Thursday, July 06, 2017

Motown DVD, Gene Wilder, 4th July, Gilda

First Friday July 4 @ Maxine's in St. Paul
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Young African American musicians are united with their roots in Motown R&B in the wonderful documentary about the Funk Brothers backup band, “Standing in the Shadows of Love.”  In DTS, this is a real treat.
Some of the artists include Joan Osborne, Bootsy Collins, Chaka Khan and Montell Jordan with the legendary Martha Reeves providing a historical perspective.  It’s available on DVD and D-VHS from Artisan.  Like a rich desert, you can’t say no to this treat. 
GENE WILDER
My congregation asked me to do 45 minutes standup on Gene Wilder, but without an audio video presentation this would have been short and deadly.  So I bowed out.  To get Gene, you need  to see a scene with his blanket in “The Producers” or his summation on the ineptitude of adults in “Willy Wonka.”  
I lack skills to put together an audio video presentation with film clips.  I am sure there is an A&E Bio on Wilder worth a view. 
ALL ABOUT GILDA
Film noir historian Eddie Muller makes an interesting observation about the two male characters in the classic 1946 film “Gilda.”  So there may not be a femme fatale in what is commonly referred to as a film noir.  Check out the Criterion DVD interviews on “Gilda.”
4TH JULY

Bocce ball and root beer floats were the headliners Tuesday at the First Friday group picnic hosted by Maxine in suburban St. Paul.  I didn’t want to risk injuring anyone including myself by throwing bocce balls, a Minnesota tradition.  This BB@ is a tradition with Al, the hamburger chef.  Jesse and Sue were back from Arizona and Carol Berg continues to post on Facebook.

MY URBAN AFFAIRS COURSE

Race and Real Estate offered this summer for University of Minnesota OLLI scholars is the class I wish was offered in 1969 when I was a graduate student at the U of M.  I could have written about urban renewal in terms of racial discrimination and historic preservation in my star paper.
Dr. Brittany Lewis of the UM Center for Urban Affairs Thursday (July 6) drew a distinction between gentrification (bad) and revitalization (good.)  She also dispelled popular notions about “white proximity” as a model for community development.  
Shrinking availability for affordable housing for people of color is the issue I hope to pursue with the Bloomington Coalition on Affordable Housing.
Look for a Star Tribune feature this week byline Randy Furst on the U of M mapping prejudice project.
Derek Thompson has written in The Atlantic magazine that “ the non-white population of the Twin Cities has grown to 20 percent. Affordable housing developments are concentrated in only a few pockets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, creating the ghettos that mid-20th century policies avoided so well. If growing racial inequalities are not addressed, Minneapolis could find itself as one of the nation’s poorest cities when it comes to racial politics and urban decline.
Lewis recommended the book, “How to Kill a City.”
More from Thompson:  “The Minnesota state legislature passed a law requiring all of the region’s local governments—in Minneapolis and St. Paul and throughout their ring of suburbs—to contribute almost half of the growth in their commercial tax revenues to a regional pool, from which the money would be distributed to tax-poor areas. Today, business taxes are used to enrich some of the region’s poorest communities.
Soon after publication of Thompson’s article, responses began appearing, challenging his evidence and arguing that Minneapolis’s success is not shared with its residents of color. A recent study by WalletHub, a personal-finance site, found that Minnesota has the largest racial poverty gap in the nation. Black residents in the Twin Cities live below the poverty line at a rate three times greater than that of white residents. Banks in the Twin Cities have been found to be nearly four times more likely to give high-income black residents subprime loans than their poor white counterparts. Minnesota consistently earns top national rankings for its students’ reading, math, and college-entrance exam scores, but it is one of the worst states in the nation for non-white students. While the studies are of the worst states in the nation for non-white students. While the studies are fresh, the Twin Cities’ communities of color—where most of Minnesota’s non-white population resides—have known and lived with these disparities for much longer.

Today, the non-white population of the Twin Cities has grown to 20 percent. Affordable housing developments are concentrated in only a few pockets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, creating the ghettos that mid-20th century policies avoided so well. If growing racial inequalities are not addressed, Minneapolis could find itself as one of the nation’s poorest cities when it comes to racial politics and urban decline.

Monday, June 26, 2017

PRIDE EVENT, PIRATES OF PENZANCE

Frederic & Mabel, Pirates of Penzance 6/24/17
PENZANCE AT PRIDE WEEKEND
On a river island near downtown St. Paul Saturday the GLBT One Voice Mixed Chorus performed the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Pirates of Penzance” in a gender-bending fashion.  A rain storm preceding the play didn’t dampen our spirits.  

Given the technical limitations of performing outdoors on a stage, Penzance was a delightful event; one of the most memorable of the summer.  The temp was in the low 60s; very unusual late June Day.

A giant chorus backed up the principal singers in Saturday’s Penzance performance on the Mississippi River, St. Paul.  This is the realization of the urban river as an attractive recreational resource, an idea being pursued by Boise City when I was a reporter there in the mid to late Sixties.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

3 For the Show, Shining, Teacher's Pet

“Three for the Show” (1955) is one of the best and sexiest of the 50s musicals.  Betty Grable, Jack Lemmon and Gower Champion are super.  I love the Swan Lake ballet with Marge Champion and the tropical/congo number is quite memorable.  I had my doubts about a Columbia musical but this one was worth the 15 cents at Goodwill I spent and even more!
Meanwhile, I bought a D Theater D VHS which (like advertised) won’t play on my VCR.  This is a totally phantom system.  What a discovery!

THE SHINING
Before they moved into the haunted hotel, Jack and Shelley were inadequate parents.  In the opening scene, the kid is engulfed in smoke from Shelley’s cigarette and soon we learn that Jack, when not working on his novel, is a drunken abuser.
So when all hell breaks loose in the Colorado mountains resort hotel, we don’t have much sympathy for the hapless couple.
Director Stanley Kubrick borrowed generously from wide angle techniques Gregg Toland used in RKO’s “Citizen Cane” so that everything is in focus in the long shots down the endless hallways to hell.
Reviews are dismissive of “The Shining” in Halliwell’s book, but audiences ate it up in 1980.  “Here’s Johnny!” 

GAY PRIDE 2017
Appropriate for the Gay Pride celebration underway today, I am reading Clive Jone’s autobiography, “When We Rise” where we learn how he rose from street hustler to a resourceful leader in the 1970s Gay Rights Movement.  
For those of us who didn’t live in California in the Seventies, there’s more than we need to know about local political figures in this book.  Jones can thank Milk for pressuring him to stay in college and get a degree.  He later achieved political prominence as an aide to a Democrat legislative leader.
Jones’ book would have benefited from economical editing.  The title is the basis for the ABC documentary which aired in February.  

JOURNALISM 101
When I was a teen watching “Teacher’s Pet” at Spokane’s Fox Theater with my friend Paul, little did I know in 1958 that I would pursue a journalism career.  Professional virgin Doris Day portrays the professor who uses the same overhead projector to critique students’ news writing that my instructor used in Journalism 101.  Gig Young is a college psychology professor who can’t hold his liquor.
Writers Fay and Michael Kanin crafted an insightful exposition on the importance of a college education for aspiring journalists.  It’s the “old pro versus the egghead” story and the later prevails.  The romance between Day and Clark Gable as the city editor is curious but then maybe Gable still had some fans from his Rhett Butler days 18 years earlier.

“Teacher’s Pet” is remembered for Mamie Van Doren’s torrid bump and grind in “Girl Who Invented Rock n’ Roll.”  Ms. Van Doren later got a college teaching appointment in Allied Artists’ comedy “Sex Kittens Go to College,” where a computer selects a stripper to head the mathematics department at a small college.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Monday, June 05, 2017

Sen. Franken, Poverty "Report"

Sen. Al Franken doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  Instead he writes about simpletons like senators Ted Cruz and Tom Corbin and former senator Jeff Sessions in his new book “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.”  
Frankekn  was interview by Prof. Lady Jacobs Friday night at the Ted Mann Theater on the Minneapolis campus.  “Cruz is the guy who microwaves fish,” Franken said about the senator who annoys many people regardless of their political leanings. 

SAD MESS, REPORT ON POVERTY
MINNEAPOLIS — In a forum Monday night at the University of Minnesota, the School of Public Affairs asked: is a left-right bargain on poverty possible?  My answer:  NO.
The evening was saved by Federal Board Chair MayKao Hang, the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation president and CEO.  She graciously pointed out to Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution, and Robert Dour, American Enterprise Institute, that their two-year old report omitted any mention of racial discrimination.  (Ms. Hang is Asian American.)  Talk about ignoring the elephant in the living room!
Two of the whitest men on the planet, Haskins and Dour, pimped the “Opportunity, Responsibility and Security” report, to a large gathering in the Cowles Auditorium.
The usual platitudes about supporting early childhood education were voiced with the caveat that fears about our “national debt” precluded any progress.  In fact, Haskins stated the obvious, that Congress “does not want to spend money on universal pre-school.”
None of what was aired Monday night by the Brookings and AEI representatives would pass muster as credible academic research anywhere on the planet.  Also missing from this “study” is a mention of the concentration of wealth in this country and the educational needs of immigrant children.  
Sixteen, mostly white guys, gathered to prepare the poverty report but only 15 signed off on the finished document.  Other speakers were critical of the report but no one framed it as a patently offensive mess that wasn’t worthy of discussion. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

PERSONABLE DEAN PHILLIPS DEBUTS HIS ACT


EDINA — An overflow crowd Tuesday night at the Southdale Library Community Room heard Third District Congressional District candidate Dean Phillips in his first public presentation.  Thankfully it didn’t include a power point or the dreadful robot-like recitation that is so common with other politicians here.
Phillips, who owns a coffee shop and has managed his family’s foundation, has that “Wellstone-Franken” self-deprecating charm that served him well before a crowd that wasn’t always friendly.  It was evident in the way that he answered questions that he had done his homework.
Those that came to the meeting hoping for a lambasting of Trump and the incumbent Erik Paulsen must have left disappointed.  Phillips is not a hell raiser or spellbinder in the Humphrey mold, but he comes across as being sincere.
Global warming was a major theme in his response to questions about the environment and he advocated for the “carbon tax” so that we can leave the planet better than we found it.  You can be sure that the word “tax” was recorded by Paulsen’s team and will be used in upcoming commercials.
Phillips faces a formidable task in that a DFL candidate hasn’t won the district since 1958, but the west metro is considered a swing district where Mrs. Clinton won here by 10 points over Trump.
The question and answer period ended on an emotional note when a woman in the audience recalled the lack of response from Paulsen when she asked for his help related to her gay son.  For his response, Phillips got a standing ovation. 

Before the meeting, two young people outside the building displayed signs reading “Unqualified is spelled D-E-A-N.”  An avowed Republican sat under Phillips nose the entire evening and it didn’t rattle him in the least.  The crowd was eager to hear from a politician that didn’t spew hate or body slam a reporter.  Someone in a SUV tailgated me out of the parking lot, honking the horn.  An excited citizen, I suspect?  — Dave Zarkin

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

P. Martin, Erik Paulsen and More

CHRIS HEDGES CLASS, GREAT
The students’ participation today was memorable in Prof. Tapp’s class on Chris Hedges book, “Unspeakable.”  Several of us spoke about getting involved in local school district elections to identify possible candidates who want to revise history with their “special” books.  Tapp teaches in the U of M OLLI program. 

PAULSEN’S DELIRIUM 
Monday night on his “telephone town hall” Rep. Erik Paulsen made the outlandish statement that Republicans and Democrats agree on the major tenets in the tax reform bill.  But according to published reports the Democrats remain skeptical, oppose net tax cuts and will resist proposals that mostly benefit high-income households,
Listeners were asked to submit questions but Paulsen rattled on incessantly about the FBI Russian probe to visiting police chiefs from Minnesota in one breath.  
Paulsen spoke to a class at Chaska High School recently and one of the students summarized the talk in a letter to the Star-Tribune.  Here’s part of what Mackenzie Herring wrote:
“I am a senior at Chaska High School. On Monday, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen visited. His answers to students’ questions had a prevailing and troubling theme. He was asked about not hosting town hall meetings, lack of women in Congress, actions to protect against hate speech, and the recent GOP health care bill. Paulsen would acknowledge the point, but then deflect the intent of the question to find a way to criticize the Obama administration.”

PATRICK MARTIN FOR CITY COUNCIL
Bloomington was founded by Europeans and American Indians in a spirit multi cultural cooperation and that spirit should be revived, City Council candidate Patrick Martin said Tuesday night at a meeting of Bloomington’s Progressive Issues group.
A fundraiser for non-profits, Martin seeks to bring aggressive programs to east Bloomington with problems that no longer should be ignored.  Outreach programs are needed to reach e east side residents don’t speak English and seniors ill poor health.  Lack of public transportation, affordable housing are other vexing issues.

Martin has done research and approaches these challenges with a solid background in the dynamics of communities coming together to improve lives of residents.