I started to feel a little more like I was in the middle of it, a little less like an outsider looking in.

I find it difficult to shoot both video and still photos at the same event. When you’re doing one, you feel like you should be doing the other. Since this was mainly a video assignment, I didn’t take as many stills as I would have liked. But I’ve put some in a Flickr set. You can view those photos here.



A reservation is a complex place. There are many story lines and some of them are not easy to understand or to tell. It took me 58 years to get there, but now I want to do a film about this place more than ever.

Stay tuned.

MinnPost Minnesota Rural Youth Project

I do occasional video reports for MinnPost.com, an online news website here in the Twin Cities. This year MinnPost received a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation to do reporting about young people in small towns and rural areas of Minnesota.

Rural Minnesota: A Generation at the Crossroads is being structured in 6 parts. Former Minneapolis StarTribune reporter Sharon Schmickle is writing stories for each section. Crowd-sourcing expert Jeff Severns Guntzel is working with groups of young people do do reports. He’s also using Social media such as Facebook and Twitter to keep an ongoing dialogue going throughout the year.

Welcome, Minnesota (pop. 721) is one of the towns I visited for the MinnPost Minnesota Rural Youth Project (photo by Steve Date)

I wasn’t available to be part of the first group of reports in April, but I made two videos that ran in MinnPost this week. Each group of reports has a theme. The second go-round was about technology and connectivity.

One video features Jayden Grupe, a 25-year old business executive in the small town of Welcome, Minnesota, near the Iowa border. You can see that video here.

Jayden Grupe is the Operations Manager for Easy Energy Systems, which manufactures modular ethanol-making systems (photo by Steve Date)

The second video is about four high-school student who attended the state FFA convention at the University of Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. Click here to see that video.

18-year old Jaclyn Dingels from Redwood Falls raises ewes. Jaclyn is one of the subjects of my FFA video. (photo courtesy of Jaclyn Dingels)

If you know of a young person (14-25 years old) living in a small town or rural area of Minnesota who might be a good subject for a future report, please let me know. We have four more rounds of reports this year and we’d like to feature young people from all over the state of Minnesota.

You can email me at steven.date@yahoo.com

Touch ’em all, Steve Berg!


Steve Berg has written a wonderful book chronicling the planning, design, construction and opening of Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins. Nobody is better qualified to do this book than he. Throughout his days with the Minneapolis StarTribune, first as a reporter, then as an editorial writer and now writing for MinnPost.com, Steve has been a steadfast proponent of smart development in Minneapolis and of this stadium. At a party for him this evening, I learned that over the years, he wrote 125 columns in favor of a downtown baseball park.

Tonight’s book-signing event in the Kirby Puckett Atrium at Target Field was very nice. A lot of Steve’s friends and fans of the ballpark stopped by to congratulate him and buy a book or two. Steve’s family spoke humorously and lovingly of him. Twins President Dave St. Peter talked about Steve’s qualifications and how happy he and the Twins organization are with the final product.

Steve signs a book for Bob Jansen, an old friend from his StarTribune days. Behind Bob are Debbie Jansen and Steve's daughter Hannah.


A good turnout for Steve's book-signing

As everyone who has visited Target Field knows, it’s a beautiful place. It’s already begun to transform that part of downtown Minneapolis and will continue to do so. Steve’s son Alex, who has lived elsewhere for the past decade or so, talked about how whenever he comes home, there’s something new in town to be proud of — the light rail line, the Guthrie Theater, the Walker Art Center, etc. . . . . and now this very cool ballpark, owed in a significant part to his Dad’s efforts.

The ballpark looks great even when it's empty.

Thank you Steve, for writing this book and for doing all that you have done over the years to help make Minneapolis the great city it is. I’m proud to call you my friend.

A ghostly image of Kirby Puckett hovers over the bar and the atrium that bears his name. It's a beautiful space.

Buy Steve Berg’s book about this place!

My News (half) Hour with Jim Lehrer

I’d been kind of nervous all last week in anticipation of my opportunity to interview Jim Lehrer of the PBS News Hour. Thanks to Paul Nagel and Rich Cornell (see my April 18 entry), I had a chance to meet him at his hotel in downtown Minneapolis. He was in town as part of his current cross-country tour.

Jim Lehrer (photo by Steve Date)

Rich is making a documentary about Paul Nagel and Lehrer is Paul’s friend. Rich wanted to get him into the film, but he was going to be in Europe this weekend when Mr. Lehrer would be in town. Rich asked me if I would interview him for the film and I jumped at the chance. I told MinnPost about what I was doing and they said they’d love to get something, too.

So I was feeling some pressure. Me with my limited experience, marginal camera and mic, no lighting — not to mention my generally bumbling ways — interviewing a broadcast news icon. The man has moderated 11 presidential debates for God sake!

I met Paul at his apartment and we walked the 5 or 6 blocks down the Nicollet Mall together to meet Lehrer at his hotel. I had a 30 minute, 3:00 appointment — they squeezed me in between a radio interview and a speech at the University of Minnesota Friends of the Library meeting at Coffman Union. Mr. Lehrer arrived in the lobby at about 2:50. He gave me a big smile as we shook hands and said to me, “I know who you are, but who’s this guy?” (pointing to Paul). He then asked if he could have a couple of minutes to run up to his room because he had spilled something on his shirt. I immediately liked him.

Paul Nagel and Jim Lehrer share a laugh at a reception for the University of Minnesota Friends of the Libraries dinner at Coffman Memorial Union. (photo by Steve Date)

The manager of the Marquette Hotel was kind enough to let us use an area of the bar to tape the interview. Being the newsman and orator he is, Mr. Lehrer did wonderful, effortless monologues about Paul Nagel, the news business, moderating presidential debates and his upcoming visit (today) to the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing, Minnesota. He was just as honest, eloquent, and gracious as the the man we’ve seen on PBS since the ’70s. We managed to chit chat a little about our common interest in the state of West Virginia and I (presumptuously) gave him a copy of my movie, “Welcome to Coalwood”. He told me that I was way ahead of most first-time writers and filmmakers because I had actually finished something.

I then went over to the reception at the University of Minnesota to get a few still photos and shoot a little video of both of them in action with the crowd. All in all, it was an exhilarating and exhausting day. What a thrill! I’ll never forget it.

Jim Lehrer talks with some of the patrons at the Friends of the Libraries reception. (photo by Steve Date)


Paul Nagel and Jim Lehrer (photo by Steve Date)

Here’s my two-part interview with Jim Lehrer for MinnPost.