Sunday, March 18, 2018

Social Network, Communal Dining, Andrew Evans and More

It only lasts 40 days (of Lent) so you need to get to St. Albert’s soon for the Friday night fish fry.  Parkling is on the street and scarce in Minneapolis.  I went for the first and last time.  It was a real slice of life with enthusiastic volunteers.  This event draws a huge Friday night crowd.  The spaghetti was salty but the deserts were all home made by volunteers and worth the trip.  The pastor looks and talks like Percy Kilbride as the urges (over the mike) for attendees to buy raffle tickets.  Not to be missed!

Some came to the Mapping Prejudice program at Or Emet Humanist Jewish Congregation expecting that the focus would be on anti-semitism in Minneapolis but it wasn’t.  In fact, redlining and discriminatory racial covenants in deeds were directed against African Americans until federal legislation in 1968.  The damage that those business decisions caused haunt us today in the Twin Cities.
Kevin Erdman Sjoberg is a sure bet for an engrossing evening and his Mapping Prejudice presentation more than lived up to expectations.  In fact, when I left the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park he was still cornered in the sanctuary.  Hopefully he escaped the building.

MOVIE MAKING with Facebook
Disc 2 with the “Social Network” DVD is almost as good as the movie.  How did They Make a Movie of Facebook?  It weren’t easy.  The talented young actors had little opportunity for bonding but Jesse and Andrew did share a light moment at the vending machine.
Some loneliness was apparent for Jesse in Los Angeles when the rest of the cast spent time with their girl friends.  Jesse preferred the filiming in Boston’s winter with snow.
The VanWinkelman Twins played by Armie and Josh (who you don’t see) involving CGI is another intriguing piece of this movie.  Also, the rigors of crew rowing in Boston are revealed by Armie.

There’s a reference in trying to be objective about Zuckerberg.  “You try to be a jerk but you aren’t,” says one of the characters in the movie.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gringo, Stop the World and more

Movie Soundtrack
This amazing sound track is from an Anthony Newley - Leslie Biscuse 60s musical that I saw as a play at Boise State College in about 1967.  Now I need to find the movie.

Amazon has moved from carefree tossing merchandise in the hallway here to making movies.  Their latest effort, “Gringo,” was shown at a free sneak preview at the West End Cinema Wednesday night. 
 A representative from a marketing firm was at the exit taking comments.  David Oyelowo is a reason to see this movie when it premieres at theaters here Friday.  He plays a hapless cog in the corporate wheel where evil, bumbling sex-addicted Big Pharma executives market marijuana and get involved with stereotypical Mexican bandits.  
The writers were no doubt influenced by the classic film noir “Out of the Past” and “A Touch of Evil” which are superior, but “Gringo” is worth a look when it’s on Amazon Prime. 

National Geographic writer Andrew Evans’ memoir “The Black Penguin” is an amazing read from a gifted writer.  He traces his spiritual journey from growing up in Ohio as a gay kid who was bullied by his peers to realizing his dream of being a NG reporter. 
His story is wrapped around his sense of adventure wherein he goes to the Antartica by bus from the east coast of the U.S.  Like Kerouac, he meets interesting people and gets to know the real America.

“Please tell me how to be an actor,” George Chakiris asked actor Melissa Hart years ago when they appeared together in a Florida production of “Stop the World I want to Get Off,” an Antony Newley musical.
That recollection was prompted Friday morning in our OLLI theater class when I suggested to the Atristry staff that they consider a production of the Newley musical.  Gary Briggle and Hart burst into laughter at this suggestion, remembering their experience with the play years ago.  Briggle admitted that the music is great but the characters are unlikeable.

Briggle and Hart appeared in Artistry’s recent “Candide” production which was a knockout and then shared their love of that project with our OLLI class.  You should have been there. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Black Lives Matter, Black History Month

Dunbar at Civic Center Feb. 13.
“When They Call You a Terrorist a black lives matter memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele is a heartfelt memoir that gives me a perspective as we prepare for political caucuses on Tuesday in Minnesota.

An African American woman in the 19th Century is remembered as a heroine in the birth of a nation who escapes from servitude in the family of President Washington as Bloomington celebrated Black History Month Tuesday night at the Civic Center.
The keynote speaker was African American historian and professor Erica Armstrong Dunbar of Philadelphia.  Her book is, “Never Caught, the Washingtons Relentless Pursuit of the Runaway Sslave of Ona Judge.”
This was the perfect moment to publish a book on a Black woman challenging a racist president.  Judge never wanted to be forgotten, Dunbar said, which was an prompted her to write the book.


Music from the civil rights movement was performed Tuesday night in Bloomington for Black History Month by the Potter’s House of Jesus Christ Mass Choir. It was standing room only on the main floor of  the Civic Center for this event.  The Hennepin County Library provided a bibliography on slavery.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Key West, Cayman Island Celebrity Cruise

 Excellent Key West free trolley tour with Mona G. (left), formerly employee of State Attorney Office.  Gentrification has taken a toll on this formerly gay enclave and outpost of normalcy.  Excellent conch chowder at Red and Blue Fish near Mallory Square.

MIKE CANPANALD was aboard the Celebrity Silhouette ship and enjoyed the tour of the galley.  Mike was the singer and bass player in Capitol Records rock group What Four.  He keeps in touch with some of the players.  He also was thermal engineer in Burbank and is an audiophile.

EXECUTIVE SOUS CHEF Jeff gave us a tour of the Silhouette Galley on Saturday, the last full day of the Caribbean cruise.

Pier 66 Hotel in Fort Lauderdale is where I spent the night before the cruise.  Service in the lobby restaurant not good and mechanics had to replace a faulty door lock in my room which was cold.  This resort includes a marina.
Marina, Pier 66, pool below

Key West beach

Mona G., tour bus driver, left

Conch chowder @ Red Fish Blue Fish, Key West.

Saturday, December 30, 2017


In his book, “The Boys in the Boat,” Daniel J. Brown references Spokane’s historic amusement park on the river, Natatorium, in the early 1920s.  “They could take in entertainment … as dazzling as the new Loof carousel,” Brown wrote.  I had fond memories of the Nat where our congregation held picnics and I got nauseous on the merry go round.
It was that carousel that was scheduled to be dismantled in 1964 that I wrote about in a byline United Press International feature that was distributed to newspapers camera-ready.
I interviewed the park’s owner, Lloyd Vogel, who was inebriated at the time. (He reaked of booze.)  Natatorium had lost its commercial viability and historic preservation wasn’t discussed.  So the park was for sale and the historic merry go round would be lost.  
Years later the park was converted into a mobile home community, but the dance hall remained on the site. The carousel was moved to a park adjoining the river in downtown Spokane for the world’s fair and I rode it more than 10 years ago.

I left Spokane for Coast Guard boot camp before the feature was distributed and never knew if it appeared in newspapers.  The Loof merry-go-round is comparable to the one on the Santa Monica pier.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Unions, Politics, Stan Freberg and more.

Congressional candidate Adam Jennings on Saturday afternoon at the Eden Prairie Library said he favors Medicare for everyone, a $15 minimum wage and collective bargaining.
Three women opposed to unions, a deaf man without a hearing aid and four others met with Jennings but the discussion got bogged down by a wedge issue, labor unions.  “My husband dislikes unions,” said one and another said “my brother in law is against them.”  
I sprang to the unions’ defense but later realized I had strayed down a familiar road where we argue and then Erik Paulsen wins another term through our inertia.
Had I to do it over I would have said to Jennings:  “I will attend the caucus on Feb. 6 and hope to be elected a delegate to the district DFL convention where I will support you so your name appears on the primary ballot.”
Didn’t do that.  Sorry Adam.
Jennings supports progressive causes although he works for Mortenson Construction/real estate.  He serves on the city council of Tonka Bay, in upscale suburban Minneapolis.  I got a lesson in grass roots democracy that was disturbing. 
Our humanistic Jewish congregation enjoyed latkas, salads and rich deserts Saturday night at our annual Chanukah party held at the Wellstone Neighborhood House Center in St. Paul.  Small children performed.  I left early and indigestion kept me up that night.
Forties musical comedy divas Deana Durbin and Alice Faye, shortly before they retired, appeared in crime movies that are worth viewing. 
 “Christmas Holiday” has little to do with a winter festival but finds Ms. Durbin coupled with a criminal character played by dancer Gene Kelly.  She is memorable as a torch singer in this Universal movie directed by Robert Sidomak. Seeing Kelly in this movie I concluded that he would have been the one to play Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls,” not Brando.
Ms. Faye doesn’t sing a note in “Fallen Angel” where she falls for a drifter (Dana Andrews) with a questonable past.  Faye was the reining queen at TCF and Andrews had a voice that could melt butter.  Directed by Otto Preminger, the movie features Linda Darnell as a bad girl and she is super.  Faye never appeared in a starring role in a movie again after “Fallen Angel.”  See these two movies together.

“Doolittle” is quite exotic and is reminiscent of my favorite that I saw as a teen, “Around the World.”  Both in Todd AO.  The bluray is the only way to see the ’67 version.
Where do they find a two-headed llama?  Antony Newley is massively talented but his stage play “The Smell of the Crowd, the Road of Grease Paint” has more memorable tunes.
I assume that TCF hoped to capitalize on the success of another British musical, “Oliver.”  Doolittle is featured in a book on 4 big movies from the 60s and was released at the time of riots in the streets over the war.  Despite negatives reviews, the movie was a success. 
Nathanael West’s novels are just the ticket for these gray gloomy cold Minnesota days.  I just finished “Miss Lonelyhearts” which doesn’t end on a sweet note.
I didn’t know it in 1963 but when I worked at KNBC I stood in the shadow of greatness with Cecil Brown, famous World War II reporter for CBS and Mutual radio networks.
Brown did news analysis on Ch. 4 and he wasn’t accesible to a lowly clerical like myself.  The other news analyst at KNBC then was Elmer Peterson.  
Reed W. Smith has written a Brown biography published by McFarland. 

Some one should bar actors from appearing on talk shows to promote their latest movie.  Timothy was hyper, Armie was reserved and I was uncomfortable as Neal Patrick Harris, Ellen and a dorky MTV asked them about “Call Me by Your Name.”  Skip the You Tube interviews and see the movie playing now at the Uptown.
About 20 of us from Or Emet “celebrated” Christmas Monday night at  the mega Asian buffet Super Moon in St. Louis Park.  Thanks to Dan and Naomi this was a succesful outing.
Relatively healthy was the Mongolian barbecue if you went light on the sauces which I did.  No one was interested in the NFL game on the big screen TV.  The enormity of Super Moon is incredible. I am not a fan of Asian buffets but this one is decent.

“This is our country and we must fight to keep it so. If America is ever again to be great, it can only be through the triumph of the revolutionary middle class.  We must destroy the Bolshevik labor unions!   We must purge our country of all the alien elements and ideas that now infest her!  America for Americans!  Back to the principles of Andy Jackson and Abe LIncoln….” (followed by a call for “Storm Troopers.”)
This scary talk is not from a Trump speach but it’s the demogogue “Mr. Whipple” speaking in Nathanael West’s 1936 novel “A Cool Million.”
Wall Street interests were as much involved in whipping up anti-labor sentiment as a wedge issue dividing the working class in the 1930s as they are today.  
This was evident in the recent meeting congressional candidate Adam Jennings held where the effort to unseat Paulsen was displaced by anti-union talk.

Long before “Mad Men,” comedy writer Stan Freberg was making fun of Madison Avenue cliches (Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it) on his sustaining CBS radio show.  He got his start in LA on the kiddie show, “Time for Beanie.”

I was a big fan of Freberg on radio in 1958 as the networks were phasing out programing in the face of TV.  In recent years I scored highlights from his shows on an audio casette I found at a library sale.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Holiday Movies

“Hans Christian Anderson” (Goldwyn/RKO) and “The Red Shoes” (Rank) offer incredible escapism with ballet, surreal sets and amazing technicolor.  See them together and you’ll forget about the wild fires and the Franken debacle.  
Definitely “holiday” movies!

Department stores were devine palaces and hemlines were closer to the ground in the holiday movies that I adore, including “Bundle of Joy” (1956) and “Holiday Affair” (1949).
It’s a cinderella story in BOJ where the character played by Debbie Reynolds falls for the jazz singer department store prince played by Eddie Fisher (real life husband and wife.)  The music is enjoyable and the RKO Scope and Technicolor are supreme.
“Holiday Affair” is a deeper look at the post war funk where a war widowed mom played by Janet Leigh struggles to survive as a department store “shopper/snoop.”  She has to choose between officious lawyer played by Wendell Corey or the Robert Mitchum sexy drifter/sales clerk.  Gordon Gebhert steals the movie as the toothless kid and now, in real life, teaches at Columbia University.  He later appeared as the teenage Audie Murphy in “To Hell and Back.”
BOJ got bad reviews and HA was a box office flop, but both of these RKO gems enjoy a December resurgence on Turner Classic Movies.


The lowly reporter falls for the handsome European prince who is not all he seems in the Netflix new movie “Christmas Prince.”  Hasn’t this story been told repeatedly.  Ho hum.