Monthly Archives: July 2011

Jazz Vocalist Grazyna Auguscik Graces Twin Cities Polish Festival

Art critic Howard Reich is an ardent and articulate fan of jazz vocalist Grazyna Auguscik who will perform for Minnesota fans at the forthcoming 2011 Twin Cities Polish Festival.

Writing in July 2010 Reich rhapsodized about Ms. Auguscik’s performance of the work of Poland’s national musician, Frederic Chopin:

The music world has been awash with 200th anniversary celebrations of Frederic Chopin’s birth, but surely none as free-wheeling as Sunday night’s marathon at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.  (Chicago Tribune, July 26, 2010, quoted online)

Reich goes on to “hazard a guess” about how the Master might have responded to Auguscik’s jazz interpretation of his work:

Chopin himself might have reveled in these sounds. His piano music, after all, bristles with the spirit of improvisation, as if the composer had sat down at the keyboard and instantaneously invented some of the most enduring works in the piano repertory.  Most of Chopin’s preludes, etudes, and nocturnes unfold in utterly unpredictable ways, changing emotional tone at the drop of a sixteenth note—just like jazz. (Ibid)

To this lay person, Auguscik is becoming a YouTube superstar.  Her several videos are not to be missed!

Auguscik is recipient of countless awards and testimonials for her vocal talents.  Recently she was honored for yet another accomplishment.  Now a Chicago resident who carries her unique talent throughout the nation and the world, Auguscik is the May 2011  recipient of the Polish Promotional Emblem Foundation award.  The prestigious award recognizes “the achievements of Polish-born émigrés in the fields of business, culture, science and personality.”

The Twin Cities Polish Festival 2011 is set for Saturday, August 13 and Sunday, August 14, on the Mississippi Riverfront.  For details on this fun- filled – and free – family event click here.

 

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Neighbors, nosh and news at Neighborhood Night Out

REMINDER –

 NATIONAL NIGHT OUT – TUESDAY, AUGUST 2

By my count there are seventeen sites in the Windom Park Neighborhood.  For a full listing of sites, arranged by neighborhood,, check the City Hall website.

By my count there are seventeen NNO sites in Windom Park!  All feature good food – potluck or BBQ;  specialties include bounce houses, visits from the police and fire departments, games, rides, food shelf drives, even a book swap!

Like most grassroots efforts, NNO has roots.  The National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit, crime prevention organization, introduced NNO in 1984 as a concerted effort to heighten awareness and strengthen participation in local anticrime efforts.  The first year 400 communities in 23 states participated for a total of 2.5 million Americans.  Focus in the early days was on “lights on” and front porch vigils, some of which remain in practice.

Today NNO involves 37 million people in over 15,000 communities from fifty states, territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide.

Sure, you know all your neighbors.  Remember, though, that it was a long hard winter and a short hot summer.  Folks cocooned.  You could have missed something.  Here’s your chance to pick up on the news and to share stories, pictures and a tempting taste treat with folks you might not have seen since last August!

Polish Festival on the Riverfront August 13-14 – Open to All!

The very word  “Festival” conjures thoughts of up-beat music, lively dance, great food, fun in the sun.  The 2011 Twin Cities Polish Festival offers all of this  (well, the sun is always iffy) and much more!  What is magnificent about the Polish Festival is the unbounded celebration of Polish culture — Chopin, Conrad, classic films, ethnic food, modern jazz, polka and more mix with accordion playing, folk dance, vodka tasting, a 5K Run and more in a wondrous mix of fun and exploration of the Polish heritage.

All are welcome to join the festivities on Saturday, August 13, 10-10 and Sunday, August 14, 11 – 6.  Gather on the banks of the Mississippi, across from Riverplace and St. Anthony Main.  This grand celebration of All Things Polish is definitely a community event, not just for Polish folks anymore – not that there is anyone who will admit to total dearth of Polish heritage!

Some highlights offer a glimpse of  what’s happening:

v    Grazyna Auguscik, internationally acclaimed Jazz singer/composer renowned for her progressive jazz vocall, accompanied by a group of jazz notables including Paulinho Garcia, Brazilian singer/guitarist and Polish electric violinist

v    Polka Family Band, the five times Grammy nominated band from Pennsylvania.

v    The Megitza Quartet offering a unique jazz/world fusion/gypsy repertoire

v    Jaroslaw Golembiowski, the distinguished composer and pianist who is the featured performer for the Chopin Celebration Concerts

v    Vodka tasting – new this year

v    The 2011 Minnesota State Amateur Polka Dance Championship

v    The 3rd annual NaZdrowie! (to your health) 5K race

The Polish FilmFestival, a highlight of the two-day Festival, offers a weeklong program with film showings every evening, August 12-18.   The FilmFestival, co-sponsored by The Film Society, is at the St. Anthony Main Theater.

– Details, updates, a map, bus, NiceRide, parking and more on the Twin Cities Polish Festival website.

Harlan Cleveland’s Characterization of Information As a Resource

Recent reflections on Mulford Q. Sibley drew me like a mental magnet to thoughts about another of our information age visionaries, Harlan Cleveland.  Diplomat and Statesman, founding Dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, information age pioneer and thinker.  It was in his role as teacher that Cleveland launched many of us on a path of thinking in new ways about information.  Information, in Cleveland construct, is a force, a renewable resource of inestimable value that can be described in graphic terms.  Though I never knew Harlan Cleveland his prescient thoughts on the properties of information still remind and inspire.

When Cleveland died in 2008 I thought and wrote about him and about the impact he had on my world view and on society’s understanding of information as a resource.  Though for the most part I wrote for myself, my recollection is that the essay was published by the Minnesota Independent Scholars.  [Note 1]

It seems somehow appropriate to resurrect those words now, not on the merits of text but because the tribute offers a quick synopsis of Cleveland’s basic principles.  Cleveland’s cogent definitions and descriptions provide a lay person’s guide to principles that deserve a reread;  his simple but elegant sound bites provide a framework for addressing today’s intractable information challenges.

Following is my humble – if dated – effort to honor Cleveland and to share his thoughts:

It’s a sad and sobering irony to reflect on the recent death of Harlan Cleveland midst the energy and hope that reign at the Media Reform Conference going full steam this weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  For decades Harlan Cleveland has been my guiding star in a turbulent information era.

Twenty-five years ago I was involved with a conference bearing the irresistible title “A Question of Balance: Public Sector, Private Sector Interaction in the Delivery of Information Services.  The conference was a typically Minnesotan response to a report from the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science — from whence we derived the catchy subtle.  With prescient naiveté we gathered journalists, media moguls, access advocates and gangs of librarians for two days of weighing the issues raised in the report, a report that one speaker accurately described  as “pernicious.”

[The gathering was not without its lively moments – most notably the spectacle of Paul Zurkowski, head of the Information Industry Association, storming down the aisle, pointing his cane as he snarled “Poppycock! at the elegant visionary Anita Schiller.]

The keynote speaker at that event – and my all-time Information Hero – was Harlan Cleveland.  He spoke, as he frequently wrote, about the characteristics of information “as a resource, “the basic, yet abstract information.”   Cleveland lamented that “we have carried over into our thinking about information (which is to say symbols) concepts development for the management of things – concepts such as property, depletion, depreciation, monopoly, market economics, the class struggle, and top-down leadership.”  It might help, he opined, “if we stop treating information as just another thing, and look hard at what makes it so special.”

In Cleveland’s 21st Century construct, information as a resource possesses these unique characteristics: 

  • Information is expandable – “The facts are never all in – and facts are available in such profusion that uncertainty becomes the most important planning factor.”  Thus, “the further a society moves toward making its living from the manipulation of information, the more its citizens will be caught up in a continual struggle to reduce the  information overload on their desks and in the lives in order to reduce the uncertainty about what to do.”
  • Information is compressible — “Though it’s infinitely expandable, information can be concentrated, integrated, summarized… for easy handling.”
  • Information is substitutable — It can replace capital, labor or physical materials.
  • Information is transportable — “In less than a century, we have been witness to a major dimensional change in both the speed and volume of human activity.”
  • Information is diffusive — It tends to leak – and the more it leaks the more we have. 
  • Information is shareable — Information by nature cannot give rise to exchange transactions, only to sharing transactions.  Things are exchanged.   “If I give you a fact or tell you a story, it’s like a good kiss: in sharing the thrill, you enhance it.”

Cleveland would relish the exuberant exchanges echoing through the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend — snippets of conversations involving 3000 reform advocates talking about knowledge, wisdom, informed citizens and their role in a democracy, transparency in government, media ownership, network neutrality.  Many of these attendees may not know the name Harland Cleveland, but they understand  – intuitively and empirically — that information is a resource that is expandable, compressible, substitutable, transportable, diffusive and, most important, shareable — like a kiss! [Note 2]

Note 1 – This text is from the files of the author.

Note 2 – A national conference on media reform was progress in Minneapolis at this writing.

Note 3 –One of the earliest iterations of Cleveland’s thoughts on information as a resource is found in the December 1982 issue of The Futurist. Check the site for much more about Harlan Cleveland’s life as well as numerous articles written by Cleveland through the years.

Elected officials boast and voters of this day eschew the thoughts of the old guys, much less those who have gone before, it’s worth noting that, even in a digital age where communication is all about social media, words and ideas outlast the moment – at times to the peril of the source….Fortunately, the words and ideas are profound and preserved.  The expressed thoughts of Sibley and Cleveland are profound, preserved and provocative, now more than ever.

 

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Utopia vs Dystopia? Reflections on a Summer Exploring Information Principles with Mulford Q. Sibley

Decades ago I had the privilege of participating in an NSF summer institute for faculty at two-year colleges who NSF no doubt assumed needed a jolt of academic discipline in their mundane lives.  The class was on Utopias and Dystopias (though it probably had a more academic-oriented title.)  The teacher was the legendary Mulford Q. Sibley, known to this day as an outspoken radical who spoke his mind freely and frequently, wore a defiant red tie to make a statement, and did not suffer fools gladly.

For the most part we grateful students eagerly probed the master’s mind which Mulford Q. was more than willing to open wide and to change in media res.  Half way through the course our leader opined that we should probably produce concrete evidence of our learning.  Each was to write a utopian or dystopian essay or story.  Positive thinker –and contrarian – that I am I chose the road less travelled by…Though I cannot say it made all the difference, it did expand my worldview.

My academic job was as librarian in a small, liberal arts college.  It was my good fortune to have world enough and time to think about the expanding universe of which mere mortals and their institutions are not pawns but players.  The library in which I spent my days perched on a cliff from which you could see forever; the youthful learners were fresh, eager, headed in all directions.

The NSF Institute took place in the mid-70’s. just as the information and communications revolution was seeping through the very pores of the library and of our lives.  Predictably, my dystopia was set in a volatile information age environment. Scholars and plebians alike greeted the new age with mixed reaction – elation, terror, confusion, fascination with the gadgetry, and new investment policies. Those who grasped the basic principle of information power were girding their loins, acquiring the technology, scooping up licenses and bandwidths, and otherwise eliminating the competition.

The dystopia spewed forth from my IBM Selectric without a hitch – at some level I was living it. The awkward tale I spun forewarned a time of information overload – mountains of data erupting, human minds blown by too much information, the phase-out of people with the skills and institutional support to filter information.  With a bit of narcissism I wrote of librarians, journalists, publishers, educators, speech writers, editor, booksellers  and others who form the information chain that links source with user and user with source.

Dutiful student that I was in the day, I worried, but didn’t write about the ownership of the information per se —  I already knew how that would ignite  Dr. Sibley.  I stuck with the threat posed by too much information, too little time and too few coping tools.  A tragic dystopic – not to mention political — tale.

Or so I thought.  Dr. Sibley had other ideas which he expressed in bold red ink notes that live on in my psyche.  In his interpretation I, the control freak librarian, saw myself as a censor, curbing access to information, barring the gates to knowledge in the guise of creating order and adding value.  Dr, Sibley averred that it was the likes of me who would create the very dystopia that I had vilified.

Dr. Sibley envisioned a world in which information flowed unfettered, beyond the restrictions of government and propagandists.  Access was his goal.  And he was right, of course.  From my perspective, the distinction between availability and accessibility was palpable.  Information does no good, I argued,  if a curious searcher cannot manipulate the information chain. I think I was right, too (not that I pressed the point at the time.)

Where we were both right was in taking time during a mid-70’s summer session to focus on information as a force with which to be reckoned.  Though Dr. Sibley was closer to the mark when he worried about control, his emphasis was on political, not economic, control. For my part, focus on overload was naïve because I portrayed filters as relatively benign links in the chain

The institute was long ago and lasted for just six weeks – six long hot weeks contemplating life, the universe and everything from the upper reaches of the U of M Social Science Building.  Still, the lesson endures. The experience of thinking about information in concrete political, economic and social terms instilled a lifetime habit.  At times I remind myself, ITIS – It’s the Information Stupid!

This ancient tale resurfaces now as I watch media grapple with the challenges of a full-blown  information and communication age.  Utopia and dystopia still loom as options.  It concerns me that we who consume and act on information are only tangentially  engaged in choosing the utopian vs dystopian path.

We seem equally disinclined to analyze the unique role of the media in a tangled information chain that engulfs and threatens society.  Though we accept that information rules as the undisputed coin of the realm we have yet to understand that information, the channels of communication, and those who control either – or both — need to be tamed.

Jobs, taxes, housing, and other realities are tangible, measurable, concrete, suited to slogans and simple stories. Information is elusive, intangible, implicit, esoteric, remote, complicated.  It’s also ubiquitous, a vital force that runs through every aspect of our lives and our society.  It’s just not easy to contemplate or to explain.  Besides, there are  disincentives to any attempt to probe the turgid depths of the information labyrinth.

That’s what the information powers know only too well.  The information powers are at the ready to defend themselves, in part by harnessing the power of information and communications technology they control.  to justify their misdeeds – to control the story spun to the little people who are only too eager to pay for the pap they are fed.

Still I hope Michael Copps is right in his optimistic prognosis.  Copps, a Federal Communications Commissioner who takes his role seriously, recently advised members of the National Newspaper Association that they are not alone.  While the press may lead, he told them, the American public supports a utopian model of a free press.

At the same time, Copps worries about the dystopic path:  “I have come to realize,” he says, “that, without a serious national effort and some significant changes, our media environment will only get worse…I believe we can – and I believe we must – find ways to redeem the promise of journalism because good journalism is so vital to redeeming the promise of America.”

This leads me back to that summer with Mulford Q. Sibley – the yin and yang  of our takes on the imminent information explosion — the seasoned scholar’s concerns about the free flow of information vs. my youthful certainty that conventional filtering systems were more than ever essential to avoid disaster.   What we shared was not a perspective but a deep conviction that information is the essential building block of a democratic society – a belief that information is worth thinking and talking about at a fundamental level.  Today I reflect on that experience (which probably is more profound in the mind than in the day) with appreciation tinged with nostalgia.

I can only imagine a chat with Dr. Sibley about the role of 21st Century institutions in preserving a utopian vision and creating a path to reach a utopian goal. The technology, the politics, the economics of information have changed over the decades.  What has not changed is etched in my memory, a gangly Mulford Q. Sibley still challenging, still teaching and still sporting that defiant red tie!  As I watch the Murdoch empire crumble I can almost hear Sibley chortling.

Finding Fun at St. Anthony VillageFest, August 5-7

Folks in St. Anthony and Northeast/North Minneapolis environs have been counting the days till the St. Anthony VillageFest set for August 5-7.  This is for readers outside the hood.  Be sure that, though St. Anthony Villagers enjoy all of the blessings of a small town, they know how to throw a Big City Festival,

To get the juices flowing the St. Anthony Community Theater offers a three-performance run of The Sound of Music on the preceding weekend, July 29-31.  The perennial favorite is set for 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday at the St. Anthony High School, 3400 Silver Lake Road  Tickets are $10/adults, $8/seniors.

Friday, August 5 — The annual SAV Golf Tournament begins at Noon on Friday, August 5, $95 Pregistration required. Call Steve Sparks 612 741 0416 for information or to register

6:00 – Parade lineup  7:00 – Parade begins at the St. Charles Borromeo parking lot and continues  St. Anthony Shopping Center,  After the parade – Street Dance and CelebrationFeatured entertainer – Headpressure.  Games, coloring contest, visiting dignitaries and a Bocce tournament at 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, August 6 — A day filled with something for every fun-lover – Silent auction, games, arts activities a show, petting zoo and more the kids, Vendor craft fair, Blazing Saddles on stage, and more. 7:30 p.m. Main stage entertainment with a 9:45 break for fireworks, followed by more entertainment

Sunday, August 7 — Pancake Breakfast sponsored by the Kiwanis 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the St. Anthony Community Center, $6 adults, $4 children

Final performance of The Sound of Music – 2:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

First Person + Third Person = Second Person (FP+TP=SP)

My foment of the moment concerns personhood – my personal reflections on moving from “I” to “She” – as in when

  • The clerk asks my young colleague “What does she  think?” of the lumpy garment I’m not going to buy anyway since she obviously doesn’t know I’m there.” .  or
  • A stranger asks my adult son, “Would she mind if we…” when I’d be quite able to express my own opinion of their ridiculous idea, or
  • A casual companion inquires of a younger friend  “Did she know (x)?”  — which I probably did and wouldn’t admit if I did.

Yes, one option is to shop, eat, live, and otherwise do everything alone – the problem is that the unaccompanied TP can expect to be ignored altogether.  Alone or with others, the negative impact of categorization as an invisible Third Person (TP) does not sit well with this functioning, if aging, First Person (FP).  This attitude is exacerbated by the fact that TP status almost universally to grey-haired women, seldom to silver haired men.

For all my long life I have known women who exuded FP-ness well into their senior years.  They were vital parents and relatives, colleagues, and friends.    When the clerk or waitress nodded to my diminutive mother and asked me what she wanted, I bristled while my mom, the customer, glowered  in righteous FP defiance – and did not darken that door again. A commanding presence 5-footer my mother could quell a student uprising with a withering glance.  She and her friends were FPs long after their allotted time.

Today’s  FPs would re-rank them as de-facto TPs.  After all, thee FP’s have marinated all their lives in a tempero- and ego-centric environment ruled by “I”, “me” “mine” and “now.”

Eons ago, when we TP’s were in high school we learned about the Malthusian Theory.  I recall calculating at the time that my generation would need thinning out by war or pestilence.  The clear alternative, euthanasia, seemed in my youth an inevitable possibility for my generation   Now I reflect that relegation to TP non-status is a socially acceptable form of euthanasia – out of sight, out of mind.

When children need attention they act out, an appropriate model for TPers, I’ve concluded.  Though some folks, even English majors, find his message morbid, Dylan Thomas inspires me to embrace the liberating anonymity of Third Personhood when he writes for his father and for TPs of generations to come:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Sounds good to me.  And so I intend to rage against all manner of atrocities, including at random:

  • pig-headed elected officials who can’t think for themselves, much less the voters
  • rude bus riders
  • opinion leaders who aver that the cost of war has nothing to do with the cost of Medicare  the pompous media who ignore, distort, or fail to check the facts
  • traffickers- drugs, children, and more
  • religious leaders who distort history while they prey hapless laity
  • game-playing education institutions that rob but do not teach
  • polluters
  • those who deny global warning
  • individuals and institutions that fail to nurture the children and youth who will soon enough take the place of today’s FP’s
  • anything else that denies full humanity to others.

My hope is not so much as to rave and rage but to channel the energy.  My eyes aren’t so good anymore, but I still have a vision.  That vision rests on the hope that the FP/TP world will dissolve into a robust Second Person world of “we” and “us” and “our”.  Awareness of language is a necessary if insufficient first step in the right direction.