Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sixteen Centuries Later, Augustine of Hippo Still Speaks

Last week I began listening to a series of lectures from The Great Courses series titled Books That Matter: The City of God. The author of that massive tome was the Fourth Century luminary Augustine of Hippo. The lectures are by Charles Mathewes who earned his PhD in Religion from the University of Chicago.

Several decades ago I read Augustine's Confessions, and perhaps ten years ago listened to a lecture series on Augustine himself. This series is entirely dedicated to Augustine's opus.

In both the church and the Dylan song that references him (John Wesley Haring album) he's referred to. as St. Augustine. He lived from 354 to 430, which in those days was a pretty full life.  

Keep in mind that all his writings were produced in the era before printing presses, so it is unlikely that such a volume as The City of God, which is more than a thousand pages in length, would have been a bestseller in its day. They didn't have typewriters, and it's probable that the scribes he dictated the book to got writers cramp from time to time. 

The City of God was one of Augustine's later works. He lived during the fall of the Roman empire and saw the sack of Rome in 410 A.D., events that no doubt influenced his ideas about what matters most in the grand scheme of things. According to Mathewes, The City of God, is one of the most important books in Western civilization. You may not have even heard of it, but it's been highly influential in the 1600 years since it was written.  

This book is not about the fall of Rome and collapse of its empire. It was only written with that as a backdrop. 

If you're like me, you've probably pictured the invasion of the Visigoths from the North as violent warriors coming down into Roman territories with unsheathed swords, violent and terrifying. Eventually they pillage the Capitol of the Empire. The reality was quite different. 

First, by the time the empire was collapsing, Rome wasn't even the capitol any more. Constantine had moved the Capitol of the empire to Constantinople in 330, decades before the sack of Rome. 

Second, the Visigoths were not "giant, ignorant cavemen wearing animal skins" who plundered the countryside and then the City of Rome itself. Rather, they came to Rome decades earlier with their families as immigrants and refugees striving to escape the Huns. This began in 376 and by the 400s they were Arian Christians who were quite at home in this civilized culture. (I find this quite interesting in light of our current debates over immigration policy.)

Much more can be said, but my intent here was to more or less give a little background on Augustine to give context to these quotes from an "Early Church Father." 

Ten Quotes from St. Augustine

1. "Love the sinner, hate the sin."

2. "Patience is the companion of wisdom."

3. "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

4. "As a youth I prayed, 'Give me chastity and self-restraint, but not right now.'"

5. "I have become a question to myself."

6. "Doubt is the origin of wisdom."

7. "What is love's perfection? To love our enemies, and to love them to the end that they may be our brothers."

8. "Anger is a weed; hate is the tree."

9. "I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.'"

10. "I do not know what I do not know."

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Related Links

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine and Thoughts on Being Human

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine: An Early Dylan Morality Play

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Official Poster and Finalized Schedule for Duluth Dylan Fest 2021

Last year was a strange year for Duluth Dylan Fest as the Covid pandemic produced as tsunami of cancelled gatherings here, there and everywhere. In the Twin Ports there was no Blues Fest, no Grandma's Marathon, no Homegrown Music Festival, no DuSu Film Festival. On and on and on and on things were turned off and off and off. As for Duluth Dylan Fest, the weeklong celebration was stripped down to five online streaming events, and it failed to have the feel of anything that came before. 

2021 is more hopeful. It's a full schedule again. And even if portions are virtual, there will still be a few live experiences where we can meet face to face. Bob Dylan will turn 80th birthday year, and it would be unacceptable to do anything less that to produce a full schedule once again.

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Here's the poster (above) with all our scheduled events. Click to enlarge or read the schedule as outlined below.

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Duluth Dylan Fest kicks off on Saturday, May 22nd. A mainly virtual festival is planned this year with a few in-person events which will require masks and social distancing following CDC Guidelines.


Saturday, May 22

Tour of Bob Dylan Sites in Duluth
Armory Arts & Music Center Annex
1305 London Road, Duluth
9:00 AM | Free

Highway 61 Revisited Radio Show
KUMD 103.3 FM
5:00-6:00 PM | Free

Bob Dylan Revue Livestream Concert from Sacred Heart Music Center
Streaming link to come
7:00-8:30 PM

Sunday, May 23

Dylan Fest Acoustic Jam Session
with host Leslie Black
Bring your instruments and/or voice
Earth Rider Festival Field
1617 N 3rd St., Superior, WI
1:00-4:00 PM | Tickets on Eventbrite

Hard Rain: Bob Dylan and The Band Tribute Band 
Livestream from the Sky Line Lounge in Ballwin, MO
Streaming link to come
7:00-9:00 PM | Free

Monday, May 24

Bob Dylan Front Porch Birthday Party 

with live music by Greg Tiburzi
Dylan childhood home
519 N. 3rd Ave. East. Duluth
1:00-2:00 PM | Free

Highway 61 Revisited Radio Show
KUMD 103.3 FM
5:00-6:00 PM | Free

Duluth Dylan Fest Party
With music by Cowboy Angel Blue
Earth Rider Festival Field
1617 N 3rd St., Superior, WI
5:00-8:00 PM | Tickets on Eventbrite

Tuesday, May 25

Duluth Dylan Fest Song From the North Country Songwriter Contest Announcement
Live on Zoom
7:00-7:30 PM | Free

Wednesday, May 26

Dylan Fest Poetry Contest Event
Livestream via Zoom
6:30-8:00 PM | Free

Greg Tiburzi Sings Dylan
Valentini’s Bistro
4960 Miller Trunk Hwy, Duluth,
6:00-8:00 PM

Thursday, May 27

Dylan Fest Livestream from 2104 with Luke LeBlanc
6:30-8:00 PM | Free

Friday, May 28

Duluth Does Dylan Concert
Earth Rider Fest Grounds
1617 N 3rd St., Superior, WI
6:00-9:00 PM | Tickets on Eventbrite

Saturday, May 29

John Bushey Memorial Lecture
featuring Dave Engel, author of Just Like Bob Zimmerman’s Blues: Dylan in Minnesota Livestream from the Zeitgeist Teatro Zuccone
Streaming link to come
1:30–3:00 PM | Free

Highway 61 Revisited Radio Show
KUMD 103.3 FM
5:00-6:00 PM | Free

Bob Dylan Revue Concert
Earth Rider Festival Field
1617 N 3rd St., Superior, WI
6:00-9:00 PM | Tickets on Eventbrite for limited in-person show

Sunday, May 30

Song From the North Country Songwriter Contest Showcase
featuring Shane Nelson

Earth Rider Fest Grounds
1617 N 3rd St., Superior, WI
2:00-4:00 PM | Tickets on Eventbrite

Dylan Fest Livestream with Danny Fox
Streaming link to come
5:30-6:30 PM | Free

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If you are able to attend, great! If unable to attend in person, the streaming events will welcome you. 

My first interview with a cardboard cutout of Bob Dylan. 
He didn't say much, so I put words in his mouth.
Change has been a recurring theme in Dylan's work. As he observed in the 60's, "The Times They Are A-Changin'." And as his Oscar winning Wonder Boys song exclaimed, "Times have changed."

Eric Hoffer wrote a book about the challenges of change, titled The Ordeal of Change. Some of that ordeal has to do with our ability to adapt. It is natural to resist change, especially when we don't understand it. 

Andy Grove, founder of Intel, wrote a book for business leaders title Only the Paranoid Survive. I believe the message is applicable to all of us, though. A certain amount of anxiety is OK. 

Are we experiencing a changing of the guard? What does the future hold?

Well, for now, in May we have scheduled a weeklong festival honoring Duluth's Native Son. There may be some interesting surprises unveiled, but for now this is the schedule for the week. We hope you will join us.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons: A Psychological Study

The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons
There is a drivenness in pride that becomes the impetus for our neurotic search for glory. Psychologist Karen Horney identifies this tendency in her book Neurosis and Human Growth, zeroing in on our insatiable quest for the self-actualization of our idealized self. This theme, one might say, is central to our understanding of Jacques-Louis David's painting The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons.

David spent two years painting this massive work which measures more than 46 sq. ft. It was completed in the first year of the French Revolution.

What's the story it depicts?  Brutus, seated in the shadows on the left foreground, was a founder of the Roman Republic that replaced the monarchy around 509 B.C. He was also one of the assassins of Julius Caesar, referenced in the famous line, "Et tu, Brute?" (Pronounced Bru-tay and meaning, "You also, Brutus? I thought were were friends.")

The painting here depicts another chapter in the life of Brutus. His two sons had conspired to overthrow the young Republic, therefore Brutus ordered them executed. The act of sacrificing his sons for the higher glory of Rome became Brutus' legacy. He wife, with grieving daughters in her arms, reaches toward the slain bodies of her sons which have just been carried in by the servants of the magistrate (lictors). Brutus sitting in the shadows looks away from the corpses with disdain or consternation.

Did David paint this to inspire French revolutionaries to be willing to sacrifice all for the glory of France? Or as a warning in response to the undercurrents that were broiling?

* * * 

Brutus killed his sons for the sake of Rome. It was his way of showing that his love for Rome was greater than his love for his children, for which he should be honored. By another standard of reckoning, this act would be condemned and repudiated. Is the painting endorsing Brutus? 

What happens when the thing that you do today for the sake of glory becomes something you're ashamed of later? Male machisimo is the first thing that comes to mind for me. Men really can be beasts. The quest for power is at odds with the spirit of servanthood, for example. Fame can be a devious seducer of hearts as well. 

A contemporary theme where two different views are colliding has to do with how we protest. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind. Their emphasis on non-violence as a mechanism for change is now being repudiated by radicals who say that pacifism doesn't work, that non-violence is fruitless, that action alone gets attention that results in change. 

Is that true? Or will this, too, be repudiated in a future where there is more room for civil discourse? The call to arms scares me. What happens when the heroes calling for violent action later have a change of heart, after unleashing forces of destruction? 

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Jess Feist in his Theories of Personality amplifies Karen Horney's ideas about the search for glory. "In addition to self-idealization, the neurotic search for glory includes three other elements: the need for perfection, neurotic ambition, and the drive toward a vindictive triumph." In simplest terms: "Pride goes before a fall."

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Related Links

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Throwback Thursday: No Country for Old Men, Revisited


Elements of a Great Film
Essentially, a movie is a series of scenes. And the great movies have incredibly memorable scenes.

The Coen brothers' No Country For Old Men has many. One standout for me is the scene in which Anton Chiguhr (Javier Bardem) is in the gas station with the unsuspecting owner near the beginning of the film. Bardem says, “What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss?” The unsuspecting fellow is confused.

“Call it," the cold-blooded Bardem says.

The man behind the counter is clueless that everything he has ever scrimped and saved for is on the line. “We need to know what we’re calling it for here,” he says.

It’s an impeccable scene that foreshadows much that is to come regarding the nature of this character who is the embodiment of relentless evil. The manner in which Bardem is eating nuts, the manner in which the camera cuts to the squashed wrapper as it unfolds, again foreshadowing the unfolding of something frightening, produces compelling cinema, storytelling in film.

A great film is also about great lines. “Baby, things happen. And you can’t take ‘em back.” Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) tells his wife once he realizes the danger she's in.

Great lines are what screenwriters live for. All the great films have great lines in them. You can hardly think of some of these films without immediately recalling a line... Films like Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz are rich with them. Quote the line and everybody knows exactly what you're talking about.

"We'll make him an offer he can't refuse." Brando as The Godfather is impeccable.

“Houston, we have a problem.” ~ Apollo 13

“You can’t handle the truth.” ~ A Few Good Men

“Show me the money.” ~ Jerry Maguire

“Go ahead, make my day” ~ Sudden Impact

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” ~ Cool Hand Luke

Another feature of great films is casting. Not only are the main characters right for their jobs, the incidental characters are superbly selected. Casting is a strong feature of all the Coen brothers' films, and No Country is no exception.

When I first reviewed this film in 2008 I was critical of the casting of Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell and I was critical of the limited amount of screen time Woody Harrelson carried. I take back both of these criticisms now, having watched the film several times since its first screening in Duluth. At this point I can't even imagine anyone else in the role Jones played. and had Harrelson been given any further screen time it may have detracted from the film simply because he is such a compelling presence. He had to make an early departure only because this story was about the cat and mouse survival game being played out between Brolin and Bardem.

The ending may be a tad confusing for first time viewers, but the story needed to tie up a lot of loose ends quickly or it could have dragged out. The main conflicts in the film were resolved. And Sheriff Ed Tom was shaken to his core.

Another great line, from the mouth of Tommy Lee Jones: "You can't make up stuff like that."

And finally, among other things, there is the story itself. The essence of story is a moment in time in which the ordinary train of events in a character's life is shifted onto a new track. It may be something incidental, but like the railroad it will ultimately result an utterly different destination.

For Llewelyn Moss, his destiny was altered when he accidentally came across the aftermath of a shootout while out hunting in a remote region in West Texas. The former Viet Nam vet makes a decision that alters everything.

The skill with which the story is told makes all the difference in the world. The characters behave in ways that are believable. The sets, settings, pacing all conspire to keep the believability intact. A written story creates a dream in the reader's mind, and in film the dream is visually expressed, which involves risk. The Coen brothers have been pretty effective at it. Makes one wonder what will be next.

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15 April 2021
I decided to re-share this blog post because I just watched No Country again last night. There are a number of takeaways from the story and one of them is this. That there are some real bad people in this world. They are dangerous and we should have no illusions about this.

My 2011 YA novel The Red Scorpion attempted to make this same point. There really is such a thing as evil.   

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Almost Wordless Wednesday: My Daily Salad Lunch Recipe

Here's my typical lunch on weekdays. 
Not always exactly. The lunch meat may vary, but it's often like this.
The goose egg salad is seasonal. Usually it is chicken. 
One goose egg becomes three days of egg salad for the centerpiece.
I like cherry tomatoes.
I have tried all the Newman's Own salad dressings.
Raspberry Walnut has become my favorite.
I sprinkle these on the egg salad for contrast.
I sprinkle four or five croutons over all for the texture.

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Related Links
My Writings on Medium --
My Art Blog --
My Dylan-Themed Art on Flickr --
The Short Stories Page from my Original Website
(EdNote: Some browsers may block you, so use Firefox browser)

"You are never too old to set another goal 
or dream a new dream."--Les Brown

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The 10 Most Expensive Vinyl Records Ever Sold


What gives goods value? When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's first Tweet sold as an NFT for $2.9 million dollars, that was an eye-popping event. That it was auctioned off as a way of raising money for charity helped build the kitty, for sure. I recall Eric Clapton auctioning an assortment of guitars he owned and played for $6 million a decade or two ago. And original lyrics by major songwriters have fetched a pretty penny or two. Dylan's handwritten lyrics for "Like a Rolling Stone" garnered two million big ones in 2014, surpassing "A Day in the Life" by more than a million. And, I believe it's now been surpassed. 

Which brings us to today's diversion. Can you name the 10 most expensive vinyl records ever sold? 

It's apparent than vinyl has made a comeback in recent years. There's nothing quite like the fidelity of a clean album on a primo stereo system. Analog is warmer, richer and more real. 

That being said, we return to value propositions. It's not just the fact that they are vinyl that gives these 10 records value. If I perfectly reproduced 100 copies of Dylan's lyrics for "Like a Rolling Stone" you will not see any of them fetch the price the original captured. As much was we love the song, the lyrics, and the memories it evokes, it's not going to be what generates stratospheric value.

The operative word in this game is rare. Hence, the album that captured the #10 slot on this list is one in which only 250 vinyls were produced, and of these 245 were destroyed in a fire. Five exist and one of these sold in Britain for 25,742 pounds.

The article we're using as our "final authority" here was published at in 2019, so it may be possible that the leaderboard has been penetrated by a newcomer or two. If this is so, leave a comment and link below in the comments so we can become the trivia know-it-alls that we deserve to be in this esoteric space.

One more caveat. I am not going to share the full list here. That might diminish your motivation to go check out the details of each entry that the editor of worked so hard to assemble. Instead, I will talk briefly about the five Beatles-related discs on this list. 

Yes, four of the top ten are Beatles vinyls and one other is the John Lennon/Yoko Ono album Double Fantasy, probably the last one he signed before he was shot and killed outside the Dakota in New York Upper West Side. This album came in #5 on this list of most expensive vinyls and sold for $150,000. I've written elsewhere about how I was in Mexico City that day on December 8, 1980 when he was shot. This album was signed that same day, a few hours earlier.

The three Beatles albums on the list are The Beatles: Yesterday & Today, Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band signed by all four ($290K), and the first pressed Beatles White Album, which Ringo had owned and auctioned off for $790K. #7 on the list was not an album, but rather a rare acetate of the beautiful crooner  "Till There Was You".

What's striking to me about the album pictured to your right here is that someone actually decided that this would make a good album cover. It shows The Beatles with beheaded dolls and slabs of meat. The album was a compilation of hits that had been released in North America only, but was quickly withdrawn. 

There's more to the story, though. When The Beatles White Album, which featured an all white cover with nothing else but the name embossed on it, the effect generated all kinds of rumors, including a rumor that there was a photo of The Beatles with dismembered babies on it, and if you soak it in water the image will appear. I vividly recall hearing that, but did not proceed to dunk my album in water to see if an image would appear in the manner of invisible ink. I did, however, play Revolution #9 backwards numerous times to find clues about the death of Paul.  

A mint condition sealed original of the "Beatles as Butchers" cover fetched $125,000 at auction, which placed it at #6 on most expensive vinyls ever sold as of 2019. Instead, the album cover we ended up with on our store shelves was this one pictured to the left.  

#4 on the Top Ten Most Expensive list forever seems to appear as one of the "greatest albums" of all time on Rolling Stone's lists, as well as one of the coolest album covers of all time. We're talking about Sgt. Pepper here, of course. The reason this one sold for $290K is because it was signed by all four of The Beatles. 

It was the original acetate for "Till There Was You" that placed it on this list. If acetates are worthy of being included with the albums, I'm curious what some of the Dylan acetates in Bill Pagel's archives are worth.  

If you're into music and nostalgia, then head over to the website and see what other rare gems are there. You'll see an Elvis's first test pressing at #3 on the list. Can you guess the song? And the #1 has a story behind it that you will think, "What? Huh?" Yet it sold for a cool two million. It is neither British nor American. That's your last clue.

Meantime life goes on...  Listen to the music.

Related Link

The Beatles White Album Goes On Tour

Monday, April 12, 2021

M Denise Costello Weighs In on the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick Documentary on Hemingway

When PBS aired the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary on Ernest Hemingway last week, the first thing I wanted to do was reach out to Denise Costello to get her reaction to the show. Costello has been a longtime Hemingway fan who's not only read more than anyone I know but also has visited most, if not all, of the places he once lived. When I reached out she agreed to share her views and insights. 

If you're a newby when it comes to Hemingway, Ms. Costello's insights can help you find an entry point. If you've read his novels and stories and want more, she can also point you toward some good books about his life and career as well.

EN: Were there any "Aha!" insights that you had that you hadn't learned about through your readings and visiting the places Ernest Hemingway lived?

M Denise Costello: Not really. I have done too much reading and following and corresponding with other aficionados and scholars to have learned something completely new. Some things I might have forgotten about and then was reminded again, but nothing I can think of was totally new to me in this documentary. These Burns/Novick documentaries are superb, but you can find out more about subjects if you just delve in and research them yourself through books and articles.

I have collected all of the volumes published thus far in the Letters project, but have not begun reading them. However, I have read many of his letters from many biographies and other books about Ernest. The book Letters from the Lost Generation by Linda Patterson Miller was the book that really sparked my interest in Hemingway’s life and works. This was after Amanda Vaill's book on the Murphys: Everybody Was So Young.  He had a large group of friends when he lived in France and they all hung out and had a great time while he was still in his 20s. Many of these friends came to visit him and Pauline in Key West when he was in his 30s. 

EN: Was Hemingway's stature enhanced or diminished as a result of this Ken Burns documentary?

MDC: His stature as a writer was probably enhanced because many people are still not familiar with his work, especially the short stories, in my opinion, and might have been enlightened as to how good some of the stories really are and how they still hold up a century later. Examples are “Indian Camp,” and “Hills Like White Elephants.” 

As a person, he was probably diminished somewhat since he treated all four wives horribly at times, as well as his sons and parents. But we were not really given the perspective from any family members other than Patrick Hemingway, his surviving son. Also, the documentary did not really delve deep into how he helped others and how good a father he could be. The surface was skimmed. A letter written in the heat of the moment does not give a full picture of a person, either. 

EN: What would you say was Hemingway's most important achievement?

MDC: I think his most important achievement was changing how writing evolved beginning with his books and stories to a more “modern” method (aka, the Iceberg Theory). The documentary brought forth how genius he was to leave the endings to many of his books as arbitrary and up to the reader to supply what they think happened at the end.

EN: How would you rank his books? What do you feel are his "Top 5”?

MDC: All the collections of short stories I would rank first, then:

The Garden of Eden

The Sun Also Rises

A Moveable Feast

A Farewell to Arms

For Whom the Bell Tolls

EN: What would you say is the best book ABOUT Hemingway if someone were to try to get to know him?

MDC: I recommend the five volumes by Michael S. Reynolds. Those are the most complete covering different time periods of Hemingway’s life. I do not think there is just one book that one should read to learn about Hemingway. His works should be read, as well as a variety of the biographies by different biographers in different eras.

EN: Which of his wives got the best and worst deal in his four marriages? (Optional Corollary: Which do you most relate to?

MDC: I relate the most to Martha Gellhorn because I am not married and cannot relate to the “wifey” roles of Hadley, Pauline, and Mary. Gellhorn was a worker and did not want to live just to serve and take care of Ernest. She had her own dreams and goals. 

I think Mary got the worst deal because he was downright mean to her in front of others more than any of the other wives and she had to deal with the most depressed and deteriorating Ernest. She was with him longer than the others. Mary also had to  wake up to the sound of Ernest killing himself and then to have to relive and think about it for 25 more years. She dealt with all this and gave up her journalism career, too. Mary also hosted Adriana Ivancich and her mother coming to stay at the Finca for months. 

I cannot relate to Pauline at all. She connived to steal Ernest from Hadley and did not seem to have any remorse about it. And then stick to all the Catholic ideas, which was so extremely hypocritical. This after pretending to be Hadley’s friend. Pauline did have many positive traits that enhanced their lives. She also came from a rich family, which led to a car, a house in Key West, and a safari. 

Hadley and Pauline got the best of him as he was young and they had lots of friends and traveled much.

EN: Would you say the Ken Burns documentary was a fair treatment of his life?

MDC: Yes, although even at 6 hours long, so much was still left out. He had many more relationships with women that some might be surprised about. An example is his correspondence and friendship with Marlene Dietrich. He also had long-term relationships with one or maybe more Cuban women. And probably more women than we will ever know about.

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Related Links

A Visit with M. Denise Costello, Hemingway Aficionado

Hemingway, Ken Burns and the Age Old Question