Monthly Archives: August 2011

Magnificent new Mosaic at the East Side Food Cooperative

Picture of a man putting the finishing touches on a mosaic including a bright sun.

I was fortunate enough last week
to be on hand for the final touch-up of magnificent mosaic mural that now
graces the South external wall of the Eastside Food Cooperative.  The work of art, created by area youth under
the mentorship of artist Sharra Frank, is stunning – a happy visual respite for
Central Avenue travelers.

ArtsWork, a
project of COMPASS,
employs young people during the summer months, giving them an opportunity to
learn a skill, to learn some income, and to experience the work that an artist

The formal
installation was part of the community BBQ sponsored by the Eastside Food


Young Thespians Bring the Bard’s Dreams to Life – for Him and for the Audience

Fringe Festival Folks should take time step out of the heat into the Theater in the Round site for a true breath of fresh!  Upper grade students from St. Paul Waldorf School are breathing that fresh air into the words of the Bard himself.

A cast of talented superstars from the Waldorf Class of 2012 are presenting three more performances of Perchance to Dream, a delightfully entertaining take on the dream life of William Shakespeare created by Scott Gilbert and Hannah Steblay.

Whether or not you know the plays, you’ll recognize the themes and the phrases as these young thespians recreate Shakespeare’s dreams in which he encounters the cast of characters who will ultimately populate the stage at the Abbey.  It’s fast-paced, lively, and just plain fun to watch these nimble youth capture the stage while quoting – and remembering – excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays, just enough to remind the audience of the play itself.

Congratulations to the creators, the cast, the crew, and the Waldorf administration and teachers who knew their 12-13 year olds could master the master himself.

Additional performances are Tuesday, August 9, 5:30 p.m., Friday, August 12, 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, August 14, 4:00 p.m. – at at Theater In the Round.

Learn more about Perchance to Dream, the creators, cast and crew on the Fringe website.

Bonneville Models Grassroots Management Style

For the past eleven years Gayle Bonneville has been the sparkplug, the glue and the institutional memory of my Windom Park neighborhood.  Two afternoons a week she’s posted on Lowry and Stinson where I have spent hundreds of hours waiting for the bus, reading the many messages neatly posted in the window, and wondering about who keeps the neighborhood on an even keel.  Now I know that it is Gayle Bonneville who manages to split her busy days between Windom Park and West St. Anthony neighborhoods, keeping a wide swath of Northeast Minneapolis informed, in touch, and, above all, engaged.  No easy task for this diminutive woman who somehow manages to balance two active nonprofits at the same time she energizes the neighborhoods and reaches out as an active denizen of several social media networks.

Windom Park Citizens in Action (WPCIA) is an independent nonprofit that is the city-designated organization for this Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood.  It is also the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) contracting organization for the Windom Park neighborhood.  Working with a nine-member board and committees Gayle steers a steady course helping residents to identify neighborhood needs, plan and implement solutions, and enhance the quality of life for neighborhood residents.

Gayle is adamant in her insistence that it is the neighbors who make the decisions that shape the community.  An ardent believer in grassroots engagement Gayle spends much of her precious time informing and involving the community at large.  Monthly neighborhood meetings, announced broadly online and by postcard, draw a healthy mix of concerned neighbors.  Increasingly Gayle is turning to social media to share the word.  A striking example of Windom Park’s participatory environment is a recent survey of the neighborhood, conducted online and on paper, in English and Spanish.  Residents were queried about a broad range of imminent and long-tern options; at this time the board is delving through the returns to present the results and the challenge of decision-making to the membership.  Though drastic cuts in NRP funding render those decisions painful at best Gayle insists the tough choices will be made by the neighbors not staff or board.

Currently, Gayle is working with WPCIA’s Community Land Use and Planning committee, NRP, and a mix of home improvement and security loan programs.  As a concerned citizen volunteer she continues to grapple with future development of Shoreham Yards – a political, environmental, legal and regulatory quagmire that would fell a lesser mortal

To contact Gayle with questions or suggestions, email,   For a listing of board, committee and task force members, meetings and responsibilities, check the Windom Park website – better yet, volunteer to serve.  Watch your mailbox and e-list for notices of WPCIA meetings – sign up for e-mail notices here.  The next WPCIA meeting is set for Tuesday, August 16, 7-9 p.m., Pillsbury School Annex, 2551 Hayes – free parking, treats, child care upon request, a chance to learn and have your say about the future of our neighborhood!






Scrubbing History, Scrapping the Facts

A recent spate of blatant examples of what I had heretofore known as “revisionist history” set me fulminating on the distortion of our past – the world, the nation, the neighborhood, the family, even venerable public institutions.   For those of us of an age, George Orwell’s 1984 spun a cautionary tale that shaped our youth.  Once we lived through that fateful year and took the mid-life plunge into the Information Age , we realized that “1984-R-Us..”

To give Michele Bachmann her due, she does put a face on the issue of historical perversion.  Her sycophants’ clumsy efforts to touch up Wikipedia to match her gaffes gave us all a laugh and a shudder, though we share a condescending love/hate relationship with Wikipedia for just such reasons,  In reality, the ill-informed Bachmann is the perky tip of the revisionist iceberg described by Steven Thomson in an April 2010 McClatchy article entitled “Not satisfied with US History, some conservations are rewriting it.”

My concern about revisionist history is quite personal and immediate.  I am personally affected by direct experience watching the legacies of institutions blithely tweaked to accommodate political exigencies.  Till very recently I was unaware that in today’s cleaned up parlance we no longer “revise” history, we merely “scrub” it!

Scrubbing is a hot topic in the media, as witnessed by this June 3, 2011 piece about the New York Times published by the WSJ under the headline “All the News That’s Fit to Scrub.”  Just last week the WSJ did a bit of its own in-house scrubbing when they made their allegations of Moslem involvement in the Oslo tragedy “disappear.”

The fact is, scouring is rife because it is so easy in the readily expunged digital age.  Whether it’s the kids’ SAT scores or the ledgers that reveal bad loans, the contemporary record is easy – and tempting – to fix.  In a tempero-centric world, who cares?

My un-scrubbed opinion, formed in a pre-Orwellian naivete, is this:

  • Scrubbing the historical record is a societal scourge that demands calling out and correction by the likes of Howard Zinn, if such there be.
  • Scrubbing the contemporary record is a pernicious reality to be monitored with diligence and curtailed with stiff sanctions, monetary, legal,  reputational if that matters.
  • Digital distortion may be innocent, benign, unintentional or blatantly malicious.
  • Scrubbing in the digital age presents complexity because we haven’t figured it out yet, but we can make an earnest effort.

Therefore, it remains to the information consumer to hone the fine art of perceptive paranoia.  Once known as “information literacy” the skill was scrubbed when the curriculum itself was reduced to the basics.  Time to dust off a good idea and give it a catchy 21st Century signature.  Though Perceptive Paranoia probably won’t sell,  the term does describe the skills and habits needed to discern that which is true.

Plugging the Pleasures of Poking

If Socrates was right in his opinion that “the unexamined life is not worth living” then poking around must be a virtue.  Still, as with a number of virtues, there are drawbacks.  Mark Twain offers the cautionary note that “the unexamined life may not be worth living, but the life too closely examined may not be lived at all.”

By my definition poking around is a leisurely, random, even whimsical approach to examining life.   Poking around is not just a pastime, but a passion that fires the inquiring mind.  Poking around is walking the neighborhood noticing the details that have gone unnoticed all these years;  poking around is hopping off the bus on the spur of the moment to check out a coffee shop;  poking around is constant vigilance to spot the curious, the weird, the wonderful, the aggravating, the not-quite-newsworthy happenings of the day, and poking around is hours in the archives searching for roots and reasons.

Poking around is what I’ve done all my life: I’ve dabbled in a string of occupations –  libraries, open government and community  journalism.  I’ve come to realize that these interests that share a common fluidity and breadth that hone the habit of poking around just to know enough to connect the dots.

Adherence to a rigid regimen of persistent probing is the rubric to which the blog Poking Around with Mary adheres.  The result is a rambling potpourri of hard core research and soft core observations of one who seems to have little else to do.  Posts are peppered at times with foments of the moment, rants on some affront to humankind or to the earth itself.  Those mostly ventilate the author and require no other action.

Poking Around with Mary joins the blogosphere blissfully free of categorization.  It avoids the clarity of focus that garners SEO placement and draws single-minded readers who want to know everything about a single topic rather than a little about a multitude of things.

If you know folks with catholic interests and time to dip into ideas and all manner of things that aren’t even new yet, suggest they check out Poking Around.  If you have ideas for people, places or things that deserve a poke, please let me know that, too.  Ideas and curious readers fulfill the intent of Poking Around with Mary.  Without these the blog is nothing but an indulgence for this LOL.

If you enjoy Poking Around with Mary please subscribe to receive the pokes by email Think about forwarding a link to another dilettante who will “get” that poking around is a noble pastime that thrives on inquisitive pokers for whom the point IS the probe.  MT