First Friday: International Radio Network / Jane Smiley / Death of American orchestras / Minnesota ballroom dancing

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On this First Friday program, MPR’s Beth Friend presents a story collection that includes: Tuning into International Radio Network; author Jane Smiley on considering the “mother’s point of view;” Randy Davidson on death of the American orchestras; heyday of Minnesota’s ballrooms; and tips shopping for music at ethnic grocers.

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

Hi, I'm Beth friend. Welcome to first Friday from the merry month of May on this show. We tune into the international radio network the newest multilingual station in town bringing news from home into the living rooms of Twin Cities immigrants, and we consider the mothers point of view in literature with Pulitzer prize-winning writer Jane Smiley commentator, Randy Davidson worries about the death of American orchestras, including our own time to rethink. He says and we swing our way back to the Heyday of Minnesota ballrooms all this and tips on shopping for music at ethnic groceries pump up the Bhangra, but don't go away.I grew up in New York the city of languages the variety was everywhere not only on the streets but on the airwaves these days much of it say the Spanish and Chinese stations are on cable but years back it was found on AM stations like w EV D named for socialist leader Eugene V dibs run by the you - newspaper the forward wev D since its founding in 1927 has broadcast programs in Yiddish Italian German polish Hebrew and Greek, hence, its old logo the station that speaks your language. Now, I'm not going to tell you that Minneapolis is anything like New York and ethnic and racial diversity?But we are home to Growing immigrant communities. Once again, it's radio that offers the proof since January the international radio network has been offering Twin Cities subscribers music religious programs and news in Russian you 3D items to issues to Vietnam in Arabic Arabic and in Farsi Persian big was Irish. I thought about the international radio network is FM subcarrier radio, like the music in your dentist's office it broadcast on a signal rented from an existing radio station in this case WCA lfm, if you want to hear the network you Lisa specially adapted radio and pay a monthly subscription fee. Who do you go to the brainchild of the network of very ambitious hard-working iranian-born engineer a dabbler in many business ventures. He's constantly on the go I caught up with him at his to room headquarters on Excelsior Boulevard in st. Louis Park. My name isAli and last name is Harry. She's hard for the American people to pronounce that they called me. Hajji or Haji Ali haghighi told me that he first started thinking about the power of the media in 1979. When the Iranian Revolution started and local Iranians himself included were interviewed. He decided that ethnic communities here like his own needed to be heard from directly. So he got himself a weekly hour-long show on KFA. I focusing on Iranian news and culture then last year Ali was on a plane on his way back from visiting his brother in Japan and he's looking at all the different nationalities of people sitting in the cabin. He's listening to them talk and he's thinking if there was a radioBroadcasting any sources you see different people sitting here. They can just exercise and practice their language. So so he comes back to Minneapolis does some research discovers. There are thousands of Russians Arabs Chinese Hmong Vietnamese and Filipino people in the Twin Cities not to mention 3,000 Iranians. Then he finds out about numerous foreign language radio and TV services on both coasts that he can contract with and on January 1st. He starts the international radio network. It now offers seven hours a day in Russian some of its satellite transmitted from Moscow who's listening a hundred and fifty households as a lie. I'll take you to him. So we pile into the car with Alex Seraph who is selling the service to the Immigrant Russian Jewish community and we go to the st. Louis Park apartment of Ed and Luba Yannick and their two sons all of whom came from Minsk below Russia about seven months ago women including food. Most people I meet I am able to specifically in news about America because I believe that we should know as much as possible about the country where we leave and of course I'm interested also in use from X Russia, excuse us. I'm sorry and because we came from that country and we are interested. What what is happening over there? When I listen to the radio, I feel like I'm at home in Russia Lube. It tells me she'd like the service to develop Children's shows so that their kids will remember the Russian language. It is more concerned with the importance of the service for older people like his father before we had the services that says that his dad is practically is is passing away passing away because he was missing everything you say but when he had this service, he practically had his second life. Yes, and he said that he now he cannot even imagine for himself a life without this service computer a reader. I am a conflicting State while the broadcast quality isn't great. It says it's better than the way Voice of America and BBC sounded back home and the price I ask I mean a $50 deposit on a radio and a fifteen dollar monthly fee is Deep by many people's standards. It says if you pay 50 cents a day. This is free. This is not money. Maybe he's right after all the Russian audience does get a lot of programming on the international radio network including simultaneous translation of the ABC Nightly News Ed puts on the TV turns down the sound and turns up his radio. Voila Peter Jennings is speaking his language. There's also simultaneous translation of Network movie presentations a few weeks ago. When The Sound of Music was on Ed and Luba enjoyed a very Rusev, I'd Julie Andrews. Then there's the extra Added Touch of local Twin Cities weather forecast, which are translator Alex Seraph records himself for broadcast several times a day. But while the Russian broadcast takes up many hours of it and day. It's not the only material on the air back we go into Ali's car to meet other language customers inside the car Ali puts on the Canadian Broadcasting Company. We drive along The sun sets over the tract houses of Robbinsdale and Brooklyn Park and Ali tells me how America land of religious pluralism has changed him growing up a Muslim in Iran. He says he was discouraged from speaking to non-believers like Christians and Jews, but here he counts them among his friends. He studied Bible for two years in a Lutheran Church. He says and found out that all religions encourage the same loving values. And so it pleases Ali immensely that Jews and Muslims share airtime on his Network what I want he says is conciliation between these different religions and people are conversation stops temporarily when we come to the home of Cairo born. I mean Kadir who teaches accounting at Augsburg College, he's one of the hosts of the Islamic Center our found daily on the international radio network. Well, actually I am at both ends. I am a very devout listener and also sometimes a broadcaster because the center serves Muslims who have come Minnesota from all over the world Afghanistan Pakistan India and the Middle East the host speak mostly in English each night from 7 to 8 p.m. A volunteer man's that microphone and a hundred forty four households tuned in there's Community News special guests music and recitation of the Quran, you know, the value of the program became most apparent during the celebration of Ramadan a holy month for Muslims in which they fast each day until sunset the first night of Ramadan the Islamic Center Program stayed on the air from 6 p.m. Until dawn the next day special holiday songs were played there were discussions of religious practices people called in to wish each other a happy month for Kadir and others. It was a very nostalgic experience when I grew up in Egypt in Cairo. Yeah, and we simply had that the reduce on with all of these songs and the recitation from the Quran and so on. And then we sit down and eat and all of a sudden that is happening here for the people who were did not grow up over there. So I'm glad that they are sharing what we think is valuable from Brooklyn Park Ali. Hi Gigi drives us to Minnetonka to the home of iranian-born Cam ranh as at far who came to Minnesota from England less than 12 months ago. He listens from ATM on to the many hours of Farsi news and talk shows from La that are broadcast each night on the international radio network is exciting. It really is even for me after all these years living abroad and so on when I turned the radio and I can hear my own mother language a pillow is an Oda Nobu Ali Huggies dreams come true many more people will experience the excitement of hearing their mother. Hang on the radio business Agreements are being made as we speak says Ali that will enable him to add chinese vietnamese and Japanese to the network that could mean an expansion of the service to local Asian American restaurants and hotels, of course, the ultimate dream for Ali is the purchase of a regular frequency so that everybody with a standard radio can tune in but first he has to get the fledgling Network to turn a profit not to worry. He has radios out to 400 households now and more are being rented daily. The international radio network is growing and serving Ali Huggy and his customers in many wonderful ways. My radio. The thing makes me happy makes connection between people between different ethnic group get to know, you know, each other and practice their language their culture and teaching the language to their children more than anything else. The international radio network has a 50 mile radius from the Twin Cities if that area includes you and you're interested in hearing it. You can call Ali haghighi at 929540869295408. Go into just about any record store in the Twin Cities and you'll easily find the world music section. The last few years has seen a huge upsurge in the distribution of international music primarily in pop genres. But whether it's world-beater, ethno pop, what's in the bins at the big chains is not all there is to expand your musical Horizons. Check out the cassette and CD racks at any number of Twin Cities ethnic groceries. What you'll find at these Nigerian Caribbean Arab and Indian shops is music that hasn't made it onto major multinational labels, but music that is certainly valued within those cultures Cliff. Sloan is an ethnomusicology instructor at Metro State University who's got some advice for us the uninitiated on how to pick out good recordings in the groceries High Cliff Sloan. Hi Beth, what are some of your favorite grocery locations for music shopping? Well, there are quite a number of groceries each one serving particular ethnic communities for example up at Central Avenue in 19th in Northeast Minneapolis. You can find Two Asian Indian stores and one Arab store, all three of which have a really busy Market in both videos and cassettes and CDs right around the corner of 28th and Nicollet. You can find a Vietnamese store and allow store once again videos and audio cassettes next to the Frozen Foods next to sometimes the frozen food. Sometimes there's an entire counter just with cassettes and they do a really bustling business. Okay. So you walk in you know, you're sort of interested in getting a new musical experience. But what you're looking at is a completely foreign language no faces on the covers mean anything to you no language means anything to you. So you could either be really wild and adventurous and say, okay. I'm going to take X number of dollars and just you know, see what happens or what you could always ask the owner what his or her recommendations might be but I've come up with a little three-point guide Cliffs guide to shopping it. The groceries okay hit it number one avoid avoid cassettes if there's only one person's picture on the cover if that cassette is that of a have that picture is that of a young and beautiful and attractive person? Why avoided because the music industry worldwide has a youth market and that youth Market is predicated upon massive overproduction. So they're constantly looking for another talentless beautiful face to put onto the cassettes. Okay, so go for people who are relatively older and or somewhat unattractive were on the cover. Well number one avoid the youthful as sexy look. Okay. Number two was I think it's a good idea for all kinds of music by the way. Yeah, I would agree with America and every other kind number to Seek out people who are older less attractive because then you can count on a career that's lasted a long time, but it still gives them some notoriety to this day and Third one, I think just as important make sure that the letters of the name of the person who's being featured are the largest letters on the cassettes Graphics. Why because then it's their Fame at cells cassettes and not hit Tunes or not some other kind of theme you want to make sure that their Fame is what's making that cassette get produced the first that way you're assured that that person is actually really a known quantity in their country of origin. I'm really much loved and quite successful. What I'm looking at is what are the types of music who are the artists who have a large following with in that constituency and then you what you're getting at is not necessarily music that you might like granted. There might be some false positives here. What you're looking for is music that's valued within those communities. What you're looking for is music that's valued through a cross-section of that community and not just the ephemeral youth Market. Okay. So what if even that is sort of a little too For some for us and we need to I would like, you know something very specific from you today. Are we uh pick a grocery pick and a specific music pick so I can get started. I have a specific music Big here for you, but I got to say this is one of the false negatives. This is one where my little three-point guideline would have you passed this by so this is the exception to the three rules that we have just adopted and it's an exception because you can't come up with a good formula for groups. This is a recording by a group. So your three point plan is really good on individual performance will performers, right? So one of the kinds of music that interests me a great deal is a kind of music called Bhangra Bhangra is music from northern England. It says English as mincemeat pie. I don't try to come up with an analogy to it's American as apple pie. It's what interests me about Bhangra is that it's yet another example of a working-class music that shows Stylistic Innovations and these Innovations come from economic dislocation. These are all migrant laborers from the Punjab from Pakistan from those parts of Northern India and Pakistan who have come to the industrial belt of northern England looking for work out of this economic dislocation has come a musical form that combines electronic instruments. It combines some aspects of the Disco craze remember disco. Yeah and some aspects of Punjabi traditional music number one is the drumming there's a particular drumming pattern that goes with Punjabi Harvest dances that has been adopted into this and here's the stuff that really ties it into tradition a value placed upon wordplay on on the singer being able to do clever things with the Punjabi lyrics now, why hasn't that music caught on here? I think it hasn't caught on here because the nature Sure of Indian immigration compared comparatively in the England and America the Indians here are spread thin they're scattered. They're all from a relatively higher class and they're all located at universities while in England. It's an impoverished working-class Community concentrated in a particular population belt. It's caught on heavily in England because the English radical working-class white musicians the black musicians from Africa and the Caribbean have found common cause with these with these populations and musicians in England. The demographics aren't the same over here. Alright, so the name of the group is that we're going to hear this is a group of all Sikhs from the Punjab. They call themselves The pardeshi Music Machine. This is a fascinating tape the title of the tune is stated by the singer. So there's no need for me to introduce it. Oh, we'll just hear it right off. You'll hear it right off a cliff. Sloan is an economic. G instructor at Metro State University in the Twin Cities. Thanks for coming. Thanks With You music will do more. Thank you much pop up. pop up the pop-up pop-up pop up the pop-up pop-up You listening to pump up the Bhangra on First Friday on Minnesota Public Radio. Well, there are buds on the trees and the hedges the daffodils in the Tulips are Standing Tall. The gardening season has begun no more basements seedling work. It's time for the real thing. Richard me cock the owner manager of Squire house Gardens in Afton is well prepared. He grew up in Cheshire England not far away from any historic Gardens now in Minnesota, he has some constructive criticisms to make of his neighbor's peculiar Horticultural habits. Lots of people, you know, I'm in a sort of thing that they've they've got to stuff the thing with color, right? Oh here I have I have five months of this year to see color. That's so in go the Xenia single the marigolds single the red salvia in girl the petunias of specially the candy-striped petunias right there a winner. Hey, two colors three colors in one flower more. Do I need when in fact, you know think and plan? Can get wonderfully elegant and cool and restrained and beautiful and and and sensuous effects with with different colors. There's nothing to looks nicer than than a container just planted with all white. So you think we're going for two hot colors. Yeah, who wants to look at Mary goals on a 98 degree day in July. That's a good point. That's a good point. Well, thank you. All right. So our color Aesthetics are off as well. Right? Why do you think that is by the way, there's a sort of an odd dichotomy. There's there's a fear of being very sort of outrageous. But at the same time they plant selfies and marigolds together. I think you're right about the fear of outrageousness. And I think when you go around look at Gardens in this spring, what you notice is that many many people go for a very controlled flat kind of look right was people who let their Gardens grow in a in a more wild natural way. It really stands out and that your aesthetic has been so developed up to that point that you say. Wow. That's beautiful, but that's really messy. Something can look a little messy and yet still be very beautiful. If you look at the Old English cottage gardens, right lovely lovely things and they lock or they can look an absolute mess and that's part of their charm. So we should give up our quest for neatness in the garden you can you can avoid the Quest for neatness. Yes, especially I oh, oh gosh. Do I urge you give up the Quest for the Perfect Lawn right? Perfect Lawns take an awful lot of Maintenance. You have to weave them you have to fertilize them. You have to move them. So what should you do? Wow plan design get some beds in there get some perennials in there. Get some get some color and some life into that space has this sort of green and flan goes on for Endless blocks. So it would be good for us. All of us all Americans to go Whole Hog for the garden. I think so. Yeah, I think so and I did a little word of caution there Whole Hog doesn't mean to say you go for all the new varieties of plants that are appearing in the catalog the biggest the brightest biggest the brightest the fattest don't do that. You know, some of those are fun and they can be a sort of keeping up with the Joneses or going one better kind of thing. Hey, look at this peony, you know, you can say to your next door neighbor, but you know some of those all varieties that we forgotten about the simple ones. They're beautiful. They're wonderful. They're simple the elegant do talk about gardening wherever you go with whomever you're socializing with. Well. Yeah, I talked about it a lot obviously because it's on my mind a lot. There's there's a wonderful book by a couple of Hungarian Brothers cork apples and they say that there's one chapter which deals with the gardener at a social occasion and that you know, one way you can tell a gardener is if they can get the conversation. From the Opera there watching to manure in the space of three sentences that demarcates says says capitulate a good Gardener a real Gardener. The Horticultural views are Richard me cock owner manager of Squire house Gardens in Afton. We welcome to first Friday Art commentator. Randy Davidson. Welcome Randy. Hello. Fresh from a trip from Big Apple. Yes. I'm just back and boy things are you know what this is. This is not only the time for flowers. It's also the time for balance sheets. This is the end of the fiscal year for Arts organizations and Beth the nightmares and the news is not good. I go to a national board meeting every spring at this time and the big talk every year is who's in debt who's going to come out great. Yeah, right, but nobody falls into that category where we have fewer and fewer people falling into that category. What's happening in the news this last week was that three orchestras have gone out of business. That one Orchestra in Orlando is selling off the office equipment and the eczema rocks copier. They just closed business and said you're done. Goodbye to other orchestras one in Alabama the Alabama Symphony and the one Sacramento Symphony have just the gone into chapter 11. They don't know whether they're going to come back or not. But they've just closed operations and said we'll let you know if we're ever going to come back. Meanwhile New Orleans, which is a perennial in the debit side. It looks like they'll end the year and close and San Diego Symphony same story and Vancouver and Toronto Toronto this you know, this is different from Alabama in Orlando. I love much larger scale bronto's a huge Symphony in Canada. That looks like they're going to close down as well and Vancouver. They're what they're saying at the American Symphony Orchestra league, is that the board and the staff are working closely together to shore up these organizations and that there probably will go on but they're still it's dicey. What's the word from New York about our two major orchestras? We're not doing so good. The news is from New York. This is not from what you hear in the Press here. But the news from New York. Is that the European tour that the chamber orchestra's? He's going to be a loss leader and kind of laws are we talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars? Whoo-hoo and that the Minnesota Orchestra if you think that's bad news, the Minnesota Orchestra is even in even worse shape. It's they're talking about a deficit of several million dollars. Yes, and we're in very very serious shape in this country partially due to the fact that many years ago. We decided that our cultural life was going to be lived through and and focused on the Arts organizations. And and if the Arts organizations don't do well in this country. Our cultural life doesn't do well in this country and it looks as though large Symphonies and opera companies all over the country are just going out of business. They're just closing the door and saying goodbye. Okay, what's the main factor that's causing this situation mean a lot of Arts institutions across the board and in many areas of artistic experience many genres of art are having difficulties, but it seems to me the orchestra's are suffering almost more than others. Well as No in the Performing Arts 80 percent of your budget goes to the artists. It's a very labor intensive business and orchestral musicians are paid on a ratio of 2 to 1 roughly to what other performing artists get an orchestra musician in this town can make 50 to 60 thousand dollars and Opera an opera singer doesn't make that because there are not that many Productions dancers don't make that for your they don't even make 30 a year and certainly actors even at the Guthrie are lucky to make Thirty or forty thousand dollars. And so it is really a cost of Labor that it's that is the main problem. And these there is as you know, the orchestra's have organized themselves in a labor management mode just as car manufacturers did all you know, this was the way we did it in the 50s and 60s. It's no longer a model that works at all. In fact, the other thing that I do when I go to New York in the spring is to go meet all of the Artists that I know as many as I can fit in and to see what these small Arts organizations are doing. There's this group called The Downtown art company, which is very very small producing contemporary avant-garde theater Puppet Theater Music Theater and the new dramatist which is like the lab for player lights playwrights laboratory here and they're all talking about a different model very very it. Is that model include a rod radical departure from what's happened before they believe that the artist should be the managers. They should be collaborating with their managers and that they need to rethink the role of the managers should be included more in artistic decisions. It's not just the purview of the artists and the artist should also know a great deal about management and even more important that they believe that the artist should be valued as any other person on the street who's doing a job that around the corner you've got a composer living and over here you've got a cab driver in this person is making widgets at the factory. So you're suggesting It obviously that orchestral musicians get paid less, right? Ultimately. Not just that they get paid less that's not really the issue if you're valuable and if you can raise the money great, but what needs to happen is that there needs to be a bridging between what management and workers that that model just does not work that the orchestral musicians as a rule have nothing to do with raising money. And those who do have their own ensembles. Their own activities are frustrated and are humbled by how difficult it is to raise money. Let's just take a time here. I mean it here to here and talk about what the latest news is in the Minnesota Opera versus musicians conflict that still ongoing performances of the Pirates of Penzance are continuing they'll continue through Sunday. Both parties are awaiting the decision of the National Labor Relations Board, which will decide whether the Opera must negotiate with the musicians as and as them as employees and with it they will come To to a bargaining unit, right? And so they're really mother I know talks going on right now, right? There are no there's no negotiation. I should disqualify and qualify who I am. I am married to a member of the negotiating committee for the union. I'm a member of that Union and I'm also a composer who would hope someday slim chance of getting a produced by the Minnesota Opera. So I have I have a history or background in my relationship to the Opera but what I can say is that this as I said to you two months ago, the the negotiations between management and workers is not really the negotiation. It's between all of the parties involved and that includes the Saint Paul chamber orchestra management who is working very hard to shore up its income and trying to work a deal with the Minnesota and that's where the connection here is between the orchestra's going through very hard Economic Times and this specific situation in the Twin Cities because it's as many people have suggested it's because the spco approached the Opera with a very good deal on A discount on their performers that entice the Opera into considering that as the way to go dealing with the spco exclusively and changing what had been status quo for a reasonably and it's long length of time for involved too because the boards of both the Opera and the chamber orchestra and the Ordway Music Theater are all communicating with each other trying to work out a deal to save this chamber orchestra. And one of the reasons the Ordway is interest here is to save the chamber orchestra. Yeah, there are major tenant. It's the order ways interest for the chamber orchestra to play for the Opera. Yes. And why do you think it is that in the news coverage on this this subject of this conflict? We have not heard about the influence and role of the spco and the Ordway. I honestly don't know. I'm very curious about that and I think that through your program, I think it's one of the few places. I've heard anything talked about and also through Minnesota Public Radio has some been reporting it but it's very it's very dicey because it turns out that I think the board members for MPR the board members for the Opera for the Minnesota Opera for the Ordway and the Orchestra are all colleagues and it's the it is an issue of board influencing what's going on? I think it's a very very very complicated issue not something we can talk about in 2 minutes and solve and explain to everyone but I do believe that what the issue is is being posed now is we either save the chamber orchestra by allowing them to play in the pit for the Ordway when they do ballet shows and for the Opera when they do operas or we're not going to have chamber orchestra. And that is how the management is posing it to the Musicians as they're negotiating a contract with the spco musicians right now. They just submitted a contract called a survival contract and that is the main issue that's being discussed. Well, we'll keep our eyes and ears open and see how this specific conflict between the Minnesota Opera and the musicians plays out and then see how that affects the situation at the spco. It'll be a long summer. Thank you Arts commentator Randy Davidson. But all the money is gone. The money is gone, but I gotta pack it up and move on. During the big band era of the 1930s and 40s. There were thousands of ballrooms all across America places, where night after night couples could imagine they were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers swirling across the Dance Floor now years later Minnesota has more ballrooms left than any other state in the country the strong polka tradition of the Region's Germans and Bohemians have kept the grand palaces alive long after the sounds of Swing faded from the scene reporter Mary Lozier hits the dance floor for this story. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen other side of the van open up program where they go to Old type Waltz. Let's see you all get out there and have a good time. Here we go with the waltz of titled finally after meconium Lakeside Ballroom south west of the Twin Cities Elmer's shied and his orchestra begin the first song of the Sunday afternoon old-time dance almost instantly the big wooden dance floor is packed couples all in their 50s and 60s spins slowly in each others arms as the whole crowd circles the floor in perfect time inside the darkened Ballroom. The dancers are reliving memories of when they were young Wallace's polkas and shottish has to what sometimes called oompah music are what most people imagine when they think about Dance halls, but there was a time when Minnesota's ballrooms were an entirely different scene. The drama's played we just went wild. We're seeing the both in this certain song would play and we were just spiraled out of the booth and grab the partner and get out there. We wouldn't want to miss a single beat Mary Ann Fogarty met her husband Leo in a ballroom near his home town of Belle Plaine Southwest to the Twin Cities in those days bands as famous. As Tommy Dorsey are The Glenn Miller Orchestra played not just in the Twin Cities, but in small towns to places like the Cato ballroom at Mankato are the Lakeside at Glenwood and less famous so-called territory. Big bands played all over rural Minnesota Leo Fogarty remembers how groups of friends used to pile into one car for a trip to the ballroom. It was during the war and gas was rationed. So a moving car had to be filled with people. I think our record probably was 9 1 Time and that 1940 Chevrolet the Went to went to a dance in Spring Lake. I think we set some other the record button number of people in there. We've I'd for whose lap we were going to sit on on the way home, but it wasn't important going there for some reason I guess because you were just piling in and taking whatever you could funny. You're right. Yeah at the ballroom the group would stake out a booth on the side of the dance floor, but no one spent much time sitting in it Marion Fogarty remembers doing a fast Lindy swirling in and out at the end of her partner's arm. It was a marvelous music and like I say, we had a small one booth and probably eight or 10 of us and six at the most could sit in a booth. So you always were on the floor dancing and you had a dance with everybody that came in your crowd whether he was a crummy dancer or not big long after the music started that you were out there. It was kind of like a stampede the ballrooms were also a way to meet people who lived outside of your own Hometown Judy O'Brien met her future husband Kenny on the dance floor. They settled down on the farm and raised six kids. He lived in Bell playing and I lived in the cities and so he would come down to the cities and we would go to a dancer think we went to two movies in. Our whole courtship was always dancing Judy and Kenny O'Brien. Remember the prom Ballroom in st. Paul and the marigold in Minneapolis. Along with any number of small town dance halls where they danced almost any night of the week the O'Briens kept dancing throughout their married life, but most of the ballrooms where they met in corded are gone a shopping center has replaced the prom the marigold was torn down to make way for a free way out in the countryside many of the ballrooms burned down or became warehouses or bowling alleys the few that remain can't depend solely on Dances anymore to keep their doors open weddings and private parties and holding meetings swap meets and craft fairs have helped keep the ballrooms afloat. But Doris peas editor of the Minnesota Ballroom operators Association newspaper music and dance news says recently the ballrooms have enjoyed an influx of new dancers due to the country western craze. It's so big that it's in not only in all of our rooms. Every little bars got country dancing and and everybody's teaching it, but when they come into a ballroom and find this great big Dance floor to dance on that that gets them because it's a lot more fun with the big ball big dance floor for peace. The nice thing about country-western dancing is that it uses essentially the same steps is old favorites like the walls the polka and the foxtrot and it's being taught to young people. They are learning the same dance steps that will transfer them to any kind of dancing. They're learning couple dancing and they're learning that is fun. It seems unlikely that any Revival could match the Dancing Days of the big band era still if people ever begin dancing the way they did then the old wooden dance floors are still here New York may have lost the savoye Los Angeles the Palomar but the Lakeside Ballroom The Majestic the Blue Horizon and dozens of others are still here. I'm Mary Lozier, Minnesota Public Radio. While the feminists are arguing whether motherhood is politically correct and male novelists are worrying that the novel is dying. The mothers are busily energetically and prolifically exploring undiscovered territory within our own psyches and therefore within the psyches of our readers. So said writer Jane Smiley at a recent Aspen writers conference Smiley is the author most recently of the best-selling novel a thousand acres for which he won the Pulitzer Prize her talk at the Aspen conference, which she titled can mother's think is now an essay in an anthology published by graywolf, press we spoke with smiley about the essay about some of the built-in paradoxes of being both mother and writer and about the absence of a mother's Vision in literature. There are not lacking books with women narrators, but there are lacking books with women and mother narrator's written by mother. And in my essay, I tried to address that question by saying well can't we imagine motherhood without having experienced it and I think the paradoxical answer to that is is know that and the precise reason for that is that it takes literary. It takes the writing about experiences in a literary way for many many generations to feed the imaginations of new writers because writers use literary Works to organize and understand the experiences that they're having and if they have no models and if they're if they have no let's say literary lens with which to look at their own experience than a lot of the things about their experience a lot of the details of their experience kind of just drift away without them being able to grasp them. And so if there are no actual mother's writing about their own experiences, then all of every writers writings about the experience of motherhood as pure speculation from the perspective of what it looks like but I think what self conscious self-aware mother's discover every time they have a child. Is that what it looks like is not the same as what it is when I had my baby in the fall was talking to my agent about her last child and her child had had colic and had cried and cried and cried for you know, four or five hours a day and she said she used to sit out on the front stoop of her a house in Brooklyn smiling at and crooning to and singing to the child in a very soft voice. Well the appearance of that to a pass I'd be the screaming crying baby in the mother smiling and singing and being perfect. But the words that my agent was crooning to her child were stop crying. I'm going to kill you. If you don't, you know it as a way to sort of moderate her own feeling of frustration. She was allowing herself to say words that you might perceive to be at odds with the tone of voice and body language that she was using and I think for many many many mothers, if not all there. Is that kind of contradiction about What you feel about being somebody's mother and in some ways these contradictions are so frightening to others because they don't believe that the mother should or could be able to live with these contradictions and still go on and be a good mother but I think most mothers realize that to go on and be a good mother means to live with these kind of contradictions. So that's one aspect of what a mother's Vision then would Encompass and would mean for literature. Well, yes, I think so. I mean, I think that aspect is that you don't act on everything you feel you live with contradictions in your feeling and you discipline yourself to just go on and be good incompetent at nurturing your children in spite of what you feel. It's only mothers themselves by telling about their experiences who can show a way to do to live with all this contradictions in the essay you write about how difficult it was for you to write your novellas, particularly Ordinary Love and that you kept wanting to use a form that wasn't linear and use an unfolding form of Secrets and surprises, but that it was very hard for you to do because you again in your reading history had not been exposed to that and in your own writing habits had not had not cultivated that I realized it in about the fifth draft of the novella that not only did Rachel blame herself for what later happened to her children after she got out of her marriage. Well, she gets out of her marriage and her husband kidnaps the children. She has no idea that this is going to happen and never suspect that he would do this and he and he's kidnapped them and takes them to Europe where they undergo a certain amount of suffering with him. She blames herself for that but not too much but I blamed her more than she did and so I had a hard time in up until like the fifth or sixth draft disentangling the kind of visceral judgment that I made about her from what was in my head, which was that it was his fault that he kidnapped. The children and that he was to blame and that she was not to be judged and that problem I think is very characteristic. You know, we always hear about it all the time when there is an incest triangle and the father is abusing the daughter and the person who gets blamed as the mother. Well, why didn't she stop them? Well, why didn't he stop you know, and so I felt that I was falling for can't sort of knee-jerk mother blaming habits that are in our culture and took me a long time to think my way out of those and therefore took me a long time to figure out how to tell that story. And to me that's a real characteristic example of what it means to write about mothers because the culture is so full of these knee-jerk assessments of what mothers should do and can do and and better do and and and most mothers have to really make their own way among, you know, these crashing rocks, you know where every crash can mean destruction in terms of what the cultures expectations of them are. You right at the very end of this essay that not only have has your love for some literary greats like Kafka suffered in the process as you've been thinking about the the vision of the adult Mother writer, but you also no longer accept certain certain Concepts in your life such as universality. And I wonder if you could comment about that and you click and you talk about that at the very last paragraph of the essay and closed with a whole other Vision that you now have a new picture in your head. That is that guides you well, if we extrapolate from literary Works to life then the lesson of nearly every literary work is if I can't have it my way then I'll die. You know the lesson of every tragedy in some sense. Is that that That the hero either overwhelms the world with his power or is overwhelmed and obliterated by the world and the Aristotelian idea of conflict between the antagonist and the protagonist in which one is overwhelmed by the other is really very very deep in our literary life and in our expectations of what's going to happen in a work of art the problem with that is that differing ways of looking at the world cannot coexist. They must be obliterated and I was thinking about that too. When I was watching about the Branch Davidian on on TV, you could see it in the way everybody talked about it. It was a drama and it had to be read as a drama with and if something is read as a drama, then it must have a climax and if something in Western literature The climax then then one side is obliterated or the other side is obliterated. Well, that's what actually happened. It had it came to its logical conclusion, which was a terrible obliterating climax the discourse about it became it became art. And as art it ended as our does well, I think that if we have a different vision of of art if we have a vision where people do learn to coexist with ideas that contradict their own ideas. Then we can cease trying to conquer everything we can cease trying to conquer nature. We can seize trying to conquer one another but if the only model that we have is a model where conflict gets bigger and bigger and then there's a climax and somebody the antagonist is obliterated from the face of the Earth. Then there is no way for people to learn to coexist. So the vision that you now have which is the vision that's been inspired by motherhood is this vision of coexistence of the multiple, you know elements of difference coexisting as you say, well, that's true. I mean everybody with a teenager in the house knows what coexistence is like it's painful it's inconvenient and it's necessary and you're living like this on an intimate way day after day after day, so if the teenage if Take that teenage mothers vision and insert it into the stream of literature then hopefully it will have some effect on the culture at large. Well, I would like to think that I'd like to think that I think this this Vision that I have of of the way we move forward is becoming the common Vision rather than the uncommon one Pulitzer prize-winning author Jane Smiley spoke to us from Ames Iowa her S8 can mother's think is found in the Anthology the true subject writers on life and craft a new publication from st. Paul based graywolf, press so glad I'm here so glad I'm here so glad I'm here. I can't sing my song. I can sing my song I can sing my song and sing my song. I can pray this prayer Crossroads is a publication of writings by students at the City Ink in Minneapolis, which is a center for at-risk inner-city youth in this year's edition of Crossroads. There's a short piece called autobiography by the sheikah Das in celebration of Mother's Day. We asked her to read it to us. I'm sheikah Davos. I was born April 13 1975 to married off and Billy Ross who are my wonderful parents. I was born at brid Memorial and Linden, Alabama. I have one sister at the time whose name is Yolanda daus and now there are two more candidates daus and derik Dobbs. I had a twin brother, but he died at Birth. We moved to Minneapolis in 1980. We moved to the projects when we moved to Minneapolis a lot of things changed in my life. January 12th, 1981 four months after we came to Minneapolis my father left my mother with three kids and married a white woman and adopted the ladies for kids after my dad left. He stopped seeing his own kids. I guess he didn't want to socialize with us this one on for six years. I hated my father but my mom kept telling us it was wrong to hate him because he was our father and without him we wouldn't even be here, but that didn't do any good to me because I had to grow up without a father. I hated him for that. I also hate him because he claimed some white as kids and not his own May 11th 1989. I found out my dad had cancer. So I wanted to be closer to him because he was in and out of the hospital and he needed us. He didn't know how to tell us because all those years he wasn't with us, but I knew someone had to make the move. So I did I went down to the hospital and told him how much he had hurt me and all that. It really hurt my pride to go down there but I did because my mom taught me that right is right what really made me go down to the hospital was my mom telling me to do unto others as you shall want them to do unto you and I will never forget that because it still comes in handy sometimes. But anyway, I was by my dad's side for the two years. He was in pain and during all that. He finally told me he loved me and that meant a lot to me, but April 13th 1990 my dad died in my arms saying that he loved me. That really hurt me because that was my birthday and my dad was saying goodbye for good. If it wasn't for my mom, I wouldn't have survived. I would have gone crazy because for some reason I blamed myself for what he done to me and my family. I didn't go to school no more. I skipped. I started drinking and smoking weed. I completely lost it. My mom brought me to reality though. She got me to see that. It wasn't my fault. He loved me, but he was too scared to tell me until it was too late. My mom said he finally told me and to be happy with that and do all the things he would want me to do my graduate and that is something I am going to do. I love my mom and I admire my mom because of what she taught her children at our ages and all by herself. She's a hell of a woman that she could toss reading her essay autobiography. You know, we'd love to hear your comments and criticisms of the show. So give us a call at to 900 1191 if you want information on anything you've heard about the international radio network pump up the Bhangra or about James Smiley's essay in the new gray wolf Anthology. Also, give us a call. You know. Also when you call us call our comment line, it's a very effective way to Your vote for arts and culture talk on Minnesota Public Radio. So we'd love to hear from you. The number again is 2 9 0 1191 first Friday is produced by Kitty Isley. Our technical director is Randy Johnson, very special. Thanks to Studio engineer Alan Baker for his assistance. I'm Beth ran. Hope you have a great weekend.


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