Saturday, April 22, 2017

Art For Earth Day, Duluth-Style

Violet and the Plant by Russell Gran

There's been plenty to see in our local arts scene. Though I only got to half of it, I saw plenty to keep me satiated, taking a more leisurely stroll rather than striving to inhale it all. If you were out and about, I hope you also got your fill.

Last night we were served the appetizer at Goin' Postal, as many as 15 artists assembled in that group show. Will try to share a bit that in a separate post. Less is sometimes more, the operative word being "sometimes."

What follows, in no particular order, are images from newly renamed 315 Gallery (formerly the Washington Gallery at 315 Lake Avenue North) and Lizzard's. It's always a pleasure seeing old friends, new work and new directions, accompanied by new enthusiasms.

Larger than life: the inimitable Mary Plaster.

Jonathan Thunder is preparing new work for a show at the DAI
Brianna Deterling /

Peering in through the window at Lizzard's.

White Daisies by Teresa Kolar is a captivating work. 
Patricia Canelake, flowing lines and delightful pastel colorations.

Meade Memorial in Washington DC Raises Curious Questions

One thing capitol cities are especially fond of is monument making, and Washington D.C. has them in spades. In addition to all the major monuments for our presidents and fallen heroes, there are an ample quantity of statues as well.

A couple weeks ago I was taking a leisurely stroll around the Capitol area when I came across a statue featuring General George M. Meade. Meade's fame rests on his having defeated Robert E. Lee's troops at Gettysburg, though my recollection is that he was late to the show and only arrived in the nick of time. After defeating Lee's army he then failed to follow up and as a result though dragging their tails between their legs Lee's troops were able to escape, recoup and prolong the war another two years. The actual location of this Meade Memorial is on the 300 block of Pennsylvania, just down the street from the White House.

Usually I do what most people do when I see these statues. I glance at the statue, note the bronze placard to see who it is, and pass on. This time, however, being in no hurry I loitered around its base, studying the actual craftsmanship and contents. To be honest, I thought it a strange collection of images, for it's not just the general on display. He is being attended to be a group of semi-clad young men and women whose aim appears to be to disrobe him.

The imagery was intriging enough to make me wish to understand it further, so I asked Google for assistance and found this:

The memorial is one of eighteen Civil War monuments in Washington, D.C., which were collectively listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The marble and granite sculpture, which includes depictions of Meade and seven allegorical figures, rests on a granite base and granite platform. It is surrounded by a public plaza and small park. The monument is owned and maintained by the National Park Service, a federal agency of the Interior Department.

General Meade was not a popular general after the war, having fumbled his opportunity to fame. Nevertheless, the people of his hometown Philadelphia desired to honor him, and this statue was eventually produced.

The curious composition is made of marble and granite, depicting Meade in his military uniform standing tall, peering out into the distance with great dignity, flanked by six figures representing "qualities the artist believed necessary in a great military leader... Chivalry, Energy, Fame, Loyalty, Military Courage, and Progress." One would be hard-pressed to make this conclusion by merely gazing at the nude women and semi-clad men. The cloak being removed is the "cloak of battle." On the rear side of the statue we find the winged God of War.

Here's some additional information regarding the figures:

The figure representing Loyalty holds a wreath and garlands behind Meade representing his accomplishments. The female figure representing Fame is behind Loyalty and is supported by the male figure of Energy. Behind Chivalry is the male figure of Progress and male figure of Military Courage. The latter is locking arms with War. A gold finial of the state seal of Pennsylvania is at the top of the memorial. 

Ultimately the Meade Memorial reminded me that artists often put more into their work than viewers take out, that meanings can sometimes be elusive even when the details are engaging.

The God of War. The hilt of his sword is its handle, consisting of guard, grip and pommel. 

* * * *

Next time you're in D.C. check out the statuary. Every picture tells a story. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Atomic Sentence Structure and Tonight's Goin' Postal Spring Art Show

Yesterday I began listening to a Great Courses lecture series title Building Great Sentences by Professor Brook Landon. I've already been rewarded with some new insights and am only on the threshold of lecture two.

Prof. Brooks, in the opening lecture, notes that writing should be both elegant and effective.  It is not sentence length that is important but effectiveness in achieving its aim. Every sequence of words has an objective, a core reason for its existence. If brevity were the whole aim, then the hippies were write to walk around saying nothing more than, "Far out." 

During the night I woke and thought about how sentences can be compared to atoms. Atoms are composed of electrons, protons and neutrons. The neutron and protons are at the core, and the electrons circle about it like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The thought I had was that it might be fun to make a periodic table of sentences. Hydrogen has one electron, so it would be a one-word sentence. "Wow!" Helium has two electrons, so it could be a two-word sentence. "Jesus wept." And so on. If you have trouble recalling all the elements that we learned about in chemistry class, you can find a chart here. What do you think?

(EdNote: For those who teach, check out my new book on How To Teach Writing. Good writing must engage the reader, not simply be grammatically accurate.)

* * * * 
Tonight it the 2017 Goin' Postal Spring Art Show, from 6 - 9 at 816 Tower Avenue in Superior. I stopped by last night to see how things were going and once again I was impressed by the caliber of the work. Artists with work in tonight's show include, Glenn Blaszkiewicz, Becky Perfetti, Andrew Perfetti, Tal Lindblad, Marcie Crain, Christie Carter Eliason,  John Heino, John Dromeshauser aka Johnny Mudd, Ash Marnich, Richard Rosvall, Tara Stone, Kerry Gauthier, Cully Williams, Matt Stengl, Jeanna Aldridge, new work by Adam Swanson and a number of new pieces by Ed Newman. There is a strong showing of new photography by the photographers represented here. New techniques incorporating new technologies.... all very cool, very chic.

Will we see you there? Stop by and say hello, even if only briefly. This show does generate buzz. Be part of it.

And don't forget! Tomorrow is Art For Earth Day here in Duluth. Whet your appetite tonight and then get out on the art circuit from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. tomorrow.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

EdNote: Tree photos on this page were created from an image by Andrew Perfetti, chief architect of the Goin' Postal Art Shows. Come see it in person.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Is It Really True? Fake News and Other Misinformation


With all the bluster about "fake news" lately, here's a post from seven years past that addresses the same issue. The lingo may change but the issues remain the same. In fact, the situation may be worse, as we're pretty much lacking in fact-checkers. 

Is It Really True? 
(October 2010)

Did you know that October this year has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays, and that this happens only once every 823 years?

That was something I saw Tweeted a few minutes ago, but I really do not have any way to verify it. Seems hard to believe. What do you think?

That's the way a lot of stuff is online. You read it, and it is stated so factually that your brain just nods its assent and you absorb it into your knowledge base. But how much of that knowledge base is misinformation that you just swallowed uncritically?

Misinformation didn't just begin with the Internet though. P.T. Barnum famously quipped, "A sucker is born every minute." Even before the online age, credible sources would be getting it wrong. For example, in 1949, Popular Mechanics asserted that "computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." The wording implies a fairly large measure of doubt, but we'll go out on a limb and weigh the possibility of it, even if unlikely.

The New York Times once warned that the electric light would cause blindness. How could it not be true? It was in the New York Times! Well, journalists make mistakes just like everyone else. Unfortunately, when it's in print it remains in print a long, long time. Whereas when it's on a blog or website, hey guess what? I can delete it or fix it in a minute.

That's a scary thought, too, though. If everything is transitory, if everything can be re-arranged, what's left that's firm and solid?

Better stop my rambling and get on with the day. Y'all have a good one.

* * *
For What It's Worth Dept.

Duluth's 27th annual Art For Earth Day Gallery Hop is this weekend. The DNT has assembled a nice summary of places to go and what you can expect to find.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Fall of the Wall

At the urging of others I visited the Newseum while I was in Washington D.C. last week. The Newseum is exactly what it sounds like, a News Museum.

The exhibits here feature a wide range of subjects including stories about how news is made, the history of journalism, major stories in history and how they were covered, and more. One of these exhibits featured the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Here are several images from this exhibit. 

A life-sized guard tower with machine gun turrets.

After the Wall came down the West finally got a chance to see what was really happening behind the Iron Curtain. Alan Greenspan wrote in his autobiography that American leaders were well aware that East Germany was fairly far behind West Germany in GDP (a common measure of a nation's prosperity), but had no idea how far behind. They guessed that East Germany's GDP would turn out to be 70% of that of West Germany. They were shocked to discover the East Germany's GDP was less than half of this guesstimate. Now that the Wall had been dismantled, the hostage nation could finally rebuild. 

* * * * 
For what it's worth, I have a piece of the wall here on the bookshelf in my office, courtesy my brother and his wife who were there the day the wall came down. Are we really going to build another wall?

* * * *

Meantime life goes on... all around you.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tech Tuesday: Lessons for Leaders from Brent Schlender's Becoming Steve Jobs

It's already been five years since Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs became a NYTimes bestseller. When I reviewed the book in 2012 I concluded, "This eye-opening page-turner is as exciting as any novel."

So when I discovered an audio version of Becoming Steve Jobs at our library two weeks ago, I had two immediate thoughts. First, what more can Brent Schlender say that hasn't already been said? Second, even if there's nothing new I would like to read his story again and see what new pearls I might find. It turned out to be a good decision, because there was plenty new to learn.

The full title is Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader. Author Brent Schlender is an award-winning career journalist who made his mark writing profiles of high-profile entrepreneurs and business leaders in the digital revolution, including two decades as bureau chief and editor-in-chief at Fortune magazine. One can tell early on that he has had close up access to Jobs for a very long time.

The structure of the book is linear, beginning with the birth of Apple. But this is not a book about what happened. It is the story of Steve Jobs' education, the events that served to produce one of the great leaders of our time.

In point of fact, according to Jim Collins, author of the bestselling business books Good to Great and Built To Last, there have only been two truly great visionary leaders of the past century, Steve Jobs and Winston Churchill. Each of these men had experienced great failure early in their careers, and each developed a relentlessness and resilience that enabled them to re-emerge as leaders and accomplish great things.

The author's aim was not to assemble anecdotes and Apple trivia. Rather, his stories are shared with an aim to provide lessons that will have value to all of us. One example is the Steve Jobs observation that it's only in hindsight that we can "connect the dots on how things happened," whether in our lives or in business.

It is well known that Steve Jobs was a massive Bob Dylan fan. On one occasion Jobs described to the author the difference between artists and everyone else. "The artistic spirit is willing to take risks." The artist is willing to go out on a limb and risk failure in order to achieve his or her vision. Steve Jobs got this insight about himself, as an artist, by watching Dylan perform. He saw that Dylan was continuously re-inventing his songs, going different places in his performances, challenging himself and his band. It was not about the money. The true artist is always risking failure. Picasso and Dylan were true artists, Steve Jobs pointed out.

* * * *

Insights from the Steve Jobs story are too numerous to list. Here are a few to whet your appetite in the hopes that you will find a way to read or listen to this book.

1. Jobs' passion for and investment in Pixar was a key component of its success. Schender shows how putting together a solid team is the foundation for miracles.

2. Many achievements were directly related to key partnerships between Steve and various individuals whose talents were affirmed within this relational context. What they accomplished was remarkable, Jobs being the catalyst. He surrounded himself with people smarter than himself and though he demanded a lot, when he had matured he gave them the freedom to push back. No yes-men. They all had a say and worked together to accomplish what needed to be done.

3. Very early on what Steve Jobs saw in his head was an early version of the Internet of Things (IoT) with the Macintosh at the center of a wheel as the hub, all the other elements connected to the hub like spokes. The consumer goods became consumer touch points.

4. Every consumer touchpoint, whether ads or iPhones or iPods and iPads or iTunes downloads, was part of a whole which Steve Jobs saw as The Apple Experience. This Apple Experience was designed to lead people into discovering how easy it is to interface with Apple products. Both easy and elegant.

5. Possibly the most notable product of his life was the iPhone, a product he personally may have not wanted to pursue, but his team had been given the green light and it went on to transform the applications business.

6.  Steve knew that even he had underestimated the potential of consumer electronics. Once this phase of the company began to explode, Apple steadily improved the experience of enjoying and managing music, photos and videos on personal electronic devices making the various technologies coherent in a way that no other company came even close to matching.

7. "The Apple Experience was an unprecedented merger of marketing and technology excellence" designed to make customers want to come back for more "This was a new kind of quality, something consumers have never experienced before."

The book includes the text to Steve Jobs' commencement speech that he gave in Stanford. You can listen to it here, as nearly ten million others have already done.

In case you haven't already noticed, I became quite enthused about this book. If you get the chance, especially if you are in marketing, I strongly recommend this to you.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Don't let it pass you by.

EdNote: Becoming Steve Jobs was co-authored with Rick Tetzeli.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Local Art Scene: This Friday It's the 2017 Goin' Postal Spring Art Show

"To see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at." --Claude Monet

The Japanese Footbridge, by Claude Monet
For the record, here is a painting you will not see at the show because it is currently in the Impressionists gallery of the National Museum: Monet's Japanese Footbridge. What you will see at Friday's Goin' Postal Spring Art Show are a wide variety of artists who work in a range of mediums, including painters, photographers, sculptors, scribblers and craftspersons. The weather should be nice, and the afterparty is slated to be great, featuring Israel Malachi, Woodblind, Revolution Jones and a special performance by Laura Velvet and the Bookhouse Boys.

If you're a follower of the local arts scene, Friday will be a perfect appetizer for Saturday's Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop. You'll likely want to put this weekend on your calendars.

Here's another Monet quote, which probably applies to more than art: "It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly."

My original Dogs of War is slated to be on display Friday.

There's plenty more happening this week in the Twin Ports. Be sure to check your local listings. ;-)