Monday, November 26, 2012

Night time Views

I take my Polish lessons in an office building in the area of Minneapolis called St. Anthony Main. This area is across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis. Class begins at 6 PM, so this time of year it is dark. I enjoy the view across the river. I tried to take a photo but couldn't hold the camera still enough to take a good photo at such a slow shutter speed. So I decided to try a video -- after all one can move the camera in a video.

The video shows office high-rise buildings across the river and also the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Celebrating Transportation

My older daughter and I are on the way to Lincoln, Nebraska for the Thanksgiving weekend. We stopped at a rest stop for a few moments in central Iowa. Iowa has a theme for every rest stop and we found one that celebrates transportation.

The front walk way is lined with pillars. Here are some examples

A celebration of travel by the use of horses.

Those readers who live far away may be surprised to see boats. However, we must remember that Iowa is bordered on the east by the Mississippi River and on the west by the Missouri River and for much of the 19th century, steamboats were an important means of transportation.

And here's one that has gone around forever.


When entering the building, one walks over the Highway 30 sign.

Highway 30 is Iowa's part of the famous Lincoln Highway.

The interior of the building has decorative blocks highlighting facts of transportation history.

The exterior of the building is outlined with decorative blocks displaying old cars.

The temperature was 70 degrees (26 C). Trust me, this is a great temperature for the Midwest in November. What a treat to walk around outside a bit and find something so interesting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Good Plan

that turned out differently! There is a boy in my Polish class, perhaps 9 years old. Last week I took a book I had purchased in Poland and gave it to him. It is a book of fairy tales written in both English and Polish, and actually designed to help Polish kids learn English. I've had it on my shelf for several years and never did much with it, so thought moving it out of the apartment would be a good idea. I explained to the boy that it was a book to help kids learn English, but that he could learn a lot of Polish with it, too.

This week I passed over a heart sign that said Poland that I brought home from Polish night event.

This all is part of the effort to keep the number of things in my small apartment down. 

He reached into his bag and gave me this.

What a nice surprise! And yes! jam will disappear.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Walking in St. Cloud

Even though I wrote a blog earlier saying summer was over, maybe it's not. The weather forecast for today spoke about temperatures in the high 50s - 60 (maybe 15 in Celsius). A day like that shouldn't be wasted. I decided to do the walk in St. Cloud. It is one of the year around walks and the drive is only about a bit more than an hour. I chose to do the 5 K walk. This takes me to 100K since the first part of September!

The start point was the reception desk at the Kelly Inn- Best Western in St. Cloud. I'm always amazed that I walk up to places like this and someone knows what I want when I ask for the walk box.

I've lived in Minnesota for years and often had to go to work associated meetings in St. Cloud, but this is the first time I've really walked around the city. I took a wrong turn and good thing. I found this strange sculpture.

There was no signage here -- no name, no artist, no explanation!

The walk continued down the street by the Stearns County Courthouse.
 Then it was down by the police station where I found a time capsule.

I have obviously heard of time capsules, but this is the first time I've seen one.

The walk went down to a bakery -- on the route because some walkers keep track of walks that go by family owned bakeries.

Then the route cut across Minnesota Highway 23 to Lake George, a tiny lake. I got to wondering why how the lake was named George. I dug out my copy of the Minnesota Geographic Names. I found it is named after George Kraemer, one of the pioneer settlers of St. Cloud. And while I'm on the topic I learned St. Cloud gets its name for the strong attraction John Wilson, considered the founder of the city, had for the name St. Cloud after reading a biography of Napoleon I and learning that Empress Josephine spent much time at the magnificent palace of St. Cloud.

Approaching Lake George one first sees the Viet Nam Memorial.

Then the route map said to walk two times around Lake George.

I noticed a bird sculpture.

Again no name, no artist, no information. Also a puzzle. The front of the work faces the lake. This is a puzzle because there are signs that say no swimming, no boating in this lake, so how does anyone really see the sculpture from the front?

Near the bottom of the lake the walk goes between the lake and a little pond. At the end of the pond is a little house -- maybe about 5 feet high and 4 feet wide.

Again no sign, no explanation.

The bottom of the lake was full of geese.

I also disturbed some ducks.

After the second time around the lake I headed back to the start point and the parking lot where I had left my car.

Found another mysterious sculpture.

Again no sign, no artist -- as you can see from the close up above, it is a blue and green mosaic. I wondered if it was sky, trees, and the river.

I stopped for lunch at the Green Mill that adjoins the hotel. Then I wandered back into the hotel and took a photos out of the window in the lobby.

This is how the Mississippi River looks in November. November isn't a very scenic month in Minnesota, but any day without snow is a good one!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Learning about the Roma People

I've been writing about the gypsy music adventures in Saint Paul. That caused me to go back into my summer pictures and review again my visit to the Ethnographic Museum in Tarnow, Poland. I have experienced how Europeans live with the Roma culture in the Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. I discovered the museum in Tarnow is the only one in all of Europe that is dedicated to Roma history and culture, and so I decided to visit there last summer. (Other posts about my visit in Tarnow and other activities while there may be found in the July 2012 archive.)

The museum is housed in an old manor house.

This photo shows the haze of a hot summer day!

Early on in the display one finds that curators discussed with the Roma how to label things in the museum. They together arrived at describing the people as Roma but some parts of the culture, such as music, as gypsy.

The sign above describes a 19th century viewpoint of the Roma people.

This sign displays the admonishment to not become farmers, but rather to become musicians. (Please click on the photo to make it become even larger for reading.)

Among the holdings of the museum are these old instruments.

The Roma are quite dispersed about Europe. The map displays some statistics.

In 1971 the Roma held a World Council near London. At this Council a flag and hymn were adopted.

This flag is recognized by the Roma in Western Europe as well as those in Russia and Ukraine.

The words for the Roma hymn are displayed below.

The Roma language is believed to have evolved from Sanskrit.

Here's the alphabet.

And here is a page from a children's book written in the Roma language.
What I have learned is that is that there is great diversity among the Roma people. The men who played music on Wednesday night are a different from the Rainbow Gypsies of Romania who yet again are somewhat different from the those I saw camped outdoors under plastic tarps on the outskirts of Birlad, Romania.

Hope you enjoyed a bit of a visit to an Ethnographic Museum. I was so very glad to have visited this museum as well as other places in Tarnow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More about Gypsy Music

On Tuesday afternoon I walked up to the St. Paul Central Library to see the exhibit about gypsy music. My route is 3.5 blocks down the street and then across the railroad tracks. From there one turns into a park that skirts around the Science Museum. As I was walking this path I got a good view of the District Heating plant. The temperature was about 25 (-3 Celsius). The steam was really rolling out of the plant.

The exhibit is housed in two showcases on the first and second floor. It includes a copy of the book about Django.

It includes concert handbills, programs, and photographs related to Gypsy Jazz.

These materials are on loan from the Cite de Musique in Paris and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

The explanatory material included said something like this: In Gypsy culture, music is like breathing; it is necessary for life.

I also learned that Gypsy music is not just one thing. It is many different kinds of music, synthesized with other cultures. The music I heard in Hungary, for example, comes from a synthesis with Balkan music.

Gypsy Jazz actually has some midwestern US roots. Django did a tour with the Duke Ellington Band in 1946 playing concerts in places such as Minneapolis and Rochester, MN as well as Omaha, NE. This experience led him to develop what today is called Gypsy Jazz. It also remains in the Twin Cities played by the Hot Club. Click here to hear some of this music. Djano took the jazz back with him to France and continued to work with it. However, there are certainly roots for this earlier than 1946. If one looks at the playbills closely, one sees groups from Harlem playing in the Paris music halls before Django came to the United States, and playing the same music halls that featured the gypsy musicians.

In a similar manner, the gypsies in Spain embraced flamenco.Thus, the next musical event in this series is about flamenco.

On Wednesday evening I went to the Flamenco Concert. The concert was held at the James J. Hill Reference Library which sits next door to the Central Library. This library features a collection of information related to business. The building, itself, is on the Historic Registry.

I remembered last week that we needed to be there at least 30 minutes in advance in order to get a good seat, so arrived at 6:00 for the 6:30 event. I found people waiting at the door for the library to open.

By the time all of us who had waited were seated, about half the chairs were filled. I was glad I had come early. I estimate about 400 people came for this concert.

 The Hill Library is built in the style of old European libraries. It was easy to feel as if one had traveled farther than a 15 minute walk.

We were asked not to take any pictures or video. I found some good photos on the web site for Zorongo Flamenco.

The photo above is Michael Hauser, who is credited with bringing flamenco to the Midwest United States. Before he performed he spoke a bit. His story is very interesting. His father is a noted sculptor and his mother is a modern dance artist. He started out though as a forest ranger in Africa! He went to Madrid and stumbled into flamenco music and then started to go back whenever he had money to take lessons there. And the rest is history.

The concert included magnificent performances by Jesus Montoya  and Pedro Cortes. 
Pedro Cortes comes from a family of Spanish Gypsy guitarists. If you click on the link I've provided you will be taken to his page to learn more about him and to also hear some of his music.

 Jesus Montoya is also a member of a Spanish Gypsy family.  He has been performing professionally since he was 13 years old. In some of the informal conversation he noted his mother is much better singer! I invited you click on the link for Montoya's name to learn more about him and hear some of his music.

Then we were treated to Hauser joining with Montoya and Cortes for  music and song with dance by Susana di Palma. Flamenco dance didn't turn out to be at all what I thought it was. It is a very controlled dance, not flamboyant as I've seen it portrayed in movies.

The artists explained it is quite like jazz since every musician does a great deal of improvisation during a performance. Cortes said, as a guitarist, that he follows the lead of the singer or dancer, whichever is performing at the moment. 

As we were leaving a gentleman sitting next to me asked if I had enjoyed the concert. I told him yes, certainly and that I had experienced a lot of gypsy culture in Europe and it was great to see such diversity.What struck me particularly is that there was there wasn't any of the discrimination or shunning I've seen elsewhere because these people are gypsies.People seemed to find it delightful to learn about a whole new group of people.

I'm so glad I learned about flamenco from this experience rather than being taken to some restaurant by a tour group. I really learned something about the music and the singing and dance that goes with it.

The concert was partially supported by what's called the Legacy Fund. A few years ago, over the objections of Pawlenty, a Republican governor, the Minnesota electorate voted for a slight increase in the sales tax to support environmental concerns and the arts. This month the electorate voted down a Voter ID Constitutional Amendment and voted down an amendment to the constitution prohibiting gay marriage -- two causes put on the ballot by a Republican Legislature, who were voted out of the office, too, in this election. Let's see: We're for the environment and arts, against voter suppression, and against discrimination. Maybe we've got our heads screwed on right!

And to end with another spot of beauty.

 Rice Park, across the street from the library buildings, is beginning to be all decked out for the holidays. In Saint Paul the white lights, such as this, remain in place until the end of Winter Carnival in late January.

Hope you enjoyed learning more about gypsy music. What a wonderful opportunity we have with our library.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Not Summer Anymore

I woke up yesterday morning in Des Moines with rain showers. I had expected that, but also that the rain would move out by mid-day. However, the forecast no longer included that. I went out for breakfast and quickly decided even a 5K was not an option. It wouldn't be any kind of fun in rain with strong northwest winds. So I drove home, arriving back around 3 PM.

Jackknifed bus
Woke up this morning quite surprised to see snow out the window. This snow, coming at rush hour, caused all kinds of difficulty. The picture at the left comes from the Minnesota Public Radio web site showing a bus jackknifed near the State Capitol area. Days like this make semi-retirement quite lovely. I have no where to go until Polish class this evening. Plan to take off early because I expect the driving to be slow this evening, too.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Walking in Des Moines

The forecast in the middle of the week was warm weather on Saturday. It seemed to me it would be even warmer if I drove south, so after attending the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit (see previous post), I headed for Des Moines. I arrived a few minutes before sunset and was so glad that I had the phone number for the hotel with me for I couldn't find it. Phone directions helped and I arrived in about 3 minutes. The gentleman at the reception desk say they give directions all the time, for the hotel has an address on 114th Street but actually sits on the side street with only a tiny little sign on 114th Street. I had been up since 5:00 AM, so I headed to bed early.

Up early then too, and headed for breakfast around 7 AM. Left the hotel about 8:45 AM and got to the Botanical Center, the start point for the walk about 9:30.

 The sign of the door said it was closed to the public until 10 AM for a wedding. I tried anyway, and the receptionist quickly gave me the "Walk Box."  I was walker 59 for this year. The walker before me had a postal address from Sweden.

The walk started along the Des Moines River.I was enjoyed watching two teams of women getting set up for a race.

The noise of this video is from the nearby I-235 freeway, just about over our heads. 

A few steps more brought me to the  Robert D. Ray Asian Garden. 
Here's my photo.

Soon I turned on Grand Avenue and headed towards the state capitol building.

Next I noticed a bridge.

 This is a walking/biking bridge across the Des Moines River.

As I neared the Capitol area I found a sculpture saluting workers. With all the political rhetoric  these days about "job creators" it was nice to see a moment of attention to the people who do the work!

This building was completed in 1886; the route map says the center dome is covered with 24 K gold.

Looking backward I found the building being reflected in an office building.

I walked all around the capitol complex trying to find a WWII monument, a checkpoint for the walk. I found the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Lincoln and Tad, the Allison Monument, the Peace Officers Monument, but not the WWII monument. Finally gave up and continued on towards the downtown area.

Crossing the river I found the Long Look Garden.

 The downtown area of Des Moines appears to be an office area, probably busy Monday -Friday, but buttoned up quiet on Saturday.  Glad I persisted in doing the 10K route for after a bit I ended by the new public library. Here I found either a kinetic sculpture or a very snazzy wind turbine-- couldn't decide for sure what it was and there wasn't any type of informative sign.

Then I really did hit the sculpture. This area is the John and Mary Poppajohn Sculpture Park. The goal of this park is make contemporary art accessible to the general public. The route map says the value of these sculpture is $40 million. Each one is very different from the next.

When I got closer I realized this is made with alphabet letters.
The sculpture is the work of Jaume Plensa, a Spanish artist.

Three Dancing Figures is the work of Keith Haring.

The above sculpture is unnamed. It is the work of Mark di Suvero, who works primarily with industrial I beams, using a crane to put them together.

After walking along the Locust Street side of the sculpture park, my route map directed me to the 17th Street where I found myself in the Meredith Publishing Company campus.
The classic building is surrounded by modern glass office buildings.

Probably many readers may recognize Better Homes and Gardens -- magazine and cookbooks, for example. I didn't realize until today that Meredith is also the publisher of Successful Farming, a magazine my dad always read.

I needed to find the Plantoir sculpture by Oldenburg & Van Bruggen.

Then it was back along the Grand Avenue side of the Sculpture Park.

The above sculptures are the work of Gary Hume, a British artist. These are called Back of Snowman (white) and Back of Snowman (black). There are 21 sculptures in this park; hopefully I have provided a flavor of the diversity of work.

Soon  I was back to the Des Moines River.

I turned left and walked my way back to the Botanical Center where I again requested the "walk box." I took it to the cafe and stamped my books.

This was a good walk! It counted for the event book (pink), the distance book (first on the left), the 50 state book and the 51 capital book, and the D letter in the A-Z Walking America Book.

I drove back to the capitol area to see why I had a problem. Discovered I turned off on 9th Street rather than 12th.

The route map says the WWII monument was the first in the country. The area in the arches holds reproductions of newspapers, telegrams, and other written materials associated with the time of WWII.

It was a great day to walk. Any day when the temperature is in the 70s in November is day to celebrate and one less day of winter. Saw many, many people out enjoying this bonus day of summer.

The weather forecast is for the temperature to drop now about 40 degrees by morning. So watch this space to see if I get brave to go walking -- even a short walk-- tomorrow.