Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ken Burns’ massive Vietnam documentary on PBS

Me with Huey helicopter at Minnesota’s Camp Ripley
VISIONS OF VIETNAM
Now is the teachable moment for Ken Burns’ massive Vietnam documentary on PBS with “lock & load” in the White House and the U.S. involvement extended again in Pakistan.
My Idaho fishing buddy and photo journalist Dave Frazier in his memoir, “Drafted! Vietnam in War and Peace,” said it succinctly:  “While there were . . . heroic acts on the part of American servicemen, it’s impossible  to claim much good came out of the war.  We didn’t stop communism, it didn’t rally the nation.  About 58,000 Americans died and millions had their lives altered because of the war.”

Like the lead character in “Full Metal Jacket,” Frazier was a public information rear echelon M.F.  He revisited Vietnam as a civilian several times.

REMEMBERING THE DRAGON LADY
Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War shows a news clip of the toxic Madame Nhu on her “goodwill tour” of the U.S.  Nhu was the wife of the South Vietnam security chief who was the brother of the corrupt S.V. president Diem.
The “dragon lady” brought her act to Los Angeles in 1963 when I was an editorial assistant at KNBC News.  Veteran reporter Bill Brown covered the volatile lady for KNBC while she was in the Southland. www.historynet.com/assassination-coup-madame-nhu.htm

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

EAST 38TH, OUR WALKING TOUR

Famous neighborhood residents are shown on this mural.  Prince attended Bryant Junior High School nearby where he was on the basketball team.

Last night several of us, some form the ‘burbs, walked through the East 38th St. area, an event sponsored by Preserve Minneapolis.  Here we saw a familiar injustice:  Government builds a freeway through a community of African American residents.  

East 38th Street has a reach cultural heritage where African Americans were entrepreneurs, clergy,  home builders and more.  The brick structures fronting this residential development are all that’s left from the stadium.

Destruction of Central High School was a political decision, replacing it with Green Elementary School.  Also the freeway went through this African American neighborhood where land values are less than elsewhere.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

DFL BOOTH AT VICTORIA ARTS FAIR

VICTORIA -- I joined Caver County DFL Chair Mary Leizinger Saturday Aug. 19 afternoon in greeting visitors to the Volksfest Craft Fair.  The monsoons subsided for a day to provide an ideal setting near a lake to meet local residents.  Mary charged me with registering new voters.  A life-long local Republican thanked Mary for giving the DFL visibility at a similar event.
This district has a promising candidate for the Legislature and may be a bit more blue now.
Victoria is west of Bloomington and near Prince's Paisley Park complex.

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