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Flex that info muscle: Matt Ehling & Amy Goodman at Freedom of Info Awards by Ann Treacy
March 25, 2012, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis

Last night I attended the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (COGI) John R Finnegan Freedom of Information Award ceremony at the downtown Minneapolis Public Library. COGI is a nonprofit organization of librarians, lawyers, journalists and information fans who strive to support access to government information. (I used to be involved with the group.) Named for John R Finnegan, former editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and recipient of the Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame award for 2011 from the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Finnegan award has been awarded annually since 1989.

This year the award went to Matt Ehling founder of Public Record Media, producer of ground-breaking documentaries, such as Open Source, and creator of “Capitol Conversations”, a weekly live-streamed political talk show broadcast from the capital featuring lawmakers, political pundits, analysts and reporters.

Ehling gave a gracious speech, calling the award the Heisman Trophy of information awards as he shared his passion and views on government transparency. He spoke of how tools that promote government transparency, such as the Minnesota Data Practices Act serve to provide access to information to the general public, but they also support policymakers in their efforts to provide oversight and, finally, access to information provides a common ground for citizens and policymakers on all sides of an issue. Ehling cautioned that access to information was like a muscle – it will atrophy if unused. We need to keep MN Data Practices Act vibrant; we need more partners; we need to keep the idea of transparency alive for the next generation.

“Democracy’s a messy thing,” observed keynote speaker Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, echoing Ehling’s call to action. She recounted her experience at the Republican National Convention in 2008 as an example of the power and impact of transparency, or, if not transparency, at least the power of getting information to the people. Talking about the RNC in the Twin Cities is a tricky proposition, because most of us have our own memories, but in a way, Goodman drew many of us closer, because I suspect most of us in the room were the people getting the information to more people in one way or another during the demonstrations.

A quick reminder: Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, all credentialed journalists from Democracy Now, were arrested at the RNC as they covered the demonstrations. Video of that arrest was the most-watched video on YouTube for the first two days of the RNC, which certainly facilitated their early release. The three went on to sue the St Paul and Minneapolis Police Departments and Secret Service for their treatment. They were awarded $100,000 and St Paul was required to develop a more appropriate protocol for handling First Amendment issues with the press and public in similar situations in the future.

Goodman borrowed from Woody Allen to say that 90 percent of life is showing up. It’s true for journalists; it’s also true for engaged citizens. She praised the independent media, the libraries, the dissenters. She told the story of Hans and Sophie Scholl, German Christians who published and distributed pamphlets during the Holocaust shining a light on what was happening in Nazi Germany. They risked their lives (and lost) in an effort to bring information to the people.

Goodman finished by reading from her latest book (Standing Up to the Madness); she chose a chapter called Librarians Unbound and a story of librarians who refused to share patron records with the FBI. It was perfect for the setting and amplified the heroic deeds performed by people who showed up and did the right thing in their quest for transparency and providing access to information.

Jane’s Addiction at The Brick by Ann Treacy
March 24, 2012, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Minneapolis

This week a new club opened in Minneapolis –The Brick. It’s coporate owned. It’s moving into a town that has a lot of love (mostly) for the existing clubs, such as First Avenue. And in fact I have to say that First Avenue is bar none, the best club I have ever visited. After First Ave, we have a lot of good places around town that play a nice assortment of local and national bands. So maybe we don’t need a place like The Brick – but they got Jane’s Addiction for the opening night. So I wasn’t turning that down.

Billy and I went. We showed up about 5 minutes before Jane’s Addiction started to play (after a great meal at 112 Eatery) – and it turns out our timing was amazing – beucase apparently there had been a huge queue to get in if you were early – there were just a few people waiting when we got there. There wasn’t the best vibe in the world around the place. Tons of cops and security guards. Billy said it was nearly as bad as when Rage Against the Machine played during the RNC. And the security guards were dressed like every popular-yet-evil guy from any Molly Ringwald movie circa 1983. And I think there were frisking most people at the door – they looked at me and let me walk in. (I like this think it’s ‘casue I’m a girl; it might be because I’m old.)

But we get in and our timing is perfect – so we’re happy. But the place is super crowded. We go up to the top floor. Useless – I can see nothing. Billy can’t see much more. Billy suggests we try a monitor – but they too were from 1983 (super small) so we moved on. Second floor wasn’t much better. There balcony overlooks the stage – but it’s too deep. I bet the folks hanging off the balcony got a great view – everyone else, not so much.

So we head to the ground level. I kind of have to mention here – that the bars weren’t super impressive. We must have walked by a few – but they weren’t very appealing. Now we were focused on getting to a place where we could see – but we’re usually easily distracted by beer.

Anyways we finally sort of snake into the big crowd downstairs. We’re nowhere near the stage – but at least it finally feels like we’re at a concert. And actually we have plenty of space because we’re behind one of the many columns that seemed to wreck sight-lines all over the floor. The crowd was generally pretty happy – mostly 30-somethings would be my guess. But with all of the security, I think people were kind of looking for injustices too. And there was a least one couple that didn’t seem to realize that if you’re going to make out the whole time – courtesy dictates you find a wall!

The one thing that I didn’t love was the huge amount of secondhand smoke – not from cigarettes. I know I may be in the minority, but that’s not a value-add to a concert for me.

Jane’s Addiction was good. Who can resist Jane Says or Stop. They got everyone going – depsite the fact that even they could clearly feel the bad vibes. In fact at one point Perry Ferrel called out the bouncers – sugesting that if they didn’t stop the agro that they might haev a riot on their hands. (Probably not – again the crowd was 30+.) But I’m sure that management heard the call from the stage.

I could see the members of the band occasionally – when someone ducked down in front of me or someone on stage jumped. They did have the dancing girls on an upper part of the stage. So if you’re into dancing girls – you could see them. And Perry Ferrel is pretty theatrical so I could see some of the acty parts of the act. I’d say you’d be hurting if you were seeing a stand-and-play band (which is often the kind I like best).

We left not loving the place – but thinking it was a pretty good night. So imagine our delight when the complainers of the world united, took to the social media airwaves and scored everyone their money back!! (In fairness the tickets were $65/ea and there were a lot of issues.) The big question is – would I go back? I guess that depends on who is playing.

Atlanta – hidden gem?! by Ann Treacy
March 17, 2012, 1:32 pm
Filed under: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee

We spent one last day in Florida with Patrick’s family. I enjoy them very much – but there’s a lot of inertia going on with making a plan there. All I’ll say is Joe’s Crab Shack is never going to make my 10 Ten Must-See List in any city. (Partially because you can find them in any city.) But it was fun to talk to all of his family and celebrate his mom’s 80th birthday. Did I note – 80 years old and spent 10+ hours at Disney World?!

Saturday morning we got up very early and poured the kids into the car. We drove *all day*. It turns out that Tennessee and Kentucky are really pretty states. The mountains are beautiful. We stopped in Macon Georgia for lunch. I found someplace on Trip Advisor that was well noted for pizza. It was good – and fun not to go to a burger joint for a change.

Then I decided that we had to have a break of some sort and we stopped in Atlanta. We went to visit the Martin Luther King Jr History Center. It is amazing! I think I mentioned that Lily had been working on a paper on MLK and Malcolm X – so it was timely and we had all been talking about racism and life back in the 1960s. The Center is an emotional and inspiring place. They have a nice timeline of events in MLK’s life, which was helpful in talking to Aine about who MLK was. She knew who he was and knew about his assignation – but not so much about his life.

Also the whole area is peppered with quotes about nonviolence and standing up for what you believe. Obviously good lessons for everyone!

States visited: FL, GA, TN, KT, IN
States visited next day: IN, IL, MN!

Disney World – made perfect with a personal tour guide! by Ann Treacy
March 17, 2012, 3:19 am
Filed under: Florida

Disney World is the happiest place on Earth! We actually went to the Magic Kingdom, which is apparently one chamber in the house of the happiest place on Earth. And we had a personal guide, which meant it really was like the happiest place.

My friend Lynn is the biggest advocate for Disney that I have ever seen. She was so kind – plus she knows everything about Disney. For example – Disney has 62,000 cast members (aka staff) and there’s a river that has a cup of water from a river in each continent. And there’s a whole underground to Disney where much of the work takes place. Also Lynn knows super practical things – like how the fast passes work, which save you time waiting in line. (And that if you’re chicken you can get a sneak peek at Magic Mountain by riding the People Mover!)

Anyways, Lynn took the day off to tour all of us – 13 people aged 18 months to 80 – through the Magic Kingdom for the day. I’m not sure she knew what she was getting into. The day started at 9 am and 12 hours later we headed away from the Magic Kingdom to have dinner at an Irish pub. (You can take ‘em out of Dublin…)

I know we didn’t go on every ride – but it sure felt like we went on all of the rides we wanted to see – and the tea drinkers got tea when they needed it!

Jacksonville – great beach & car wash by Ann Treacy
March 17, 2012, 2:42 am
Filed under: Florida

We stopped in Jacksonville mostly because Grandpa had a car wash he wanted to check out. But a very big bonus was the beach. When you’re from the Midwest you think all of Florida is the beach – but Orlando isn’t on the beach. And the kids have never been on a US beach. So even though it wasn’t the warmest day – it was a heck of a lot warmer than Bray Head.

Jacksonville looks a lot like any other suburb. We did check out the Target, because I am the worst packer and Target has everything – but the beach made Jacksonville definitely worth the trip.

From Jacksonville we headed to Orlando. I just have to remark at our *amazing* timing. Grandpa was going to the airport to head to Arizona. Patrick was flying in. Our hope was that we could make this happen at the same time. But not even we could have planned so well. We pulled up. I called Patrick. He had just gotten through security– I said run upstairs and before we had unpacked Grandpa’s bags from the car, Patrick walked out of the airport!!

Walking through Savannah by Ann Treacy
March 13, 2012, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Florida, Georgia

We woke up in suburban Savannah. We all went to have breakfast in Savannah – then Grandpa headed back to the hotel while the girls and I scoped out Svannah. We checked out the City Market, where there are touristy shops. The shops were cute, if you’re in shopping. Then we walked along the waterfront. Savannah is a place I’d like to visit again – because even though we probably spent more time checking out the city than we spent anywhere else on the drive down, I feel like I didn’t get to see too much.

I did notice a few things. It’s a very ornate city. There are little urban squares throughout the city. Many had statues or gazebos. The City Market square had a statue of songwriter Johnny Mercer. There were some beautiful flower boxes in the windows – and Lily noticed the fish-head ends to the drain pipes, which were great. Also we saw the FBI, and boats to see dolphins lots of other things to help us recognize that Savannah is worth another visit!

After Savannah, we headed to Jacksonville, Florida.

States visited: GA, FLA

Snow in Virginia?! But melted before the Carolinas by Ann Treacy
March 11, 2012, 3:37 am
Filed under: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia

Do you know why Northerners make crazy road trip plans in March? For the weather – so imagine our shock and awe when we woke in Richmond to snow. It was beautiful – especially since we also woke up in a poshy posh resort – but it was still snow. Apparently they had closed the schools in the area. Big travel advisories – although it was really only a couple of sloppy wet inches.

So we kept on trucking!

Onto North Carolina – which is turns out is a very pretty state. We had lunch in Fayetteville at a place called Circa 1800. The food was very good – the ambience a little strange. It was a hair fancier than we needed – although usually we can rise to that kind of occasion. What we didn’t need at lunch was a bar patron who had maybe had a little too much wine. In the end, he cursed the manager as he was escorted out the door. (Cursed as in – a hex on your family, not just the two word curses most of us could come up with.)

Lily is doing research on Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, so it was kind of interesting to put their lives in perspective as we toured various areas. Also she was smart enough to ask Grandpa questions about what he remembered from being a kid and Grandpa talked about his first trips south.

From North Carolina we headed to South Carolina. From South Carolina to Georgia.

We spent the night in Savannah. We ended up taking a wrong turn and drove through a less picturesque part of Savannah. The houses were very small – and I was amazed at how close they were to the street. But eventually we found the hotel – which was a very nice place kinda far out of town. We walked around Savannah a little bit. We saw Paula Deen’s restaurant. Lily was very excited to eat there – until she saw the food. Not a ton to offer a budding vegetarian. But we found out that he brother had a restaurant on Tybee Island. So we ate out there. It was dark so I’m sure we missed the best part of heading out there – the view – but the place was kinda fun.

States visited: VA, NC, SC, GA

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