As the lawmaking clock ticks toward the legislative Easter/Passover break, more of the public want to have their voices penetrate the political din inside the Capitol. In these days of mid-session, vetoes and court cases have created an atmosphere of urgency for those wanting to get the attention of lawmakers and Governor Pawlenty.
This edition of Hartbeat hopes to give you a brief look at part of a day in the life at the Minnesota's People's House. The methods that two groups used to plant their flags in the lawmaking sand may prove of interest to you. If not, the free fall musical references and items on the Hartbeat Grill could satisfy you.
Step right up, come on in
The steps on the front of the Minnesota State Capitol have been the site of many gatherings of folks wanting to be heard by those working inside. One of my early assignments at KARE was during a time we now remember as "the farm crisis." In December of 1985, thousands of farmers from across the state, many arriving at the capitol on their tractors, congregated in the subzero temperatures of a sunny winter day to ask for help in keeping their farms and their way of life during tough economic times. Since then, I've spent many cold days, sometimes with the wind blowing from two separate directions, video taping crowds, speakers and signs under the gilded horses atop the Capitol in St. Paul.
The SEIU (Service Employees International Union) rally this past Tuesday was graced with warm temperatures, spring sunshine and, thankfully, no wind. The crowd was energetic and ready to go inside to talk with their legislative representatives about issues such as health care, cuts to government workers' pay and retirement benefits. A lectern was placed at the top of the steps and television cameras formed a line in front of it. The participants, many wearing the purple and gold colors of their union, fanned out on the marble steps.
The four speakers all admonished members of Congress who had voted against the health bill and asked MN lawmakers not to cut state employee pay and benefits. After the mercifully short speeches, the SEIU members wearing their colors of solidarity split into small groups to journey inside to meet with their elected representatives. We all moved from the bright sun into the dim halls of the Capitol to lobby their representatives.
Please help me I'm falling
While I was setting up for the SEIU event, a member of the Welfare Rights Committee gave me a flyer about a noon "Die-in" at the front door of the Governor's office. After the conclusion of the outdoor rally, myself and several of the other multi-platform (camera) Jackals, all sensing possible visuals that could include arrests, decided to head towards the Governor's office to see what might transpire.
Lay down, lay down, lay it all down
When we surfaced at office of Minnesota's chief executive, the Welfare Rights folks had a variety of signs, some depicting tombstones as well as people to speak about their cause. Their theme empathized that people would die if medical programs were cut for those in need.
To demonstrate their points in a visual way, many of the people lay down and "played dead" on the cool marble floors. They chanted from their prone positions and the halls echoed with sound. MN State Patrol officers asked the protestors to make sure there was a clear path to the office and most of the demonstrators complied. Getting arrested did not seem to be the goal of the protestors. After more chanting, they slipped their signs under the doors of the Governor's office (they had been closed during the event.)
Just call my name and I'll be there
A puzzling aspect of the Die-In was that at least three State Senators walked by the floor-based demonstrators during their vocal lobbying. None of the prostrated protestors appeared to recognize the Senators and no names were called out to gain a personal interaction with those decision makers.
So, in the scheme of getting an audience with lawmakers there was limited success, since no exchange occurred between the two groups. The media did pay attention to this indoor event. The SEIU rally remained on the digital cutting room floor while the Die-In found life on television newscasts.
The Hartbeat goes on...
What's cooking on the Hartbeat Grill?
It is not too late for you to fill out your entry form for the 2010 U.S. Air Guitar Regional Championships to be held on April 17th at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. This is one of 16 regional events where those vying for the opportunity to go to the national and world contests can demonstrate their skills. If you are unsure of the importance of air guitar in today's world, check out the documentary, Air Guitar Nation. "To air is human," said one of the contenders. "To air guitar is divine!"
Hartbeat Director of Research, Greg Lew, once again has proven to be an invaluable asset to our multi-talent volunteer staff. He brought one of his historic turntables to Hartbeat World Headquarters and the staff has been enjoying 33 and 1/3 rpm discs by: The Beatles, Porter and Dolly, Byrds, Ernest Tubb/Loretta Lynn, Steve Goodman, ZZ Top, Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood, Bob Dylan and many others. Some of the records are originals not reissues and date back to the early 60's. There is something comforting and familiar about hearing the static after the needle drops before the first song.
The Musical Notes
Every early rock and roller owes something to bluesman Jimmy Reed. His guitar and harmonica brought the blues to a large mainstream audience which included members of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and The Grateful Dead. Elvis Presley recorded Big Boss Man and featured Baby, What You Want Me to Do in his 1968 comeback special. Some lyrics from that song are the title of this Hartbeat.
If any song embodies the Nashville sound of George Jones, The Grand Tour tops my list. The vocal tour of a "lonely house that was once, home sweet, sweet home". The opening line is a good intro to a tour of any building, including the Capitol.
Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) was the second single of Melanie's 1970 album, Candles in the Rain. Melanie wrote the song after her performance at Woodstock and her impressions of the crowds attending the historic musical event.
Please Help Me, I'm Falling was a 1960 hit for country singer Hank Locklin. It was also covered by Skeeter Davis and Janie Fricke.
Michael Jackson felt that the release by the Jackson 5 of I'll Be There was a milestone in the group's career. It showed that they could move beyond what some considered the "bubblegum" sound of their first three singles: ABC, I Want You Back and The Love You Save. (I thought all their songs were great.) One interesting bit of information I uncovered while researching this song is that Berry Gordy, one of the songwriters and President of Motown Records wanted Michael to use the same line as Levi Stubbs in Reach Out I'll Be There: "just look over your shoulder." Jackson made a mistake and said "just look over your shoulders" which was left in the final recording mix of the song. Now you will have to look up the lyrics of both songs and see for yourself how these two Motown songs are connected.
If you are curious from the last Hartbeat about what James Dupré is up to this week, he will have national television exposure on Ellen this Wednesday.
The Photo Notes
The images in this edition of Hartbeat are freeze frames (two words associated with the 1981 J. Geils album and single) from Sony DVCAM videotape.
(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)