COMMUNITY VOICES | The untold story of the Iran nuclear scare will be told in the Twin Cities this week

This is shortly before talks between the P5+1 (The five permanent members of the UN Security Council: U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain + Germany) and Iran resume May 13, to be concluded in June. In the Twin Cities, Porter will examine the premise they are based on. He is the author of the Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, published in 2014 (Just World Books). Gareth Porter will address his findings based on an intensive dissection of allegations about Iran’s nuclear program. Porter is “the most conscientious follower of the fantasy danger of Iran’s purported ‘nuclear weapons program,’” according to Iran expert William O. Beeman, a University of Minnesota professor.Gareth Porter, the 2012 recipient of the prestigious London-based Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, an award presented to a journalist who reveals “an unpalatable truth, validated by powerful facts.” (Julian Assange received the award in 2011 for Wikileaks) will be in the Twin Cities Wednesday, May 7, and Thursday, May 8, to talk about the Iran nuclear scare.As an historian and investigative journalist, Porter has been examining U.S. foreign policy, military and security issues regarding the Middle East and Afghanistan, as well as writing on the Philippines, Korea, Cambodia, and Viet Nam. Continue Reading

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

Artists in Storefronts 5: Cineteca lights the winter nights

As anyone who lives up in the God forsaken North will tell you—it’s not the cold that gets in the end. It’s not the snow, or the ice. It’s the darkness. That permeating darkness when you don’t know if it’s day or night, this time of Vitamin D deficiency and Seasonal Affective Disorder. To ease our suffering, Artists in Storefronts, the public arts project led by Joan Vorderbruggen, may offer some relief by providing a little bit of light, color and movement to brighten your night. The upcoming installment of the Artists in Storefronts project will only feature movies—a radical change in format from the visual displays of fine art that previously defined the project. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | At the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, 2013 Jerome Fellows emerge with an exceptional show

Guests filled the Minneapolis College of Art and Design [MCAD] Friday night to honor the Jerome Foundation Fellowships granted to Emerging Artists.  The Minnesota Fellows were:  Susannah Bielak, Amanda Hankerson, Michael Hoyt, Melissa Loop, and Lauren Roche.  Each received a $10,000 grant to further develop their artistic careers.Senior Program Director Eleanor Savage, of the Jerome Foundation talked about the application process.  “The Jerome Foundation funds the program for the honored fellows and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design administers it.  We are a non-profit, philanthropic corporation whose mission is to support emerging artists in the creation of new work.”Kerry Morgan of MCAD, explained the juror selection process.  “This is a competitive grant and the Fellows who receive it have to impress three independent arts professionals who hold a deep knowledge of art making practices.”Juror Miranda Lash, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art, one of the jurors, talked about the judging.”All three of us began by reviewing the art work digitally for the 245 artists who applied.  Then, we narrowed it down to a small group of 12 artists.  The two of us from out of town flew in and met with the in-state juror to discuss the artists and their work.   We interviewed the 12 artists, completed studio visits, and evaluated their originals in person.” Jill Ewald, Former Director of the Flaten Museum at St. Olaf College discussed the intensity of the experience.  “The level of art was very high.  We had also received an astonishing array of media from installations, performance art, along with more traditional oil and acrylic paintings, photography, and sculpture.”  The third juror, Ms. Tse, artist and professor at the California Institute of Art was unavailable for comment.  The artists stood by their displays and talked about their art work.  Hoyt discussed the portraits of people he sketched in the parks.  One was titled Clyde.  The face revealed tattoos; Godz Gift on one check, Loyalty on both.  “Art in the city,” Mike said, and pointed to his desk on a bike he rode through Minneapolis to catch life on the playground, life in the park, reporting, “I want people to believe that art is truly for everyone—and make it present in their/our everyday worlds.  When I was finished sketching Clyde, I took a print copy and gave him a copy to keep.”Amanda Hankerson photographed people who shared the Hankerson name.  She spoke crisply to one guest, “There are but a few thousand Hankersons in the United States.  I found Hankersons I had never met on Facebook and asked them if I could take their picture.  During this process, I discovered slavery was part of the Hankerson history.”   All of Lauren Roche’s paintings were eerie abstractions of mood and moment. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Charlotte’s Web” by the Children’s Theatre Company: Blue-ribbon worthy

“That was way better than the book,” declared the young girl seated behind me when the lights went up following the September 22 performance of the Children’s Theatre Company’s Charlotte’s Web. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but director Greg Banks has crafted a graceful and moving production that’s true to the spirit of E.B. White’s classic novel.With 45 million copies in print, the 1952 book has a plot that’s well-known: Wilbur the pig is in danger of being slaughtered until his friend Charlotte the spider uses her web to weave words of praise for Wilbur (some pig, terrific, radiant); the attention drawn by Charlotte’s web makes the pig a local celebrity and the farmer reconsiders his plans to turn Wilbur into bacon.While populated by charming characters including Wilbur, Charlotte, Templeton the rat, and other barnyard creatures, there’s a bleak edge to the story: I know from my experience teaching preschool science classes that many youngsters don’t make the connection between farm animals and the dinner table, so Charlotte’s Web could be an eye-opener in that respect. Further, Farmer Zuckerman is forthright about the fact that he’ll only spare Wilbur so long as the pig continues to inspire evidence of arachnid sentience.Joseph Robinette’s adaptation is forthright about those details, but doesn’t dwell on them. The value of friendship is the showcase theme here, and all the characters are likable—even Templeton, the gluttonous and unreliable rodent, has a heart of gold. The principal challenge of staging Charlotte’s Web is that you have humans playing animals alongside humans playing humans; Banks and his team handle this nimbly, rightly trusting the abilities of their talented cast to suggest their species through physical characterization. Mary Anna Culligan’s costumes are elegant and minimally suggestive—Templeton gets a tail, but Charlotte doesn’t get any extra legs. Continue Reading

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine: A taste of the multicultural mecca in Minneapolis

This month, the United Foodies of Minnesota traveled to Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine on Eat Street in Minneapolis. For many of them, it was their first time trying Malaysian food and the menu at Peninsula is quite extensive because of the multicultural and multiethnic nature of the country—from Malay to Chinese, Indian, and Thai.“What should we get?”The waiter steered us away from the dishes that were drizzled with belacan, or a dark sauce made from fermented shrimp paste. Of course, our curiosities were piqued, so he brought out small sampling of jicama with the shrimp paste for us to try. The belacan certainly had the smell of fermented shrimp, and let’s just say that many of us decided that it was for someone with more of an acquired taste.We started off with the popular Malaysian favorite, roti canai, an Indian-influenced flatbread that is light and flaky. It was served with spicy curry chicken and potato dipping sauce that we wanted to pour over everything.Although I usually enjoy the nyonya laksa spicy coconut noodle soup at Peninsula, I decided to go with my other favorite, the Buddhist Yam Pot. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Urinetown” at the Jungle Theater: An exuberant musical about micturition

If I had to describe the production of Urinetown at the Jungle Theater in a single word, it would be “exuberance.”  John Command directs an energetic and talented group of singers and dancers to tell the tale of a world where water is scarce and the ability to relieve oneself is limited by the size of one’s pocketbook. Micturition seems like an unlikely topic for a rousing musical, but this show radiates exuberance and provides for a very entertaining evening.Mark Hollmann wrote the music and lyrics, with Greg Kotis providing the book and lyrics. Kotis developed the idea for the show when he encountered pay-per-use toilets in Europe. The show originally opened as part of the New York Fringe Festival. It opened on Broadway in 2001 and ran for three years, winning three Tony Awards. Continue Reading

A room of one’s own: The plight of tenants in a landlords’ market

A number of Erika’s neighbors have moved away now. Her apartment building, located on Pillsbury Avenue in the Whittier neighborhood, was purchased by Mint Properties in November of last year, and many of her neighbors were sent letters that they needed to move out, in order for the landlord to make renovations. Fearful that she still might receive a letter, Erika has been looking around, but it’s hard to find a place in the neighborhood as rental prices are rising.The current listed price on Mint Property’s website for the building is $625 for a studio, or $745-790 for a one bedroom, a jump in price from what the tenants had been paying for their families to live. Erika says that as new tenants move in, they are for the most part single adults, with no kids.One family, couple Carlos Rivera and Yosenia Rosales and their three kids, are moving to the Central neighborhood. Through a translator, they said they had lived in the building for three and a half years, and had built strong friendships with the other families in the building, who would often look after each others’ kids, which was especially important for one of their children, who has autism.“He knows this area,” Rivera said. Continue Reading

REVIEW | Morris Day and Doomtree take it all the way to five at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Summer Party

On Saturday, June 1, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) hosted its annual Gala and Summer Party Fundraiser. Photographer Meredith Westin and I attended the Summer Party part of the evening, which featured Doomtree and the now iconic glam-rock-era-Minneapolis-Sound Morris Day and the Time. The exhibition More Real? Art in the Age of Truthiness was the inspiration for this fourth annual fundraiser.How do you cover an event where people have paid between $85-$750/ticket, attire is “cocktail” to “black tie,” and the soundtrack of the evening is rap to funk created by two groups best known for First Avenue performances? An event that’s part high-society and part emerging-artists, a little funk and a lot of glam, but all sincerely focused on the Twin Cities arts community? Continue Reading