COMMUNITY VOICES | You really don’t want to meet the Dicks at Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America

I’m not one to cry. Truth is, I rarely cry, but during a visit to Dick’s Resort in the Mall of America I was literally reduced to tears! The bartender was abusive, abrasive, and mean as HELL. I wasn’t sure why he was in a bad mood, but later found out that it is their “niche” to be mean as spitfire. Were they really trained to treat people like this, to the point of harassment? Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The Big E sizes up MN GOP candidates

The Big E, confessing to Minnesita Progressive Project (MPP) readers and contributers, recently wrote that his heart no longer pines to hose down right wing sparkle ponies like Michele Bachmann or even review books by the likes of a Keith Ellison.  The Big E (known to his Minneapolis neighbors as Eric Pusey), is the founding scold of the MPP lefty sentry post and appears on the current edition of Democratic Visions as he retires from political blogging. After a moment of posing as a weary blogosphere elder  (as if blogging was old enough to earn elders), the smart, liberal confederate, prompted by an actual DFL elder,  Tim O’Brien, shines with bemused and bewildered takes on the current state of the Minnesota Republican Party and its clownish, hopeful State and Congressional candidates.   Mr. Pusey, who has splashed gleefully in the rushing stream of blogs, Tweets, Facebook twerking and probably Skype, does quite well in the “legacy” medium of television where I operate.  Fox Nine News knew that and for a while put him on from time-to-time.  But the Fox 9 News producers didn’t have the cojones to make him a regular pundit.   Too bad.  Mr. Pusey has good chemistry. This ten-minute Eric and Tim segment is yours to consider.  Its “tagged” (the TV producer’s sense of the word) with an homage to the late, great, populist troubadour Pete Seeger and Twin Cities activism thanks to the air guitar wonders -The Junk Yard Democrats, a peoples’ anthem, and creative editing.  Enjoy!  Enjoy!  Democratic Visions February Segments Ex-blogger Eric Pusey and Tim O’Brien on senate and gubernatorial hopefuls.Jon Spayde as a clinically depressed motivational speaker with advice for Republican hopefuls.I report on the DFL 48 Precinct Caucuses and present an award winning short film making change. Democratic Visions is handcrafted by Eden Prairie, Edina and Minnetonka volunteer Democrats at the Bloomington Community Access Television studio by arrangement with the Southwest Suburban Cable Commission. Democratic Visions Cable ScheduleMinneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m.; Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Bloomington – BCAT Cable Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m. The entire Feburary program and 183 archived Dem Vis segments can be seen on the Democratic Visions Channel on YouTube. Democratic Visions has become the  liveliest political issues show in Minnesota.   I know.  I produce the darned thing.   Continue Reading

DANCE REVIEW | Deborah Elias Danza Española welcomes guest musicians for a stirring show at Intermedia Arts

Though it was cold and rainy outside on October 6, Intermedia Arts was filled with the warmth of Spain as Deborah Elias and her flamenco dance troupe took the stage for the final performance in a weekend run of Las Flamencas.Elias herself performed three solo dances, which would have made her the star of the show if not for the intensely charismatic vocalist Vicente Griego, a New Mexico performer with astounding pipes and a manifest commitment to the art of flamenco. (The palpable joy in this national collaboration, as well as the fact that Elias has benefited from Minnesota state travel funding, is further evidence of how deeply misguided was the state legislature’s recent decision to suspend future funds for artists’ out-of-state travel.)Las Flamencas, featuring Griego along with guitarists Gabriel Osuna and Trevor May, made clear that if you’ve seen flamenco without live music, you’ve missed out on an integral part of the experience. The musicians and dancers performed in close synchrony, evidently paying close attention to one another and mutually appreciating one another’s artistry. The appreciation was contagious, and the warm dynamic featuring repeated shouts of “Olé!” made the house feel full. Flamenco is a rich and complex art, and Elias favors a fresh but fundamentally classic approach. The crowd-pleaser of the set was Many Carmens, Elias’s humorous take on the flamenco chestnut, featuring Rick Farrell as a smooth-chested Don José who’s overwhelmed by affection from six rose-clutching Carmens. Continue Reading

“Drinking Buddies”: Joe Swanberg cleans up nicely

Drinking Buddies, the latest feature by prolific writer/director/editor and occasional actor Joe Swanberg—opening this Friday at the Lagoon Cinema and also available via video-on-demand—is probably the biggest feature Swanberg has made to date. It is also is the third film directed by Swanberg in 2013. (One of Swanberg’s 2013 films, 24 Exposures, premiered at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival last month, but there’s no word on an official U.S. premiere date yet. I hope it will make its way to a U.S. film festival, ideally in the Twin Cities.)Since 2005 Swanberg has directed 18 features, starting with his first, the sexually explicit Kissing on the Mouth, where audiences were treated to Swanberg giving himself a “happy ending” in the shower. It provoked plenty of backlash, not because of that scene but because of the entire film. Continue Reading

“The Act of Killing” director Joshua Oppenheimer talks about uncovering Indonesian genocide

“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, and frightening in at least a decade. The Act of Killing is unprecedented in the history of cinema.” – German filmmaker Werner HerzogI began seeing this blurb on director Joshua Oppenheimer’s controversial new documentary The Act of Killing when the film premiered at the 2012 Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals last September. This same quote popped up again in the latest Walker Art Center cinema brochure earlier this month, and it’s quite a statement from a filmmaker who has made some important documentaries himself over his 45+ years in filmmaking.Herzog (Grizzly Man) and Academy-Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris (The Fog of War) both saw early footage of Oppenheimer’s film and signed on to be executive producers in order to help this film be seen. This inventive and provocative documentary is about Indonesia’s genocide in 1965, wherein Indonesian President Sukarno’s government was overthrown by the military. Anyone who opposed the military dictatorship could be accused of being a “communist” and, therefore, executed by death squads. Many of these death squad officials were previously small-time gangsters and some are considered “heroes” in Indonesia. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Camino Real” by Girl Friday Productions: Tennessee Williams lets his freak flag fly

Follow me down the rabbit hole for a minute here: Don Quixote (Craig Johnson) is abandoned by Sancho Panza (Sam Landman) at the Camino Real, the one road into a surreal port city that exists out of time. Quixote bunks there for the night and has an extended dream, densely populated by characters from both history and fiction, as well as random comedic and ominous creations of the playwright Tennessee Williams. When Quixote wakes the next day, he will choose from among this ragtag assortment of people a companion to accompany him as his journey continues.”Make voyages! Attempt them! There’s nothing else.”Candidates for this open position include: aging yet infamous lothario Casanova (John Middleton); fading prostitute Marguerite Gautier, better known as Camille (Kirby Bennett); Kilroy (Eric Knutson), archetypal American soldier and amateur boxer; Esmeralda, of Hunchback of Notre Dame fame (Sara Richardson); Esmerelda’s bawdy mother the gypsy (Sally Ann Wright); La Madrecita De Los Perditos (or Mother of the Lost) (Laurel Armstrong), a veiled figure who walks the streets singing mournful songs and offering gestures of comfort to the downtrodden; Lord Byron, here a rock-and-roll god and spoken word artist (David Beukema); Lord and Lady Mulligan (Johnson again, with Meri Golden), an elderly couple of wealth and privilege; a thirsty wanderer and a loan shark (both played by James Rodriguez); old dog lady Prudence and streetwalker Rosita (both Kimberly Richardson); the effeminate Baron De Charlus from Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (also Beukema); smarmy hotel owner A. Ratt and the naughty Nursie (both Landman again); Byron’s bass guitarist, and street urchin Abdullah (both John Riedlinger), and believe it or not, many more.”I’ve had so many unpleasant surprises, I’ve lost faith in my luck.”Camino Real is overseen by the genteel but threatening Gutman (Alan Sorenson) and stalked by two street cleaners (K. Richardson, Riedlinger) in bright orange jumpsuits who regularly scoop up the dead and discarded and cart them off to who knows where.”What can one man do with another man’s heart?”Basically, stick every other Tennessee Williams play in a blender, slap on an extra layer of the supernatural, and you’ve got yourself Camino Real, the latest offering from the sterling crew at Girl Friday Productions. Continue Reading

Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis awards support good work in the community

The 17th annual WedgeShare awards ceremony, held January 17 at the Wedge Community Co-op, honored work being done by nine local non-profit organizations.Josh Resnik, the Wedge Co-op’s new CEO, said that overseeing a philanthropic program that gives a portion of the co-op’s annual profit back to the community is one of the most satisfying parts of his job. Since 1997, Wedge Cooperative member-owners have awarded more than $600,000 in WedgeShare grants to organizations whose work aligns with the co-op’s values. Resnik explained that all nominees must advance the International Cooperative Alliance’s Principle #7, demonstrating concern for the community. To be eligible, an organization must also be non-partisan, non-sectarian, and engaged in activities related to the natural environment, health and wellness, natural foods and sustainable agriculture, community involvement and capacity-building, or cooperative-related activities. Members vote on WedgeShare grant recipients at their annual fall meetings. In October 2012 they decided that these organizations would divide a total of $75,000:•       Emergency Foodshelf Network•       Open Arms of Minnesota•       Water Legacy•       Minnesota Food Association•       Community Design Center of Minnesota•       Centro Campesino•       Great River Greening•       Midtown Farmers Market•       Cycles for ChangeTwo organizations were showcased. Michael Venker, a board vice president, spoke on behalf of Open Arms of Minnesota, best known as the state’s only nonprofit committed to preparing and delivering free healthy meals tailored to the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, ALS, breast cancer and other diseases. Venker also highlighted lesser-known efforts, such as ensuring that children living in South Minneapolis’s Phillips neighborhood, where Open Arms is based, have access to healthy foods in the summer. A world away, he said that Open Arms has been working with communities in sub-Saharan Africa to provide food and technical assistance to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Midtown Farmers Market was recognized for its committment to providing all community members with better access to healthy and affordable foods. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Torch Theater’s “Turn of the Screw”: Go, but don’t bring your parents

There are few things better than seeing a performance that does justice to a favorite book, and few things worse than having it fall short. So it was with intrepid anticipation that I went to see Jeffery Hatcher’s version of Henry James’s novella Turn of the Screw currently being presented by Torch Theater Company at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. From the first moment, in the language of the show, it seduced me.

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