Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our eBook Venture Status Report

In a little over a month we hope to begin publishing four books on Kindle and Nook, the two leading eBook platforms. My co-partner in this venture is Todd J. (TJ) Lind, a local high school student whom I met through the Proctor DECA* program. Along with Brita MacInnes, and Anna Swenson, TJ helped the Creative Marketing Team reach the "Sweet 16" in this year's international competition in Orlando. What caught my attention was their facility with the iPad and their high degree of motivation.

I became involved with the Proctor DECA program in 2002 and have watched with amazement at the level of commitment many of these young people had. I've also been impressed with their Marketing teacher/DECA advisor Jay Belcastro. Despite Proctor being possibly the smallest high school of 16,000 competing schools with DECA programs, Belcastro has inspired three Proctor teams to win the highest honors in the annual competition. He does it with a smile, not a whip.

The way DECA works, three members of the team go to present in the meets, but there are also background members of the team who play important supporting roles. TJ, Brita and Anna were also supported by Luke Lindstrom, Gavin Johnson, Brooke Oraskovich and Brooke MacInnes. It was my privilege to be involved with all these kids who were primarily sophomores competing against veterans. Everyone involved could see that the best was yet to come for all of them.

After the Orlando competition I recruited TJ to collaborate on this project which has been percolating inside me for more than a dog's age and is long overdue. An important piece for me was that TJ actually like the novel. He read it, believes it will attract readers and agreed to be part of the team.

The Red Scorpion was originally written with the aim of being published when my son Micah was a teen. The whole challenge of agents and publishers made me weary and the book was not yet ready for prime time by the time he graduated high school, so I set it aside. In 2005 I made another go of it, but again let it go. Finally, a Portuguese artist whom I met through blogging asserted that my work was worthy of a wider readership, and it became clear to me the time is now.

Once I made it a goal to publish my stories this year, all the other pieces came together.

The four books will include my first novel, The Red Scorpion, targeted for the Young Adult category. The three follow ups will include collections of short stories which I have written over the past twenty-five years. Each collection of stories will have a unifying theme, the first being stories with a paranormal aspect. The second set will be called Newmanesque, chiefly because while not exactly paranormal they are unusual. The third set will be anchored by my 1991 Arrowhead Fiction Competition winning story "The Breaking Point." The stories were written as literature, but their ultimate aim is to offer up a good read.

The rationale for getting all these books launched simultaneously is the belief that when a reader finishes a good book, he or she will look for more books by this same author. TJ and I want to be ready.

The books will be offered under the N&L Publishing banner, Newman & Lind. This was TJ's proposed name and I liked it. You have to have a name to get your ISBN... and you have to have an ISBN number to sell your books through stores. So, we grabbed it.

At the moment TJ's developing a promotional plan. I am working on getting the "products" ready.

In the meantime you can follow our progress on Facebook. If you "Like" us there, we'll do our best to keep you in the loop.

*DECA is an international association of marketing students that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.

Photo: TJ Lind shows Ed Newman how a tentative book cover design will appear on an iPad. (Click image to enlarge.)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Rules of Lateness

When I was young, a co-worker and I went to a breakfast meeting in Minneapolis. The meeting was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. and we were right there. At ten after, Bruce stood up to leave. I was surprised, but accompanied him out the door. He stated that if someone is more than ten minutes late, it's wrong and with other work to do we can't sit here frittering away the day.

Actually I don't remember the exact words, though I believe I do recall the restaurant. What made an impression was the principle involved. People should be punctual. Ten minutes was the rule. You should never be more than ten minutes late.

Rules like this may not apply to all cultures, for sure. It was certainly not my experience in Mexico or Puerto Rico. But the American business culture does place a high premium on punctuality, and Esquire magazine has offered up a tidy summary of the matter in a little etiquette piece called "The Rules of Lateness."

After a brief intro, they dish it out straight.

10 minutes
Call, apologize, and say you're running five minutes behind. This puts the inconvenienced parties at ease and keeps their eyes off the clock.

EdNote: This brief instruction sets the table. The person waiting is being inconvenienced. We all know how elastic time it. One minute can feel like two years when you're uncertain how long it will really be. Waiting for your doctor, waiting for your waitress to come back to take your order, waiting for an important phone call.... we've all experienced these things and know how agonizing they can get once we begin to feel antsy.

20 minutes
Call, apologize, and provide an excuse. ("I left without my wallet.") If the group's becoming impatient, at least they're coddled.

30 minutes
Call, apologize, and encourage them to start without you. Food can be a palliative.

40 minutes
Call, apologize, and blame traffic. They'll think it's a lie, but it's one they've used before.

50 minutes
Call, apologize, and cite a pet or child issue.

1 hour

Call, apologize profusely, and consider picking up a gift. Then again, maybe you should just get there. You're late enough already.

Back in the 80's we didn't have cell phones, and I suppose it's possible that fellow we were s'posed to meet could have gotten caught in traffic. Nowadays, however, we armed to the teeth with devices to make contact with one another at any time, nearly anywhere. That's why it might be helpful to know the rules.

Meantime, life goes on. Have a super Saturday.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Five Minutes with Artist GA Gardner

When I first saw GA Gardner's work about six weeks ago, I sent a note inquiring of his willingness to be interviewed here. What fascinated me in addition to the art was his extensive writing. A native of Trinidad and Tobago who migrated to the US in 1988, Gardner has assembled impressive credentials, produced seemingly countless lectures and papers and is simultaneously a prolific artist.

Gardner studied fine art at San Francisco State University where he received both his Bachelor’s of Arts and Master’s of Art degrees. In 1993 he did onsite research at Pixar Animation Studio in California, Industrial Light and Magic, and Pacific Data Image (now PDI/Dreamworks). He crafted mixed media art and animation at The Ohio State University where he earned a Ph.D. in Art Education in 1995, becoming a US national expert in the area of Computer Art Education, composing a doctoral dissertation focusing on education and careers in animation and new media. He has written for numerous journals and magazines, officially being identified by Computer Graphics World Magazine as a subject matter expert in 1996. In that same year, GA founded the Digital Effect Computer Animation and Traditional Animation Festival (DECATA), the first animation festival to be linked through distance learning technology.

Upon his return from Europe this week, he forwarded to me answers to a set of questions I had submitted to him. Be sure to visit his website after the interview.

Ennyman: Which came first, the writing or the art?
G.A. Gardner: I began my career as an artist creating airbrush, sign painting and fabric paintings in Trinidad and Tobago. At that time I had no interest in writing, commercial art is what I did although I had received fine arts training in high school. I moved to the US in 1988 with the intention of studying commercial art, specifically graphic design, but along the way I was introduced to computer graphics and animation, and by1989 I began pursuing fine arts as a major. I began using the computer to create fine art, integrating photography, film and other disciplines to my art projects. Writing came much later for me after I had completed graduate school and began writing books more so as a teaching tool for educating others. It was never a major discipline for me.

Ennyman: How did you make the switch from computer generated art to painting and mixed media? What is your favorite media at this point in time?
GA: In graduate school I primarily focused on computer graphics and animation, always searching for ways to integrate this technology into the fine arts arena. Back then, I began creating large format digital works that was printed often on watercolor paper, but always had intentions of returning to painting as it is a more flexible medium. In essence, I took a 10 year break from creating and showing new works. Once I returned to art, I had redefined myself as a mixed media artist who began integrating collage, painting, and embedding objects into the surface. This was much more comfortable for me, my niche if you will. Mixed media collage continues to be my medium for creating art today.

Ennyman: In what way have your roots (Trinidad and Tobago) influenced your work?
GA: Trinidad and Tobago have influenced my work in a number of ways, but the most notable influence can be seen in my color palette. My work integrates various colors and elements of the Caribbean thereby conveying warmth.

Ennyman: You appear to have the heart of a teacher, not simply making art but developing your ideas and sharing them with others, from students to readers. What are the most important lessons you try to convey to young art students?
GA: Be confident and bold; tell your story.

Ennyman: Thank you for sharing.

Visit www.gagardner.com for more.
Click images to enlarge.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

TV Watching

The other day I mentioned a few stats on the amount of television Americans watch today. It generated some conversation, so it seemed a good topic to investigate further. I must state up front that I have no axe to grind with TV watchers. And television watchers are not a homogenous group who all approach the activity in the same manner with the same goals. One person is helplessly recovering from surgery. The television helps pass the emptiness of the hours. Other are involved with high-stress, mind-numbing engagement in their jobs. The television helps them unwind.

Here are the questions I asked a few Facebook friends who agreed to be "interviewed."

1. Did your family watch TV as a daily custom when you were growing up?

Many, if not most of the people I interviewed said that their families watched TV as a daily custom when they were growing up. Pedro A., who grew up in Brazil and recently moved to France after a number of years in the States wrote, "Watching the nightly news together was as important as having dinner together."

AA offered this perspective. "This is a complicated question to answer due to the fact that coming from a divorced family I grew up with two households. Distinctly different my mother maintained a house hold with a TV we children would haul out of the closet to watch in the upstairs hall way when we really wanted to. My father on the other hand is and always has been a TV addict with several sets in the house one or more on at any given time day or night. In fact shunting off the television at night was a sure way to wake him from a deep sleep, at which point he would turn the set back on and fall again to sleep."

Susan S. wrote, "I don't watch TV, I don't have the black box. I haven't watched regular TV since before 9/11. I'd rather read, walk my dog or listen to NPR Minnesota or NPR Wisconsin. I don't miss TV all!!! I used to be a regular TV watcher during the 60's, lots of TV. 1970's not so much TV but did keep track of a few shows regularly. 1980's: Watched some TV with the family, particularly the Phoenix, Columbo, and Quincy. Gave up on TV during the 90's."

2. What were the trigger events that caused you to swing around from watching television to not watching it?

Tabitha N.: "I stopped watching TV my sophomore fall semester because I was too busy with school, the play, and friends to bother with it."

Pedro: "I reduced the amount of TV watching very early, during the 80s, ... mostly because of nonconformism. But remained a watcher of high-production-value series, history and science documentaries, and movies on TV. From there, it was a slow tapering off. I had no cable TV for many years (during the last ten years), and one year ago we decided to not buy a replacement TV set after we moved to Europe."

AA: "The conversion to digital marked the end of my relationship with TV."

3. Do you ever feel strange because the culture is so television focused?

Tab: "Yes, because it doesn't really allow for any social interaction or use or development of any skills."

Pedro: "Sometimes yes, but I notice that we're not alone in this trend. To not have a TV set causes less surprise now than to not have a subscription to paid TV would cause ten years ago. But sometimes we observe that neighbors do watch TV nonstop, and wonder if they are having a real life."

4. In what ways are you different (from earlier in your life) because you do not watch TV?

Pedro: "I think more independently and I'm less affected by marketing, pop culture, and political trends. I also actively interact with other people more frequently."

AA: "I find TV distracting to be around and am hard pressed to take my eyes off it when it is on. Once upon a time I could flip the tube on and zone out on mindless junk, influenced by what ever add campaign was popular. No more. How am I different? I am less isolated and more engaged."

Chani B. summed up her experience this way: "Haven't had a TV in a year and a half and I am very glad about that! I'd be happy to share what life is like on the other side."

There was, however, a contrarian whose comments can be used to represent a portion of the silent majority: "I need the TV!! I not only get to hear the news but see so many programs & documentaries on Art & History & our natural world. Interviews & introduction to new ideas and people.... music from around the world, cuisines that I'd never have tried otherwise and just knowing how 'connected' we ALL are as part of this beautiful world. I think the TV just 'broadens' my horizon, makes me more 'human'."

On these matters, much more can be said... but for now, enjoy the day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Television in America

All my life I've heard the stats. The conclusion many people draw appears self-evident: we (Americans) watch too much television. Here are some 2011 stats from a site called The Sourcebook for Teaching Science.

Percentage of households that possess at least one television: 99
Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household: 2.24
Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion

The quantity of television being watched is so staggeringly high in some lives I have to believe they wonder what they'd be doing if they couldn't watch television. So I started a Facebook discussion to find a few people who do not watch much (or any) TV. Why are some people not watching television while others watch so much? And what do non-TV watchers do all day?

A website dedicated to the first four years of life, The Main Four, has its own reasons for being concerned about television viewing.

The average American teenager watches four hours a day of TV and spends almost two additional hours on the computer and playing video games. This is a distraction from studying and interacting with family members. And the numbers are growing. (EdNote: The latter two sentences could easily have been lifted from an article about smartphones.)

There is also an increase in television shows targeted for children, and the amount of children watching them. Seventy percent of daycare centers use television during the day. Several studies, one of which performed by the University of Michigan, say that this much screen time can be considered detrimental to children under three.

The first two years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. Some studies link early TV viewing with later attention problems, such as ADHD.

TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and peers, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development. Almost two-thirds of families with children eat dinner while watching the tube.

In response to my initial FB discussion, Susan S. replied, "I don't watch TV, I don't have the black box. I haven't watched regular TV since before 9/11. I'd rather read, walk my dog or listen to NPR Minnesota or NPR Wisconsin. I don't miss TV all!!! I used to be a regular TV watcher during the 60's, lots of TV. 1970's not so much TV but did keep track of a few shows regularly.
1980's watched some TV with the family, particularly The Phoenix, Columbo, and Quincy.
Gave up on TV during the 90's."

Chani B. wrote, "Haven't had a TV in a year and a half and I am very glad about that! I'd be happy to share what life is like on the other side."

Once the discussion got going I thought I'd ask a few more probing questions, to go beyond the statistics. I will share some of the responses on Thursday. Here's the set of questions.

Did your family watch TV as a daily custom when you were growing up?
When you finally quit the habit, what were the trigger events?
Do you ever feel strange because the culture is so television focused?
In what ways are you different (from earlier in your life) because you do not watch TV?

I can already see that follow ups would have been good. Like, a good follow up to question 1 might be, "How did this make you feel?" The third question is a little weak because it ought to have been asked in a more open ended manner.

When I was in college I had something of a vendetta against television. Near four decades later and I find I am able to write about it with a bit more dispassionate indifference. That is, it's not such a burning issue any more for me. I write about it here because I've been asked so many times, "How do you find time to do so much writing and painting?" I guess the first thing that comes to mind is that we don't have a TV.

Tomorrow is Wordless Wednesday, so I will probably continue this the day after.

Meantime, enjoy the one you are living today and make the most of it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Problem Solving

"Essentially, painting is problem solving." ~ ennyman

It was a thought I scribbled on a piece of paper while painting this weekend. Making art involves solving a whole slew of problems. First, what surface should I paint on, or create on using what medium? Am I working toward a goal? (For example, a portrait of a person.) Or am I allowing the event to simply unfold? If I just smear colors on a surface, which colors? What kind of music should I play, since that also influences the serenity or rapidity with which I lay paint on the surface?

There is a whole sequence of steps involved in each decision which most artists approach intuitively rather than scientifically. This intuitive process is fine tuned through experiment and experience. We know, for example, that doing "this" doesn't work. Though in a moment of incredulity an artist might try such a thing to see if he or she can make it work. Many artists are boundary pushers, questioning the rules and continually re-writing their own.

Problem solving begins with identifying and defining the problem. As a blog writer I do this every day. Problem: what will I write about today? Step two: how can I make it meaningful for my readers so that it is not a waste of their time to re-visit? Magazine editors do this all the time.

The next step in problem solving is coming up with a strategy. The problem might be, what should we have for supper? The strategy usually begins with rummaging around the fridge to see what is available, gathering information in order to help make the decision. Additional information might include an intuitive knowledge of how close the nearest store is, how much time you have, and how many days till the next paycheck.

For artists, every situation is unique. Sometimes one is working at mastering a certain skill or new style. Sometimes one is trying to produce something for a specific purpose, perhaps to fulfill a commission or complete a series. Sometimes one is simply exploring the possibilities of line, shape, form and color. The problem is that which confronts you on the canvas.

There's a sense in which life itself is a canvas. How we express ourselves is a form of problem solving, sometimes haphazard and sometimes deliberate. Sometimes bold, sometimes subtle. Some days it's nothing short of beautiful.

May you have one of those beautiful days today.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scary Thoughts After Norway Tragedy

When the news first broke, I read that it was a terrorist attack. At this point it appears to have been one man acting alone, and not Islamist extremists. In short, the lesson here is that when you hear a breaking news story, don't believe it. Wait and see what the real story is.

It's a hard way to live though, always skeptical. The news networks have bent over backward to establish their credibility in the hearts and minds of readers and viewers, yet occasionally they get it wrong. The New York Times, among others, got this one wrong. Fortunately in the digital age one can retract and rewrite on a dime.

The shooting suspect in Oslo's mass murder was Anders Behring Breivik, a strikingly handsome blond-haired, blue-eyed ethnic Norwegian through and through. He must have been a very smart young man because the detail with which he executed this plan was remarkable. He was dressed like police officer. I hope this does not result in copycat killings where we're all left wondering whether the cop with loaded gun at his side is a good guy or bad guy. (Gives new meaning to the "good cop/bad cop" routine.)

The guy opened a Twitter account but only posted once. Quoting John Stuart Mill he wrote, "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests." It's actually a profound thought. The application of the idea is what's problematic. He posted this on the eve of this destruction.

According to the UK's Sunday Express the man was an advisor to the English Defence League (EDL). It's a black eye for EDL if this is true. Here's the welcome you will read if you go to the EDL website: If you, like us, are fed up and sick to the back teeth of Islamic Extremism in the UK, then sign up and join the struggle with the English Defence League and start protesting peacefully with us today.

When I see hate speech in any form my heart wrenches and I am pained. I somehow thought that we'd already learned that hate is not an answer. But the lesson of Hitler gets applied differently when in the minds and mouths of hate-mongers. According to Hoffer hate is a tool to unify diverse groups against a common enemy, as well as a method for consolidating power and manipulating masses.

A lot of hate is driven by fear. In World War II the United States itself created concentraton camps where 120,000 Japanese Americans were deposited in forced placements against their wills, due chiefly to American fears that these American citizens would be more loyal to their former homeland than to this one they had pledged their allegiance to.

On his Facebook page, now cordoned off with police tape, Breivik stated that his beliefs were Christian (Didn't Jesus say, "Love your enemies."?) and Conservative. His favorite movies were listed as 300 (vividly violent) and Gladiator.

His purchase of the six tons of fertilizer used to make the car bomb that exploded in Oslo was never questioned because he had a vegetable farm that raised melons, tubers and the like. Seems like a lot of fertilizer, though, for an "organic" farm.

So now, we have reasons to be scared of cops, handsome young Scandinavians, vegetable farmers, Christians, Conservatives and people who post pithy quotes on Twitter. And be careful about sending your youth to camp unarmed.

Source of Sunday Express info.
http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/260736/Killer-was-adviser-to-EDL-on-Islamic-hatred

Saturday, July 23, 2011

First Phantom Gallery Opening Nicely Attended

In Superior Thursday evening the Phantom Galleries project officially kicked off with an open house that included greeters from the Chamber of Commerce. The adventure has begun.

Erika Mock, who has a space at Art in the Alley, is one of many who have rolled up their sleeves to bring about this union of the arts community, the business community and civil government. With months of groundwork now behind, it was nice to see the doors opened for this initial launch.

The reception was held at 1410 Tower Avenue. Jeredt Runions, another Phantom Galleries artist, has a small space across the street two blocks down, and a third artist kitty-korner from there. The artists here were Ken Kollodge and his wife Kathy. He's a photographer fascinated with the interplay of light and ice. She's a painter. He calls his work "Iced Light" which has an enigmatic quiality that I liked. The Kollodge's moved to Superior six years ago after three decades in Alaska.

In a thank you note to everyone involved with Phantom Galleries, Erika wrote, "It is very exciting to see the once vacant raw space at 1410 Tower Ave become vibrant with people as well as art. Each of our locations provides a different experience. Though 1302 and 1213 Tower provide window viewing only, we hope you find many elements with which to engage in all 3 of our current installations."

Red Interactive, which John Heino and I have been assembling, will be on display in the second round of Phantom Galleries later this fall. You can follow the development of that project on Facebook. You're even invited to join.

If you missed last Thursday's Phantom experience, save the date Thursday August 25th for the next event downtown Superior. Evidently they have some surprises in store for us.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Elliot Bros. to Perform at Swamp Sisters Saturday

This Saturday morning customers of the ever crowded Swamp Sisters restaurant near Twig MN will once again be treated to live music by de Elliot Bros. Jugband. Your faithful blogger will be there to add harmonies, harmonica, a little rhythm on the washboard to be part of the music. One patron last year said it was "the highlight of his summer." Probably says more about his summer than the band though the spontaneous appearance of the band really was a treat for many.

Elliot Silberman, founder of de Elliot Bros., likes to describe jug band music as "poor man's jazz." Essentially, poor folk who love to sing, make music and have a good time can do just that with anything and everything they have on hand to make a tune with, even it is only a pair of spoons, a washboard or jug. I regularly see pots 'n pans, and other kitchen utensils used for a rhythm section. This orchestra is all filler that serves as support for the mandolin, banjo or guitar players who do the pickin' and a-grinnin'.

I've played harmonicas for over forty years now. Except when playing the lonesome cowboy role, most harmonica players prefer being that "something extra" that adds flavor to a group of instruments like a good spicy seasoning. A harmonica is not the meat, just that added kick that you savor after the meal.

Speaking of meals, once you come out to the Swamp Sisters you'll of course need to get yourself a bite to eat. The Bonnie's Swamp Skillet, with real buffalo meat, is their highlight. They also have very large pancakes for very small prices, and wonderful French toast. Better bring an appetite. I usually only order a half because their portions are generous. And the atmosphere can't be beat, in the heart of the country. To find us, take highway 53 north to Twig, make a left on County 7 and snake back about five miles. Look for the signs. We'll be on the right.

Swamp Sisters is open Fridays and Saturdays for breakfast and lunch. They close the kitchen around two, but the caramel rolls (to die for) will be long gone by then, so come early.

If you're needing a routine change, this one is recommended. And you might as well start tomorrow. We'll be setting up at nine. In the morning, that is.

See you there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr. Hemingway

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." ~Ernest Hemingway

When I was a youth in elementary school, no older than second or third grade, a magician came to our school once and did a little show. Like my peers, I was amazed. I remember none of the specific tricks he did so much as the joy on his face as he amazed us, and as an adult I understand what made him smile so as he lit up the eyes of a hundred kids who leaned forward with eagerness and awe.

Near the climax of the show he was taking playing cards one at a time and fanning them into fives and sixes. Then he'd take one of these and make five more out it. It was incdredible to see all these cards flying all over, the entire floor littered with them as he took his bow.

At the end of the show kids rushed up to the front. Most went to the magician, I went to the cards. Picking one up, I pressed it between my finger and thumb. Voila! It split apart into three. These cards were so super thin that five cards were less than the thickness of a regular playing card. It was an aha moment for me.

I mention all this because a similar experience occurred for me as a young man reading Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time. As I read this collection of stories for the first time I couldn't help but be gripped by the power of Hemingway's prose. Upon completion, I immediately set about reading the stories again. During my third time through, during the tension-filled confrontation in The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife, I stopped and rushed the stage. I re-read that page a half dozen more times, trying to understand. How did he do that? The tension was so palpable yet there were no words designed to manipulate the reader into feeling that tension. (You know, the way Hollywood puts a music score in there to make you feel the appropriate emotion as a viewer.) The writing just showed the reader what was unfolding.

This experience of reading In Our Time was a critical experience in my development as a writer. For this alone I am indebted to the man.

Today Papa Hemingway would be 112. He was part of that Lost Generation of writers who returned from the Great War, back before it was WWI. And as that war changed the shape of the world, so his writing changed the shape of literature. Love him or hate him, he was possibly the single most influential writer of the past two centuries.

Here are some links to other pages about Hemingway for those who wish to read more.

1. Hemingway's Paris
M Denise C is a blogger who has read more by and about Hemingway than anyone I know. I am certain that if you visit her blog today she will be giving a tribute to Papa. This is a link to a review she wrote January 1 of a book titled Hemingway's Paris. It was no surprise to see Woody Allen attempt to take us there in his current film Midnight in Paris. (I commend that to you as well.)

2. Top 5 Tips for Writing Well
A blog entry with some tips for writers from the master.

3. Five Minutes with a Hemingway Fan
This is a blog entry in which I interview M. Denise C. It yields some good insights for people who appreciate Hemingway's importance.

4. The Red Scorpion Fan Page
O.K., this has nothing to do with Mr. Hemingway, other than the fact that yours truly is preparing his first novel for publication and I was greatly influenced to excel as a writer as a result of Hemingway's stories and novels. The Red Scorpion will in September be available on Kindle and Nook, the first 12 chapters free.

Enjoy your day, and read on.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eight Minutes with Muralist Samuel Homan


When I was in Carlton, MN a few weeks ago, I noticed an art project taking place at the 3rd Base Bar near the center of town. Having my camera on hand I decided to stop and see what they were up to. Once I saw all the paints, brushes and accessories, I knew these weren't just a couple guys with paint cans decorating a bus. I introduced myself and learned they were from the Twin Cities, had come up specifically to paint the bus and the van to promote the 3rd Base. I grabbed their cards, mentioned the possibility of following up. Here is the exchange I had with Samuel Homan, leader of the team with associate Barry Newman. Even though he doesn't define himself as a graffiti artist per se, their use of spray cans was with a skill on par with the best of them.

Ennyman: How did you first get interested art?

Samuel Homan: I first became interested in art as a child, with coloring books, cartoons, and comic books. As I grew older, I discovered a lot of art through the skateboarding / rollerblading industry, artwork on different albums, and posters. Although I've always doodled, I didn't become serious about art until college, when I took an introductory drawing course and hung out with a lot of different artists. Well, even at that point I wouldn't consider myself "serious" about my own art. But I did start drawing and painting with some regularity at that point.

E: Who were your earliest influences?

SH: One of my earliest influences was definitely M.C. Escher. My parents had a few Escher books and it definitely had a big impact on me. I liked maze books, and Escher naturally tapped into that interest. In addition, Salvador Dali was another artist I encountered early on. My dad used to wear a t-shirt of the "melting clocks" painting, and I loved to study that image. Besides these childhood influences, I don't remember too many from growing up. Once I was in college, though, I became a sponge.

E: Do you have a name for your style? Is it part of the "graffiti" art movement?

SH: I'm not sure if I have a name for my style, or if I have even found my "style" yet, because I tend to switch it up in my work. Also, I believe that classifying yourself into one definite style is somewhat limiting and categories/classifications are arbitrary; they don't really define or capture the totality of any artist. For instance, Dali is always referred to as a "surrealist" painter, but so much of his work is based on his mastery of still life and figure painting. I don't think such labels do the artist justice.

Now, moving to the second part of your question... I don''t think I can just be called a "graffiti artist" but I definitely am part of that movement. Graffiti is part of the hip hop movement, a wider cultural renaissance that includes music, poetry, and dance. I believe it is the greatest cultural movement of the 20th century. Yes, I said that!

E: Do you make a living doing murals and large scale painting?

SH: Nope. I definitely don't. I am a teacher by profession--the murals and paintings are a necessary outlet for my creative energy. This is the first summer that I've decided to really push the sign painting/murals. During the school year, I teach English at Mayo High School in Rochester, MN. What's up Spartans!?!?

E: Do you also do "fine art" or "wall art" that you sell? If yes, do you have a website I can direct people to?

SH: Yes, I do. Lately, the majority of my fine art consists of watercolors--landscapes, that kind of thing. I currently have artwork showing at Hard Times Cafe in Minneapolis, MN. The address is 1821 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN. It will be on display until August 15th. Also featured are a few great friends of mine--Ryan Rockwilder, Barry Newman, Louis LaPierre, and Sean Watt. All of them are amazing artists and I'm fortunate to call them my friends.

As of now, I do not have a website. I've played around with the idea of a blog of sorts, but I've been too busy. I am on Facebook, though! I try to hide from my students, so I'm not sure if I even show up in searches. Ha.

E: Where do you live and what is the furthest you have traveled to do a mural or project?

SH: During the summer, I call Minneapolis my home. During the school year, I live in Rochester, MN. The furthest I have traveled? Hmmm... I think only a few hours, to the exotic oasis known as Carlton, MN. Ha. So, probably only two hours.

E: Any advice for others who want to paint murals and do exterior wall art?

SH: Not really, but I'd take some advice! Ha. Really, I guess I would just like to say that art deserves to be in public. So if you have the opportunity to paint a mural, get it done and do it right! Art is really exciting to see in the public space, and it really transforms people. While I was painting the bus, there were tons of neighborhood kids hanging around, asking questions, and giving me recommendations ("Put a coconut in the tree!! Put a monkey there, too!!"). I really felt like they were transformed by it, in a way. They were amazed we painted it in just two days. One girl even ran home and asked her parents if she could paint something, so they gave her some paper and some watercolors and she painted a tree, the sky, and the sun. That's what it’s all about!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Roots of The Red Scorpion

We're in the final stages of getting my Young Adult haunted house novel published. The original story concept was conceived more than 25 years ago in a dream. It is an action sequence which appears late in the novel, something akin to the final battle that you see in so many Hollywood films where the hero and his arch enemy are squared off in a fight to the death. In my dream, naturally, I won by waking up. In the novel, our teen hero has to overcome.

I woke from that dream and typed out several pages of description, then deposited it into one of my "idea" folders. This was back when everything was on paper, before the days of computers and virtual folders on your desktop.

Over the years as I sifted through these folders for my next story, The Red Scorpion eventually emerged as a project to undertake. My motivation for writing it was this. I was hoping to get it published while my son was in high school. I wanted to have it be the book his English class was reading so that kids on the school bus were all carrying it. This was the picture I envisioned and it helped motivate me to press on. Writing book length stories is no easy task when you are also working full time as well as being father, husband, soccer coach and Mr. Fix-it.

The story has three sections. I wrote the second section first, the story of how Dr. Comstock, an anthropology professor, came to discover the red scorpion. Did I mention that there's a supernatural element in the story? These red scorpions are the embodiment of evil. Eventually, bad things happen, but Comstock had been documenting it all in a journal. A generation later some teenage boys break into this abandoned bed and breakfast, and one of them finds Dr. Comstock's journal. This was originally the first part of the book.

For some reason, as I wrote and re-wrote the story, the amount of work involved to "get it right" was taxing. Add to that the fact that my son was graduating high school and I couldn't find a publisher, well, I abandoned the project for a time. In 2005 it appeared that I was going to take it up again, but once more I set it aside.

But The Red Scorpion refuses to die. In less than two months the 53,400 word manuscript will become an eBook, available on Kindles and Nooks. A haunted house story with a supernatural twist. My publisher is a high school student who understands the technology of this new frontier in publishing. We're both enthusiastic about the prospects for this venture.

Feel free to follow us on Facebook.

In the meantime, have a great week.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Work by Pere Salinas

Last winter as I was writing about Fernando Pessoa, Portugal's literary luminary of the 20th century, I received an email sending me to a pair of art books inspired by Pessoa's writing. The artist was Pere Salinas, who hails from Spain.

On July 8 Mr. Salinas forwarded to me images from his newest books, still unbound but complete. I consider it an honor to share a few of these pages here with you. This is a portion of his correspondence regarding the project.

Dear Ed,
I've been busy with the health of my son, but I have work and want you to be the first to see it.
I worked 3 artist's books.
Trilogy of Black
And have the following titles:
1-Out of paradise
2-La paraula no dita (The unspoken word)
3-Tarlatana

Tarlatana is a kind of gauze dressing used in etching to remove the ink from the engraved plates, and reinforce book spines.

The paper is handmade in India.
Measurements of the open book are: 28 x 38 cm.

No text, but one phrase that my son wrote in the first book: "I want my" and the third book shows a fragment of "Los heraldos negros" by Cesar Vallejo.

The books are not yet bound.

A warm greeting.
Pere Salinas

What follows here are five images which I have selected from the art book Tarlatana. What impresses me is how simple yet profound the images are. And in some mysterious way they connect with deep places within me. How are such things possible? This is the power of art.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adam Swanson at Ochre Ghost


Thursday evening I managed to make my way to the Ochre Ghost Gallery here in Duluth to catch the opening for Adam Swanson's new show titled Friends of Consequence. The turnout was strong, and the space filled with lively discussion and energy.

Clearly Swanson's work is evolving into something very special. The vibrant colors have become even more vibrant. Having following his painting since his arrival in Duluth 2-3 years ago, I am becoming even more fascinated with what he is doing. Initially, I'd been struck by his themes -- windmills, penguins, bicycles. But now it's the color that so resonates with the eye and the manner in which that color gets applied to create impressionistic vividness.

The Ochre Ghost show included three very special self-portraits, each with one of his iconic symbols placed subtly within the image. Are these themes now being placed behind him as a form of saying good-bye to the past, facing a different horizon ahead?

The following day a black bear from outside town made a visit to the Ochre Ghost, and left a deposit on the steps there. Eventually it was captured behind Greysolon Plaza. I was half wondering if the bear had come into town to see Adam's painting of a black bear riding a bicycle pictured here.

Meantime, be sure to take in an art show sometime soon. Openings are great because you get to meet the artist. If it doesn't fit your schedule, just drop into a gallery or two now and then, even if you can't bring something home at the moment. So much to see, so little time.

Click images to enlarge.

Friday, July 15, 2011

25 Things I Could Write About But Probably Won't


I suppose that if I would write more than one blog entry a day, I could write about all the things I think about. But alas, a guy has to have a life. So instead of giving fully fleshed out mini-essays, I will just make a list here and leave it at that. At the end, I'll also mention three things you will hear of me writing more about. But first...

1. The Robin Hood Foundation
2. The Minnesota Twins
3. Underwater Volcanoes
4. Why the guy arrested for saggy pants is the number one search item on Yahoo Buzz this morning.
5. Why I almost forgot to shave today.
6. Why Ted Danson is in the news again.
7. Rodney King
8. Why I still have a pair of winter gloves in my car in July.
9. The Tall Ships in Duluth
10. Ben Bernanke
11. Breaking Facebook news
12. The Philippines warning against using geckos as treatment for AIDS and impotence.
13. The attempt by Carl Icahn to buy Clorox for 10.2 billion dollars.
14. The News Corp. hacking scandal
15. Efforts to boost computer science jobs in Wyoming
16. Angelina Jolie
17. The San Juan, Puerto Rico, music scene
18. Levis
19. Face transplants
20. Cy Twombley (I wanted to comment on Cy's passing last week, but didn't know what to say.)
21. The Taliban
22. The Lottery
23. The first six days of Creation
24. Porcupines
25. John Wayne

A few things I will be almost surely writing about in the next few months....
1. The publication of my first novel on Kindle and Nook.
2. Red Interactive
3. More artist interviews, more book and film reviews
4. The hikers who are still jailed in Iran
5. Something related to Bob Dylan

In the meantime, have a really great weekend.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More Ben Franklin

Earlier this week I got a lot of feedback when I shared a couple Ben Franklin quotes on Twitter and Facebook. In addition to being a wit with the pen, Franklin was quite the inventor. Like many inventors his motivation was to solve problems.

Franklin, who loved to read, had poor eyesight. Rather than take his glasses on and off to read the newspaper, he cut some lenses in half and invented the first set of bifocals.

Franklin is famous for flying a kite during a lightning storm, and though he did not invent electricity, he learned a lot about it and ultimately invented the lightning rod to protect buildings and ships during electrical storms.

Ben Franklin's claim to fame comes from being in the center of the action during the founding of our nation. The happening place at the time was Philadelphia, and he was the editor of its primary newspaper, a learned man who is considered one of our Founding Fathers. He was also a diplomat and a statesman, important in getting France to back the Colonies in their effort to obtain freedom from Great Britain.

Though many of his adages are great guides for life, he didn't always practice what he preached. For example, he famously quipped, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." To John Adams' great surprises (as recorded in his diary) when he went to France for four months, sharing a bed with Franklin, he found old Ben was quite found of late night parties and sleeping in.

Still, the pearls of wisdom Franklin generated are enjoyable to ponder, and when the shoe fits, wear it.

"Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame."

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins."

"Content makes poor men rich, discontent makes rich men poor."

"Diligence is the mother of good luck."

"Well done is better than well said."

"Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship."

"Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn."

"He that waits upon fortune is never sure of dinner."

That's enough food for thought for one day. Have a good one.