Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday T

Miscellaneous Random Thoughts About Words Beginning with the Letter T

Turkeys. People raise them. Ben Franklin thought the turkey should be our national bird.


Tomcat. The word refers to a male cat, but is more often used to describe male behavior, especially as it pertains to sexual conquest. The slang definition is, "To be sexually active with more than one partner." Interestingly enough, it is the name of an F-14 fighter jet that was produced in 1972. According to Answers.com it was expensive to produce and a high maintenance item, though extremely effective as a heavy fighter. Our only export customer was Iran. (Kind of reminds me of the ending of Charlie Wilson's War.)


Totem. A totem can be the symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual. According to "Native American Totems & Their Meanings," each individual is connect to nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides along our journey through this world. Some have turkeys and others have tomcats... among other things.


Tradition. Who has not enjoyed the play (and subsequent film) Fiddler on the Roof, with its magnifying lens focused on the challenges to tradition in our modern world. The film is about a Jewish family, but it could easily be Native American or Persian. That is the modern world has eroded many of the traditional beliefs, customs and rituals which served as cohesive elements in the culture and in families. Some of these efforts to destroy traditions are deliberate, as some modern thinkers believe any effort to hold on to the past is a barrier to progress. Others believe that traditions serve as a foundation that gives stability as we build for the future.


Tacky. The word literally means sticky to the touch. But we also use it to mean "lacking style or good taste; tawdry." Along the same lines it is used to refer to something distasteful or tasteless. "A tacky remark." Its interesting how so many words can have multiple meanings. Is it tacky to call someone a turkey?


Touche. In fencing, touche is the French word for "touched"... Did you know that? It is used to acknowledge a hit, and is called out by the fencer who is hit. Usually I hear it when someone has made a clever point in an argument. Till this morning I had not connected it to the sport of fencing. Did you?


Other T words coming to mind that I do not have time to chatter on about include, Terminal, Tough, Territory, Tedious, Time, Taxes, Tease, Two, Trio, Triumph, Tickle, Token, Tank, Tinker, Tell, Tall, Tut, Toucan, Tepotzlan, Tarnish, Triple, Type and "Tag, you're it."

And no, I do not want to talk about Tea Parties today, unless it has something to do with the Mad Hatter.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Man's Inhumanity to Man: Babi Yar

"Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn." ~Robert Burns

When I was in Bible college there was a student who came to our school who had escaped from Uganda during Idi Amin's reign of butchery. I have forgotten his name, but not his story. His village (and family) had been wiped out, but he managed to survive by hiding under a pile of dead bodies until dark and then running away through the forest.

This memory was unearthed by a Facebook entry I read last night, that today is the anniversary of Babi Yar.

Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukraine where one of the world's greatest atrocities occurred. On September 29 and 30 more than 33,000 Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis in a single event. The massacre has been acknowledged as "the largest single mass killing for which the Nazi regime and its collaborators were responsible during its campaign against the Soviet Union and is considered to be 'the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust.'"

While reading about this tragedy many recollections came to mind. One of these was an anecdote from the book Hotel Rwanda in which the narrator saw the shipments of machetes arriving in advance of the slaughter there. In other words, slaughters on this scale require organization.

At Babi Yar, there must have likewise been a significant orchestration of weapons, deceit and bulldozers, for in the end the whole thing was to be buried. That there were at least three known survivors is itself astonishing. One of these tells how she had to play dead in the midst of the dead bodies which were ultimately buried. She somehow managed to dig herself out afterwards, sharing her story in a documentary novel about this dark stain in history.

The important thing about recalling these perpetrated horrors is that they can prompt us to study history and help us recognize the circumstances which brought them about. Perhaps, too, there was no outrage because people did not know the extent to which it was happening. Or, the power of fear silenced those who were aware.

Our Founding Fathers had more than one thing right: the importance of a free press and freedom of speech.

Here is a place to learn more about Babi Yar. Let's not forget...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prison Art

During the year we lived in Mexico I learned that there was a prison somewhere between Saltillo and Oaxaca where the prisoners carved scenes inside the shells of walnuts. The walnut shell art was then sold to tourists.

While looking for some reference to this online I stumbled upon an article about prison art in general which was quite fascinating. The piece begins with more the more critical observation that just because the art was created under unusual circumstances, this does automaticly make it good art.

Prison artists are textbook outsiders, creating apart from the art world, with little or no formal training, under unsupportive conditions. They're also outsiders whose work typically amounts to cliche and bland imitation.

Noble Indians, sinewy basketball players, jungle animals, rugged princess warriors, pretty landscapes, celebrity portraits, fantasy beefcake: Most prisoners who try their hand at art make the same kind of uninspired, tediously rendered stuff that is liable to result from the artistic efforts of any more or less random population with time on its hands.

The author goes on at length in this vein, letting us know that he knows the difference between good art and these by-products of boredom. But it is all setup, with the aim of showing some very interesting work. One artist, Raymond Materson, unravels the threads of his socks to weave miniature tapestries. Another artist carves ornate chairs out of soap. Chip Jarrett, an inmate in Michigan, uses found objects like paper clips, cardboard and other miscellaneous materials to build models of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He is undoubtedly the most popular guy on the cell block.

Here's an excerpt again about Jarrett:
In a letter to Lynne Bailey, who collects and sells prison art, Jarrett describes how he came to make his bikes. He was depressed after the death of his mother, he wrote.

"I went to bed that night, dreading the fact that I had to get up for another day of heartbreak.

"The next morning, I went to dump the trash can from my room, and I had a vision that hit me like a ton of bricks!! I know this sounds crazy, but I couldn't help to wonder why I was throwing away all that good trash. I ... brought the trash back to my room and started to piece together something. Maybe it was just that I was bored and needed something to do, or maybe God planted a seed in me, but the product of the things from that garbage can was something I loved in my life and something that always allowed me to feel free.... the product of my first motorcycle made out of trash with a gas tank made out of a bar of soap!!"

Later, Jarrett wrote, "When I started making my bikes, I would go through the trash everyday looking for materials and the other guys used to laugh at me and make fun of me, but after seeing that first bike, they stopped making fun of me and started asking if they could get one."


Take a minute to check out the images on the site... and if you have time read the article as well.

Our local St. Louis County Jail has been abandoned and for a time was up for sale. A professional photographer friend was part of a tour of the facility shortly after it closed. With camera in hand he photographed some amazing wall art there, which I may try to share here if able.

In the meantime... stay out of prison if you can. There are better things to do with your time. But if you gotta be there killing time, you might as well make art.

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Plain Sight

The other day I mentioned a couple of the songs that moved me at last Wednesday's singer/songwriting competition at Beaner's. One of these was In Plain Sight by Patti Ryan, a song that moved me to talk with her afterwards to see if I could share it here.

It turns out that Patti is both a musician and visual artist. In the music sphere she plays with a group called Inukshuk Pass. Inukshuk (in-nook-shook) refers to an Inuit stone marker indicating a good and safe place that others have passed through or settled. Her husband is the bass player in the band and she's hoping this song will appear on their third album once all the arrangements have been worked out.

In Plain Sight

1. Underneath the steeple the people all believe
In something greater than themselves that they have never seen.
Each Sunday on this corner- wearing tattered dirty jeans
A plain man in plain sight waits for just one to see he’s real.

Just who are heaven’s angels on the flip side of the light?
Did they once stand on this corner as a plain man in plain sight?

2. High above the city with gritty streets beneath
People fill their penthouses with things they’ll never need.
Across the way a broken window frames a mother as she weeps.
A plain girl in plain sight waits for every single thing.

Just who are heaven’s angels on the flip side of the light?
Did they once cry at this window as a plain girl in plain sight?

3. On a hill of four leaf clovers the lucky children play.
They’ve learned to shun the ragged child with tears stained to his face.
He’s been standing on the outskirts humming the saddest song.
A plain child in plain sight waits to feel like he belongs.

Just who are heaven’s angels on the flip side of the light?
Did they once stand on the outskirts as a plain child in plain sight?

Patti Ryan 2010


Patti's band will be playing at Pizza Luce this week. Check the Trib or contact Pizza Luce for details. For more info on Patti and the group visit inukshukpass.com.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Five Minutes with Jeredt Runions

I can't recall when I first heard the name Jeredt Runions, but it was in the context of an art opening and a favorable impression was created. I had not seen his work but heard that he not only did interesting paintings, he also did live painting with some bands. It takes a special kind of confidence to put yourself out there like that.

Earlier this month I finally met the young man, at the art opening for Turtle at Washington Galleries. He's 26, and though originally from Solon Springs on the Wisconsin side of the bridge he now lives in the Twin Ports. I mentioned that I would like to see some of his work and he suggested I could find him at MN-artists.org. He also agreed to a short interview.

Ennyman: When did you first see that you were more creative or artistic than your peers?
Jeredt Runions: I realized that creating things came more natural for me than many at a very young age. I used to help my mother with crafts or always found myself doing something artistic. I wouldn't say MORE artistic than my peers, but I had lots of artistic things going on, which helps build you as an artist and person.

Enny: Who were your biggest early influences in the direction of making art?
JR: Definitely my mother; she has also been there for me, teaching me and guiding me along the way. I would also have to include my art teachers that I had as a child in public schools, especially Karen Johnson from Solon Springs who passed away from breast cancer when I was in 4th grade. This woman changed me then and even though she is gone, still teaches me today.

Enny: Where did you study and who were your biggest influences when you got serious about art?
JR: I was self taught with the help of my mother, and the public school system. I would say the streets, too. Traveling and living on my own since i was 17 is a Huge learning curve. And when I got serious about showing my art in galleries when I was 18-19 years old I was happily influenced by my girlfriend at the time. She pushed me to places i needed to go and show. Also a great couple that I have the pleasure to call my second Dad and Mom , Gary and Kelly Reed of Superior. Gary is and was a blessing for me! I moved across the street from his screen printing and sign shop (Reed Graphics) in South Superior when I was 18. One day I was taking pictures of my paintings outside to send to a gallery and Gary had seen me outside and walked over. He introduced himself and brought me into his shop. This was like going to art school for me, the man brought me under his wing and showed me different art skills of all types through the years. Telling me ideas, showing me art books. It was the best thing that could have happened in my life. HE IS AMAZING! Words can't describe the man! And Kelly, too, she is a mom that tells me the reality of art, business and living! I know I can count on those two any time .

Enny: You say that you quit making art for three years. Why did you quit and why have you started again?
JR: I did quit for several years. I was in a relationship that strained me artistically. I found myself working too much trying to make money and live the American way. For me that is not living! I was stressed and not myself at all. Soon after that relationship I found myself back on the art scene more than ever.

Enny: I heard your name with regard to painting while bands played locally. How did that begin?
JR: My stint with Live painting started about 5-6 years ago with a band that is really getting big now called Cloud Cult. They had some shows that I painted at, then found myself in that 3 year slump. After that hiatus I linked up with old and new friends, musicans, and artists from all over. I have been painting live now for 2 years strong and loving it all the time.

Enny: What's the difference between making art in a performance and making it in your studio?
JR: There is a huge difference for me and my style. The big one is time! TIME TIME I really spend some time on my studio stuff and the live is very quick and fast. You have to be in the zone. Being from a grafitti background that is in my blood to began with so it came natural.

Enny: I mentioned to you that I will be possibly doing a gig with some bands next month. It looks like that is coming together. Any advice?
JR: Always know what you're doing. never stall looking for an idea to pop up or the paint to dry. You always have to be doing something to make the image come out BUT most important To give the Audience a show! That is what live painting is for! Show people you are confident of your art and art making abilities.

Enny: Where do you see yourself five years from now, painting or taking another sabbatical?
JR: Well, I just started to go back to school for Art Education. I am a huge advocate for art and music programs and have donated a lot a money to public schools for their art deptartment from the sales of my art in the past. I have always been interested in teaching. I just needed to find time to do it!

Enny: Thanks for your time.

Jeredt's art is currently on display at the UWS library through December. He can also be found on Facebook and at MySpace.com/lifeitslikethat. Here's also a link to more of Jeredt's work.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mixed Bag Saturday

I woke a little early this morning and was still half in my dream state it seemed. That is, I was conscious of the world here, but also seemed to be following the events in my dream, as if the dream were continuing and I could follow it even though I was now conscious and awake. Not sure if such things are possible but that was my experience. In the dream I was reading an article in a magazine about the stock market. The author of the article was saying that for the past two Americans have been holding back from spending due to fear and uncertainty about the economy, but that now they would start spending again and the market was going to go up.

Disclaimer: This is not in any way, shape or form to be taken as investment advice.

This week a new exhibition opened at the Duluth Art Institute with a reception Thursday at the Depot. The two featured artists have created a lot of buzz here in Duluth. A retrospective of photographer Wing Young Huie's work fill one gallery and the other gallery space was filled with paintings by painter and retired UMD art professor Adu Gindy.

Here is Adu's Artist Statement from her website:
Spontaneous gesture plays an important role in the initial stages of many of my works. I like the idea of coaxing a figure or its quasi-facsimile from the interplay of marks, lines, shapes and colors--grasping it as it emerges from some general abstraction. Painting in this manner keeps me in touch with my own innocent eye and my inner self. Though I create images after my own desires. all of my images aren't gesturally conceived. I have, and probably always will, borrow freely from a wide repertoire of cultural icons. For example; Egyptian, Mexican, African, and others.

This summer I'd heard quite a bit of buzz about Gindy's new work and was looking forward to seeing it. She has been making paintings on one foot by one foot canvases, and there was some excitement in the voices of the people I'd heard discussing it this past month in an area gallery. The show is aptly titled "Bits and Pieces: A Visual Journey." When I saw the work displayed in the John Steffl Gallery at Thursday's opening reception, however, I was disappointed.

On the other hand it stimulated a fair amount of cogitation and I strove to understand my personal reactions to what I was seeing. It forced me to wrestle again with questions that have beset me all my life: What is art? Who decides what is good art? What is the purpose of art?

Here’s another question this exhibit raised for me: If art is just about having fun painting, then why do artists always lobby for more funding for the National Endowment for the Arts? I suspect that the buzz I had been hearing has more to do with Adu's ebullient personality than the quality of the paintings themselves.

When I came to Duluth in 1986 the Duluth Art Institute had organized a studio tour for the general public to meet artists and see their studios in the lofts above Superior Street downtown. Being from New Jersey I did not know any of the names, but Adu's brightly colored furniture and spotty works were memorable. I saw/met John Steffl for the first time and was quite impressed with his work, as well as a number of others whose names I have since forgotten. But Adu's work was distinctive, and I have not forgotten those first impressions. So perhaps this, more than anything, is what disappoints. I expected more. I had expected to see the mature works of an influential local artist in her prime, and instead saw work that felt haphazard, hastily expressed, and not reflecting much of what I would call talented draftsmanship or even design. Maybe the fault was my own. I was expecting the Le Guernica and I got a child's water color.

I do see some of her influence amongst a number of young artists in this town. I'd be curious what other local artists and students feel about Adu's work.

In the meantime, pursue your dreams. If you aspire to be a redwood, go for it.... and if a blackberry bush, make the best you know how.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Winner

Last Saturday evening on KUMD's Folk Migrations program I heard this song which I had never heard before. Turns out, the lyrics were written by Shel Silverstein. It's a variation on that common theme in songwriting about winners and tough guys. Doug Kershaw's Bully of the Bayou comes to mind as does Jim Croce's You Don't Mess Around With Jim. Those songs serve us the concept in abbreviated form, but this one spells it out, in detail. Funny thing is, I think I know this guy.

The Winner

The hulk of a man with a beer in his hand looked like a drunk old fool,
And I knew that if I hit him right, I could knock him off that stool.
But everybody said, "Watch out -- that's Tiger Man McCool.
He's had a whole lot of fights, and he always come out the winner.
Yeah, he's a winner."

But I'd had myself about five too many, and I walked up tall and proud,
I faced his back and I faced the fact that he'd never stooped or bowed.
I said, "Tiger Man, you're a pussycat," and a hush fell on the crowd,
I said, "Let's you and me go outside and see who's the winner."

Well, he gripped the bar with one big hairy hand and he braced against the wall,
He slowly looked up from his beer -- my God, that man was tall.
He said, "Boy, I see you're a scrapper, so just before you fall,
I'm gonna tell you just a little what a means to be a winner."

He said, "You see these bright white smilin' teeth, you know they ain't my own.
Mine rolled away like Chiclets down a street in San Antone.
But I left that person cursin', nursin' seven broken bones.
And he only broke three of mine, and that make me a winner."

He said, "Behind his grin, I got a steel pin that holds my jaw in place.
A trophy of my most successful motorcycle race.
And every mornin' when I wake and touch this scar across my face,
It reminds me of all I got by bein' a winner.

Now my broken back was the dyin' act of handsome Harry Clay
That sticky Cincinnatti night I stole his wife away.
But that woman, she gets uglier and meaner every day.
But I got her, boy, and that's what makes me a winner.

You gotta speak loud when you challenge me, son, 'cause it's hard for me to hear
With this twisted neck and these migraine pains and this cauliflower ear.
'N' if it weren't for this glass eye of mine, I'd shed a happy tear
To think of all you'll get by bein' a winner.

I got arthuritic elbows, boy, I got dislocated knees,
From pickin' fights with thunderstorms and chargin' into trees.
And my nose been broke so often I might lose it if I sneeze.
And, son, you say you still wanna be a winner?

My spine is short three vertebrae and my hip is screwed together.
My ankles warn me every time there'll be a change in weather.
Guess I kicked too many asses, and when the kicks all get together,
They sure can slow you down when you're a winner.

My knuckles are so swollen I can hardly make a fist.
Who would have thought old Charlie had a blade taped to his wrist?
And my blind eye's where he cut me, and my good eye's where he missed.
Yeah, you lose a couple of things when you're a winner.

My head is just a bunch of clumps and lumps and bumps and scars
From chargin' broken bottles and buttin' crowded bars.
And this hernia -- well, it only proves a man can't lift a car.
But you're expected to do it all when you're a winner.

Got a steel plate inside my skull, underneath this store-bought hair.
My pelvis is aluminum from takin' ladies' dares.
And if you had a magnet, son, you could lift me off my chair.
I'm a man of steel, but I'm rustin' -- what a winner.

I got a perforated ulcer, I got strictures and incisions.
My prostate's barely holdin' up from those all-night collisions.
And I'll have to fight two of you because of my double vision.
You're lookin' sick, son -- that ain't right for a winner.

Winnin' that last stock-car race cost me my favorite toes.
Winnin' that factory foreman's job, it browned and broke my nose.
And these hemorrhoids come from winnin' all them goddamn rodeos.
Sometimes it's a pain in the butt to be a winner.

In the war, I got the Purple Heart, that's why my nerves are gone.
And I ruined my liver in drinkin' contests, which I always won.
And I should be retired now, rockin' on my lawn,
But you losers keep comin' on -- makin' me a winner.

Now, as I kick in your family jewels, you'll notice my left leg drags,
And this jacket's kinda padded up where my right shoulder sags,
And there's a special part of me I keep in this paper bag,
And I'll show it to you -- if you want to see all of the winner.

So I never play the violin and I seldom dance or ski.
They say there never was a hero brave and strong as me.
But when you're this year's hero, son, you're next year's used-to-be.
And that's the facts of life -- when you're a winner.

Now, you remind me a lot of my younger days with your knuckles clenchin' white.
But, boy, I'm gonna sit right here and sip this beer all night.
And if there's somethin' you gotta prove by winnin' some silly fight,
Well, OK, I quit, I lose, son, you're the winner."

So I stumbled from that barroom not so tall and not so proud,
And behind me I could hear the hoots of laughter from the crowd.
But my eyes still see and my nose still works and my teeth are still in my mouth.
And y'know...I guess that makes me...a winner.

by Shel Silverstein, recorded by Bobby Bare

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last Night At Beaner's Central

Last night was an exciting event at Beaner's Central, their annual Singer/Songwriter Competition. Beaner's is a homegrown coffeehouse founded by Jason Wussow about a dozen years ago. Jason and partner Dan are the famed duo who conceived Cooking on the Car, a film about travel and cuisine rolled into one.

It was my privilege to be one of the four judges in the competition, which was comprised of two ninety minutes sets involving fifteen very talented singer/songwriters. All were guitar players, which seems to be the instrument of choice for troubadours this past half century.

The first prize in this competition was impressive. It included being a featured gig at Beaner's, promoted by Jason and team, and recorded for a CD which would also be sold by Beaner's. As they say, America's got talent, and a lot of it was on stage last night here in Duluth.

I found myself moved by the lyrics of more than one song, including a heartfelt piece by Patty Ryan about the invisible/visible needy in our community, whom we see but don't see. And another written by a performer who rode past a woman on the bridge just before she jumped (she survived), as a metaphor for all the people whom we pass on by who are hurting.

There were many songs about relationships, about life to be lived, and life already lived. In short, it was a wonderful cross section of talent here. My only regret is that all my notes about each performer were scribbled on the tally sheets I handed in to have my votes counted based on lyrics, melody, stage presence and originality.

When all was said and done, the third place award went to Leane Perius-Flynn, second place to Caitlin Robertson, and the grand prize to Lance Benson, who really did wow us. One young singer was only fifteen, and she performed with remarkable maturity. The hardest part for the judges was that there were no loopers. The one judge, from KUMD, felt like he wanted to give elevens and twelves because he gave a ten for one of the categories right off the bat to the first impressive singer Heidi Feroe.

All in all, an entertaining evening for the Beaner's crowd and especially the friends of all that talent. Thanks, Jason, Dan and crew, for what you do.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hiding the Word in our Hearts

An ecumenical team of Christian doctors at Johns Hopkins University announced this week that they have developed heart stents made from miniature Bibles. The concept, it was explained, was to help heart attack patients "hide the Word of God in their hearts", a procedure that the doctors believed would extend patients' lives.

Currently, the stents are available only in the King James Version and New International Version, but will eventually be produced in thirty of the leading English translations as well as in 41 other languages.

And yes, I am making this up.

Actually, I found this New York Post photo of the day to be eye-catching and thought I would write a few words about it. It's a picture of what is purportedly the world's smallest Bible, which contains the Lord's Prayer in 12 different languages. The miniature Bible is part of an exhibition at the House of the Bible in Dresden, Germany.

And if you're interested, this New York Post site offer an app so that you can have the Best of their photojournalists' images sent to you daily, directly to your iPhone. For what it's worth. A picture is indeed often worth a thousand words.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Moments Like These

What a fascinating world we live in today. Walt Disney got it right when he shared with us that (sweet, but now tiresome) little tune, "It's a small world after all" at the New York World's Fair in 1964-64. The ever expanding expanding Internet network of networks only proves it more every day.

One of my Twitter followers posted a link to their blog, which originates in India, called Delhi Dreams. What interests me is how one can visit a foreign land and find a heart and mind that is so engaged, so like one's own in that it travels down the same paths, stimulated by human experience. His Twitter profile states: an advertising writer, poet and impromptu dreamweaver :)

Ha! I could say the same about myself and get away with it.

I suppose it must be what school teachers experience when they get a new batch of students in the fall, not knowing what to expect but -- based on experience -- knowing that that there will be unexpected surprises.

This is the beginning of Adee's blog entry titled In Moments Like These. I love the photo at the top of his blog, and have returned to it several times for a fresh look at one man's observations from the other side of the world.

In Moments Like These

i wrote this in my diary, this Saturday morning. haven't edited it much :)

it is a grey Saturday morning. there is a faint drizzle going on outside for the past two hours or so. i'm waiting for her at home and we've a lot planned up for today.


Share something of yourself with someone new today!

A Few Images from Sunday Night at Swamp Sisters


Micah's dinner for 35 was delicious as you can imagine. Too bad there is no way to transmit tastes and smells via YouTube or Blogger yet. But these photos hint toward some of what you missed. Forgive the blurred image of the Chocolate Dream Sequence. It did indeed send one's taste buds to dreamland.




Monday, September 20, 2010

Harry S. Truman, An American President

I've been reading a biography of Harry S. Truman by Robert Dallek this past half week. It's part of The American Presidents Series that Arthur Schlesinger had a hand in assembling. All of the books I've read thus far from this series are quite insightful, and not overburdened with the anecdotal tedium that can sometimes get in the way of a good read.

Truman was our 33rd president, and the first to deal with many of the issues the rest of our post-WW2 presidents have wrestled with, chief of these being what to do with the nuclear power and how far to go when faced with being policeman of the world.

Truman is marked as the first, and only, president to authorize the use of an atomic bomb upon innocent civilians. And during the Korean conflict and early stages of the Cold War he considered doing it yet again. What was interesting was to read that when he became president, upon FDR's passing, he had no idea that the atomic bomb existed. He had only met the privately with FDR twice during those several years he was Vice President.

Harry Truman not only faced difficult issues abroad, he had to deal with rancorous issues on the home front as well, not the least of which was the rise of McCarthyism. Reading about this part of Truman's presidency especially strikes a chord with contemporary political rhetoric. McCarthy gained power in part by his manipulating the media, and ultimately the masses, playing on their fears of a Red scourge. Being a president with sinking popularity made it difficult to get the job done at times, a situation exacerbated by his firing of General McArthur who was perceived as a great hero in the public's eyes. Upon his return from overseas McArthur was received by a half million people in San Francisco and on the receiving end of a ticker tape parade in New York that threw tons of ticker tape over the entourage of the conquering hero. Ultimately, chiefly due to his ego, he fell prey to the power manipulators and was "used" to stain Truman as being "soft on communism." In reality, had McArthur had his way, we would have likely been in yet another World War, only this time directly with China and the Soviet Union.

Congressional hearings were held with the aim of potentially getting Truman impeached, but in the end it was his adversaries who were discredited.

What makes the book especially interesting is the insertion of Truman's private diary observations on all these events. He could see what was happening, and did more than his share of anguished wrestling, striving not to be swept away by the unsavory commotion being generated by the press.

For example, while McArthur was making recommendations about going to war with China and using the A-bomb on North Korea, Truman was making serious attempts at trying to understand how communism was gaining a foothold in so many places. He saw that men like Chiang Kai-Shek, themselves tyrants and despots, were often the reason that the message of communists gained a hearing, and men like Mao were able bring down the house.

The communists in Asia said that capitalism was self-indulgent. Truman considered this equation. Indeed capitalism brought us wealth and power, but is it's ultimate aim only to give us the freedom to be self-indulgent?

What's clear is that it's hard to be level-headed in Washington. Yet the weight of the world is on the shoulders of one man at the top, even if he really has very little power to effect change without a public behind him. Harry Truman gave it his best go, and put up with a lot of guff along the way. I recommend the book. It strikes me as an honest portrait, and offers many insights with regard to our current presidents, who are themselves mere mortals but expected to be gods.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chef Micah Presents

Today is a big day around here as our son Micah performs his special magic tonight, to the delight of many taste buds. Susie works at a popular little breakfast/lunch restaurant called The Swamp Sisters near Twig, MN. Micah, having left California the first of July, came home for a spell in order to make a little extra money for the next leg of his life journey. While home he is working as a cook in one of Duluth's classier restaurants already, but he's taking the day off for this exclusive occasion.

Here's the invitation we sent to friends or made available to patrons of the Swamp Sisters. Within the week every seat was booked. Wish you could be here, but I will try to share photos after.

(Photo above right, Micah behind the grill at Jeffrey's Hillside Cafe, Santa Rosa, California.)

Chef Micah Presents
Minnesota Harvest
Prepared
California Style
At the Swamp Sisters


Sunday, September 19
6:00 p.m.
Limited seating, intimate setting.
First 35 to reserve will be served.

Menu
Green Salad
with bleu cheese, toasted almonds and raspberry vinaigrette

Braised Pork Chops
with apple and fennel slaw and fall vegetable rice pilaf

Chocolate Dream Sequence Dessert


ABOUT CHEF MICAH
Minnesota born,
Sonoma County trained in California cuisine.
Waitress Susie's son.
$22 per person
SIGN UP HERE AT THE SWAMP SISTERS OR
RSVP

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rumpelstiltskin

For some reason I woke this morning thinking about Rumpelstiltskin. I remembered how the tale ends, where (SPOILER ALERT) the little fellow is so pleased with himself that he is singing and dancing about a fire, and gives himself away by declaring his name. But I couldn't recall the rest of the story, just this last part, and try as I might the image of a tower and Rapunzel with her long golden braids was coming to mind though I knew that was not the Rumpelstiltskin story.

Fairy tales have a longstanding tradition in our world. People love a good yarn, whether it teaches a good lesson or simply serves as a diversion. In more recent times -- and by this I mean since the dawn of Guttenberg -- many of these stories have been harvested and assembled into books by men like the Grimm brothers, Italo Calvino and Hans Christian Anderson.

The Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale was originally recorded and published in 1812 by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I used to have a little green paperback volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and a quick perusal of my book shelf suddenly puts the little volume directly into my hands. Voila!

The book begins with stories about elves, and includes many well known classics, including Snow White, The Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Tom Thumb's Travels and even Rapunzel.

As it turns out, my memory of the story's end was accurate, that Rumpelstiltskin's overweening pride became his undoing. But I did realize that it was the miller's pride that led to the whole story in the first place, for the miller's desire to project his self-importance that almost cost him his daughter's life as well as all that unfolded afterwards. It's a tale with many variations, both entertaining and pointed.

Here's the beginning... and a link to the rest of the story, a quick read that I am sure you will enjoy.

Rumpelstiltskin

Once there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he had to go and speak to the king, and in order to make himself appear important he said to him, "I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold."

The king said to the miller, "That is an art which pleases me well, if your daughter is as clever as you say, bring her to-morrow to my palace, and I will put her to the test."

And when the girl was brought to him he took her into a room which was quite full of straw, gave her a spinning-wheel and a reel, and said, "Now set to work, and if by to-morrow morning early you have not spun this straw into gold during the night, you must die."

Thereupon he himself locked up the room, and left her in it alone. So there sat the poor miller's daughter, and for the life of her could not tell what to do, she had no idea how straw could be spun into gold, and she grew more and more frightened, until at last she began to weep.

But all at once the door opened, and in came a little man, and said, "Good evening, mistress miller, why are you crying so?"

"Alas," answered the girl, "I have to spin straw into gold, and I do not know how to do it."

"What will you give me," said the manikin, "if I do it for you?"

"My necklace," said the girl.

The plot thickens... Go ahead and check it out.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Postmodern Perspective on Moby Dick

This morning I received an email from someone who had read my August 19, 2009 entry How Literature Elevates Us. In that piece I reference Moby Dick, among several other great classics of fiction. The writer here offers up a pointed review, from a post-modern point of view. I share his account here in its entirety.


Hi Ed,

It's been a while. I've moved on, perhaps in retrograde motion, but its movement nonetheless.

I recently read Moby Dick. I noticed that you almost had a piece about it on your blog
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 How Literature Elevates Us that really didn't materialize. I was kind of sad about that, because I think Melville still has quite a lot to say...

Here's what I thought--post it if you like. Or just reply. Or none of the above, but hopefully you'll enjoy ;)

Let My Boat be Stove: A Post-modern Perspective on Moby Dick

Spoiler warning: if you have never read Moby Dick, do not bother reading this piffle. It will only spoil the end of the book, and it probably isn’t worth reading anyway. But if you can’t help it, I can’t help you.

God is dead, so I’ve heard. What remains? How do we reconcile the notion of free will in a (probabilistically) deterministic universe? Is the distinction between free will and determinism illusory? Or worse, is it a red herring—or perhaps a white whale? What is the “good life”—how do we distinguish right and wrong, and if we are driven by “fate” or “destiny”, why even bother to ask the question?

Don’t ask me—I haven’t the faintest idea. I’m lost at sea, as it were, merely living my life out to its “logical” end, lost in the awesomeness of horizon-less beauty, doing what I was made to do, piloting my body on its singular quest come hell or high water, or whatever alliterative phrase floats my boat. Or maybe that’s just a sorry excuse for all of the trouble I cause or am caused. Who knows? One way or another, at the end of it all, that great, insurmountable force that draws us ever onward in life will one day drag us down to the inconceivable depths and whatever lies beyond. Unless fate buoys you up, and then you can live on to share the good news.

Is that what Herman Melville means to tell us in Moby Dick? Just what is it about this one white whale that consumes Ahab, Ishmael, and the reader? “And only I am escaped alone to tell thee,” Ishmael quotes from Job.

Why did Ishmael escape, by the way? What did he ever do to deserve to live? After he boards the Pequod, our humble narrator becomes almost a non-person in terms of the dramatic action until the very end of the book. Why is he the sole survivor? Is it just happenstance?

And just what is it he wants to tell us, exactly? That depends, I suppose, on whether the primal force of Moby Dick is seen inherently good or evil, on whether Ahab is seen as moral or immoral for setting himself against it.

Melville perhaps gives us hints as to his disposition, using angelic imagery when describing the great WHITE whale, and overtly hinting at the dark nature of Ahab and his personal boat crew of Malays. The chief of them, the parsee Fedallah, is taken by second mate Stubb to be the devil himself. Snatches of some Faustian bargain between Ahab and Fedallah are sprinkled in the text, but this Mephistopheles seems even more to be some projection of Ahab’s own, darker nature. If the devil made him do it, it was the devil inside.

And yet…

Moby Dick himself is certainly no benevolent force in the novel. He simply is. He does not defend those who cannot defend themselves or otherwise do anything noble. He is Leviathan—that which was before the Great Flood, and that which will be when men are but a memory. (Not to be sexist, but the only feminine characters in the novel are: Queequeg (at the beginning of the novel), an innkeeper's wife, a doting Quaker woman who provisions the Pequod, half-forgotten wives whom Starbuck and Ahab recall, dancing Polynesian women on a passing whaler, and one boat—the Rachel, which goes in search of its lost children and ultimately rescues Ishmael). This Leviathan--this wild, ethereally white force--slays all who oppose it, strikes awe and fear in the hearts of men, defies all of the cunning and technology ranged against it by the Promethean Ahab, and rises again on the third day (get it?) to yet live on after the Pequod, her crew, and her very flag are sunk along with the bird who would dare carry it on.

Moby Dick may represent primal forces or the embodiment of what some may call “God”, as Gabriel (the Angel of Death!) does in the story. Even amongst the "pagans" in the novel, whale bones are used to build holy temples, are taken by Melville to be the dragons of “Here there be Dragons,” and imbued with mystical powers in order to explain stories such as that of Jonah. But whatever relationship the white whale has to the powers that be, those powers are not held to be wise, rational, or benevolent. No wonder Melville quotes from Job!

No, Moby Dick, the holy white whale, is the great force that defies Man, his technology, his logic, his pertinacity. Forever. And Ahab, in all his fieriness, with the Devil at his side, sets out to strike that foul force frontally, as Melville might like to say. Ahab, like Lucifer before him, sets out to take it out.

Is that not noble? Or just plain stupid? Pitiable?

As an aside, I think it’s interesting to note that Ahab dashes technology—his quadrant—against the deck of the Pequod while in pursuit of the whale. In short, he concludes that technology can only tell him the facts of now, not what will be. And what use is that against primal forces? How can one conquer the irrational with the rational?

To judge for the nobility of Ahab is to judge against the whale (and vice versa), and neither has much to recommend it in terms of social welfare: these forces act only in their own interests. Ahab certainly may think he has the means, the right, and the destiny to oppose the whale, but as Clint Eastwood once said “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it”. The book eschews Manichean perspectives a century before that was “cool”.

Still, maybe Ahab’s just tenacious, if not a little stupid for not turning back.

But could he actually turn back? Is that the kind of man Ahab is? Never! Like Caesar, like any man rooted to purpose, he’s as constant as the North star.

Is it wrong to fix oneself quixotically to what one sees as a “great” purpose? Should we pity anyone who does?

Whether Ahab is pitiable or not depends on whether you think he’s doomed, and Melville certainly makes no bones about that: the dude is doomed, early on. And so he’s a tragic character, his fatal flaw being the figment (still channeling Melville here… go with me on this) that he can fight and fell his famous foe (see?). He even manages to fix an iron in the great beast, as Fedallah promised. Shouldn’t the underdog think he can win, sometimes? Otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie… I mean book… I mean, life.

For, at the end of the day, what is life? We range the forces we can muster against that which is beyond our ken has ranged against us and fare as best as we can. Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down. Sometimes we are master of the seas whom all hold in awe. And sometimes, our boat is dashed to pieces.

So let my boat be stove through and through. I sail on to my purpose, and I’ll take it down or be taken down by it, damn it all.

Can I help it? Can’t I save myself and others?

I am. And that’s the devil of things.

RJB 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Iran Frees Sarah Shourd

Yesterday's paper carried a photo of a happy Sarah Shourd with her mom in Iran. Without a doubt this was a moment of exhilaration for Sarah and her mom, but also provided a glimmer of hope to the other moms, dads, siblings of Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer who remain imprisoned in Tehran, currently charged with espionage.

Quick reminder: On July 31 2009 the three young people were vacationing in a remote area of Iraq, hiking in a mountainous region near the Iran border. Iranian authorities swept them away, claiming they were on Iranian territory, trespassing. In May, the mothers obtained visiting rights for two days, but other than that the three have been held in custody in Tehran's Evin Prison and a lengthy silence ensued. For the bulk of this past 13+ months, the youths were being held but no charges had been filed. Essentially, no one knew what was going on.

A complication in obtaining their release has been that the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.

When I read the news, it included mention of her being release on $500,000 bail. In other words, she was not entirely free. My first thought was to wonder who her benefactor was. As we all know, there is a lot of wealth in the world.

Today's London Telegraph has published an answer to that question already. The benefactor was apparently the billionaire Sultan of Oman.

What I have found especially intriguing in this story was a comment made by Shane Bauer's mom on July 31. She shared that although the U.S. government channels were purportedly busy working on their release, she discovered that there are other channels -- through the religious community networks -- by which their potential release could be achieved. This discovery greatly encouraged her.

Let's not forget the other two young men. May they be encouraged as well by Sarah's unexpected release.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crazy Heart

I finally got around to seeing Crazy Heart, starring Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake, a washed out country music singer/songwriter. The film won two Oscars, including Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, so to some extent it was obligatory for me to see it at some point.

SPOILER ALERT: This review will likely reveal portions of the story you may not wish to read, if you have not seen this film.

First off, this is a big Hollywood production with all the best Hollywood production values. The camera work is nice, the sound is good, the actors and extras all do excellent work, and there are stars in the diadem, chief of which are Jeff Bridges, Colin Farrell, Maggie Gyllenhall and Robert Duvall. The movie is well done, has a feel good ending and does the work it's supposed to do, I suppose.

It's a familiar tale. Former country star now down and out, a lifetime of broken relationships, now playing dives and bowling alleys finally realizes how messed up he is and gets help. In the end, he's back in the big time.

So what's wrong with this? Nothing, except that I kept feeling like I was watching Tender Mercies all over again. Sure, Bridges is a different character from Duvall's Mac Sledge, but they're essentially one and the same. They're rugged, charming, and self-destructive. All the while that I was watching I kept thinking of Tender Mercies, and then suddenly here's Jeff Bridges walking into a bar where Robert Duvall is the bartender. Hmmm.

Now I know Hollywood likes to do these kinds of reprise tributes as we saw in '91 re-make of Cape Fear, Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck returning to create that echo effect. But for me, this kind of tinsel-town self-stroking already comes across as a bit of self-serving Narcissism, but to top it all off the a co-producer of the film was Duvall himself, producing a film that reprised his own former role.

When Bad Blake finally realizes how badly messed up he is, Duvall is there to help get it together, pointing him in the direction of AA. Happily, ol' Bad turns all this disaster into lyrics for some great new songs and his career begins to soar again.

The film has lots of music, and Colin Farrell is great as country superstar Tommy Sweet. If you can turn off the film critic inside and go with the flow, you may just enjoy this one.

ennyman rating: 3 stars out of 5

Monday, September 13, 2010

Picasso's War Years

I woke this morning thinking, among other things, about where Picasso went during World War II. When the Germans occupied France, did Picasso just continue working in his studio?

A quick Google search reveals that he went to Rome, and continued painting. During the war his
paintings were more somber, with images of death being part of the subject matter. He was in his early 70's there and fathered two children with painter Francoise Gilot.

It seems impossible that the artist could have moved all his work out of France at that time, so what became of his studio? Some answers can be found in this 1999 article from The New York Observer in which Hilton Kramer critiques a new Picasso exhibition at the Guggenheim, or rather, critiques the artist himself in a column cynically titled, "Everybody Loves Picasso, Even Critics and Nazis."

It's a biting piece, and an interesting read. Writes Kramer, "Like certain soap operas that periodically introduce new faces while recounting the same old stories again and again, Picasso exhibitions now offer the museum-going public the comfortable familiarity of an oft-told tale. We don't go to these exhibitions in a state of suspense. We already know the basic scenario: The hero, a seductive scoundrel, is more likely than not to behave badly, but he can nonetheless be expected to triumph in the end. It is not only that so many women succumb to his charms; all of society does likewise. Hardheaded intellectuals melt in his presence; Nazi Gauleiters show him every courtesy. No matter what his failings or offenses may be, in art or in life, Picasso will be forgiven everything in the name of genius and celebrity. That is the script, and we know it by heart."

The title alone is dripping with sarcasm. It reminds me of the final cut on Dylan's latest CD Together Through Life. The song is titled, "It's All Good" but once your cranked into it you know he means just the opposite.

As for the artwork to be seen at the Guggenheim show, Kramer goes on to disparage its quality, calling it "second and third rate Picasso." In other words it is art by a famous hand, but for the most part not significant.

If unfamiliar with the span of Picasso's work in its entirety, here's a quick overview of the various seasons in the life of this influential painter of the 20th century.

In the meantime, make your life a masterpiece.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spy Killer

This past week I read the audio version of L. Ron Hubbard's Spy Killer. Hubbard is probably best known as the founder of Scientology, but before that he was a pulp fiction writer and storyteller. Evidently, the 150 stories Hubbard penned are being released as paperbacks for new readers. Here's how publisher's weekly described the book:

In this fast-paced short novel of espionage and intrigue from pulp master Hubbard, Kurt Reid, bucko mate of the tanker Rangoon, jumps ship to avoid a murder rap. His goal is the city of Shanghai because behind it lay all of China and a fair chance for escape. Instantly, Reid is drawn into a plot involving a beautiful Russian spy, Varinka, and the sinister Gen. Lin Wang and his executioners known as the Death Squad. The equally beautiful Anne Carsten complicates the romantic equation. While not as polished or prolific as Max King of the Pulps Brand, the future founder of Scientology carved a solid career as a contributor to the popular magazines of his day. This action yarn first saw print in the April 1936 issue of Five-Novels Monthly—the bright primary colors of that original cover, reproduced here, add nicely to the timeless pulp appeal.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Now my take.

I listened to an audio version that attempted to give the feel of radio theater, but while listening to the groans and clunks, stomping footsteps and gun shots I had a hard time at first discerning whether this was supposed to be radio comedy a la Garrison Keillor or the silly antics of Firesign Theater. After a while I realized this was supposed to be a straight story. Fortunately, it is two discs in length and I found the writing so bad it was amusing.

Seven of the reviewers on Amazon.com gave Spy Killer a five star rave, and the other two crashed the party with four star ratings. Is there no one who can recognize good writing any more? Cliche ridden, characters with absolutely no depth, violations of the basic rules of fiction writing such as show, don't tell.... Hubbard's spy fiction doesn't hold a candle to Iam Fleming's Bond, James Bond. Ennyman's Spy Killer rating: one star.

Alas, it is what it is. Hope I'm not popping anyone's balloons.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Birthdays

Today, guitarist Leo Kottke is 65. Last week Kottke made the news here in Duluth by putting on a show at the Bayfront Park with an audience close to nil. The newspaper attributed the debacle to poor promotion of the event. Truth is, there is just so much noise these days in the promotions realm that it's hard to be heard, and so much going on one wonders how anyone has time for anything any more. My guess is that the promoters did nothing beyond the ordinary and ordinary doesn't cut it in this new media environment. Kottke is worthy of an audience.

Today is a Harvest Festival at Bayfront Park and we'll see how that turns out with another Harvest Fest at a church on Arrowhead Road. Meanwhile, I am using part of the day today to prepare for a Harvest Fest that our own New Life Covenant Church is putting on tomorrow at the Twig Town Hall.

For the record, Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia. I first became aware of him when I was attending college in Athens, Ohio. Coincidentally, there is also a Duluth, Georgia. I first learned this from a local racing team, the Archer brothers, who had won a Grand Prix or the 24 Hours of Le Mans (or something big like that) and Duluth, MN did not even acknowledge them, whereas there were banners of congratulations in Duluth, GA. Interesting.

Few people know that today is the birthday of O Henry, the short story writer who trademarked the surprise ending. D. H. Lawrence, author of the scandalous Lady Chatterly's Lover, also emerged from the womb on this day. The great Crimson Tide coach Paul "Bear" Bryant celebrated his birthday on the eleventh along with Brian de Palma, Hollywood director who pretty much ruined Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. And hey, it's also the birthday of Ludacris, inspiration for the Beatles' #1 pop Eight Days a Week.

When my brother Robert called this morning to wish me a happy birthday, he shared the following bit of trivia with me. He asked if I was aware that Bob Dylan carefully clipped his toenails so that the nails on his left foot were a half inch longer than his right foot. I admitted that I had not heard this. He was, naturally, just funnin' me because he is the comic of the family and knows I'm a bit of a Dylan fan.

Going back in time, other famous names born today include:
1764 Valentino Fioravanti, composer
1458 Bernardo Accolti, Unico Aretino, Italian writer
1229 Hakuna Matata, Central Africa

On a serious note, today in 1922, civil rights leader Charles Evers entered the world, older brother of civil rights martyr Medgar Evers, whose tragic death inspired Bob Dylan's profound and richly textured Only a Pawn In Their Game, one of my all-time favorite Dylan songs.

It has been an interesting birthday so far, thanks to all the birthday greetings on Facebook and emails. Having a 9-11 birthday was a bit of a bummer nine years ago, but it did help put into perspective the notion that there are any number of tragic days where people woke with different expectations for their birthdays.... the JFK assassination and Pearl Harbor come immediately to mind. This time around, I feel honored and humbled to have known so many good people and to be on the receiving end of their best birthday wishes.

Whatever your plans for the weekend, enjoy them to the utmost.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Can Computer Viruses Kill?

There are few things more devastating than having your PC infected by a fatal virus. We've all come to depend on these machines way more than we could have believed possible, and few of us have the discipline to back up as often as we ought. Hence the need for anti-virus software to protect against programmed mischief, or worse.

Yesterday the title of a Computerworld article Murder By Malware: Can Computer Viruses Kill? peaked my interest. The informative piece by Darlene Storm* was a worthwhile reminder that it is indeed better to be safe than sorry.

Some of the problems caused by computers over the years were not malicious in intent, just caused by a bit of bad programming code. She cites a rocket that went off course and whose flight had to be aborted all because of a single hyphen that should not have been there in the programming.

When you think of how dependent all our airlines are on computers, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility to imagine a malfunctioning computer bringing a plane down. This is something seriously speculated in a Spanair crash that resulted in 154 deaths.

Storm also cites the potential vulnerability of our power grids, upon which all of us depend. In climates with excessive heat of cold we know people can die when the air conditioning or heating systems become inoperable.

Hospitals are also dependent on correctly operational computers with tens of thousands of people around the country hooked up to life support systems. In addition to being responsible to keep our personal information secure, hospitals must see to it that that adequately staff their IT departments so that the machines, in addition to their patients, remain free from infection.

You can check out the full story here, though I wouldn't blame you if you don't want to go there. We've all got plenty of other things to keep us awake at night.

Computerworld.com, August 23, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Artists and Money

The other day I came across a list of which modern artists' works were worth the most money. I don't recall every name, but the top of the list was Picasso and third on the list was Andy Warhol. Not surprisingly, both artists took very deliberate steps to increase their net worth, and David Galenson points this out in an excellent article called Arti$ts and the Market which appeared in The American on Sunday the 5th.

The article pulls back the veil as regards what artists are really like, if not all then certainly many. His article begins this way:

Many in the art world cling to the myth that financial gain does not motivate artists. This is not only bad economics, but bad art history.

In an era in which many previously forbidden subjects, including race, sex, religion, and drugs, have become favored themes for artists and critics, the nexus between money and art remains perhaps the last taboo subject for many in the art world. The origin of this prudish distaste lies six centuries in the past—the myth that artists work not for economic gain but solely for the love of art was one of the very foundations on which the image of the modern artist was created. The rise of a competitive market for art in the late nineteenth century began to bring the economics of art into the public domain, as some critics began to cite high prices as evidence of artists’ success. Yet it was not until the 1960s that an important artist successfully broke with the myth of the artist as ascetic, when Andy Warhol created a new image of the artist as avowed wealth-maximizer. Although Warhol’s model has now been emulated by a number of important contemporary artists, many in the art world still cling to the myth that financial gain does not motivate artists. This is not only bad economics, but bad art history. A brief historical overview of the relationship between artists and the market can lay bare the attitudes that have led to this curious fiction.

Galenson provides readers an overview of how artists once were artisans who formed guilds and how they evolved to the modern image of impoverished idealist who paints out of passion.

What I remember about Picasso is that he burned some of his paintings in order to stay warm through one particularly cold winter. He exemplified the poor artist who kept his ideals and made good. At least, that is how he appeared to me as a young art student. But here is what Galenson observes:

It is likely that no artist painted more portraits of dealers. During the early period in which he was establishing himself as a leading artist, Picasso painted the dealers Pedro Manach (1901), Clovis Sagot (1909), Ambroise Vollard (1910, 1915), Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910), Wilhelm Uhde (1910), Léonce Rosenberg (1915), André Level (1918), Paul Rosenberg (1919), and Berthe Weill (1920). In 1918, he also painted portraits of the wife of Georges Wildenstein and of the wife and daughter of Paul Rosenberg.

Early in his career, Picasso told Kahnweiler, “I’d like to live like a poor man with a lot of money.” Yet Picasso was careful to keep private his considerable interest in the material rewards of art, and it did not become part of the colorful image that made him the epitome of the modern artist for a vast admiring public.

My recent Aha! moment with Warhol was that for him it was always about the money. It dawned on me that he wasn't kidding when he said that he could make 4000 masterpieces in one day, as opposed to Picasso's 4000 in a lifetime. If you visit major galleries and collections, you can find Warhol is everywhere. When I visited the Wynn collection in Las Vegas, the climax of the presentation was a Warhol piece of Mr. Wynn, which he was most delighted to talk about. Do you hear an echo here?

The rest of Galeson's well researched piece is worth your time, especially if you are a serious artist, and you can find it here.

In the meantime, if you know someone with a lot of money who desires an original portrait, well... faces are my current specialty and I'd be happy to oblige. Let's make some memories.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Artist Gillie Schattner: Dog Art from Down Under

About a week ago I saw a comment on Twitter by artist Gillie Schattner that made me want to check out her profile. As it turns out Gillie is the other half of the Gillie and Marc painting team that has produced a lot of those famous dog paintings some of us have seen. I asked for an interview and she consented, but instead of talking (she is half a globe away) we tried an experiment and used Twitter. I'm not sure I recommend Twitter as a vehicle for extensive interviews, but once we had the ball rolling, we stuck with it.
Marc and Gillie Schattner have had over 30 solo exhibitions with works that have been hung in galleries all over the world. They've also published some gift books and seem to be having the time of their lives.

Ennyman: First question, to get us started: What are your earliest memories of your interest in art.
Gillie: From around the age of 8 I 'd sit in my room for hours on end painting with watercolours. I copied flowers and photographs that I had taken.

Enny: When did you begin to find that you were interested in getting serious about art as vocation? What were the trigger events?
Gillie: I knew art was to be a part of my life in some way from the age of 12. I wasn't sure at that point exactly which direction it would be in, however, I painted every day and exhibited from the age of 15. I don't even know what triggered the passion, it was just there right from the start and still is. I am a registered nurse (qualified in 1985) but self taught in the arts. Marc studied Graphic Design at Swinburne, Melbourne.

Enny: How did you meet Marc?
Gillie: I met Marc in HongKong when I was travelling around Asia. I was 23, we married a week later in Nepal and have painted together ever since.

Enny: How much of your work is collaborative, and in what ways do you each contribute?
Gillie: We do everything together, brainstorm, then sketch ideas, paint on the same canvas, sometimes we do dyptichs.

Enny: How long have you been married? And how long have you been painting the dogs?
Gillie: Married for 19 years, and painting dogs for about 5 years. For our 20th years we would like to get remarried in Italy, it's a dream!

Enny: I assume you know it is unusual to marry someone so quickly after you meet them. How did that happen?
Gillie: Sounds corny maybe, but love at first site! Nothing has changed since the day we met, Marc is my soul mate!

Enny: Why did you leave New York and move to Sydney?
Gillie: Marc is Australian, so we finally moved home I suppose. It's wonderful here, and our children are Aussies!

Enny: So the dogs have been only the last five years. They seem pretty famous... that is, I have seen them around. Did that surprise you?
Gillie: Yes, our doggies have been extremely popular, I suppose everyone just loves dogs!! So now it looks like we may be painting them for a while!

Enny: What were you painting the first fifteen years you were married? Who does what in the collaborations?
Gillie: We had joint shows but painted separately. I have my own graphic design company and Marc his own advertising company as well.

Enny: Whose idea was the theme of your new show, yours or Marc? The opening image is provocative.
Marc: It is called 'Returning to the Animal Within' and is all about appreciating the simple things in life and not being so materialistic.

Enny: What media are the dog/human sculptures made of? That in itself looks like a bit of skill involved.
Gillie: They are made out of Fibreglass and then finished with a 2Pak car spray, we design them and then a technician makes them for us.

Enny: Last Q, maybe: Who are your favorite artists? What other artists have inspired you personally?
Gillie: Contemporary artists such as Banksy, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Patricia Piccinini, to name a few

Thanks, Gillie, for your time.

Is modern art going to the dogs? You can see more of Marc and Gillie's work a http://www.gillieandmarc.com/. Their current show, Returning to the Animal Within opens October 7 at the Nexus Modern Art at 123 Cecil Street in South Melbourne and will be on display through the 21st.

Contact info@nexusmodernart.com.au for more information.