Friday, August 26, 2016


When I went to see the 1958 movie “Teacher’s Pet” with my high school buddy Paul I had no idea that I would pursue a career in news writing.  Paul and I were drawn to Spokane’s Fox Theater by the promise of Mamie Van Doren, “the girl who invented rock and roll.”  We had recently seen her in “High School Confidential” where she was Russ Tamblyn’s almost incestuous loving aunt.
Upon revisiting this comedy last night, I think it has a lot of merit as a whimsical look at newspaper reporting.  (Apparently TV news was not taken seriously in 1958.)
Doris Day promotes the five W’s in the college classroom and Clark Gable plays the cynical city editor who is convinced that academia has no business in journalism.  By the last reel, he comes to appreciate the benefits of a liberal arts education.
Ms. Van Doren plays the platinum bombshell girl friend of Gable and Gig Young is an inebriated  psychology professor.  Both higher education and news reporting are lampooned in “Teacher’s Pet.” 

Mamie matriculated to a PhD in Allied Artists’ “Sex Kittens Go to College” wherein she lectured on math and psychology.  This begs the question:  why not a grand reunion of Ms. Van Doren and Ms. Day in “Teacher’s Pet on the Internet.”  They both are alive and kicking!


We lost a legacy name when  F.W. Woolworth closed in the 90s but it reopened for a day Wednesday so we could relive the moment.  It’s neighbors with the Golden Rule/Donaldsons and the Emporium, long gone and now office space in downtown St. Paul.

A St. Paul firm will convert the Woolworth building into office space.  It’s not known if the escalator will be retained.  Rubber-neckers got a last view of the two-story building this week.

I bought VHS movies, Charlie Chan and Flash Gordon, at Woolworth’s on my lunch break from a grim job across the street with Disability Determination Services as an examiner.  I took the training but never worked at the job.  The movies were not top quality.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


I learned about writing this past week by reading the incredible collection of memoirs in “A Good Time For The Truth: Race in Minnesota,” edited by Sun Yung Shin.
In “People Like Us,” David Lawrence Grant writes about Minnesota Nice (p.197) that makes so much sense I wonder why we’ve never had this conversation before.  
Sherry Quan Lee, in “Discomfort Zone,” ends her memoir on a hopeful note.  These 16 essays made me glad that Garrison Keillor’s reign at “Prairie Home Companion” has come to an end.  His Lake Woebegone was never anyone’s Minnesota; not even his.  (He was the son of a postal worker in the undistinguished suburb of Anoka.)  People in Seattle may think the PHC is Minnesota but it isn’t.
I lived in Idaho four years and never heard an anti-semitic remark, but my first week as a graduate research assistant on the University of Minnesota Farm Campus I was shocked by a comment from a coworker that was the standard assumption about “Jews.”  I suffered in silence.
Now I live in an apartment community with immigrants from many developing countries who speak several languages while I am lucky to manage one.
Scandinavian culture is giving way to more exotic ways of life here and not too soon.  You still can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Lutheran church here.

This collection of short stories was referenced in an article in the “Korean Times” that I picked up at the library in my neighborhood.  All the contributors to the book are accomplished writers with different styles including poetry.
A St. Paul demolition company that moved the Academy Theater in 1999 to it’s present downtown Minneapolis location could get the bid to demolish the Terrace Theatre it was learned today.
A representative of the firm Thursday afternoon was quite vague and hesitated to answer when asked when a bid might be let but he thought that Inland Development (not Hy-Vee) would contract for the work.  He also hedged on whether his company is or will be the successful bidder.
His involvement in the project seems fairly significant; in fact he inspected the inside of the theater a few months ago and said it’s “bad and I don’t see what there is to save.” He also has been inside the building several other times and noted mold and a leaking roof.
So has he inspected the theater on behalf of Inland or the city or both and has an agreement been reached formally or informally for demolition? 
He added that he never understood why the Academy Theater was moved and said it too was bad.  He was unaware of the transformation of the Academy to the successful Cowles Center which opened in 2011.  The Academy/Cowles stood vacant for about 30 years, 
He said he couldn’t understand why anyone is interested in saving the Terrace.
His company has been involved in demolition related work to the Ordway Theater expansion and the long vacant flour mill in downtown Minneapolis that is now the Mill City Museum.  
Donald Trump is in town to raise money and I am clipping my toenails or I would be at the Minneapolis Convention Center now.
The big news in Minnesota is not Donald or Hillary but how corporations are screwing over homeowners and other residents with the blessings or city councils and mayors.  If we don’t stand up for our communities, who will?  
In Robbinsdale, we jumped from the frying pan into the fire today when the Iowa grocery store chain dropped plans to build a mega strip mall on property that houses our historic mid century modern theater.  A few minutes later we recoiled in horror when the New York real estate trust that owns the property filed a request with the city to demolish the theater now because it’s a “blight.”  (A demolition expert told the owners that it’s “bad, nasty.”)  A hearing will be held Tuesday and we will have an appropriate response. Stay tuned.
In the spirit of mock democracy, the mayor has given residents a Hobson’s choice of pitting the theater against a grocery store in an online “survey.”  It’s either the theater or the grocery store because that’s what the corporate suits want.  But we had both the theater and the grocery store on that site for many years before both went out of business.  
So is this property a white elephant and blowing up the historic theater will solve nothing?  All of Minnesota needs to be involved in the conversation; not just the local yokels.  Who’s going to build another mid century modern design theater for us now?  No one.  Let’s worship at that historic cinema temple and find our way out of the wilderness.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Florence Foster Jenkins was to singing as Donald Trump is to presidential politics:  Both are rancid fish out of water.  But in the biopic “Florence Foster Jenkins,” director Stephen Frears turns the society matron Jenkins as played by Meryl Streep into a sympathetic character.  
By the end of the film, we want her to succeed even though she sounds like a bull moose in heat.
FFJ borrows much from actors of the 1940s with Streep a dead ringer for Margaret Dumont of Marx Brothers fame and Nina Ariana stealing scenes reminiscent of the tough blonde Iris Adrian  in several Monogram and PRC films of yore.
Big Bang star TV actor Simon Helberg plays off the Streep’s over the top matron with ease and is a revelation.

The danger in making a Jenkins film is that her life was a one-line joke:  she couldn’t sing.  But Frears and writer Nicholas Desplat have turned the focus on a universal desire to realize life long desires and aspirations.  She is the Rocky Balboa of bad music.