Municipal IDs could shape the future of immigrant rights in Minneapolis

A new form of identification –  municipal identification – will soon be implemented in Minneapolis. It is possibly a life-changing move for thousands in the metro area. Municipal identification is not a nascent thing, but rather a local, albeit legal identification that’s taken hold in large and small cities across the country, from Los Angeles to New York City and even to Northfield, Minnesota. On just a single page on the city of Minneapolis’ website, municipal IDs have certainly become part of the political lexicon, after nearly a decade of grassroots advocacy. The page begins with the declaration that, in order to show we are “One Minneapolis,” municipal IDs will “further advance the City’s racial equity goals.” The IDs, the page explains, “will connect Minneapolis residents to services, programs and benefits, regardless of immigration status, homelessness or gender identity.”

That the use of IDs now stand to be codified into law comes on the heels of years of hard work by a broad coalition of immigrant activist groups and community organizations collaborating with the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations. Continue Reading

Day tripping in Northfield: What book are you reading?

This year summer has been about finally reading those books that have spent too many months untouched on the shelf, evenings and weekends spent at the grill, and glorious warm, slow, sunny moments strung together with day trips to great places within a few hours drive of the Twin Cities. We hike for a few hours, grab a cone or a root beer float, and come home feeling like we’ve taken Thoreau’s advice to live deliberately and deep, and to suck out all of the marrow (and ice cream) of life. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Retrospective: Notes on six remarkable performances from the past year — including jazz, a DFL banquet, skydiving and a funeral

The most useful and popular of our theater, music and film critics arguably see and reflect on too much stuff too frequently.  A reviewer’s fatigue-fogged lens and carpal tunnel syndrome can both mug a great play or canonize a pile of digital kitsch on an IMAX screen.  As a suburban cul-de-sac dweller, I don’t see much and am not vulnerable to these trap doors.  Because some of the few live performances I have seen are very notable but have slipped through cracks, I here provide, for your consideration dear possums, my 2012 list of memorable performances including a one act play, a DFL banquet, a funeral service, music ensembles and a video. ZEITGEIST / NIRMALA RAJASEKAR, 2/11/12, St. PaulThe new music ensemble, Zeitgeist, regularly teams up with other inventing and accomplished musicians in their Lower Town, Saint Paul performing space, Studio Z.  On the recommendation of my colleague and Zeitgeist Board Member Craig Sinard, my wife Carol and I attended a Zeitgeist concert-seminar of sorts in February featuring composer Nirmala Rajasekar.  Rajasekar is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso and teacher of a 7-string, plucked, South Indian, classical instrument called a Saraswati veena. We arrived a bit late, which in Minnesota – home of the crowded back pews – means that the tardy get the front row seats.  Such was the case that evening.  We quietly maneuvered into forward positions about seven feet from Ms. Rajasekar who was positioned cross-legged on the floor with the large, lute-like instrument.  A menagerie of instruments and Zeitgeistians Heather Barringer and Patti MCudd (percussion), Pat O’Keefe (woodwinds) and Shannon Wettstein (piano) fanned out behind her.The ensemble’s sound was at once exotic, tropical, familiar and fun.  The veena family of instruments, we learned, is counterpart to the sitar of Northern India, but evolved from a South India Carnatic tradition with distinct rhythms and human voice-like harmonics and tones.  The veena played by Ms. Rajasekar has a large, carved wood resonator – a large bowl set on the floor against her right thigh, that tapers into a hollow, 4-foot long neck.  The neck supports a 24-fret, fingering board and a smaller gourd-shaped resonator that rests on top of the left thigh.  An ornate, down-curving tuning box culminating in a dragon’s head, and a rank of 4 main strings and a rank of 3 “drone” strings stretched over their respective bridges complete the instrument. The Saraswati veena, we learned, is named after the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science.  Hearing the waves of ethereal, pulsing, darting and swooping music above sustained harmonically rich chords produced by Ms. Rajasekar – and at one point her daughter Shruthi, e goddess must be very pleased.  A mere mortal like myself was mesmerized.  When jamming with improvising marimbas, drums, blocks, chimes, saxophone and piano the experience became illuminating, liberating and spiritual.  The experience was nourished by both east and west and was something new.  I rank my visit to the jewel box of Studio Z with the hour I spent absorbing, from only 15 paces, Leonard Bernstein rehearsing the New York Philharmonic one summer afternoon on the southwest flank of the Great Lawn in Central Park.Video: Nirmala Rejasekar ensemble on TPT’s Minnesota Original –          LORIA PARKER, 4/26/12, New YorkMy good friend Peter Brownscomb and I had cabbed it from the East Village to 69th Street and Lexington Avenue to find a recital hall perched inside Hunter College, There we would find Loria Parker, another long time friend, who we hadn’t seen in years.  Loria had the title role in a one-act musical sponsored by the Ziegfeld Society, a non-profit group working to put fading Broadway traditions back on the boards. “America’s Funny Girl  – Fanny Brice,” crafted by Society President Mark York was premiering in the austere setting of the Lang Recital Hall that none-the-less was filling up with what appeared to be long-retired showgirls, cane-in-hand gents, Yiddish theater patrons, and friends of the cast.  The chatter of elderly, opinionated New Yorkers produced a wondrous, concerto of gab one cannot get in Minnesota – where I’ve spent the last two decades — not even on Seinfeld reruns.Back-story:  In the 1980’s Loria Parker and I had intersected in Manhattan’s cabaret circuit. At the time I was producing show bizzy, Phantom Agent segments for WNEW-TV’s PM Magazine.  I became friends with her father, the sly and vinegary effervescent, comedy writer, Coleman Jacoby (Bilko, Hope, Gleason) and her stepmother, Gaby Monet, an Oscar winning, documentary producer (HBO and Concepts Unlimited).I hadn’t heard Loria perform since a gig at Jan Wallman’s Cabaret about 1988.  That show featured one of her father’s songs and, on opening night, her presentation of a Hebrew National Salami to TV legend, Steve Allen – a recurring bit from his 1950’s run on The Tonight Show.  Steve and Coleman, both Friars Club elders, loved the tribute.  Loria’s strong, rounded alto, expressive personality, timing, and easy command of her dad’s bouncy lyrics and Sondheim’s tongue-twisting angst were remarkable.   This level of talent in 1978 had won Loria (as Catherine Jacoby) a singing role as Fanny Brice in the made-for-TV movie, “Ziegfeld:  The Man and His Women.”   It is my understanding that Loria and Barbra Streisand are the only actresses to portray Brice in major films.  Mark York heard of the film, located Loria, cast her in the title role and recruited her husband Gerry Janssen (a retired vocal coach) to operate the spotlight.  By long distance phone before the show, Loria confessed to me that she hadn’t been on stage in years; explaining that she had been building an image consulting firm, reviewing plays for the web publication and caring for family members.  The Canary, in other words, had the jitters.  But the personable flare that had won her bouquets in cabaret and regional theater were in full bloom at Hunter.  For sure, the audience came pre-loaded with affection; they were, after all, informed society members.  Fanny had been the Ziegfeld Follies’ biggest star.  Some, I figured, had heard Brice on the NBC Radio series “The Baby Snooks Show.”  Snooks – an impish, four-year old brat, who bested all grownups, had become Brice’s signature character in spite of decades of star turns on vaudeville and Broadway stages. Projecting the charismatic and comic flash of the seasoned trooper that Fanny Brice must have been in 1950, near the end of her still active life and the time frame of the play, Loria Parker delivered the full package.  She was ably supported by Jeffrey Scott Stevens and Jeff Dickamore in multiple roles including a butler, a stage manager, Eddie Cantor, Irving Berlin and Nick Arnstein – foils that served as brackets for Parker’s singing and York’s piano accompaniment for such Brice standards as “My Man,” “Second Hand Rose,” and “More Than You Know.”Although York builds his play on a fictional encounter between Brice and a college newspaper reporter – one with a gnat’s grasp of show biz history, he respects the factual record of the beloved comedienne’s life and garnishes the libretto with her actual words. For example, the reporter asks Fanny what it’s like to be an overnight success with the Baby Snooks character.  Parker, as Fanny, quips,”Listen kid, I’ve done everything in the theater except marry the property man.  I’ve been a soubrette in burlesque,  I’ve acted for Belasco and I’ve laid them out in the aisles at the Palace.  I’ve doubled as an alligator and I’ve worked for Ziegfeld and the Schubert,  and I’ve been joined in the holy bonds to Billy Rose. Continue Reading

Northfield’s Jon Denison: Dismal as a candidate, but winning fans in office

On the morning of November 8, 2006, Jon Denison learned that he had become Northfield’s new city councilor for the 4th Ward. In a close race that wasn’t decided until after he’d gone to sleep, Denison squeaked past his opponent, Victor Summa, by a mere 49 votes.The strange thing was, Denison had never really campaigned. He hadn’t attended any public candidate forums, nor had he responded to questions from the Northfield News about his policies, initiatives or ideas. Shocked by Northfield’s selection of such an unknown quantity, resident activist Tracy Davis went to the Internet to voice her dissatisfaction. In a post on, a community blog that receives thousands of visits each day, Davis bewailed Denison’s election:“Last night’s election results in the Fourth Ward, on the City’s west side, were shameful,” Davis wrote. Continue Reading

Northfield: A small town with big ideas on citizen journalism

NORTHFIELD, MN — On any given day at the Goodbye Blue Monday coffee shop in downtown Northfield, you will see several people scanning their computers instead of perusing a newspaper, as they nurse their morning coffees. Mackenzie Zimmer is a first-year student at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. The reason is that Northfield has two citizen journalism blogs, and, that are highly popular morning reads in town. With a total population of only 17,150, Northfield has two citizen journalism web sites covering local news, events and activities — Locally Grown, which attracts nearly 7,000 visitors a month, and, with a monthly readership of about 9,400. Unlike their newspaper counterpart, the Northfield News, these websites provide citizens with more than just breaking news and a calendar of events. Continue Reading

Carrying a Torch for Kids Who Dream of College

NORTHFIELD, MN — In 2001, two third-grade girls from Northfield had a dream.They would go to college together and be roommates. There was only one problem: Stephanie was a blond-haired, blue-eyed Midwesterner, and Alejandra was Hispanic. Back in 2001, only 18% of Northfield’s Latino population passed the Minnesota Basic Skills Test (BST), a requirement to graduate from high school. Matt Hart is a sophomore at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. The odds of the girls’ dream being realized looked grim. Continue Reading

Two sons of Northfield remember Malt-O-Meal’s good ol’ days

“I don’t have anything against partying, but if you can’t party and work in the same day, then maybe you should give up one of them,” said the Glenn Brooks of Bill Stanton’s memory. Ryeon Corsi is a senior at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. That was more than thirty years ago. Glenn Brooks, the former president of Malt-O-Meal, has long since passed, but Bill Stanton lives on, as does his comrade, Allen Pleschourt. Today, Bill and Allen remember the wisdom of Glenn Brooks with affection, as they do the many decades of work they devoted to Malt-O-Meal in Northfield. Continue Reading