5×8- 3/5/10: Who owns culture?

1) A racial discussion has sprouted after a group of white students won a competition in a dance mostly identified with African Americans. Who owns culture? Via The Takeaway:

The national step competition in Atlanta, Ga. two weeks ago was packed with mostly African American competitors. The dance form, rooted in African American history, has largely been associated with black colleges and fraternities. But on Feb. 20, a white team from the University of Arkansas did more than just win the competition. They ignited a dialogue about race relations and whether a particular race should be entitled to a certain part of American culture.

2) Spring training baseball games are underway. On deck: A flood of stories about the wonder of Target Field; they’re well deserved, by all accounts. Twin Cities Business is kicking it off with a fascinating look at the architectural challenges that faced designers.

No significant building ever stood on the site, partly because the subsoil conditions were too poor. “There was 100 feet of sediment,” Mehls says. “We knew it would be sloppy, but it was even worse than we thought. The dirt slumped right back into the holes when you dug.”

He’s talking about a lot of holes. Steel pipes, 10 inches in diameter, were driven 100 feet down to bedrock, then filled with concrete. This isn’t wildly unusual, Mehls says, except for the number of them, which was 3,300–more than 62 miles of pipe–and the fact that it took six months to drive them all. Target Field actually sits on those columns. You could dig out 100 feet of dirt from beneath the stadium, Mehls says, and it would just stand there. (While the soil doesn’t support any of the load, he adds, it does keep the piles from tipping over.)

It’s good reading.

Here are the stadium Webcams if you’d like to take a look and pretend it’s not early March.

Meanwhile, Rick Prescott at the blog, Ballpark Magic, found a knothole or two at the old ballyard.

3) Is it art or porn? Police in New Jersey ordered a family to cover up the snow sculpture of the famous nude Venus de Milo after a neighbor complained.

4) People keep electing politicians who promise to clean up Washington and do things differently, but Washington never gets cleaned up and things rarely change. The big capital letter next to a disgraced congressperson changes from R to D to R to D to… well, you know. Slate’s Christopher Beam assesses why things never change:

“I’ve always called elections the opportunity to throw the bums out and throw a new set of bums in,” says Larry Sabato, political analyst and prognosticator extraordinaire of the University of Virginia. “Partisans never believe that. They think their side is golden and the opposition is a bunch of second cousins to Beelzebub.”

5) The people who have tried to save the USS United States are about to give up. The once-majestic ship that’s been sitting in the Delaware River is scheduled to head to the scrap heap this month, according to an “alert” the group sent out this week.

My dad took us to see the ship when we were kids. Now, few have ever heard of it.

What icons of our history will the next generation have never heard of? The space shuttle? The rotary telephone? The iPhone?

Bonus: Want one of these?


One of the films nominated for a Best Picture Oscar is “Avatar,” the largest-grossing movie in history. But its popularity doesn’t mean it will win. What movie should win Best Picture?


I’m playing Lou Gehrig to MinnPost columnist David Brauer’s Wally Pipp on TPT’s Almanac this evening. David usually does the media roundtable but he can’t make it , so they’ve added me. If you’re a faithful reader of News Cut, you won’t be surprised by my topic for discussion — the lack of any questioning by reporters of Gov. Pawlenty’s possible religious influence on state policy.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A rebroadcast of a health care forum held in MPR’s UBS Forum last month.

Second hour: A leading expert on economic and social trends gives us his predictions for what America will look like in 2050. Joel Kotkin expects our cities and suburbs to become more densely populated, and we’ll have an advantage over other countries because of our ethnic diversity.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Economics professor Louis Johnston, who teaches economics at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, looks at the week’s economic news and what it means for Minnesota.

Second hour: Former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses National Press Club.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – It’s Science Friday. First hour: Neuroscientists can read your mind using a few dozen electrical sensors and a

swim cap, according to a new study.

Second hour: A look at the latest in nuclear power, including new ideas for storing waste. Plus, the psychology of saving energy.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – We’re on the flood beat this afternoon. The latest flood forecast will be released today. Temperatures have been warm during the day and cold at night — perfect let’s-not-have-a-flood weather. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will look at flood preps in the Red River Valley. MPR’s Mark Steil will check things out along the Minnesota River.

  • John

    “Who owns culture?”

    e pluribus unum, I say.

  • Joanna

    It’s too easy to thumbs up/thumbs down issues of race and culture. Check out the discussion at TaNahesi Coates’ blog at The Atlantic Monthly for a serious and thoughtful set of responses to the Stepping content controversy and the feelings around it.

  • Joanna
  • Bob Moffitt

    They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Kudos to all involved in the step dance competion for looking beyond race and celebrating our shared American culture.

    White Americans have long embraced (and immitated) black music, dance, slang, etc. Likewise, African-Americans have made some inroads into formerly white-only enclaves, like golf, speed skating and the Presidency. We all win.

  • Heather

    Another good essay on the stepping contest at http://www.theroot.com/views/can-we-least-keep-stepping-ourselves

  • Bob Collins

    You guys are killing me with your big, giant URLs.

    Here’s Heather’s

    … and…

    Here’s Joanna’s

    FYI, just above your “name” on the comment submission form, you’ll see the direction for creating an actual link.

  • Ken Paulman

    Maybe they should invite these guys to the step competition next year.

  • John

    I have often heard politicians tell us that our multiculturalism is a strength of America, and I agree completely. This seems like just another example of something that originated in a minority culture and has spread to the majority culture.

    Time for lunch, but I can’t decide on Thai or Italian.

  • JackU

    I think the neighbor in the Snow Venus story was a plant by the Chamber of Commerce. Nothing brings people (in this case reporters) to town faster than a controversy over “art vs porn”.

    That said, the sculptor did really nice work.

  • Bob Collins

    it’s gonna take a lot more than a naked snowwoman to get me to visit Jersey.

  • kennedy

    Making cultural heritage a qualifier for participating in any event is unacceptable. Having slavery in our history, we are trained in the US to be respectful of african american culture. That makes it quite seductive to accept “Black Only” events. I use those words to remind everyone that “Whites Only” signs used to be common in some places and are equally wrong.

    Think of another culture doing the same thing. Would it be OK if a lutefisk cookoff were to refuse rewarding a Hmong winner because of their race?

  • Elizabeth T

    what haven’t they heard of …?

    In Toy Story 2, Woody is riding an old 45 player. I had to explain to my 5 year old that “it’s just like a CD player”. Not so far off.

    I would be even more curious to know what he would do, if confronted with a rotary dial phone. When explaining about calling 911, he started asking about phone numbers. He knows that Papa is #2 and Grandma is #3 on my phone (read: speed dial).

    Even within modern technology: The other day I was calling someone and he asked what their number was – only he expected a single digit. Like everyone has a speed dial number. I had to explain that everyone else had a really long number to call.

    There are things in children’s movies that just aren’t going to be as funny to my children as they are to me.