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Houston at Day Four; and an unrelated “heads up” for Ecumenical Christians….

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Nephew Sean sent a couple of photos taken on his Houston street today. You can view them here. At the end of that post he answers a question of mine, “how can we help?”. (More on that below the graphic.)

The two photos in Sean’s neighborhood suggest a normalcy that isn’t…. That neighborhood, Houston and area, east Texas, the Gulf Coast, all are a long, long way from recovery. It is easy to let up, and move on to the next crisis of the day, and pretty soon Houston will be old news (it has made the front page four days in a row up here; that’s pretty much saturation. Something else will take its place.)

from Sean 5:41 p.m. Aug 30: “We got power back quick and everyone has running water. It won’t be normal here for a while. At least forty of the fifty houses around me need to be completely gutted or torn down. The streets will be lonely. My house is truly an anomaly in the area and thankful for it.”

I sent to Sean and his Mom an old graphic that has always made sense to me, even though it dates back to the early 1970s. I’ve used it on this page several times, most recently 2013, but it is timeless and pretty straight forward. Sean worked in NYC at the time of 9-11-01, and lost a number of colleagues and friends in the Twin Towers, I think, so he’s seen crises up close and personal.

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Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

I wish everyone the very, very best. I really like Sean’s suggestion, yesterday: “So, how does someone help outside of Houston? Well, the Red Cross will be taxed – so volunteer, donate to local chapters in honor of Houston, have your church find a sister church and send supplies directly to them. Financial to Red Cross, etc. But by helping them in other regional areas it will allow them to draw more supplies. That is the best thing I can think of right now.

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NOW, a quick pivot to Religion, especially for those in the Twin Cities.

Sunday, at Basilica of St. Mary, a handout caught my attention. It is two pages, and you can read it here: Reformation001

Gracing the front of the handout was a familiar face, though not in a Roman Catholic Church:

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If your interest is even a little peaked, take a look.

I come from the olden days where Lutherans wouldn’t darken a Catholics door, and vice versa.

Things change, and I’m delighted they have.

And I expect I’ll be attending more than one of these programs.

Dick Bernard – An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Minneapolis-St. Paul area: Here are the film showtimes for Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

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We went to see Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power on Wednesday afternoon. Climate change is a topic that has long been of concern to me, and I have written about it before, here, and followed it quite actively since we saw Al Gore in person in St. Paul in 2005, and then saw the original An Inconvenient Truth: A Global Warning in 2006.

What a difference ten years make; what a difference ten years has made….

First, the bad news: Out of the gate, the film as measured by box office, as Fox News proclaimed, “bombs at the box office”.

But there are other opinions “headlined” on the internet search I did on Thursday: here, and here. And if you take the time to view the Fox News piece above, it is a ten minute segment featuring Al Gore on Fox News just days ago.

What difference does ten years make? While acknowledging his own dark times, Mr. Gore points out the huge successes, not the least of which is the COP21 in Paris, where 193 nations signed on.

“Don’t judge the book by its cover”.

Wednesday, there was only a single theater in the Twin Cities showing the film – the Uptown at 28th and Hennepin. It is an “inconvenient” place to see a movie. We were going to see the film Sunday, but streets were blocked by the annual Uptown Art Fair which basically surrounds the theater. Even in the middle of a rainy day, parking was an issue. I was actually surprised that there were perhaps 50 of us in the Theater for the 2 p.m. show.

On the other hand…Inconvenient Sequel is a film of substance. If you care at all about the future in environmental terms, the film is much more than worth the time. See it in person if you can. My high spots: the story of Discovr (not misspelled); and crucial parts of the ‘back story’ about the Climate triumph at COP21 in Paris in 2015. Mr. Trump may feel he’s dissing President Obama when he refused to sign for the U.S. as the pact continues. Rather, I think, he is dissing us all, including American business.

While there is a long, long, long ways to go, the movement to build awareness of the climate change issue is very much alive and well, and change is possible.

Inconvenient Sequel, more than anything, gives a sense of empowerment to “we, the people”, going forward. The future rests with us.

Take the time to see the film, and spread the word.

POSTNOTE:

In 2006, I purchased ten copies of the DVD, An Inconvenient Truth. I still retain one. As I have related before, we saw Mr. Gore in person in St. Paul a year before the film came out, and we were in the front row of a packed Woodbury theatre a year later to see the first run, and my wife almost yelled, “that’s me!” when she saw herself on the big screen, going up to shake Al Gore’s hand. It’s still there, less than five minutes into the film.

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As I was scanning the cover jacket above, I noticed for the first time the quote at the bottom of the illustration, by Roger Friedman, FOXNEWS.com. In the above segment with Chris Wallace on Fox News a few days ago, Wallace says that it is the first time in 17 years that he’s interviewed Gore. He says in the recent interview, let’s not wait 17 years for the next visit….

There is possibility out there. Go for it!

Dick Bernard: This weekend: Earth Day & “The World Is My Country”.

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

POSTNOTE: Parking for the film on Sunday at St. Anthony Main Theater, Minneapolis: Best parking is in a ramp at 2nd St and 2nd Ave, one block up from the theatre. There is a tunnel to Main Street from the ramp. 2nd and 2nd is one block east of the Central/3rd Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi.

Today is Earth Day> All around the country, today, are Marches for Science (here, for Minnesota). Simply search “march for science” including your state name to see if there is a march near you. The major march is in Washington D.C.)

Here is an 8 minute YouTube talk by Prof. Richard Alley, a climate scientist, to school children at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College, St. Paul. I was at his talk that day, and met him personally there. He was part of the group which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC – and Al Gore).

It is our descendants whose future is at stake. The work has to be for them.

Related Events:

A must read for anyone with a serious interest in science in contemporary life:

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1. Monday evening, May 1, at Gandhi Mahal Restaurant, Minneapolis, Shawn Otto addresses “Science, Law and the Quest for Freedom in the Age of Trump.”

Mr. Otto’s book, “The War on Science. Who’s waging it, why it matters and what we can do about it” has just won the 2017 Minnesota Book Award for non-fiction, general. Shawn Otto is well known and respected in the Science community. Reservations required for this limited seating dinner meeting. $25 per person, $15 for students. Reserve by contacting Dick Bernard, dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom, or by mail at Box 25384 Woodbury MN 55125, or 651-334-5744.

This is the 5th annual of the re-initiation of World Law Day, which began in 1964, and went on for about 30 years in the Twin Cities. Each World Law Day is filled with opportunities for stimulating conversation.

Shawn Otto August 10, 2016

2. Sunday afternoon, April 23, is the World Premiere of “The World Is My Country“, the amazing story of Garry Davis, World Citizen. Show time is 2:30. Best advice to be ticketed and at the theater no later than 2:10 p.m. St. Anthony Main Theatre, Minneapolis. More here (link to theatre box office in second paragraph). Box office 612-331-7563 Tickets required for this event.

In my opinion, this is a gentle film about a very serious topic with lots of ideas – stated and unstated – for ordinary people on how to make a difference in this ever more complex world. I’ve seen earlier renditions of the “work in progress” and the film has a strong message.

Garry Davis (on screen from Vermont via Skype), Lynn Elling, film producer Arthur Kanegis and another guest share thoughts on the pursuit of world peace at St. Anthony Main Theater on January 6, 2013.

#1157 – Dick Bernard: Two Books Well Worth a Read: Shawn Otto’s “The War on Science”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s “Unrestorable Habitat”

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Back in January a mysterious e-mail appeared in my in-box from someone named Cynthia. She had googled the name Lois Phillips Hudson to see if anything would come up, and found me. More on Mrs. Hudson’s book, “Unrestorable Habitat“, “below the fold”…

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A few months later came an invitation to hear Shawn Lawrence Otto read from his new book, The War On Science.

I know of Shawn’s past work, always first rate, and I bought the book, and it made my summer vacation book list.

I read, and learned a great deal from, both books.

They are, on the one hand, very different; but on the other, very similar. One is by an old lady written when she was my age range. Mrs. Hudson, is a retired college professor, quite obviously grieving the loss of her daughter to illness. She writes about the deep conflict she sees between today’s natural world and technology, compared with her youthful days in the midst of the worst of the Great Depression and World War II which followed.

(The retired college professor died before she finished her book, so one has to speculate on what her ending would be, but that actually contributes to the richness of her passionate expression of feelings on her past and present, and our future.)

The other book is by an author who painstakingly and expertly documents not only the very real “war on science”, but on other areas susceptible to manipulation of public opinion. Shawn Otto expertly reviews the problem, and then devotes much of the meat of the book to ways towards solutions.

SHAWN OTTO’S “THE WAR ON SCIENCE”

I highly recommend “The War on Science” to anyone with even a tiny bit of interest in topics like science, marketing, politics, and the incessant manipulation of personal and public opinion (propaganda) in our own country. Get to know the name “Edward Bernays”…. He enters the story by name at page 257.

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the book, which is a very interesting history of science and its not always consistent position of esteem in our society (thus “war”); in addition, The War on Science is an equally interesting history of propaganda as it has been used in America especially related to marketing of products and ideas going back as far as WWI.

There is so much interesting and well argued information in the book that I would do a disservice by simply doing a once over in a review.

You need to read the book.

Best to take a look yourself. There are many formal reviews of the book at Amazon.com. One of them is mine.

You will see the book is being very well received.

Personally, I found “The War On Science” to be unusual in a couple of respects:
1. It nicks most everyone, including scientists, who get complacent and think they have found and can sit righteously on their own truth, as they define the term “Truth”. The book is heavily footnoted: 59 pages of sources.
2. Most importantly, fully 87 pages of the book discuss ideas for how individuals and groups in our society can move toward solutions to what seem intractable problems.

The War On Science is an excellent basis for book club discussion, as is Lois Phillips Hudson’s Unrestorable Habitat (following). Give both a serious look.

Unrestorable Habitat001

LOIS PHILLIPS HUDSON AND UNRESTORABLE HABITAT (continued)
A few days ago I was at a nearby park, completing “The War on Science“.

This day my phone rang, and on the line was long-time friend Nancy, from Hibbing, calling to comment on Unrestorable Habitat which I had sent her some months earlier and she had set aside and was just getting around to reading.

She had set it aside, but was finding it to be a marvelous book, a strong compliment coming from a retired teacher of English.

Unrestorable Habitat is one elderly woman’s reflections about her life, a certain huge business in her hometown of Redmond WA, some local fish, the loss of ability to imagine, and really, about all of us, everywhere in the so-called “developed world”.

Hudson’s book centers on an issue much on her mind as she grew older: the conflict she saw between salmon and big business in her town with lots of looks back at remembered pieces of richness flowing from her own very real hardships as a farm daughter during the worst of the Great Depression in North Dakota, then in Washington state, and forward into WWII in Washington. (She graduated from Redmond WA high school in 1945.)

Hudson died before she completed her book, but there is far more than sufficient “meat on the bones” to be published exactly as left by her: her opinions about post-9-11-01 contemporary U.S. society.

*

Some years back, I had blogged several times about aspects of Hudson’s 1962 well known book, “Bones of Plenty“, written about the worst of the Great Depression in rural North Dakota, and that is what Cynthia Anthony found in her random internet search. Cynthia, this mystery lady from New York, had become archivist for Mrs. Hudson’s papers, and asked permission to link my posts, “numbers 490, 495, and 565, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson” to her Lois Phillips Hudson Project, a website dedicated to preserving Ms Hudson’s rich but now basically unknown legacy.

It was Nancy who had earlier called my attention to “Bones of Plenty“; and now I was the one who had called Nancy’s attention to “Unrestorable Habitat“.

(Nancy had Mrs. Hudson as a teacher at North Dakota State University 50 years ago, and had vivid memories of her. She was a great teacher, Nancy said. She mentioned one quote by Hudson – at page 24 – that particularly caught her attention: “As..the mother of two daughters and the daughter of a father who frequently assured me that the brightest woman could never be as bright as your average man….” Unrestorable Habitat is peppered with such reflections.)

Once into Unrestorable Habitat, she found the book very interesting and thought-provoking.

Unrestorable Habitat so caught my attention that I purchased and distributed 100 copies, starting about 100 days ago.

Nancy was one of the recipients.

Here is the letter I enclosed with each book: Unrestorable Habitat

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Let me leave it at that. “Unrestorable Habitat” is worth your time, as is “The War On Science“. Each can encourage you to “Do Something”.

The two books complement each other.

I hope you “take the bait”.

August 21, 2016

August 21, 2016

POSTNOTE:
1. Some readers might say, about “The War on Science“, that I don’t know enough about science to learn.
Not at all true. In my own review of the book (it’s probably the 22nd or so, link above) I acknowledge that I had virtually no science education in the tiny schools I attended growing up. My opportunities to know science were basically ad hoc, like watching Sputnik blink in the North Dakota night sky in 1957, or getting the Salk Vaccine not too long before. “The War On Science” is more than just a primer, but written to an audience who knows nothing about science. It is a learning tool in itself.

2. In the solutions section of “The War on Science“, Shawn Otto has a section entitled “Battle Plan 1: Do Something” (p. 371).

In her own way, Mrs. Hudson in Unrestorable Habitat was (I think) trying to begin a conversation: where can or should the new ways fit with the old, and complement, rather than compete with, each other? She wrote at least some of her draft on a laptop in a coffee shop, so what some might perceive as a rant against technology, at least part of her text was simplified because of the very technology she railed against.

There is room for conversation. She was Doing Something.

Earlier today I was at Mass at Basilica of St. Mary, and afterwards noted again the three trash containers downstairs (photo above).

This experiment goes back a couple of years, when my friend Donna and her committee got a small grant to get recyclable containers for use in the coffee area. They were Doing Something.

The experiment has never worked as it was supposed to. If one looks in the bins, there are admixtures of items, despite the verbiage on the containers. One can say it failed.

But I don’t agree. Who knows, among the hundreds of us who visit that area each Sunday, there is someone who gets an idea for use back home, maybe if only in their own home? Great ideas start with experiments that seem to fail. But to start them, someone has to “Do Something”.

Part 2. Nobel Peace Prize Forum June 6-8, 2016: The Drowning Child and the Shoes…2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

Friday, June 17th, 2016

This years Nobel Peace Prize Forum focused on “Globalizing Compassion”, particularly children, and gave a very large role to the co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, a native of India who passed over a career in engineering to invest his life work on issues relating to child trafficking. More about his Children’s Foundation is here.

Satyarthi is an immensely engaging and persuasive man. You can see and hear him speak at this years Nobel Peace Prize Conference at the weblink listed below.

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co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

co-2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Kailash Satyarthi, June 7, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN

Many of the talks at this years Forum are accessible online here. They are all worth your viewing time.

The brimming-with-information Program Booklet for the 2016 Forum can be read here: 2016 Nobel Forum001

My comments, Part One about the 2016 Forum is here.

Wednesday afternoon, June 8, the final day of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, we were on our final coffee break. One of my colleague participants asked me what I thought of this years Forum. I said I always like workshops like these, where I know hardly anyone, including the speakers. It never fails, I said, that I leave without some insights, useful to me.

The conference adjourned, and I went home exhausted.

There was a final program, a film, The Same Heart, in the evening that I almost decided to miss.

Along with perhaps 50-100 “remnants” (not unusual after long conferences), I was at the theatre, and it was during The Same Heart that I experienced one of those insights I’d mentioned a few hours earlier.

The film is about the realistic possibility of eliminating the worst poverty for perhaps a billion children world wide. The film opened with a camera focusing on what appears to be a lake, and then panning back to a narrow stream.

Peter Singer*, ethicist at Princeton University, posed a question to the viewers: suppose that you are standing on the banks of a brook, and you look across to the other side and see a toddler going in the water, almost certainly about to drown. You are the only adult. The brook is shallow, but entering the water will ruin your new shoes.

What would you do?

His basic point was that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions of such toddlers around the world today, in effect drowning in circumstances out of their control, and most of us in varying degrees of affluence are unwilling to sacrifice our personal pair of new shoes to help them out. The message has stuck with me since I watched the film last week. It will not soon go away.

What would, what will I do?

The other insight came in bits and pieces, but it came together during a session on Tuesday afternoon.

An official of UNICEF, Olav Kjorven, Director of Public Partnerships, was talking about a UNICEF “My World” survey, about the “World We Want”, where millions of people expressed their opinion about priorities for humanity.

Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Olav Kjorven, UNICEF

Almost off-handedly he commented on the unlikely creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the UN at the beginning of the 21st Century, ending 2015. It seemed (my opinion) that a major reason these goals were adopted relatively easily was not so much because anyone thought they could be attained, but that they really were seen as a set of informal goals for the world which would not upset anyone’s “apple cart”, be stuck with commitments, and especially wouldn’t require much funding.

The MDGs have turned out to be much, much more substantive. “Grassroots” people have taken them seriously, and in a sense policy is being proposed and implemented from the bottom up, rather than imposed top down.

I was somewhat familiar with these goals. In 2005, I had attended a session on the Millennium Development Goals. One of the featured speakers was Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a powerful Twin Cities businesswoman who came out strongly about tackling child sex trafficking: her business, as we Minnesotans know, is the hospitality industry, worldwide. My notes about that meeting are here: MDG Workshop 2005001

Ms Carlson Nelson was part of a panel at this years Peace Prize Forum, and in her time period she said her insight moment came in 2004 from someone she said was “Amb. Miller” who heightened her awareness that her industry had a major problem with child sex trafficking. She took a very serious look at her own industries cause in the matter, and has taken action, and is still taking action, and most importantly has become a public witness for closer attention to justice in other areas as well.

She quite clearly became a behind the scenes leader in settling the Minnesota Orchestra lockout three years ago; most recently Mark Ritchie mentioned her as a very positive actor. The saying “don’t judge the book by its cover” comes to mind; or be careful about “painting with a broad brush”.

Progress is a process, often slow, but progress happens with effort.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

Marilyn Carlson Nelson June 7, 2016

At the same meeting in 2005 was my friend, Dr. Bharat Parekh, who decided to take on the problem of child malnutrition in his native India, implementing one of the MDG’s. Here is a talk given by Dr. Parekh in 2014, talking about the then-progress on his work towards a goal.

I don’t know what his aspirations were, but Dr. Parekh had a plan, and he worked it hard – I watched what he was doing as elements began to come together – to the extent that now he is a Board member of a major organization called Toddler Food Partners, and is making a big difference.

Back at the conference, Mr. Kjorven noted that at the end of the 15 year MDG period, the “World We Want” survey (previously mentioned) gave great grassroots impetus to the current UN Sustainable Development Goals.

I left the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum exhausted and, at the same time, renewed and refreshed.

People can and do make the crucial difference. They just need to believe their capacity to make that difference.

A WONDERFUL POSTSCRIPT: The final session of Wednesday afternoon was dryly described as “Closing Remarks” with a two line descriptor: “Nobel Peace Prize Forum Executive Director Gina Torry will close the final afternoon of the 2016 Forum.” This was a “don’t judge the book by its cover” descriptor, as the session began with a wonderful tribute to my deceased friend, and stalwart of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum from 1997 on, Lynn Elling, deceased Feb. 14, 2016. Featured was a video by public television made about 1993 which needs no elaboration. The segment concluded with a hashtag #peaceitforward…a wonderful tribute.

June 25: Recently the Aitkin Independent Age newspaper featured a long article about Lynn and his work in his lake country community. You can read it here: Big Sandy Lake and dad article

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* I note that Dr. Singer’s views on certain issues have excited some controversy which is hi-lited on the internet. That is of no concern to me, here. We all have points of view. His drowning child and shoes image will always stick with me.

#1131 – Dick Bernard: Random Acts of Inspiration

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

For many years, actually until quite recently, the prestigious Walker Art Center in Minneapolis had an impossible to miss work of art on its wall on Hennepin Avenue in Downtown Minneapolis: “Bits and Pieces put together to present a semblance of a whole.” (You can see its former presentation at Walker here.) I would guess the phrase was seen by millions of people, day after day – it was impossible to miss.

The phrase is no longer there. I cannot tell you what is there, now, though I go past the Walker as often as in the past.

I miss “Bits and Pieces”.

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Random chance, literally, brought me face to face with Bits and Pieces in the last 48 hours. I did not plan my experience. Each quietly presented itself through invitations, or simply my marking time between one event and another.

Everyone of us has had similar glimpses of our real world, far from the mess we see constantly portrayed as “reality” on television or in the media. Here are mine May 14-16 in chronological order. What would some of your similar experiences be?

Saturday afternoon, May 14:

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south Minneapolis MN, May 14, 2016

south Minneapolis MN, May 14, 2016

I was invited to stop by a neighborhood garden being planted by young people. This was no ordinary garden. Its produce will be sold to a well known restaurant in the neighborhood, Gandhi Mahal, whose owner believes in being part of the community. A group, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, is a driving force behind this initiative. All Saints Indian Mission and its First Nations Kitchen play an important role in this garden.

As I stood in that backyard, I thought back to my own old days, in the 1940s, Sykeston ND, when Mom and Dad had a big garden, and we kids had to participate in its care. I didn’t much like picking peas, or potato bugs, but somehow it now seems nostalgic and very positive.

A few hours later was a benefit concert for the Huntington’s Disease folks (the disease that got folk-singer Woody Guthrie). I stopped by the venue, left a donation, listened to a bit of the sound check by folk singer Larry Long, but passed on staying for the concert, which I’m sure was packed and outstanding.

Sunday, May 15:

Sunday morning was church as usual. I’m one of those people who like going to church; the people there infuse me with energy and optimism.

Afterwards I decided to stay downtown rather than drive home, as I was to be at another event at 3 in the afternoon.

What to do while marking the four hours? I started by proofreading part of a new book by our friend Annelee Woodstrom. This year is her 90th birthday, and her book will be her third. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. And each of her books have been profitable, as will be the third, I’m sure.

Her passion keeps her going. Her story is compelling.

I wandered back to the church to drop in on an event I knew was happening in the afternoon: the Blessing of Wheels, bicycles, motorized wheelchairs, and the like. This is an annual event. I’d never been before. It was brief, fascinating and uplifting.

I asked the lady, (photo below), if I could take her photo. Yes. She was to bring up the gifts, in this case, oil cans…. The brief ritual for perhaps 50 people, a basically non-sectarian but spiritual event, was really quite powerful – even for a non-biker like myself. Rituals have their place, an important place, in human life. In this case, even if you don’t own anything but a car with wheels.

Basilica of St. Mary Blessing of the Wheels May 15, 2016

Basilica of St. Mary Blessing of the Wheels May 15, 2016

Blessing of the Wheels, Basilica of St. Mary May 15, 2016

Blessing of the Wheels, Basilica of St. Mary May 15, 2016

Then the main event for Sunday, the reason I stayed downtown: the Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs at Orchestra Hall. I’ve long been an Minnesota Orchestra fan and have been in Orchestra Hall many times. This time was extra special. Up on that stage, amongst the several choirs for the 35th anniversary, were two of our grandkids, Kelly and Ted Flatley. The concert was two hours; they had prepared for this event for months. It takes work to get results….

Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, May 15, 2016

Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, May 15, 2016

Monday, May 16:

Finally, yesterday, I ventured out to suburban Blaine, where the Middle School I helped open as a brand-new Junior High School in 1965, recognized its 50th anniversary as a school.

You begin to feel old in such a setting: 50 years ago I was 25, a third-year geography teacher of 8th graders. That is three generations ago.

Roosevelt Middle School, teeming with adults and students, was a very vibrant place yesterday afternoon. There were kids doing Shakespeare; musicians playing jazz, walls and displays full of student projects for parents and visitors. There was lots and lots of life in that place.

It was a great late afternoon.

Roosevelt Middle School band members, Blaine MN May 16 2016

Roosevelt Middle School band members, Blaine MN May 16 2016

Student Art Project at Roosevelt Middle School, Blaine MN

Student Art Project at Roosevelt Middle School, Blaine MN

Event over, I elected to join a group of a dozen or so “old-timers” for a bite to eat down the street, and more conversation.

It was about 8:30 p.m., and I was on the road going east towards St. Paul, when one of the most brilliant sunsets I’ve ever seen showed up in my rear-view mirror.

Events of the previous 48 hours were already in context for me, but this sunset capped it. I thought back to the Saturday ritual in the backyard garden in Minneapolis, where a Native American elder helped the young people understand the significance of their efforts.

Native American Elder and dancer, Minneapolis May 14, 2016

Native American Elder and dancer, Minneapolis May 14, 2016

It was all good. Nature and Humanity in concert with each other.

Bits and Pieces has taken on a whole new life for me.

There is hope, lots of it, and it resides in every one of us, but it is the young who will have to make the difference.

*

The next few months will be filled with the mud-wrestling spectacle of national politics.

I can say that the last couple of days buoyed me up.

Look at the bright side. There is a bright side to this country and this world. Just look around you.

For some inspiration, check out Louie Schwartzbergs Ted Talk on Gratitude, which I first saw 5 years ago. You can access it here.

#1125 – Dick Bernard: Positive Developments on Climate Change.

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

April 22, Earth Day, 170 Nations, including the U.S., represented by Secretary of State John Kerry, met at the UN to sign the Paris Accords reached in November 2015.

April 15, a judge recommended that Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission use the federal social cost of carbon as a binding criteria for electric utility decision making. The decision was viewed as very positive by Fresh-Energy .

These are some of the positive signs that climate change initiatives are showing results.

A case can be made for hope.

Sunday, May 1, J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director of Fresh-Energy, will speak at the Fourth Annual Lynn and Donna Elling Symposium World Peace Through Law in Minneapolis. J. will present a well informed perspective on what is happening today, and her perspectives on the outlook for a more positive future.

President Barack Obama greets attendees in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015.  J. Drake Hamilton at right. Photo used with permission. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama greets attendees in the Blue Room before he delivers remarks on the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 3, 2015. J. Drake Hamilton at right.
Photo used with permission. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Below is the invitation to the event. DEADLINE FOR RESERVATIONS IS APRIL 26, 2016. Limited seating is still available.

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World Law Invite May 1, 2016

World Law Invite May 1, 2016

#1104 – Dick Bernard: Revisiting “The Bones of Plenty”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s Reflective Testimony to Ourselves and Coming Generations: “Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now”.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

UPDATE May 1, 2016: The official Lois Phillips Hudson website is here.

UPDATE Feb. 27, 2016: Six pages from North Dakota State University (Fargo) Archives, Feb. 23, 2016. Hudson NDSU Arch001Mrs. Hudson taught at NDSU 1967-69.
*
In 1962, Lois Phillips Hudson published “The Bones of Plenty”.

A New York Times Book Review commentary said this about the book: “It is possible…that literary historians of the future will decide that The Bones of Plenty was the farm novel of the Great Drought of the 1920s and 1930s and the Great Depression. Better than any other novel of the period with which I am familiar, Lois Phillips Hudson’s story presents, with intelligence and rare understanding, the frightful disaster that closed thousands of rural banks and drove farmers off their farms, the hopes and savings of a lifetime in ruins about them.”

While I grew up a North Dakotan, I missed the book at the time of publication.

In early Jan. 1962, freshly graduated from college (Valley City (ND) State Teachers College), I entered the United States Army, spending two years playing war in the rattle-snake infested foothills of the Rocky Mountains at Ft. Carson, Colorado and other places, like Hanford Firing Range, Washington.

After the Army, life interfered with things like recreational reading; I don’t recall ever hearing about “The Bones of Plenty”.

In fact, it wasn’t until my friend, Nancy Erickson, told me about the The Bones of Plenty a few years ago, that I took the time to read it, and it spoke to me, very personally. It was my people she was talking about: rural North Dakotans who had lived through and survived the awful years of the 1930s, “The Great Depression”.

The “Bones of Plenty” is set in rural Stutsman County North Dakota in 1934, set primarily in Jamestown and rural Cleveland ND (photos which follow are of Cleveland ND* taken January 27, 2016).

(click to enlarge)

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the  main street.

Jan. 27, 2016, Cleveland ND, west side of the main street.

At the time I was introduced to “The Bones of Plenty” by Nancy, I was spending more and more time with my Uncle Vincent and Aunt Edithe in LaMoure, a town little more than an hours drive from Cleveland.

When I’d ask Vincent, a lifelong rural Berlin ND farmer, about the Depression, he would always reply that 1934, the year he was nine, was the worst. (He was 2 1/2 years older than Lois Phillips, then living on the rural Cleveland ND tenant farm, not far away).

I can attest, having shouldered the task of closing down the 110 year old farm, that the family never recovered from the trauma of the 30s.

And they weren’t unusual: being trapped in years of uncertainty has its impact. “The folks”, their siblings and many others lived in the shadow of the 30s their whole lives. “The Bones of Plenty” put “meat” on those bones for me. It helped me understand why they lived as carefully as they did.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016. Likely the Town Hall, probable scene of meetings in The Bones of Plenty.

Jan. 27, 2016.  Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

Jan. 27, 2016. Most likely the Bank in Cleveland which failed in the 1930s.

*

Fast forward.

January 6, 2016, one of those occasional unusual e-mails came to my e-screen.

A person named Cynthia Anthony introduced herself: “I’m seeking permission to post links to your posts, numbers 490**, 499**, and 565**, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson. I am the director of the Lois Phillips Hudson Project, and run a website dedicated to preserving her legacy – you can view [the site] here.”

As we began our chat, I found that Cynthia lives in western New York state, I am in Minnesota (but North Dakotan to the core). She had come to be custodian of Ms Hudson’s boxes of archival material after Ms Hudson’s death in 2010, in part, I gathered, because of her involvement in something called the Rural Lit Rally. She said the boxes had yielded little about Lois’ 8 years in ND, nor about her parents and their kin. She knew a lot about most of the rest of Lois’ life, beginning about 1937, mostly in Washington State, most around Redmond.

Redmond, among other things, is the headquarters of Microsoft.

I agreed to help Cynthia sort out the North Dakota connection of Ms Phillips Hudson (and invite the reader of this blog to do the same. Here is the portal for submitting comments, etc., to her.)

Included in the many boxes was a manuscript of a nearly completed book, Unrestorable Habitat: Microsoft Is My Neighbor Now (click on the title for ordering information). Ms Hudson had apparently been working on the book from about 2000 till near her death; roughly the decade of her 70s.

On careful review, a decision was finally made to publish the 390 page book as it had been left by Ms Hudson, including occasional typos and notations about incomplete verification of sources.

*

I have read Unrestorable Habitat, and I recommend it without any qualification whatsoever. It is powerful, and it is uncomfortable.

In many ways “Unrestorable Habitat…” is autobiographical and about the world of Lois Phillips Hudson, from youth forward. It weaves personal recollections and direct observations of contemporary life, as seen by a young girl, then by a woman who ultimately retired as a college professor in 1992, about the desperately poor rural North Dakota of the 1930s, and country village, thence city of Redmond, Washington, from the 1930s to the end of her life.

The book offers the reader a great deal of food for thought about our present technological age.

No reader who cares about the future of our planet will be comfortable reading Ms Hudsons observations. We are all complicit in the deteriorating state of our planet. Start with myself, writing this post on a computer in a comfortable room, soon to be transmitted to who-knows-where by internet….

As I read Unrestorable Habitat, I have to ask myself, how do I fit into this narrative of squandering our future for the comfort of today? What can I, as an individual, do to make the future hospitable or at least survivable for the generations which follow, as well as for other living species?

The problem to solve is not someone elses: it is mine, and all of ours.

This book would be a great one for book clubs. I recommend it highly.

* – In 1920, the first census of Cleveland showed a population of 341; in 1930, 273; 1940, 246; 1950, 181…the current population is estimated as 82.

** – The references to The Bones of Plenty in previous blogs are found in #490; 499 and #565

Jan. 27, 2016.  The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment.  Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

Jan. 27, 2016. The two story public school in Cleveland, now closed, and apparent storage yard for heavy equipment. Ms Phillips Hudson went to her first school years here, and her mother graduated from this high school.

COMMENTS
from Jermitt: Thanks for sharing information on Lois Phillips Hudson book “The Bones of Plenty”. There are two books about the dust storms of the Great Plains and depression of the late twenties and early 1930 that I really like. They are The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan, The Great Plains by Ian Frazier and Pioneer Woman of the West, by Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson. I just finished my book “Memories of a Grateful Past” Stories of Family and Friends from the Heart 1830-1985. The book has 470 pages of stories about family, friends, and my work as a teacher and eighteen years of working with the Wisconsin Education Association (1968-1985). The book also includes family stories from South Dakota during the depression and drought. It has gotten wonderful reviews, so I’m pretty excited about it. The books will be printed and sent to me by April 1.

from Curtis: As a history guy is it just on ND? Just finished Eva’s Story by Eva Schloss. Story of a survivor of the death camps of WWII. After the war her mother married Otto Frank. Tough read about what humans did to other humans.

Response to Curtis: Bones of Plenty is 100% about Stutsman County ND, basically rural Cleveland and Jamestown in 1934. Unrestorable Habitat is mostly about Redmond (suburban Seattle) in the 2000s, but includes lots of autobiographical flashbacks to Hudson’s growing up on the ND farm.

from Lynn: Thanks Dick, This reminds me that when I worked for the North Dakota Farmers Union we were privileged to have Lois speak to a youth group, I think in 1968. Very memorable experience!

from JoAnn: Thanks for all your interesting discussions. I can remember receiving a copy of “Bones of Plenty”, I believe from my mother. My brother and I enjoyed the incongruity of the lovely title. I totally enjoyed the book. I was not old enough to participate in the actual worst periods of those times, but i certainly lived through the after effects of those years. My grand father lost his bank in Wheatland in spite of my mother donating her $5000 inheritance from an uncle in the vain attempt at saving the bank. (Quite a chunk in those days.) I can remember many conversations (this would have to be early 40s as I was born in late 39) in which my father would end with the phrase, “Well, we can always move to the Ozarks.” I guess that was his escape plan if we couldn’t stick. My husband and I have recently moved and while unloading and sorting and selecting books to keep, I actually handled BONES OF PLENTY today. I acquired along the way somewhere, a book entitled, REAPERS OF THE DUST, a prairie chronicle also by Hudson. More recently I found THE WORST HARD TIME by Timothy Egan, which, as my brother would say,”Another miserable book”. This I took to mean another book about a miserable time. Egan’s book is not about our local area but covers the horror of the dust that covered the earth of the high plains during those “dirty thirties.” The descriptions were unbelievable. Perhaps you’ve read this book already. Anyway, thanks for directing my thoughts back to those memories. You do great work with your blog. Cheers!

from Emily: Great article! Thank you for sharing! I hope you are well.

from Debbie: Thanks for this info, Dick. I love reading books about Dakota. I do believe I read Bone of Plenty way back when. Will look for the other.

from Christina: I googled for some information on those two books. I think they both might be very interesting especially “Unrestorable Habitat.” I like John Grisham’s books. I am now reading Gray Mountain. I know it’s fiction but based on true situations. This one is about the coal companies strip mining the mountains, miners with black lung diseases,the water being polluted from the coal slush & waste being dumped into the valleys etc. The coal companies have the lawyers pretty well sewed up . I am thankful how Gov. Link got that reclamation project passed. Many object to the EPA but thankfully some one is watching out for our environment. Thanks for the book recommendations.

from Kathleen: Thanks very much. Our library system has it. I look forward to reading it when I return from CA.

#1088 – Christine Loys: A message from COP 21, Paris, the Global Conference on Climate Change

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

NOTE: The important UN Panel on Climate Change in Paris, COP21, continues (this link provides much information about the conference). It was pushed off the front page by the Nov. 13 tragic attacks in Paris, but my friend, Christine Loys, brought it back to my own radar screen with a welcome recent and unexpected message.

Christine is a busy volunteer translator at the conference. Without further elaboration, here is the photo she sent, along with a few comments as a very active observer.

Christine Loys at left with Fabián Antúnez Camacho comunidad Yanesha de Tsachopena en Perú

Christine Loys at left with Fabián Antúnez Camacho
comunidad Yanesha de Tsachopena en Perú

Here are her unedited comments. Perhaps later there will be some observations about the conference itself. :

For another week, I am involved in interpreting during the COP 21 from and to Spanish and/or English and into and from French. The Indians from Amazonia need interpreters from and to Spanish, Brazilian and English into and from French. Many do Brazilian and English but, to my great surprise, not so many do Spanish and English and French… so I got the position (unpaid) and I am the busiest of all the interpreters so far in that group!!!. It gives me the advantage to be able to speak my mother tongue, but more interesting, to talk to those caciques and responsible people regarding the dams that are the reason of a huge fight amongst the Primitive tribes and the Brazilian government. These Primitive Nations are quite isolated from the world and are not so much at ease when they meet important world leaders here. I suspect they provide good conscience but do not induce real decisions from the leaders to help them!!!

Yesterday, the Canadian Native tribes came to join the Amazonian tribes in their fight to survive in this hard world. The communication was very difficult. They call themselves brother and sister but they have little in common due to different History. However, it was moving to see them pray together and hug with their different attire… There was also the President of the International organization for Indian action from New York. The North Americans seem much more developed than the South Americans.

I have not become an expert but I have learned a lot and it is not finished yet for me…I have become curious and interested.

As for the atmosphere referring to the events earlier this winter here [in Paris, Nov. 13], people are still cautious, and talk about it all the time. We go out, but according to the statistics, it seems that many keep at home when they don’t have to go out….

I look around all the time, but I am doing million meetings (at COP 21… a potentially dangerous place if any…!) and there is no way to stop life…[or] stop my [working on] the movie.

#1086 – Dick Bernard: “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream…A Million Copies Made”

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
Lynn Elling, Sep 21, 2015, at Dedication of Minneapolis' Open Book as a Peace Site, sponsored by Minnesota Peace and Social Justice Writers Group

Lynn Elling, Sep 21, 2015, at Dedication of Minneapolis’ Open Book as a Peace Site, sponsored by Minnesota Peace and Social Justice Writers Group

Eight years ago – it was June of 2007 – I decided to drop in on the annual meeting of World Citizen, one of the member groups of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, of which I was then President.

During this meeting, an elderly man, Lynn Elling, who turned out to be the person who had founded World Citizen back in 1972, stood up and gave his 86-years young rendition of the peace anthem composed by songwriter Ed McCurdy, and made popular by John Denver, and many others: “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”.

A couple of weeks later, at the annual meeting of another MAP member organization, Citizens for Global Solutions, Lynn and his wife, Donna, sat down at the same table as myself, and he “set the hook” (those who know him know what that’s all about – for others, he’s a retired salesman!). For eight years now, in varying ways, I’ve tried the impossible, to keep up with Lynn Elling*, WWII Navy officer and lifelong peace advocate.

Early in our acquaintance, I learned that in 1971, Lynn borrowed John Denver for a day, and John sang his song, and another, and talked about peace in our world, for the film Man’s Next Giant Leap, which can be watched here.

I write about this today, for a couple of reasons:

First, Lynn, now closer to 95 than 94, is being transferred to Presbyterian Homes in Bloomington (98th and Penn). A day or two ago, it looked like finis for my friend, but the “old bird”, as he describes himself, doesn’t accept invitations from Father Time readily. So, sometime in the next day or two, Lynn’s health permitting, his friend Ruhel Islam of Gandhi Mahal, Larry Long and myself, will go down and hear Lynn’s story, once again. (If you know Lynn, and plan to visit, call Presbyterian Homes first (952-948-3000); and plan a trip Dec 2 or later.)

We’ll all know that Lynn’s every Friday evening at Gandhi Mahal has probably ended, and it will be a bittersweet visit.

Either of us could pass on before Lynn – that’s how life goes, you know. But the odds are not in Lynn’s favorite in this race: he has a long head start.

He’s run a good race for a lot of years, and it’s getting to be time to move on.

The second reason, relates to Ed McCurdy’s simple but powerful song about A Million Copies….

At this moment in history, it is easy to be terminally depressed about the state of our world. All you need to do is to watch the TV “news”.

But there is a major climate conference going on in Paris which is serious business. Sure, far too late, but going on nonetheless.

And there are major initiatives going on, largely not covered by the “mainstream media” to deal positively with the Syrian Refugee Crisis, and the xenophobia that has gained currency in the current U.S. Presidential candidate contests.

The event of the week is the attempt of politicians to get political distance away from the horrific incidents at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Were it not so very sad, it would almost be funny to see the attempts to manipulate the story. If you’ve got the time, read a long summary here.

Here’s what my own Church newsletter had to say about the Syrian Refugees on Sunday: Basilica Refugees001. Places like Basilica of St. Mary take on these issues.

Then there’s the business of “a million copies made”.

When McCurdy wrote his song, “leadership” was considered to be “man’s work”, and getting signatures of a million men was a very, very tall order.

The song was a fantasy.

Today women and kids are far greater players in all ways in this world, with much more power, if they so choose. And the men, not in McCurdy’s room, have far more power as well.

Still it is far easier to click a box on a screen in favor, or against something; or just fall into hopeless mode. “I can’t do anything anyway, why bother?”

But as in McCurdy’s Dream, individual effort is what will, in the long term make the difference.

The future is not to be delegated.

If you can’t make a million copies, make one, or two, or twenty.

Do something beyond your comfort zone, and do it every day.

Dick Bernard, Ruhel Islam, Lynn Elling, Larry Long, December 2, 2015

Dick Bernard, Ruhel Islam, Lynn Elling, Larry Long, December 2, 2015

* – The website behind Lynns’ name, A Million Copies, is a tribute to two passionate advocates for Peace and Justice, Lynn Elling and Dr. Joseph Schwartzberg. It is in need of maintenance, but remains identical to when I put it on line in March, 2008.