Monthly Archives: February 2018

Shrove/Fat Tuesday – Not just for pancakes anymore

Those have a short Lent who owe money to be paid at EasterBenjamin Franklin

The challenge to focus – to decide if we, as individuals and as a culture, are celebrating Ash Wednesday or Valentine’s Day…is an existential question troubling good people around the globe.

My choice is to focus on neither, i.e. to learn more about Fat Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday.  It’s less controversial and because Fat Tuesday precedes either Valentine’s day OR Ash Wednesday.…

It’s also an overlooked opportunity to celebrate the gustatory elegance of pancakes – not to mention the glories of Mardi Gras.

About Shrove Tuesday – It’s got to do with having been “shriven” of one’s sins, a good thing to do before Lent starts the next day (Ash Wednesday).  Knowing that Lent means forty days of fasting this is not simply an occasion to bulk up a bit. As a matter of fact, the tradition comes from the truth that people had to rid their larders of eggs, milk and other fattening ingredients – off the diet for Lent but key ingredients of pancakes!  And therein lies the story of “Fat Tuesday” – not so much a day to celebrate obesity as a day to rid the pantry of fats.  Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday – it’s the day to ready the cupboards/frig/diet for Lent.

Also, a day to celebrate!  Mardi Gras tops the charts!  Mardi Gras in Rio is not a day but a grand celebration of traditions, music, dance and, best of all, The Parade!

On the outside chance you won’t make it to this year’s Mardi Gras, plan to join family and friends for a pancake feast to honor and learn more about the global meaning of the day.  Mardi Gras is a grand celebration of traditions that encompass biblical, liturgical, ethnic, even local chauvinism and the human affinity for pancakes – possibly fueled by the 40 days of Fast that follow…

Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Valentine’s Day – each has its own tradition that enriches this mid-winter week with meaning.  Have a pancake to celebrate our shared heritage!

*my favorite Lenten quote….

Life after football – Time to read, view, listen, plan for Spring!

By the time you read this post you will have recovered from the Super Bowl and gone back to shoveling, politics and thinking about life, the universe and everything.   Consider these possibilities:

Has all the political foment – or maybe it was going to see The Post – inspired you to go back to the Good Old Days of Watergate?   Now online at the Library of Congress are the Senate Watergate hearings.  The American Archive of Public Broadcasting recently published an online exhibit at LC. Gavel-to-Gavel: The Watergate Scandal and Public Television (

While you’re surfing the treasures of the Library of Congress, click on some of LC’s digital trove of resources including, definitely not limited to, these:

Or relax and enjoy this video discussion of Hannah and Sugar, the children’s book written and illustrated by Kate Berube, recently named recipient of the 2017 Ridgway Award.   Lisa Von Drasek, Curator of the U of M Library’s Kerlan Collection, shares the book and background on the Ridgway Award, the annual honor presented to an author or illustrator in recognition of an outstanding debut in the world of children’s picture book.

Weather permitting you may want to venture out –  bundle up and explore these possibilities:

  • The new season for Talk of the Stacks which begins on February 27 when Alicia Eler, Stephanie Glaros and Stephanie Curtis will explore “identity as it relates to digital media.” See the season schedule and details here: (   Friends of Minneapolis will also hold their Annual Meeting on Tuesday, February 20, 5:30 PM at the Central Library.
  • Or check out these forthcoming Club Book author talks;
    • Omar El Akkad – Tuesday, February 13, 7 PM at Saint Anthony Park Library in St Paul
    • Peter Geye – Monday, February 26, 7 PM at Rum River Library in Anoka
    • William Kent Krueger – Thursday, March 1, 6:30 at Chanhassen Public Library

Click here for information on sponsorship and full season schedule.  Note that Club Book presentations are podcast so you can listen at your leisure.

Sign of the times:

If the long winter has depleted your “to be read” pile, check out this listing of the National Book Critics Circle finalists for books published during 2017.

Resistance, Resilience, Renewal — a gathering of poetry and song celebrating the enduring legacy and inspiration of Meridel LeSueur.  The special event, set for 6:30 p.m. on February 22, is hosted by the East Side Freedom Side Freedom Library and the St Paul Almanac.  It’s at 630 PM on February 22.  The program begins with presentations and performances of Meridel’s work as well as original work by established and emerging artists.  More at 

Take time to mark your calendar for these special events:
  • World Storytelling Day is set for March 20, 2018. Theme of the local event is “Wise Fools – Wisdom on the Folly of War.  Again this year the local event will be at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.  Details to follow.
  • The Spring 2018 Westminster Town Hall Forum schedule is out.  All presentations are at Westminster Presbyterian Church on the Mall in downtown Minneapolis.  Dates and speakers are: March 22 – Noon, Journalist and editor Suzy Hansen, “An American Abroad” –  April 10, Noon, Pediatrician and children’s health advocate Nadine Burke Harris “Children Adversity and Health. – May 1, Noon, Steve Schmidt, Founder of the Center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware, “A candid look at today’s headlines.” – May 22, 7:00 PM, Richard Stengel, Former managing editor of Time. “Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life.”  Come early for the music that precedes the Forum; stay for the public reception that follows. All talks are broadcast on Minnesota public radio:  Questions: contact 612 332 3421.   

Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.  John Boswell












Welcoming the Chinese Year of the Earth Dog

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right ~ Oprah Winfrey

 As we look back on the first month of 2018 – and only vaguely recall the resolutions for the year – it’s comforting to know that we can re-up for Chinese New Year, beginning this year on February 16.   It’s time now to plan ahead with an understanding that it’s the Year of the Earth Dog – and all that means.

According to one source, emphasis during the Year of the Earth Dog, repeated only once every 60 years on the Chinese calendar, is on “a new interpretation of our human condition…. Strength of character, education, morality, social life, health and caring for our elders are all fundamental questions to be revised and improved during the pivotal period.  The emergence of new authors and philosophers as much as the reissue of forgotten texts by great classical writers and poets, should wake up and feed the collective awareness.”

As I understand it, there are five types of Dog.  In Chinese element theory, each zodiac sign is associated with one of the five elements: Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth.  The Earth Dog celebrated this year is “communicative, serious and responsible in work.” This means that this year on the Chinese calendar can be a sensitive period during which activists and students as well as ordinary citizens may feel deprived of hope and socially excluded; as a result, they “won’t hesitate to demand radical changes in their life conditions and to preserve the future of their children.”

These are no doubt the most optimistic of several interpretations.  Another very different interpretation suggests that the focus will be on “real estate, agriculture, environment, territory integrity or religious, spiritual” events…

If all of this is too much to calculate, it might work to focus on the superstitions.  For example, doing any of the following tasks on February 16 will lead to bad luck for the Year of the Earth Dog.  It won’t be easy, but try to avoid cleaning clothes, using scissors and sweeping floors – though tending to the needs of crying children and/or women leaving the house all day may be more challenging superstitions.

Horoscopes of any persuasion are far beyond my ken – and yet it’s great fun, sometimes instructive, to explore the philosophy and traditions that guide the Chinese calendar.  It’s also comforting to hope that prognosticators are on target when they predict that, during the year of the Earth Dog,

Many voices around the world [will] rise to highlight the importance of universal values of dialogue and solidarity, which are characteristic values of the Chinese zodiac sign of the Dog.  Selfishness, greed and ignorance being a major source of inequalities on Earth, only a social and cultural impulse, at the individual collective level, can give a new hope to the millions of people in the world who are still suffering from neglect, indifference and the rejection from their community.

Bamboozled no more…..

If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.  We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.  The bamboozle has captured us.  It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.  Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.  ~ Carl Sagan

One way to come to grips with the challenge We the People face at this juncture is to frame the information crisis in an alternate context.  This repot by First Draft News is a useful tool to reorder the mental format for thinking.  One year into the Era of Our Discontent, we struggle mightily to recognize the complexity of information disorder, to recognize that the very premise is “disorder.”  We fail to recognize – or perhaps admit – that the complexity of information disorder online” starts from the premise of “disorder”.  Consider this:

The struggle to unravel the intent and complexities of our information state is a shared challenge:

We the People face today’s challenge with both heads and hearts.  Take just a minute to heed the words and appreciate the attitudes of these wise gentleman as they speak with both:   To read their position paper on Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression click here:








Exhibit shares stories of cruelty to Indigenous women

 All My Relations Arts and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center are sponsoring a powerful exhibition entitled “Bring her home: Stolen daughters of Turtle Island.”  The exhibit, representing the work of 18 visual artists from across the US and many tribal nations, will be in Minneapolis February 2 – April 20.

All the works in the exhibition are original; formats include 2D, 3D, video, performance, or installation.  Visionaries who planned the exhibit link the exhibit and events with issues now on the nation’s agenda:  “In light of the local movement to stop exploitation and the international #MMIW awareness campaign, Bring Her Home shares visual stories of the women who bore the impact.”

The collaborative initiative begins February 2 and continues through April 20.  Planners note that “rather than reduce the issue to a statistic, Curator Angela Two Stars challenges us to honor the life of each indigenous woman as we would a sister, a wife, a mother, a best friend, a cousin, or a daughter.”

The first event is a Reception on Friday, February 2, 6-8 PM at All My Relations Arts, 1414 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis.  This is followed by a host of related programs including an artist workshop, a march for missing and murdered indigenous women and a Talking Circle with the artists.

Find details about dates and times, sites and maps here: (

More about the sponsoring organizations here:


Ideas, opportunities to know and honor African American history

In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute ~Thurgood Marshall 

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has announced that the theme for Black History Month 2018 is “African Americans in Times of War”.  ASALH explains that the theme “commemorates the centennial of the end of the First World War in 1918, and explores the complex meanings and implications of this international struggle and its aftermath. The First World War was initially termed by many as ‘The Great War,’ ‘The War to End All Wars,’ and the war “to make the world safe for democracy….”  The ASALH website offers much background on the theme and on Black History Month.  (

Following is a small sampling of the vast resources for celebrating BHM nationally and at the state and local levels:

In honor of Black History Month offers a great list of poems for children:  As always, spending quality time with the website is a joy and an inspiration.

For a brief, informative history of African American Minnesotans, begin here:

The Minnesota History Center has  posted an excellent list of basic resources related to the history of African Americans in Minnesota, leaders, events, contributions and more.

Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights produces complementary listing of related resources with a focus on the metro area.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights publishes a helpful calendar of community events.

Hennepin County Library offers a diverse calendar of events and activities – Details here:

Again this year Penumbra will sponsor a Race Workshop on Saturday, February 3.  Details here:

Metro State University and East Side Freedom Library are joining forces to co-sponsor a series of films and discussions.  Events will be held at alternate sites:  Check website or FB for more information.

  • February 1, 7 PM at Metro State Founders Hall. Amazing Grace
  • February 3, 1 PM at ESFL – Sound of Torture, February 8, 7 PM at Metro State – North Star: Civil War Stories
  • February 15, 7 PM at ESFL – Mother of George
  • February 20, 7 PM at ESFL – An Outrage

These are simply examples of the rich learning resources we need to resist the surge of racist innuendo and misinformation engulfing our democracy.   Keep a caring eye on FB posts, community newspapers, faith-based organizations, coffee shop bulletin boards and other likely sources to spot opportunities to learn and celebrate the stories that shape our communities and our nation. Please email events and ideas to be added to this post.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.


February 1 from the Library of Congress:

The Library of Congress makes available a series of podcasts  entitled Slave Narratives, talks given at the  the Library over the years.  Listen online: