#1127 – Dick Bernard: May 1, 2016, May Day, World Law Day

Tomorrow is May 1. May Day.
Since I was a little kid back in the North Dakota of the early 1940s, I learned there was something special about May 1.
Probably the first actual memory was of May Baskets, which had some significance, though I do not remember exactly why. And there were Maypoles.
(click to enlarge, double click for more detail)

A traveling May Pole in Heart of the Beast Parade, Minneapolis, May 5, 2013

A traveling May Pole in Heart of the Beast Parade, Minneapolis, May 5, 2013

As a lifelong Catholic I remember, for some reason, “Mary, Queen of the May”. And later, when the television age and the Cold War interfaced for me (that was 1956 when we got TV; we almost never were in real movie theaters with news reels) sometimes there would be a short film clip of those awful Communists parading their weapons of war in Red Square in Moscow on May 1…May Day.
May 1 has had a long history. Search the words “May Day”, and here is what you get.
The Wikipedia entry for May Day is most interesting.
May Day has come to be a multi-purpose day, fixed on a particular date (rather than day), and this year, since it falls on a Sunday, it is simpler to celebrate in our U.S. weekend calendar, especially if the weather is nice.
Tomorrow will be the annual May Day “Heart of the Beast” Parade in south Minneapolis, and this year it actually can be on May 1, rather than some other nearby date. Occasionally I’ve marched in that parade as part of a unit; occasionally, I’ve watched it as a spectator. It is a fun day with a 42 year history.
Heart of the Beast May Day Parade May 5, 2013, Minneapolis MN

Heart of the Beast May Day Parade May 5, 2013, Minneapolis MN

Tomorrow, however, Sunday, May 1, 2015, I’ll be heavily involved in two events honoring my friend, Lynn Elling, who died at 94 on February 14. One is a celebration of his life at 3 p.m. at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis (34th and Dupont), and the second, the 4th Annual Lynn and Donna Elling Symposium on World Peace through Law – “World Law Day”, this years event spotlighting solutions to mitigate climate change, presented by J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy.
The date of both events is intentional. May 1 was very significant to Lynn Elling.
He and others invented World Law Day.
“World Law Day” is yet another creative use of May 1.
The first World Law Day celebration was May 1, 1964, in Minneapolis, ten years before the Heart of the Beast Theater marshaled its first May Day parade. The co-founder of the event was Lynn Elling. As described in the brochure for this years World Law Day:
“World Law Day was a creation of Lynn Elling, Martha Platt, Dr. Asher White and others. The first event was May 1, 1964. World Law Day was an adaptation of Law Day, proclaimed by President Eisenhower in 1958, and enacted into U.S. Law in 1961. Law Day was the U.S. “cold war” response to the martial tradition of May 1, May Day, in the Soviet bloc.
The premise was peace through World Law, rather than constant war or threat of war.
Large annual dinners on World Law Day went on for many years in Minnesota and perhaps other places. At some point for one or another unremembered reason, the tradition ended, but Lynn never forgot.
In 2012, after the death of Donna, Lynn asked that World Law Day dinner be reinstated May 1, 2013 at Gandhi Mahal, he and Donna’s favorite restaurant.
At the time he was planning a major trip to Vietnam with his son, Tod, who had been adopted from Vietnam orphanage in the 1970s. Tod and Lynn arrived home only a couple of days before the 2013 event.
2016 is the 4th annual World Law Day, and the 52nd anniversary of the first World Law Day in 1964.”

As Lynn’s long and noteworthy life wound down, he was ever more fond of the mantra that today “is an open moment in history” for the world to get its act together for peace and for justice. His is a noble dream. We can help.
More about Lynn Elling, including his own memories on a 2014 video, here (click on “read more” right below his name.)
World Law Day May 1, 2013, Lynn Elling 2nd from left.

World Law Day May 1, 2013, Lynn Elling 2nd from left.

Lynn Thor Heyerdahl 75001
(More about Thor Heyerdahl here).

#816 – Dick Bernard: A not-at-all-ordinary Christmas Gift.

Last Friday my friend Kathy gave me a plain unwrapped CD of Christmas season music: “Home for Christmas” by Susan Boyle. The CD is very good. That was expected.

CD cover, 2013

CD cover, 2013

Susan Boyle is known to me.
One of my first first blogs, mid-April, 2009, was about Susan Boyle’s appearance on the international scene. I saw the remarkable clip from her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent on CBS evening news, and listened to the YouTube clip over and over.
So did tens of millions of others.
The original 7 minute clip, referred to at the blog, is no longer available “copyright claim” it says, but there are numerous other existing clips of the same appearance. Here’s one of them.
At the time, I recall, there was ample skepticism about this remarkable performance by this remarkable lady. This was a “flash in the pan”, perhaps even lip synch. She said she wanted to be like the famed Elaine Page….
She won this semi-final, but ultimately another group won the finals of this round of Britain’s Got talent, and on life went.
A few months later, she did a duet, with Elaine Page, before a live audience.
About the same time, her first CD was released. I still have it.
But as with most everything in our lives, time passes by and Susan was “out of sight, out of mind”.
This years CD caused me to re-visit Susan Boyle – what was she up to in her life?
At the same YouTube, I scrolled through the possibilities and came across an extraordinarily interesting 45 minute TV show, released this year, about Susan Boyle today.
It culminates with her recent appearance in Houston at the first appearance on her first world tour.
I opened it yesterday afternoon, expecting to watch only a few minutes, but it was gripping, and I watched it all. She copes daily with life-long anxiety attacks, related to Asperger’s Syndrome.
You can watch it here.
I highly recommend it.
Susan Boyle is a wonderful example of tenacity and courage.
I wish her well. As we all know, from dealing with our own “disabilities”, whatever they are, you don’t just get over them, and they can be a lifelong issue to deal with.
Apparently, Susan conquered her Everest and even if this is her first and only world tour, she deserved congratulations. She’s an inspiration.
And, thank you, Kathy!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

#515 – Dick Bernard: "I Will Always Love You" Whitney Houston, and others

A little medley for the day of the Grammy’s.
The news just in that Whitney Houston is dead at 48. She had a great talent and a tragic life. I picked a few personal favorites from different artists off of YouTube….
Whitney is at peace.
Any favorite songs you’d like to add to this list?
Whitney Houston Here
Celine Dion here
Susan Boyle and Elaine Page here
The Judds here
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and friends, here
Elvis Presley here
UPDATE Feb. 12 p.m.
John B: My favorite WH song was The Greatest Love of All. It is the anthem of self -esteem. Sadly, I am not sure WH practiced it.

#348 – Dick Bernard: Part 17. Garrison Keillor "…and all the children are above average"

Today’s newspaper brought news that Garrison Keillor might, just might, retire in 2013, leaving Prairie Home Companion (PHC) in the hands of someone else.
Precisely when Garrison will no longer be part of the picture is an unknown, probably including to himself. But as someone a couple of years senior to Keillor in age, I can attest that he is not getting any younger; he’s no longer a kid.
I was one of the lucky ones who first saw him in the olden days of PHC (which began in 1974). The first time was in the fall of 1977, probably at Macalester College in St. Paul, where you could walk in off the street to buy a ticket, and find a good seat as well.
I was never a regular at Prairie Home Companion, but I showed up a great plenty, and during my time as Director of the Anoka-Hennepin Education Association we once hired the show band, “The Powdermilk Biscuit” bunch, to do a dance gig for our teacher’s association in Keillor’s home town of Anoka MN. Those were the days….
Once, I saw him crossing the street at the Swayed Pines Festival at St. John’s University in Collegeville MN. It was in late April, 1979. Here’s the snapshot, for the first time in public! (Click on the photo to enlarge.) St. John’s is where Keillor first went on air late in the 1960s, and it is in the heart of his mythical Lake Wobegon.

Garrison Keillor late April, 1979

I signed my first Anoka-Hennepin teaching contract in the office of the Superintendent July 21, 1965. The office was in the same school Garrison Keillor had attended high school and graduated from a few short years earlier. A few years later I would begin to represent in teacher union work some of the same teachers who had Garrison as a student. Of course, at the time I had no idea there was such a person as Garrison Keillor, nor would I till he began to be noticed ten years or so later.
While Keillor’s Lake Wobegon is a collage of bits and pieces from many places, there has always been a very heavy foundation of Anoka in his sketches of Lake Wobegon. I know this, since I moved to Anoka in 1965, and except for three years absence 1966-68, I either lived or worked in or near the suburban community till the early 1980s. Too many of the characters and geographic images are far too “spitting image” to be successfully denied.
Keillor’s forever and ever signature is his description of the good people of Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.
I have no idea how he came up with this phrase so many years ago, but it is clear to me, living in our contemporary society, he had us “nailed”. We seem, collectively, to think we are all exceptional. Maybe we all have exceptional qualities, but basically we are just people, as Garrison Keillor is.
As is true with most of us, the now-famed Mr. Keillor probably came across as very much an average and ordinary kid in those school years. One or more of them did their part in helping him develop his own latent but immense talents; as they and legions of other teachers in other places and times have helped others develop their own talents. Having taught myself, I know we basically try to do our best with everyone. We don’t always succeed. But often we do, and more often than not we touch someone in some ways we will never realize.
Teachers and indeed all the supporting staff in public schools do an immense service.
Thank school employees.
(As I’ve been writing this I’ve had as background music the work of another commoner who took her talents to the next level. Take a listen.)

#308 – Dick Bernard: Susan Boyle, Ted Williams…and Elaine Page

Give 35 seconds for Haiti, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 4:53 p.m. (Haiti, Eastern time).
One of my earliest blog posts was this one on April 16, 2009, celebrating a stunning performance by unknown Susan Boyle at Britain’s Got Talent. (The original video referenced in the blog is no longer available. The same video appears to be here. The videos have probably been seen over 100,000,000 times.)
At her debut she said, to a doubting panel of judges and audience, that “she wanted to be like Elaine Page”. To be honest, I didn’t know who Elaine Page was at the time.
In December, 2009, about a year ago, Susan Boyle got her chance to sing with Elaine Page. Check their performance out, here.
The video speaks for itself.
Susan, and the doubting that accompanied her performance…to the extent that there were thoughts that she might not actually be singing the song…was soon discovered to be “the real deal”. Susan got on the roller-coaster that comes with new-found fame and had her ups and downs.
A few weeks ago I bought her second annual CD as a Christmas gift to myself. Apparently her autobiography is on sale at the bookstores. Maybe a purchase….
She is testimony to each of we commoners that we do, indeed, have talent.
Then comes the incredible story of one homeless guy in Columbus OH, Ted Williams, who two days after the story broke found himself in the studios of NBC in New York City as a major guest on today. You can view an extended clip here. (I am not sure how this video will be on YouTube. The first segment I watched was taken down for copyright reasons. If you can get lucky, you’ll see this phenomenal story.)
Again, from obscurity to instant fame…and the wondering whether this alcohol and drug addict will make it. Mr. Williams – it seems more appropriate than saying “Ted” – will face the same roller coaster ride as Susan Boyle, and hopefully will get the kind of support he needs to ride the waves of fame back into a normal life.
This time, again, I’m going to bet on the underdog: you go, Ted!

#132 – Dick Bernard: The Christmas Call, and an encore for Susan Boyle

Last night about 8 o’clock or so the phone rang. There was an irrepressible, unmistakable, voice on the other end.
It was Danny, calling to wish us a Merry Christmas.
Danny is one of those memorable characters one comes across once in awhile; people who brand themselves into our memory bank.
I met Danny during the last few months of my brother-in-law’s life in the summer and fall of 2007. Mike, more or less a recluse, mentally ill, and paralyzed from the waist down, moved into the assisted living facility where Danny lived, a high-rise in one of North Dakota’s few cities. Mike had only two or three months in the high rise before cancer took him back to the hospital, nursing home, and the release of death.
I think there would be consensus among the people that know him, including his fellow residents, that Danny is an odd duck. He was very short, and very round, he certainly wasn’t graceful in his movements, and he basically wore the same clothes every day, and they were not clothes that would win him any awards.
And he could be a pest. I think even his fellow residents tended to tire of him at times.
At first, I thought he might be mentally handicapped, and I suspect that in some ways he was, but that didn’t deter him. He was just fine with himself, thank you very much.
Mike died in early November, 2007, with few friends. He’d spent a life wary of relationships, generally.
It was Danny who called me up and said he wanted to arrange a memorial service at the high-rise for Mike, and I said OK, not thinking that he’d ever pull it off.
But near Thanksgiving in 2007, Danny MC’ed the most marvelous memorial service I’ve ever attended. He had a minister there, and he had a pianist, and he sang a couple of the hymns as solos. There were a goodly number of us in attendance. If Mike’s spirit were anywhere around, it had to feel very good.
And it was Danny’s gig.
The minister later told me later that he based a sermon on Danny’s service: that’s how impressed he was.
Recently Danny celebrated his 50th birthday. He invited us up, but we didn’t go. Now I wish we had.
There are special people who come into one’s life, and Danny is definitely one of those, for me. Last night, he and I talked for only a short while, bid each other Merry Christmas, and so it went.
And speaking of Special People: Last night I heard that Susan Boyle’s YouTube videos from last spring have now been seen over 100,000,000 times – the most popular video of the year (here). (My two earlier posts about her are here.)
Today I bought Susan’s first CD, and started listening to it. It is wonderful. Look for it. She, too, was viewed as something of an odd duck in her village years ago…. She too was irrepressible.
She and Danny have that certain something…something we can all aspire to.

#33 – Dick Bernard: Susan Boyle goes back to her village

A reader comment follows this post.
Saturday night, May 30, 2009, Susan Boyle’s dream ended…or did it just begin?
In blogpost #8, published April 16,2009, I wrote about the astonishing clip I saw of this lady singing on Britain’s Got Talent competition in mid-April.  “The rest of the story” of that happening is accessible there.  Here’s the performance that led to the post:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY
The particular clip I reference has now been viewed over 65,000,000 times, the fifth most popular YouTube video ever.  There are people, like myself, who have watched it on numerous occasions.  I continue to watch it.
Now the dream has ended for Susan Boyle, or so goes the story.  Saturday night she came in second in the finals of the competition in England.  There will be a narrative that the clock has struck midnight on Cinderella, and she will fade into obscurity.  In our western society, which is trained from birth to revere winners and competition, Susan, while certainly not a loser, will now become an also ran, replaced by the inevitable next surprise sensation who will, for a time, capture the publics imagination.
Personally, I think that Susan really won by losing on Saturday night.  She really had nothing more to prove, and like most of us she was not accustomed to the life of celebrity into which she was thrust.
She had always wanted to perform on a big stage in front of a large audience, and she did, and she performed superbly.
For me, she will always be a winner, and I will go back to that clip of her on that English stage often, any time I need to be encouraged to keep on.
Back home she can (and I hope she will) attempt to resume a semblance of her former life, which was perhaps (as for most of us) not “exciting”, but manageable.  I hope she finds the job that she was looking for, something she likes, where she can come home to her cottage each evening.  I don’t wish for her a life on the road, as a performer.
It is said that we all deserve our fifteen minutes of fame.
Susan got far more than that, and likely far more than she expected.
Last evening, in a post-mortem of her loss in the finals, CBS evening news played a clip of the end of Susan’s dream.  They showed a young man holding a note written to him by Susan Boyle sometime in these last few weeks.  He had apparently written her, saying he liked her, and her short note said, apparently, that no one had told her they liked her before….
When it comes down to the end, this is where it’s at: we all need someone to like us, hopefully for who we are.  May we all be so blessed.
And may her Scottish village, and all villages, learn from her experience in the spotlight.  We are all parts of our own villages, but all of our villages are tied together in today’s world.  We are no longer and will never again be islands in isolation or independent from other communities.
Congratulations, Susan.
And a final note before I sign off on this “thread”: I found myself respecting Simon Cowall, and his fellow judges Piers and Amanda, as time went on.   No doubt Simon and the others are very astute business people and celebrities, but their warmth and humanity showed through in substantial bits and pieces I came across in following days and weeks.  Had I stuck with my initial sense of them, closing my book on their character after watching them judge Susan harshly when she came on stage that first evening, I would have missed another much more positive side of each of them.

#8 – Dick Bernard: Susan Boyle, and "Cynical", "Tiger" and "I dreamed a dream"….

Susan Boyle, Britains Got Talent, April 11, 09. A great gift… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY.
To be as clear as I can be: Susan Boyle’s performance on Britains Got Talent on April 11 was stunning and real. She was so good, but the lead-up made her sound so unlikely to be as outstanding as she was, that I struggled a bit. But it didn’t take long to accept that what I was hearing was true: Susan Boyle was very, very real real.
Here is how the feelings evolved for me, and how I see them as applying to all of us in our very cynical and untrusting society.
ABC Evening News with Charlie Gibson on Tuesday afternoon, April 14, was my first contact with Susan Boyle. The last item was the piece on her appearance on the popular British show. From the first note, hers was a stunning and moving performance by a common country girl, her skeptical audience “turned on a dime” and was cheering unceasingly. I’m “country” to the core, and I felt huge pride in her performance.
I sought out the clip and found it on YouTube. At the time I seem to recall there had been something over 2 million views (as I write this, it’s over 12 million). I had noticed, even on the ABC clip, a slight difference between Susan’s mouth movement and the music, but I noticed the same difference in the other speakers, so I simply interpreted it as a synchronization problem, which I know is common in early edits of video. Still, the performance was so wonderful as to be hard to believe.
Overnight Monday night came an e-mail from a friend urging me to look at the video, from a different source than the one I had found.
Within a few hours everything mitigated toward the reality of Susan, her background, her outstanding voice, her dream. I sent the link on in the morning. At that time there had been 5 million views. Later, on Wednesday, I found Susan to be on the cover of my MSN page on the internet.
I received a few e-mail comments, which follow this piece. I had no doubts.
I’m still awestruck. Some observations:
1) Susan Boyle is, in my view, a shero of the first order. She did what very few of us would ever consider doing. She knew that she was good, but she also knew that she would be subject to the withering and “cynical” view of the panel and audience on the program. She went out there anyway, and represented all of us “commoners” in a most remarkable and real way. I share the feelings of one of those who commented (below): I hope that in the process of marketing her talent, her handlers will not try to remake her from what she is, a Scottish village lady who loves to sing.
2) Susan also represents to me our society’s tendency to dismiss reality in favor of fantasy. The expression “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind. But we are always looking for the cover, first: the resume, the reputation…. Ironically, had Susan come out on stage with a fancy “cover”, sophisticated-looking, made-up and all, in the latest fashions, then we would have seen an image, and, even if she sang exactly the same, the judges and the audience would have probably looked for flaws in her vocal performance.
3) My guess is that most of us are prone to fantasy. It’s how we’ve been “made-up” by our life experience, especially in the age of television and beyond. We’re taught “slick”. Or, even more, we’re taught to stay in our place, our “class”.
4) Susan Boyle and Britains Got Talent, and ABC and MSN and all the rest, demonstrate another truth: both the sophisticated media and we unwashed masses need each other, and provide benefits to each other. There needs to be some kind of a “truce”. Without the opportunity presented by Britains Got Talent, Susan would never have had the opportunity to be seen by what is already tens of millions of people. Without big media – ABC and MSN and many others – I never would have seen her performance. She would have been hidden in her Scottish village.
5) It is the Susan’s of the world who make life worth living. Her success is something we can and should celebrate. In our own ways, we can all be Susan in our own places!
Congratulations to a true diva cut from common cloth!
Some early comments received:
Apr 15 09 12:11 a.m. “Check out the above site to hear the American idol lady from England…a real treat and inspiration to late bloomers everywhere.”
Apr 15 8:14 a.m. “Wow. When did this happen? I just hope they don’t remake her. I like her as she is. Half the happiness is the surprise.
Apr 15 6:04 a.m. “ I’m not the ultimate cynic, I loved this video, but I frankly wonder if it isn’t lip-synched. In the first two lines, I saw disparity between the timing of sound and lips. And a couple other times going through.
Apr 16 7:37 a.m. “The Susan Boyle thing is quite a phenomenon. (I will admit that when I
first viewed it and I didn’t watch the whole thing, when I saw the guy off stage say something like “you didn’t expect that did you?”…. my internet skepticism was raised and I started surmising it was some type of scam with lip synching involved…. goes to show you how easily one can become skeptical in the modern world)….

This came just at the right moment…I watched “Tootsie” last night (25th anniversary edition) and there was a special feature afterwards on the making of the film in which Dustin Hoffman talks about how he felt to learn what it was like to be an unattractive woman in a society that doesn’t tolerate it. He cried while talking about it (maybe he was acting) but it was very moving to see; he said he had never realized how callous men are to homely women and how many doors shut in their faces without giving them a chance. He said for some reason the world forgives ugly men, but not women.
This singer must have never tried wholeheartedly, knowing that. Good for her, giving it one last go.”
We’ll see if anything comes out on this. I hope not, but if it does…
I’ve thought of another possibility, i.e. it may well be Boyle’s voice. But she would have sung this song many times to the same taped accompaniment, and they could have used a singing of it which was not the one in front of the crowd. I don’t know.”
My first take on this is that it is symptomatic of the recession, instead of high flying rich and famous types being idolized, people are seeing the quintessential “everywoman” who is something special. Is this hyper populism? On a psycho-social note the other thing is the interesting expose of human disposition toward expectations based on visual inspection. Can a middle aged, overweight, non hip person possibly be talented? Very interesting comment on human nature in my opinion.”
Update – May 24, 2009
The performance which led to this post on April 16, 2009, has now been viewed by 60,000,000.  Last night Susan Boyle won the highest number of votes in the next round.
Update June 1, 2009
Susan came in second in the final round, May 30, 2009.  As of this date, her video has been seen 65,000,000 times, the fifth largest viewership ever on YouTube.