Thursday, April 17, 2014


MINNEAPOLIS — About 350 people braved the cold and sleet to attend the annual Passover Sedar and feast at St. Joan of Arc Church in south Minneapolis last night.  The event combines many familiar elements of a traditional seder with some Christian ritual at the end.  Peace, brotherhood and let’s celebrate spring if it ever happens were the themes.  It’s definitely “sedar light” and somewhat raucous when held in this cavernous gymnasium.
I was introduced to the Rev. Fr. Jim Debracy as at the “Jewish” guy and after the event he wanted my evaluation which of course was positive.  Debracy impressed me with his 1980s stay in Jerusalem where he studied scripture and was recruited off the street to join a Saturday morning service at a local synagogue.  He was happy to do it.  Last night Debracy sported the embroidered yamicah that he bought in the Holy Land.
Joan of Arc is as progressive as the Catholics get in the Northland and those I met were a friendly lot.  Also attending was Lisa, who is Jewish and a student with me in the UofM OLLI classes.
Much traditional Jewish music added to the merriment which included the ritual folk dance that we all know accompanied by the accordion player from the Gashaus restaurant.   “Let My People Go,” which will be reprised Saturday for the Or Emet Jewish Humanist Sedar, was part of the group sing- along.  To recognize the inclusion of gays and lesbians at Joan of Arc, orange slices were on the tables and this will be part of Or Emet’s Sedar as well at First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis.
I would like to think that the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof” has sparked Christian awareness of Jewish traditions, particularly with anthems like “Tradition” and “To Life.”  So it was no coincidence that last week a conservative Christian congregation in suburban Seattle had a successful run with “Fiddler” and it was a hit here at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater and Edina High School in recent months.  It brings a message that we like to hear repeatedly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bert Stern May Have Been Mad But He's Not Don Draper

If you remember the ads for the movie “Lolita” with Sue Lyons in heart shaped sunglasses then you need to see the documentary “Bert Stern, the Original Mad Man,” directed by Shannah  Laumeister.   Stern was the creative photographer genius behind other notable efforts including “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” the loving tribute to Anita O’Day and the ’59 Newport Jazz Festival.  With an eye for framing the shot and with Hollywood good looks, Stern was riding high in the swinging ‘60s.  Laumeister is brave for attempting a film about such an opinionated, critical genius, but Stern wasn’t an advertising agency executive and not the model for Don Draper.

Friday, April 11, 2014

"House of Wax" -- B Movie With 3-D Novelty Gimmicks

Smoldering timbers were falling on me last night at the Walker Art Center’s showing of the 1953 3-D classic “House of Wax” which is a remake of of ‘30s two color film, “Mystery of the Wax Museum.” I had seen “House” in 1963 at a revival in 2-D at a movie palace in downtown Los Angeles.  The beginning and climatic end of the movie are griping but it slows down whenever Frank Lovejoy, who plays the cop, is on the screen.  Phyllis Kirk is the obligatory damsel in distress.
There’s a bit where a vaudeville performer uses a paddle with a small ball attached by a rubber string to annoy the audience.

It was the first major studio 3-D movie.  Now we need to see “The French Line.”

Sunday, April 06, 2014

"Mission to Moscow" is Memorable WW2 Propoganda

It was easy to hate the enemy but difficult to love all our allies when we were teamed with the Soviet Union in World War II.  So in 1943 brave major studio Warner Bros. released “Mission to Moscow,” based on Amb. Joseph Davies book of the same name.  It’s fascinating war propaganda showing a train station in Germany where prisoners await transfer to the labor camps contrasted with Moscow where there’s plenty of caviar, fun and military hardware.  An actor portrays Stalin as a genteel soul.  The actual diplomat Davies makes a disclaimer at the start that he is pro capitalism but we can’t let Russia’s assets fall into Nazi hands.  At this time there was considerable anti-communist, anti-Stalin sentiment amongst the news media and politicians in the U.S.  Walter Huston portrays Davies and Michael Curtiz is the director.  A lobby poster from the film was part of the Rominov display at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.

Friday, March 07, 2014

More Cactus Dave's Excellent Desert Adventure

THOUSAND PALMS OASIS PRESERVE (Feb. 27) — Here’s a challenging setting for shutterbugs with the desert peaking through the huge palm trees.  If you come from Minnesota, any kind of palm tree is a treat but these are unbelievably massive.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK (March 4) —  Look familiar?  It’s the iconic cowboy movie setting where the battle of wits between the Road Runner and Wylie Coyote ensued.  We were wearing cutoffs here when when  it was about 60.  In the nearby town, a very young James Dean lived in 1951.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


DESERT HOT SPRINGS (Feb. 28) — “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name.  It felt good to be out of the rain.”  Torrential downpour best described DHS this day.  The sculpture here, “Two Faced White Man,” was done by Native American artist Semu and resides in the dungeon like Pueblo museum of desert eccentric Cabot Yerxa.  Semu makes a statement on the white man’s duplicity with treaty making.  This tourist attraction was built in the ‘40s by Yerxa, a whimsical former Minnesotan who entertained artistic aspirations and studied painting in Paris in the ‘20s when Picasso and Hemingway were on the scene.  

INDIO  (Feb. 27) — Be cool in the desert so we were in this retro iconic bad boy Dodge Challenger hybrid (it burns gas and rubber).  The Challenger is a commanding presence on the I-10 or at Joshua Tree National Park.  The Dodge Brothers knew their cars.

Greta Garbo's La Quinta Desert Retreat

“I vant to be alone,” moaned Greta Garbo so she repaired to this apartment at LaQuinta Resort where she no doubt made John Gilbert Swedish meat balls and lefske.  Pass the lingonberry jam.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Journalism's Future Changing Rapidly

MINNEAPOLIS — With revenues dwindling for TV newscasts and newspapers, who will fund journalism in the United States?  The evolving state of journalism here was the lecture given today to a group of senior lifelong students by Kathleen Hansen, director of graduate studies.  Unlike Sweden, the UK and Canada, there are no public subsidies for news reporting in the United States.  The massive technological shift is forcing journalism to change, Hansen said.  Newspapers remain the largest employers of reporters in most communities, but their future is dubious.  On the other hand, a study shows that civic engagement declined in Denver and Seattle when newspapers closed.  People stopped going to meetings.  Young people must be optimistic because the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communications has 1,000 students, more than any other discipline in the College of Liberal Arts.  The Guardian promo gives a slant on the current dilemma.