NewsCut reader Ben Chorn selects this week’s Monday Morning Rouser:
1) ACTOR INEQUITY
An attempt to celebrate Native American culture in Duluth has fallen flat in some quarters. The Duluth Festival Opera’s production of “Pocahontas: A Woman of Two Worlds,” has a cast, the Duluth News Tribune reports, with not a single Native American actor, not even Pocahontas. Now the debate is whether there weren’t enough Native Americans interested in auditioning, or whether the opera company didn’t look hard enough.
When it came time for auditions, (Opera director Craig)Fields said word was put out to American Indian communities around the country. The open tryouts were treated as “blind” auditions, he said, and they were looking for the best performer for the job.
“My personal feeling is that the work succeeds on its own merits, whether it is performed by a Native American or not,” Fields said.
Fields said there are parts of the opera that call for only American Indian involvement and that Fond du Lac singers and drummers are involved with the production.
Robert Powless, an Oneida Indian and professor emeritus of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, is an adviser on the project. Powless said he approves of the casting and that characters’ ethnicities should be matched whenever it is possible, but in this case there weren’t a lot of American Indian musicians who auditioned.
Complicating the controversy is that the production is funded via the Legacy Amendment, which provides state funding for preservation of Minnesota history and culture.
How culturally and ethnically accurate should casts be? It’s a debate that occasionally surfaces in the performing arts. Twenty-one years ago, for example, tempers flared on Broadway when a white actor was hired to play an Asian pimp in Miss Saigon.
2) WHEN ‘LEADERS’ DON’T LEAD
In his action that resulted in him being awarded the Medal of Honor last week by President Obama, Dakota Meyer proved his leadership qualities. In the 60 Minutes piece last night that documented the mission on which his heroics were necessary, his leaders proved they have none, which makes the question of how they rose to the ranks they held worth answering.
We’ll never know, apparently, the names of the leaders that thought preventing the deaths of American soldiers — they wouldn’t send air support — wasn’t worth ignoring the proper channels for the calls of help from the field. The Pentagon won’t reveal their names.
“As a mother with a son in the military, should he be deployed, it makes me wonder which is the bigger threat to my son’s safety: the enemy or those who are supposed to have his back?” one woman posted on the show’s website last evening.
3) TO BE POOR IN AMERICA
Last week, the Census Bureau released new figures showing that nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty The poverty rate, pegged at 15.1 percent, is the highest of any major industrialized nation.
The nation generally shrugged at the revelation, but there’s a human face behind the numbers, millions of them. The Associated Press sent reporters around the country to find them last week:
There’s Tim Cordova, laid off from his job as a manager at a McDonald’s in New Mexico, and now living with his wife at a homeless shelter after a stretch where they slept in their Ford Focus.
There’s Bill Ricker, a 74-year-old former repairman and pastor whose home is a dilapidated trailer in rural Maine. He scrapes by with a monthly $1,003 Social Security check. His ex-wife also is hard up; he lets her live in the other end of his trailer.
There’s Brandi Wells, a single mom in West Virginia, struggling to find a job and care for her 10-month-old son. “I didn’t realize that it could go so bad so fast,” she says.
4) MONDAY MORNING BLUES
The best thing that ever happened to sports journalism is blogs. Your regular newspaper writers have to write things like, “‘We have to take the games one at a time,’ Player X said.” Good bloggers are more free to write (usually well) with more passion for the team they’re covering. “A Wolf Among Wolves,” which covers the local NBA squad, is a perfect example.
For Vikings fans, the Daily Norseman (Christopher Gates) qualifies.
But hey. . .at least we had all of our time outs when the game was finished. That means we get to use them next week, right? Doesn’t it?
We don’t? Well, then, that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.
Then, he said, he went out and mowed the lawn while he thought more about yesterday’s loss:
At this point, I’m not sure how much of this goes to Leslie Frazier and company. It’s almost as though teams come into every game expecting to just pound on our secondary, and are unable to make that happen during the first half. Then they say to themselves, “Okay, the receivers are pretty well covered, but the middle of the field is completely wide open,” and start hitting checkdowns left and right. Don’t get me wrong. . .we all knew that the concept of a halftime adjustment was completely foreign to Brad Childress, but the hope was that the change to Leslie Frazier would correct that. To this point, it doesn’t appear as though it has.
And we can’t even pin the loss to Tampa on the offense like we could with the loss to San Diego. The Vikings had the edge in the time of possession battle (33:30 for the Vikings, 26:30 for the Buccaneers, though the first half was very one-sided in Minnesota’s favor), and the Vikings had a balanced attack. . .186 yards rushing, and 212 net passing yards, a far cry from the disparity of Week One.
Monday mornings aren’t fun when the Vikings lose, of course, but there’s a certain delight in sharing misery.
Maybe your brain isn’t that smart…
(h/t: Penn Jillette)
And maybe the earth isn’t so big…
(h/t: Greg Staffa)
Maybe it’s a good day to find out why Poggio Bracciolini is as important as Lucretius.
Tuesday marks the end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that forced gays and lesbians in the military to keep their sexuality a secret. Today’s Question: How accepting is the culture of your workplace toward openly gay and lesbian employees?
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The HPV vaccine: fact and fiction.
Second hour: Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan talks with Kerri Miller about “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” the importance of empathy for a writer, and the mystery behind the creative process.
Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Art Rolnick of the Humphrey School discusses the state and national economy, and the jobs situation.
Second hour: MPR’s new president, Jon McTaggart, appears on his first Midday “Ask the President” show to take questions from listeners.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA
Second hour: Hal Holbrook.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Minnesota building codes are some of the strictest in the nation for mitigating radon gas. But the standards don’t go far enough for those charged with protecting the public health. The Minnesota Department of Health says passive radon-venting systems may not remove all of the toxic gas that seeps into homes. So the agency is asking builders to voluntarily install attic fans that draw the radon out of houses. So far, only a handful of builders have agreed to do it. MPR’s Lorna Benson will have the story.