Monday, June 30, 2014

Top June Posts

Morton Grove and On the Road to Bathgate dominated the June top ten list on Along the Gradyent. Our top June post, On the Road to Bathgate Act 1: Fargo the Movie, was pushed forward by the airing of Fargo, the miniseries on the FX network, to almost universal acclaim. And it pushed our post's page views to near record highs.
Audiences were justifiably suspicious of Fargo before its premiere. “A TV show that’s … what, based on the Coen Brothers movie?” one might have asked. “A sequel? A spinoff? This is odd. It’s odd, right? It’s odd.”
But, with season one in the books, it’s fair to conclude that the odd bet paid off. Equal parts murder-mystery, deconstruction of the anti-hero genre that has dominated the new golden age of television, and loving, almost fanboy-ish Coen Brothers tribute, Fargo’s success proves that there’s no network on basic cable more interesting than FX.
Newsday raves,
"Fargo" has been something of a sensation for FX -- loving critical response, some buzz and decent if not outrageous good fortune in the Nielsen department. Billy Bob Thornton will almost certainly get -- or at the very least deserves -- a best supporting Emmy nod next month for hitman Lorne Malvo, and I'd be surprised if Allison Tolman doesn't get something for her Molly Solverson, the deputy with heart and brains.
It is said that "Fargo is a smart show. Not pleasant, not kind, but smart. Ruthless."

Viewed through a Minnesotan eyes, the miniseries was seen thus.
For the past 10 weeks, the makers of “Fargo” have treated us to great television. I started reviewing these episodes because complaining about the depiction of Minnesotans in the Coen Brothers original movie “Fargo” has been a local cottage industry since I was a teenager. I thought there was some kind of weird niche I could fill, and the fact that my commentary was featured on a Grantland piece this morning shows I must have guessed right. What we got from “Fargo,” though, was more than I expected. Far from being just a regional oddity, “Fargo” touched a much deeper chord. 
 Pictured: Allison Tolman as Molly and Shawn Doyle as Vern.
Producer/writer Noah Hawley has delivered the best series of the year, a 10-episode sprint that defies old TV definitions of “movie,” “series,” or “mini-series.” It’s just some gosh darn good art, you know. I’ve got plenty of northern Minnesota readers checking in on this show, but I have some from England, Sweden and Texas, too. Why? Because this is a show about human nature, not just one particular place. What 14 hours of action allowed that the movie didn’t, was for “Fargo” to show that it’s not about making fun of Minnesotans — it’s about contrasting the structure and decency of a place like this with the chaos and evil that also exist in the world. If my fellow Minnesotans can’t see this, well, folks can believe whatever they want. Ain’t my deal.
Link to your cable or online video account and watch the series here.
Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty and summarize June's top ten. A great big thanks to our awesome readers.

1. The winter Fargo the movie was shot proved to be uncooperative. Early winter snowfalls were followed by thaws; January and February snow cover failed to stick. In search of snowier backdrops, the production moved north, resulting on March 15, 1995 in the following AP story:

Paul Bunyan statue outside Bathgate, ND, March, 1995
BATHGATE, ND (AP) A statue of Paul Bunyan, along with a "Welcome to Brainerd, Home of Paul Bunyan" sign now stands tall on the prairie, along Pembina County Highway 1, four miles west of town.
The 25-foot statue was erected over the weekend for the filming of a police chase scene for the movie, "Fargo.""You should have seen it right after they put it up," said Reinhold Henschel, who owns Reiny's Bar, one of a handful of businesses in the town of 75 people about 10 miles south of the Canadian border.
"It was foggy, and people couldn't see it until they got right up to it. Then, it says, 'Brainerd,' and they thought, 'What the hell?"
How Bathgate got involved in a movie called "Fargo" and with the legend of Paul Bunyan and Brainerd is simply a matter of weather. The film crew needs snow, and Bathgate has snow - at least for a few more days.
"We should have more of this kind of thing around here," said Emil Martineau. "It's something to talk about." You betcha. Hence the post, On the Road to Bathgate Act 1: Fargo the Movie.

2. In early June we published Morton Grove Before the Baby Boom: The Complete Story of The Dells. Just down the street from the home I grew up in in the then bucolic suburb of Morton Grove, Al Capone and his gang ran a prohibition roadhouse, that was the site and source of gangland wars, murders, kidnappings, arson and bombings. Read all about it here. Read all about it now.
3. Our May top Ten Posts retrospective came in a solid third. Ted Turner, Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett, Susan Rook, John Holliman George Bush, Barack Obama and Jeff Zucker -- we dropped enough names in the lead to our post on NSA snooping (NSA Overreaches are Bush's Fault?) to pick up traffic to burn.

4.  The replacement contractor for Healthcare.Gov has turned out to be outrageously expensive and absurdly behind schedule. Who could have predicted that? Well me. Check it out at Accenture Comes Through For Healthcare.Gov.

Reading Eagle,
October 20, 1966
5.  As a teenage caddie I carried doubles one sultry Monday morning for Chicago Cub pitcher Kenny Holtzman and third base coach Peanuts Lowery. Ron Santo and Glenn Beckert were in the foursome too. The fellow you least heard of was best on the links. Read all about it in Caddying for the Cubs

5. The Tea Party gets behind and elects a smart professor who supports the real economy providing real jobs for real people. The liberal Democrats elect a fat cat Volvo dealer who hawks imported cars to government employees, lawyers, lobbyists and government contractors in Northern Virginia. So goes Long Live the Tea Party, the Tea Party is Dead.

6. I am a baby boomer. I grew up in Morton Grove, Illinois, a suburb due north of Chicago and about five miles in from Lake Michigan. The village is physically much as it was when I left it for good in 1971. Its population has fluctuated between 20 and 30 thousand people over the last 40 years, due mostly to changes in household size. So begins the paen to my home town and perennial favorite, Growing Up in Morton Grove.

The Fourth Estate, January 9, 1915.
7. George S. Foster was a turn of the century (20th century that is) politician in Chicago, a banker, a lawyer and my grand uncle. In On the Road to Bathgate Act 4g: More on George S. Foster we reported on additional material we unearthed (including a link to Texas apropos of June's travels) on his daughter, my aunt Marguerite Foster Huff. We also report on another daughter whose son stepped out of the woodwork in response to our postings. Reporting on my ancestral family is a fascinating and fulfilling enterprise.

9.  Researching my uncle Lyn's background increased my esteem and respect for him immeasurably. Lyndon R. Foster was a rabble rouser, reformer and publisher. At various times he ran for Los Angeles County supervisor, mayor of Los Angeles, Congress and California Lieutenant Governor. His passion for good government almost literally cost him his life. If you have not previously done so, check him out now at On the Road to Bathgate Act 4f: Lyndon R. Foster -- Veteran, Publisher and Politician.
10.  We pointed out in Not Going to Happen Here, that winter temperature extremes on the downside far exceeded anything that had, could or would happen during the summer on the upside. Global warming -- phooey.

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