Friday, November 28, 2014

Two Novel Interpretations of Dylan's She Belongs To Me

The other day when I wrote about this song I had some additional thoughts I'd wished to share but felt it would be a dilution to throw too many disparate elements together in one blog account.

In his recent book The Dylanologists, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Kinney identifies various classifications of Dylan fandom, from memorabilia collectors to those who follow his concerts to the lyrics dissectors. Followers of this blog know that I occasionally dive into the dissection of lyrics and have even been occasionally reprimanded by some who consider it a useless pursuit to try and explain what everything he's written means. Sometimes these folk may be right.

Nevertheless, holding a magnifying lens over various passages of poetic verse is a difficult habit to break, especially when it often yields surprising rewards. At times it can be a stimulating form of entertainment.

One of the websites I return to now and then is songmeanings.com. It's a site where people share their insights and interpretations of songs from popular culture. In some respects it's a form of crowdsourcing. You have a particular perspective on something and then go here to discover ten other ways of looking at the same picture.

But it's not the only source of ideas for interpreters. Here are two interpretations of "She Belongs To Me" that I found especially intriguing, notably because of their novelty.  The first here is by lyrics dissecter Tony Atwood.

It's About His Little Girl


Never has a 12 bar blues sounded so beautiful, so relaxed, so warm, so kind. Perhaps a listener who is in his 20s smoking dope might not find it so, but anyone who has a daughter instantly sees it, feels it, warms to it.

If the lyrics don’t convey the message then the music and the accompaniment does. The most famous version of course is on Bringing it all Back Home, but there are also examples on the curious Self Portrait album, recorded at the Isle of Wight, and a truly lovely version on “No Direction Home”. This last version is perhaps the earliest attempt by Dylan to have an instrumental break without a lead instrument – something that he worked on over and over again in the concerts and recordings of the late 90s and early 21st century.

The girl in the song has everything – she never stumbles, she has an Egyptian ring, she’s got everything she needs…

Of course it is a child – the child who can play forever with the simplest toys, who can paint or crayon a picture and make it exactly what she wants it to be. She is the girl you idolize, the girl you bow down to, the girl whose birthday you make into the biggest occasion in the history of the world. The girl to whom you want to say, “I made you, you are everything, this is the world I give you.”

And of course you buy her toys.

How he got this from the song is explained when you read the rest his blog entry at Tony Atwood's Untold Dylan blog. Bookmarking recommended.

It's About The Catholic Church

Here's another interesting interpretation that doesn't immediately jump out at you, but it struck me as intriguing for reasons I will explain afterwards.

This song is about the Catholic church
“But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole down upon your knees” refers to the confessional
“She never stumbles” refers to the church’s infallibility
“She’s nobody’s child” refers to the Jesus being the son of God (and not of man)
“She wears an Egyptian ring” refers to the Papal ring
“Bow down to her on Sunday (weekly mass), Salute her when her birthday comes (Easter)
For Halloween buy her a trumpet (All Saints’ Day, which is the day following Halloween)
And for Christmas give her a drum (nice interplay with the song Little Drummer Boy)”

What's cool about this interpretation is that it's not entirely impossible that even though the song itself is a completely different story, the inspiration (or catalyst) for this song could have conceivably been germinated by something Dylan had read about the Church, with a capital C.

I say this because my own recently published story A Remarkable Tale from the Land of Podd was itself a veiled re-telling of a wholly unrelated workplace incident that took place two decades ago. When you read the story you have no clue whatsoever that we're talking about a corporate environment and a lesson derived from that culture. Yet the story is not about corporate culture at all. The lessons it teaches have to do with self-esteem and courage.

This is the way creativity works. Someone sees an article that triggers a memory of an experience which becomes a catalyst for something wholly other, such as Yertle the Turtle or Frozen.

This is all hypothetical, of course. It may simply have been what it appears to be. But then, that would be so un-Dylan, wouldn't it? Or would it?

* * * *

EdNote: A Remarkable Tale is now in print, available at both Createspace and Amazon, the latter possibly with a Black Friday deal.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mark Your Calendars: Upcoming Twin Ports Arts Events

"Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone." ~G.B. Stern

First off, Happy Thaksgiving. We take a lot of things for granted as we push through our day-to-day. And we take a lot of people for granted, too. It feels good when people say they appreciate you, doesn't it. Be sure you tell others today how much you appreciate them.

* * * *

Somehow Black Friday seems to have become nearly as big a holiday in this country as Halloween and Easter. The commercial retail establishment has certainly succeeded to glomming together a marketing coup to take advantage of everyone's four-day weekends. Consumerism is a major feature of modern capitalism. But like all trends, if you look around you'll find countertrends.

Big Box Retailers have been the driver behind Black Friday as they give shoppers slashed prices and longer hours to encourage maximum spending in preparation for the Christmas holiday. In response local retailers have created an "afterparty" of sorts, a shopping day to encourage folk to buy local called Small Business Saturday.

In order to survive, artists need one of three things: a patron, a job that supports them, or entrepreneurial skills. Often it's all three. When we talk about "small businesses" we're talking about artists as well as the many others who provide services in our community. Small Business Saturday is a good day to support a few of our exceptionally talented locals.

ITEMS OF NOTE FOR THE WEEKEND AHEAD

Red Mug's 10-Year Anniversary Celebration
Ten years ago The Red Mug opened its doors. I can hardly believe it. Almost seems like it's always been there, but I know it hasn't because in the 90's I went to a Savage Press book signing upstairs when the Historic Board of Trade Building at Hammond and Broadway was an empty shell with nothing there except a longing by the new owners to fill it with tenants. My initial thought that evening was, "Wow, it would be really fun to play hide and seek in here."

Red Mug captured the downstairs corner of the building and has transformed it into a truly remarkable space. Owner Suzanne Johnson wanted to mark this milestone with a week of events culminating in Friday evening's celebration from 5 - 9 p.m. which will include food and drink specials, music, prizes, free cake and champagne, and special guest baristas. They will be taking donations for the Northland Food Shelf, a good reason not to spend everything you have on Black Friday.

Ryan Tischer's "Scratch, Ding and Clearance" Sale
Duluth landscape photographer Ryan Tischer produces memorable, eye-catching work. He's also active on the art fair circuit, which sometimes results in one's art getting nicked. Hence, in an effort to move a little inventory he's been hosting an annual open studio event in which he sells pieces at clearance prices.

This year is his 7th Annual Open Studio "Scratch, Ding and Clearance Sale." Many of us have been to his annual sales at Washington Studio. He now is in a new space and the public is invited.
The new studio can be found at 406 S. 93rd Avenue West. His announcement on Facebook offers all the details regarding hours or how to contact him for special appointments.


Otlak Holiday Fair 2014
This weekend six local artists are showing (and selling) handmade Arts and Gifts on Small Business Saturday, November 29. Some of our favorite local artisans will be showing their work at the Zeitgeist Atrium. from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Here's the lineup: Mary Reichert of Otlak Felt Studio makes handmade felt rugs and scarves; Sally Cavallaro, handmade eco-jewelry; Patty Sampson, jackets made from vintage kimono fabrics; Patty Salo Downs of Miina Designs offers one-of-a kind felted scarves, wraps, and handbags; Erika Mock presents her Textiles for Body and Soul; and Esther Piszczek who makes Zentangle(R)-inspired art, notecards, ornaments, and puzzles.

If you can't make it to the Zeitgeist, there will be other opportunities to purchase (or just look at) practical creativity. Here are two to mark on your calendar.

~Get It Local: Saturday, December 6, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Peace Church, 1111 N. 11th Ave. E.,

~Armory Arts & Music Center and Snoodle Ceramic Studio and Gallery Holiday Celebration: Saturday, December 13, 2:00-8:00 p.m. Armory Annex, 1325 London Road, Duluth

Tonya Borgeson has organized an evening of clay, art, and music as she and fellow Northland artists share their work. You'll also get a chance to meet the Forging Community who teach classes in metal smithing at the Historic Armory Annex. Paul Piszczek will be there talking about pianos and Esther will be debuting a mirrored art installation and a patterned French Door mural on glass at this event.

NEXT TUESDAY
A couple quick reminders. Tweevenings at the Tweed, with Karin Kraemer.

Zentangle (R) and Wine Tuesday, December 2, 7:00-9:30 p.m. Master Framing Gallery, 1431 London Road, Duluth will give you the opportunity to learn the Zentangle method of pattern drawing in a relaxed atmosphere with music, wine, and snacks. Turn your doodle skills into art. No prior drawing experience necessary. Supplies will be provided and/or for purchase ($10).

Class cost: $35. RSVP required by Monday, December 1 at noon: episzczek@gmail.com or 218-464-0318. Class limited to 4. There is still room in this class!

* * * *

If you prefer to avoid parking and crowds altogether, you might be planning to shop online again this year. Both my books can be found with a click of the mouse. A Remarkable Tale from the Land of Podd is really a remarkable book. Each of the illustrations by Ian Welshons is a treasure. My first volume of short stories to appear in print is called Unremembered Histories is also on Amazon.

* * * *

I began this entry by encouraging you to tell someone you appreciate them. Well, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has encouraged me. It's meant a lot. Encouragement is something akin to a form of nourishment. Make sure your family and friends are well-fed.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Sheer Joy Of Squandering Millions: Thoughts on the Contemporary Art Scene

Painting by local favorite Adam Swanson
This weekend I was looking at an February 1989 Art & Antiques mag I'd saved, probably because it had a John Updike feature on Diebenkorn. The inside back story, however, is the one that caught my attention. Madness, Madness the title exclaimed, the subtitle expounding, "The sheer joy of squandering millions."

The author Hugh Kenner set about to shine a light on the then-current art auction scene with it's spiraling rise in valuations that left minds reeling. He found it unbelievable that a Jasper Johns would fetch $17 million. The current (1989) record was a Van Gogh that garnered $53.9 million.

What he was was billionaire entering the art market with ample cash to bid up everything they liked. There are problems with this, however. As paintings become more valuable it becomes increasingly necessary to protect them from thievery. Instead of owning art for your home you (if you are rich) purchase a painting and place it in a vault, much like jewelry that s kept in a safe instead of a drawer.

There's another feature I'd never thought of as this process of exploding prices occurs. Suppose you bought a signed Warhol print in 1975 for ten thousand. (Just guessing here.) But after a while it is worth a million, and then later five million. What does this do to your insurance costs? And do you really want a five million dollar painting in your dining room?

"Innocence" by Ennyman 
Doctors could afford pieces that they can now longer afford to insure. The end result is that they get taken to auction... and when that piece sells for even higher it raises the valuations of everything else, which then makes more pieces too expensive to own.

The movers and shakers in this game are the billionaires, hence Mr. Kenner goes out of his way to describe how large one billion dollars is as a number. If dollar bills stack one hundred to an inch, a billion bills would be ten million inches or 158 miles. By this measure Van Gogh's Irises was acquired for a tower of cash 8.5 miles high. Small potatoes to a billionaire.

Since this article was written in 1989 art prices have risen dramatically. In May a single art auction event at Christie's resulted in somewhere around $750 dollars exchanging hands. And every other week there seems to be news of a new record being set for works be various artists. There's a lot of money floating around out there evidently. Some billionaires own football teams, others collect art.

Check out the Top 20 most expensive paintings in the world today.

For another good read, check out Ann Klefstad's fable about a painting.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. And this Saturday if you re able get out to see some local artisans' work and buy local. There's an aesthetic lift in owning a few pieces you love.


Monday, November 24, 2014

She Belongs To Me Is Classic Dylan

Haight-Ashbury Mural, 2008
As everyone following the current edition of the Never Ending Tour is aware, the playlist is pretty much set in stone, beginning with "Things Have Changed." Most of the songs in the two-part show are of more recent vintage, many from his last studio album Tempest. The second song of the set, "She Belongs To Me," is not. With the exception of his eternal classic "Blowing in the Wind" which has become the kickoff to his encore, it's the only one from the Sixties, with Bob at center stage and Donnie on pedal steel.

"She Belongs To Me" is a song Dylan has now performed 362 times as of Saturday night, and in some ways it seemed a curious selection considering all the scintillating songs of that period. But then, there may be good reasons for its inclusion.

First off, maybe it gives him a chance to play his harp early in the show, though a hundred songs could have given him that chance. So maybe the answer lies elsewhere.

It's a truly intriguing song. When you inhale the lyrics you find it contains a variety of flavors difficult to identify. Perhaps when released on Bringing It All Back Home it got lost between the kicker "Subterranean Homesick Blues" which opens the album and "Maggie's Farm" which produced a deep resonance with a portion of that generation, my generation, when it appeared. In fact, that whole album is so loaded with treasures it's easy to see how a subtler, nuanced song might get lost.

The song's structure is traditional blues where the first line is repeated twice followed by a payoff. The Delta blues classic "Rolling and Tumbling" is an example of such a structure, recorded by a host of performers from Muddy Waters and Cream to Jeff Beck and Fleetwood Mac. (Dylan himself created a whole new set of lyrics for his Modern Times CD, only retaining the first lines, tune and structure.)

"She Belongs To Me" carries this same format, but what a marvelous piece of lyrical craftsmanship. John Hinchey, whose book Like A Complete Unknown analyzes the poetry of Dylan's Sixties music, writes this about the song:

"She Belongs to Me" and "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" are the other two songs that magnificently manage to escape the limitations of the simplistic myth that informs side one. [of Bringing It All Back Home] In both songs Dylan invokes his muse -- perhaps for no better reason than to flaunt her before the bourgeoisie -- but having invoked her, he finds himself in the presence of someone beyond his reach. Her very inaccessibility seems to activate Dylan's deepest artistic impulses, forcing him to acknowledge -- and provoking him to attempt to overleap -- the limits of his imagination.

"She Belongs To Me" demolishes bohemian sentimentalities from the inside, with a surprising portrait of the muse as unapproachable yet imperious dominatrix.

The song's complexity is part of what makes it compelling. And if you've ever been there, you understand.

SHE BELONGS TO ME

She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She can take the dark out of the nighttime
And paint the daytime black

You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
You will start out standing
Proud to steal her anything she sees
But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your knees

She never stumbles
She’s got no place to fall
She never stumbles
She’s got no place to fall
She’s nobody’s child
The Law can’t touch her at all

She wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks
She wears an Egyptian ring
That sparkles before she speaks
She’s a hypnotist collector
You are a walking antique

Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes
Bow down to her on Sunday
Salute her when her birthday comes
For Halloween give her a trumpet
And for Christmas, buy her a drum

Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music

Here's how the song sounded when he performed it live at the Manchester Free Trade Hall during Dylan's world tour in 1966, the famous "Judas" Concert which preceded his retreat from touring, ultimately resulting in The Basement Tapes.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tweevenings at the Tweed: Karin Kraemer To Discuss Majolica

"God said to the clay 'Be ware' and it was." 
~ George Ohr

Karin Kraemer has been a fixture of the Twin Ports arts scene since I first arrived on these shores in 1986. A long time friend of the Duluth Arts Institute (DAI), she is also a lover of music and has played in a number of area jugbands along the way. She has a great sense of humor as indicated by the title of her business: Duluth Pottery, Superior Division. Her studio is in historic Trade and Commerce Marketplace Building adjacent to the Red Mug Coffeehouse.

This coming Tuesday Karin will be the presenter for this month's Tweevenings talk, Tuesday, December 2 at the Tweed. Her presentation will be about Majolica, a handpainted tin-glaze technique. Her piece Bee Mandala is currently on view at Tweed, as part of the exhibition Resurfaced and Reformed: Evolution in Studio Ceramics.

Every other month, on the first Tuesday, the Tweed holds informal viewing and discussion of selected works from their collection. Faculty, students and community members are invited to choose work to be discussed, and it's always free. I myself enjoy the Tweevening events as an excuse to see what's going on that is new. There is nearly always a student show on display in the corner gallery space on the main floor. And the major shows are always worth your time. If you miss this one, the next event will be the first Tuesday in February.

Read more about Karin Kraemer in this 2011 interview.

To learn more about the Tweed Museum, www.d.umn.edu/tma/



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Items of Note Regarding the Historic Duluth Armory

The life of Dylan is one of legends. The man himself has become something of a mythological figure during the course of his lifetime. One of the signature stories in that legendary life is his trip to Duluth to hear Buddy Holly at the Duluth National Guard Armory the last evening of January 1959. Three days later Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) were dead, killed in a plane crash.

The Armory encounter made an impression on the young Bobby Zimmerman, who referred to it later in interviews as well as in his autobiography. No doubt that tragedy that occurred in an Iowa cornfield three days later made an equally powerful impression. (Read the story here.)

I mention all this because a friend who serves on the Armory board posted on my Facebook wall a link to Zenith City Online noting that this day in 1915 was the official opening of the historic Duluth Armory.

From very early on the Duluth Armory had a stories existence. World War I was in effect, though the U.S. had not fully engaged. Nevertheless the Armory served as home for a full-scale regiment, comprised of the 34th (Red Bull) Division and the 125th Field Artillery.

It didn't take long for the Armory to get put to use and in 1918 our boys joined the Doughboys to engage in a war many people still don't understand. 317 Duluth soldiers lost their lives in Europe as a result.

But the worst was yet to come.

That autumn the Spanish Flu epidemic reached Duluth. The flu was so deadly that on October 8 the city commissioners put the entire city on lockdown. People were forbidden from shopping, going to church or congregating of any kind. It was a city-wide quarantine.

Four days after this edict, the Cloquet Fire hit. When I first visited Hermantown, just over the hill from the rim of Duluth, in the late 1970's I couldn't help but notice that there were no really tall trees. I learned then about the Cloquet Fire. The reality is that the fire burned all the was north around the entire outskirts of Duluth. Innumerable homes were lost, and more than 600 died. People who had gone to work that morning were unable to return home that night, many wondering whether their loved ones escaped or were consumed.

Where did all these people? Most were housed at the Armory and a few other structures where people could be attended to. Unfortunately, the Spanish influenza was in full force, and all these people in one place only contributed to its spread. Over 300 lives were taken by the flu.

As George Harrison once penned, all things must pass, and certainly these dark clouds of 1918 ultimately lifted for a season.

For more information:
dulutharmory.org/about/
My 2013 Armory Update

Historic Armory Post Card is from the informative Historic Duluth website Zenith City Online. Thank you, Tony, for your invaluable caretaking of Duluth's history.

Information about our tragedies of 1918 came from a presentation y Dan Hartman at the recent Libations at the Library event here in Duluth.