Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ten Great Jazz Performances

What does great jazz sound like? And who were "the great ones"? Here's a link to Ten Great Jazz Performances by many of the best that ever were... Thelonius Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Miles, Lady Day (Miss Billie Holiday), and even Louis Armstrong doing "What A Wonderful World."

I'm not sure when I stumbled upon this blog but if you don't have time to listen to the whole set, just do the Benny Goodman rendition of his 1936 hit written by Louis Prima, Sing, Sing, Sing, number 8 on this play list which attempts to give a quick overview of the jazz influence in modern culture.

That's all for now... why let words get in the way? Just be sure to bookmark the page so you can listen to all ten when you have more time.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Art Scene

A few years ago when I interviewed comedian Jonathan Winters about his art, he said that the one thing he liked about making paintings that he did not like in Hollywood was that he made all the decisions. When you work in Hollywood, someone else has the power to leave your favorite stuff on the cutting room floor.

Nevertheless, our art careers are still not entirely in our own hands. If we wish to show our work, we need venues. As we emerge from the creative realm to the business realm we find there are a whole host of players, from museum curators to gallery managers to collectors to media. Each of these, and that small collection of supporters who keep you going, are a somewhat necessary part of your success if you plan to go beyond making pictures for yourself to making a career of it.

One source that I have recently found stimulating is the ArtDaily Newsletter, which arrives in my inbox each morning between midnight and dawn. The ArtDaily covers the high end of the international art scene, with its Sotheby's and Christie's art auction items that seem so removed from most of us, while simultaneously giving us a good sense of where art history has travelled and how works are valued in today's art culture.

Today ArtDaily opens with a story about a Ruben's piece offered by Princess Di for sale at Christie's for $30 million dollars. (Once you've seen a Rubens you understand why it is worth millions today.) There are stories about art exhibitions featuring George Leslie Hunter, Malcolm Morley, Ric Ocasek and other career artists whose names are most likely unknown outside the art world, for how many Picasso's or Dali's reach the masses in any generation?

One story features French artist Yves Klein, calling him one of the 20th century's "most influential artists," yet if I ask 100 people today who he was, I would be the only one who knew without being told that he was a French artist of a half century ago. I was surprised to read that he had such a short career, 1954-1962. What interests me more than his work is the story behind the story. What was it that made him so influential? Who decided that his work was significiant. When you see the work yourself, what do you think?

In the meantime, I think the ArtDaily is a good read, a source for ideas and a thumb on the pulse of what's happening outside the four walls of your studio, if you are an artist with even minimal aspirations. Check it out and subscribe today.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Understanding the Taliban: Five Minutes with Agha H. Amin

I recently obtained a review copy of the newly printed volume called The Development of Taliban Factions In Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of the authors, Major Agha Amin, is a retired Pakistan army officer whom I became acquainted with through the Internet when he invited me to contribute to his blog, Understanding Each Other, Diversity and Dissent.

This year President Obama elevated the U.S. presence in Afghanistan by another 30,000 troops in a region of the world that continues to make little sense to Americans. And this weekend the President made an unannounced trip to Kabul, affirming the importance of this military activity.

But what is the war in Afghanistan really all about? Agha Amin and co-authors David J. Osinski and Paul Andre DeGeorges wrote this book in an effort to bring greater clarity to the Afghan situation. At the outset the authors explain the difference between religious Islam, and radical “Jihadist” or political Islam (a small minority within Islam) and attempt to define terms and explain the country’s complicated demographics. Like Africa the nation of Afghanistan is comprised of a multitude of tribes. 49 languages are spoken there.

The authors proceed to outline the history of these peoples, and one can well understand why solutions there will not be easily come by. The Taliban themselves are not a homogenous whole. Some are funded by drug lords, some by al-Queda, some are connected to Pakistan and some to Iran or Russia or Punjab. It doesn’t take long to see why the U.S. media, when assembling a two minute sound bite for the evening news, might just oversimplify things a bit.

The introduction to the book concludes with a quote from Robert E. Lee. “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”

Ennyman: What prompted you to write this book? Why do you feel it is an important book?

Agha Amin: The immense amount of lies and disinformation about Afghanistan, and projecting lust for money as a Holy War or a war against terror.

Enny: Who were the other authers and how did you meet?

Amin: I met David Osinski while he was managing contracts in Kabul in May 2005 and later met Andre (DeGeorges) through Lewinski.

Enny: Evidently Afghanistan is still important to the U.S. because they just upped their troop levels there by 30,000 and this weekend President Obama made an unannounced visit to Kabul. Why do you believe the U.S. is in Afghanistan today?

Amin: The USA is in Afghanistan because U.S. policy makers thought that they needed to dominate the Indian Ocean hinterland and the Central Asian region. 9-11 was, of course, used as an opportunity to do this. It’s a vindication of Karl Marx’s theory that men do not wholly make history, instead they inherit a situation and they make use of it.

Enny: What will happen when the U.S. leaves Afghanistan next year?

Amin: Fighting will re-start if the USA leaves without concrete framework and a plan. Some measures have been suggested in our book.

Enny: Will there ever be peace in Afghanistan? What will that peace look like?

Amin: Because of its neighbours who have a vested interest peace may elude Afghanistan for a long time to come. Basically it’s a Russian versus American, Indian versus Pakistani, and Iranian versus Talib conflict.

Enny: Why is it so difficult for Americans to understand what is going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India?

Amin: Because of a media which does not fully understand the situation or just commercially mis-uses it.

Enny: What is the most important thing people need to understand about the Taliban?

Amin: They are not as independent as they seem. They have state and non-state sponsors.

EdNote: It takes work to understand cultures whose histories we do not share and peoples of whom we are not familiar. A book like this can serve a cautionary note to be careful about coming to snap conclusions about other situations which can be oversimplified in order to pigeon-hole them into our neat worldview compartments.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What's It All About?

The last major painting of Paul Gaugin, a leading Post-Impressionist painter of the nineteenth century, is titled, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? It is a painting fraught with symbolism, which he painted while in self-exile in Tahiti. The title itself asks significant questions, three of the big questions that sometimes prod us and other times haunt us, but always probe our inner depths.

It's good to step back and reflect now and then on the big questions. Too often we're buried in the trivial with thoughts like, "What shirt should I wear today?" and "What should I have for lunch?"

Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, wrote a book with the interesting title Because God Is Real: Sixteen Questions, One Answer. I like catchy titles, and thought provoking subject matter, and found the introduction to this book resonating with me.

All our lives, we keep discovering who we are. None of us comes to the end of that road in this life. None of us completely knows who we are, once we stop fooling ourselves.

You are a one-and-only individual that nobody could ever replace. Nobody who ever lived in the past was exactly like you, and no one who will ever live in the future will be exactly like you. You have a special job to do in this world that no one else can ever do. Each day of your life, you find out a little more about what that job is.

But you also share the same human nature with all other human beings. Your task on earth is to be you, the one and only you; but it is also to be a human being, and that task is the same for all of us. You take different courses in school, but we all take a course called Life. Life's greatest tragedy is to pass all your courses but flunk Life.


The title of the introduction is Three Questions Everyone Should Ask Themselves. For Kreeft, the three questions are:
Who am I?
Where did I come from?
and
Where am I going?

Hear any echoes? Gaugin wrestled with his life, and we wrestle with ours. Sooner or later we all must wonder, "What's it all about?"

Kreeft's essay on the three questions is a good read, even if the intended audience of the book it introduces is only a Catholic catechism class. Anything that smacks of religion sounds terribly boring or even frightening for some. But in point of fact, religion and ethics are more relevant than ever in our post-modern world. And at the end of the day it is important to know who we are, and what we are not.

Since the three questions are "for everyone" it only makes sense that they apply equally well to artists. This is why galleries and art curators seek "an artist's statement" when submitting samples for consideration. What's this artist all about? Where's she coming from? How deeply has she thought it through and where is she going?

These are questions I wrestle with as regard my own work. They're simultaneously challenging and stimulating. The work itself becomes the answer, and like many of the pieces begun initially without aim, it is exciting to see what will happen next. A work of art, like life, can have many happy surprises. Hence, the forward look to what will happen next.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Early Drawings

After writing yesterday's post about "A Thousand Bad Drawings," I decided to check in my garage and see if I could find a folder with a few of my high school drawings. Sure enough I was able to put my hands on it and snapped a few representative photos of the drawings to share. Influences at the time included Salvador Dali and Hieronymus Bosch.

Bosch was a Dutch painter in the Brueghel era whose most widely known painting was a tryptich titled, The Garden of Earthly Delights. On the left panel Bosch depicted Paradise, with an Angel of the Lord (or God) blessing Eve before she is presented to Adam. The central panel was an enormously crowded painting of earthly activity with animals, fruit and a range of symbolic elements that at least one writer has called "erotic derangement that turns us all into voyeurs." The right hand panel, depicting hell, was used as the cover art for the American release of an early album by Deep Purple called The Book of Taliesen under the record label Tetragrammaton. This is how I came to discover Bosch, the artist... whose painting I found endlessly fascinating, and influence I have almost forgotten.

Here and elsewhere, click on imges to enlarge.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Thousand Bad Drawings

Every once in a while I like to look at some of my old drawings from high school or college. What I see is interesting work, a creative mind, and a relatively mediocre draftsmanship. But I'm impressed that there were ideas I was trying to convey, and even in my youth there was an "original voice" in my work. And I didn't quit.
I do not recall when I first heard the statement, but it was early on. This one bit of advice is what kept me going: "It takes a thousand bad drawings to make a good one."

For myself, it was a great confidence builder because I knew -- or believed -- that if I just kept at it, I would produce something good some day. As a result, I proceeded to draw relentlessly, aiming to get those first thousand "bad drawings" out of the way as quickly as possible.

I filled more than fifty sketchbooks with drawings in my four years at Ohio University, initially a lot of ballpoint pen material (a handful) and then dozens and dozens of pen and ink using my favorite weapon of that time, the technical drawing pen. I loved the perfection of line, the controlled manner in which the ink flowed and the clean edges. Over time, the tentative strokes of my high school sketching became bolder, stronger, executed with confidence.

These thoughts have an aim. If you have children, or you work with young people in the arts, some might be frustrated because their skill sets are not yet at the level of their maturing vision of what they want to produce. I'm talking here of older kids in particular who can be so sensitive to criticism. At some point they need to be reminded that we're not "born experts." We develop as writers, as artists, musicians, and even as human beings, through a process that takes time... and usually a lot of mis-steps along the way.

Everybody has to start somewhere. Start where you're at. Learn by doing. Tell the "critical" part of your self to take a hike, to come back a thousand drawings from now. If you stick with it, you will get better. And even if you never reach the skill levels you aspire to, you can still have a lot of fun along the way. Enjoy it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Facebook Meats: Bringing Home the Bacon

I woke just a little too early today and couldn't get back to sleep because of an interesting dream. In the dream I was online at Facebook and they had a virtual meats store. I wanted a strip of bacon and found one in the store which I proceeded to print on my printer. I then took the printed bacon and fried it. Yumm.

As I lay there I began thinking about the increased blendedness of virtual and real worlds, eCommerce and the old brick and mortar kind.... and about the Facebook brand. Would a company like Facebook ever become a brick and mortar brand? For example, what if Facebook had a restaurant chain in which all members could get free coffee, or discounted foods, like other buyer's clubs?

I'm fairly certain the trigger for this dream was the article in yesterday's Telegraph titled Facebook 'linked to rise in syphilis'. Health officials in Britan have observed that a rise in the incidence of syphilis has been occuring in those regions where Facebook use is most prevalent. In other words, even though Facebook is a virtual space, it very definitely intersects with the real world.

A Facebook spokesperson denied the allegation that there is any relationship. I would liken this to the assertion that "guns don't kill, people do." I guess it's all in how you use it.

Entrepreneurs have been trying to use the Internet for commercial purposes ever since it emerged, and a lot of folk have become quite wealthy thereby, including the founders of Facebook. Now, if only we could feed the hungry by printing strips of bacon through cyberspace. Our kitchens would smell wonderful and our bellies full. Unless you're vegetarian, in which case I hope we'll be able to one day print lettuce. Soup would most likely be a little too messy for my printer.

What kind of food would you be printing today, if you could?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Life In Two Worlds

In the early 1980’s I painted apartments for several years. Painters usually dress up rooms after people have moved out, but occasionally we worked in apartments with a resident still present. On more than one occasion I was called upon to paint a bathroom or repair a living room wall of an elderly person who welcomed my intrusion and was grateful for company. Through these encounters I heard many an interesting yarn about life at the beginning of the last century. Up here in Minnesota, you don’t have to go very far back in time to get in touch with lifestyles fairly primitive by contemporary standards.

A book I recently acquired that peels back the pages of time is A Life In Two Worlds by Betty Powell Skoog and Justine Kerfoot, recently re-published by Savage Press. Savage Press seems to have published a number of regional books with anecdotal snapshots of history up in this neck of the woods, so it made sense when the Schroeder Area Historical Society wanted to get Ms. Skoog's memories reprinted, they looked to Mike Savage.

Last week we spent a lunch hour together talking about writing and for a brief time digressed to discuss this newest volume.

Ed: Now this book is quite an interesting read for its historical recollections. It also shows how spoiled we are today. How did you come about publishing it?

Mike: Well, it had been published by Paper Moon Publishing in Lake Nebagamon. They're out of business now, so the Schroeder Area Historical Society called and asked if I wanted to reprint it. So they acquired the rights from the author and from the Kerfoots, so that they had everything done legally, and off we went.

Ed: Would you care to comment on Justine Kerfoot and how has she been involved with Betty Skoog's story?

Mike: Well, Justine was considered kind of like the Grand Dame of the Gunflint Trail. She and her husband started the Gunflint Lodge, and they were kind of like Gunflint royalty is what I would say. Tough old customers who, you know, raised themselves up by their bootstraps.

Ed: And you knew her, or met her?

Mike: Yeah, we had had some associations regarding her books. Justine was pretty high profile.

Ed: She published how many books?

Mike: I can't remember, quite a few. She's deceased now.

Ed: So Betty, was it Justine who motivated her or encouraged her to write her story?

Mike: I think they were childhood friends and Betty, who has a pretty good story, saw Justine being successful with her books and decided to do her own.

Ed: What's your favorite part of the book? Why don't you summarize what it’s about. I mean, just anecdotal stories, right?

Mike: It’s just her life growing up on the Gunflint Trail, the border between Ontario, or Canada, and the United States. A native mother and a white father… it’s a life in two worlds. She was a white person and an Indian person simultaneously. These are stories of rugged independence. Running after rabbits, eating porcupine…

Ed: So the book was previously published and you just recently re-published it?

Mike: It actually just came out in. We announced its reprinting in December, and shipped it on the market in January of 2010.

Ed: What kind of people would be interested in this book?

Mike: Well it's kind of a nostalgic trip, and I think actually, grade schoolers would write a heck of a good 8th great report with it. And with its Boundary Waters background, camp fire stories maybe, it's a, you know, in some ways it’s a friends-and-family book, but in other ways it goes beyond that.

Ed: I think it goes way beyond that. I think it has historical relevance because we've so forgotten our roots.

Mike: Right. And in regards to the actual day-to-day living, it really is a good historical record.

Ed: I found it interesting that when she moved into her first house that had running water, it was like, she didn't know what she was going to have to do all day. “What to do? The water is running. I don't have to go walk and get water to wash and make food.”

Mike: Right, yeah, the pace of life changes.

Ed: What is the Boundary Waters, for people who are not from this region?

Mike: Yeah, people who read your website in India aren't going to know. It's a million acres of set aside land, federal property, where motorized transportation is prohibited. So canoeing, backpacking only. It's kind of a sign of wilderness, and that's where Betty Powell Skoog grew up, on the border of Ontario.

Ed: There were no roads to where she was. She had to portage and canoe.

Mike: And hike, and carry everything. Her dad was basically a trapper, and a voyageur. A fallout. A descendant.

Ed: So who were the voyageurs?

Mike: They were the French Canadian guys who paddled canoes between Montreal and Grand Portage, and that whole area that became the Boundary Waters Canoe area. They put the packs on their backs and carried them from lake to lake, and then they loaded up the canoe and paddled them. They were basically the Interstate Commerce Commission of the 1800's

Ed: And a lot of them had hernias, too--

Mike: (laughter) …and they were short--

Ed: Low center of gravity…

Mike: Right, and they wanted small people so they could load the canoe with a lot of furs. And the story is that they also wanted to hire people who didn't know how to swim, because they would stay with the canoe and save the canoe at all costs.

Ed: Interesting! Well, the book is a nice little visit back in time and I certainly enjoyed it. Hunting moose, snowshoe rabbit footwear, unique methods of preparing fish and other game, and a lot of reminiscing about a world that's almost forgotten these days… Check it out A Life In Two Worlds, and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Selling Art in the 21st Century

Like every other field of endeavor, the Internet has changed the art scene as well. How often do you call the research person at the library? I used to call the research desk all the time. How many call their broker to learn stock prices? I'm curious if people buy Rand-McNally maps like they used to now that we have Mapquest.

One thing the Internet has proven is that it can bring buyers and sellers together in unprecedented ways. EBay is a prime example. People who once held garage sales to get rid of all that excess garbage by following the dictum "One man's garbage is another man's treasure" now sell the goods to an immeasurably larger audience than their hometowns. So, too, there are artists selling in this manner.

Selling art on EBay feels strange to me, though. This morning, for example, there are 2,055,599 pieces listed as art. If you narrow this down to paintings, it is 310,306. And if you look at the expiring auctions, perhaps 30% have a single bid. Yet people are selling.

I briefly corresponded with one young artist who got her start on EBay. The auction site helped her realize she had some marketable work, and it was an easy way to test the market without great expense.

This is not to say the brick and mortar art galleries are going away any time soon. We live in a land with a lot more free time, now that we have running water and electricity. We don't have to spend hours chopping wood and walking to the creek with water buckets every day. So you find a lot of artists and musicians and writers, people being creative in various ways. Unfortunately, all this productivity results in something of a glut on the art markets. Lizzard's Gallery in Duluth has every available wall space crammed with works from area artists. There is no shortage of product. The challenge for galleries is determining how to best use that space, how to carry inventory that will find a home, in a home or office.

In addition to eBay, there are a host websites out there striving to represent good work, and help buyers and sellers come together in a healthy manner. For example, sites like Discovered Artists will give emerging artists a platform while maintaining a higher standard than the eBay venue.

The Internet's great claim to fame is information, and when it comes to selling one's work, you don't have to go far to find it. Just Google it. The Net gives artists access to more information than ever about how to sell your art both online and off. Plus, through Amazon.com you can browse an ever widening selection of books on this topic, many which promise to do wonders for your career.

And then there are the artist communities scattered across the virtual landscape. Some are active and growing, some are now ghost towns. I found several on Facebook which were created with good intentions, but eventually devolved into residue where no one has posted or shared in ages. I myself belong to a Ning network called Artwalk, which gives artists a place to set up a gallery. I have not sold through Artwalk, but the gallery helped me to get a couple of my shows. I simply send the link and say, "Check out my work."

Be careful about getting delusions of grandeur. As in the writing field, there is plenty written to lead a novice to believe that he or she will be the next Shakespeare or Hemingway. Remember why you are making art in the first place.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Google Fest: Can This Be What It's All About?

We interrupt this program to bring you an update on the Google Fiber Initiative. If you haven't heard, Google is planning to invest tens of millions of dollars into a small to medium sized city for the purpose of installing ultra high speed fiber, putting this particular city on the cutting edge of what is possible in terms of the future.


Forward thinking leaders in a few of the candidate cities have been working their tails off to be chosen, using everything in their power to be the next BMOC or Homecoming Queen or Student Council President. The high school metaphors are appropriate because some of what we're doing is text book silli-Ness... plunging into Lake Superior mid-winter, making goofy YouTube Videos, a Hollywood caliber film, and even a little straight up pleading. "Vote for Duluth!"

So what's it all about? I mean, from Google's side of the equation, what are they up to? These are smart people. They're surely not just throwing mountains of cash at some Midwest city simply in a charitable gesture to be nice.

The article Google Aims at the TV market – Will they Succeed? Yes, and Here’s why by Richard Kastelein just might give a clue. Anyone who has been half listening knows that for fifteen years early pioneers of the Net experience have spoken of a day when there would be a convergence of technologies, television and Internet would become one. Scoffers were abundant. Who would want to watch television on a laptop? Factor in the slow download speeds of high rez video and you have an experience very dissimilar to plopping onto a couch with friends to watch the game.

But what if.... As Kastelein points out, nothing stays the same forever, and Google knows this.

What is the goal? Google as media mogul? Think it through, what makes Google such a power? There stats, analytics and the fact that advertisers can reach their targets with precision. The target is often looking for the very things the advertisers are seeking to bring. It's a perfect marriage of consumer and marketer, with Google the minister leading the ceremony.

Now to Google Fest... Google Duluth could be the proving ground of this new concept of convergence. Don't kid yourself. Mainstream media still has the power to reach masses unlike anything that ever came before. (You might cite the power of the newspapers in their heyday, but back then a large part of the audience was still illiterate.) But unlike the networks, Google has the power to accurately measure how many eyeballs saw your logo, and even better, how many clicked through to your online store.

Hey, something big is happening here. More bandwidth, please!
Pictured here are scenes from Saturday's Duluth Google Fest. Top left, Mayor Ness backstage awaiting his address to the crowds gathered in the Ballroom.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tracks in the Sand

Tracks in the Sand

I turn to see my footprints in the sand as wave after wave rolls in.
Now, here I stand, observing.

And though my footsteps be almost gone, they remain,
and perchance someone will follow.

And if someone sees my kneeprints
(suspecting I had stopped to pray)
would I have to tell them
that I'd only stopped along
the way to pick up shells?

Yet, even on our knees with tiny shells
there is great glory
and a doorway out of ourselves.


Puerto Rico, 1979

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Big Day for Google Duluth Fiber Initiative

I expected a front page story on it in today's Tribune. A little surprised to see no such story. There's a big rally planned for today at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center and I'd hoped the DNT would rouse the last of the sleeping masses by donating their front page to herald the gathering. Oh well. The Trib has given its fair share of coverage.

Googlefest is planned to run from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. today and as a journalist somewhat interested in the outcome, I will likely have to be there.

If you have not been following, Google has decided to set up a small-to-medium sized city with Google Fiber, some kind of ultra high speed futuristic technodazzle that will exponentially multiply the speed of the Internet. Cities in the running have been invited to compete, since the search engine giant is only interested in dancing with a partner who really, really, really wants to dance.

According to an article in yesterday's DNT, we're actually winning. At least this is the straw poll consensus based on quasi-scientific data cultivated earlier this week. Aesop's tale of the tortoise and the hare comes readily to mind here. Unwarranted overconfidence equals doom.

Mayor Don Ness has certainly been actively beating the drum to rally our troops. YouTube vids featuring the mayor can be found, including his big splash jumping into frigid Lake Superior last month. Even Senator Al Franken, the former Duluth Answer Man, has gotten into the act. Back in those days, you didn't have a Google at your fingertips to bring the information universe to your desktop. The Duluth Answer Man had to maintain all that information in his head, and that was a lot of work back then.

As they tally up the reasons to bring Google Fiber to Duluth, let's not forget that in addition to all our natural wonders, we have a great arts community. People like Chee, John Steffl, Adu Gindy, Ann Jenkins, Don Marco, Carolyn Olson... no, I'd better not even start because this list is so long, where do you cut it off? Great galleries, great music, theater, dance, the Duluth Art Institute... We have a whole world of creative talents here, inspired by the Northland. Google Fiber might help this world touch the broader world in ways that will leave the latter a better place, in ways only hope can imagine. Are you ready?

Note to Google: I mange six blogs on Google Blogger. Thanks!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bob Parsons, the GoDaddy King

In December, I moved my original website http://www.ennyman.com/ to GoDaddy for hosting. As boring as this sounds, it has actually been an amazing experience. First off, the tech support was awesome. Second, my biggest dread was having all the links (there might be a couple hundred pages) to work... They said not to worry and it would be easier than I thought. Sure enough, it worked flawlessly, and with virtually no time or effort whatsoever on my part.

What I didn't think about was how deliberate this all was. GoDaddy's success was no accident. It was planned.

I remember the old days of buying a domain name. DirectNic was what I used. The whole process felt sterile, technical and boring. Trying to get support or service seemed impossible... I don't think they even wanted to talk to people.

Well, Bob Parsons saw an opportunity. GoDaddy was going to offer a fun experience. With superior tech support.

Most of us remember the first GoDaddy Super Bowl Commercial. Like, this guy knew how to create waves when he jumped in the water. And it's obviously paid off because GoDaddy is the largest, and continues to be the fastest growing, domain registry in the world, possibly exceeding a million domains a month at this point. Even the best marketing won't help if there isn't a quality product to begin with. Parsons caught the public's eye, but he had also laid the groundwork.

Think of the cash flow. Each new customer is paying a monthly fee, forever. The stream is an ever widening river of green.

But it isn't just their kingpin getting rich off other peoples' money. His employees must be doing O.K. because I seem to recall that GoDaddy was voted the most fun place to work a couple years ago. It is an environment people want to be part of. (And not just because of the smokin' hot blonde.) No doubt this contributes to their customer relations coming across so caring, warm, cheerful.

Then I discovered that Parsons not only runs a domain business, he also understands the kinds of people who have bought websites and all that. They are often entrepreneurs, as he has been. So, instead of sitting on a beach somewhere (which he's earned) he makes videos and produces other materials to helps other entrepreneurs be success. And I am serious when I say the lessons Bob Parsons has learned would be invaluable for any person of any age launching a new business, or steering a veteran business.

Parsons has said, "The Internet is the heart of the new economy." In this, he is dead on. Been to Detroit lately? The energy which was at the heart of that city has been transplanted.

Check out Bob Parsons' 16 Rules for Success. You need to find out more about this company, and what makes this man tick. If it doesn't bump your own heartbeat up a notch, you better check your ticker.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Audacity: The Eli Lilly Drug Heist

"Boldness or daring, esp. with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions." ~Dictionary.com

I remember hearing a story once about a 17 year old kid (he looked older) who worked briefly at a furniture store, during which time he obtained a key for the store. The store was not open on Sundays, so he ran an ad in the paper that everything must go, a typical furniture store ploy promising steep discounts. He then went to the store on that Sunday, unlocked the doors and sold a lot of furniture very cheap.... and pocketing the money.

That's audacity.

Movie goers love audacity. Bold, daring robberies or escapes are a feature of films like It Takes A Thief, Oceans 11 and any number of Elmore Leonard stories. James Bond is all about nerves of steel, being cool under pressure while pulling off the gutsiest heroics.

This past weekend some fairly audacious individuals made off with a whole semi-trailer loaded with Prozac, Cymbalta and Zyprexa from a warehouse in Connecticut, property of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. This is how it was reported on NPR's All Things Considered.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Sometime this past Sunday in Enfield, Connecticut, thieves pulled off a theft so big and so daring it merits that rare noun: heist. In fact, this one may even quality for that still-rarer label: caper. The Great Connecticut Prozac Caper.

It involves an Eli Lilly warehouse and a haul of Prozac and Cymbalta, both antidepressants, and the antipsychotic medication Zyprexa, enough drugs to improve the outlook of a huge mob of depressives, the company says $75 million worth. And joining us from Hartford, Connecticut, is Stephanie Reitz, a reporter with The Associated Press. Stephanie Reitz, how did they do it?

Ms. STEPHANIE REITZ (Reporter, Associated Press): Well, it was pretty Hollywood-style. According to the police, one or more people, probably more people based on the amount taken, came to this warehouse in the dead of night, in the middle of a storm, daylight savings time, one extra hour of darkness. They scaled the outside wall, cut a hole through the ceiling, rappelled in on a rope, disabled the security alarms and spent the next hour or two loading pallets of drugs, one after the other, into a waiting truck out of the loading dock door.

They've said there were enough drugs taken to easily fill at least a tractor-trailer.

It wasn't diamonds. It wasn't a Vegas casino vault. It wasn't a stolen Renaissance-era masterpiece. It was a truckload of Dr. Feelgood. How will they dispose of it? Are these meds one can dispense on the street?

It would seem that in some capacity there had to be an inside connection, like the kid with the key to the store. So, where does the story go from here?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stand Up And Be Counted: Census 2010

Well, we just received our Census form Monday and it looks like the easiest Census I can ever remember. I’m sure that in part it’s because they really want it to be a no brainer so more people than last time will complete and send it in. There are no questions about income, and not really much beyond what is your name and when were you born.

Just for the heck of it I pulled out some old census form from the 1800’s to see what kinds of things they asked back in the old days when a census taker would actually go door-to-door and talk to every household.

Somewhere about twenty years ago I had done some serious genealogical research which led me into all the various arcane ways people dig up their pasts. I was striving to verify that what was rumored about our family being direct descendants of Daniel Boone was in point of fact a fact. I learned at the time that one can rent from the local library, for three dollars a roll, a microfiche of every census ever taken. In order to do this properly, though, you have to actually research the history of the geographical region where your kin were located. For example, my kin were from Lee County, Kentucky. But Lee County did not exist before 1870, so I had to obtain records for Owsley County, which itself was created from Clay, Estill and Breathitt Counties in 1943. Many Owsley County records were destroyed in disasters in 1929 and 1967.

Estill County was created from Clark and Madison Counties in 1808. A disaster in 1964 destroyed some of these records. But, Estill County Censuses were still available for 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840 and 1850. And for what it's worth, the North half of Lee County was once part of Bourbon County. (Which came first, the bourbon or the county name?)

Kentucky itself obtained statehood in 1792, so in the 1790 census it was designated Kentucky County, Virginia, and there was a census that year which included a John Newman, whom we have reason to believe was one of our early Newman settlers there. I have photocopies of many of these censuses, and the first, in 1790, was clearly intended to simply get a count.

By 1850, the government was interested in quite a bit more info. In addition to names, age, sex and color of all members of a household, they also wanted to know your occupation, the value of your real estate, your birthplace, how long you have been married, amount of schooling, whether or not you can read, enumeration date, and a space for additional remarks by the census taker.

By 1870 this evolved to where they not only wanted your real estate value, but the value of your property. They also ask if your father and mother were foreign born or not. Again they asked whether you can read or write (someone else is taking this down) and how many in the household were eligible to vote.

For the record, each year throughout the late 1800’s when the question was asked regarding being able to read or write, the answer was no. For many a-decade we Newmans were illiterate hillbillies.

So here it is, another census year. And there were no questions about where you folks were from, or how much your house is worth. Or even whether you can read or write. Or whether you’re a vegetarian or carnivore. Or whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi.

If you haven’t received your 2010 Census yet, it’s coming soon. It’s painless, and will be over as quick as a wink. Just make sure you slide it into the envelope correctly. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sensory Deprivation, Revisited

I came across an interesting article at Wired Science this weekend. The title, "Out of LSD? Just 15 Minutes of Sensory Deprivation Triggers Hallucinations," hooks you in. The Hadley Leggett piece is essentially a review of new experiments in sensory deprivation.

I remember back in the seventies reading about research that some school was doing on sensory deprivation and its effects. (Sam Keen in Psychology Today?) What I recall is some kind of flotation chamber and the person would be put into it so they would float, and the other senses somehow stifled. Being eager to try new experiences I half wondered how to be part of those experiments.

The current version has persons sitting in the dark, in a soundless room on a comfortable chair. I half wonder if someone almost drowned in one of those chambers.

Here's the beginning of the story.

You don’t need psychedelic drugs to start seeing colors and objects that aren’t really there. Just 15 minutes of near-total sensory deprivation can bring on hallucinations in many otherwise sane individuals.

Psychologists stuck 19 healthy volunteers into a sensory-deprivation room, completely devoid of light and sound, for 15 minutes. Without the normal barrage of sensory information flooding their brains, many people reported experiencing visual hallucinations, paranoia and a depressed mood.

“This is a pretty robust finding,” wrote psychiatrist Paul Fletcher of the University of Cambridge, who studies psychosis but was not involved in the study. “It appears that, when confronted by lack of sensory patterns in our environment, we have a natural tendency to superimpose our own patterns.”

The findings support the hypothesis that hallucinations happen when the brain misidentifies the source of what it is experiencing, a concept the researchers call “faulty source monitoring.”

“This is the idea that hallucinations come about because we misidentify the source of our own thoughts,” psychologist Oliver Mason of the University College London wrote in an e-mail to Wired.com. “So basically something that actually is initiated within us gets misidentified as from the outside.” Mason and colleagues published their study in October in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

What's astonishing to me is how dramatic the effects were after only 15 minutes of sense deprivation. If I've peaked your interest in this topic, you might enjoy the rest of the article. We'll keep the lights on for you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Red Scorpion

SHORT STORY MONDAY

When I wrote The Red Scorpion it had three sections. This was the middle section at the time. I wrote it in first person, then wrote it as a journal. Finally, I re-wrote it in the third person so as to correspond with the rest of the book. Each form has its advantages and limitations, and unique challenges. This is the first half of chapter nine.



THE RED SCORPION
-9-

The Minneapolis bus station was unusually crowded. As he got off the bus he immediately began looking for a space to avoid the press of the crowd while awaiting his wife. A small, compact woman with a round face, blue eyes and a tight mouth filled with glistening teeth, she moved through the station with a soldier's determination, brushing past the slow moving masses, eyes darting here and there as she found the seams in the crowd. At last she found him. He was standing alongside the pay phones near the far wall.

Dr. Comstock took the keys from her hand as he finished loading the trunk. "How did things go with the family from Grand Forks?"

"Good. Good." Frieda Comstock replied. After a pause she added, "We have a gentleman from Thunder Bay staying with us now."

"How long has he been a guest?" Dr. Comstock said, not concealing his annoyance.

"Since Tuesday."

"You mean yesterday?"

"Oh," she sighed. "Yes, since yesterday. Is it only Wednesday?" Her hand rubbed the side of her face. "I just can't believe...." But her words trickled off.

"Is he here on business?"

"He's a troubled man," Frieda began. "I don't like him at all. This morning I asked if he would like coffee and he said no, but he wanted to sit so we could talk. I got the impression he was lonely. Pretty quick he opened up and told how the banks were after him, that he had gotten into some kind of financial trouble and was worried for his wife. She's some kind of invalid and so all the burden is on his shoulders, but it's more than he can take sometimes. His eyes twitched the whole time we talked. Made me uncomfortable to look at him."

"It's hard times all over, I suppose," the professor said, attempting sympathy. He'd hoped Frieda would ask about his trip. In the end he simply put it out there. She had never taken an interest in his work and he didn't expect her to understand the significance of his find. Even he was not certain of it's value, but he had a sense of it, distorted somewhat by his enormous appetite for fame.

"It's snowed since I left." he observed.

"Several times." Frieda wondered at his absent expression. "The man's name is James Porter. I've been calling him James."

"Sounds like a butler. I'll call him Mister Porter."

"He asked that I call him James."

CONTINUED

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jazz Drummer Jeff Peabody, Part Two

This is the second part of an interview with jazz drummer Jeff Peabody. Yesterday he talked about how he became a drummer, and today he shares what jazz drumming is about, and how he unintentionally came to replace Billy D at the Club Saratoga.

Ennyman: How'd you get interested in jazz?

JP: As time went on, I played in different groups. I liked fusion jazz, not so much the old swing style but the more rock.

E: Like what Miles did in the late 60's and 70's?

JP: Maybe more like Chick Corea, Stanley Clark, Return to Forever type of stuff.

E: What about Majavishnu Orchestra?

JP: I was aware of John Mclaughlin. I actually have seen him. I went to see him not to see him but to see a band called This Oneness from the Twin Cities. They warmed up for him.

E: So you got introduced to jazz through fusion.

JP: Right, and I knew about swing style jazz and stuff like that, and it really, it still to this day is a challenge for me to play.

E: Because?

JP: Well, because it’s a whole different thing. It’s not just playing on the 2 and the 4. It’s a much more involved style than just playing the rhythm. So after playing in many bands over the years, when I started to get into photography, as my interest grew in photography, the music thing started to fade. And also I was working full time and I'd just boiled it down to playing in a weekend band. I was playing almost every weekend, so I was working full time and playing every weekend and, you know, falling asleep at the wheel on Friday nights used to scare me. If we had to go out of town, I was always scared to drive home. Even if I didn't drink I was so tired. Even just a short run to Two Harbors, I can remember waking up after a second or two. After a while of that, I decided that I wanted to focus my energy more on photography and less on music. And when I did finally decide that, I knew that there was a jam session at the Club Saratoga every Saturday and my good friends played there, so I decided to start going down there... started playing one song, maybe two.

E: So there are other drummers playing?

JP: Yeah, there was a drummer, Billy D. It was his thing, his deal. So as long as they didn't play too fast, I could do it. It got to be where I was doing a little better and I was playing 4 or 5 songs, and eventually, I don't know at what point, but eventually I was playing the whole last set. It was almost every Saturday. I'd show up about 5:30 and at 6:00 when they took their break I would go up and play. I was getting that good at it.

E: When was this?

JP: It was probably about 3 years ago, maybe 4. I did that for a long time, because it wasn't my show, and they had a drummer. I was thrilled, this was perfect. I didn't get paid, but I was happy, and I didn't have to go, and I could go and not play, and I didn't have to haul gear. I didn't have to go anywhere, and I could have as many drinks as I wanted. For playing 1 set I could have 5 beers. They didn't care. So it was wonderful, and I did that for a long time and was still working at the photo lab and doing weddings and stuff like that. So things were good. But eventually there was trouble in the band between Billy and the other band members. One day they came to me and said, “Do you want the job?” And I wasn't so sure about that for two reasons. First of all I felt terrible about taking Billy's job because it was kind of his thing for 20 some years. Also, did I really want to lock down every Saturday? On the other hand I was thinking that I go every week anyway and this way I'd actually get paid and they pay pretty well. So they tried to work their problems out with him and it just came down to that. No, they were going to get somebody and that somebody they wanted was me. I was the logical person to do it, and I'd been doing it for a while and as I did, I’d gotten much, much better.

E: What kind of jazz do they play down there?

JP: Just standards, just jazz standards like Billy Holiday, Frank Sinatra, stuff like that.

E: Did they have vocals and everything?

JP: Yeah.

E: Did they have non-vocals? Do they have improv?

JP: Sometimes. It was a trio, piano, bass and drums and every week there's a guest. Most of the time it's a singer, sometimes a singer/player. Once in a while it's just like we have a great, great guitar player, Billy Franzie who has played world class. He's played with Prince, and John Lange. He plays multiple instruments. For some crazy reason he loves to play with us, and he does often. He's coming again soon. He's a great singer but he'd rather just play his guitar. So he'll sing a couple songs but its an open stage, so you might have the trio with a guest and have two or three people sit in during the night.

My interest in jazz is definitely the latest swing style jazz standards, brushes, you know, style jazz. And I, when I got the job I actually bought a jazz style drum set and tuned it the way that they do, and since I do it every week now I'm playing 4 hours every week. I definitely got much much better, to the point now where rock and roll is silly, and in fact it's really really fun to play now because I can. It's what I dreamed of when I was a kid, the way I wanted to play now is so simple after playing jazz all the time that it just makes it like a piece of cake.

E: What's the difference in the complexity of the jazz?

JP: It’s a lot more complex, and the technique, you have to have technique to do it with any variety or speed. In fact, the way you learn is you learn to play with subtlety. Because it’s not loud, you can't take, it doesn't impressive you because it’s so powerful, it's the tinniness, the timing, but you have to apply the same power and the speed that it requires; if you don't have good technique you can't do it. All those things that they tried to teach me when I took the few drum lessons that I did, you've got to learn these little rudimentary movements. I knew what the techniques were but I didn't have to study them. But now, I do. Because otherwise you'd just be beat to hell at the end. You just wouldn't be able to do it, not very nice.

E: The Saratoga's a strip club normally, but on Saturday afternoons its a jazz club. Do you have people show up who think its going to be a strip club?

JP: Yeah, every once in a while you see a group of young guys come in and they're looking around, like "Oh, wow." I always kid with them, I say they're coming (the girls) and we're just the warm up act. It does happen. but we have a pretty regular crowd.

E: How many people show up, typically?

JP: I'd say 150 to 200 people.

E: Every Saturday? What time do they play?

JP: Yeah, from 3-7, and the winter months are always better because in the winter, your Duluth people will come down. They're not going to their cabin on weekends and stuff like that. In the summertime on weekends, Duluth people want to be outside and Canal Park is full of tourists, which is unpleasant for locals, and tourists do not generally come in. We get very few tourists. They're not there to sit inside a bar. They have kids. They're here to see the boats and stuff like that. But we have since I've come on, we've kind of changed things up a little bit. We've had a pretty steady house for many many months now, even in the summertime. I can remember going down there when there was near nobody in the club on Saturday, and that never happens today. We always have a crowd. I think we always pay for ourselves, if nothing else, and they pay us pretty well. One of the things we did do, one of the changes was that we did lower the price to make it more affordable for the club, because they were like...

E: Lower the price for the band?

JP: The cost for the band for them is cheaper now, so that helps, too, but also the crowd's increased and we have been drawing in people. People are coming up from the Twin Cities. We have a guy that just started coming up who heard it through the grapevine, who came up to check this out. He came up and he stayed for 3 hours, 2 weeks later, he drove back and played 3 more hours and said he'd be back. He's a great jazz guitar player. He said this is terrific. He got up on the microphone before he left and said, “I just wanted to tell you people here in Duluth that you have a treasure, so keep supporting this, it's a great thing.”

E: Thanks for the stories. Here's a clip I grabbed from my visit to the club last weekend. Let the beat go on. [Note: the sound mix is much better when you hear it in person... great piano and bass, but I was standing up near the drums and killed the balance a bit. You'll have to check it out yourself sometime.]


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Stepping Out with Jazz Drummer Jeff Peabody

It's interesting how many business people have another side, an artistic side, which is not immediately visible in the course of your typical business exchange. Go behind the scenes in a person's life and there is often much more than than initially meets the eye. Duluth photographer Jeff Peabody is a case in point.

Like Rolf Hagberg of Motivity, Peabody also once worked with Jeff Frey & Associates, the Northland's leading commercial photography studio. At the time I simply knew him as a friendly face behind the counter. He was always filled to the brim with good stories, and when our paths cross last month again, we set aside some time to talk about his "other life" as a jazz drummer on Saturday afternoons at the Club Saratoga.

Ennyman: So how did you first get into drums?

JP: I started playing drums, I think I was 8 years old. There was a kid down the street who was about 12 years old, who I kind of idolized, and whatever he did I wanted to do, and he started to play the drums, so, so did I. And I started tapping on bicycle frames and stuff and eventually my parents bought me a little drum set.

E: So you just started playing… you had drumsticks?

JP: Oh no, it was literally screw drivers on an old bicycle frame, tapping along to records in the garage, one of those fold out 45 players. We were playing along to “Yummy, yummy, yummy, I’ve got love in my tummy...” songs like that, little kids.

E: 1910 Fruitgum Company.

JP: Yeah, so I was serious about it and my folks bought me a little kit and I played that into the ground. This was a little kid's kit, and I was literally playing it every day. I was playing along to records at home, and I just melted that thing down, and when I was about 12 or so, they bought me a full sized kit. By then I was getting pretty good at it and I always played along with records. I played along to tunes, so my mother didn't mind it and it was popular tunes of the time. It wasn't just crazy banging. She was doing her housework.

E: You were here in the Twin Ports?

JP: Yeah, I always lived in Duluth. My father owned a garbage route and that summer I figured that if I worked every day I could earn enough to buy a somewhat professional set of drums. Well, during that summer while I was doing that, a girl whom I'd met when I started at Denfeld High School, just a friend of mine, was in Leif Ericson Park smoking dope with this long haired musician guy, a sax player. And they were down by the beach there, and he mentioned that he was in a band and I said, "Oh where do you play?" and he said, "Oh, well we're not playing now. We're looking for a drummer." And she knew that I was, so she mentions it to this guy. She says “I know someone who's playing drums and he's getting a brand new drum set,” and he said, “Oh, cool.”

I don't remember if I called him or he called me, but we actually set up an audition. And I'm like, "Really? I'm just a kid." And they said this guy was really interested, so when I talked to him -- I didn't even drive then, I don't know if I was 16 or not -- I said, "Sure, I guess I could try it, but I've never been in a band," and they said, “Oh well, that's fine, that's fine.” I said, "I can't even drive to your thing," and they said, "We'll come and get you." So I thought, wow, these guys must be desperate. So they show up and they're older guys, and when you're 16 and someone's in their 20's they look like old guys and I thought, well here we go. So I packed my drum set in their car and it was a 1976 Monte Carlo or something like that, and we go to a rehearsal up on Central Hillside. I had my little kit and I wanted to be a heavy metal rock drummer. That's what I was into.

E: Who were the music guys that you liked?

JP: I was into the more trendy stuff at the time like Black Oak Arkansas and Grand Funk Railroad. I loved to play along to the Woodstock soundtrack, Sly and the Family Stone, stuff like that. So, I knew from just listening to the radio I had a million songs in my head, but some that I'd never played before or maybe played once somewhere, you now, so I show up at this rehearsal and they were a top 40 band and they had to play 50's, 60's, 70's popular stuff. They were all white guys, but because they lived in the Central Hillside they were influenced by black music, which I didn't have, coming from Piedmont Heights, where it was really white, but again I knew it from the radio. So we're doing like "Help Me Rhonda”and I'm thinking, “Oh my god, this is about as far away as from what I want to do,” and then they're doing like Isley brothers and I'm thinking, “This is not Black Oak Arksansas,” but I knew them, and said give me a call, and I did it, so we pack up the gear and they take me home and I go "Well thanks, that was fun," and I thought, well that's that.

Two weeks later, I get a call and they said, “This is Steve from the band,” and I said, “Hi, what's up?” And they said, “You got the job,” and I said, “No, I'm the kid. I'm the kid, remember? You picked me up,” and they said “Right, Jeff, and we're going to start rehearsing” I wasn't sure if I even wanted to, but apparently because I'd played along with records all the time, it was like playing with a metronome and the one thing I had that no one else had was good time.


E: There's a lot of drummers who are young who slow down or are dragging it instead of driving it...

JP: ...or rushing it, right. So I felt at the time, after all that I felt like I had to accept. So I started playing with the band. We were rehearsing, first at a place on 1st street that was a condemned building, and we eventually got kicked out of that, and as we were pulling the gear out, the guy came and said, "Get out NOW, right now.” This was at 8 or 9 o'clock at night. He said someone was coming and we weren't supposed to be in there, so he literally was throwing us out on the street. So we had to run and get the truck and stuff. Ironically, we're pulling the gear out on 1st street and the building was the parking lot, or is the parking lot next to the Coney Island. And my parents came around the corner, I don't know if they were going to Sammy's Pizza or what, but they said, "Oh hey," and stopped the car, and said. "What's going on?" And we said we'd just gotten thrown out and we can't practice. I don't know if I asked or they volunteered but the next thing the truck was heading to my parents house, and we set up in the basement of the house, where we rehearsed for a month or more. At that point we had about 2 hours of material, and there was an audition for Charlie Lemon who owned Charlie's in West Duluth.

E: What was the name of your band?

JP: Skin Tight. And Charlie owned Charlie's in West Duluth and he also owned this hell hole in Superior called the Speakeasy, which is long gone, too. So they had this audition at the Speakeasy in Superior. I'm 16, I've never been in a bar other than with my mom and dad at Anton's in the West End, so I dressed up and of course as soon as we walked in, bang, they need to see an ID, and I said "Well, we're here with the band," and they said, "Well okay, you can't stay here. Come back when you audition and then you have to leave. So we went somewhere else, to another bar and I stood way in the back by a pool table and nobody bothered me. It was like a Monday night or something, and so we came back and played and they said, "You guys are great, we'd love to hire you. The kid is going to have to get a letter from his parents." Literally, a note from mom to say I could play, but they said they wanted to hire us. "We'll give you a call."

In a short time, I don't know if it was a week, 3 days, two weeks, they called and said, “Can you play this weekend?” And we're like, "Whoah, we only have 2 hours of stuff," and they said, "Well, the band that was supposed to play isn't coming, and we need somebody to play and we'd like you to do it. Play the 2 and then play them again. We need somebody and we want you." And that was the beginning of a one year job for Charlie Lemon, 6 nights a week, one week in Duluth at Charlie's, a week in Superior, and we went back and forth. I did that for a year as a high school student. Needless to say, I didn't get much schooling done, but I was getting paid more than my teachers were. And so, it was quite a learning experience. I always said, even then, I was smart enough to know that I was l earning what not to do in life, hanging around these people. You know. The lesson didn't really stick but after that stint, I'd played in other bands and I dabbled in jazz in high school.

CONTINUED
Tomorrow Jeff shares how he came to replace Billy D at the Club, and why being a jazz drummer is a whole different animal.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Google Duluth: The Big Buzz

I'm sure that no one in Chile cares that much, nor do they care too much in Nebraska, or Philadelphia, Pensacola, Tijuana or Rio, but there's been some excitement building here in Duluth, and it's not the warm weather bringing it on. And no, it's not a Super Bowl or anything like that either, though to see the glow on a few of faces around here you might think it's a Super Bowl caliber event.

Here's the buzz: Google Duluth.

Sam Cook's column in the Duluth News Tribune today states, "Google has invited cities of 50,000 to 500,000 to show why they ought to receive an investment of $50 million to $100 million from the company to bring high-speed fiber-optic service to everyone who wants it."

Naturally every medium small city in the country should be going bonkers to be on the receiving end of this windfall. The infrastructure Google plans to roll out will be 100 to 1000 times faster than the fastest net connections mortals have yet experienced.

On March 20th, like next weekend, there's going to be a Google Fest at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. They want to see excitement. Eyes aglow and hearts a-flutter. Insane desire and drama. A multitude screaming hysterically, "I want it."

The event will be streamed live online including live music and gooey face paint. Yep, the whole ball of wax, wrapped in candy wrappers, will be flared into the cyberuniverse.

For a little less hyperbole, read the rest of Sam's column yourself. I think you'll get the picture.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The British Invasion

According to Rolling Stone magazine's list of top 500 albums, four of the top ten are by the Beatles, who also own the Gold Medal position of Numero Uno with their ground breaking Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The other three Beatles albums on the top ten are Revolver (3), Rubber Soul (5) and The White Album (10).

I remember when The White Album came out there were all kinds of rumors about what would have been on the cover of this album had not the censors interfered. I'm not up to speed on the trivia here but suspect that the mystique created by this album devoid of even a title was a brilliant concept that helped maintain the buzz for these now maturing mop tops who took America by storm only a few short years earlier.

It was called The British Invasion by the media heads, with groups like the Dave Clark Five and The Animals and The Rolling Stones all having a go at American audiences via the trend setting Ed Sullivan Show. Beatlemania was so over the top that when they appeared in concert it was impossible to hear them perform because of the girls shrieking and shaking and screaming.

Other groups that cross-pollinated with American audiences, influencing emerging Stateside bands, included Herman's Hermits, Peter & Gordon, Manfred Mann, Petula Clark, Freddie and the Dreamers, Donovan and the Kinks. My first 45 single was the Kinks' All Day and All of the Night. All these groups had hits in the American pop scene.

The influences went both ways though. Dylan made an impact "over there" as did Jimi Hendrix whose time in England gave him the traction his career needed to get out from the typecasting expected of a black guitarist in the States. Hendrix found his voice (or rather, his guitar did) and he carved out a new territory in rock history.

Rounding out the top ten of RS magazine's greatest albums, we have Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys (2), Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited (4), Marvin Gaye's What's Going On (6), Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones (7), London Calling by The Clash (8) and Dylan's Blonde on Blonde at number nine, number nine, number nine, number nine....

Not sure what I think of a couple of those. Elvis makes the list at number eleven with The Sun Sessions. And Miles Davis grabs the twelve spot with Kind of Blue, the first jazz album on the list.

What would be the top ten albums on your list... if you can narrow it down that far. You should check the Rolling Stone Top 500 for a good selection of ideas. Maybe it would be good to get a handle on their criteria. Pet Sounds? Exile on Main Street? Not sure I understand those selections. How about you?
Note: Picture at top right is from a wall in Haight-Ashbury, SF 2008.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Picasso's Last Thought

Pablo Picasso was undoubtedly the most influential artist of the 20th century having produced more than 50,000 works in a variety of mediums, including (mostly) painting, sculpture, illustration, lithography and others. He was a creative force who stretched the boundaries of what could be, and he was constantly innovating.

In 2007 New York's Whitney Museum curated a collection designed to show how Picasso influenced American artists. When this exhibit was taken to the road we were able to see it at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It was impressive. Each room of the gallery contained a Picasso work and a variety of ways that same piece showed up in others' works after having been blended into their own imaginations, reformulated and reiterated in new forms, often quite consciously.
I remember my own first brush with an original Picasso. Actually, it was a whole room full of early Picasso's at a museum in New York City. I was left breathless. As a young painter, I was awed. The beauty, the unveiling of technique, the wonderful painterliness, the simplicity in complexity. All served to inspire.

When Picasso died on April 8, 1973, I was in my apartment just off the South Green at Ohio University. I was sitting on the floor leaning against a wall. Though half a world away, I knew he was departing. The drawing here was Picasso's last thought.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How Pop Became Porn

Somewhere in the 80's the Minneapolis Star Tribune (or maybe it was the St. Paul Pioneer Press across the river) carried the review of a Prince concert which had been a night or two before. The reviewer described how the culmination of Prince's show involved a king-sized bed upon which he knelt, lasciviously licking his fingers and stroking the phallic neck of his guitar as he played. The erotically charged show thrilled the reviewer, who later had a chance to party with him afterwards, dancing with this sexy man who though small in stature had become a giant. (This was before he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol.)

My thoughts at the time went down the path that young people were getting the message that to be famous and big you had to break moral boundaries and go even further in your debauchery than your predecessors. To be unwilling to do so was prudish and uncool.

This memory of the Prince concert had been long buried and forgotten 'neath the cobwebs of my mind until I came to last week's article by Liz Jones in the Daily Mail, which opens this way:

The woman is naked - or looks like she is. Only a flesh-coloured leotard covers her body. Her long blonde hair tumbles down her back. She's in a cage, sliding her fingers provocatively in and out of her mouth.

A scene from a cliched pornographic film? Sadly not. The woman in question is Shakira, a pop superstar and the fourth richest singer in the world.

The images can be seen in the video for her single, She Wolf, which will be watched obsessively, again and again, by thousands of young men and women, many of whom will form the opinion that writhing in a cage is precisely the way 'sexy' women should behave.

Jones' article focuses specifically on the way women have become portrayed in all this MTV sex-culture. I myself do not understand why no one can raise a voice against music that seems to encourage rape and gang banging and violence against women with being perceived as having their heads in the sand.

It may be that this is the down side of freedom, as capitalists play their hand to humanity's baser instincts, happy to accept the be on the receiving end of the transactions. (Profit) The only need then is to find new performers willing to go further than the previous ones...

After forcing herself through 24 hours of MTV, Jones concludes, "What I saw on MTV, and have glanced at several times on the internet, was an entire sub-culture of mainstream music videos in which sex is the only currency: in which girls wear bikinis, and boys take their pick.

It's depressing. It's demeaning. And it's corrupting a generation who simply don't have the moral guidance that would lead them to turn it off.

Like many other things, I do not think the answer here is more laws and repression of freedoms. I actually don't know what the answer is. I only know it seems like something demeaning to the human spirit is going on, and few voices are being raised to question it.

If the topic interests you, the 266 comments at the end of How Pop Became Porn will also make a good read.