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

At the Walker Art Center, “Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties” brings the decade into colorful life

If you know anything about Minneapolis and have even the most basic understanding of the local art scene, then you are probably aware of that gigantic spoon and cherry situation in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It’s sort of like the art community’s mascot; an immovable symbol that I’m sure could represent something philosophical, but since I have no context for a cherry on the end of a spoon in any other scenario, it’s simply a really cool sculpture that everyone knows about. Because it’s such a fun and, let’s be honest, random structure, it can be easy to forget that its creator was well known for crafting other works that were often equal in size and eccentricity.On the surface, Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties is pretty much exactly what the title entails. It is a glimpse at Oldenburg works from the 1960s, but it is clearly so much more than that. Since I was born in 1988 I had to ask someone’s parents what the 60s were actually like; and because I’m lazy I asked my own. 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

Walker on the Green: Garden gnome foosball and other unprecedented obstacles at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The vision in my mind when I imagined a press preview of Walker on the Green, an artist-design miniature golf course at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, was that of all of the members of the press would stand on the sidelines as onlookers while actual players proficient in the sport of golf competed, offering examples of how each hole was artistically unique and creatively constructed. It didn’t occur to me for even a second that I myself would spend the entire day playing mini-golf, but that’s what happened. New experiences teach us new and valuable lessons, and since golfing was very new to me (and in some ways still is), I thought I’d briefly share with you five things I learned while golfing at the Walker.I can’t play miniature golf.Mini-golfing is easier when you aren’t wearing your purse.Mini-golfing is easier when your ball isn’t identical to your opponent’s ball.Form over function is an important equation (especially if you factor in garden gnomes).The history of the hot dog is the history of America. Since I didn’t know anything about golf going into this, I was certainly out to sea when it came to mini-golfing (which is like regular golfing, only cuter). And as it turns out, lucky for me, is that the key to mini-golf is not to be good but to be aggressive; at least that’s the stance I took, and also the reason why my ball almost crashed through the wall of the greenhouse. The holes themselves were very conceptual; while some of the holes were executed very thoughtfully, others caused a great deal of frustration and some weren’t challenging enough. Continue Reading

THEATER PREVIEW | Sibyl Kempson, living female playwright of Elevator Repair Service

Last week, I met Sibyl Kempson on the day of her arrival from Brooklyn as she began final rehearsals for the preview performance of Fondly, Collette Richland at the Walker Art Center. She’s a petite, exuberant firecracker of a woman, and we immediately dished about arts education policy, the economy, sexism, and a number of other political, artistic, and social topics as we walked across Loring Park to have a drink.Kempson’s work as a playwright on the production marks a departure for the company Elevator Repair Service (ERS), which has gained notoriety from their experimental performances drawing from non-theatrical texts, such as novels, written mostly by dead white males. Kempson said director John Collins approached her and said that he was interested in working with a living female playwright, and she “was the gal to do it,” she said.Kempson first performed with ERS in 2002 in their production of Gatz, a six-hour devised performance based on the novel The Great Gatsby. She dropped out of the show when she started graduate school and her mom got sick, but later filled in for one of the cast members of the same show, which went on to be extremely successful as a different role. She performed off and on in Gatz for 10 years, and also collaborated with various company members on different shows in contexts outside of ELS. Knowing all of the performers so well influenced the way that she wrote the work, Kempson said. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Craig Taborn brings his brand of frenzied heroism to the Walker Art Center

Craig Taborn, the protean pianist, composer, and conceptualist, will return home to his native Minnesota Friday night for a celebration of his music at the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater. The performance, cryptically entitled “Heroic Frenzies,” will begin at 8. He will play in three different formats: with his electronica outfit Junk Magic, with his acoustic trio, and solo.Taborn’s performance will come just days after the release of his new trio album,Chants. In a review for The New York Times, Nate Chinen praised the “extraordinary” album for its “alert indeterminacy.” Taborn is no stranger to such critical acclaim; he has been making waves among critics and fans alike since he first arrived in New York City in 1995.Part of Taborn’s appeal is his extensive sonic palette. Too often, working with such a broad range of styles entails a process of imitative appropriation. Continue Reading

Abraham Cruzvillegas’s “Autoconstrucción Suites” at the Walker Art Center: Giving new life to found objects

When I began writing for the Twin Cities Daily Planet it never really occurred to me that I could get free access to things. I mean, I knew it was possible, but I wasn’t entirely aware that I could use my status as a member of the press to partake in events that I might not get to see otherwise—and get free breakfast in the process.There are various exhibitions and events that I never get to participate in because I don’t have access or am unaware that they exist; in regards to the Walker Art Center, I’m not a member there and I don’t have the money to attend their shows on a regular basis. So when I was offered a chance to attend a media preview of Abraham Cruzvillegas’s new exhibition The Autoconstrucción Suites I jumped at the chance. It’s important to take such chances as you never know when someone will pinch you and wake you up.After breakfast and a brief introduction, Cruzvillegas took us through the exhibit and explained to us his thought process and inspirations for this current body of work, which gave context to what we were seeing. The other writers were dutifully taking notes and snapping photos, and—while I wished I was that dutiful—I’ve never been a good note taker (this explains why I never did well in school).What I found most interesting was the artist’s idea of animism, that all objects have a life and a spirit and that he was able to give those spirits a physical aura in the form of feathers sprouting from an umbrella or large glistening knives violently protruding from a small wooden table. Continue Reading

Burch Steak and Pizza Bar in Minneapolis: Isaac Becker invents the un-steakhouse

A steakhouse in Lowry Hill? Seriously?? A few short blocks from Birdhouse and the Namaste Cafe and the Wedge Co-op and Tao Natural Foods? (Okay, it’s also a few short blocks from Rudolph’s and Lee’s Liquor Lounge, but let’s not complicate this story.)The idea is so crazy that it just might work. Actually, to judge by the weekend crowds, the idea is working just fine.Who would have guessed? Continue Reading

Walker Art Center pays homage to darkly funny auteur Noah Baumbach with a Regis Retrospective and Dialogue

“Come on…be romantically self-destructive with me.”This quote comes from Kicking and Screaming, Academy-Award-nominated writer/director Noah Baumbach’s 1995 debut feature about a group of college students facing life after graduation, dealing with ongoing and hazardous relationships, finding a purpose in the real world, and facing personal crises. This quote could also represent four other Baumbach films screening at the Walker Art Center, as part of the Regis Dialogue and Retrospective Noah Baumbach: Visibly Human. The retrospective kicks off with Kicking and Screaming, on Friday, March 15 and runs through Friday, April 5 with Baumbach and Village Voice chief film critic Scott Foundas, discussing Baumbach’s 18-year career as a screenwriter and director.Baumbach’s films featured in the Walker retrospective, four of them screening on 35mm (a rarity these days), seemingly have been about “self-destructive” relationships, whether they are among college students (Kicking and Screaming), parents divorcing (The Squid and the Whale), a pending marriage (Margot at the Wedding), and starting a new romance after a mid-life crisis (Greenberg). Baumbach’s characters and dialogue dance around relationships, while at other times, the subjects and plot seem to suggest making relationships pivotal.Take the mid-90’s Gen-X slacker film, Kicking and Screaming. While the four main male characters chose different paths after graduation, they all crave attention, are looking to fit in and are slowly being swept away by their own decisions, even if none of them really want to move forward.  Grover (Josh Hamilton) has broken up with Jane (Olivia d’Abo) as she has gone to study abroad, Otis (Carlos Jacott) can’t seem to do anything right, and Skippy (Jason Wiles) is thinking about sticking around school longer to be with his girlfriend Miami (Parker Posey), until he finds out that Max (Chris Eigerman) has been with Miami, as Max seems to have adopted a new sleazy lifestyle. Baumbach gives each character his or her proper arc, especially in a comic supporting turn from Eric Stoltz as the lifetime “student” bartending at the townie bar and giving advice and anecdotes on life with everyone, leaving each character wandering and contemplating their impending doom. Continue Reading