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U.S. Military Knew Flood Risks at Offutt Air Force Base, But Didn’t Act in Time by David Hasemyer 25th anniversary: When It Wasn’t Safe in The Water – The Great Red Shark ART: Elite Eight Dish: Frozen Farm to Fork Film: Up, Up, and a Wait Heartland Healing: You Can’t Die Laughing HooDoo: Clubs & Festivals MUSIC: Ex Hex / the drums Theater: SOUL AND SPIRIT Over The Edge: Postcard from San Juan




May 10


April 12 & 13


May 11


April 19 & 20


May 17 & 18


April 26 & 27

THE 402

May 24 & 25


May 3 & 4


May 31 & June 1



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publisher/editor....................John Heaston john@thereader.com graphic designers.....................Ken Guthrie, Sebastian Molina online editor...............Michael Newgren mike@pioneermedia.me associate publisher.............Sal S. Robles sal@pioneermedia.me

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS healing................Michael Braunstein info@heartlandhealing.com


25TH: When It Wasn’t Safe in The Water – The Great Red Shark


COVER: The Greening of OPPD


COVER: Blessed Earth


COVER: Known Flood Risks at Offutt

arts/visual.................Mike Krainak mixedmedia@thereader.com eat........................................... Sara Locke crumbs@thereader.com film..................................Ryan Syrek cuttingroom@thereader.com hoodoo..................... B.J. Huchtemann bjhuchtemann@gmail.com music..........................Houston Wiltsey backbeat@thereader.com over the edge...............Tim McMahan tim.mcmahan@gmail.com theater....................... Beaufield Berry coldcream@thereader.com

SALES & MARKETING ............................................Kati Falk kati@pioneermedia.me

DISTRIBUTION/DIGITAL ......................................... Clay Seaman clay@thereader.com


DISH: Frozen Farm to Fork


PICKS: Cool Things To Do in April


art: Elite Eight

ACCOUNT MANAGER ......................................... Tim Stokes tim@pioneermedia.me



theater: Soul and Spirit


HOODOO: Clubs & Festivals


MUSIC: Ex Hex / The Drums


48 2

film: Oui Oui / Up, Up and A Wait APRIL 2019


heartland healing: You Can’t Die Laughing CONTENTS


OVER THE EDGE: Postcard from San Juan Proud to be Carbon Neutral


APRIL 2019










Communicating at Work

Communicating with Co-workers

Communicating with your Boss

Effective communication in the workplace isn’t just what you say or how you say it.

When you communicate with people you neither report to nor manage, let the workplace culture dictate your style.

Even if you’re friendly with your bosses, your communications should be deferential. Even if you can’t stand your boss, show respect for the position. No matter what your relationship is, you should strive to communicate professionally and effectively.

It’s also about how you listen to those around you: your co-workers, your clients, your boss and the people you supervise. You can be an incredible communicator, but if you don’t communicate what the people around you need, you’re wasting words.

While some workplaces communicate more formally, others are so casual that a formal memo or professional-sounding email seems out of place. But no matter what style fits your workplace culture, get your points across in a way that can’t be misunderstood.

Suppose your team tried to convince you to let them work from home when weather is bad and the drive in is dicey. Instead of directly addressing the request , you announce that employees can now use their PTO when the weather is bad.

If you have issues with a co-worker, your workplace likely has policies and procedures about how to communicate your grievances. Take whatever steps your human resources guidelines outline to assure discretion.

You missed their point. It’s not that they don’t want to work during bad weather. It’s that they don’t want to risk driving into work when road conditions aren’t ideal.

Communicating with Clients

You can release your new policy in as many effective ways as you want – via email, stand-up meeting, intranet announcement, signs in the hallways and break room. But you didn’t say what you think you said.

How you communicate with clients is largely dictated not just by the workplace culture, but by your personal relationships with them. No matter how close you may be, clients still should be treated with respect in all communications.

You think you gave them an option during bad weather.

You might think it’s funny to text your client, “Your product’s ready, you clown. Come fetch it before it goes into the dumpster!” But your client might ponder how much they pay for your goods and services. Your attempt at humor could certainly rub them wrong.

But what your team hears is: “You won’t do a good job telecommuting, so you might as well take PTO if you’re afraid to drive, you cry babies.” Obviously, communication at work shouldn’t be a one-way road.



APRIL 2019


Don’t engage in any communication with clients that might get you in trouble if they’re forwarded to your managers – or that you will have to explain under criticism.


Discover what method of communication works best for your boss – email? Text? In person? Once you know how your boss is most receptive, stick with that communication method.

Communicating with Anyone You can’t let emotion into your professional communications. You might have a bad day because of events outside of work or in your personal life. But you can’t let your annoyance or frustration to creep into your workplace communication. The people there probably won’t understand your snotty, passive-aggressive email was colored by the fight you had with your spouse. All they will know is your email was unprofessional and they might decide you are, too. Remember, communication doesn’t go away. Whatever you say or write can be widely disseminated. Mind your mouth.

Get to work!

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A “true-ish” story of ten explorers charting the Colorado River in 1869

April 12 – May 5

May 3 – 26

Written by Richard Bean

Written by Jaclyn Backhaus

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In the Beginning... Great Red Shark - Of Interest To Future Scholars of Popular Culture by K.P. “Kevin” and Mark “Mondo” Simonson most engrossing and eccentric periodicals in Nebraska history transmogrified into The Reader, the behemoth you are now reading. Lots of creative, enthusiastic individuals were involved. During the formative years, the staff consisted of more than 30 writers, photographers, account executives, cartoonists, etc. The time sure flew by, but you have to acknowledge that this paper has matured and progressed extremely well. Happy 25th guys! Here’s a few of our favorite anecdotes and stories throughout the years:


e started publishing The Great Red Shark in Lincoln in the late ‘80s. In that pre-Internet world, we put stacks of papers in bars and bookstores and slid copies under dorm doors. The Nebraska State Historical Society considered the paper “a unique aspect of Nebraska history that will be of interest to future scholars of popular culture” and requested copies of every back issue to microfilm “so this newspaper will be available to all interested parties, now and in the future.” Wesleyan University deemed our comedy zine offensive and banned us from campus. Perhaps a review in Thrasher Magazine best encapsulated our oddness: “Gonzo journalism lives in the swollen belly of The Great Red Shark. The bi-monthly tabloid blends fact with fiction in mortuary and bait shot reviews, the nationally-renown ‘Mr. Weepy’ comic and the ‘Mondo Can Help’ advice column, ‘Stain of the Week’ and ‘Mall Humor’ ...” Around the same time, John Heaston was publishing a non-conformist, hard-hitting NEWSpaper in Omaha [Sound News & Arts]. Eventually our paths crossed and soon thereafter we decided to join forces and the two


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A Brief History of Mr. Weepy (The Reader cover from May 1994) Mr. Weepy was born in the pages of Nebraska’s oldest college newspaper: The Doane Owl. The reputable publication was incorporated in 1872. Because the goofy, single-panel cartoon was being published in such a historically significant periodical, I concluded that the next logical step was to organize a “Mr. Weepy Wet T-Shirt Contest.” It took place in the basement of El Toro’s Restaurant & Lounge in downtown Crete. The top two finalists ended up fighting on the wobbly plywood stage and all three of us slipped and fell on the saturated floor. I grabbed the microphone and received an electrical jolt from the outdated sound system. The intense voltage surged through my body for way too long and I seriously thought that I was going to die in El Toro’s basement. Everyone in the audience was oblivious to my dire situation and no one offered assistance. (Author’s Note: Wet T-shirt contests virtually disappeared from the American landscape in the mid-’90s.)


Cowering under your father’s skirt

Mr. Weepy continued to gain exposure in the pages of The Great Red Shark and The Reader. You could purchase Mr. Weepy T-shirts at Pickles Records & Tapes and a frozen yogurt shop in the Crossroads Mall food court. I sent Mr. Weepy query letters and samples to national publications. One of the first rejection letters was handwritten by a semi-famous editor: “This is the worst cartoon I have ever seen in my career. Not funny at all.” Mr. Weepy persevered and eventually made appearances in the pages of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Village Voice in New York City and publications in every other time zone in these glorious United States of America! [El Toro Restaurant & Lounge was located at 1217 Main Avenue in Crete. The place apparently closed a few years after I graduated from Doane.]

The Hunter S. Thompson Interviews (Excerpted from The Reader, September 1994 and March 2005) Editorial assistants were always hard to come by for Hunter. One had a nervous breakdown and another decided to go back to school. And one lasted only three hours at Owl Farm. Hunter explained it to me thusly: “It’s my eternal quest to find assistants. I need a staff of about six and apparently it has become too onerous for people in this country. I’ve been interviewing people out here for I don’t know how long! Many people want to work here, but most are too afraid. “I’m looking for a girl who is smart and vicious,” he said, sitting on his stool in the kitchen and pausing to light a Dunhill.

“The real question, though, is CAN SHE TYPE? We’ll narrow this down pretty quick. I’ve got a catalog of mail-order brides here I’m currently considering bringing over. Right now English isn’t so important.” I picked up the catalog and thumbed through it: “Did you see Kimberly from England? She looks like she could type.” He glances over: “Someone from Bangkok or Manilla might work, too. I like Filipinos.” A few days later I was back in Omaha and received an urgent phone call from Hunter at 4 a.m. The deadline for his book Songs of the Doomed was looming and still no assistant. Hunter really could not function without an assistant. He broke several answering machines. He could never find the CDs he wanted to listen to, etc. I volunteered my fiancee’s editorial services. In retrospect, I probably should have consulted with her first. After four days at Owl Farm she called me in tears and was ready to come home. Hunter wrote her a check for $666 and put her on a plane back to Omaha. We broke up soon thereafter. -----------------

Are you recognized when walking around New York City?

In a different interview, Hunter elaborated on a recent run-in with the law. I always smile when I read this: “Actually, I had a little problem at the Durango Red Lion Inn. I fell in love with a table that was sitting in the middle of the Presidential Suite, so I told the management that I wanted to buy it from them, but nobody had the authority to sell it to me. So I went down to the office and had a friendly talk with them. Finally, I said, “Shit, I should have just stolen the table. Here I am down here trying to put it on my bill and you won’t.” And the catering manager said, “Yeah, you should have.” And then I said, “Yeah, I’ll do that.” I had a chartered plane and was picking up four peacocks -- so we just loaded the table on the plane. About two days later one of the deputy sheriffs from here called and said: “There is a sergeant calling from Durango saying they are going to have to arrest you for grand theft unless you make some arrangements to pay for that table. So I had a buddy go down and pay for it -- $509. I could have bought the same thing in Denver for $150! Evidently the maid had reported a big egg-shaped indentation in the rug and the manager turned me into the police.”

[These interviews originally appeared in The Great Red Shark and The Reader. Additional interviews were published in SPIN, Aspen Times-Daily and Hustler and compiled in the books “Conversations with Hunter S. Thompson” and “Ancient Gonzo Wisdom.” Thompson shot himself on Feb. 20, 2005. I attended Thompson’s infamous memorial in which his ashes were blasted from a cannon sitting on top of a 15-story tower of the Gonzo fist. Johnny Depp spent more than $3 million on the star-studded event.]

So it Goes … Remembering Vonnegut

(Excerpted from The Reader, April 2007) The following interview with Kurt Vonnegut took place at the Night Before Lounge in Lincoln. It was Vonnegut’s 69th birthday.

[Vonnegut had three scotch and waters and two cookies that evening. This interview was re-printed in the December 2016 issue of Hustler. I have received two Christmas cards from Larry Flynt. Vonnegut died in New York City on April 11, 2007.]

There’s the saying that goes: “A celebrity is a person who is well-known for his well-knownness.” And that’s essentially what I am. Literature hasn’t been that important in the history of this country. It’s like lacrosse. I’m recognized perhaps as much as somebody in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Only one American in 20 buys a book or takes one out of the library in the course of a year.

An Interview with John Waters (Excerpted from The Reader, February 2010) If William Burroughs anoints you “The Pope of Trash” you had better live up to it. Who would want to disappoint Burroughs? Certainly not John Waters.

I get treated real well. I broke my ankle and my back and I delivered myself to the ER at the hospital and although I didn’t know anybody there I received very special treatment. You get preferential treatment. Yeah, I’m influential. James Bond is licensed by the Queen to kill people if he has to. And you know what? I have a license in this country to say any goddamn thing I want. Power may corrupt people -- but I have no power. In the publishing world I may have some. I could call someone at the publishing house, but I generally don’t do that. I would think of power as getting someone a job or fixing a parking ticket or getting someone into college. The sort of thing that politicians and rich people do. What are your musical tastes? We’ll start from the back and work forward. I hate rap. The Beatles have made a substantial contribution. Bob Dylan, however, is the worst poet alive. He can maybe get one good line in a song and the rest is just gibberish. What’s your favorite breakfast cereal? I’m really into Corn Flakes. You know how you impulse buy something? Corn Flakes are really great! What about Count Chocula?

My brother and I had booked Vonnegut to speak at the University of Nebraska. We also persuaded his management to let us interview him. His agent must have assumed that the interview would take place in a restaurant or hotel lobby. Don’t ever assume anything. Is this your first interview in a strip club? Yes, I would think so. But I like the atmosphere here.

(Vonnegut vigorously shakes his head. The Scorpions’ Rock You Like a Hurricane is blaring in the background.) But I’ve got to tell you, this is the best time I’ve ever had on one of these speaking engagements! Usually it’s a university that sponsors my visit and afterwards I am forced to attend these dreadful receptions where everybody is scared to talk to me or they have nothing to say and I usually end up standing in a corner, drinking fruit punch.” NOW DOLPHIN FREE!

Waters made his name with a series of cult movies that crossed previously inconceivable lines. If you’ve seen the shocking antics of drag queen extraordinaire Divine in Pink Flamingos you know what I’m talking about. Waters had just released the book “Role Models” and was preparing to go on a book tour. Do you have a strict writing routine? Oh, my God, yes! Monday through Friday I get up at 6 a.m. and I read about seven newspapers. Then I start writing every day at 8 o’clock. And I never go past noon. I can’t go for more than that amount of time. You write longhand? Bic pens and yellow legal pads. But then once I have a draft of it, I give it to my assistants and they put it on the computer and then I get it back and then I cut it all up. Some of it’s typed, some of it’s handwritten. At the end, it’s eventually all typed up, of course. I first met you when I lived in Boston and your fans were quite peculiar. Do you think you’re a proper role model? I’m very thankful when people think I’m their role model. My audience seems to keep getting younger. I played at the Coachella Festival this year. I’m thrilled! I go to colleges all the time and when I have the signings -- the kids are like 20 years old. They weren’t even born when I made my early movies. Which of your projects are you proudest of? I always think of the cliché that all directors say: “Well, my films are like my children and I love them all the same.” But mine all have learning disabilities and problems! But they’ve all aged all right. They keep getting put out in new box sets and oddly enough, all of my delinquent children (my films) play on TV now -- which is amazing to me. They don’t fade away.


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The greening of OPPD

New board members bodes for a more clean energy focused utility by LEO ADAM BIGA


olls show most Americans are now sold on climate change as real and requiring action. Thus, green’s no longer the new red bait.

Consistent with the public’s reset on greater environmental stewardship, the Omaha Public Power District’s board of directors has a new green majority after this last election. Newly elected directors Eric Williams, Janece Mollhoff and Amanda Bogner have joined holdovers Rick Yoder and Craig Moody as clean energy advocates. It’s not as if this potential voting bloc is so far apart from the other three directors, led by chair Anne McGuire. Indeed, there’s consensus to continue OPPD’s gains on the renewables front. Differences come down on how far, how fast the utility goes from here. OPPD serves hundreds of thousands of customers in 13 counties with an energy mix largely dependent on coalfired generating plants. “Utilities are clearly at the forefront of figuring out how we can have a reliable and affordable electricity energy system while mitigating and adapting to climate change,” Craig Moody said. “It’s difficult but probably the most important work I will do in my lifetime.” OPPD’s made clean energy a top priority through strategic directives set by its publicly elected board. Moody, managing principal at sustainability consulting firm Verdis Group, feels he represents a broad cross-section of ratepayers in Subdistrict 5.. “Nobody wants pollution. But people also want a measured, deliberate, socially just transition to clean energy,” he said. “The reality in this state is that our economy is driven by agriculture,


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which can only happen with fertile soil, clean water and clean air.”

McGuire feels the new board members will help move OPPD forward.

He sees rural constituents perhaps even more climate change-attuned than their urban counterparts.

“They’re very engaged, very educated, very socially public-minded, and they know a lot about climate change,” she said. “So this will help us even more in bringing on more sustainable things.”

“They get it. They see the risks. I mean, look at the flooding. It’s here now.” Anne McGuire, representing Subdivision 2, has served on the board since 1996 and she said the utility’s made renewables a focus for 20 years. OPPD set its first hard renewable energy goal in 2010. “Our goal was 10 percent renewable by 2020,” she said. “Everybody thought that was crazy. But we surpassed that last year at about 33 percent. At the end of 2019 we’re going to be about 40 percent renewable energy. It’s gotten less expensive to put up wind towers. They’re more efficient now, so it became far more viable and cost effective. We’ve always said we will adopt at the pace we can afford.” “It’s gone much faster than most anyone really anticipated,” Moody said. “With carbon emission controls, LED street lights and a new community solar program,” Moody said, “we’re ahead of many other utilities when it comes to the pace at which we’ve continued to adopt renewables.” “I’m proud of how quickly it’s happened. Part of what we are trying to figure out as a utility is what’s next.” McGuire and Janece Mollhoff, who both have nursing backgrounds, echo health concerns over pollutants. Health and safety concerns extend to decommissioning the Fort Calhoun Station nuclear plant and the frequent flood threat posed to the Nebraska City Station.



Moody sees things the board as a whole must address. “Most electric utilities are seeing pretty flat if not declining growth as measured by demand from customers’ need for kilowatt hours. Ours is growing primarily due to data center activity in Papillion. So how we manage and meet that new demand while continuing to reduce carbon emissions is one of our bigger challenges in the coming years.” He senses “alignment” by the board on the long-term vision for renewables. “The nuances are about pace and what that transition looks like from where we are today to what that vision is. We need to ensure a good amount of study and analysis goes into making decisions about how we will achieve that vision.” Even seemingly small items like emissions measures – carbon intensity versus carbon ratio – are up for debate. Agreeing on the particulars must happen within the board’s mandate of keeping energy affordable and reliable while maintaining environmental sensitivity. Easier said than done in a field dependent on both old and still developing new technologies and wide fluctuations in energy demands on the grid. “It is a really difficult balancing act,” Moody said. “We often describe it as pulling levers. By focusing more on one issue, it’s going to create pressure on maintaining other aspects.”

Said McGuire, “You have to balance the scales. This is where we work on reaching compromises. It’s recognizing the fact you have to look at the entire company when you make changes.” Balancing scales means tempering expectations. Mollhoff (Subdivision 7) wants OPPD “to move away as quickly as possible from fossil fuels” but concedes that goal is subject to “fiscal responsibilities and making sure we’re not jeopardizing rates and our bottom-line.” She said the board must deliberately review and revise the 15 strategic directives previous boards put into place. “It’s too important we maintain stability to turn those all upside down and make it hard for staff and management to comply.” Moody agrees, saying. “With an industry like this you don’t want to constantly be sending management new directions and be zig-zagging all over the place. That’s unhealthy, inefficient and not productive.” Eric Williams (Subdivision 6), a natural resource planner at the PapioMissouri River Natural Resources District, also believes due diligence serves the utility well. “It’s not as if there could be an agenda item next month to vote on one hundred percent renewable energy. That is not how a utility operates, nor should it. There are a number of different times when different pieces will be up for public discussion. Those 15 strategic directives work together. All are very critical to the discussion about what is the total percentage of energy generated from renewable sources and how we’re going to continue increasing that.” as

Williams views the board’s job “working to understand this






really complicated and complex set of parameters that guide how the utility operates, ways where we can make improvement and strategies we can use to work toward more clean energy. There’s a balancing between the different directives.”

As more clean energy comes online, there’s bound to be displacement. “We need to make sure as we transition we’re creating growth in other parts of the economy that fill the gap for skills and jobs lost in that transition,” said Janece Mollhoff. “I think it’s an important part of our work.”

Amanda Bogner (Subdivision 1), an engineer by trade, knows this territory well.

Subdivision 4 director Rick Yoder, a Nebraska Business Development Center consultant, champions Nebraska taking more advantage of the new energy economy.

“I would like to see OPPD’s renewable capacity increase to meet 100 percent of electric demand with renewables. This will become feasible as utility-scale energy storage becomes economically viable,” said Bogner, whose business Energy Studio makes buildings more energy efficient.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to distribute the benefits of business to landowners around rural areas of Nebraska,” Yoder said. From LEft to Right: OPPD Board Members Eric Williams, Amanda Bogner, Rick Yoder and Craig Moody “I represent seven of the 13 counties OPPD “In my view the most important environmentally sensitive energy and has from Sarpy County Bogner is concerned that two bills introduced in job of our board is to get those to make decisions guiding the district all the way to the Kansas line. There the Nebraska Legislature, LB 155 and strategic directives right,” Moody said. towards getting to those outcomes over are plenty of acres there. We are losing LB 700, “will undermine our state’s “Everything else the organization does time.” That means “understanding the out in terms of job growth, business impact by not being more aggressive in potential to generate wind energy. Wind flows into those strategic directives. technologies available.” energy is a huge economic opportunity Management is without question Williams said those technologies pursuing the clean energy economy. The for our state. We need legislative getting good guidance from those include clean energy generation at the opportunity is there to invest in energy action to encourage more wind energy directives and often refers back to them utility-scale. It also mean distributed efficiency, housing and the construction as they think about what they’re doing.” energy production, such as solar or wind, jobs that would make that happen.” development, not create roadblocks.” While “wind and solar technologies are available in abundance in Nebraska,” Williams said, “they are intermittent, which is used as a criticism often of clean energy.” Williams regards such criticism as “a short-sighted view of how utilities function in general,” adding, “a utility is made of a number of generation assets all operating at different times, with different capacities, from different original energy sources and providing different benefits to the grid.” Whatever the issue, the directives drive the change.

Anne McGuire describes the directives as “a living, breathing document we’ll always revisit. It’s important to have that broad policy because things are always changing. There’s going to be new technologies. These broad policies allow us as a company to be flexible when dealing with change.” OPPD has an innovation team tasked with future solutions. Whether present or future-directed, Williams said “the board is responsible for understanding all of the different values of the district to provide affordable and reliable and

net-metered at a house or business with excess sent back to the grid. There’s also energy storage with batteries, demand management programs and smart business maps. “All of those work together to get a picture of the total generation and demand at the utility,” he said. “I am particularly interested in seeing us move toward more clean energy and more efficiency and becoming a part of and a leader in the new energy economy. But we do need to keep in mind we have come a long way and there are things that take awhile to transition.”


Mollhoff regards wind farms good investments, whether OPPD builds them or enters purchase power agreements with third parties, as long as it’s “wind sited in places that meet demand without having to invest too much more in infrastructure, transmission and distribution lines.” For example, she said, “bringing wind energy here from the Sandhills doesn’t make sense.” The volatile nature of agriculture and climate, Yoder said, makes the case for urgency.


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C “We’ve seen prices go up and down and major floods. There’s land that does not always offer a strong income for the landowners. This is a great opportunity to diversify and to make our system more reliable and more resilient than it already is. OPPD and other utilities along the Missouri River should by now recognize the risk associated with recurring flood waters. A central hub and spoke system is not as resilient, reliable or risk-less as distributed energy generation.” How OPPD’s adapting to the new energy economy depends on what lens you look through. “If you use a Nebraska-only lens,” Yoder said, “I think OPPD is on the leading edge. It’s exciting the energy sector is transforming with the greatest wealth creation opportunity in my lifetime. The new technologies will enable us to extract resources rich to Nebraska that don’t run out – wind and solar. They have to be managed appropriately and we still have some technical issues we have to watch out for. “But OPPD has certainly installed a ton of wind or partnered with companies installing wind here, I don’t just mean power purchase agreements with companies that install wind towers. There’s also the new Sarpy County resident (Facebook) building wind to offset the coal it purchases from OPPD. So wind expansion is happening because of OPPD above and beyond everybody else in the state, and that’s a good thing. “OPPD is slower on solar, but I think now that it’s got its toe in the water it’s going to see the advantages there.” Williams describes the community solar program coming online in April as “an opportunity for people to participate in local community clean energy even if they can’t install it directly on their home.” Compared to nearby states and the country. Yoder believes Nebraska is “lagging” in new tech adoption. “I think we’re losing economically because of it. Some people don’t use that as a measure. They use environmental


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measures. In either case, there’s a real urgency to make some change.” Yoder calls for reducing “the amount of bureaucracy it takes to install solar for households and small businesses.” “The cost of when someone puts in solar is argued unfairly as a disadvantage to other users in the system. We’re working on what is the right rate for that user to pay to stay connected to the grid.”




has an opportunity to more deeply engage and I think we all recognize that’s what we need to do. The change we’re talking about is seen as disruptive, but I think there is an organizational culture change happening.” Underpinning any change, Yoder said, “we have to have the right data to make decisions.” He feels comprehensive data “hasn’t always been” available.

Whatever the technology, Williams said, “we need to make sure we’re looking long-term while providing stability and certainty in the shortterm.” He cautioned,

“So we’re asking for larger time spans for the reporting and better measures of what’s being reported. That will allow us to make better policy decisions.”

“You want to be careful about saying something about a long-term vision without having fully understood the steps necessary to get there.”

Another area he’d like OPPD to explore is “shaping the load by working with customers to reduce when they choose to use electricity, so that demand that requires generation is spread out more evenly.” Doing that, he said, will take “a more modernized distribution system, which will require an investment.”

Mollhoff describes a push-pull at work. “Management’s being pushed by entities like Facebook that want renewables,” she said, “and it’s important to recognize that management will respond to external forces probably as much as they’ll respond to the board. I want to make sure that whatever we do as a board we don’t tip that balance and put us on a path that isn’t sustainable or reliable. “We’re not trying to micromanage and yet we want them to move in a certain direction. It’s really the most we can do. We set rates and these strategic directives, but we don’t run the organization. We have to let management and staff do their jobs in a way that meets those strategic directives.” So how well poised is OPPD to make bigger strides in clean energy? “That’s where we have the greatest need for discussion between board and management,” Yoder said. “They’re much closer to the actual changes and smarter about the time and resources needed to make the change than the board.” Yoder said unless or until the board sets more specific clean energy directives, “we don’t have those policies pushing management right now.” He added, “That’s really where the board



“The real tension for the board and management is where does the money come from, how do we do this, what is the return on investment if we choose to encourage more people to manage their load. Not everybody’s going to want to do that, so how do we find technologies that put in a default option for users.” A more pro-active approach would be a start. “As a utility we have not demonstrated an interest in helping people save their energy costs,” Yoder said. “The Austin, Texas electric utility raised its rate but worked with ratepayers to reduce the amount of energy they use, so monthly bills ended up the same. We could do that here if we chose to compete on efficiency rather than on price. When you compete on efficiency you compete on technologies, knowhow, building practices. You’re no longer just a utility – you partner with the sectors of the economy for community betterment.” Then there are meeting restrictions imposed by state Sunshine laws and differing agendas..

“We work the best we can through the meetings we set up,” Yoder said. “It is a struggle. But there’s a good amount of collegiality. I think we all have the same vision of where we’re going. The struggle we have is some of us are more focused on the outcome and others on the process to get there. Some understand it takes several steps to get to where we want to go and others, like myself, want to see it happen now. “It’s a tough tension.” Moody cites the fluidity of new tech and impinging climate change as making everything move faster. “The utility industry historically has been pretty slow to change,” he said, “because it takes a lot of time, study, energy, resources, money to put in new transmission, distribution, to build new generating plants. That meant it went very slow. It’s not slow any longer.” Something McGuire doesn’t want lost in all this is the “valued” work done by OPPD employees who operate the coal fired units that still energize the district. “They’re the ones that really keep the lights on 24/7 and we have to respect them and their important role in this,” she said “If we didn’t have that we wouldn’t have the reliable resilient energy we have right now.” As the utility prepares for a greener future, McGuire said, “There’s discussion and compromise, but in the end we’re all after the same goal, and we all respect each other. This is not Congress.” Moving forward, Moody said, “it will be a collaborative effort by those some describe as the green majority and the other members of the board and management.”

-----------------Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.com.

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A Strange Letter:

An Excerpt from This Blessed Earth One Farmer’s Experience with Transcanada and the Keystone Pipeline by Ted Genoways | Photos by Mary Anne Andrei their dead here, with this panoramic view of the river valley. “I come up here sometimes to get a little perspective,” Rick said. “It’s easy to get lost in the worries of the day- today. You worry about money, mostly— yields or prices— and you can forget to appreciate what you have.” Rick acquired this land, about fifteen miles northwest of Centennial Hill, when Meghan and her siblings were still little. Right from the beginning, he envisioned this as the view from his dream house— a place of his own, close to Heidi’s inherited acres but with an even deeper history and one undefined by her family. “When we bought this land, it was a sealed bid,” Rick said. “When we found out we’d won, Heidi was jumping up and down. But I bent over like somebody had kicked me in the gut, because I knew that for the next ten years I had to produce every year and as efficiently as possible. It would be a decade before we could even think about re-mortgaging everything to where we could build.” Reprinted with permission. This Blessed Earth now available from W.W. Norton & Company.


ick revved the engine of his fourwheeler, sliding through the prairie grass. In only a few years of letting the land lie fallow— just a spot to graze his small herd of black Angus for a few months out of the year— head- high stands of big bluestem and Indiangrass had sprung up. He chugged to the top of a bluff and cut the engine. It was quiet there; the only sounds: mooing cows on a neighbor property to


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the north and the sighing of wind whipping across the meadow. Rick’s own cattle chomped drowsily, their loose jaws churning and ears twitching as they watched us from afar. Now February, the last drifts of snow hid in the lees of ridges and cedar trees. Calves would be coming soon, and Rick was hoping to fatten the expectant mothers before they gave birth and started nursing. They rested, dark and still, seen only through the shifting veil of ochre grass.

Otherwise the fields appeared continuous and empty. Clouds cast shadows that seemed to move like galleons across the green and yellow



waves. “Prairie ships,” Rick said. Farther in the distance, the wide bend of the Platte River curved from Central City, with its grain elevators and ethanol towers, around to a grove of trees to our east, where a Pawnee camp had been for hundreds of years. My own grandfather talked about his father going to that camp to trade in the 1880s. It was this view that Rick wanted me to see, and he pointed out a cluster of depressions along the edge of the bluff— a group of Pawnee graves, he believed. He could understand why they would have buried

In 2001, when all of the kids were coming into middle and high school and wanting more room for themselves, Rick decided the time had finally come. He hired an architect to help him realize his vision of a giant timber frame home, open from the ground level to the rafters, with huge bay windows and a wraparound porch to give sweeping views of this land overlooking the river. But he said that between the cost of the architect, hiring expert builders, and high- end materials, he couldn’t afford a general contractor, so he oversaw all



the construction himself. One day, as the timber framers from Missouri were nearing the end of their work— the tall beams raised and walls blocked in, the plywood subflooring installed and everything but the stairwell completed— Rick climbed a ladder, stretching from the basement to the ground floor, to check out the progress of the finishes.

work and had to go home to Missouri. But a week later, still in pain, Rick gave in to Heidi’s insistence that he see a doctor in Lincoln, who found that he had undiagnosed fractures in both of his wrists and more broken ribs. Rick gave me a sideways smile. “That house almost killed me,” he said, “physically and financially.”

Rick interrupted his story to walk around to the back of his four- wheeler. He leaned against the seat, looking up at the house on the hill. The field of grass in between switched back and forth in the wind.

Rick was nearly out from under that burden when he received a strange letter in 2010. An oil company was writing to inform him of an upcoming town hall meeting at the church in Hordville. The company, TransCanada, was planning to build a pipeline, stretching from the tar sands mines in northern Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, and they wanted to meet with area landowners. Rick soon learned that the proposed route would cut directly through this piece of land that he had almost died for, trying to turn it into the

“I was all the way at the top of that ladder,” Rick said, pointing toward the peak of the roof in the distance, “and just going down, when one of the guys below called up to ask me a question. I turned and that wiggled the ladder enough that the bottom shot out.” As the feet of the ladder skidded across the concrete floor, the top slid down the supporting beam and pitched Rick off into the air. “I hit my head on the first floor going down,” he said. “That’s the last I remember. They found me in the basement with my head hung through the bottom rung of the ladder. They called Heidi and said, ‘You better get over here. We don’t know if Rick’s going to make it.’ ”




perfect place to retire with Heidi. He went to that meeting feeling defiant. He had two natural gas pipelines under his grazing land in Curtis and knew firsthand what kind of impact digging trenches can have. “The land is never the same after it’s disrupted like that,” he said. “I don’t care what they say. It’s never the same.” But a TransCanada land agent from Tennessee, who was also an ordained Baptist minister, told everyone that the company wanted to do right by the community, that he could see that they were the salt of the Earth and that he would make sure they got a fair deal. Rick was dubious— and the more he researched the pipeline project, the less he liked it. The refining of tar sands crude is among the dirtiest fossil fuel processes in the world, contributing to climate change in ways that, in Rick’s view, were a serious threat to Meghan’s future on the farm. More than that, he couldn’t find proof

that any of the heavy diesel that would come out of the refining would even be legal to burn in the United States, and the refining byproducts, like petroleum coke, were expected to be burned in China, both undercutting American coal and supplanting it with an even more toxic substitute. Most worrisome of all, that very summer a similar tar sands pipeline owned by another Canadian oil company ruptured in Marshall, Michigan, severely contaminating nearly fifty miles of the Kalamazoo River with oil, toxic diluents used to make the heavy crude move through the pipeline, and still more chemicals used to break up and absorb the slick. “They asked, ‘Oh, don’t you want to get your fuel from a friendly neighbor?’ ” Rick said. “But they never talked about all of the refined petroleum products going continued on page 16 y

Meghan told me later that she was with her mom and siblings, moving cows in the neighboring field, when the call came. By the time they arrived, the Hordville ambulance was already on the scene, its single light on top still lazily turning as the medics gave Rick mouthto- mouth. They revived him and took him to the Central City hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion, a dislocated shoulder, and several broken ribs. But they didn’t find any internal injuries, so they told him, “If you can shower, you can go home.” Rick had Heidi help him into the bathroom and under the showerhead, and then she slid his shirt over his shoulders and buttoned his pants. He was determined to keep his promise to hold a cookout for the timber framers before they finished their



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stalled on giving TransCanada a definitive answer.

y continued from page 13 overseas or about how they were major greenhouse gas emitters. I mean, what the fuck? Why would I want a pipeline pushing toxic sludge through my soil, through the Ogallala Aquifer that we depend on for irrigation and drinking water, so some foreign oil company can make a buck? How is that being a friendly neighbor?” But Rick confessed that for all his anger, he was also afraid. Along with the promises of a fair price and a fair deal were oblique threats of land seizures if farmers and ranchers dared to resist. He


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“I was polite, but I was dragging my feet,” Rick said. “After it became obvious that I was not going to sign, they threatened me twice with eminent domain, on the phone and once in writing.” After he received that letter in July 2010, Rick gave in and signed the easement. He regretted the decision even before he put the documents in the mail, but he felt he had no choice. TransCanada was a $50 billion multinational, and he was a self- described “little guy,” one man against a fleet of lawyers with nothing






more on his side than a gut feeling that what they were doing shouldn’t be legal. What could he do? “They crushed me,” he said with a shrug. Six months later, TransCanada contacted Rick to tell him they’d changed the proposed route, skirting around his property after an early cultural impact study suggested the likely presence of ancient Pawnee artifacts on his land, perhaps even graves, exactly as he had always suspected. Rather than deal with the red tape if one of the company’s backhoes hit human remains, TransCanada had decided to push the

route to the east. At first, Rick was relieved. “I said, ‘Okay, if I give you the money back, will you give me my signature back?’ They said, ‘No.’ ” Worse still, when TransCanada revealed the new planned route, Rick discovered that it crossed a section of his sister- in- law Terri’s land, just west of Centennial Hill— one of the properties where he raises seed corn for Pioneer, the cornerstone on which much of his operation now rests. Though the pipeline was no longer passing by the doorstep of his dream home, the new route threatened to be even more perilous to the family business.

C Rick and Meghan convinced all of Heidi’s sisters to join up with two antipipeline organizations, the Nebraska Easement Action Team (N.E.A.T.) and Bold Nebraska, and they even started their own local group in York County called the Good Life Alliance. “They may have crushed me as an individual,” Rick said. “But there is strength in numbers and all of us standing up for the right thing.” They started going to meetings and speaking out, writing editorials and placing full- page anti-pipeline ads in the York newspaper. Rick told me that, if there was any silver lining in living with threats from TransCanada, it had been watching Meghan blossom into one of the most vocal and articulate young leaders of the pipeline resistance. Meghan and her siblings had been outspoken liberals since they were in high school. “During the Kerry- Bush election we had a vote in our political science class,” Meghan said later, “and my twin sister and I were the only two that voted for Kerry. Our teacher, said, ‘Oh, you Hammond girls, you just want to be different.’ ” But now, with their land under threat, some of those same neighbors were pleased to see Meghan speak up at zoning meetings of the county commissioners and committee meetings at the Nebraska legislature. She combed over the government reports and prepared careful statements. When the U.S. State Department’s own study estimated that the project would create only thirty- five permanent jobs along more than a thousand miles of pipeline in the United States, Meghan was quick to seize on the point. In May 2013, she rose at a massive public hearing at the fairgrounds in Grand Island, Nebraska, held by State Department officials as part of the agency’s approval review process. Still wrapped in a scarf from the freak spring snow swirling outside, she leaned confidently into the mic. “How can you risk our land and water for thirty- five permanent jobs?” she challenged. “If you want thousands of jobs, you will find it in sustainable energy.”


It was that statement that gave Jane Kleeb at Bold Nebraska the idea of building a barn, powered by solar panels and a small wind turbine, on Terri’s property. “It was kind of a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ kind of proposition,” Meghan said. “We kept talking about wind and solar, but now we had to show that we believed in it enough to actually build it.” Within a few months, Kyle and two of Meghan’s cousins led construction, as dozens of volunteers from around the state helped to raise the structure in just four days. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer flew in from San Francisco for the ribbon cutting and put up money for a viral video about Meghan and the barn. Heidi and her sisters posed together with Steyer, all smiles. But it wasn’t long before the neighbor just to the south wrote to Rick to withdraw from the contract allowing the Hammonds to farm two quarters of his ground. Meghan told me later that she felt transformed by that betrayal. “Losing two quarters of ground, that was huge— huge. And it’s changed how we feel forever,” she told me. “We wouldn’t change what we’ve done with the pipeline, but our neighbors are our neighbors forever, you know? For generations and generations and generations. And now we have neighbors who won’t even wave to us, so how are we supposed to trust them now?” Most of all, she said she was worried about the impact it had had on Rick. He dropped from view for months during that time. Some days he didn’t leave the house, even during harvest. He regretted having signed the agreement with TransCanada, and he regretted that having fought back had brought unintended consequences. “He carries a lot on his shoulders, because he feels responsible for all of us,” Meghan said. At times like that, the weight can seem to grow with each piece of bad news. In November, the Republicans won their largest majorities in the U.S. Senate and House since the backlash against the Democrats after the stock market crash in




1929. New majority leaders vowed that final approval of Keystone XL would be their first item of business. In January, despite President Obama’s veto threat, the House of Representatives approved the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, and the legislation passed the Senate on a 62- to36 vote— still five shy of the 67 needed to override a presidential veto but with intense horse- trading expected in the effort to muster the remaining votes. Even if the Democratic Caucus could sustain the veto, talk was spreading that Obama might approve the pipeline as part of a larger deal toward sustainable energy. Rick worried that the legacy he had spent a lifetime building was about to become a bargaining chip between politicians in Washington and corporate interests with holdings around the world. Was there anything he could have done differently? At times like these, he worries not just about the hardship of the moment but that he may have made a fatal error, the mistake that leads to future struggles for Meghan and Kyle or, in his worst nightmares, to losing everything and having to hold a farm sale. “He wants to make it better than the way him and my mom started out, but we don’t need a bed of roses,” Meghan told me. “They struggled. We will struggle. There’s no way around it, but he always tries to make our lives as good as possible at his own expense. He’s very hard on himself— very.” I couldn’t help but hear Meghan’s words in my head as Rick leaned against his four- wheeler, looking out over everything he had assembled and built and tried to defend. “We’re extremely lucky,” he said. “Almost everything you see is ours— from the lower farm to this bluff to the house up on the hill. And that’s a blessing.” But as soon as the words were out of Rick’s mouth, the old worries seem to creep back in. “When I’m gone,” he added, “I’ll be able to leave each of my four kids at least as much land as Heidi’s dad left us. That’s the hope. That’s what all the work is for.”



Welcome News July 2018

On November 6, 2015, Meghan and Kyle were in Muir Woods in northern California at their wedding rehearsal. They had decided on a destination wedding with just family and a few close friends. In the middle of the rehearsal, Meghan’s phone started to blow up. Texts came through asking if she had heard the news, but she couldn’t get a phone signal to call back. Finally, at the top of the ridge, overlooking the tops of the redwood forest and out onto the Pacific Ocean, she was able to get reception on her phone. President Obama had rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, putting an end, at least for the moment, to six years of fighting and worrying about the fate of the Ogallala Aquifer if there were ever to be a spill. Secretary of State John Kerry had decided that the project was not in the country’s national interest, and Obama had called a press conference at the White House to announce that he supported that opinion. “America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change, and frankly, approving this project would have undercut that leadership,” Obama said. Meghan hooted and screamed and started calling everyone back home in Nebraska, all the people who had been fighting at her side for years. “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it,” she said. “It’s the best wedding present I could ever ask for.” The next day, Meghan and Kyle were married, and when they returned to York County, they moved into the house that Dave and his family had vacated, the home where Meghan had spent her childhood on the northern edge of Centennial Hill Farm. Less than a year later, Meghan found out that she was pregnant. A seventh generation would be born on the family land.


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C Despite all of the happiness, the future remains uncertain. In 2014, Rick had warned that the American farm might be in trouble if we saw two more years of record harvests. That’s exactly what has happened. The harvest of 2016 pushed prices to their lowest levels in decades. Corn, in particular, plummeted to less than half its market value of just five years before. This downward spiral is already having broader effects. Cash-poor farmers aren’t updating equipment or buying new trucks or even going to town to spend money on food and entertainment. The rural economy is stalling. Worse still, farmers who took out loans for land or equipment at the peak of prices are starting to worry about their ability to service their debts with profits projected at the time—and banks are growing nervous, too. Lending institutions are starting to call on big farmers to liquidate landholdings used as collateral, in order to reduce their risk. But this trend is already dragging down property prices, forcing still more liquidation—the exact cycle that led to a rapid devaluation in the 1980s, triggering the Farm Crisis. Today, the potential dangers of a rural bank panic to the broader economy are even greater. Three-quarters of farmers have quit the business in the last thirty years, so now every failure carries four times the weight. To break this downtrend, the American Farm Bureau Federation had been counting on President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, which promised to open new markets for beef, pork, and grains. But the rural areas that were depending on this new deal, as well as standing agreements such as NAFTA, voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump and his protectionist, antiglobalist policies. They cheered Trump’s promise to support the Renewable Fuel Standard, his pledge to eliminate estate taxes on inherited farmland and roll back regulations on farm runoff, and, most of all, they liked his tough talk on trade. Farmers said they were heartened by Trump’s reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator, a businessman renowned for


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his skill at the art of the deal, who could strong-arm trading partners into paying higher prices for American commodity grains. Instead, Trump has threatened to start trade wars with China and Mexico—a move that farm lobbying organizations, market analysts, and trade experts universally agree would be disastrous for farmers. Some pundits have suggested that Trump’s protectionist rhetoric may be just a bargaining strategy, but in the first year and a half of his presidency, he has shown himself to be more interested in being a deal-breaker than a deal-maker. He withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership despite vocal objection from the American Farm Bureau Federation, which estimated that the TPP would have raised net farm income by $4.4 billion per year and added more than 40,000 jobs, mostly in rural areas. Next, Trump threatened to cancel the U.S.Korea Free Trade Agreement, calling it “a horrible deal.” This prompted the American Soybean Association to issue a strongly worded denunciation of Trump’s “misguided” plan, warning that it could have “disastrous consequences for the nation’s soybean farmers.” Trump has since relented, saying the United States could remain in the pact with a total overhaul. At Trump’s behest, U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer assumed a hard line in talks over reconfiguring NAFTA, including demands that the United States get new protections for the auto industry. In the past twenty-five years, NAFTA has earned a reputation as a job-killer for U.S. car manufacturing, and Rust Belt voters rallied around Trump’s isolationist saber-rattling in hopes that redrafting—or simply scrapping—NAFTA would force the manufacturing sector to reinvest in American factories and workers. Instead, Canada and Mexico have seen Trump administration demands as unreasonable. Such uncertainty is depressing demand for U.S. grains, as our NAFTA partners hedge against the agreement’s






collapse by seeking out other sources—a shift that is already proving harmful to farmers. In 2016, Mexico accounted for nearly 12 percent of all American agricultural exports, including roughly a quarter of all corn and soybean exports. In response to Trump’s rhetoric about forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall, the Mexican Senate considered a resolution to ban all imports of U.S. corn. Even after that resolution stalled, Mexico has begun establishing new bilateral trade agreements, especially with South American countries, to be prepared for the possibility of Trump canceling NAFTA. As a result, Mexican orders for corn were down by 6 percent in 2017, and orders of soybeans were down by 15 percent. In the meantime, the White House budget recommended making billions of dollars in cuts to rural development, rural utilities, and rural housing. Trump even proposed capping crop insurance payouts. In short, Trump wants to slam the door on trade while also kicking out the supports for farmers and rural communities. There’s no way around it: the policies he is pushing will devastate the American farm. Rick Hammond was no fan of Trump’s from the beginning, and now a growing number of his neighbors are openly questioning the policies of this administration—and Trump’s personal commitment to farmers. Today, corn prices remain perilously low. At just $3.50 per bushel, it now costs more to grow corn than a farmer can sell it for. Soybeans, which surged in planted acres when corn prices went into free fall, are only marginally better. At less than $9 per bushel, beans are trading at less than two-thirds of the price they commanded just a few years ago. Trump’s threat of a trade war with China has prompted China to threaten canceling its purchases of American soybeans and corn. If such a thing were ever to happen, it would make the Farm Crisis seem like a minor economic ripple.

To get through these lean times, farmers have been taking out more and more loans. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics indicate that while farm income has been cut nearly in half in the past four years, farm debt has increased by more than a quarter— reaching nearly $400 billion, the highest level since the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. In 2017, more than 1,000 farms failed in Nebraska alone. If something doesn’t change, many more farmers will soon face an existential crisis. Meghan and Kyle have taken over their share of the family land at a moment of greater uncertainty than at any other time in decades. Still, they remain determined. In February 2017, they welcomed the seventh generation—a girl, Logan Elena Galloway—to Centennial Hill Farm. Within weeks, President Trump reversed President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL and cleared the way for construction of the pipeline. Barely two months after Logan was born, Meghan wrapped her in a blanket and took her to a hearing of the Public Service Commission in York, Nebraska. Meghan introduced Logan to the commission as a reminder of what remains at stake for farming families in the path of the pipeline. In November 2017, the PSC rejected TransCanada’s preferred route across Nebraska. Instead, they okayed an alternate choice—a path that spares the Hammond family land from the route. More than that, the new route meant sixty-three miles of new easements for TransCanada to secure, and the project, once again, is tied up in court. The fight continues. “I don’t know where we’ll fit into the grand scheme of things,” Meghan told me one day in the shed at the farm. “I just know that we want to do the best that we can for the land, for our family, for the world. Whatever comes, we’ll find a way to get by.”

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U.S. Military Knew Flood Risks at Offutt Air Force Base, But Didn’t Act in Time Extreme Weather Is Raising the Stakes at Military Bases Across the Nation, but Preparations for the Changing Climate Have Often Been Slow by David Hasemyer (Reprinted with permission from Inside Climate News. This story was copublished with NBC News.)

“Our ability to project air power has not diminished,” Nystrom said.

2015 Report Called for Higher Levees


or several years, the U.S. military and federal and local officials knew that Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska lay exposed to the threat of catastrophic flooding. But a key federal agency moved too slowly to approve plans to protect the base from last weekend’s deluge, a top local official said.

It’s too soon for scientists to fully assess the role of climate change in the latest storm and flooding. After the 2011 flood, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study said the storm probably fell within the range of natural variability. But the science of attributing natural events to climate change has advanced since then, and this flood was worse — the most catastrophic in a half century, according to Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The flooding submerged part of the runway and inundated dozens of buildings at one of the nation’s most important air bases. The calamity likely will cost many times more to repair than it would have cost to prevent, said John Winkler, district general manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, the local government agency responsible for managing the section of the river nearest Offutt and Omaha. The damage has crippled capabilities at an Air Force base considered essential to national security. Among its many roles, Offutt is home to the U.S. Strategic Command that oversees the Pentagon’s nuclear strategic deterrence and global strike capabilities. The risks to Offutt, long known, were laid bare in 2011 when floodwaters crept to within 50 feet of the runway. But even as military officials in Washington and across the country increasingly realized that their defense infrastructure was vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the response to protect Offutt was agonizingly slow, Winkler said. Crucially, construction never began to reinforce an earthwork levee system to protect the vital base from the Missouri River the next time it raged over its banks. Winkler said approval for the levee construction was


APRIL 2019

2019 Offutt Flooding — PHOTO Credit: Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake, U.S. Air Force complicated by myriad requirements from the Army Corps of Engineers that took six years to navigate. Approval from the Corps finally came last year. The district approved construction bids earlier this year for work that will begin as soon as the floodwaters recede and the ground dries, probably in May or June. Mike Glasch, deputy director of public affairs for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Omaha District, said the Corps could not talk about the permitting process because of litigation involving the levee project. Without the higher levees, Offutt lay vulnerable to the flooding that began late last week after an unusually intense cyclonic blizzard lashed the nation’s midsection. Heavy rain hit thick snowpack upstream from Offutt, which lies near the confluence of the Platte



and Missouri rivers, sending a wave of water over the existing levees. The flooding submerged as much as a third of the base, closing the runway and halting flight operations. “It’s going to be a long recovery,” the base commander, Col. Michael Manion, said last week on video with floodwater surrounding the buildings behind him. It will be months before the base recovers and returns to normal operations, said Drew Nystrom, a base public affairs spokesman. Of the base’s 10,000 personnel, the workspaces of about 3,000 are inaccessible. And while water no longer covers the runway, its return to operation is pending inspections, he said. Key components of the fighter operations have been dispersed to other bases, where they remain ready to deploy if necessary.

“The devastating flooding at Offutt Air Force Base demonstrates once again how critical it is to understand the climate vulnerabilities of our installations,” said John Conger, former assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment under President Barack Obama and now director of the Center for Climate and Security, which studies the risks posed by climate change. “This disaster illustrates the fact that each base has its own localized risks and that one size does not fit all,” he said. “Our bases need to be building up resilience and readiness in the face of these risks.” At Offutt, the risks exposed by the 2011 flood were formally recognized in 2015. A land-use management plan — carried out by officials representing the base, the city of Omaha, the natural resources district and various cities and counties protected by the levee — warned that the levee needed to be built up and cautioned that climate change might make matters worse. Under the heading “Climate Adaptation,” the report cited the 147 acres of wetlands on

9784-2017 UpstreamAd-Bluebarn-4.75x7.5_FNL.pdf



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APRIL 2019







“For the Department of Defense, the takeaway from this event has to be what lessons have been learned,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Frank Galgano, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at Villanova University. “You can’t say it was an act of God and hope it doesn’t happen again. You have to look at the frequency of these events and plan for the future.” The flooding should be a “window into the future,” when the potential loss of strategic bases like Offutt and the Norfork Naval Station in Virginia to flooding would have consequences for the nation’s military preparedness, he said.

missouri & platte rivers are prone to flooding DURING HEAVY RAIN and require raised levees

“If this pattern persists, it may signal a larger problem,” Galgano said. As the floodwaters pushed onto Offutt over the weekend, Air Force personnel worked around the clock to shore up facilities, including the base headquarters building and its maintenance facility. They put in place 235,000 sandbags and 460 flood barriers, but ultimately had to surrender. “It was a lost cause,” a base spokeswoman, Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake, told the Omaha World-Herald. “We gave up.” Outside the gates of Offutt, flooding prompted evacuations in at least 23 of the state’s counties, according to Nebraska Emergency Management Agency officials. Across 14 states bordering the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, more than 10 million people were under flood warnings at one point.

the base and the Platte and Missouri rivers just outside the fence, and said: “During heavy rainfall, this area is prone to flooding, and flooding onto Offutt AFB may cause delays to missions and operations.” It went on: “Due to changes in the base flood elevation of the Missouri River, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has identified the need to raise the levee between two inches to several feet for it to be capable of protecting the installation.” FEMA had ordered 19 miles of levees along the Missouri to be raised by 2 feet to protect Offutt and portions of Omaha, including one of the city’s wastewater treatment facilities. Officials responsible for flood preparedness at and around Offutt moved to address the risks, taking preliminary steps such as environmental assessments for raising the levee, but the process moved slowly.


APRIL 2019

“We didn’t have our head in the sand,” said Winkler, the manager of the local natural resources district. “There is no arguing with the science. We could see the dramatic changes in the weather we were experiencing,” he said. “We knew we had to react, and we are in the process of preparing for the new future.” But the levee improvements didn’t come in time for this month’s flood.

‘A Window into the Future’ Military experts say climate-related disasters — such as the flooding of the Missouri River, wildfires that have interrupted military training across the country and punishing heat that is sickening thousands of military personnel a year — must be considered as part of training and missions.



New Military Building Standards for Floodplains This is the second time in six months that an Air Force base has sustained ruinous damage from a natural disaster. Hurricane Michael ripped apart Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in October, causing so much damage that its long-term recovery is in question. The disaster at Offutt amplifies national concerns that flooding poses significant threats to military installations. Last year, federal legislation requiring flood mitigation on military bases was signed into law. The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Donald Trump, directed the Department of Defense to assess which facilities are in flood-prone areas and require those facilities to create plans to mitigate the risk.

At a minimum, new buildings that are not mission-critical must be built 2 feet above the 100-year floodplain and new mission-critical facilities must be 3 feet above it. Even before that directive, officials at Offutt were looking to the future. A $1.3 billion STRATCOM headquarters that opened on the base this year was built on higher land and wasn’t directly affected by the flooding. The building’s design, including being surrounded by a barrier to reduce flood risk, also recognized the urgency to prepare for climate-related natural disasters.

Planning for a Changing Future In 2018, the Defense Department released a survey that highlighted the security risks climate change posed to more than 3,500 military installations. Non-storm surge flooding ranked third on the list of mostreported severe climate-related events. A Pentagon report released to Congress this year warned that climate change threatened key bases. “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations,” the report said. However, in a table in the report listing the risks faced by each of dozens of bases, Offutt did not report intermittent flooding as a risk. Critics in Congress said the report was inadequate. Meanwhile, in its formal national security outlook released in December 2017, the Trump administration did not mention the risks of climate change. At Offutt, the focus now is on assessing the flood’s damage and ensuring the base is more prepared for the next big storm. Winkler said there is no question the $22.7 million fortification of the levees would have saved Offutt from much of the damage that likely will cost far more. “Should we have built it faster? Yes,” Winkler said. “But that’s easy to say now.”

Read more on the military and climate change in the ICN series Dangers Without Borders: Military Readiness in a Warming World. Subscribe to the ICN newsletter for free to keep up to date on the latest climate news: https://insideclimatenews. org/newsletter/icn-weekly


A Carbon Neutral Company

A good first step, but way more needs to be done If it’s an exciting time to be in local media, it’s also one facing down the gravest threat to life on this planet as we know it. Manmade global warming is real, driven by our reliance on carbon-fuel sources and the destruction of natural habitats. Starting this year, we are a carbon-neutral company. This is possible thanks to the work of Craig Moody at the local sustainable consultancy Verdis Group and Jeremy Manion at the Arbor Day Foundation. Manion leads verified forestry carbon partnerships through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Voluntary Carbon Market Program. When The Reader went to a monthly frequency in 2015, we commissioned Verdis Group to audit our greenhouse gas emissions. The group looked at our operations, from the office, to our printing, to delivering tens of thousands of papers across the city. At that time, it was determined that by going to a monthly frequency we would use 135 tons of carbon per year -- effectively cutting our carbon footprint by 42 percent. While audits like these should be updated every year or so, it’s most likely that amount has decreased as utilities increasingly add renewable energy to their base offerings and fuel efficiency improves. Based on Verdis Group’s audit, with an update coming soon, our company will be paying the Arbor Day Foundation to help fund reforestation in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, one of the most important carbon sinks in North America. We’ll be working with Verdis Group and the Arbor Day Foundation this year to promote carbon neutral to newspapers across the country and to local businesses here. -- John Heaston




nation m ojai m edem soul music m michael Murphy G A RSOUL O CK S MUSIC T H E PARK – NATION • OJAI –• YO EDEM • MICHAEL MURPHY

— yoga rocks the park — AND MORE! YO G Teacher A R O CK Sand T HMusic E PARby K DJ – Crabrangucci Lora McCarville -–Yoga





mechanical | electrical | lighting | technology | commissioning

• Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture • Missouri Valley Group - Sierra Club • Felsburg Holt & Ullevig

• J-Tech Solar • MINI of Omaha

k n a h T You!



Recover the Value of Hard-to-Recycle Plastics You can now help keep hard-to-recycle plastics out of the landfill. The Hefty® EnergyBag® Program is a groundbreaking initiative that helps Omaha-area residents collect bags full of these plastics – like straws, snack wrappers and foam to-go containers – alongside existing recycling services, for conversion into valuable energy resources. Proud to be a Forest Green Sponsor of TM

•••• Exhibitor List •••• 3RD-i Water


Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Omaha Metro Area Humanist Association

African Culture Connection

Douglas County Environmental Services

Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition (MOTAC)

Omaha Organics

American Ethanol

Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart

Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) Omaha Public Library

ApahawkaBee FolkArt Camp

Dundee Bank

Metropolitan Community College

Omaha Public Market

Audubon Nebraska


Milkweed Matters

Omaha Public Power District

Audubon Society of Omaha

Felius Cat Café

Mode Shift, Inc.

Omaha TM Center

Benson Plant Rescue

Friends of Extension & 4-H Foundation in Douglas/Sarpy County

Montessori Co-op School

Papio-Missouri RIver Natural Resources District

Benson Soap Mill

GC Resolve

NE SciFest

Papillion La Vista Community Schools Zoo Academy

Best Buy Signs

Green Bellevue

Nebraska Environmental Trust

Planned Parenthood

Big Muddy Urban Farm

Green Omaha Coalition

Nebraska Forest Service


Blossom & Wood

Happy Faces Face Painting

Nebraska Lottery

Renewal by Andersen

Bob Fusselman Nebraska Realty

Heartland B-cycle

Nebraska Master Naturalist Program

Sahaja Yoga Meditation

Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Omaha Chapter

Hefty Energy Bag

Nebraska Sierra Club

Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue

City of Omaha Recycling Program

Hemp History Week

Nebraska Solar Schools

Students for Sustainability

City of Omaha Stormwater Program

Hillside Solutions

Nebraska Wildlife Rehab

Sumaiya Henna Body Art

City Sprouts

Indivisible Nebraska

Nebraskans for Peace


CM’s A Cut Above

J-Tech Solar

Nebraskans for Solar

The Foster Kitten Project

College of Saint Mary – Green Team

Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities

New Hearts Transplant Support Group

The North Face

Community Bike Project Omaha

Junior Girl Scout Troop 44290


The Roberts Academy

Conservation Nebraska

Keep Omaha Beautiful

Omaha Astronomical Society

Urban Acres Horse Rescue

Countryside Community Church – Faith & the Environment

Larsen Supply Co.

Omaha Bike Walk

US Army Corps of Engineers

Cross Electronic Recycling

LeafFilter North, LLC

Omaha Biofuels Coop

Waste Busters

Davis Chiropractic

League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance

FOOD VENDORS 402 BBQ Awesome Egg Rolls/ Masarap Philippine Cuisine Big Green Q Lauren Beth’s Popcorn Lindsey Enterprises Prairie Fire Pizza Renear Inc. Well Seasoned


Larsen Supply Company is the leader in the Council Bluffs, Omaha and Lincoln metro areas supplying the highest quality janitorial, restroom and restaurant goods. Larsen Supply is a family owned and operated business based in Council Bluffs, Iowa for over 40 years. We are a full-service distributor of the best known and best quality brands in the industry. We are excited to partner with our customers in supporting and expanding their green and sustainability programs. We have a large variety of compostable and Earth friendly product lines to meet the increasing interest and demand. With such a diverse inventory, Larsen Supply is sure to have the products you and your business needs to start a zero-waste program or assist with your existing programs. Stop by our booth and ask us about our Sustainability Product Audits.

Main Stage Mesonjixx:

Mesonjixx is the nom de plume of songstress Mary Elizabeth Jo Dixon Pelenaise Kapiolani Lawson of Lincoln, NE. Her music is grounded in the soulful traditions of R&B and jazz, but her style, much like her name, is an exciting fusion of its own. She writes songs to find deeper truths in her own life, and hopes to inspire others to do the same. All the while, faithfully finding love even in moments of struggle and chaos. Her performances are sure to liberate your spine and mind.


Ojai is an Omaha based indie rock band founded by singer songwriter Michael Hulstein. After his debut album “Welcome Home” Hulstein abandoned the solo act in order to satisfy the full band sound of his second album “On The Mend”. The band has shared the stage with acts such as Tennis, Mild High Club, Michael Rault, and Cactus Blossoms.


With a definite root in strong midwest folk, Nation has a sound that crosses seamlessly through rock rhythms, blues energy, and a pop sensibility with hooks you will not forget. Currently in studio recording, Nation has been looking forward to inviting others to be a part of the music. Nation takes an honest look at what has shaped songwriter Topher Booth and how he views the world around him, diving further in to how those emotions envelop the sound. The music does not shy from personal experience and telling those stories with energy and emotions obvious in both the live performance and the sound scape of the upcoming recordings.

Edem Soul Music:

11:00 AM – Yoga Rocks the Park

Edem Soul Music originally Edem K. Garro was both born and raised on the east coast and raised in the midwest. Edem sings in her native tongue, called ‘Ga’ originating from the Ga Tribe of Ghana, West Africa. After completing her 2017 UCA residency and Winning the Omaha Entertainment Arts Award for Best Soul, Edem Soul Music continues to shape her sound with the very instruments she was raised by. Edem Soul Music’s sound ranges from Classical to hip-hop. Soul to Folk. Singer-Songwriter to Electronic while Utilizing stringed instruments like the Ukulele and the Harp, percussive instruments like the Djembe and many more. You can find more on Edem Soul Music at edemsoulmusic.comor on all social media platforms.

1:30 PM – Friend of the Environment Awards

Michael Murphy:

Michael Murphy is no stranger to the Earth Day Omaha stage. He’s performed at many of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, Keystone Pipeline Protests with BOLD Nebraska, and 350.org, including the final concert on the DC Mall in front of 5000 pipeline protesters. He was the opening act at the Harvest the Hope concert, with Neil Young, and Willie Nelson, 2014 in Neligh, NE. Murphy says he remembers drinking out of streams, before bottled water was ever dreamed of, I can remember fresh air, I can remember when organic farming was simply just called farming.

12:15 PM Michael Murphy, Folk / Native American Flute 1:05 PM – Eric Williams, OPPD 1:55 PM

Edem Soul Music, World Soul

3:00 PM

OJAI, Indie Rock

4:05 PM

Nation, Gypsy Folk Jazz

5:20 PM

Mesonjixx, R&B / Soul

DJ Crabrangucci (Chalis Bristol) is a dancer and music lover that expresses her love of both with the art of DJing. Playing everything from Korean pop to house music to indie rock, she plays an eclectic blend of music and has been featured at places like the Slowdown, Reverb, the Waiting Room, Meatball, and many more. Demonstration Tent Sponsored by Green Omaha Coalition.

Where can park?

What if it rains?

Is Earth Day family-friendly?

Bike to the event and park for free in our centrally located, valet bike parking corral!

Earth Day Omaha will go on rain or shine!

Take the bus on Route 2 to 62nd & Dodge or Route 11 to 59th & Leavenworth. See the map and schedule.

In the chance of lightning, please seek a safe shelter such as Elmwood Park’s pavilion, the UNO parking garage, or your vehicle. When lightning is present, do not touch any metal, including the framework of a car. If you are unable to reach a sheltered area, other suggested locations are a dry ditch or a thick grove of small trees surrounded by smaller trees. Unsafe areas are places with tall trees, light poles, open fields, any point higher than the areas surrounding it, and puddles of water. If a tornado warning is issued the event will be canceled.

All ages are welcome! There will be tree climbing, face painting, a children’s tent, and interactive activities for all members of the family to enjoy.

There is NO PARKING along Elmwood Park Road by the golf course or on University Drive South, and parked vehicles will be subject to towing. These roads must remain open for emergency vehicles. VIP and Sponsor parking lots are reserved for our speakers, demonstrators, performers, food vendors and sponsors ONLY! Handicap parking available at secured lots by the pavilion and pool.

Teacher, Lora McCarville:

Yoga Rocks the Park – Music:

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are bringing your car, consider carpooling with your friends and neighbors. There is free parking conveniently located in UNO’s East Parking Garage. Download the parking map.

— Yoga Rocks the Park —

What about event security? There will be police presence at the event to help ensure a safe and secure environment.

Pet friendly? Well-behaved, non-aggressive dogs on a leash are welcome! Be aware that this is a crowded, stimulating and noisy event that may be too stressful for some pets. Your dog will need to act appropriately around other animals (chickens and rabbits), small children, and other dogs. Please remember to keep the park clean and pick up any messes.

Lora McCarville Yoga Teacher 13 years Rapid Resolution Therapist

Somatic Movement & Trauma Recovery Teach

water bottle, a blanket, and cash for food trucks. There will be an ATM on site. You are welcome to bring your own food and nonalcoholic beverages to this event.

Will there be food and drink for purchase? Yes. There will be a wide variety of local food vendors as well as a beer garden. Enjoy gyros, falafel sandwiches, hummus platters, vegetable samosas, veggie rolls, veggie burgers, wood-fired pizza, kettle corn, organic tea, coffee, ice cream, bbq sandwiches, sides & more!


What can I bring? Please come prepared for the weather (whether that means packing sunblock or a raincoat) and wear comfortable shoes. We also recommend bringing your own water/




Demonstrations Sponsored by Green Omaha Coalition. Experience hands on demonstrations led by local experts. Check back for schedule updates! 11:00 AM: Tree Planting 1:00 PM: Urban Chickens

US Army Corps of Engineers

2:00 PM: Permaculture 3:00 PM: Urban Beekeeping Urban Turkeys & Micro Chickens

Get a more info on scheduled events with this QR code

Friend of the Environment Award The Earth Day Omaha committee works with the Friend of the Environment sponsors to recognize each years’ nominees. 2 018

Youth: Kat Woerner Individual: Kaylee A. Carlberg Nonprofit: Mode Shift Omaha Business: Morrissey Engineering

Organization: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Organization: Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance

2 015

Individual: Angela Eikenberry

2 012

Individual: Dr. Ganesh Naik

Lifetime: Art Tanderup

Organization: Benson Plant Rescue / Comm. Produce Rescue

2 017

2 014

Youth: Stephanie Lund

Individual: Don Wells, Jr.

Individual: Kyle Johnson Nonprofit: City Sprouts Business: HDR, Inc.

Organization: Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, Inc.

Lifetime: Don Preister

2 013

2 016

Individual: Chelsea Taxman

Individual: Eric Williams

Interactive fun for children all day long! Friends of Extension & 4-H Foundation in Douglas/Sarpy

12:00 PM: Rain Barrels

3:30 PM:

Children’s Tent

Organization: Whispering Roots 2 011

Individual: Jen Valandra Organization: Keep Omaha Beautiful 2 010

Individual: Angela Brockman Organization: Lothrop Science, Spanish & Technology Center Magnet Students





Frozen Farm to Fork Area Chefs Stay Locally Sourced During Cold Weather by Sara Locke


his winter was especially brutal for Nebraskans, but how does that disrupt our bustling and creative culinary scene? How does food go from the frozen farm to our tables? Prestigious Omaha food providers known for their commitment to sourcing locally offered some answers. With our already-short growing season, Nebraska chefs are accustomed to getting innovative in their farm-to-table efforts. Rather than letting the cold get her down, MJER Help chef Shelley Elson-Roza chooses to get inspired by what’s available. She sources flour, beans, and lentils locally through Lincoln’s Lone Tree Foods and FarmTable Delivery, based in Harlan, Iowa. She also focuses on using 100 percent of the vegetable; for example, local carrots were available most of the winter, so carrot-top pesto became a customer favorite. She also combines local with produce from other areas when possible, like local hydroponic Bibb lettuce paired with greens from warmer growing regions. This chef and caterer has been enjoying the sweet potatoes and squash that are available locally and using them to embrace the season with warm stews and soups.

DIY Farming and Creative Problem Solving from kanoChef Kane Adkisson of the renowned kano-  pop-up series has a few tried-and-true methods to keep it fresh in the winter. He grows his own micro greens and edible flowers to use as garnishes. Plus, Plum Creek Farms in Burchard, Nebraska, can provide chickens year-round. Local pork from TD Niche (Elk Creek, Nebraska) and Jon’s Natu-

rals Co-Op (McClelland, Iowa) as well as lamb from Liberty Farms (Glenwood, Iowa) round out great winter options. And Nebraska’s love affair with beef necessitates sourcing from Morgan Ranch

(Burwell, Nebraska) or Imperial Farms (Omaha-based, cattle in Nebraska and Iowa). Adkisson also gets busy preparing for winter by focusing on preservation methods in the abundant summer and fall seasons. Approaches like fermentation, pickling, salting, and dehydrating then rehydrating are part of his culinary arsenal. Adkisson likes the challenge, and says it makes him get more creative due to the constraints of a Nebraska growing season. He also thinks it makes the Omaha culinary scene unique. Owner Robbie Malm of NoDo’s Hook & Lime Mexicaninspired eatery survives the cold with farmfresh eggs from Iowa’s Farmer’s Hen House. South Omaha’s family owned tortilleria and grocery store Jacobo’s provides the chips for the restaurant, while Upstream Farms of Albion, Nebraska, brings the beef. The bread for Hook & Lime’s tortas (sandwiches) is also locally made at Omaha’s La Esmerelda. Jon’s Naturals Co-


Op is another favorite of Malm’s all year long, but he specifically mentioned the beef shank from South Dakota farmers as a winter knock out.

Kulik Embraces Cooler Breeds Le Bouillon and Via Farina’s chef and proprietor, Paul Kulik, mentioned some great year-round options for Nebraska eateries. He shared that mushrooms are on the rise in this area with about a half dozen cultivators providing them almost all year. Kulik is another fan of chicken from Plum Creek Farms and farm-fresh eggs during the winter; his are sourced from a variety of places because egg production declines in the colder months. Truebridge Farms pork provides more all-season favorites. Certified angus beef is sourced from all-natural Western Iowa producers while Lincoln’s Shadowbrook Farms supplies cheese. Looking ahead, Kulik discussed some of his goals, like focusing on Northern European veggies that can grow, albeit slowly, in a winter climate. Things like chicory, endive, and white asparagus spring to mind. He also targeted sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes; this indigenous root needs a cold climate for optimum nutty and sweet flavor. Kulik said that often per-pound local produce is more expensive than the protein on the plate. This demands that chefs get super resourceful and creative with a focus on 100 percent usability of


APRIL 2019



Tickets available at gunsnhosesomaha.com and area HyVee stores!



the vegetable. The chef also brought up a must-mention point: that with the increasing number of restaurants with house preservation techniques, the Douglas County Health Department has a tough time ensuring that every establishment follows proper safety methods. As consumers, that is always something to keep in mind.

Maides sources lots of protein from the region as well, with duck from ABC Farms in Caledonia, Minnesota, Piedmontese beef from Jon’s Naturals, chickens from Plum Creek, pork from Truebridge Farms, lamb from Dakota Harvest, and his favorite, trout from Blue Valley Aquaculture in Sutton, Nebraska. The Blue Valley team has started a pheasant farm, so it provides that bird for Au Courant, too. Maides said his relationships with these producers inspire him to dig deep and get creative so he can use what they have available. He also preserves when it makes sense and quality can be preserved; an example of this would be when he dehydrated mushroom stems, then added them to pasta dough or pickled daikon radishes and rare golden raspberries for later use.

APRIL 2019




Frozen Farm to Fork (con’t)

Chef Ben Maides of Au Courant fame changes his menu every week at his Thursday night planning meeting. All year long, he lets his local producers inspire his seasonal dishes. Maides also adds another element to his sourcing, not only focusing on good quality but also on good causes. He loves to work with Scott Yahnke from the Omaha Home for Boys farm in North O and pivots his dishes based on what is available from that nonprofit. Recently, divine baby leeks from their hot houses have been featured. Another purveyor with a greater purpose is Emerald Acres in Lincoln. This farm trains adults with disabilities to work the land and in the greenhouse for a fair wage. Maides has been working with EA’s Sandy Roush for some time, and her hydroponic lettuce was indispensable this winter. Additionally, Emerald Acres provides farm fresh eggs for Au Courant all year.



We also connected with the director of operations for Meadowlark Management, Matt Carper. Meadowlark is responsible for the Blackstone’s Stirnella and Butterfish restaurants. He’s enjoyed potatoes and squash almost this whole year via Iowa’s FarmTable Delivery. Flavor Country Farms in Honey Creek supplies mushrooms, microgreens, and herbs using its greenhouse all year. Eggs are sourced from Little Addie’s Eggs and Cottonwood Hill Farms, while Bee Grateful Gardens brings the honey. This longer winter has made his chef and partner, Matt Moser, antsy to start planning his spring menu, but he looks forward to what local producers will have available in the coming weeks. Midwestern grit seems to triumph over a short growing season and the latest remarkably harsh winter. Chefs have different approaches for winter farmto-table, but it pays to get creative and be prepared. We are blessed to have some stellar options for dining in Omaha, as well as valuable farming partners throughout the area. Our advice: Support local restaurants that source from quality local producers.

Through April 30

Dr. Wigton

Paintings and Photographs Connect Gallery 3901 Leavenworth Street connectgallery.net This April, Connect Gallery will feature Dr. Robert Wigton’s paintings and photographs. For much of his professional life, Wigton found additional creative outlets in painting, photogra-

phy and drawing. He devoted himself fully to his artistic endeavors after he partially retired from practicing medicine. Wigton first exhibited his impressionistic work in a three-person exhibit at Lauritzen Gardens. His work was also chosen for Bone Creek Museum’s Nebraska 150 in 2017. This is his third exhibit as featured artist at Connect. Much of his work is inspired by his interest in nature and the sciences. The work will be on display through April 30. Opening reception is April 12t 5 p.m.-9 p.m. It is free and open to the public. For more information, go to connectgallery.net or call (402) 9918234. -- Kent Behrens

Through April 14

Inspired by the true events surrounding the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s “God of Veng eance” — a play seen by some as a seminal work of Jewish culture, and by others as an act of traitorous libel. “Indecent” charts the history of an incendiary drama and the path of the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it. A glorious celebration of the power of theater to harness the very best of the human spirit. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m. Admission $35. Call the Bluebarn box office at 402345-1576 between 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday or order tickets here. -- Beaufield Berry

April 4 – April 20 Apollon Presents

Rumors in the Kitchen 1801 Vinton St. apollonomaha.com

Bluebarn Theatre presents

Indecent bluebarn.org


It is 1908 and you are guests in the kitchen of the Van Bloom family manor. The Van Blooms are old money, deriving from Western Europe in the last generation. The kitchen may seem quiet at times, but it’s always filled with whispers and chatter. From singing to the bread to make it rise, to the telling of secrets of the happenings in the floors above them, the butlers and maids always have gossip to keep their lives interesting. This time is different than the rest: Why is the lady of the house moving out? Speculation and guesses have staff members in a state of question as they try to figure out the mystery from the floors above. Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Art exhibit also available with artwork presented from local artists. Admission includes dinner. A cash bar is available during performances. Tickets $30 (includes dinner). For more information and reservations, email info@apollonomaha.com or purchase tickets at www.apollonomaha.com/tickets/ -- Beaufield Berry


APRIL 2019


April 4-May 26


Garden of the Zodiac Gallery Old Market Passageway 1042 Howard Street

April 4-June 15

Heavy Air Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts 724 S. 12th Street bemiscenter.org

New works by artist Alison O’Daniel go on display at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts starting April 4. The exhibit, Heavy Air, is a continuation of O’Daniel’s explorations into the world of sound and silence; what it is like to be hearing-impaired. Her work often combines arranged music, spoken word, manipulated ambient sounds, sculpture, fabrics, and film, to translate to a hearing audience what it means to not have full access to sound. Much of her work is collaborative, calling on hearing and hearing-impaired musicians, artists, and friends. It strives to bring these challenges together into a visual, aural, and tactile interactive experience. The exhibit also features selections from her ongoing film project, The Tuba Thieves, a collaborative effort that weaves together several true but diverse “stories” with the common thread of abundance or absence of sound.


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As she says of her work in a 2018 interview in BOMB magazine: “I’m specifically inspired by the experience of being hard of hearing and how much of my life has felt just outside comprehension. I wanted to figure out a way to acknowledge and honor that reality and introduce the experience to a hearing audience.” Alison O’Daniel: Heavy Air shares the stage with Lui Shtini:Tempos, as part of dual solo exhibits, with a free public opening April 4 from 6-8 p.m., at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 724 S. 12th Street. An artist talk is scheduled at 6:30 p.m., featuring both artists and Bemis’ chief curator and director of programs, Rachel Adams. The exhibits run through June 15. Further information can be found at bemiscenter.org. -- Kent Behrens



Paul Pretzer’s exhibit Glow, a body of work from 2015-2017, will open at The Garden of the Zodiac on April 4. The show will be comprised of paintings, lithographies and etchings, with their subjects being characters, in many cases animals. His work evokes dark humor, and the images of characters are rendered with a surreal tension. He employs a colorful palette despite the dark-edged imagery. Pretzer doesn’t like to speak too much about the meaning of his work, offering: “I create an interpretation space where the viewer (depending on their own story and knowledge) get involved in a creative process of perception.”

Viewers of Pretzer’s work might see a comparison to Omaha artist James Freeman’s work in terms of its use of surreal, even childish imagery, though both artists skillfully render their images uniquely. Paul Pretzer: Glow opens April 4 and continues through May 26 at The Garden of the Zodiac, 1042 Howard Street, inside the Old Market Passageway. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday noon-8 p.m. and Sunday noon-6 p.m. For additional information, email gardenofthezodiac@gmail.com or call (402) 341-1877. -- Jeff King

April 4-June 15

Lui Shtini:


Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts 724 S 12th Street www.bemiscenter.org

Lui Shtini is an abstract artist of a classic definition, whose work is being featured in his first solo institutional exhibition in the U.S., opening at the Bemis Center on April 4. His paintings and drawings are excursions into curvaceous creations of organic forms that call to mind body-related imagery, both on a micro and macro level. The Albanian-born, Brooklyn-based artist creates works in series, and the continuous play and recoupling of related forms makes for a suggested narrative of interrelationships. At the same time, Shtini’s compositions are

exercises in pure formal investigation and his highly worked surfaces exhibit the pleasures of manipulating texture, color and form into artworks of unexpected physicality.

Lui Shtini: Tempos opens April 4 with a reception and art talk from 6-8 p.m. The show runs through June 15 at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts at 724 S. 12th Street in the Old Market. Open hours are WednesdaySaturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Admission is free. For more information, call (402) 3417130 or visit www.bemiscenter.org. -- Janet L. Farber

April 4, 6 & 7 Teens ‘N’ Theater Presents

Broken Mirror #19 Rose Theater’s Hitchcock Theater

“Broken Mirror” is a leadership and theater experience for femaleidentified and gender-expansive youth who wish to examine the role gender plays in our society. The troupe uses poetry, improvisation, comedy, music

and more to create dynamic theater reflecting the questions, concerns and triumphs of being a teen in today’s world. Teens ‘N’ Theater is open to middle and high school students who have not yet graduated. There is no cost. For more information about Teens ‘N’ Theater, visit www.rosetheater.org/education/teens. Thursday, April 4, at 7 p.m. (free teen night). Saturday, April 6, at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at 5:30 p.m. Presented in The Rose Theater’s Hitchcock Theater. Appropriate ages 13-plus. Tickets are $6 and available through The Rose Box Office at (402) 345-4849 or at the door on the day of show. -- Beaufield Berry

April 5-May 25

Black & White in Black & White: Images

of Dignity, Hope and Diversity in America Nebraska History Museum 101 Centennial Mall N, Lincoln history.nebraska.gov/museum Historical, cultural and social themes abound in this new exhibition highlighting the community photography of John Johnson. A former studentathlete at the University of Nebraska, Johnson made his living as a janitor, drayman and photographer. His eye for framing subjects and his prolific output saw him document the African-American community of Lincoln from 1910 to 1925. Traveling to assignments by horse and buggy and using a box camera to execute his portraits, Johnson captured black residents from many walks of life. His photos represent a treasure trove of that city’s early black community that would otherwise be

unknown. The Johnson collection was largely lost to history until being rediscovered. The images have since been recognized as valuable educational and historical references. The photos inspired a documentary (Shadows on Glass) and a book (Images of America: Lincoln in Black and White) about Johnson’s legacy work. Select Johnson photos have shown at the Smithsonian. This new exhibit runs through May 25. To schedule tours, call (402) 471-4754. -- Leo Adam Biga

April 5-May 31

Divinity and Slaughter Petshop Gallery 2725 N 62nd Street bensonfirstfriday.com, daniellespires.com or sordidlove.com.

Danielle Spires and Anthony Licari are photographers whose work takes on second personalities via their manipulation of the medium. They’ll exhibit together for Divinity and Slaughter at Petshop Gallery, opening April 5. Spires uses a lenticular method that allows the ability to change or move as the image is viewed from different angles. Drawing from her experiences with a debilitating illness that led to frequent surgeries, Spires features scenes of women finding solace in their bedrooms, contrasted with a still life of discarded slaughterhouse meat. For this series, “Slaughterhaus,” she examines the uneasiness of balancing suffering with a loss of independence. Licari’s work stems from a place of impairment as well. Using encaustic, oil pigments and a layering process, his series, “Divine Hunters,” tells the story of a relationpickS

ship that left him devastated, and the mixture of mediums lend a ghostly veil to reinforce the missing pieces trying to make themselves whole. Divinity and Slaughter opens with a reception April 5 from 7-10 p.m. and runs through May 31 at Petshop Gallery, 2725 N 62nd Street. For more information, visit bensonfirstfriday.com, daniellespires.com or sordidlove.com. -- Melinda Kozel


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April 5-June 2

Depth and Accumulation Fred Simon Gallery 1004 Farnam Street nebraskaartscouncil.org.

The Fred Simon Gallery’s next exhibit, Depth and Accumulation opening April 5, brings together Carolyn Albracht and Jennifer Radil. Both artists are predominately painters, but their fluid use of other mediums contributes to the theme of the show: a balance of depth, frivolity and the accumulation of materials to tell their stories. Albracht uses watercolor and Prismacolor markers, which she uses to make layered images. The process emphasizes a strong composition of pleasing and unpleasing imagery that reflects dueling utilities of the creative mind.

Radil is a mixed-media artist whose work combines illustration, painting and ephemera. Her layering process represents depth of experience, history, personality, and accumulation that builds over time. Radil recently began using water color in her portraiture for its expressive effect. Nature is her muse, as are the handmade process and the life-sustaining power of water. Radil’s work ruminates on the ecosystems that sustain human life and the responsibility of humanity to preserve ecosystem health as well as identity formation. Depth and Accumulation opens April 5 with a reception from 5-7 p.m. and runs through June 2 at Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam Street. For more information, visit nebraskaartscouncil. org. -- Melinda Kozel

April 5-30


Examinations of Nature Anderson O’Brien Gallery 3210 Farnam Street aobfineart.com

Filled with artists’ takes on the natural world, Anderson O’Brien’s newest exhibition, Ecologies: Examinations of Nature, promises the bounty of spring, or something approaching it, just when it’s needed the most. The show, featuring the work of gallery artists Shelly Bartek, Lori Elliott-Bartle, Pete Hamel,


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Rebecca Hermann and Lisa Tubach, opens April 5 at AOB’s new Midtown Crossing location. Bartek and Hamel share an interest in insects. Hamel’s focus is on the individual specimen; his color pencil drawings of beetles reveal the diversity and beauty of what we often view as pests. Conversely, Bartek masses handpainted swarms of butterfly forms onto gold-leaf panels, encompassing aspects of natural history, still life and decorative design. Elliott-Bartle employs a bug’s-eye view in her landscapes of tall prairie grasses and blooms through paintings in oil and wax that are both soft and



vibrant. An exuberant colorist, Hermann fills her mixed-media works with densely layered, compressed scenes inspired by abundant garden life that she has encountered in her travels. Tubach’s jewel-toned oil paintings reflect the sublime beauty of nature, but also its fragility, as her subjects are often inspired by ecologies under threat from pollution and environmental change. Ecologies: Examinations of Nature opens April 5 with a reception from 5-8 p.m. It runs through April 30 at Anderson O’Brien, 3210 Farnam Street in Midtown Crossing. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. For more information, go to aobfineart. com. -- Janet L. Farber

April 5-31

The Little Show

The Little Gallery 5901 Maple Street polecatcommunications.com/ the-little-gallery/

Have you ever wondered what separates a quilt from being fiber-based art? Here’s your opportunity to find out: The Little Show, featuring artists from the Midwest Fiber Art Alliance at the Little Gallery in Benson, opening April 5. Quilts are mostly a functional thing, also known as a blanket. Generally, a quilt consists of three layers of fabric, held together with stitching. In the case of this exhibition, we are looking at quilts, but it’s “Painting with fabric,” as show organizer Wendy Maliszewski said. In terms of creativity in the medium, the sky is the limit, with artists using embellishments and the stitching itself to create detail, figurative or abstract.

The results are meant to be shown as art, much like tapestry hung from a wall. With nine artists exhibiting work, there’s plenty of variation in how the aesthetic plays out. Midwest Fiber Art Alliance: The Little Show featuring works by MFAA members opens April 5 runs through April 31 at The Little Gallery, 5901 Maple Street. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday from 3 p.m.-6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and by appointment. For additional information, contact (402) 681-1901 or visit polecatcommunications.com/the-little-gallery/. -- Jeff King

April 6

Her Collaborations Mixer Trouvaille Omaha 1104 South 76th Avenue

Even women taking over the world can learn how to better pitch, secure and execute brand partnerships. In a panel-style Q&A, six local women entrepreneurs from various industries will share their collaboration stories and experiences, including their biggest wins and lessons, that helped them become experts. The entrepreneur panelists are: Carina Glover (HerHeadquarters); Beth Ryan (Beth Ryan & Ladies Who Launch); Rachel Campbell (NOA Brides); Lyss Phan (Hollywood Nails and Spa); Erica Johnson (EBE Studio); and Jeannie North (Ripley & Rue). Enjoy catered appetizers and cocktails. Indulge in a women-owned brands pop-up shopping center. Before its late April national launch, the HerHeadquarters app that connects women entrepreneurs looking for brand collaborations with fellow women in fashion, beauty, entertainment, event planning and PR can be sampled. The event runs from 4-7 p.m. Tickets are $20-$60 via Eventbrite. -- Leo Adam Biga

April 6

Embracing the Shades of US Joslyn Art Museum 2200 Dodge Street Omaha entrepreneur Nicole Otto never regarded colorism an issue in her African-American household until overhearing her daughters discuss their different black hues. That discovery prompted her to do research. She found colorism “a systemic issue seeping into every minority culture.” Thus, she’s created the first in a series of events highlighting the beauty of every shade of womanhood. “In today’s world,” she said, “we have forgotten how to just embrace each other’s differences. We are here to  learn from each other, connect with one another and most importantly protect one another.” April’s empowerment event features an epic, all-day free photo shoot “social awareness project” of real women from the community, dressed to slay, with the goal of celebrating all their shades and changing the narrative on colorism. Documenting things will be top local photographers and awardwinning L.A. filmmaker Mary Moutry. The event, originally set for February, was postponed due to weather. Not even Mother Nature would mess again with these fierce women. The event runs from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Free (Pre-registration required via Eventbrite). -- Leo Adam Biga

Interesting origin stories are harder than ever to find in our increasing interconnected world. You form a band, release a single, tour, and then sign with a label if you’re lucky. Mdou Moctar did things a bit differently. He built his first guitar out of wood and bike breaks, gained popularity in his home country of Niger through the trading of cell phone memory cards, and honed his live chops by playing on the West African wedding circuit. Moctar just released Ilana (The Creator), his fourth album and his first done in-studio with a full band. “It was more like a concert,” said Moctar. “It was natural.”  Natural for Moctar means a mix of traditional West African Tuareg music and Western hard rock. He pulls from ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, and Jimi Hendrix to make music for people to move to. He may not have grown up listening to secular rock music, but he’s doing it better than most folks who did. -- Houston Wiltsey

the Wolves’ undefeated record, banter spilling from tampons to genocide to the pressures of preparing for adult lives. With an ear for the bravado and empathy of the teenage years, The Wolves explores the violence and teamwork of sports and adolescence, following a pack of 16-year-old girls who turn into warriors on the field. Performances at 7:30 p.m. UNO student tickets are $1. For general audiences, preview nights and Wednesdays, tickets are $6. All others are $16. By Sarah Delappe. For tickets, visit www.unomaha. edu/unotheatre or call the box office at (402) 554-PLAY. -- Beaufield Berry

April 12 – May 5 Omaha Community Playhouse Presents

One Man, Two Guvnors

April 10 – 20 The University of Nebraska at Omaha Presents

The Wolves

UNO Theatre, Weber Fine Arts Building, 6001 Dodge Street

April 7

Mdou Moctar Pageturners Lounge 5004 Dodge Street

Winter indoor soccer. Saturdays. Over quad stretches and squats, a team of young women prepares to defend pickS

When out-of-work Francis becomes employed by two men, he goes to great lengths to serve both employers without them finding out about each other. But soon, cases of mistaken identity and the introduction of several unusual characters begin to thwart his plan. How long will Francis be able to keep them apart? The result is a side-splitting farce packed with physical comedy and hilarious hijinks, set in 1960s England. One Man, Two Guvnors premiered in London in 2011 with James Cordon as Francis, a role he reprised in the original Broadway production in 2012, winning the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. Written by Richard Bean. Wednesday – Saturday 7:30 p.m. Sunday 2 p.m. Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre


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Adults $24-$50. Ticket prices vary by performance and seat location. Purchase tickets by phone at (402) 553-0800 or at TicketOmaha. -- Beaufield Berry

April 15

Night Beats The Slowdown

“Night Beats play pure psychedelic R&B music that spikes the punch and drowns your third eye in sonic waves of colour.” That’s not the observation of a rock critic or blogger, those words are straight from the band itself. On this year’s  Myth of a Man, the three-piece from Seattle, and particularly lead singer Danny Lee Blackwell, started to move away from their psychedelic roots and toward something a bit more soulful. Expect the band to split its time between those two styles during its front-room set at the Slowdown. -- Houston Wiltsey

April 15-16 & April 25 & 28

Louder Than a Bomb

It focuses on cooperation, with teams of students working together to write, revise, and rehearse their performances. The Nebraska Writers Collective brought LTAB to Omaha for a 20112012 season and 12 Nebraska high schools fielded teams. In 2013-2014, LTAB expanded to 32 schools in Nebraska and Council Bluffs and works in more than 42 schools today. The program has had an impact on thousands of students and provided a host of paid work opportunities for accomplished area poets, helping Nebraska retain some of its best artistic talent. Semifinals April 15-16, 5:30 & 7:30 p.m., Joslyn Art Museum. Team Finals April 25, 7 p.m., Holland Center. Individual Finals April 28, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m., UNL Colonial Room, Lincoln. For more information. visit www.ltabgreatplains.org. -- Beaufield Berry

April 27 & 28

Hot Shops Spring Open House Hot Shops Art Center 13th and Nicholas hotshopsartcenter.com

Great Plains Tournament Louder Than a Bomb is a teen poetry festival founded in 2001 by Young Chicago Authors. As they put it, the event aims “to bring teens together across racial, gang, and socio-economic lines. LTAB is a friendly competition that emphasizes self-expression and community via poetry, oral story-telling, and hip-hop spoken word.”


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If you’re looking for a shotgun approach to your art viewing needs, check out one of the Hot Shops’ open houses. This annual spring event is a great way to get out and explore the growing area, while checking out over 80 wildly creative artists occupying and exhibiting in 54 studios in the 92,000 square foot building. As its name implies, there will be something molten, with demos and working artists galore. Hours: Saturday 12-6pm. Sunday 125pm. -- Reader Staff

April 28

Noalia: An Opera of Love Cabaret New Life Presbyterian Church 4050 Pratt Street Just as the Staple Singers and the Neville Brothers share larger-than-life music-making gifts with their hometowns, the Jeanpierres grace Omaha with their musical talents. Multiple generations of women in this family have brightened the city’s musical landscape in concert hall, churches and theater performances. Classically trained Carole Jeanpierre Finch has composed an original, faith-based work called Noalia: An Opera of Love as both an act of devotion and a tribute to the family’s musical legacy. Her daughter Elyssia Reschelle Finch shares the title role of Noalia with Emily Adair. The composer’s mother, Nola Jeanpierre, essays the role of Queene. Nikita Sampson portrays God. Matthew Kischer and William Tate share the role of Robert. Bob Greene recites “A Moment in Corinthians.” Wanisha Clements and William Tate provide accompaniment on violin and piano, respectively. These artists will present a preview of Noalia at an April cabaret featuring excerpts from the opera. Be prepared to be swept away by its theme of “love gains all after losing all.” Watch for news about the opera’s world premier this summer in Omaha. The program runs from 5-7 p.m. Admission is $15 at the door (includes finger foods and refreshments). -- Leo Adam Biga

April 29

The Drums The Waiting Room It was a simpler time when the Drums burst onto the scene in 2010. Breezy, guitar pop was all the rage, and the bands making it seemed to have seaside-inspired names like Best Coast, Wavves, and Beach Fossils. The Drums were lumped in with this group partially because they made up-tempo guitar pop but primarily because they had a song called “Let’s Go Surfing.” However, the band had much more in common with the likes of Joy Division than the Beach Boys. It was high-energy, fast-paced, and incredibly nervous music that gave frontman Jonny Pierce a great canvas for his equally jumpy, paranoid lyrics about romance. On Brutalism, the band’s fifth record, Pierce, now operating as the band’s only consistent member, has given fans another album full of the familiar. On lead single “Body Chemistry,” he sounds positively pervy, pining after the object of his affection but, by the song’s end, he’s standing alone while the party rages on in the adjacent room. Pierce certainly won’t have to worry about that when he graces the Waiting Room stage. -- Houston Wiltsey




Elite Eight

Wanda Ewing, Pink NIghty woodcut

Gallery 1516 Invites Select Nebraska Women to Showcase Their Art by Kent Behrens ums and professional devotion to their craft. At first it seems a small group for such an expansive gallery, but this allowed the artists to show multiple works, giving viewers a clearer introduction to their style. Plus, with works like Catherine Ferguson’s steel “Del Castillo” sculptures, a little extra room is necessary to appreciate the larger pieces. Apparently, there is no magic in the number of artists chosen. The number of works, their sizes, and a varied palette of media and styles directed the roster to eight, according to Drickey.

rue to its calling, Gallery 1516 has put together another exhibition of solid Nebraska artistic quality with the Nebraska 8 Invitational, which continues through April 14. As more proof of the depth, diversity, and quality of Midwest artists, the show brings together eight women who impart a commitment to their craft and community.

The Nebraska 8 Invitational features the following artists: Mary Zicafoose, Sheila Hicks, Gail Kendall, Wanda Ewing, Karen Kunc, Christina Narwicz, Jacqueline Kluver, and Catherine Ferguson. Their work is displayed in no order, though there is evidence of some attention to series, as with Ewing’s “Bougie” prints, or like pieces, as with Kendall’s ceramic wares.

Much different than a large juried show like the 2017 Biennial, this select group of artists was invited to exhibit by the organizers, led by gallery owner Patrick Drickey. Artists were chosen for their distinct voices within their chosen medi-

These artists have been mentioned more than once in these pages, and the names are probably known to most readers and certainly to arts patrons. Several of these artists are in international collections, in museums, vari-

catherine Ferguson


ous national collections, public, private and corporate; their resumés are awash in shows, awards, recognitions and residencies. Each artist has several works in the show, but column inches and word count dictate an abbreviated and general discussion. Lively variations in color and fibers blend and fade into others to animate two textile pieces by Zicafoose. “Fault Line Tapestry Triptych” is a vertical set of three narrow Ikat tapestry panels. Geometric blues and violets are accented with blocks of chartreuse and orange, electric color divided by a thin white line of wall from the gap between the panels. Ikat, Zicafoose’s preferred method of working, is an ancient form of resist dyeing and over-dyeing of yarns before

weaving. These are then woven together on a loom into dense tapestries of symbol and abstraction. Hicks is known for her monumental fabric and soft-sculpture installations. However, this show’s most seductive piece is her 6- x 8-inch “Wiggles,” a sculpture of intertwined, bundled silk threads woven around and through a monofilament grid. The red, yellow and blue silk bundles seem to shimmer vicariously on the transparent ladder. They appear as if someone may have strummed the monofilaments like a guitar, sending the fragile silk

Karen Kunc, Biocosmic Wave woodcut



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threads into an uncontrollable dance that left them twisted and tangled. For some, usability can destroy a piece of fine art. But in Kendall’s mind, function is just one more consideration in the art. Kendall came to this realization late in her career. She works primarily in terracotta, and her work derives from a marriage of high-end “palace” pots, with the more pedestrian, usable tableware of the working class.

prints depicting ethereal landforms, symbolic weather patterns, and odd, amoebic entities in bright and earthy colors. Quite unlike her usual work, however, is “Reef” 2017, a large grid of 30 prints on 15- x 22-inch Japanese paper, produced through traditional woodblock and pochoir, an involved hand process using stencils to repeat certain elements of the image. The basic image is repeated on all the sheets: abstracted organic swirls and linework, looking a bit like odd topographic maps. The top row is primarily

Kendall has several pieces in the show. Stylistically, she combines the formal with the informal and conceptual, resulting in a fresh aesthetic. Her exceptional Gail Kendall, Charger slipped “Meadowlark” tureen of terracotta steely blues adorning a cream base is an elegant and lively marriage of the ornate and straightforward simplicity.

Pay close attention when you walk in front of this piece. If you cause enough of a draft, the top sheets will lift, revealing additional prints layered underneath. The Japanese paper is slightly translucent, and the “lower” images are barely seen. The late Ewing is represented by ten prints from her 2007 “Bougie Series.” Each is a female portrait in caricature of deep reds, ambers, browns and yellows against a simple, colored background. The figures are posed as archetypal supermodels, sophisticated and selfassured, albeit comically seductive. Each is also titled for a month of the year, a reminder of their intended purpose. Originally, these linocut prints were presented under acetate overlays as mock glamour-mag covers, complete with bold mastheads and teasers like “Blond is the New Black” or “Find Your Inner Barbie.”

All her work has an innate elegance, but her plates and platters probably meet the utilitarian expectations best. Two of the most sophisticated pieces in this show are her wall-hung, 20-inchdiameter plates, “Charger” and “Rodmartin,” both slipped terracotta adorned with spectacular floral and leaf designs.

According to Drickey, time was unkind to the overlays, and the exhibit had to forego all but one. The first piece in the display includes the original acetates and gives the viewer a sense of the editorial intent.

Kunc is represented by several of her iconic, abstract, wood-block

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T bright sunshine yellow with a muted base image, and below that each subsequent row gets printed additions to the base image, structural grid patterns, new color introduced to deepen the image. Various colored dots are added, and by the time we get to the bottom row, the image has become a complex and layered dance of color.

Christina Narwicz, Opening Through Time oil



With seemingly similar inspiration as Kunc’s work, Narwicz produces paint-



ings that appear to have their roots in nature. Most or her oils paintings are spontaneous and heavily abstracted but bring forth a sense of landscape and water. Narwicz’s paintings near the front door stray from this natural imagery, however. The twin, enigmatic “Optimist’s Prayer” and “Luminous Refuge” are non-objective, gestural paintings of simple green and yellow backgrounds, each with cryptic, scratchy, unintelligible “writing” across the painting. Kluver’s acrylic paintings weave color and pattern together in an intricate dance. Her paintings are comfortably busy, a layered quilt of line, shape, and color creating three-dimensional space both intentional and accidental. As with much of her work, Ferguson finds novel ways to synthesize mythology, spiritual symbolism and personal memory into the immersive, idealistic and new. Ferguson’s work has often been described by others as “transcendent” and “transformative.” Her large, steel “Del Castillo” forms dominate the floors, each appears to be something historically or archeologically important, a petrified remnant or skeleton of a prehistoric pod or vessel. And her fragile and airy wall-reliefs, like “A Slice of Heaven,” are twisted masses of thin wire dotted here and there with small discs. The lights from the room play havoc with the shadows on the wall, multiplying the wire many times over. The Nebraska 8 Invitational, which runs through April 14, gives the visitor a taste of each artist’s inspirations and craft, but the number of pieces from each are too limited to see any individual growth or style development. The work in the show has been displayed in the past, but if it promotes a following for these artists, all the better.

The Nebraska 8 Invitational continues through April 14 at Gallery 1516, 1516 Leavenworth Street. For more details and gallery hours, go to gallery1516.org/ or call (402) 305-1510.







Soul and Spirit

Liz Gre Infuses Her Work With Plenty of Both by Beaufield Berry


ways approach them as if they could be built upon. With that mindset, new and exciting elements emerge utilizing the strengths and character of those I collaborate with.”

iz Lassiter (aka Liz Gre) is one of those performers who, when they pop up on my radar, they appear with such ferocity and multifaceted purpose that they can’t be ignored. I’ve seen Liz perform in many different roles -actress, singer, writer, musician -- and still have so much more to uncover about her prolific gifts.

Prepped for creative life since a child, Gre, as so many talented singers do, got her start in the choir at Mt. Moriah, the church run by her father. Ballet and classical piano also became part of her repertoire, manifesting into a lifelong love affair with the arts. Gre was born and raised in Omaha, attending Creighton University and St. Mary’s University and earning multiple degrees in the arts and humanities. After a four-year stint in Minneapolis, Gre returned to her hometown in May 2018 and became a sought-after talent and much-needed voice in the arts.

Liz Lassiter – Benson Theatre

“My work is inspired by personal life experiences as well as contemporary theater, improvisation, the acoustic sounds and percussion of soul instrumentation, and my classical music training,” she said.


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“I use music and performance to explore life’s essential and most difficult questions. I think of all my pieces as unfinished — a series of experimental creations that blend genres and instruments with lyrics. By characterizing them as unfinished, I al-



In the mediums in which Gre works, it is undeniable her absolute passion, dedication and heightened intellectual approach to everything she does. By infusing and self-collaborating her mediums she is constantly creating something new and undefinable, bringing her audience in to a new realm, a piece of her soul, before sending them away again, transformed. There’s also an accessibility to her work. There’s something compelling about a trained opera singer meeting in many intersections of life. Being a queer, black, female artist, and being able to draw from her experience, as well as the histories of those identities, is powerful, especially when juxtaposed with the “classical” (rich, homogenous, elitist) ideas that may come to mind when thinking about what and who opera is for. This only furthers my belief behind “theater is for everyone.” That includes the most classical of styles.

“Typically, my lyrics begin as short thoughts and poems, often in response to both unexpected or even mundane happenings,” Gre said. “I utilize writing to understand my experience. Melodically, I focus on simple tonality and dynamics (the “louds” and “softs” of music) to convey the message. I utilize head voice and classical singing techniques to express feeling without words in ways that are comparable to jazz scatting. In my performances, all of these things come together with plants, lighting, and projections to create an immersive experience. Often, opera is understood (or misunderstood) as an elite and inaccessible art form. One that is only valued by the wealthy and white. Ultimately, I want my work to communicate that opera and classical music are indeed for the black diaspora to utilize in the same ways we use all art forms.”

Let’s talk about your work. Who is Liz Gre? My work is an amalgamation of all of the people and places that have influenced me: Church, Omaha, the many jazz albums, Whitney Houston tracks, Denyce Graves, and Mahalia Jackson CDs that piped through my house. I’m as much of a moody jazz soul singer as a I am an arty exploratory performance artist. It’s the latter that I’m really diving into currently.

What have been some highlights in your career and where are you going next? There were many shows that will always stand out in my mind. But I will always remember the first time people sang my songs with me. I looked out in the audience and saw people I had never met connecting with my music and my story. continued on next page


t When I lived in Minneapolis, I performed under the name Sankophoenix. The moment I realized that I was going through an artistic metamorphosis and needed to change my name to reflect that was huge. When I moved back to Omaha, I dove into theatre -- something new for me. I unexpectedly found home in the theatre. Now, I’m really exploring my artistic process through composing. While I loved gigging, I am more excited to see how I can tell a more complete story through creative performance and a more intentional incorporation of theatre and classical music. I am excited about performing in new, unique spaces.

What’s it like to be a union fellow? I feel seen and heard in a way that makes me feel like I can take creative risk. I’m grateful.



What inspires you most? That’s a challenging question. I’m most inspired by the beautiful and complex. Like Jason Moran’s exhibition at The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Solange’s new album (really everything she is doing right now comes through BlackPlanet revitalization), the film Orfeu Negro, Basquiat, Nina Simone, and black theater. I find beauty in what challenges my comprehension. In the unpacking and exploring my ear and eyes are sparked to create.

What about people who want to do what you do artistically? Where’s a good place to start? I would advise them to say “yes” to themselves first and more often. And then find someone who will tell you “yes -- you can create, you can grow in this medium, you can do this” when the words don’t come as easily from within. Technically speaking, begin by diving into what inspires you. If it’s another musician, learn as much about them as you can.




What does your creative life look like in Omaha? My creative life looks like a lot of things. Depending on the day, my headspace, and my deadlines, I’m either in the studio writing or composing, engaging with other artists, or being filled by live music, a gallery show or a great movie.

Tell us about your aria at Queens Museum, who you are working with and how it came to be? This is a debut of my work in New Music and performance. I’m so excited. I composed a sound piece inspired by the works of Alexandria Smith, a painter based in New York and Wellesley, Massachusetts. Her show, entitled “Monuments to an Effigy,” takes the histories of The Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground and the Macedonia A.M.E. Church in Flushing, Queens, as points of departure for an exhibition that evokes an altar or commemorative space. My composition

exists as the sonic element -- a music installation. The piece, “At Council; Found Peace,” is a work written for cell, soprano, and spoken voice. It uses gospel tonality and weaves the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks along with original text to explore the feeling of seeking (and finding) guidance from our ancestors.

Where can we see your work? “Monuments to an Effigy,” including “At Council; Found Peace,” will be on view at The Queens Museum from April 7 - August 18. The live performance will take place April 7 at 3 p.m. “At Council; Found Peace” will be performed at the Omaha Under the Radar Festival in July, so if you can’t make it to Queens, you can check it out right here at home.

Stay up to date with Gre at www.lizgre.com and on social media @lizgrelizgre on IG and Twitter.

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Clubs & Festivals

Spring Means the Announcement of Summer Festivals, Concert Series and High-Profile Acts Hitting Local Clubs by B.J. Huchtemann


plugs in April 18. The Ivy Ford ummer festival season is Band is featured at Chrome on around the corner and April 25. All shows are 6-9 p.m. the buzz is already on See OmahaBlues.com for details for this year’s Zoo Bar anniand other metro show listings. versary Zoo Fest. Headlining the two-day street festival Zoo Bar Shows is Mavis Staples and her great band featuring Rick All the Zoo Bar show listHolmstrom and members ings can be found at ZooBar.com. of the Staples family. Staples A few highlights include haris a true creative force of namonica player and vocalist Chris ture and a don’t-miss artist. O’Leary with the Nick SchneStaples has the 9 p.m. slot belen Band on Wednesday, on Saturday, July 20. The April 10, 6-9 p.m. The Wondertwo-day event July 19 and monds on Thursday, April 11, 20 features plenty of old 6-9 p.m. Earl & Them on Friday, favorites starting with the April 12, 5 p.m., and Saturday, hard-driving rockabilly of SoApril 13, 6-9 p.m. The Red ElvisPhoto: Ivy Ford Band by Anthony Earl Cal icons The Paladins at 5 es on Friday, April 19, 5 p.m. The Chicago vocalist, guitarist and bandleader Ivy Ford was one of the p.m. Friday, July 19. Austin’s Ivy Ford Band is set for Wednesguit-steel guitar master, Ju- finalists in the 2019 International Blues Challenge and makes her metro day, April 24, 6-9 p.m., and The debut with an April 24 show at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar and an April 25 show nior Brown, takes the stage Bel Airs on Friday, April 26, 5 at Chrome Lounge. See ivyfordmusic.com. at 7 p.m. Friday. Rounding p.m. and Saturday, April 27, 6-9 out the Friday schedule are with a BluesEd band showcasing each night. p.m. Mato Nanji’s Indigenous guitar star Mike Zito at 9 p.m. and funky For the July 13 show, Gunwood, a Parisian plays Wednesday, May 1, 6-9 p.m. Omaha party band Satchel Grande at 11 folk-rock-blues trio, is the second act (see gunp.m. The schedule for Saturday, July 20, woodofficial.com). The headliners are Thor- Dave & Jimmie kicks off with youth from the Blues Society bjørn Risager & The Black Tornado from of Omaha’s BluesEd program at 1 p.m., fol- Copenhagen, Denmark. The lineup on Aug. Return and More lowed by Lincoln band The Bottle Tops 24 features headliners and local favorites Mato While we are talking about big shows, at 3 p.m. Keyboard wiz Bruce Katz brings Nanji & Indigenous, with supporting acts mark your calendar for the return of the hardthe funky jazz, soul and boogie-woogie to Wille & the Bandits from the U.K. and Oma- rocking and sublime pairing of Dave Alvin 14th Street at 5 p.m. A Zoo Bar favorite for ha’s own Sebastian Lane Band. Find all the and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The duo played decades, the great James Harman returns details and more on the artists at Facebook. the metro last September in what were two of to play Zoo Fest at 7 p.m. Saturday. Mavis com/PlayingWithFireOmaha or playingwithfire- the finest shows of the year. Alvin and Gilmore Staples is up at 9 p.m. Saturday and the omaha.net. are two of the most remarkable Americanaweekend ends with Empire Strikes Brass, roots songwriters of their respective regions. a North Carolina band making music in the BSO Presents at Chrome Their 2018 collaboration, From Downey to LubNew Orleans tradition. For advance ticket bock (Yep Roc), earned this praise from Rolling Omaha’s BSO Presents Thursday series at information, see ZooBar.com. Stone: a “fascinating roots music excavation

Playing With Fire The 16th Annual Playing With Fire free concerts organized by promoter Jeff Davis return to Midtown Crossing with two dates: Saturday, July 13, and Saturday, Aug. 24. Gates open at 3:30 p.m. and music starts at 4:30


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Chrome Lounge continues its great schedule with blues-rock guitarist Albert Cummings Thursday, April 4. K.C.’s Nick Schnebelen’s CD release party for his new disc Crazy All By Myself is Thursday, April 11. Earl & Them featuring Baby Jason Davis and the great Earl Cate and Terry Cagle from the Cate Brothers share this bill. Guitarist Anthony Gomes



that merges Delta blues, Western swing and early rock & roll ... a love letter to their theoretically distinct musical upbringings that ultimately celebrates just how many deep musical roots the two singers ultimately share.” The disc covers material from a still-timely Woody Guthrie song to one by Alvin’s long-

time running partner, Chris Gaffney, along with a couple of originals. With Alvin’s crack band The Guilty Ones, this duo soars with soul, grace, grit and humor. Get your tickets now for one of their June shows. See them Sunday, June 2, at Sunday Roadhouse at The Waiting Room at 5 p.m. (SundayRoadhouse. com) or Monday, June 3, at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar, 6 p.m. (search for the show at Etix.com).

Hot Notes Other Sunday Roadhouse shows of note include the return of Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys on Thursday, April 4, 7:30 p.m., at Reverb Lounge. Among Mead’s credits is his work as co-founder of influential Americana band BR5-49 (see chuckmead. com). Another notable Americana producer, guitarist and now singer-songwriter Gurf Morlix, is featured at a Sunday Roadhouse show April 14, 5 p.m., at Reverb Lounge. Morlix has worked with artists from Lucinda Williams to Blaze Foley and Ray Wylie Hubbard but is touring in support of his 10th solo album, Impossible Blue (Rootball Records). For more information, see GurfMorlix.com. Solo blues from fine Austin songwriter and guitarist Ray Bonneville is up for a Sunday Roadhouse show May 5, at Reverb at 5 p.m. See SundayRoadhouse.com for details on these shows and advance tickets. K.C. keyboardist and vocalist Kelley Hunt performs two shows at Omaha’s Jewell nightclub May 1, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. See JewellOmaha.com. BluesEd alum Grace Giebler, seen locally with Us & Them, got a “golden ticket” to American Idol’s Hollywood week. Performing on the March 24 program, she got the attention of the judges but didn’t get the opportunity to move on with the program. You can catch this talented young lady around the metro; watch for dates at Facebook. com/gracemusic19.

MARCH 21st – APRIL 14th, 2019 Generously sponsored by

Vernie and Carter Jones Kim JubenVille Fran and riCh Juro deVin Fox

MARCH 21st – APRIL 14th, 2019 Generously sponsored by

Vernie and Carter Jones Kim JubenVille Fran and riCh Juro deVin Fox


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The Uncalculated Brilliance of Ex Hex The Band’s Latest Album Conjures up Power-Pop Icons of Late ‘70s, Early ‘80s by Houston Wiltsey The best power-pop songs sound tossed off. When you listen to Guitar Romantic by the Exploding Hearts or any album by Big Star, it sounds like the band members stumbled across the instruments and just happened to make something great. It’s like they struck gold without having any intention of looking for it in the first place. The same could be said for how Ex Hex’s Mary Timony writes her lyrics. “Lyrics to me either happen or they don’t. I just don’t stress out about them or work on them very hard,” she says over the phone. “Whether that’s good or bad I’m not sure.” In case you were wondering, it’s definitely not the latter. The lyrics we’re discussing are those off It’s Real, the follow-up to the band’s punky, visceral debut album, Rips. Though it’s been five years since the band’s debut, It’s Real picks up where that album left of, albeit with a slightly expanded palette. Hints of the power-pop icons of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s -- think the Knack, the Cars, Thin Lizzy, and the dB’s -- can be heard throughout the record. On the opening one-two punch of “Tough Enough” and “Rainbow Shiner,” you get all that rolled into one via Timony’s overdriven guitar, Betsy Wright’s energetic bass lines,

and drummer Laura Harris’ surprisingly punchy percussion. “ T h e thing that we spend so long doing is making the song structure and the music and the melody,” Timony says. “I’d honestly say that’s how we spend about 90 percent of our time.” While the band didn’t venture too far out of the sound that it perfected with its first album, it definitely had a little more fun with the production and drawing from a smattering of different influences than the ones listed above. “Cosmic Cave” and “Talk to Me” have a psychedelic, garage-rock feel due to the warped, syrupy vocals while “Another Dimension” has the stadium-sized sound that Timony wanted after obsessively listening to Def Leppard’s Hysteria.

Timony gives credit to Wright for the group’s expanded sound. “I feel pretty lucky if a song even comes out and I have a pretty hard time controlling the style of it. Betsy’s the one who, when she hears something, is able to filter a song through that style or genre. I just don’t have control over that. “The songwriting process as a whole is pretty collaborative at this point,” she says. “This record took us about a year to make and it really came from us just experimenting and trying to make a record of stuff that we wanted to listen to.” Timony says that’s one of the three criteria on which she judges her music. “The first is if I

Jonny Pierce Is Living His Best Life

can listen to it and not cringe,” she adds, laughing. “We want to write songs that we really enjoy playing. We’re not trying to bare our inner angst.” However, before I can even finish my question about the heartbreak on “Tough Enough,” she cuts me off. “Oh, yeah, I definitely have people in mind when I write stuff like that. It’s been a rough year.” But it is looking up. Now that the band has had some time to recover from its extensive recording, it’s excited to be back on the road again. “We’re touring as a four-piece, we’re tighter as a unit ... and I’m playing a Charvel guitar” (a brand associated with over-the-top metal guitar players). “It’ll definitely be a different show,” Timony says. “Playing with a three-piece is a really intense experience and there’s not a lot of time for people to stop playing. With a four-piece, though, we can work in more guitar interplay and really play off one another.” When I ask how the show sounds compared with previous tours, she takes a long pause before giving a one-word answer. “Bigger.”

The Drums’ Frontman and Creative Force Talks ‘Brutalism,’ Bad Relationships, & the Band’s Ever-Changing Cast of Characters

by Houston Wiltsey It’s been ten years since the release of your first EP. How do you look back on that time and how do you think you’ve changed as an artist since then? I think the biggest change is that over the years, I’ve learned to take better care of myself as a human, and that has really informed who I am as an artist. I used to romanticize my pain, rather than deal with it, and while that made for some nice songwriting, it ultimately became too harmful to me. I still deal with pain and sadness on a daily basis, but I know better how to deal with it, and that has cleared up my head space and my heart space and I am able to listen to myself and make art that reflects that -- rather than just fumbling around and letting the wind take me. I also think my level of openness has increased not just in my personal life, but in my


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work as an artist. I’ve spent the last ten years working elbows-out for the most part. I think I was afraid to let down my guard and collaborate for fear that my sound would be altered too much and that the music would lose all sense of identity. My sound is one that is delicate, and I was worried about disrupting that, but I’ve learned that we operate out of two things -- fear and love. I realized that guarding my sound was less about loving my sound and more about fear of change, and since I’m riding a big selfhelp wave, I decided to operate out of love this time around. I brought in people I trust to help me write, record, mix and engineer the album, and it breathed new life into every aspect of the sound -- and I still think we maintained the heart of The Drums. Collaborating relieved me of some of the workloads and so it created space and time for me to focus on messaging -- so my lyrics are more on point with what I was feel-



ing because I had the space to be in touch with my heart. It’s funny -- sometimes the things you fear most in life are the things that become the greatest gift. I think the key is remaining open and curious and sometimes that takes courage because being open involves risk, but any other path seemed to be winding towards an artistic graveyard. You’re an artist who performs with a band and records under a band name, but it’s primarily a solo project. What do you find that’s different between that and the music you have released under your own name? Well, I used to feel a real pressure to make work that my fellow bandmates would approve of. There was this artistic position we took as a four-piece -- one that was whimsical, imaginative, naive and even innocent, and I felt pressure to write within those confines. It’s a perfect

time for the band to be just me because I am in a place in my life where I am spending a lot of time listening to myself. I am able to do really whatever I want now, and that means writing stronger pop songs with more lyrical vulnerability. I can be bolder and reflect my personal reality in the work. Rather than speaking for four people, I just speak for me. What I found is that when I am more transparent about who I am, the music connects more to the listener. It’s a win-win. Jacob left before the release of the last album and you’ve always had a rotating crew of musicians around you. Do you ever find that lack of consistency unsettling in any way? I guess it’s a little scary when things shift like that, but I really try to live my life with curiosity for what’s new and openness for change. I think any other way of making work is a death

MUS I C sentence. Just like being a gay son to two Christian pastors in a small town forced me to get creative and ultimately escape and then thrive, I think band members leaving has forced me to change how I make my work. I’ve had to get extra creative and become more open, and the work evolves in turn. I think that’s a big part of the staying power of this band. Change is vital for The Drums.


Let’s talk about the new album. First, what does Brutalism refer to? When I started writing Brutalism, I had fallen in love with a Belgian. I am someone who follows his heart, and sometimes that works out and other times it really, really doesn’t. I was living in New York, and I upended my life to go live in Brussels with him. We got a place together and immediately he started making me feel terrible. He would do and say things that were so vicious, and when I told my friends about it, they were often left speechless. While living there, when I felt attacked by him, I would often go for long walks through Brussels and I found myself surrounded by Brutalist architecture. I’ve long admired Brutalist architecture -- for both its aesthetic and its absurdity. These buildings are often giant, heavy, and impractical with small windows so that only a small amount of light is let in. I realized that those were all ways to describe my relationship with the Belgian, and so I named the album Brutalism. Our love was heavy and hard and impractical.


The genesis of the last album seemed to come from the breakdown of a few relationships in your life. Would you say that carried over to this record? Yes, I’ll always sing about relationships, because human connection or the lack thereof is the source of my joy and pain. I’m not sure what else there is to write about and still feel genuine. Do you still find the process of recording pleasurable? I don’t think I’ve ever found recording pleasurable, but I do find it more bearable when I don’t try to go it alone. I’ve tried something new on Brutalism. I brought in players to help me not just play, but also write some of the music on the album. It took a lot of pressure off me and I was able to focus on what I wanted to focus on rather than doing everything myself and feeling stressed out. It was the most pleasurable recording experience I’ve had, but I still find studio life a little stale and arduous. Anyone who’s seen your live show knows you’re a terrific dancer. How did you develop your style of dancing? Oh, I took ballet when I was a kid for a few years, and I’ve been dancing ever since. It comes naturally. I just let the music take over.



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Up, Up, and a Wait!

Listen Up, Superhero Movie Makers by Ryan Syrek


uoyed by the unstoppable force that is Jason Momoa’s exposed nipples, Aquaman took in more than a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. Aquaman, a character lame enough to be an intentional punchline on Entourage, which is itself an unintentional punchline to a joke about “prestige TV for sentient fedoras.” Running down all the proof that we live in a golden age of comic book cinema is as yawn-inducing as a straightforward superhero origin story is now. We get it. We all get it. With Avengers: Endgame poised to potentially Smurf the abhorrent Avatar from atop the all-time highest-grossing films, the question should be: What now?

Studios will unquestionably milk this cash cow until its teats spurt Kryptonite. But with Marvel Studios wrapping up inarguably the most successful franchise launch in history, and DC trying to — and this makes me feel like I’ve yakked up raw eel in my mouth

to say — build on the overwhelming success of Aquaman, how can Hollywood make the most of this genre? Don’t worry, y’all! As a certified nongenius who has a closet packed with comics and a head filled with questions about what Silver Surfer’s skin feels like to the touch, I’ve got this solved.

The Way of the Western The last time a genre was this dominant at the box office, it died a death only slightly less disgusting than the grotesque depiction of native peoples it almost always contained. From 1930 to the late 1950s, Westerns were like the Duggars’ DNA: disturbingly widespread in ways clearly problematic for the future. Obviously, studios aren’t spraying shotgun blasts of superhero shenanigans with the same frequency as the estimated 2,700 Westerns made from 1930-1954. Oh, they would if they could. Again, see Aquaman squirting octopus ink on a billion-dollar paycheck. But proportionately, superhero cinema is suck-

ing the same amount of oxygen as Westerns sucked. And Westerns sucked. Saturation is only a concern if sameness permeates. I promise you, if you cut two random Westerns in half and sewed them together, your Grandpa would still love it more than he loves you. I’m sorry, but you haven’t been his favorite since you got that tattoo. Marvel movies aren’t quite the carbon copies haters and effete critics slander them as. But even being labeled as such is dangerous. When mainstream audiences stop viewing these as “must see” events and more “I’ve already seen this” nonsense, you may be about to wind up in John Wayne territory. That is to say dead, which Wayne is, and not casually racist, which he was.

Evolve or Die Like the mutants that Disney just acquired in the Fox merger, superhero movies must evolve in freakish and surprising ways. It’s

Oui, Oui

disappointing that the “X-Men horror movie” New Mutants may never see the light of day, as that’s an example of the sort of thing the genre needs to survive. Despite choking on Marvel’s cinematic wake before being rescued by the glorified lifeguard that is Aquaman, DC’s slate is flirting with innovation. Joaquin Pheonix will star as The Joker in what’s being billed as a “Martin Scorsese-ish” take on the character. Wonder Woman: 1984 and James Gunn’s Suicide Squad are apparently non-sequel sequels that simply use some of the same characters and actors to do whatever they want. That’s all very good. Better would be going even weirder. Marvel is rumored to be developing a What If? TV series for a streaming service. That comic book series saw bonkers takes on characters and storylines, like “What if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?” or “What if the Hulk dis-

continued on next page


‘Us’ Will Dopple Your Ganger

by Ryan Syrek


o, is it going to be like this every time then? Whenever writer/director Jordan Peele announces a new film, do we have to just clear out space on the calendar for about a month afterward to unpack the twisted metaphors and chilling insights that speak acutely to our cruelest flaws as a country and as individual people? Is this what it really means to be “draxxed sklounst?” Because I am feeling draxxed sklounst.

Us is as good a sophomore effort as has ever been sophomored. This is a deliciously slow-simmering stew of Kafkaesque terror that climaxes with a final few moments designed to make you reconstruct the whole narrative over again in your brain. It will be immediately


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received as “not quite as good as Get Out” by idiots like me who will soon realize that they are wrong after thinking about it for more than a minute. Worry that he would be a one-hit wonder is the one fear with which Peele can no longer be associated. A family on vacation is stalked by murdery duplicates of themselves. That is the entirety of the plot in Us. Of course, this summation leaves out that it reimagines “Hands Across America” as an apocalyptic nightmare and basically operates as an arthouse remake of C.H.U.D. For those who don’t speak fluent 1980s VHS horror movie, that stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller. As good a director as he has proven himself thus far, Peele may be an even better writer. His ability to weave sophisticated themes onto threadbare plots, stitched with biting and



honest dialogue, sets him apart from a sea of writer/directors whose scripts reek of arrogant bravado. As a director, Peele can certainly secure the best from his cast. Considering that the Academy’s rules for what distinguishes a lead performance and a supporting role is “You know, whatevs,” Lupita Nyong’o deserves a nomination in both. Winston Duke effortlessly delivers awkward-dad comic relief, while Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex somehow each give two good performances, which is a total of four more good performances by child actors than is expected annually. Undeniably a horror movie, Us builds out a satisfying mythology for “The Tethered,” which is the creepy-cool name for the killer clones. Scenes of raw terror are interrupted by clever beats and never descend to cheap scares. Just like Get Out, Us squeezes audiences in a vice grip made from social observations. Us may not explicitly be about race,

except for when it clearly is, but it is no less filled with vital critiques. On a micro and macro level, Americans are plagued by our belligerent unwillingness to atone for the sins of our past, to make space for those forced to live beneath us and to admit the ugliest versions of our own selves. It’s right there in the title: the real horror is U.S. Again, if every work of narrative fiction Peele pumps out is going to be this dense and layered, his production studio needs to start offering free therapy with every ticket purchase. Four stars Synopsis: A family on vacation is stalked by murdery duplicates of themselves. That is the entirety of the plot in Us. Oh, and it reimagines “Hands Across America” as an apocalyptic nightmare and basically operates as an arthouse remake of C.H.U.D. See it!



covered transcendental meditation?” My big recommendation is that the superhero genre should burst a spider sac filled with little baby genres like rom-com superhero flicks and horror superhero flicks and film noir superhero flicks and experimental superhero flicks. It’s like the ending of Charlotte’s Web, only a generation of children won’t need therapy after.

Get on That Prestige Bullshit Because America is nothing if not determined to be the worst possible version of itself right now, we aren’t talking about Black Panther’s Best Picture win at the Oscars this year. The popular way of thinking says, “If that couldn’t win, what comic book movie ever will?” That’s some stinkin’ thinkin’. What we should be asking is “Which comic book movie will be the first to win Best Picture?” I think the

LM evidence clearly suggests it will be whatever one espouses the most racially problematic take on racism. Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. and all other comic book movie makers need to start trying to mix in some prestige bullshit. They need to start angling for acting awards (for someone other than an actor playing the Joker) and talking respected and surprising artists into doing their own crazy spin on a well-known character. DC gave Ava DuVernay New Gods, which is a hell of a start. More please. All of this advice comes down to one thing: Stop playing safe. Start believing that this genre deserves to be more than profitable. Take it from me, a guy you have no reason to listen to, and realize that the biggest peril lies in a lack of creative ambition.

CUTTING ROOM by Ryan Syrek

Huzzah and congrats are verily deserved, and yay shall I giveth unto those deserving! A quintillion kudos to the Omaha Film Festival (OFF) for its continued prosperity and survival, having wrapped up another successful installment in mid-March. A bucket of right proper props must also go to Aksarben Cinema for graciously hosting the event, a sincere statement of service to Omaha’s cinema scene. Also, it seems like eleventy billion articles and plugs are written in advance of the event, but too few call out the winners. The full list is available at omahafilmfestival.org but I feel obliged to give the fullest of shout outs to the Nebraska champs: Matthew Gomez (Best Nebraska screenplay for Miss Me When I’m Gone), Shawn Gourley and Lauren Abell (Best Nebraska short film for Sugar) and Sai Chillara (Best Nebraska short film honorable mention for Simply Play Cricket). Here’s hoping this is but the first of many shout outs for that group, which clearly has dreamed of this moment (a shout out in Cutting Room) for years and years!

I like to be “clever” in this column. Whether I achieve is a matter of opinion, and going by social media, the answer is less “hazy, try again later” and more “dude, shut it.” I’m going to do that for this next bit of information, lest my desire for smarminess results in distinctly unintended consequences. Ahem. On Friday, April 12, Alamo Drafthouse Midtown will be holding a “Sluts Only” screening of Slut in a Good Way, which follows a young woman grappling with double standards regarding sexual empowerment. Drafthouse’s “Sluts Only” screenings are not exclusionary based on gender, sexuality, race or age, as

they encourage anyone who has felt marginalized by the word “slut” to attend. More information and tickets are available at drafthouse. com/omaha. There! I did it! I mean, I didn’t do “it.” I meant I finished this blurb without embarrassing myself! Nevermind …

As you read this, CINEsound is underway. My favorite series Film Streams has ever titled, if only because it requires the use of both caps lock and italics, this partnership with Opera Omaha has a few events you can catch by the time you read this, so do not despair. At 3 p.m. Saturday, April 13, you can head to the Ruth Sokolof Theater to watch a medley of experimental short films paired with live performances by members of the International Contemporary Ensemble. This includes The Red Balloon, which is not a spinoff of Steven King’s It. The next night, that’s April 14, at 7 o’clock, you can watch a presentation of short documentaries on the lives and work of post-WWII composers, hosted by ONE Festival’s artist-in-residence Ross Karre. The only other place to discuss WWII and music is when neo-Nazis promote their Soundclouds on Twitter, so this is way more fun. Head to filmstreams.org for more details and tickets.


Amazing Grace Dundee Theater—Starts Friday, April 19, 2019


Cutting Room provides breaking local and national movie news … complete with added sarcasm. Send any relevant information to  film@ thereader.com. Check out Ryan on  KVNO 90.7  on Wednesdays and follow him on Twitter.



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You Can’t Die Laughing Healing with humor by Michael Braunstein “Laugh, laugh I thought I’d die …” In 1964, Norman Cousins lie

dying at UCLA Medical Center. Doctors told him his disease was terminal and there was nothing they could do. They were only half right: There was nothing they could do. Cousins didn’t accept their prognosis. Though in excruciating pain from ankylosing spondylitis, a rare disease that inflamed his spine, Cousins found that after watching a Marx Brothers movie on television, he laughed so hard that it exhausted him, and he slept soundly without narcotics for the first time in weeks. The light went on in his mind. Cousins ordered in a film projector — it was 1964 — and all the Marx movies and slapstick comedy he could get his hands on. He watched. He laughed. His health improved dramatically. Pain decreased. He slept soundly. And amazingly, blood tests proved his immune system was healing and inflammation went down. Cousins had been editor of The Saturday Review and went on to chronicle his recovery in his 1969 book Anatomy of an Illness, a cornerstone in the field of modern laughter therapy. The movie version, starring Ed Asner, is free at https://youtu.be/0LwKd68S15I. For the next 20 years, Cousins gathered scientific proof of his experience. He established the Humor Research Task Force at UCLA, coordinating worldwide clinical research on humor therapy.

bol of humor, Kokopelli. The work of this mythical mirth-maker is to bring harmony, fertility and joy to the tribe by making the tribe laugh. He often appeared with his sidekick, the Trickster or Coyote. Even the Bible endorses laughter as a form of healing and well-being in Proverbs: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” And Ecclesiastes: “A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, drink and be merry.”

The few, the proud, the funny. Patch Adams, M.D. is founder

of the Gesundheit Institute and became famous as the doctor who inspired Robin Williams to portray him in the eponymous film. Adams has devoted his life and medical career to the application of laughter and humor as the medicine that can lift the human spirit and act as a source of healing. Adams put aside many of the conventional perceptions of the medical field and has made laughter and humor the primary prescription he and his staff dispense. Since the 1990s, Adams has assembled a militia of funny folks traveling the globe spreading good cheer instead of bullets and bombs. His global outreach efforts


Loretta LaRoche works with the Mind/ Body Medical Center in Boston. She is also author of Relax: You May Only Have a Few Minutes Left, about using humor to reduce stress and be healthier. Studies done by

Berk also found that laughter lowers the level of cortisol in the blood stream. Cortisol is a hormone that increases when a system is under stress. It causes us to gain weight, adding bad fat. Lower your cortisol, lose your fat. According to LaRoche, laughing increases production of elemental immune system cells and gamma-interferon, suspected of fighting cancer. Neurohumors (a perfect name) known as endorphins, increase with laughter. They are natural painkillers often stronger than opiates. Ten muscle groups are exercised when we laugh. They contract and relax and in a very real way perform a sort of visceral massage on our internal organs.

The research tells us that laughing is healing. So, don’t worry. Be happy. Laughter is good for you. Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.

Native Americans used clowns as a part of shamanic ritual. One can hardly drive a mile in the American Southwest without seeing the image of one Hopi sym-

APRIL 2019

Laugh your ass off. In India, a medical doctor has been making headlines with his Laughing Clubs that practice Laughter Yoga. Dr. Madan Kataria organizes group laughter sessions called laughing clubs. Started in 1995, the clubs have grown to 60,000 in 60 countries, according to LaughterYoga.org. Kataria and others emphasize the belly laugh. And he has found that forcing a belly laugh leads to the real thing and both benefit the body. Actor John Cleese visited India and a short video is at https://youtu.be/0N60nBD-_Mc

Dr. William Fry at Stanford University range from 1971 to current and have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of Biological Psychology. Research by Lee Berk at Loma Linda University School of Medicine supports the worth of a good laugh: Laughter improves circulation. Blood pressure lowers; heart rate can stabilize. Blood chemistry changes; oxygen levels increase. Laughter reduces tension.

One Stanford study plugged catheters into college students and made them watch funny movies. With laughter, white blood cell activity increased immediately.

Like so many common-sense and natural approaches to healing, laughing for health wasn’t new with Cousins’ experience. Laughter is cited in classical Greek civilization as gelotology, using the Greek root gelos- or laughter. Historical (hysterical?), physicians in ancient Greece sent patients to humorous shows. In many other cultures, jesters were considered an important part of every royal court.


have spread to Kosovo and Kabul, Chile and Sri Lanka, continents and countries in every hemisphere. Adams’ current plans include expanding the Gesundheit Institute healing center based on holistic medical care extolling the belief that one cannot separate the health of the individual from the health of the family, the community, the world, and the health care system itself. Laughter is the most potent medicine.

heartland healing


APRIL 2019






Postcard from





San Juan by Tim McMahan


et me start by saying this reporting is all observational. I didn’t go to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to dig into the island’s recovery efforts and reveal the pain and healing amongst the survivors. I went to get a tan. And to swim and drink rummy drinks and get away from sub-zero, dirtysnow Omaha, at least for a long weekend.

ment buildings, and he had no idea how long he’d be without power, so he moved into a friend’s apartment in San Juan where power was back up in the newer parts of the city, and where he could at least find food and water. He ended up taking a job with the power company, rebuilding power lines outside the city.

While there are kind-hearted souls making trips to the island to help in the clean-up efforts a year and a half after Hurricane Maria tore it to pieces, I wasn’t among them. Instead, after reading a lengthy piece in The New York Times that said Puerto Rico — and most notably, San Juan — was open for business and “desperately needs your tourism dollars,” I thought “by god, here’s a way I can help.”

I pointed out how good everything looked now. “That’s because you’re in the tourist area. That’s where the money is,” he said. He waved his hand at the coastline buildings. “All of this — or at least most of this — is as good or better than it was before.”

We landed on a Thursday evening after a brief layover in Atlanta, our flight barely making it out of Omaha that morning in the midst of a severe snowstorm that had our white-knuckled Uber driver saying, “I’m stopping for the day after you guys, I don’t need this” and “You’ll be lucky if they don’t close Eppley.” They didn’t, but it took so long to de-ice the plane I wasn’t sure we’d make our connection. As we drove from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport to the La Concha Hotel, you’d never guess the area had been hit by a Category 5 hurricane just 18 months earlier. It looked like any other modern Caribbean cityscape with its clean paved streets, pastel-painted buildings and lateday traffic. But in what would become a series of discussions over the next few days with various taxi and Uber drivers, we got a glimpse of what happened the year before. “I was trapped in the upper floors of my apartment for a few days,” said Jose as he merged onto the freeway. Jose lived outside the city in an area with a Spanish name I can’t remember. He said there were laws against using generators in high-rise apart-


APRIL 2019

But it didn’t take long to find Maria’s impact. After we checked into our hotel, we walked down Ashford Ave. looking for the local beer and discovered Patrick’s Irish Bar & Restaurant, a building painted a garish Kelly green with a giant white shamrock in the middle. Its concrete second-floor deck looked out over a parking lot and across to a dilapidated seven-story hotel with boarded-up windows and walls streaked in air-conditioner rust that told the story of a business that wasn’t opening any time soon. Pink and purple Spanish-language graffiti covered the lower walls. Below, a small pack of stray cats — black, white, calico — tip-toed through parked cars looking for scraps of food or lazy mice. Meanwhile, just a block away, people in T-shirts and flip-flops ate sushi at a charming outdoor patio restaurant across the street from a Walgreens (Yes, they’re everywhere). It was like that all over San Juan — gleaming modern resorts staffed by an army of bellmen in pastel-colored blazers stood alongside broken, vacant, multi-story condos that no doubt were worth millions before Maria came barreling through. What had happened to the owners? We’d never know.


Over the Edge

Palm trees lined the twolane street, but for every third tree there was a broken trunk, presumably snapped by the wind, or just a stalk of a tree with a few new fronds beginning to grow back, or a hole in the concrete where a tree once grew. We spent most of our weekend at the beach and tried to swim in the rough surf. Red flags warned against swimming due to the treacherous undercurrent, but that didn’t stop spring-breakers in bikinis who bobbed up and down in the water before being battered by another wave. Toward the end of the trip, we took another taxi to Old San Juan, just a few miles up the coastline from our hotel. The driver said it received the worst of Maria and was the last to get power back because of its age. But as we walked the cobbled streets of Calle del Sol you couldn’t tell there had even been a storm. Its multi-colored, three-story buildings gleamed like Easter eggs. We made our way through the crowds of tourists and locals enjoying the afternoon and walked to a bay that fed back into the Atlantic where a row of monstrous cruise ships stood docked like enormous floating apartment buildings. From there we grabbed an Uber driven by a fit, bald middle-aged Puerto Rican named Omar. All the locals look fit in San Juan. “I almost went bankrupt after Maria,” he said, proudly telling us he’d just spent $2,000 on improvements to the BMW SUV

we rode in that looked as if it just rolled off a dealer’s lot. He told the same story of flooding and destruction and weeks without power, all the time never complaining. “They still don’t have power in some places,” he said, pointing inland. In fact, the entire time we were in San Juan, we never heard anyone complain about anything let alone the federal government, whose embarrassing response to Maria will be one of the many things Trump will be remembered for after he leaves office. I asked Omar if he liked living in Puerto Rico. He said his dream was to return to the States. He grew up in New York City, where he lived with his mother “and didn’t have to work.” And now here he was, driving tourists around in snail-paced traffic, as sure a sign as any that San Juan was back. When we returned to Omaha, the snow had already melted, but a few days later, the state would be dealing with a catastrophe of its own.

Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@ gmail.com.









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