Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Loretta Lynn Left A Legacy

R.I.P. Loretta Lynn
April 14, 1932 – October 4, 2022
The First Lady of Country Music

* * * * *

As of 2022, Loretta was the most awarded female country recording artist in history. She is also the only female to have won ACM Artist of the Decade honors (1970s). In addition to 24 No. 1 songs and 11 No. 1 albums to her credit, Lynn has won three Grammys, seven American Music Awards, thirteen ACM Awards, eight BMI awards, eight CMA Awards and 26 fan-voted Music City News awards. In 1988 she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Country Music Gospel Hall of Fame in 1999, and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2003. In 2008 she became a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy in 2010,  a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, and honored as Artist of a Lifetime by CMT in 2018.

* * * * *
My own roots are Eastern Kentucky. Both my grandfathers did time mining coal in West Virginia. I personally think it's cool that Levon Helm of The Band played her father in the Hollywood film version of her life

Photos on this page courtesy Gary Firstenberg. One of his specialities is
documenting the musical figures who produced the soundtrack of our lives.
EdNote: The first photo at the top of the page is a photo of a photo
that was hanging in one of her barns. Gary did not take the original.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

A Brief Review of Christopher Priest's The Prestige

For fans of the magic arts, 2006 was a good year. That was the year Hollywood released two exceptionally fine films about magicians: The Prestige, and The Illusionist. After watching both, I enjoyed The Illusionist more because The Prestige felt too dark, though I couldn't help but appreciate many of its features. Each of these has satisfying magical "Aha!" moments.

Until three weeks ago, I was unaware that The Prestige was actually based on a novel published nine years earlier by Christopher Priest. How very interesting.

The story is told in a most unusual way that is quite different from the film, in diary form. Each of the characters records their observations from their individual points of view. The primary diaries are those of the two primary characters, late 19th century magicians Alfred Borden and Robert Angier. The novel, however, begins in the present, a century later.

The central conflict has to do with a trick which Borden bills as The Transported Man. Robert Angier's version of the trick is called In A Flash. The primary motivation of each magician shifts from seeking fame to seeking revenge. Each becomes obsessed not with out-doing the other but rather undoing his rival. When their actions cause excess harm, their diaries reveal their guilt and regret. In short, they are very human as they wrestle with the conflict between their consciences and desires. 

If you've already seen the film, the direction the novel takes near the climax will come as a surprise to you. It's not in the movie, in part because what happens would be a major challenge to reproduce on screen. 

The Prestige has a stellar cast, with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman starring as the magicians Alfred Borden (Bale) and Robert Angier (Jackman). Michael Caine is Cutter, Angier's manager/handler, and David Bowie is the distinguished Nikola Tesla. The women featured include Scarlett Johansson, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall and Samantha Mahurin. 

The nature of the storyline revolves around secrets. This is what the world of magic is all about. Surprise! How can audiences get a thrill if they already know how the tricks are performed? Hence, the Magician's Code: Never reveal how a trick is done. Audiences like being fooled. If they know how you do it, they won't be.

The book does a superb job of  showing what a career in the magic arts looks like. There are also some life lessons, though ultimately it is a compelling read, which makes for a nice escape for people who enjoy good books.

Related Links

Escape Artist, Magician, Inventor: Terry Roses

A Visit with John Cox: Avid Fan and Expert of All Things Houdini

Misdirection in the Magic Arts

Is The Prestige the Great Movie About Magic and Magicians?

Friday, September 30, 2022

Flashback Friday: Master MEME at the PRØVE

Dan Hansen (left) with Lucas Anderson
This blog post was originally published on 28 September 2012. Dan has since become one of my very best friends.


Fans of the local Twin Ports visual arts scene have had plenty to buzz about in recent years. And it just keeps getting better. Tonight, the PRØVE Collective and Lizzard's Gallery offer two great excuses for heading downtown. And if you're checking out one, there's no need to move the car because the other is just around the corner. 

Master MEME: Art by Daniel Hansen and Lucas Anderson

Daniel Hansen is a local disabled artist exploring pop culture, '80s pixelation, and contemporary issues. Lucas Anderson teaches art locally at Marshall Academy. The show features individual work and art they have created collaboratively. This is the capstone show for the PRØVE's first year, and it's nothing short of a "must see", even if only for the spirit in which the work has been generated and generously shared with our community.

I met Anderson this past spring through the DAI-sponsored film series Shock of the New. Last night I met Hansen for the first time as the dynamic duo were putting the finishing touches on what will be tonight's event, which is primarily Hansen's work.

I had asked Hansen how he'd become interested in art as a profession. He explained, "My interest is because it's time to get my art out there. I've been drawing since I was 3. My story is that I've had a progressive neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2 (or SMA). The onset was at infancy so I've always been confined to a wheelchair."

This handicap has not restrained Hansen from pursuing his passions. In advance of our meeting I asked him to briefly share his story.

"I grew up in Grand Marais the son of Mark Hansen who founded North House Folk School. I've been at the sidelines observing everyone living and achieving normal things that were absurdly complicated or impossible to pull off. Every aspect of my life requires innovation and mastery on account of gradual muscular weakening. It just so happens art is merely a side affect of my paradigm shredding circumstance. The burning desire to defy all conventions and set new precedences is my morning cup of coffee! My medium is digital. The world of illusions are my inspiration. Fun, trans-mutational, fascination are the undercurrents of everything I do...the rest is open to interpretation." 

Last night as I looked at Hansen's work it became that fun really is the operative word in much of what he pulls off here. For example, the large piece titled Chico Strikes Back is a humorous portrayal of the forgotten Marx brother who had not gotten the recognition of his other siblings. Chico is at the piano, but the stock market index atop the instrument shows a declining market value. One wonders what he's doing with that loaded gun in his hand.

Upon entering the gallery one is struck by the scale and vivid color in Hansen's pieces. On the left ad you enter is a picture titled Cheyenne. Cheyenne is a girl Hansen met via the internet whom he has talked with on the phone for seven years. The picture reflects some of the chaos in Cheyenne's life. He says she has been a great influence on him.

Another piece, titled Cake or Pi, Hansen describes as "me jamming out."

Time: 7 - 11 p.m.
Free admission, refreshments by donation
If you've never been, the PROVE is located downstairs from the Sons of Norway Hall on Lake Avenue across from the Technology Center.

Chico Strikes Back

Art About Stories... paintings by Tom Tyler

Lizzard's Art Gallery at 11 West Superior Street (across from the MN Power Building) is hosting an opening reception tonight for their new exhibition of paintings by Minneapolis artist Tom Tyler. The work in this collection is primarily based on quotes or literature, books by Hemingway, Melville, Jack London, Joseph Conrad and even Greek mythology. Though the themes in his work vary, the written word serves as a common thread.

Considering the selection of writers cited, I am already drawn to this artist and look forward to seeing tonight's show.

Tyler's work has texture and movement, undoubtedly influence by the 20th century German Expressionists whom he admires. A full-time painter, he has a BA in studio art from the University of Minnesota, where he studied with painters Jo Lutz Rollins and Cameron Booth. His work has been exhibited in Minnesota, California and New Mexico. 

Can't make it tonight? Tyler's work will be on the walls at Lizzards through November 10. Check it out.

Meantime, life goes on. See you on the beat.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Nevada Bob Turns 83

Last year I posted a nice Happy Birthday greeting for Bob Gordon and was reminded that Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays. Here it is a year later and Nevada Bob is now 83. So I call to wish him a happy day anyways. 

Turns out, I wasn't the first to call. Charlie McCoy, the "Real McCoy," had already given him a call to play "Happy Birthday" on his harmonica. It seems that during the course of helping Bob produce six CDs, Charlie and Nevada Bob have famously hit it off.

If you wish to learn more about Nevada Bob, here's a link to a story on the blog I maintain for him:
Recording with Charlie McCoy

And a story in the Stillwater Gazette:
Nevada Bob Gordon Records Audiobook at Stillwater Studio

You can find his memoir 50 Years with the Wrong Woman at as well as his audiobook.

Photos here courtesy Gary Firstenberg. 

Nevada Bob in Tulsa.
With Jim Bowie's favorite tool.
With the Tulsa Oilman
Showing respect to Woody.
At the Jimi Hendrix memorial.

Happy Birthday, Bob.
And many more.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

What Should We Do About Fentanyl?

From time to time, when not too busy, I enjoy reading the comments at the end of articles or news stories. You can get the same effect reading a lengthy Twitter-feed discussion. It's interesting to see people attempting to hash out solutions to problems or contemporary issues.

This morning a lengthy discussion about how to deal with the fentanyl problem was generated by Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) posting a 10-point plan on how to deal with it. His recommendations were controversial, but in his defense (a couple of respondents defended him) he did at least propose a set of actions as opposed to just ignoring it all. 

For the record, here is the size of the problem at this point in time, according to the CDC:

More than 932,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose.1 In 2020, 91,799 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States. The age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths increased by 31% from 2019 (21.6 per 100,000) to 2020 (28.3 per 100,000).

To give you an idea of how much fentanyl is entering the country, check out this ABC News story from Phoenix:

One million fentanyl pills seized from Avondale home Wednesday

(Article includes photo of the goods seized.)

By posting a ten-point plan out in the Twitterverse Adams does succeed in generating a discussion around the issue. Here are a few examples of responses to his plan...  

--Make people eat a proper diet because a bad diet leads to health issues that cause pain.

--Legalize all drugs so as to put the cartels out of business.

--It's a supply and demand issue: eliminate demand. 

--Better fathering.

--Addiction is a series of decisions. Remove victim status.

* * * * *

Scott Adams' Fentanyl Policy Idea:

And there you have it. Is this a solution?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

One of the Downsides of Our Contemporary Culture

This is a story from Stocktwits, a daily email newsletter that gives a recap of what's happening in the market, etc. In addition to summarizing the day's Wall Street activities, they pass along stories and do in-depth breakdowns of specific companies that seem to be flying to the moon or heading into the swamp.

At the end of each newsletter they have a "Bullets From The Day" section of one paragraph summaries of various events. Yesterday's Bullets were as follows:

⚡ Hertz to buy up to 175,000 EVs from General Motors.

🔺 Apple App Store announces international price hikes.

💰 Two veteran sports execs launch Velocity Capital Management.

👎 Judge denies bid to stop UnitedHealth’s acquisition plan.

And finally, this one, today's lead Bullet:

Cancer victims urge the court to end the J&J bankruptcy roadblock. People suing Johnson & Johnson over its talc products urged an appeals court on Monday to revive their claims, saying it should not be allowed to use a bankrupt subsidiary to block lawsuits alleging the products cause cancer. The company spun off its subsidiary in October, assigned its talc liabilities to it, and then placed it into bankruptcy. The commonly used restructuring strategy paused about 38,000 lawsuits J&J was facing and sent the victims into a state of perpetual litigation

* * * *

If the talc issue is legit, it's shameful that J&J can skirt responsibility like that. Then again, the tobacco industry hasn't been put out of business even though that link to cancer is self-evident. The government likes the tax revenue generated by tobacco addicts. 

And if the talc issue is not legit, it's sad the extremes to which companies must go to defend themselves from endless litigation about nearly everything.

I'm curious how much money is spent on attorneys that could have been spent on research and development to make companies stronger as they launch into the future. Then again, I can hear people saying that the money spent on lawyers would probably just end up in the pockets of CEOs and their ilk. 

I dunno. It seems like the whole country is wrapped up in legal red tape. Has it always been this way? 

Well, I know that Daniel Boone was frustrated with all the red tape people were tangled in right from the start of this nation. The Kentucky pioneer was a land surveyor. He helped settlers identify their lands and get title deeds. For reasons I am unsure of, many of these would get challenged and the people would lose their land. Over time, to make things right he gave away all the land he personally owned, disgusted with the lawyers and the legal system.

By 1800 the U.S. was only on its second presidency and Boone, 66 at the time, was so fed up he left the country he bailed. He went West across the Mississippi to land owned by France. At last, he could live free. 

Unfortunately, in 1803 Thomas Jefferson made a deal with France, which we know now as the Louisiana Purchase. It stretched from New Orleans to Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, more than a half billion acres, all for the sum of $18 million. For us this is just a history datapoint, maybe the correct answer to a question on a quiz. But for Daniel Boone, and the sons who joined him in his exodus, this was a serious bummer. He was back in the "civilized" world, with all its legal entanglements.

The point is, we have way too much red tape, too many rules and regulations, hurdles to jump, walls to bust through. And it's stifling our economy.

Map Illustration Credit: William Morris, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 19, 2022

How Should We Then Tweet? Wisdom from the Book of Proverbs

The Book of Proverbs is one of three Old Testament books categorized as "wisdom literature." Nestled between the Psalms and Ecclesiastes, it's a book loaded with practical advice and observations. 

While reading the 15th chapter recently I noticed a number of passages that were relevant for people using social media today, which is cool because these ideas, maxims and instructions are probably 3,000 years old. I wasn't looking for them. The maxims and admonitions seemed so apropos.

We 21st century moderns think everything is different now with things so advanced. The reality is that very fundamental ways people today are just like the ancients of one, two or three millennia ago. Like ourselves, they were trying to learn how to get along with others, learning how to live meaningful lives, and wondering how we should live. 

Here are some proverbs that seem quite relevant for users of social media, especially Twitter. If you mull these over I think you'll see how relevant they are. (I've included a few from Proverbs 19 as well.)

* * * 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, 
     but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Don't be that guy.)

* * * 

The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
    but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
        (Don't be this guy either.)

* * * 

The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
   but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit
         (Can't we just get along?)

* * * 

The lips of the wise spread knowledge,   <-- Let's aim to be this one
    but the hearts of fools are not upright.

* * * 

A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and whoever pours out lies will not go free.
        (Fake news creators.)

* * * 

A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty
     rescue them, and you will have to do it again. 

* * * 

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
     but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
       (Patience is a virtue. Why is it so hard?)

* * * 

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
    but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
        (There's a little too much gushing today.)

* * * 

A fool gives full vent to his anger 
    but a wise man keeps himself under control.

* * * 

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
    and how good is a timely word! 

* * *

What do you think?

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