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10,000 Books Weblog : Minnesota Historical Society Press » 2015 » July
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July, 2015


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Minnesota Fringe Festival—A Summer Treat!


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Friday, July 31st, 2015

Offstage Voicesfringelogo_dark_on_whitePeg Guilfoyle, whose new book Offstage Voices: Life in Twin Cities Theater, comes out in September, is fond of the Fringe Festival.

“It’s such a scene!” she says. “Performing arts audiences love a kind of under-the-lit-marquee vibe, when people are crowding along a sidewalk toward the box office, standing on the street during intermission, clutching their programs and talking talking talking about the show. The Fringe is perfect for that.”

The Fringe audience, passionate and opinionated, makes for great eavesdropping, especially at Rarig Center on the West Bank of the University, the home of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. Rarig contains four different theaters with a total of nearly a thousand seats; its vast and echoing atrium will be jammed with theater-goers, talking among themselves and to strangers about the shows they’ve seen and will see. The building will present forty-four different shows over the ten-day Fringe, none more than an hour. “It’s deafening, and exciting,” says Guilfoyle, “to stand in that space and watch these big audiences surge in and out.” The Fringe also presents shows in twenty other locations in Minneapolis during the festival. Rarig is within easy walking distance of Mixed Blood and Theatre in the Round.

For her new book, Guilfoyle sat down with Fringe executive director Jeff Larson, who was clear about the unique nature of the Fringe experience.

“We have a lot of people who take off work and see fifty-five shows—that’s the maximum you can see on our schedule. These people get more and more excited every year and they talk about it year round.

“We’re growing the audience,” Larson goes on. “We’re a gateway drug. The tickets are inexpensive, it’s easy, you can dress however you want. Theater is not intimidating; it’s not something you should do to better yourself. It’s just another form of entertainment. We’re getting that idea into people’s heads.”

Larson adds that post-show conversation is built into the Fringe Festival experience: “What you want is the kind of work that you’ll talk about at the bar afterward. The fantastic and the terrible really stick with you, and you cannot wait to get to the bar and say, ‘Did you see that?!’ We tell the artists to invite your audience to meet you at the bar; the bar is just as important to the festival as any of the art is.”

“The Fringe is a great way to experience our wide and wonderful Twin Cities theater community,” says Guilfoyle, whose new book includes interviews with forty leading artists from directors to actors to designers. “An incredible variety of work, presented at an incredible speed. What a summer treat!”


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Summer Weather Jargon, Explained!


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Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

Minnesota Weather AlmanacMark Seeley’s Minnesota Weather Almanac, Second Edition, takes into account the state’s new thirty-year normals (1981-2010), presenting a breadth of scientific facts and fascinating stories.

In recognition of summer storm season, here are a few excerpts from the book explaining weather jargon that will have you talking like a weather expert.

Heat Index

The Heat Index, also known as the Comfort or Temperature-Humidity Index, evaluates the combined effects of temperature and humidity on the body’s ability to cool itself. According to the Heat Index, an air temperature of 85°F with a relative humidity of 60 percent feels the same as a temperature of 90°F with a humidity of 30 percent. For nighttime combined values of 75°F or above and daytime values of 105°F or more expected for 48 hours or longer, the National Weather Service usually issues an excessive heat advisory to warn about health risks, including fatigue, heat cramps, sunstroke, or heat exhaustion.

Dog days

The dog days of summer are usually associated with the greatest heat of the year, characterized by thunderstorms and high dew points. The phrase’s origin is both ancient and astrological: the Greeks and Romans observed that one of the brightest stars, Sirius the Dog Star—located in the constellation Canis Major, Latin for “greater dog”—rose in conjunction with the sun during the six weeks of midsummer. The usual hot and sultry weather, which depleted people’s energy and wilted vegetation, was attributed to the evil effects of Sirius. In the United States, the dog days occur between mid-July and early September; in western Europe they run from July 3 to August 11.

Doppler radar

Doppler radar is a type of weather surveillance that takes advantage of the Doppler effect. Based on the frequency change between outgoing and reflected radar signals, it determines the velocity of atmospheric targets moving directly toward or away from the unit. Doppler radar allows meteorologists to interpret wind speeds accompanying thunderstorms and to view rotating winds associated with funnel clouds.

Heat lightning

The term heat lightning is derived from a mistaken belief that lightning is produced by an excessively heated atmosphere, based on observations of lightning under otherwise clear summer skies. What is viewed as heat lightning is actually a reflection of distant lightning flashes off the horizon. All lightning technically produces heat: a single stroke can warm the surrounding air to more than 50,000°F. The air’s rapid expansion causes sound waves, which are later heard as thunder. Sound travels approximately a mile every five seconds: to gauge the distance of the lightning flashes, count the number of seconds that pass between the flash and the resulting thunder, assuming about one-fifth mile for every second. Thus a 15-second interval between observed lightning and the sound of thunder indicates that the flash occurred about three miles away. Lightning strokes from more than ten miles away are rarely heard as thunder.

Four basic thunderstorm types

Thunderstorms occur in a variety of forms.

An isolated cumulonimbus or anvil-shaped cloud, known as a single-cell storm, is usually a convective cloud containing one updraft and one downdraft segment. Single-cell storms may produce some heavy rain, hail, or even a weak tornado, but they are usually short lived, lasting 30 or fewer minutes.

In a multicell cluster, a group of convective clouds moves together as a single unit, bringing multiple updraft and downdraft segments, highly variable rates of rainfall, and moderate hail. These systems may last for hours and can produce flash flooding or weak tornadoes.

A squall line is a row of convective clouds that share a common gust front along the leading edge, sometimes visible as a wall cloud. They can move at rapid speeds and produce heavy rainfall, moderate hail, and even tornadoes, occasionally leading to flash flooding.

A supercell, the most damaging type of thunderstorm, is a massive convective system of clouds that rotate as one unit, contain embedded strong updrafts and downdrafts, and produce large hail, frequent lightning, flooding, and moderate to severe tornadoes. Such storms may last for hours and travel across multiple states.


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