New Yorker cartoonist’s graphic memoir is St. Croix Valley Big Read for 2023

New Yorker cartoonist’s graphic memoir is St. Croix Valley Big Read for 2023

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s award-winning graphic memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is this year’s NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley.

"Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" book cover
(Courtesy of ArtReach St. Croix)

The purpose of the program, run by Art Reach St. Croix in Stillwater, is to “have as many people as possible finding connection through reading a common book,” said ArtReach executive director Heather Rutledge.

A month of events centered around themes in the book kicks off with “NEA Big Read Kick-off and Exhibition Opening” from 6-8 p.m. March 30 at ArtReach St. Croix in Stillwater. The free event features two concurrent exhibitions in the gallery space: “Roz Chast: Upper West Side Meets Upper Midwest” and “Art on Caregiving, Aging, Death and Dying.”

At 2 p.m. April 2, Minnesota Public Radio’s Cathy Wurzer will present “End in Mind’s Art of Difficult Conversations” at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater. The event will feature improv artist Tane Danger, audience participation and the launch of a new online resource. Registration is required to attend.

Author Richard Leider will present “Everyone Is Getting Old, But Are You Growing Old?” at 6:30 p.m. April 19 at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wis. Leider is the author of “Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?” Registration is required.

In addition, The Remember Project’s “Fortune Cookies,” a one-act play about memory loss by Bonnie Dudovitz, will be presented throughout the month.

ArtReach St. Croix is one of about 62 groups nationwide to receive the $20,000 NEA Big Read grant. This is the seventh year the group has received the grant, Rutledge said.

Part of the grant will be used to buy more than 150 copies of “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” for libraries, Little Free Libraries and other public places, Rutledge said.

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Lance Reddick, 'The Wire' and 'John Wick' star, dies at 60

Lance Reddick, 'The Wire' and 'John Wick' star, dies at 60

Updated: 10 a.m.

Lance Reddick, a character actor who specialized in intense, icy and possibly sinister authority figures on TV and film, including “The Wire,” “Fringe” and the “John Wick” franchise, has died. He was 60.

Reddick died “suddenly” Friday morning, his publicist Mia Hansen said in a statement, attributing his death to natural causes. No further details were provided.

Wendell Pierce, Reddick’s co-star on “The Wire” paid tribute on Twitter. “A man of great strength and grace,” he wrote. “As talented a musician as he was an actor. The epitome of class.” “John Wick — Chapter Four” director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves said they were dedicating the upcoming film to Reddick and were “deeply saddened and heartbroken at the loss.”

Reddick was often put in a suit or a crisp uniform during his career, playing tall, taciturn and elegant men of distinction. He was best known for his role as straight-laced Lt. Cedric Daniels on the hit HBO series “The Wire,” where his character was agonizingly trapped in the messy politics of the Baltimore police department.

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“The Wire” creator David Simon praised Reddick on Twitter: “Consummate professional, devoted collaborator, lovely and gentle man, loyal friend. Could go on, but no, I can’t go on. This is gutting. And way, way, way too soon.”

“I’m an artist at heart. I feel that I’m very good at what I do. When I went to drama school, I knew I was at least as talented as other students, but because I was a Black man and I wasn’t pretty, I knew I would have to work my butt off to be the best that I would be, and to be noticed,” Reddick told the Los Angeles Times in 2009.

Reddick also starred on the Fox series “Fringe” as a special agent Phillip Broyles, the smartly-dressed Matthew Abaddon on “Lost” and played the multi-skilled Continental Hotel concierge Charon in Lionsgate’s “John Wick” movies, including the fourth in the series that releases later this month.

“The world of Wick would not be what it is without Lance Reddick and the unparalleled depth he brought to Charon’s humanity and unflappable charisma. Lance leaves behind an indelible legacy and hugely impressive body of work, but we will remember him as our lovely, joyful friend and Concierge,” Lionsgate said in a statement.

Reddick earned a SAG Award nomination in 2021 as part of the ensemble for Regina King’s film “One Night in Miami.” He played recurring roles on “Intelligence” and “American Horror Story” and was on the show “Bosch” for its seven-year run.

His upcoming projects include 20th Century’s remake of “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Shirley,” Netflix’s biopic of former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. He was also slated to appear in the “John Wick” spinoff “Ballerina,” as well as “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.”

The Baltimore-born-and-raised Reddick was a Yale University drama school graduate who enjoyed some success after school by landing guest or recurring roles “CSI: Miami” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” He also appeared in several movies, including “I Dreamed of Africa,” “The Siege” and “Great Expectations.”

It was on season four of “Oz,” playing a doomed undercover officer sent to prison who becomes an addict, that Reddick had a career breakthrough.

“I was never interested in television. I always saw it as a means to an end. Like so many actors, I was only interested in doing theater and film. But ‘Oz’ changed television. It was the beginning of HBO’s reign on quality, edgy, artistic stuff. Stuff that harkens back to great cinema of the ’60s and ’70s,” he told The Associated Press in 2011.

“When the opportunity for ‘Oz’ came up, I jumped. And when I read the pilot for ‘The Wire,’ as a guy that never wanted to be on television, I realized I had to be on this show.”

Reddick attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music, where he studied classical composition, and he played piano. His first album, the jazzy “Contemplations and Remembrances,” came out in 2011.

He had a recurring role as Jeffrey Tetazoo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, on the CBS series “Intelligence.” On “American Horror Story: Coven,” he portrayed Papa Legba, the go-between between humanity and the spirit world.

Reddick is survived by his wife, Stephanie Reddick, and children, Yvonne Nicole Reddick and Christopher Reddick.

His death was first reported by celebrity website

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Volcanic activity on Venus spotted in radar images, scientists say

Volcanic activity on Venus spotted in radar images, scientists say

This computer-generated 3D model of Venus' surface shows the summit of Maat Mons. A new study found one of the volcano's vents became bigger and changed during 1991.

This computer-generated 3D model of Venus’ surface shows the summit of Maat Mons. A new study found one of the volcano’s vents became bigger and changed during 1991.


Researchers scouring decades-old spacecraft data have found clear signs of recent volcanic activity on Venus. The findings, published in the journal Science, reveal not only that the planet’s surface is currently a turbulent place, but offer insights into its geological past and future.

By any measure, Venus is a hellscape: crushing pressures, a toxic atmosphere, and surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. It’s like a scene lifted straight from Dante’s Inferno.

It’s “my favorite planet,” says Robert Herrick, a planetary scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Despite all its hostility, Venus — our nearest planetary neighbor — is actually pretty similar to Earth. So much so that Herrick calls it our “true sibling” in the solar system. The resemblance is “driven by what’s going on in their interior,” he says.

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“Aside from Earth,” Herrick says, “it’s the only planet that has true mountain ranges and a huge variety of volcanic features.” These features include lava fields, canals carved by molten rock, and hundreds, if not thousands of volcanoes.

So it’s clear that Venus is volcanically active, giving it a youthful (in geological terms) appearance. But it’s not clear exactly how active.

“That could still mean that the time between eruptions could be months, years, or tens of thousands of years,” says Herrick.

So he set out to try to narrow down that time window by searching for evidence of recent volcanic activity. He turned to radar surface imagery collected by the Magellan spacecraft in the early 1990’s.

“Thirty years ago,” he says, “it was just not feasible to pan around and zoom in and out and flip back and forth between different global mosaics.” But computer hardware and software have improved substantially, and so Herrick was able to pore over the imagery.

“It’s a needle in a haystack search without any guarantee that there’s a needle,” he admits.

Herrick focused his search around the highest volcano on Venus called Maat Mons, named after the ancient Egyptian goddess of truth and justice. And after a couple months of looking across an area about the size of Australia, he found something.

It’s evident in two side-by-side black-and-white images taken eight months apart of the same spot on the north side of the volcano. Each one is about 15 or 20 miles across. Herrick points out a pockmark towards the bottom. It’s a vent — the area where a volcano erupts, discharging its lava, ash, and rock. But the shape of that vent differs between the two images.

“The outline has changed, and the thing’s actually gotten larger, and looks shallower as well,” he says. That is, within a mere eight months in 1991 (the same year that President George H. W. Bush declared victory over Iraq and Clarence Thomas was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice), Herrick speculates the volcano erupted, forming a lava lake within the vent.

“Of course, I could have gotten very lucky and seen the only thing that happened in the last million years on Venus,” Herrick says. “But I think the reasonable interpretation suggests that Venus is relatively Earth-like in the frequency of volcanic eruptions,” similar to the likes of Hawaii and Iceland.

Unlike Earth, Venus doesn’t have plate tectonics. So researchers have been trying to work out how the planet has evolved geologically over the last four-and-a-half billion years and where it might be headed. Herrick and his colleague Scott Hensley hope their findings will help do just that.

“It is nice to have a visual confirmation of the volcanic activity on Venus,” says Clara Sousa-Silva, a quantum astrochemist at Bard College who wasn’t involved in the research. “But given that this was something we had speculated, it’s not shocking to have this paper come out.”

Still, Sousa-Silva says this confirmation of activity on Venus’s surface does help us better understand what to expect in Venus’ atmosphere.

“A planet that has a lot of volcanic activity,” she says, “has access to these extreme pressures and temperatures below the surface that can produce molecules that are really unusual and otherwise really hard to make.”

Much of NASA’s (and the public’s) recent attention has been drawn to Mars; the space agency has landed five rovers on the Red Planet’s dusty surface since 1997.

But Herrick says that Earth’s similarity to Mars is somewhat superficial, being pretty much limited to surface features like sand blowing around, desert landscapes, and signs of what may have once been lakes and rivers.

The winds of interest have shifted, though. “Maybe it’s cycling back like bell bottoms,” Herrick says with a chuckle.

That’s because NASA currently has two missions to Venus in the works, which will now be informed by Herrick’s findings. “We don’t just think it’s an active planet,” he says. “We know it’s an active planet — right now.”

Herrick is working with NASA to develop an instrument for those upcoming missions to monitor volcanic activity on Venus. He’s pretty confident now that the seismometer will register something once it’s deployed — as long as it can survive the infernal planet long enough to make its measurements.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

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Professor Dacher Keltner on the significance of awe

Professor Dacher Keltner on the significance of awe

When was the last time you felt awe?

For many of us, awe is the result of an experience in nature. Or maybe it’s due to a sudden chill up the spine as you listen to music or read a poem. It might be what happens when you witness selflessness or uncommon kindness in another human being, or something as simple as listening to a child laugh as they lose themselves in play.

Whatever the source, and no matter the culture, Dacher Keltner says the feeling is the same across humankind. Awe produces a humbling and inspiring emotion in our bodies when we encounter something mysterious that transcends our understanding of the world.

A researcher and professor of psychology, Keltner has spent the last few years studying awe and how it moves us. He used unconventional and imaginative methods to measure how awe shrinks a person’s sense of self. He’s talked to countless people about their experiences of awe. And he’s searched for it himself, after the death of his beloved brother.

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This Friday, on Big Books and Bold Ideas, Keltner joins host Kerri Miller to talk about his new book, “Awe.” They delve into his research, talk about how music triggers wonder, and discuss how awe can help us lead healthy and happy lives, both individually and collectively.


To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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Ask a Bookseller: 'Here Goes Nothing'

Ask a Bookseller: 'Here Goes Nothing'

The novel that Emily Bennett has been recommending to her customers at Sundance Books and Music in Reno, Nevada is “Here Goes Nothing” by Steve Toltz. As Bennett describes it, the story has whispers of the 1990 film “Ghost” and the NBC comedy “The Good Place,” rolled up in an original and humorous tale.

Here Goes Nothing book cover

Here Goes Nothing is a novel by Steve Toltz.

Penguin Random House

The novel’s protagonist, Angus, has led a crooked path. He seems to be getting his life back together — he’s married with a child on the way — when he is murdered by a man who has been living in their house. Angus heads to the afterlife, which he finds sorely disappointing.

Those who have been in the afterlife longest have better privileges, Angus is expected to work, and a pandemic on earth is leading to crowding in the here-after. (The pandemic, Bennett says, is not COVID-19, and its presence in the book did not feel burdensome to her as a COVID-weary reader.)

Meanwhile, Angus’s wife is falling in love — unknowingly — with his murderer, prompting Angus to look for a way to reconnect and seek revenge. The novel takes places in the points of view of both Angus and his wife, and each has information the other can’t access.

“I know this all sounds very bleak and depressing. But it’s actually one of the funniest books I’ve read,” says Bennett. “It’s philosophical and funny. It’s romantic, and it’s repulsive. I’ve been recommending it to everyone.”

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Downtown is getting a new Night Club: It’s an artist-run contemporary gallery

Downtown is getting a new Night Club: It’s an artist-run contemporary gallery

A contemporary art gallery called Night Club is set to open downtown this weekend as part of a St. Paul Downtown Alliance program to connect new businesses with short-term, rent-free leases.

The program, Grow Downtown, launched last year and has so far filled around 18,000 square feet of retail space.

Night Club may be new to St. Paul, but the downtown gallery is actually the third iteration of the project founded by artists Emma Beatrez and Lee Noble.

The first iteration was, in a sense, a literal night club — an evening extracurricular gathering of students at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, including Beatrez and Noble, all interested in workshopping their interdisciplinary, experimental art.

The second came after Beatrez and Noble graduated from MCAD in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, and moved into a house in Minneapolis’ Bryant neighborhood. Covid-19 cases were spiking, and indoor galleries had been shut down. So Beatrez and Noble took advantage of their house’s large picture window and began curating walk-up art shows that could be viewed from outside. Eventually, when it became safer to do so, they converted their entire front room into a public gallery.

The duo has organized about nine exhibitions in their home over the past two or so years, Beatrez said, and they weren’t actively seeking to grow into a storefront gallery. But when they heard about the Grow Downtown program, they figured, why not apply and see what happens? And when they saw the space the Downtown Alliance had in mind, they were sold.

“It’s really an amazing opportunity to expand our programming we’ve been doing so far,” Beatrez said. “We never really expected it to expand this much in this short of time.”

Both as a series of house shows and now as a downtown gallery, Night Club prioritizes experimental art by emerging artists, Beatrez said. As working artists themselves, she and Noble want to both support their peers and help foster the kind of art scene they want to live in.

The gallery will host an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, at its new space at 340 N. Wabasha St. From then on, the gallery will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; admission is free.

Close-up detail of a painting of a woman holding an alligator. The painting style uses vibrant colors and a blend of water and primer to make the image appear runny
Artist Julia Garcia’s recent paintings are inspired by found photos of women wrestling alligators in Florida, where she grew up. The works are being shown through the end of April 2023 as the inaugural exhibition at Night Club, a new contemporary art gallery in downtown St. Paul. (Photo courtesy Night Club Gallery)

Night Club’s inaugural exhibition in St. Paul is a solo show by Julia Garcia, a Cuban-American visual artist who grew up in South Florida and recently moved to the Twin Cities.

The show, called Sawgrass, is composed of a series of vibrantly colorful paintings based on found photos of bikini-clad women wrestling alligators. Garcia intends for the artwork to explore contradictions between desire and aggression; as she phrased it in her artist statement, the “unsettling intimacy with which eroticism and death coincide.”

Next up, after Garcia’s show closes at the end of April, Night Club plans to install a collection of 3-dimensional multimedia works by 12 different artists that “push the boundaries of what sculpture might look like or sound like,” Beatrez said. She and Noble have already booked a full schedule of exhibitions through the end of their contract, in October. They’re also hoping to add additional programming like film screenings and sound installations to complement the scheduled shows, but those plans have yet to be finalized.

As for the future of Night Club after their rent-free contract ends this fall? That’s also up in the air. Some Grow Downtown participants have received extensions from the Downtown Alliance; others have chosen to stay long-term by signing formal rental agreements with the buildings’ landlords.

But Beatrez and Noble landed the downtown space in the first place simply by taking advantage of unexpected opportunities as they arose, and that remains their plan.

“We’ll see how the space actually functions with people coming through there, and then see what might be possible,” Beatrez said. “It’s still pretty new to us.”

Night Club: 340 N. Wabasha St; the gallery is free and open 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; website:

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