Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Magnolia Salon Winding Down for the Summer with a Send Off Party

Next week the Magnolia Salon is celebrating the end of its first season with a Send Off Party that will feature the Myers Wilkins World Beat Drummers - a much loved group of Duluth 5th and 6th graders who play in the West African Tradition.

The party will include yummy Oldenburgers and picnic food. It will be a chance to visit with the Salon presenters of their first season and meet some of the presenters for the Fall 2018-Spring 2019 Magnolia Salon season.

Please register in advance to give an accurate head count at: www.oacc.us/programs/magnolia-salon Donations for food, beverages and entertainment are suggested.
The Fall season for Magnolia Salon will begin again on Thursday, September 6th at 6:00PM

THIS THURSDAY'S FEATURED PRESENTER WILL BE Gordon Marino, author of The Existentialist’s Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age. Professor Marino will read from his new book and discuss it with Steve Ostovich, Chair of the Philosophy Department at the College of St. Scholastica. Marino examines the existential perspective that sees our psychological ups and downs as offering enduring lessons about living a life of integrity and can help us discern an inner spark that can inspire spiritual development and personal transformation. Marino is a professor of philosophy and director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College, boxing corespondent for The Wall Street Journal and frequent writer for the New York Times. The author will autograph books provided for sale by Zenith Bookstore.
Food and beverages available from Magnolia Cafe.

Thursday Evenings 6-9 p.m.
9/6 Adam Herman, author and musician
9/13 Kris Nelson, artist - chairs
9/20 Sarah Seidelmann, author and shaman
9/27 Arna Rennan, Scandinavian roots music
10/4 Ryan Bauers - living your creative life
10/11 Pat McCoy and County Extension nutritionist on One Veg/One Community and Healing Kitchen (invited, not yet confirmed)
10/18 Joe Klander and Kinderchomper (invited, not yet confirmed)
10/25 Blacklist brewing Oldenburg beer (invited, not yet confirmed)
11/1 Hari Shankar,Nidha Bhagsu and Marcus Wise (invited, not yet confirmed)
11/8 Cynthia Lapp and Inner Light Mandalas (invited, not yet confirmed)

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For details about other events and activities at Oldenburg House,
including Cookin' at the O', visit oacc.us

Oldenburg House is located at 604 Chestnut Avenue - Carlton, MN 55718

Local Art Seen: Chromascope at the Prøve

Rotten Light by Dane Pedersen. Photography.
Last Friday evening I visited the Prøve Gallery for the opening reception of Chromascope, a show featuring 13 local and regional artists. The call for art restricted artists in their color selection to essentially the basic color wheel.

An unusual feature of the show was the manner in which it was laid out. Rather than having the works displayed sequentially about the gallery, the curators mounted the 19 pieces in a holistic, relational manner as if a collaborative installation. The aim is to create a greater visual resonance amongst the pieces within the white cube of the space. Furniture by Loll Designs had been installed to encourage viewers to sit facing the exhibit in order to more or less relax, contemplate the whole.

Kirsten Aune's large Textile On Cotton provided a focal starting point.
dispersing color in all directions.
Here is a listing of the featured artists: Ray Allard, Kirsten Aune, Billy Flynn, Susanna Gaunt, Linda Glisson, Margie Helstrom, Isaac James, Tom Moriarty, Lance Mountain, Philip Noyed, Dane Pedersen, Sue Rauschenfels and Pat Sharrow. The show will run through July 7.

Isaac Watamaniuk's Blue 65. Acrylic on canvas.

CE-5 by Lance Mountain. Latex on canvas.

Turquoise Light Wave by Phillip Noyed.
Lambda photographic print, Acrylic, LED
Totem Poles and Birch Trees, Sue Rauschenfels.
Mixed media.
The weather Friday was tumultuous. For hours that morning and afternoon the rain fell in buckets. Many had a foreboding that Grandma's Marathon might even be cancelled for the first time. But then, the sky opened and the sun shone in. Driving into town from the South one could see that the William Irving 5K run went off well, people returning to their cars or hotels, standing at intersections in clusters with runners in running gear accompanied by friends who came to cheer them on. Parties followed. The weather and the race may have contributed to the thin turnout at the opening. I couldn't help but recall to mind the many Prøve openings in which there were so many present one could hardly navigate the room.

"Chromascope" has been made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, thanks to legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage funds. Support from Prøve Gallery is also possible through the private donations by Prøve Gallery Members and Collective.

Prøve Gallery is an contemporary and experimental art gallery in downtown Duluth.
Margie Helstrom provides a sense of scale for the work. Her piece, above
and over her left shoulder: Silly Rabbit, Trix Are For Kids. Acrylic on canvas.
BAM, by Kirsten Aune.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Eight Minutes with Howard Shapiro, Author ot the Graphic Novel Queen of Kenosha

This past week I received a review copy of Howard Shapiro's Queen of Kenosha, a soon-to-be released graphic novel about a young woman from the midwest who moves to New York City in an effort to make it as a rock star. Inasmuch as the story takes place in 1963, Dylan resonance is clearly apparent. This, however, is but the backdrop against which a much larger story takes place.

Though I've been aware of the graphic novel form for some time, I only started reading a few this past year or so, primarily because our Duluth Public Library has a shelf of them. The storyline for Queen of Kenosha runs like this: "A coming of age tale, this is the first installment of the Thin Thinline Trilogy, the fiercely independent Nina Overstreet has an axe to grind. A talented singer-songwriter slogging her way through the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk music scene of 1963, the Queen of Kenosha, Wisconsin, realizes that standing on the cusp of stardom gets her little respect and barely a cup of coffee in New York City. A chance encounter...."

Author Howard Shapiro lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and two sons. Shapiro is a Controller for the Pittsburgh-based Visual Effects firm, Animal Inc. He has also written four children’s books, The Stereotypical Freaks being his debut Graphic Novel. His 2008 book, Hockey Player for Life, has been the #1 downloaded children’s hockey e-book on Amazon’s Kindle chart since its arrival as an e-book in November of 2011.

EN: What was your motivation in writing this book? 

Howard Shapiro: When I did my first graphic novel, The Stereotypical Freaks the protagonist was inspired by an 18-year-old kid (John Challis) from my area who was in a battle with liver cancer which, sadly, he succumbed to. But in his last year his bravery and message of hope and living every day to the fullest was incredibly moving and inspiring and I wanted to honor his memory by basing the Jacoby character on him. When I did The Hockey Saint next, I wrote it during the Jerry Sandusky trial here in Pennsylvania and I was struck with how sports and teams in this area had caused people to lose all perspective on right and wrong. So, the book detailed how out of control sports culture and the idea of celebrity had overtaken us. Now, with “Queen of Kenosha” I wanted to explore the idea of what it means to be a true, and also, safe American citizen. Does that mean that the ends justify the means to keep us safe or do we always hold sacred the ideals that the nation was founded on? Is "my country right or wrong" just a saying? The story takes place in 1963 but the questions that the characters discuss and argue about in the story are just as prevalent today and those questions were my motivation in writing “Queen of Kenosha.”

EN: And why this particular form of storytelling rather than a straight novel? 

HS: Excellent question! I find it best to write in a quasi-script form and graphic novels lend themselves to this incredibly well. I more or less sketch out the story, visually, in my head and then put together a synopsis from the scenes I envision. I then work with my editor, Christina Hickey, to flesh out the story.

Opening panel establishing time and place.
EN:  In your acknowledgments you tip your hat to a whole team of people who made this book possible. Was Erica Chan the illustrator or did she head up a team of illustrators? 

HS: Yes, Erica was the sole illustrator for the book. She did an amazing illustration job and was a wonderful creative partner throughout the process. She also did the coloring, some illustrators prefer that someone else do the color work but Erica did double duty, doing both the illustration and color work.

EN: Is this your first book together? 

HS: Yes and I hope that Erica will illustrate and color the sequels as well!!

EN: How long does it take complete a project like this? It’s clearly a lot of work. 

HS: The total was about a year and a half for the book which is a total of 176 pages. To give folks an idea, a good week will mean that we got three pages completed. That will help give you an idea how long it takes to complete a 150+ pages graphic novel! Add in the time to have it lettered and printed and your looking at a close to two year process.

EN: What is the mission of Animal Media Group? 

HS: Animal Media Group is looking for stories that can, hopefully, be turned into a TV series or a film. The company only publishes four to five books a year and they take a lot of time and put a lot of effort into the design and production of their books.

EN: The way you open each chapter with a picture of a record with song titles is clever. Can you elaborate on where this idea originated and how you use this device? 

HS: I started with the recommended listening songs at the beginning of each chapter when I did “The Stereotypical Freaks” mainly because that book was about rock music and how a shared love of music can unite people. It was a pretty natural thing, I thought, to list the songs that were inspiring me to write each chapter or the songs listed were the songs that the guys in the band were playing in that particular chapter. I got such a good response to that listing at the front of each chapter that each subsequent book has had a similar list of songs.

EN: When will Queen of Kenosha be available for purchase? 

HS: Thanks, it releases on October 9, 2018

EN: And when will the second and third books of the trilogy be completed? 

HS: Hopefully In October 2020 and we’ll wrap things up in October 2022.

EN: Though the book is fiction, it begs the question: were there Nazi cells working within the U.S. in the early Sixties?

HS: Well, not in the 60’s but before World War 2 there were cells in Los Angeles which we allude to in the book. I found this out from a great book that came out last year titled “Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews and Their Spies Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America” by Steven J. Ross. And during the war there were Nazis sent to get into America thru Canada and into upstate New York and that plot was called the “Operation Pastorious.”

EN:  It’s actually an interesting concept to have a rock star also being a spy. Numerous authors have been spies or secret agents (Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, etc.) It would not raise many questions to have a performer do undercover work. Do you think this actually happens?

HS: Great question, but no I don’t think it happens. Interestingly though, another influence or inspiration for the book was the “Confessions of A Dangerous Mind” book and movie. The book was a memoir by Chuck Barris who was a Game Show producer starting in the 60’s. He created and produced “The Newlywed Game”, “The Dating Game” and then created and hosted “The Gong Show” which I watched religiously back in the late 70’s. In the book he claimed to be a CIA spy and when the CIA shot that down Barris later said that the book was how he imagined his life would have been had he worked for the CIA.

EN: Howard, thanks for your time as well as these insights on your new book.

Related Links
The Hockey Saint
Pittsburgh's Coolest Offices: Animal Inc.
Animal Studio

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Matt Oman's Species of Art

Unconventional means someone who doesn't follow conventions. Matt Oman's garage is not a garage at all. It's an art gallery. I've known people who can't use their garages because they're so full of clutter. I have not known any who turned their garage into a gallery. (I do know a few who have converted their garage into an art studio though.)

Friday I went to visit Matt Moan and see what's new in his spaces. (His home is itself an art gallery as well.) The images here on this page are from his garage.

Something I've always enjoyed in his art is the unexpected. One of his pieces has this message on it: I have been abducted by aliens. Now how do I tell my parents and who knows what else I have to do.

How do you top that? The compositions vary. Some are catchy and all intriguing. Most are compositions in the range of 9"x 12" or slightly larger. His pieces show a fascinations with symmetry, sensuality, global themes, color themes -- once again primarily highlighting red blue green and yellow -- dimensions, and unusual juxtapositions,

Recurring patterns and themes include Lincoln,  and faces that appear contemplative, thoughtful, concerned, and not necessarily cheerful.

There is a piece that has these readings on it: the nature of earth, There are 7 billion, greed, necessity, Johnson, how will you deal with it, economic growth, unemployment, inflation, the balance of trade, etc. There is the famous Japanese wave and four tiny maps of Korea in flux during its war years. May 1950, is half red half green. September 1950 is almost totally over run by red. November 1950, the green is now moved up almost totally taking the peninsula. July 1953 we see North Korea and South Korea divided again.

Another piece has a hand written, “I am the United States of America” and then "I am mutated."

Baseball is another recurring theme. Sports. Nature.

I was also invited to take a tour of the house again. His dog Species passed away this spring, which was exceedingly painful. The dog food company sent him a small painting of a white Labrador retriever like his own companion, in an expression of supreme knowing. Matt called the loss of Species his "worst day ever."

I look on his bookshelf and see all great books such as these: The Jungle, Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, the complete short stories of Mark Twain, Light in August, Team of Rivals, Black Elk Speaks, and the book I hold in my hand, David Foster Wallace‘s Infinite Jest. There is Demian by Hermann Hesse, another book that influenced me when I was young, The Idiot by Dostoevsky, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Farewell To Arms, Coal, Elie Wiesel's Night, a book on Huey Long, a book by Steinbeck, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike, The Age of Analysis and 1984.

The whole effect of being here is to make me want to try new endeavors that I’ve not tried before, to experiment. On one of the doors there is large piece of paper filled with names written in different colors on it. What names would I write if I were to just hand-write a long list of names in different colors? I’m just not sure what I would find off the top of my head but it would be an interesting experiment, a means of self discovery, a way of seeing possible new relationships within my own subconscious self.

Here was another interesting statement on a downstairs wall: “Michelangelo, arguably the greatest painter and sculptor of our time, came to believe architecture is the highest form of art proper.”

In short, the visit was stimulating. Much like the discharge of an incoming stream stirs up the sediment on the bottom of a pond, so my own thoughts were stirred anew.

Related Links
Matt Oman's Series of Art
Duluth Man's Home Is His Canvas
The Memory Palace

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Quote Nearly Guaranteed to Surprise You and Make You Think

I've been doing some housecleaning the last few days. By housecleaning, I mean organizing the files on my Mac, as well as some of the content on my blog. It was while doing the latter that I came across the following quote last night:

"The world is too big for us, too much is going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself. It's a constant strain to keep pace... and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen rapidly, you're out of breath trying to keep pace with who's in and who's out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can't endure much more."

Can you believe it? That was published 135 years ago on this day in the Atlantic Journal, June 16, 1883. I hear Twilight Zone music.

* * * *
When I first started blogging it was out of a desire to learn what blogging was. There were very few rules so it was like feeling my way along in the dark. A lot of those early blog posts began with . excerpts from my 30 years of journalling. Usually I would copy the journal segment and then expound on it, but on a few occasions I simply shared something from my journal as I did on June 22. This was my shortest ever blog post.

Observation from William E. Simon's A Time For Truth. He compares freedom to air. It's something you take for granted until you're without it. 
Sept 4, 1985

* * * *
Today is Grandma's Marathon here in the Northland. For the moment it appears that the storms our weather folk predicted are being graciously held at bay, most likely due to the Lake Effect which makes nearly all weather here unpredictable.

The Marathon easily triggers images of runners, and when I think of runners this verse from Ecclesiastes often comes to mind: "I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." --Eccles. 9:11

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Embrace it.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Flashback Friday: Remembering Private Ryan

They say the book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. Whatever your take on this piece of literature, whether divinely inspired or one man's remarkable effort to make sense of the universe, this book about the sufferings of Job is an incredible achievement.

The first chapter sets it up. Picture a theater with a lower stage and an upper stage. Job, his family and friends live in the lower stage. Theater goers see that God resides in the upper stage, but Job is unaware of what is going on there, a transaction between God and Satan. 

The story moves to the lower stage and we see Job smitten, but he remains faithful to God.

The next scene is back at the upper stage and we see Satan asking for permission to cause yet more suffering. Satan says, in essence, to God, "Job loves you because everything is going his way. God, you turn off the faucet of blessing and you will see Job turn his back on you because the core of this man is like all men. People are fair weather friends. People are basically selfish."

Once again even greater tragedy and suffering befall this man, with the result that he is destitute, covered with sores, sitting on a dung heap. All this occurs at the very beginning of this remarkable story. In literary lingo it would be called the setup.

There is a sense in which Steven Spielberg's potent war drama Saving Private Ryan becomes art by becoming metaphorical in the arc of its storyline. My poem Private Ryan will have no meaning without seeing the film or having a basic understanding of the story, so I will attempt to briefly summarize.


The context for the film is D-Day, the Normandy beachhead, and its aftermath. Tom Hanks is Captain John Miller, a soldier who leads his platoon into the bloodbath chaos that is war. Rated R for "intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence" is an understatement. One difference between the realistically graphic landing and real life is that in twenty minutes the film version of the Normandy landing was completed. 

Meanwhile back in Washington another scene is taking place. It is learned that a mother with four sons in the service has lost three of her boys. The fourth is somewhere in France. After the beachhead has been secured, and long before the war is over, Capt. John H. Miller is handed a new mission. He must find Private James Francis Ryan and bring him home. Like the story of Job, this is the setup. The rest of the film is about the challenges of completing the mission.

It's a costly mission, and in the end Capt. Miller is forced to sacrifice his life to save the young private. He knew what he had to do, and he did it, but he also wanted Private Ryan to understand the importance of his actions. His last words to Pvt. James F. Ryan were these: "Earn this."
Private Ryan

He understood the burden for
He carried it all his life.
A man had died to save him,
And for what?
He was nothing but a man.

One day he returned to France
To thank the man who died;
He wept, wept deep and deeper still,
His family by his side.
“Did I live a life that was worthy
Of what you did for me?”

As the wind swept through the gravestones,
No voice was ever heard;
The universe was silent…
It never said a word
And the bones where Ryan knelt that day
Were silent ‘neath the sod.

But Ryan knew what happened
On the day his life was spared.
A man had given his life for him
And he knew to make it count
He’d have to sacrifice his own,
Give back the same amount.

July 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Mark Joseph Talks About His Latest Book: Rock Gets Religion

His book, published in 2017, is titled Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil's Music. It's actually Mark Joseph's third volume of anecdotes and insights related to the relationship between rock music and musicians of faith.

A speaker at one of the writers conferences I attended in the 1980's described how all the major New York publishing houses had a wing devoted to Christian publishing. With the upheavals of the Sixties, a "Jesus Movement" followed in its wake, along with a return to the kind of fundamentalism that the publishing houses didn't understand. The Charismatic movement was similarly a strange animal to these publishers who weren't sure how to produce books that connected with this surging demographic. They lost money on many new product intros and most washed their hands of it all as numerous new Christian publishing houses sprang up, along with Christian book stores. This same process must have been happening in the music scene as a new genre emerged called Christian Contemporary Music.

Mark Joseph's newest book is about Christian artists who have crossed back over from the CCM pasture into the all-encompassing mainstream. Many of these artists never identified with the CCM subculture. Others, like Amy Grant, were successful in the CCM world but moved into the mainstream and had some success there as well. Separatists can quote Bible verse to support their view: "Love not the world..." The other side of the coin is Jesus's admonition to be "in the world but not of it."

In reading about the life of St. Augustine I learned that his first brush with a Bible turned him off. He was given a very poor translation of the Scriptures and felt it could hardly be God's word if it were so badly written. He was a lover of Greek philosophers and the writings of Cicero were among the most beautiful words in literature. Ten years later he did indeed encounter a good translation of the sacred texts when his life was bottoming out. He became receptive.

Augustine, however, never stopped appreciating the writings of Greek scholars. When criticized for this, he pointed out how the Israelites when they left Egypt brought gold with them. Augustine justified this love of classic literature by declaring that the gold of Egypt was still gold.

When it comes to rock and rap and other genres, some of the issues become controversial. Is it a compromise of one's religion, or the fulfilling of urgent need to affirm faith in the midst of the culture as opposed to standing on a pillar in the desert, a la 4th Century pillar saints. Mark Joseph delves into all of it in this volume.

EN: What was your purpose in writing this book?

Mark Joseph: I like to tell stories, whether through films, music or books and this is a great story that I've been telling in different formats for a quarter of a century and for the most part it's one that has slipped under the radar of popular culture. It began with a piece I did for Billboard Magazine back in 1994. When I was just getting started I realized the parallels between what was happening in Christian rock and what was then called the Negro Baseball Leagues and how in both cases the story was more complicated than it appeared to be--it wasn't as simple as black hats and white hats. I realized that it wasn't just racists who wanted to keep blacks out of major league baseball, it was also those who ran the leagues that were for blacks only--they had a vested interest in keeping the races separate. And the same was true in music. While many Evangelicals claimed they were being kept out of mainstream music, and there was some truth to that, there were also leaders of Christian music who were actively working to keep the music industries separate because that's how they made a living.

EN: In the 60’s and 70’s there appeared Christian publishers, Christian music (CCM), Christian television, Christian movies… Often of quite uneven quality. How did this “Christian” subculture develop?

MJ: It's a frame of mind that many Christians fall into--a kind of 'if I can't get my way on everything I'll take my marbles and go home" attitude. Life is about give and take and working together and sometimes you don't get everything you want and you have to keep at it, not run away. There has been cases of more secular people trying to block religious expression in popular culture, I document it in the book, but the answer isn't to run and create a safe harbor but to stay put and negotiate those differences. The LGBT community has done a great job in this area and Christians would do well to emulate their success. They don't escape and create gay subcultures in media, they work hard to be a presence in the mainstream. In my view, attaching the term "Christian'" as an adjective to describe various art forms is a huge mistake. First, it's not theologically accurate since Christian is a noun not an adjective and no thing can be Christian. But it's also a huge turnoff to those who aren't already devout. It makes art feel like it's not for them. American popular culture should be a place for everybody to share their ideas without being segregated into this or that camp by religion or political views.

EN: You produced the soundtrack for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Based on your own experience and observations, what are the special challenges that Christian actors, producers, screenwriters face in Hollywood?

MJ: The challenge that Christians in Hollywood must face and succeed at is working hard to not just preach to the choir but also to ensure that their art simultaneously reaches those who don't agree with them as well and this can be done. Narnia is a great example--a good part of the audience believed as C.S. Lewis did that Aslan as a stand-in for Jesus Christ. Others just enjoyed the story of a kind-hearted lion--and both groups enjoyed the show. That's something to shoot for. It's ok and important to tell religious stories or films that faith is present in--but it has to be done in a way that still allows the story to make sense to those who don't believe. Christians should always try to remember their own frame of mind back when they didn't believe and never forget to tell stories that can reach the people they used to be, in addition to the people they've become.

EN: Music has played such a major role in shaping our culture. What’s interesting is how many musicians of whom we’re all familiar with have been influenced directly or indirectly at one time or another by The Vineyard Church and its offspring. (eg. Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons). Who are some others that come to mind? And how was it that the Vineyard was so successful in this regard?

MJ: The Vineyard has had a massive impact in this area--it and Calvary Chapel are largely responsible for much of this. Lifehouse is another band that grew out of the Vineyard. These were two churches that took music seriously and didn't look down on musicians but celebrated them. If more churches emulated that attitude, we'd see another explosion of talent in the next two decades.

EN: Alice Cooper’s foreword is very direct and thought provoking. How did that come about?

MJ: Alice and his wife Sheryl have been friends and always supportive of the things I've been doing. We talk often when they're on the road. In many ways he has lived out the premise of the book that runs counter to the popular narrative that religious people have to flee public life. I've always maintained that if you're good, people will put up with your views even if they think they're archaic or quaint. That's Alice. He believes. And who better to listen to than a guy who knows and has experienced the dark side and the bright side? I had originally just asked him for a one line endorsement. But when the publisher sent me the cover I just thought it was such an Alice looking cover that I asked him to do the foreword instead. And he did. Our culture needs more Alice Coopers who are winsome, excellent at their craft, unflinching in their beliefs, but still fun to be around.

Related Links
The Rock & Roll Rebellion: Why People of Faith Abandoned Rock Music and Why They're Coming Back (1999)
Faith, God and Rock & Roll: How People of Faith Are Transforming American Popular Music (2003)
Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil's Music (2017)