Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Future Is Inevitable

Miscellaneous Words from the Film I'm Watching Tonight.

Aeromexico
Whitaker
The FBI
Zurich
Bonuses
Japanese
Patterns
Aneurysm
Granola Bars
Corn Syrup
Econo Lodge
Family
Price Fixing
Cooperate
Chair
Problems
Polygraph
Extortion
Mole
Viruses

Name the Film and I will send you an Original Drawing.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mark Your Calendars for December 9 Art Opening

Goin’ Postal is presenting an exhibition of my original artwork, much of it new, through the month of December. The public is invited to the art opening Thursday December 9 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tentatively titled The Many Faces of Ennyman, alternate titles for the show include Dreams and Expressions, The Burden of Expression, and Your Suggestions Here. The opening will include music by Mark Anderson.

One of the strengths of the Twin Ports is its arts community. Goin’ Postal owner Andrew Perfetti is himself a musician and photographer with a passion for the arts with a small, but growing collection of Ed Newman originals.

My current works primarily feature faces in a variety of expressions and styles, from fools and knaves to queens, musicians and secret agents. From my youth I have found the features of faces endlessly fascinating.

If time permits, I hope to have a variety of Art Card Collectibles that can be purchased as stocking stuffers. The A.C.E.O market is pretty brisk right now as it makes orignal works affordable and is another way to bring art to the people.

To see more examples of my work, The Many Faces of Ennyman blog can be found at http://ed-newman.blogspot.com where a new face has been posted each morning since February this year.

For more information: ennyman at northlc.com

About Goin’ Postal
Goin’ Postal is a retail packaging and shipping franchise featuring UPS, Fedex and USPS services with a strong commitment to family values. 814 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI 54880. Are you doing any Christmas shipping? You now know the best place to go in town.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goofs

While watching movies I often like to read about the films in greater detail at imdb.com. Internet Movie Data Base is a great resource for getting background information about a film, or other viewers' opinion before you check out a flick. In addition to reviews, you can select actors or actresses and review the span of their entire careers, including future projects they have signed on to.

One section that is fun is the trivia about each film. Another page highlights good lines and dialogue fragments. And in the event you are not a regular user of the site, there is still another section which I find interesting, titled Goofs.

While I was talking on the phone with my brother yesterday he said they were being attacked by a flock of birds while on the way to the theater. He was jesting, but said it felt like a scene from the movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Based on that trigger, I chose to use The Birds to give an example of the kinds of goofs for this film.

Revealing mistakes: When Melanie is climbing upstairs we see her shadow on the wall, even though the only light source is the flashlight she is using.

Continuity: Just before the gas station explosion, gas is shown running into the left rear tire of a red car. The next shot of that car, taken from a little farther back, shows gas running near the tail of the car but the area around the tire itself is completely dry.

Revealing mistakes: When the children are running from the school while being attacked, the birds attacking them cast no shadows.

Continuity: After the seagull attacks Melanie on the boat, her hair appears disarranged. The next shot shows her hair neatly arranged again.

Crew or equipment visible: When Melanie was driving her car to deliver the lovebirds, there's a shot of the front of the car and the camera is reflected in the window.

These are just a few of the dozens of observations people have noted about this film.

If you go through the Hitchcock catalog you will see that the films are rife with goofs. But this is hardly a Hitchcock characteristic. Directors know that they must operate with seemingly countless variables while simultaneously making the story "work" and all within a fixed budget.

What prompted me to write about goofs today was, in part, seeing the quantity of goofs in Cameron Crowe's films. As I investigated further, I discovered his films have neither more nor fewer errors of continuity than his peers. And as numerous as they were, I never noticed one of them in the three films I watched last week. Viewers only care that whatever happens makes sense in the context of the dream. It's when characters themselves act out of character that we have real problems.

For what it's worth.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why Children Need to Learn How to Write

It is the written word that has changed the world. Revolutions go hand-in-hand with words, dreams frozen in print, melted again by passion, bursting to life in inflamed hearts.

In my opinion the ability to write is one of the most important skills that any young person can develop. I suppose I’m biased, since I am a writer and make my living through putting words on paper.

It’s hard to believe that a hundred twenty years ago nearly ninety percent of our population made its living off the land. For the most part we were a rural economy. But the industrial revolution was in full swing, and in the early part of this century an entire generation was lured away from the land to the meat packing plants, steel mills, and manufacturing facilities that sprang up in big cities everywhere.

My great grandfather scratched out his living on a mountainside in east central Kentucky. He could neither read nor write. In fact, few of my Kentucky kin from the nineteenth century could put pen to paper other than to make an ‘x’, which someone else would note was "his mark."

When my grandfather eloped with grandma in 1923, it wasn't until after they were wed that she learned he was illiterate. Her first task was to teach him enough reading and writing so as to be able to fill out a job application. She had been a school teacher and knew all too well that reading and writing were basic skills essential to advancement in our changing world.

What was true then is even more true today. The ability, or lack of ability, to communicate in words will either open or shut doors of opportunity. We live in the Information Age.

When you think about it, the written word is everywhere. There are a lot of people today directly making a living putting words on paper. Journalists, screen writers, broadcast writers, advertising copy writers, technical writers, lawyers, legislators and magazine editors just to name a few. But there are countless more careers which require written communication skills.

There is nothing significant built without a written plan today. Patents for ideas require legal documents. The abstract for your house is a fascinating written record of the history of your property. Marketing plans, business plans, documents for making loans or borrowing money, instructions for software programs or bicycle assembly -- all require the written word.

The written word is an indispensable part of our lives, even in our diversions. We read novels, stories, comics, jokes, cereal boxes, newspapers, email, all kinds of newsletters and even an occasional blog entry.

Apart from the career opportunities it provides, writing can also be a valuable tool for personal growth and self understanding. I often find myself quoting Martin Luther's advice* to his barber: "The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory." If you have had an experience that made a profound impact on your life, write it down. A new insight? Write it down. My brother once shared with me a profound revelation which he had gained while in a therapy group. Several years later I shared with him how that insight continued to move me, because I had recorded it and from time to time re-read it. Funny thing is that he had forgotten it completely!

Teaching our children to write may well be the most important skill we can give them as we prepare them for life. Maybe one of our own children will write the next Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg Address, or a Nobel prize winning novel. Or maybe not. I can say with confidence that the better their writing skills, the more prepared they will be for whatever paths they explore in life.


*I have since read alternate attributions for this quote.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ten Minutes with Journalist Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff

I met Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff at a Sustainable Duluth event at the Clyde Iron Works earlier this fall. Naomi came to Duluth five years ago and is currently editor of the Duluth Hillisider community newspaper, and a founder of the Duluth Daily Photo blog. Like many of the artists and writers I've interviewed here, her passion for what she would become emerged early in life.

Ennyman: When did you first take an interest in writing? And who were your biggest influences?

Naomi: I first became interested in journalism when I was in junior high school. As icebreaker, our typing teacher had everyone anonymously write down his or her favorite television show on a slip of paper. My favorite show was 60 Minutes and when the teacher read it out loud, the whole class erupted into laughter.

As a high school junior, I wrote for our high school paper. The summer before my senior year, I attended Northwestern University’s six-week Summer Institute of Journalism in Evanston, Ill. We participated in mock interviews of famous people and we also had some real interviews. My senior year I wrote for the Grand Forks Herald’s Teen scene. I was paid to produce one story a week on area teenagers. (I doubt any newspapers are paying teenagers to write stories now.)

EN: Can you tell me the history of the Hillsider?

Naomi: The Hillsider is a non-profit, free monthly publication that was started about 13 years ago by a group of residents.

Its purpose was to give a voice to the culturally diverse residents of the communities of East Hillside, Central Hillside and Endion neighborhoods. A decade ago, the poverty rate in Central Hillside approached 37% compared to 10 percent for the whole city of Duluth. Often the traditional media does not cover issues that matter to the residents of these neighborhoods. Sometimes the only news out of the neighborhood is bad news.

The Hillsider was originally funded by some start-up grants but currently the paper is totally sustained by advertising. We continue to maintain our 501(3)(c) status. I am paid a modest amount, we have a person who is paid to do the books, and we also pay a stipend amount to a proofreader. Our all-volunteer board meets monthly and we have a totally new mix of people on its board from when I started.

EN: How did you become involved with The Hillsider?

Naomi: When we moved to Duluth in August of 2005, I was very concerned about reducing my carbon footprint. We only looked at homes within an area where my husband could ride the bus or walk to work. While we were apartment hunting, I picked up a copy of the Hillsider at the Beijing Restaurant. I knew I wanted to live in a neighborhood that fostered a newspaper like this. We settled on the East Hillside neighborhood.

My first Hillsider article was published that October and when the editor position opened, I applied for it. My first edition as editor came out on June 15 of 2006. We immediately stepped up production from every other month to monthly. We also added the neighborhood of Lincoln Park to our coverage area because that neighborhood has the same type of issues and mix of people as Central and East Hillside.

EN: What is its mission and vision?

Naomi: As I mentioned earlier, our mission is to cover the hyper-local issues of the Central Hillside, East Hillside and Lincoln Park neighborhoods. Our vision is to bring our news to more types of media. Currently we are focusing on our hard print newspaper, but our board knows that the whole world is going digital. Some of our readers do not have access to the Internet, but at the same time many of our readers are online. I email close to 2000 volunteer reporters, readers, and advertisers three times each month. The emails let people know a new Hillsider is out or remind people about deadlines.

I started a Hillsider Newspaper Facebook page to keep tabs on the community and also to have them help produce the paper. I write on The Hillsider wall when I need help with proofreading, story ideas or distribution. While the paper focuses on the core neighborhoods of Duluth, we are distributed throughout Duluth and often taken home by some of the 20,000 employees that work in the downtown area.

In June of 2010 The Hillsider received the Butterfly Award for the best use of online social networking tools to connect, convene and inform the community. This award was bestowed by Tech Tuesdays, a collaboration of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits-Northeast Chapter, Lake Superior Initiative and the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Center for Continuing Education/Extension.

EN: What is Sun Dog Press?

Naomi: Sun Dog Press is my writing and photography business, which I started in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I wrote stories and submitted photographs for a small independent weekly. I also helped edit hyper-local news Internet sites based in the east coast called Hukd.com and 21stnewsnet.com which had content unique to each Zip Code. I think it was a bit ahead of it’s time.

EN: You maintain an online presence called Everyday Duluth. How did that happen?

Naomi: Actually, I started Duluth Daily Photo in the summer of 2008 after registering as the photographer for the city of Duluth with the City Daily Photo Project. The City Daily Photo project was started by a man in Paris named Eric Tenin who started Paris Daily Photo in 2005 which became wildly popular. In 2006 he and his friends started a portal where you could register to photograph your own town. The rules are that it must be a photo that you took that day and it must be unique to your town.

In the fall of 2009 I was included as one of the first group of artists to take the C.RE.A.T.E. coursework from the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund. I was chosen as one of the artists to be mentored in a three-year program to learn business skills. Mary Mathews, the executive director of the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund noticed that many of our gift shops have artwork and souvenirs from other states and overseas. She thought it would be great if Northland artists could sell their work to gift shops.

Our assignment was to produce a piece of artwork that was replicable and that we could sell at a wholesale price to retail stores. I decided on a calendar as a vehicle to showcase my photography in an affordable way to the general public. I wanted to keep it within my own environmental values since many calendars and books are printed in China or Korea with unknown environmental controls, not to mention the oil required to ship the product back. The Everyday Duluth 2011 calendar was printed in Duluth on Forest Stewardship Council approved paper. Some of the calendars are protected with eco-friendly sleeves. (I wish I didn’t have to use plastic sleeves, but many of the retailers said it was necessary to protect the product.)

EN: Why are communities still important to you, and especially the Hillside community?

Naomi: I love a community where people walk and take the bus to just about anything they need. The Hillside area has lost some of the amenities that made it walkable. Two hardware stores have closed and the local branch of a credit union recently closed it doors. One thing that the Hillside is missing is stability. Some estimates put the neighborhoods that my paper serves at over 70 percent rental. I’ve always had a passion to help people. I enjoy a diverse community and there is no reason to be lonely or bored here. There is always something interesting going on.

EN: Thank you for sharing with us. It's quite apparent you have a passion for what you are doing.

Be sure to visit and bookmark the Duluth Daily Photo blog.
http://www.duluthdailyphoto.com/

It's all good!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Black Friday. I know this because it has been in the news for a week. Also, today's Duluth News Tribune feels fifteen pounds heavier than normal. I'm guessing that Black Friday is some form of fix for people addicted to bargains.

Today is Thanksgiving. As its name implies, or rather exclaims, it is a day set aside to give thanks. Or at least that is how it was originally designated, as a day to celebrate the harvest, the bounty and abundance of God's blessing.

Nowadays it's a secular holiday for the most part, signifying a short work week (unless you work in retail), a Lions football game and time to eat turkey.

Yesterday it snowed pretty heavy here, though not as fiercely as predicted, for which I am personally thankful. I still have to blow the driveway though... but that's the price we pay for living here in Minnesota.

Thought for the day, from John F. Kennedy: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Five Minutes with Artist GraceAnn Warn


I discovered GraceAnn Warn's art by means of a Twitter contact, James Day, whose Art of Day blog is designed to introduce readers to other artists of various mediums. GraceAnn's work immediately captured my attention. I was thrilled not only by the pieces themselves but her personal career path as well. Originally from New Jersey, she has been creating and teaching art both nationally and internationally.

Ennyman: How did you first come to take an interest in making art?

GraceAnn: I have made some form of art since childhood. It’s been a part of my life as long as I can remember.

Enny: You mention an experience with one of Mark Rothko’s paintings. Can you describe what happened, how it made you feel, why it so moved you that you changed your career direction?

GraceAnn: I was a landscape architect sent to an urban design conference in Minneapolis. I was at the Walker Museum to see the architecture when I happened upon the late works of Rothko on exhibit in one of the galleries. The emotional impact of these paintings on me was profound and unexpected. In retrospect I understood that the design work with which I was engaged could not match the import of a life in art. Not long after that I rented a very small studio space for making art in my free time. Eventually I began to see my work and made a break from landscape architecture to pursue an art career full time.

Enny: It’s hard to tell how large your assemblages are from the website. What is your preferred work size and why?

GraceAnn: Most of my work falls within a 40” x 30” to 40” x 60” range. I’d like to work bigger but at this time my studio doesn’t allow for it. I like larger scale sometimes because I like the feeling of getting lost in a work- as a viewer and as a painter.

Enny: I love the texture, subtle colors. How did you get into creating this kind of work?

GraceAnn: I guess the simplest answer to that is that I am intrigued by architectural surfaces and by walls.

Enny: How much did living in proximity to a large city with major galleries influence you?

GraceAnn: I’m not totally sure about this except that it maybe made art seem accessible and ‘normal’.

Enny: Do you have a favorite gallery or museum?

GraceAnn: Museum of Modern Art, hands down favorite.

Enny: What was it like teaching in Greece and Italy? How did that come about?

GraceAnn: I believe a friend told me about it and so I applied. It was a lot of work of course- teaching in a foreign country and traveling with encaustic equipment, dealing with foreign electrical situations- I don’t recommend it to the easily rattled! But thinking about art and making art out of my own comfort zone is healthy and it forces you to stretch.

If you like the pieces displayed here, I encourage you to visit her website at http://www.graceannwarn.com/

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter Seen

I saw an article yesterday about a man whose vintage motorcycle collection went up in flames. A warehouse burned which stored his 100 vintage motorcycles and six cars. The anomaly in the story was that the estimated worth was $100,000. If you divide that figure by one hundred, then each motorcycle was worth $1,000. If that were the case, the other vehicles and warehouse had no value at all, which doesn't make sense. To put things in perspective, a new Electra Glide, Harley-Davidson's best selling bike, carries a $21,000 price tag.

Color of the Day: White, with blue pinstripes

Song of the Day: Waiting for the Sun

Topic of the Day: The weather

Featured Business of the Day: Icehouse Studios

Poem of the Day: Winter Morn


Winter Morn
The cold North Wind has blown into town;
The earth, in her bridal wedding gown
awaits the glistening eye of sun
to smile (as if to say “you’re the one”)
and as smiling face sheds morning light
her gown reflects it, making bright
the world once shrouded still and gray.
‘Tis glorious, this, the dawn of day.

Jan 19 1998

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ball of Confusion

This weekend on Twitter someone wrote, "The Truth will set you confused." Clearly a parody on the well-known saying from the Gospels. (John 8:32)

Interestingly enough, just before the weekend I'd torn Matt Gruhn's editorial message out of the trade journal Boating Industry with the title Uncertain times. He begins with an unattributed quote: "Anyone who isn't confused here doesn't really understand what's going on."

Harry Truman once declared, "If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em." Straight talk from inside the Beltway.

Dylan at times addressed the confusion of the times in his songs as well, beginning one 1962 song with the exclamation, "I got mixed up confusion, man, it's a-killin' me."
All this is lead in to a 1970 pop hit by the Temptations which pretty much sums up the tenor of the times.

Ball Of Confusion
People moving out,
People moving in,
Why, because of the color of their skin,
Run, run, run, but you just can't hide.

An eye for an eye,
Tooth for a tooth,
Vote for me and I'll set you free,
Rap on, brother, rap on.

Well, the only person talking about

loving thy brother is the preacher,
And it seems nobody's interested
in learning, but the teacher,
Segregation, demonstration,
integration, determination,
aggravation, humiliation,
Obligation to our nation.

Ball of confusion,
That's what the world is today, hey hey.

The sale of pills is at an all time high,
Young folks walk with their heads in the sky,
The cities aflame in the summertime,
And oh the beat goes on.

Evolution, revolution,
gun control, sound of soul,
shooting rockets to the moon,
Kids growing up too soon,
Politicians say, "More taxes will solve everything,"
The band played on.

So, round and around and around we go,
Where the world's headed, nobody knows

Oh, Great Googa-Mooga,
Can't you hear me talking to you,
Just a ball of confusion...
That's what the world is today, hey hey.

Fear in the air, tension everywhere,
Unemployment rising fast,
The Beatles new record's a gas,
And the only safe place to live,
Is on an Indian reservation,
The band played on.

Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors, mod clothes in demand,
Population out of hand, suicide, too many bills,
Hippies moving to the hills,
People all over the world are shouting, "End the war!"
And the band played on.

Great Googa-Mooga,
Can't you hear me talking to you,
Just a Ball Of Confusion.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Almost Famous

A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies it on their concert tour.

Just watched Almost Famous again. The story follows fifteen year old William Miller's experiences as a fledgling writer for Rolling Stone. Is it a coincidence that director Cameron Crowe's career began with writing articles for Rolling Stone when he was fifteen?

SPOILER ALERT: I do not think there are serious spoilers here, but just in case, I am alerting you.

I did not see the film when it first came out and for years I by-passed it when Kate Hudson's youthfully innocent face invited me from the DVD rack at the library. Maybe the cover art led me to think it was something I'd rather not see, but at last I did give it a whirl and allowed myself to warm up to it.

It's a strong cast with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Francis McDormand, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee and Goldie Hawn's gem of a daughter Kate Hudson. For some reason the first time I saw it I thought I'd heard that this was Cameron Crowe's directorial debut. Wrong. He'd already directed the hit Jerry Maguire starring Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. I had also assumed this was Kate Hudson's first feature role, and again... wrong. Almost Famous did, however, put her on the map.

The film won an Oscar for Crowe (Best Writing) and dozens of additional awards. It has many poignant moments, and if I may paraphrase a Willie Nelson line, "Mothers, don't let your sons grow up to be rock stars." Miller's over-protective mom (McDormand) was so keen on keeping rock and roll out of the house that she alienated her daughter who upon departing left all her albums to her younger brother. This formative experience sets up the storyline.

I liked the way McDormand was a college professor and not simply a simpleton mom who didn't know anything about how the world works. Crowe could have written it differently. Then again, without saying so it may be this prof mom's influence that made the youth such a skilled writer that he could produce quality copy for major music rags, first Creem and then Rolling Stone, while still a teen.

An undercurrent in the film is the juxtaposition between the unreality of the rock star lifestyle, its glam, girls, drugs in contradistinction with the "real world" that exists on some other plane.

Speaking of planes the seen on the plane is classic. But I won't go there.

The film is a coming-of-age story not only for the youthful hero-journalist, but also for Penny Lane (Hudson), another of the central characters, the butterfly queen groupie who clearly enjoys the attention and provocation she creates.

One favorite scene for me is when Miller finally gets Russell (the rock star) to sit down for an interview. He begins with these questions:
Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song?
Do you have to be in love to write a love song?

Those are great questions and good fodder for any poet, songwriter or even artist. Can a happy painter paint pictures of sad people? Can a depressed artist paint cheerful women?

The music is great throughout, and Crowe shows that he knows how to assemble a great music score.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Few Suggestions About Buying Art

If you're looking for ideas for Christmas, whether for others or yourself, art is one of the gifts that keeps on giving. You can look at a painting in a gallery for a few minutes and get inspired or challenged or comforted by it.... But afterwards, you've moved on and it becomes a hazy memory-blip. On the other hand, you can purchase the piece, place it in your living room or office (home or work) and extract pleasure from it for the rest of your life.

About five years ago I bought a print of Jack Vettriano's Amateur Philosophers
http://www.vettriano-art.com/amateur-philosophers/
as a birthday present for myself. It's a present that has never diminished in value. By value I mean not the price but the personal reward we get out of having it. A couple years later we added a very cool photo of two Romanian men that seemed to convey the same sense of intrigue. The two pictures relate well with one another and make an appropriate backdrop for the monthly Philosophy Club meetings in our living room.

Before you buy art you may want to think about the reason you're purchasing it. In my opinion you should buy art that you actually like. A wrong reason for buying a painting, photograph or sculpture might be because you think it may go up in value some day. Unless investing is what you do for a living. As for me, I would love to see my paintings and drawings go up in value over time, but for sure I do not want anyone buying my stuff if they do not like it personally.

One of Canadian artist Oliver Ray's tips for buying art is to shop online where there's plenty to see and you don't have to worry about parking. He also suggests working directly with the artists themselves. It's easier than ever, through social media and blogs, to build relationships with emerging artists whose work you relate to.

Obviously when I say build a relationship with the artist, I'm not talking about the purchase of Picassos and Van Goghs here (though if you're interested, we could talk about my own Blue Van Gogh above) nor is this advice directed toward the mega-wealthy who purchase a Warhol or Munch for it's collector value as an enhancement to one's private collection. On the other hand, the essential point still holds true: only buy what you really, really like.

What I am trying to suggest is this. Remember when we were kids and we'd buy posters and hang them in our rooms. The posters said something about us and also did a lot to keep the walls from being boring. Those posters expressed something in us and about us.

Art can do the same things. The pictures in my office each say something about me.

There was a saying I once heard when I was in the screen printing industry: "Wearing a t-shirt without screen printing on it is like walking around in your underwear." I would suggest that walls are the same. They're meant to have messages on them... suitable images that say something more than "I'm naked."

In closing, check out Alison Jardine's Haughty Culture on display at the UGallery.
http://paperwork.ugallery.com/oil-painting-haughty-culture

And if you're looking for something of mine, you can find a small collection of giclees at the Discovered Artists gallery...
http://www.discoveredartists.com/gallery/ennyman3

Both these galleries have a wide range of artists and works to explore. Just a start point though. Any town of modest size has an arts community with plenty to see locally and in person. Check 'em out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Follow Friday

"Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you."

If you're a Twitter user of any duration, you have probably noticed the hashtag FF designation (#FF) from time to time. FF stands for Follow Friday. It is a form of "shout out" to other Twitter users that this person is interesting and someone they not only follow but also recommend following.

Following in history is nothing new. Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man was about following. The song was an anthem to a discontented generation to follow the beat of a different drum, to dance to a different tune from the culture's reigning materialism. Many parents saw rock and roll as a Pied Piper leading their children astray.

Follow Friday was a spontaneous activity that is now a Friday tradition. There are now even websites that count all the #FF recommendations and rank them, the most recommended Twitter users in the world.

One Twitter user, taking advantage of the Follow Friday tradition has given himself the username @FollowFriday, which is amusing to me.

In the Twitter world being followed, and following, is what the community is all about as you find people with similar interests and share.

In the "real world" I am not so sure being "followed" is quite as enjoyable. Being stalked by strangers is a recurring theme in horror and suspense films... and for good reason. As for online social communities, blogging and Twitter make it easy to be followed in anonymity... and if you are one of those anonymous followers of this blog, I hope I've been making it worth your while to return. And if you'd like to follow me on Twitter, it's @ennyman3

For what it's worth.

Have a very special weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm Concerned

I'm concerned about America's future. And what concerns me more is that I don't see much evidence that the our nation's leadership has a clue what to do or the gumption to do anything about it.

The trigger event for these thoughts was a statement Tony Dungy made about the low graduation rates of black males in Indianapolis. Even if the stat he cited was off a bit, the reality of growing numbers of males not graduating from high school is a fact. The net result will be increasing numbers of men either in prisons or or imprisoned in low paying jobs, with still more broken homes and more problems.

Meanwhile, I continue to read magazines that talk about how bright the future will be with robots serving us. "Everyone will have a personal robot," I once read. I say, "Bunko." Dumpster divers will not. Families living out of their 1992 Chevy will not. Those guys sleeping in doorways out in San Francisco will not. The forty million Americans living on food stamps will not.

The erosion of hope in getting their piece of the American Dream is part of the problem. The American Dream is, in part, built on the concept of deferred gratification. If I do my homework, if I keep on task in school, if I work hard, if I keep my nose to the grindstone, there will be a payoff somewhere down the road. The alternative is much, much easier.

Life is hard, but it is especially hard without hope.
I mention the robot article only because it seems that there are so many magazine articles that are written as if this growing population of marginalized people did not exist.
Last month I had purchased airline tickets to bring my daughter home for the upcoming holidays. Having questions I asked the computer voice to let me talk with customer service, whereupon I was connected to someone in India who could barely speak English. I finally asked where he was located and he indicated that he was not permitted to say. In other words, the airline wanted to give the impression that they were not exporting jobs overseas. So, a few minutes later, when asking if my daughter will be checking her luggage, he said, "That will be 25 rupees a bag. I mean, dollars." Hilarious and sad at the same time.
The need for computer programmers and people with technical skills is still great in this country. And the salaries being doled out for talent in that area can be quite significant. But you can be sure these open positions are not going to be filled by dropouts. And these are the ones that concern me, and their children.... and their children's children.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Collaboration


Collaboration
1. the act of working with another or others on a joint project
2. something created by working jointly with another or others

Most writing and most art is created in a gladiatorial-type setting. The artist stands alone, facing his adversary: the blank canvas. Writers. too, begin with a blank sheet of paper.

At the beginning of this year, as I considered the direction I wanted my art to go, I experienced (saw, heard, felt) a wonderful collaboration called 3N6D (three nights in six dimensions.) I came away from that weekend stimulated to think outside the box.

There are all kinds of ways writers, artists and musicians can collaborate. What's exciting is when you dare to give up control and let the piece become its own life. Jam sessions produce some wonderful effects when the collaborators are packed with talent. George Harrison gave us a glimpse of the kind of jamming at Apple Studios on sides five and six of his first solo album All Things Must Pass.

Shortly after 3N6D John Heino and I discussed the possibility of a collaborative project this year. Even though it didn't happen yet, it got the ball rolling for me. I began looking for potential collaborators.

The live painting event that I participated in at Norm's in October was one outcome of this. While four bands performed in succession, film maker Chani Becker set up a camera to capture the live action taking place on my easel which was then projected on a large screen to the right of the room. On the left side an endless loop of surrealistic imagery was displayed, again assembled by Becker. The effect was engaging for all who were involved.

During the year I was also seeking out a screen printer with whom I could work in a collaborative manner. My Sitting Bull x 4 (top) was produced in conjunction with screen printer Gary Reed. Though the piece itself is not screen printed, Gary made a significant contribution to the outcome.

Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque collaborated during the development of Cubism in the mid-teens of the last century. They produced paintings in a style which viewers were unable to discern whose hand was holding the brushes.

In the year ahead I'm looking forward to more such projects. One of these will be a project called Artist Kamikazi in which paired collaborators produce something original in a live setting. Conceived and produced by Eris Vafias, the event -- now in its third year --will take place in March at Pizza Luce and my collaborator will likely be photographer Andrew Perfetti. Another project is also in the discussion stages for April, but we'll see where that one goes.

Idea for a group collaboration: What if... we each do something today to make the world a better place. No one needs to know which brushstrokes were yours or mine, but somehow if we blend our acts.... Well, you get the picture.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quotes on Art & Writing

"One great inhibition and obstacle to me was the thought: Will it make money? But you find if you are thinking of that all the time, either you don't make money because the work is so empty, dry, calculated and without life in it. Or you do make money and you are ashamed of your work. Your published writing gives you the pip."
Brenda Uelland - If You Want to Write, p. 24

“It's hard to write about beauty while sitting in an airport after having just passed through TSA security.”
Journal note, July 2009

“The most important tool the artist fashions through constant practice is faith in his ability to produce miracles when they are needed. Pictures must be miraculous.”
~ Mark Rothko

"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say."
~Sharon O'Brien

"The wastebasket is a writer's best friend."
~Isaac Bashevis Singer

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
~Mark Twain

"You see, painting has now become, or all art has now become completely a game, by which man distracts himself. What is fascinating actually is, that it's going to become much more difficult for the artist, because he must really deepen the game to become any good at all."
~Francis Bacon

"Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see."
~ Paul Klee

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
~ Pablo Picasso

Make the most of your day!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nathan Segal Shares His Freelance Writing Secrets

When I began freelance writing back in the 1980's the keys to success included being part of a writer's group, attending a few writers conferences and reading as many books and magazines on writing as you could get your hands on. The best of these ended up in my personal library, and a few of them I pored over as if they were sacred.

With the exception of Stephen King's book on the the topic, it has been a while since I read a book on writing other than for reference purposes. And, if I may be honest, King's book left me flat. For some reason the press summary that I saw last month about Nathan Segal's book intrigued me and I contacted him for this interview. From the first pages of his book Secrets of Profitable Freelance Writing I could see this was like nothing I had ever read. Why? Because it has been written post-Internet and offers up tools and insights that no one in my writers circle could have conceived of. A scant 103 pages in length, it's packed with more information than a knuckle sandwich.

Here's Nathan Segal.

Ennyman: I’ve owned or read dozens of books on writing. Yours is like nothing I have ever seen. What prompted you to write this book?
Nathan Segal: It came about as a result of hanging out on forums. There were so many people who wanted to write for a living and many of them didn’t have a clue what to do. Worse, I kept seeing competitions on some web sites where people were charging only $3-5.00 for a 500 word article and talking about writing those in batches. That’s not possible long-term for a couple of reasons. One is that you won’t make any money to speak of. Worse, there’s an excellent chance you’ll burn out. I wrote this book to show writers how to market themselves in a way that would allow them to do well financially and be respected for their work.

Enny: It’s obvious the freelance writing business has changed dramatically with the advent of the Internet. At one time Writer’s Market was the mandatory pipeline to editors. Has Google made Writer’s Market obsolete?
NS: First off, I wouldn’t say that the Writer’s Market is obsolete. I admit I don’t use it and the reason is because it’s the easy route, where most writers would go. I strongly suspect that the editors mentioned in that book are inundated with more queries than they can handle. Also, with regards to finding writing work, Google is only one of many tools. There are online directories that you can use, as well.

Enny: The book is packed with resources for writers, but assumes the reader knows how to put articles together. Can you recommend a couple books that would help article writers improve their skills?
NS: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White is my number one reference book. The Chicago Manual of Style is another one, though I haven’t used it. As for putting articles together, it’s crucial that writers study back issues of magazines before they send in a query. There, they will see how articles are constructed and they will also find out how to match the style of the publication.

Enny: My first “check” for a freelance article was for $20, which I photocopied and placed on my wall. What was your first article for which you were paid and how much was the tab?
NS: It’s been a long time since I wrote my first article, some 13 years ago. I don’t recall what I wrote, though I think the fee was around $100.00.

Enny: At one point you suggested batch query letters. Isn’t this a bit impersonal? Does it really work?
NS: It would be impersonal if the letters were just a form letter. Each one is personalized to the editor and each refers to different article ideas to match the tone of the magazine. When I recommend batch letters, what I mean is sending out several at once, so you make the best use of your time. And does it work? Yes.

Granted, not everyone will respond to you, so following up is necessary. It’s also important to realize that what you’re doing is selling yourself online and it’s a numbers game. Not everyone will say: “Yes,” so it’s important to cast a wide net.

Enny: Using your methods here, can you really find ten “paying markets” for the same query? Give me some examples of topics that fit this mass marketing approach effective?
NS: I think you’ve misinterpreted my approach. I’m not talking about using the exact same letter for all these markets. You might be able to do so for a few of them, but not all. The reason being is that each publication will have its own style and audience, so you’ll need to modify the query letter for each publication. The query letter is a template and once you’ve set it to match your requirements, the main change you’ll make is on the topics to query. You might also want to highlight some relevant experience, as well, though that’s about it.

Enny: You seem to have a lot of energy. Is your goal to continue freelance writing? Do you think you will get tired of this kind of hustle? Where do you see yourself in five year?
NS: I will continue to do freelance writing, though not as much. Also, my methods have changed, partly because of learning about joint ventures, which I explain in my book. My current and long-term goal is stepping into the role of teacher and mentor and to show others how they can build a career from writing. Among other things, I want to make this knowledge more accessible to other writers, so they, too, can realize their dreams of being published and make a good/great living as well.

Enny: Thanks for your time and insights.

You can purchase the print version of Nathan's book here or the Kindle version here.

Segal's book is self-published. This reviewer does not promise that the book will have value to all readers. I did find much of the information interesting, though some sections appeared to be padding to help transform a long pamphlet into a short book.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ten Minutes with Renaissance Man Elliot Silberman

I can't recall how I first met Elliot Silberman. It seems like he's just always been there. Elliot's life is a bright multi-colored thread woven into the arts and music scenes here in Duluth. His love of jugband music led him to start Duluth's annual Battle of the Jugbands fourteen or so years ago, an event which always garners a crowd larger than the space that contains it. We also share a love of Dylan music.

Ennyman: How did you first come to live in Duluth?
Elliot Silberman: I was born and raised in Duluth, like my mother and my children.

Enny: When did you start doing caricatures?
Elliot: To be more correct, they were actual portraits, drawn in 5 minutes. I assumed no one wanted to sit in public more than that. I wouldn't.

Enny: How did that come about? How much did you charge at that time and what do you get for a portrait today?
Elliot: Well, 40 years ago, after getting married with one child, we moved from Minneapolis to the north woods, deciding that back to the land was what we wanted. Having a college degree and being on welfare was a motivation. At the time I worked 20 hours a week at a children’s home where I sketched kids, got my feet wet doing portraits, quick sketches. Until then, I regularly called real estate companies for work, painted signs, taught adult education classes at junior high schools at night, guitar picking, watercolor painting, portrait sketching; whatever I thought I knew enough to teach. I started sketching in public at Goldfines by the bridge on weekends, near their restaurant. Sometimes by the aerial bridge, sidewalk sales, charging a buck. There weren't any art and craft shows back then. I tried Perkins, K-Mart, Canal Park (was hassled by the police there.)

Today I charge $20. For a quick sketch. $15, if the economy was bad where I was, like Marquette Michigan.

Enny: What attracted you to jugband music and what led you to begin the annual Battle of the Jugbands?
Elliot: I started playing music close to 50 yrs ago. I came home from art school, told my father I learned 6 chords on Bob’s guitar. My next birthday, dad gave me a used Stella guitar. He went on a hunch. Little did he know where that would lead, as he died in 1965. Within a year I was learning Johnny Cash songs off the radio. I thought that was absolutely the coolest thing. I didn’t know I had a gift of playing by ear, and a strong desire to play other instruments. It was very cool. I loved it, especially jamming with others. I believe I saw the Jim Kweskin Jugband on TV, maybe the Ed Sullivan Show, or Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. Then I found some albums at the Minneapolis public library, from the 20's and 30' and fell in love with old blues, rags, and jugband music, like the Memphis Jugband. That’s where I first heard that music. Poor man’s jazz. I fell in love. Here were some of my roots. Black music, imagine that, being Jewish from Duluth. This was an authentic re-birth of this type of music. Others were also discovering it too. Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, many others, mostly whites. I decided to put on an Annual Battle of the Jugbands here in Duluth, after being a part of the one in Minneapolis. I used to drive down, and sign up as de Elliot Bros. get on stage alone, play a tune, and invite others on stage w me. What a hoot. Got to meet Fritz Richmond, and his band, who used to be a part of the Kweskin jugband, back in the early 60's. Yes, I am and always was a major Dylan fan. Knew the family, similar up-bringing, Bar Mitzva, born again stage, and inspired to play the harmonica while playing the guitar, in 1962. That was cool.

Enny: You’re also a rather major Dylan fan. What are your favorite five Dylan albums? And why?
Elliot: Favorite album, you must be kidding. Knocked Out Loaded, Infidels. I think I learned at least one song off each album over the years. I used to do Dylan concerts, all Bob’s music. The only one I remember was at Tom’s Burned Down Cafe on Madeline Island. It was a 4 hour gig, way way too much Dylan in one night. Enough of that. But Bob’s music, writing, went to my heart and soothed my hungry soul. He seemed to say more between the lines than others said with their lines. What a poet. Keep in mind, we were both into hearing music of the 50's, as it changed into Folk music.

Enny: In addition to art and music, you also have a passion for fishing. How did that come about?
Elliot: My love of the outdoors, started when my father started taking me fishing at the age of three or so. Since then I have had a fascination with the mystery of the underwater world. I used to go swimming in Chester Creek and the Lester River with a facemask when I was small and seeing those beautiful trout, in their environment, was breath-taking.

Enny: What prompted you to get involved with the Renaissance Festivals?
Elliot: I got involved in the Renaissance Festival when I got rejected from applying to the Minnesota State Fair. Been doing the Ren-fest for 30 years. After 35 years, art and craft shows -- where artists display and sell their own works -- are petering out, not as interesting and fun as they used to be, thus, sales are dropping, too. Many of us are looking for greener pastures. I find people around metro areas have been overstimulated with arts ‘n crafts and music, the arts in general. My booth is an authentic looking artist’s shop, located in a 16th century European village, looking very authentic.

Enny: And finally, you have a property for sale at the Minneapolis Renaissance Festival. Can you describe that and what you’re selling it for?
Elliot: There are Glass Blowing demonstrations, street characters passing by doing their schtick, polishing their act, and many other artists hawking their wares. For a look at my shop, see my web site front page, click on the Renfest button on top. I’m selling it because I’m looking for greener pastures and the festival has too many caricaturists there, too much competition. I do caricatures sometimes, but my heart is in portraits. Wanna buy or rent a Renaissance booth?


Elliot's website not only contains examples of his art, there are also CDs for sale, fine art prints and some video footage related to jugband music. Visit http://www.elliotbrothers.com/
Click images to enlarge.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Uncommon

I have been currently listening to Tony Dungy's follow up to his first #1 NYTimes Bestseller Quiet Strength. I'd last year read Dungy's first book, an impressive, thoughtful re-telling of his life story, from aspiring athlete to Super Bowl winning coach. The lessons had relevance far beyond the scope of football. It was a book about life and ultimate values. Uncommon is Dungy's sequel, an appeal to men as regards what it takes to live significantly in a culture that conspires to drag us down, make us one of the herd.

In his introduction he share two stories which prompted him to write this book. One is the story of a black man who had a promising life ahead of him, who through a momentary lapse of sense ended up in prison. The second is of a young white youth who likewise ended up in prison as a result of a temporary lapse in judgment. Both, from Central Indiana, each of them seeing all of their dreams erased by stupid impulsive decisions.

Dungy no doubt earned the right to get his first book published by winning a Super Bowl for the Indianapolis Colts. His story is compelling and original, a story of achievement while swimming upstream as an early black coach in the NFL. He makes no effort to conceal the Christian faith and values that sustained and motivated his aspirations to excel, not only as a coach but as a husband, father, and role model. Uncommon builds on this, echoing the challenges he faced.

Here's a review of the book from Amazon.com:

Super Bowl–winning coach and #1 New York Times best selling author Tony Dungy has had an unusual opportunity to reflect on what it takes to achieve significance. He is looked to by many as the epitome of the success and significance that is highly valued in our culture. He also works every day with young men who are trying to achieve significance through football and all that goes with a professional athletic career—such as money, power, and celebrity. Coach Dungy has had all that, but he passionately believes that there is a different path to significance, a path characterized by attitudes, ambitions, and allegiances that are all too rare but uncommonly rewarding. Uncommon reveals lessons on achieving significance that the coach has learned from his remarkable parents, his athletic and coaching career, his mentors, and his journey with God. A particular focus of the book: what it means to be a man of significance in a culture that is offering young men few positive role models.

Being a football fan over the years, I enjoyed the stories of coaches who were influential in his own development, especially Chuck Noll and Tom Landry. Noll led the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships, and Landry transformed the Cowboys in to what became known as "America's Greatest Team." Anecdotally, in 1976 I briefly dated a girl from Pittsburgh and while walking through a suburban neighborhood near her home she said, "That's Chuck Noll's house." Instinctively I touched the mailbox, as if some kind of success karma would rub off onto my fingertips. As Dungy notes, success did not change Noll. He was an ordinary man who achieved extraordinary things, yet remained in his quiet suburban neighborhood and did not take flight to a hoity toity part of town.

As for the book, Tony Dungy's appeal is to each of us, but especially to young men with their lives ahead of them, to weigh their choices and to walk the road less travelled. Conscientious service-oriented lives not only prove more rewarding for ourselves but are necessary to make our world a better place. This is a man who knows whereof he speaks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Art and Sacrifice

"The study of writing, like the study of classical piano, it not practical but aristocratic. If one is born rich, one can easily afford to be an artist; if not, one has to afford one's art by sacrifice." ~John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist

It's the end of another fast week and one wonders where the time goes. Two blinks ago it was Monday. As Job once lamented, "My days are faster than a weaver's shuttle," an image probably lost on many here in the modern/post-modern Western world.

The other day I contemplated how life might be different if we had thirty hours in a day instead of twenty-four. Would we sleep more? Or would we continue to burn the candle at both ends and still try to get by on four hours sleep?

It's a given that whatever the length of a day, we're all pretty much allotted the same. How we choose to allocate our time is pretty much up to us.

Gardner's quote indicates that accomplishment involves sacrifice. This does not mean all sacrifices are good ones. Peter Lynch, in his book One Up On Wall Street, stated with regret that the price he paid for his achievements managing the Magellan Fund were at the expense of his family. To his great regret, he missed out on several key years in his daughters' lives in their early teens and wishes he could re-do those time-allocation decisions.

Sacrificing television is one way to buy more time if you are a writer, artist or musician. Chopin was never distracted by Dancing with the Stars, and look what the child prodigy Mozart achieved by skipping Saturday morning cartoons. Asimov wrote over 300 books. My guess is that he never did a lot of golfing.

In his book The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker emphasizes in an early chapter that time is a unique resource. "The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up.... Time, therefore, is always in exceedingly short supply."

Napoleon placed a high value on time. "I may lose a battle but I shall never lose a minute," he once exclaimed. He said that for a general, strategy is how we make use of time and space, however, "space we can recover, time never."

Few of us do "nothing" with our time. Even if it is only people watching with friends, that's something. But if we are to become writers, artists, musicians, or bloggers, decisions need to be made. To add something new into our daily regimen means pushing something else out onto the back porch.

Ultimately, we each decide what is important to us. Too often we're over-concerned about the approval of family and peers. What's really important to your heart? What are you really all about? Don't sacrifice that.

Henry Ward Beecher wrote, "In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich." Just so we don't give up our souls.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day and My Boy Jack

Veterans Day is an annual United States holiday honoring military veterans. A federal holiday, it is observed on November 11. It is also celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, falling on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.) ~Wikipedia

War has been featured prominently in many Hollywood films, often as an incidental backdrop or even as an incidental scene as in the Bruce Willis time travel insertion into the trenches in the film 13 Monkeys.

Here is a short list of other films which I've seen with World War I as a setting or theme.
Paths of Glory (Kubrick)... my all time favorite
The African Queen (Bogie and Kathryn Hepburn)
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Blue Max
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Iron Will (1993 Disney film about a dogsled race in which I "starred" as an extra, with Kevin Spacey)
My Boy Jack (Very powerful, sad)
Legends of the Fall (Impact of war on a family in Montana, starring Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt and Aidan Quinn)

My Boy Jack is a film about the impact of WWI on Rudyard Kipling after losing his son at the Battle of Loos. The film is based on the 1996 play by David Haig. Here is the poem by Kipling that served as catalyst for both play and film.

My Boy Jack

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Rudyard Kipling, 1915

Today is a day to remember all of "our boys" who have served.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Aiming High in Art

The artist will move future generations when the bones of kings have long since mouldered away. ~Franz Alexander von Kleist

Franz Alexander von Kleist was a contemporary of Mozart, whose work we all have encountered at one time or another in one form or another. His brief span of years slightly overlapped that of another great composer, Ludwig von Beethoven, but the brevity of his 35 years eliminated any possibility of the two being on a stage together. (You can imagine that concert. The first supergroup!)

I'd read, and believed, that Beethoven was the first composer who sought to create work that lived for the ages. I was under the impression that musicians like Mozart, Bach and others were creating music for the moment, for the occasion, for a king or the coming Sunday's worship service. But the von Kleist quote above indicates that even during Mozart's time, the modern notion of legacy and casting a long shadow forward was luminous and influential.

There's a lot of pressure when you choose to pick up and carry this standard. When I was young it was something I continually wrestled with.

In contrast to this, I think of the live painting (performaing art) I did at Norm's for Halloween a couple weeks ago, and how different my aim was. My goal was to bring enjoyment to those who were there as the act of creation was projected into the corner like a lightshow. Can it be that Mozart's mind was operating in this manner as well, directed not toward the unknown ears of tomorrow, but to the very specific audiences of the moment? Like a live bar band that tests the effect of varying tempos on gathered crowds, Mozart gauged the effects of his music on live audiences. His works were so numerous he had ample opportunity to test the effectiveness of various themes, motifs and the like. By reaching the real heart of one real person he knew his music would penetrate the hearts of the masses as well.

This is possibly where the musical experimenters like Schoenberg and John Cage went astray, though Cage had the wits to know that audiences need at least a minimal reference point in order to make a connection, as observed in his involvement with the Maurice Cunningham Dance Company. Aiming high is good, but to aim so high as to get lost in the clouds can be a problem. This is why I have always applied the billiard room rule to my life and work: Players must keep at least one foot on the ground.

"Someday, everything is gonna be diff’rent
When I paint my masterpiece." ~Bob Dylan

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Tip of the Hat to our Volunteers

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls. ~David Thomas

Back in the 1980's The Atlantic featured a major cover story about cocaine use in America. According to the article, Americans were snorting, inhaling and poking one hundred billion dollars of cocaine into their bodies a year. Reading this stat incited me to write a letter to the editor about the bigger issue it represented, an epidemic of selfishness. My letter to the editor was going to use the cocaine stat to illustrate how self-centered Americans were.

But the next morning, just before mailing this letter, I heard then-president Ronald Reagan say in a speech that Americans were the most generous people in the world and that Americans performed two hundred billion dollars worth of volunteer acts per year. Wow! On hearing this, I tore up my letter and realized it was probably true. There are two cultures side by side in this country. The one is generous with both their money and time. The article on cocaine shone a spotlight on a portion of that other group. But the volunteers never stopped volunteering, wherever the spotlights went.

Volunteers wear all kinds of hats and come from all walks of life. Volunteers help keep the local race tracks running, help keep trails safe for snowmobile enthusiasts and perform all manner of emergency services, including putting their lives at risk to fight fires on our behalf. They visit shut-ins, bring warmth to nursing home residents, and pick up the litter from our highways. They transport people to vote, bring others meals-on-wheels or serve in soup kitchens, visit prisons, strive to educate individuals and businesses about taking care of the environment, and assist in our schools. Think, too, of the countless chaplains, counsellors, mentors, church workers, soccer and little league coaches. It's remarkable when you think about all the services provided by these unsung heroes.

All this to say, thank you all. We depend on you. Your labors are not in vain. Believe me, you are appreciated more than you will ever realize.

Here are some quotes about volunteers from quotegarden.com

Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer. ~Author Unknown

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. ~Cynthia Ozick

The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers. ~Everett Mámor

It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw

Again, a heartfelt thank you all!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is Best Always Good?

I just heard it again this weekend, the pithy maxim, "Sometimes the good is enemy of the best." What they mean is that people sometimes settle for less than the best when they ought to have pressed on to do better.

And while this statement is true, the operative word is sometimes.

Years ago we met a woman in a nursing home who used to recite a clever verse bearing this same message. It went like this:

Good, better, best,
Never let it rest
Til your good gets better
And your better best.

While "the best" is a good target, I would like to suggest that the reverse can also be true…. Good is good, and sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.

Yes, in a horserace there can only be one winner. In Olympic competition, a single gold medal goes to the best in each field of competition. And when competing for a single job opening, you want to be the candidate who comes out on top. But how do you become that candidate? It may be that efforts to have a "perfect" interview will come across as stilted. The best candidate will no doubt be one who did his or her homework, but also came across as the most natural. (There are exceptions. The best rocket engineers may or may not interview well at all, but will undoubtedly be evaluated on their knowledge of rocket science.)

When I was a yong art student I held the conviction that my next painting should be my ultimate work, the best thing I had ever done in terms of quality and significance (whatever that means.) This naturally puts a lot of pressure on you, which is not all bad if you are striving to be a "serious" artist. But it can also take away a bit of the joy of creation.

Striving for perfection can result in paralysis. And what is perfection anyways? Is there a "perfect" website? What is the perfect blog theme? The perfect store location? The perfect family?

In short, whether building a boat or painting a landscape, it is good to do good work. But don't quit before starting because you lack the skills to produce the best boat ever or make the greatest landscape painting ever seen. The same applies to good deeds. And to living a good life.

Just my two cents. Have a good day!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Who Owns the Bones?

Colonialism is when people from one territory establish and maintain colonies in another territory. Usually it involves peoples of unequal power and, as history has shown, often involves exploitation. Its history goes back as far as the Egyptians, Greeks and Phoenicians. But it's the more recent activities of Western powers that continues to create a stir.

From Wikipedia: Colonialism refers to a period of history from the late 15th to the 20th century when European nation states established colonies on other continents. The justification for colonialism included various factors such as the profits from trade and the expansion of the power of the metropole. In addition, the rationale was based upon underlying religious and political beliefs with regards to culture and technology.

Colonialism and imperialism were ideologically linked with mercantilism.

Essentially, because of the unfair power relationships, colonized states were often exploited. Efforts to right the past wrongs of colonizers can get complicated, and rationales for solution are often as muddle-headed as the protracted problems in the first place, since foodstuffs taken have all been used up as well as the other raw materials of production.

But what about the bones?

Nearly all of us have been in science museums where archaeologists' trophies are assembled and displayed. Dinosaur bones are historical memorabilia that we enjoy but which came from somewhere, many of them taken during those previous eras when we believed everything in the world was ours to take and thus up for grabs. Finders keepers, losers weepers, eh?

Anthropologists, too, bring home all manner of wonders retrieved from primitive cultures, obtained by either looting, subterfuge or exchange, the latter being like buying a vase for two dollars at a garage sale in Cedar Lake, Iowa and selling it at Sotheby's auction house for $100,000 because it was a rare Grecian urn.

And so it is that over 4,000 Peruvians were yesterday protesting because from 1912-16 Hiram Bingham purportedly brought home over 46,000 artifacts and bones from the sacred Inca citadel at Machu Picchu. The items have been in the possession of Yale University against whom Peru has threatened criminal prosecution, which clearly doesn't sit well with the principles of this distinguished Ivy League institution.

But here's an irony. Peru wants the items back to have on hand for the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Bingham in the first place, for having opened up the treasure of Machu Picchu to the world at large. So, is Bingham a hero or a villain?

I dunno. It's all too confusing for me.


Source: Peruvians march to get Machu Picchu items back from Yale, AFP c/o Google News

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Goose Stepping as a Brain Washing Technique?


Here's an interesting article from last year's Telegraph: "Goose stepping may have encouraged people to follow the Nazis".

According to Science Correspondent Richard Alleyne, Researchers have found that if groups perform tasks in unison, such as marching, dancing and chanting, they show more loyalty towards each other and are less likely to go against the norm.

The findings, published in New Scientist, could explain why the likes of Hitler and Mussolini both seemingly had the ability to bend millions of people to their will.

The article cites research from Stanford indicating that when people do things in unison with a larger group, they begin to see the group's welfare as being as important as their own. In other words, synchronization helps make individuals more cohesive and malleable.

The researchers essentially used new technology (like the brain scans seen in the recent Angelina Jolie film Salt) to confirm what most of us have recognized all along: no one feels comfortable being out of step.

Full story here.

Have a great weekend. But please, don't do anything we wouldn't do.