Friday, December 30, 2011

Culturology Calendar 12-29

by Travis Ryder
Thursday through Saturday:
Last chance to see the Sertoma Winter Wonderland at Northland Arboretum, Brainerd.  5:30-8:30 through New Year’s Eve.
Bovey/Coleraine Family New Year's Eve Party, 3:30 to 7 p.m. @ Longyear Park. Activities include skating, bonfire; treats, and a sing-a-long.  From 4 to 5 p.m., hot dogs, brats, & hot chocolate will be served.  A big 6 p.m. fireworks display is planned. More information can be obtained from Susan at 218.259.4455.
New Year’s Eve bash at the Sanford Center, following the BSU men’s hockey game against Bowling Green.  Live music starts around 8.
Bemidji cyclists will gather at The Cabin Coffeehouse for a New Year's Day bike ride. Given the predictions for mild weather and little snow they've planned a route around Lake Bemidji, with perhaps a longer option for those who wish to continue the tradition of one mile for every degree above zero the temperature attains. The Cabin Coffeehouse is offering half price beverages and free sugar cookies for riders. There will be a drawing for bike related prizes sponsored by Shifting Gears. All riders are eligible.

Open Broomball begins this Monday, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at theBemidji City Park Multi Purpose Building on 23rd Street.  Take part in this winter classic, without the commitment of a league, join play when you can.

Minnesota History Datebook
Dec. 30, 1884 Fur trader Alexander Baker receives his patent on a land claim near International Falls, where he is the first settler.

Dec. 28, 1909 Federal liquor enforcer W. E. "Pussyfoot" Johnson leads a raid on the saloons of Park Rapids. They were illegally serving residents of White Earth Reservation. Johnson and a trainload of U.S. marshals gather every bottle they can find and demolish them on Main Street.

Dec. 25, 1913 Minneapolis's first public Christmas tree is lit in Gateway Park.

Dec. 31, 1937 Lake Superior floods Grand Marais as a major snowstorm hits the town.

Dec. 31, 1957 Plans are announced for the “West Bank” as we know it.  University of Minnesota president James L. Morrill announces that the university will expand westward across the Washington Avenue Bridge into what was a "blighted area" of Minneapolis. A key part of the plan is a new two-deck bridge.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Steve "Guido" Downing's take on Christmas Music

This week Grant Frashier hosts KAXE's Between You and Me on Saturday from 10-noon.  His topic is Christmas Music.  Do you have a favorite?  Email us or call during the show 218-326-1234.  

CHRISTMAS BLUES by Steve Downing

            Between you and me, I do not love Christmas music, which I grew up singing, around Mom’s piano and in church choirs and school choruses. And playing, on every instrument I ever picked up. And it’s true that Dodger and I have a pile of Christmas CDs. But, with notable exceptions, I do not love it. Partly because of the brain-killing repetition. You hear the stuff, endlessly, hourly, from Halloween until the season’s over, by everybody from Bing Crosby to George Thorogood. On the radio, TV, in stores, out on the street, in the office, church, parking ramps, restrooms. It’s everywhere. You can’t not hear it. And when you achieve my great age, your relationship with Christmas music, as with body-parts and memory and the chainsaw, is simply tuckering out.
            My earliest difficulty with Christmas music, as a logic-challenged young man, was a philosophical dead end. The secular Christmas music had come to seem completely disconnected from the calendar-defining event in Bethlehem. And, more disconcertingly, the sacred music had absolutely nothing to do with what the Holy Day had morphed into: a godless, shameless, commercial lollapalooza. Gifts. Office parties. Gifts. Travel. Gifts. Light displays and fireworks. Gifts. Mass quantities of cookies. And so on. As I learned, you cannot resolve these contradictions. They’re too structural. Too big to fail.
            Jazz versions of the Christmas canon I can actually still listen to, especially if there’s no singing. And there’s one song on the compilation CD A Rock’n’Roll Christmas, produced by Bob ‘Bah-Humbug’ Bell on PolyGram, 1994, that I always get a kick out of: “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses.
            We also have a compilation put out by Rhino Records in 1995, titled Punk Rock Xmas. This one reliably provides a few chuckles over tumblers of milk-and-bourbon punch, Christmas morning, an old Dodge family tradition. It features bands you’ve never heard of. Bouquet of Veal. Pansy Division. The Celibate Rifles. Stiff Little Fingers. Dodger bought this, thinking of it as a Christmas gift for our nephew, Sam Dodge, when he was a kid, middle-school-age or so. Then we noticed the song titles. Some of them, if I said them out loud on the radio (even just the titles), would jeopardize KAXE’s license and very existence. We decided we should jury the CD before sending it off in the Christmas mail. It did not make it into the Christmas mail. We said at the time that we were protecting Sam from inappropriate material, but really we were protecting Dodger’s brother and sister-in-law, and our relationship with them. Sam would surely not have been corrupted by songs like “Daddy Drank Our Christmas Money” or any of the others---which, as I say, you cannot say out loud over any air waves---and, like us, he would deploy them once a year, no more, for a little merriment around the Christmas tree. Unless, like us, he has no Christmas tree. To get the full measure of Punk Rock Xmas, you should probably have a tree. Fake, of course.
            You can still buy this CD. I checked the other day, and Amazon had five new ones, at forty bucks each, and nine used, at twenty. Priced for the niche market, go tell it. Or you could borrow ours and copy it. But not right now. Right now, it’s tied up. It’s on.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ice by Steve "Guido" Downing

This week on Between You and Me on KAXE (Saturdays from 10am-noon) we talk ice.  People have taken to the lakes this winter because our our lack of snow and reignited their passion for all things ice.  Check out the KAXE Ice Skating facebook page here

Here's Steve's story:


            The hands-down best ice for skating is a lake that has frozen fast, overnight, when the lake was not generating even slow-motion waves, and before there’s anything more than a dusting of light fluffy snow. This sort of alignment occurs no oftener than once a decade. It’s as impermanent as a Martini. You must act right now, not tomorrow.
             Right now, between you and me, imagine that I’ve just pushed off from our house onto Shoal Lake, north of Grand Rapids. My skates are sharp. It’s a beautiful morning, sunny, no wind, cold enough that the lake is still making ice but not so cold that your eyelashes and front-brain freeze up.
            I  strike off into the southeastern bay, where the lake is outlined by gravel pit and swamp, no other houses. I’m about twenty yards from shore, on perfectly clear see-through ice, that looks to be four inches or so thick. The lake’s only six or eight feet deep here in the bay. Suddenly, something catches my eye down there, under the ice. I put on the brakes. Wheel around. Drop into a squat. There. It’s a boat, an old-timey wooden row-boat. Gunwales, seats, ribs: all cloaked in dark underwater moss. I first saw this sunken boat a few summers ago, from the canoe and kayak. Then it seemed to somehow fade away. Last year, it simply was not there, not anywhere. I presumed wind and current had moved it, or someone, implausibly, had raised it. But here it is, more or less right where I remember first finding it. I go down to all fours, for a better look, working on new theories. I’m sure the boat was closer to the surface the last time I saw it, from the kayak, so maybe the mystery is related to changing water levels, or maybe to processes and conditions on the lake-bottom or the underside of the boat.
            As I’m working through this, on hands and knees, my face probably an inch off the ice, I see…a dog. A dog, underwater, alive, swimming, with a mouthful of sticks, passing over the sunken boat, headed for deeper water. This so startles me, I jerk up, not quietly. I might even speak in tongues here, just for a second, hard to tell. The dog reacts. Its head swivels up. One eye registers my presence. It blinks, kicks, does a little course correction, and is gone.
            Of course it’s not a dog. It’s a beaver. Which only enhances the impact of the encounter. For one exceptional moment, I participated in that animal’s unexceptional morning. It does feel like a privilege. A beaver, on its way home after a hard day’s night doing dirty commerce, gathering provisions for the clan. Is it too much to hope for, that it might be able to stop and have a drink with the gang at the local watering hole? Too much to hope for, that it’ll get into some excellent trouble, moral and physical, between here and hutch?
            Suppose it does stop at the watering hole. Would it share with the gang anything about the exchange we, it and I, just had?
            Guys, you won’t believe what happened. Up top. This old four-legged-four-eyed geezer is staring down at me. At first I think it’s a dog. I’m serious. A dog. I wink at him. I do. I wink. The geezer flat-out has a stroke….
            And so on. Bar talk. Between you and me: I’m fine.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Culturology Calendar 12-15

by Travis Ryder
Handel's "Messiah" performed by the Itasca Community Chorus, 3 to 5 p.m. at Greenway Auditorium in Coleraine; the chorus is combined with several area choirs.
The Grand Rapids Players’ auditions for the spring show, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way to the Forum,” are at 6 at the Playhouse up County Road A from the fairgrounds.
Musician Paul Metsa drops by the KAXE studios for a chat and to pick out some music on Centerstage Minnesota.  Then he crosses the parking lot to the Grand Rapids Area Library for a chat at 7 about his recent book, “Blue Guitar Highway.”
Chisholm musician Rob Wheeler performs Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Minnesota Discovery Center’s weekly music night, Acoustic Café. Admission is free Thursdays after 5. Appetizers, soups, desserts and hot and cold beverages are available to purchase. The exhibit “Ray Segar: One Man’s Quest for History,” MDC’s Community Gallery showing “Sketchers and Carvers,” and the Laurentian Northern Railroad Model Train Club display are open.
Itasca Orchestra and Strings Program presents a Student Concert, 7 p.m. at the Reif Center, Grand Rapids.
The Reif Center’s performing arts season continues with a puppet, rock, and yoga adventure called Monkey Mind Pirates  from the group Z-Puppets Rosenschnoz , 7 p.m. at 6:30.
The CLC Brass Ensemble will be performing during Sertoma Winter Wonderland at the Northland Arboretum.  The Wonderland is open tonight through Sunday, 5:30 to 8:30.
Friday and Saturday
Winnie The Pooh’s Christmas Tail, performed by the youth acting troupe at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Adventure ‘N Theatre, directed by Dennis Lamberson.  Friday, 7:30 pm; Saturday, 2:00 pm; Saturday, @ 7:30 pm.  
A group of 15 students at Northern Lights Community School have a long term project on the history and culture of Ireland. They have been studying Ireland for a year and a half and will be traveling there in April. One of their fundraisers is hosting a Murder Mystery Dinner called, “Next of Kin.” This is the fourth murder mystery dinner that the school has produced.  It will be December 17th at the Sawmill Inn in Grand Rapids. It starts at 6:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased at the Sawmill Inn.
Speaking of Ireland, hear Irish music from Two Tap Trio at Brigid’s Irish Pub in Bemidji starting at 8.
Saturday & Sunday
Vocal group From Age to Age presents O Magnum Mysterium, their annual Christmas tour featuring some of the world’s most enchanting holiday music. Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Brainerd & Sunday, 1 p.m., Union Congregational Church, Hackensack.  The Hackensack performance will be featured in a Christmas Day broadcast on KAXE, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.!
Grand Rapids Area Male Chorus performs at 2 p.m. at the Edge Center for the Arts in Bigfork.
A Christmas Carol presented by Nebraska Theater Caravan, 7:30 p.m. at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids. The Nebraska Theatre Caravan has been touring Charles Jones’ delightful adaptation of A Christmas Carol since 1979, weaving traditional Christmas carols throughout the narrative.

Minnesota History Datebook
Dec. 16, 1884 Machinist William H. Fruen of Minneapolis is issued the first U.S. patent for an automatic liquid-dispensing vending machine. Fruen had settled earlier in the year at the western edge of the city. The discovery of a pure spring in a glen led Fruen to sell jugs, and then coolers, of fresh water and found the Glenwood Springs (now Glenwood Inglewood Water) Company.

Dec. 17, 1915 The Mesaba Transportation Company of Hibbing is incorporated. Owners Andrew G. Anderson and Carl Eric Wickman transport passengers and freight from Hibbing to destinations in Alice and Grand Rapids. A subsidiary is incorporated in 1919 to build, repair, and sell buses. These companies would eventually become Greyhound Lines, headquartered in Chicago.

Dec. 11, 1922 Hurricane winds in Duluth are clocked at 72 miles per hour.

(Source: The Minnesota Book of Days, MN Historical Society Press)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Culturology Calendar 12-8

by Travis Ryder

Thursday, Dec. 8
Acoustic Café series features the duo Bittersweet: Jay Hoiland and Mary Jo Grizzard play at 6 at the Minnesota Discovery Center, Chisholm.
Area producers of original theater, take note: Minnesota Fringe Festival director Robin Gillette coming to Duluth.  The Fringe Festival is an 11-day performing arts festival that presents nearly 900 performances of 165 theater and dance shows in professional-grade Minneapolis-St. Paul venues. They select participants by random lottery, so it doesn't matter how much or little experience you have.  Dates are August 2-12, 2012.  Fringe staff members will be at the Zeitgeist Atrium, 222 E. Superior St, Duluth between 8 and 9:30 pm tonight.  Meet and learn more about how the festival works, and how to prepare an application.

Thursday through Sunday
You can take in the Sertoma Winter Wonderland display from 5:30 to 8:30 tonight through Sunday, with Sunday night including horsedrawn carriage rides.  Paul Bunyan Land has their enchanted pioneer village 6 to 9 Friday and Saturday.

Friday, Dec. 9
Actual Wolf (the solo act of Grand Rapids native Eric Pollard, who performs with Low, Retribution Gospel Choir, and Sun Kil Moon); 5 – 6:30 p.m., Brewed Awakenings, Grand Rapids.
KBXE Northern Community Radio Auction: drinks, appetizers and silent auction at 6 p.m., live auction 7 p.m., dance to Good Noise at 9, Bemidji Town & Country Club
Away In The Basement, a Church Basement Ladies holiday production, at the Tornstrom Auditorium in the Washington Building in Brainerd, 7 p.m.
Tim and Cindy Roggenkamp perform acoustic country and bluegrass at the Warehouse in Pine River starting at 7.

Friday and Saturday
The Nutcracker, presented by The Reif Dancers, 7 p.m. at the Reif Center, Grand Rapids.
BSU Madrigal Dinners, 7 p.m., Beaux Arts Ballroom on the campus.
Gospel, soul, and jazz from The Steele Family Christmas Show.  2 shows, Friday at 7:30 and Saturday at 2 at the Central Lakes College Theatre in Brainerd.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Local production of “A Christmas Carol”, 7:30 Friday and Saturday,  2:00 Sunday, Chief Theater, Bemidji.

Saturday, Dec. 10
Family Fun Day: Holiday Card Ornaments, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at MacRostie Art Center; learn more at  Then it's the Ho-Ho-Ho Down Country Christmas, 3 to 6 p.m. at Children's Discovery Museum; country hometown Christmas theme, games, food, crafts, entertainment, & hayrides. To learn more, call 218-259-9509 or visit
Pine River has horse-drawn sleigh rides starting at 2:30 and a Parade of Lights downtown starting at 5.
The gypsy jazz of Clearwater Hot Club starts at 7 p.m. at Brigid’s Cross, Bemidji.

Sunday, Dec. 11
Elegant Historical Holiday Feast will be served at 1 p.m. at the White Oak Society in Deer River; reservations are required. Call 218-328-5728 or email
Handel's "Messiah" performed by the Itasca Community Chorus combined with several area choirs, 3 to 5 p.m. at Greenway Auditorium in Coleraine.
The West Range Country Show follows at Greenway High School Auditorium at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 13
The Santa Lucia Festival celebrates the beginning of the Swedish Christmas season, including the festival of lights, which includes a young maiden wearing a chandelier.  Also, breakfast will be served.  6 to 8 a.m., Beaux Arts Ballroom on the BSU campus.  Get your tickets by Friday at Kelsey’s Jewelry or Ken Thompson Jewelry.

Minnesota History Datebook
Dec. 8, 1886: Citizens of Browns Valley brawl in the streets of their town with farmers from Wheaton.  What started this fight?  Wheaton was the new county seat, and they were in town to pick up the Traverse County official records. The outnumbered "invaders" flee with only one load.  Eventually, all the records are moved to Wheaton without further battle.  There are accounts of these kinds of bitter and even violent county-seat disputes from a number of locations around the state.

Dec. 9, 1890: The University Avenue streetcar line from Minneapolis to St. Paul begins operation.  By 1954, it was out of service, replaced by buses.  But what’s old is new again: The Central Corridor light rail line will open to passengers along a similar route in 2014.

Dec. 7, 1941: Outside of Pearl Harbor, a crew primarily made up of reservists from St. Paul manned the destroyer Ward. That ship attacks and sinks a Japanese midget submarine, the first shots fired on the date of infamy.  Inside the harbor, Minneapolis-born Captain Franklin van Valkenburgh is killed on the bridge of his ship, the USS Arizona. He would be awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress.