Saturday, September 23, 2017

For Sale: Frank Holmes' "Big Date"

"Big Date" 51.5"x 83.5" Oil on Canvas
Most artists have a painting they return to time and again, never quite finishing but never quite being ready to give up. Not many artists, however, work on a painting for 30 years. Here's an article about Frank Holmes' "Big Date" that appeared in print a number of years ago.

"Frank Holmes began Big Date in 1974 while on fellowship from the American Academy in Rome for his realist work. Inspired by a fellow artist, Holmes wanted to break free from his rigorous adherence to the rules of realism. He finished Big Date in 2004 after showing it to a gallery owner and committing to its completion by the gallery's opening date. Holmes, who primarily paints still lifes and interiors, calls Big Date 'a strange painting that's not at all like what I normally do.'


"Big Date" (detail)
"In spite of its whimsicality, Big Date is tightly rendered. Holmes started loose, drawing 'big bloopy shapes' in pen and ink and filling them in with paint, mostly straight from the tube. 'I think I was seeing it as a very pure-color sort of thing,' he recalls.

"He interpreted the car's interior--doorknobs, the glove box, the key with its rabbit foot, the fluorescent red of the driver's cigarette tip and the windshield wipers--in stylized, unexpected ways. Through the years Holmes changed some of the shapes and locations of the elements, but says Big Date remained essentially the same as he originally envisioned the painting in 1974.

"I didn't work on it steadily for 30 years--probably for just a couple of months total throughout the 30 years--but it was always there for me when I felt the need to get away," he says. "I guess it was a refuge of sorts."

* * * *

This week I called Frank to get a little more insight onto this unusual departure from the realistic works that built his early reputation.

"'Big Date' was part of that first spring in Rome… I found myself doing various things that I hadn’t expected to. I was inspired to be like a kid... like the kid I was when I made model cars that I'd sit in and pretend were driving somewhere. I had a real love of cars when I was making these cars with a friend of mine, around 1949."

Of the painting itself he explained, "I was trying to create something about the feeling around the things I did then when I was ten or eleven years old. It was loopy and loose before I tightened it up."

Sounds a lot like life, I thought. You're carefree, and then tighten the reins and become more careful.

"It was part of that abstract period that I went through in Rome," Frank said.

I can imagine a photo of the young Frank Holmes sitting in one of these home-made kid-crafted 1949 cars. When I look at this painting and what it represents, I think of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane and "Rosebud." Maybe there's more here than meets the eye.

* * * *

The painting is actually still available. Frank Holmes originals generally run in the neighborhood of $20,000. I've been told that the suggested "ask" on this is $2,000 plus S&H. Or best reasonable offer.

If this piece catches your fancy, send me a PM on Facebook or an email to ennyman (AT) gmail (dot) com.

If you're interested in an original car-themed picture, I believe Mr. Holmes would consider discussing that, too.

* * * *
Meantime, art goes on all around you. What are you into?

Friday, September 22, 2017

An Idea for Creating Tricky But Memorable Dylan-Themed Passwords

Am I the only one who's concerned about how complicated life is starting to become? I could enumerate a whole batch of issues we must deal with today that were at one time fairly simple, but I won't/ I'm just going to address this one: Passwords.

First, there are the passwords at the office, which every three months my employer reminds us to change. And then there are all the warnings from various places -- online banks, the Social Security office, social media sites, online stores -- that insist that the new password you create be different from all your other ones. Just in case one site gets hacked and now all your other spaces are vulnerable. And how many of these are there? Dozens. And every couple years these sites tell you that for the sake of security you not only need a new password, it needs to be longer and strong than your old password.

Is it essential to have these muscular passwords? They say so, and I'm inclined to go with it. For the record, you're not the first and won't be the last to find passwords frustrating.

So, what I aim to share here are a handful of password tricks you can use, followed by my ultimate Passwords for Dylanophiles Tipsheet.

1. Padding
This is what I use at the office. What you do is use the same password forever, but change the set of add-on characters at the end. For example, your favorite car is a Jaguar. The first time you create the password you might have used the word Jaguar. But then they said it wasn't strong enough and you needed a numeral and a symbol, and an upper and lower case letter. By "padding" you add a two digit number and a hashtag or $ or @. Let's say you start with Jaguar22@. Then next time you change to Jaguar 23@. No more thinking. You are a Jaguar forever.

2. Padding Type B
You have the password Jaguar but pad it with <><><> little meaningless characters so that Jaguar22 becomes Jaguar22#<><><>

3. Spaces
I read somewhere that spaces make it harder for codebreakers to crack or hack your password. I don't know if that is true, but I do know that at least one site where I used a space my password was reject. That being said, it does make sense that a space would fool people. Jag uar 22#--><><>< might be tricky.

4. Password Managers
These are something you will have to investigate on your own. If you work for a company ask your IT department. Or you can ask Google or Siri or whomever and get the skinny on what is arguably the most secure password system. It seems complicated. That's why I invented the Passwords for Dylanophiles Tipsheet.

* * * *
A Passwords for Dylanophiles Tipsheet

A week or two ago I saw an article on Flipboard that suggested a unique way of coming up with what appears to be a random assembly of letters and numbers, but which is actually memorable. That is, the biggest problem with random character sets is that we can't remember them and have to write them down. But we're told NOT to write them down because they can be stolen. Your IRA, your 401K, your bank accounts, your credit union accounts, credit card information and more is suddenly fair game because the Tip Sheet is somewhere at hand because you need it every day.

Well, the article said that you can come up with a memorable but apparently random sequence of letters by taking the first line of a song, like "She'll Be Coming "Round the Mountain When She Comes" and converting it to SBCRtMWSC. Not a bad password, but made stronger if you add numerals and padding. For numerals, you could take your birth year and divide it by your favorite number, and use the first three digits and an asterisk.

That's the concept. And now you probably already see where this is going.

<><><><><><><><><><><><>

For the purposes of this illustration I will use The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan as my code maker and code breaker.

How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
Hmrmamwdbycham

Well, if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair
Wiytitncf

Come you masters of war You that build all the guns
CymowYtbatg

Well, I’m walkin’ down the highway With my suitcase in my hand
WIwdthWmsimh

Well, the Lone Ranger and Tonto They are ridin’ down the line
WtLRaTTardtl

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Owhybmbes     or, just for the heck of it you might keep the hyphen and add the e so it reads:
Owhybmb-es    which I sort of like.

Now here's the fun part. You don't have to write down any of your passwords anywhere. You only need to know in what order the password protected sites are listed, and which Dylan album is your answer key.

Example:
Amazon.com -- WtLRaTTardtl

Checking Account -- Wiytitncf

Credit Union -- CymowYtbatg

Gmail -- WIwdthWmsimh

Facebook -- WtLRaTTardtl

Twitter -- Owhybmb-es

You no longer need to make a list of your passwords. Rather, you will know your favorite Dylan album by heart, or at least the first line, and will know what order the songs appear in. And you you don't remember them, there is no penalty because you can quickly open a tab and visit BobDylan.com and find all the lyrics to every song right there.

As for numerals and special characters, you can always mix things up with the square root of your birthday, minus the decimal. Or whatever scheme you wish to apply to throw hackers off the scent.

What do you think? Too complicated? You can always just do what I do. Zimmy***. With a space or two here and there. And a numeral. No one has broken yet.

* * * *
TOUR NEWS
Bob Dylan's Fall Tour Schedule has been released. If you're already a fan, you probably already know, he'll be doing a Coast-to-Coast series of shows from California to Boston. Full schedule here, along with links to tickets.

BOOTLEG SERIES 13 ANNOUNCED
A nine volume set (8 CDs and one DVD) from his "Gospel Period" (1979-81) has been announced. It's called "Trouble No More." There's a 2-CD Bonus that is available only if you Pre-Order. All the other details are here, though again, you probably already knew that.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Doesn't make your head spin?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dr. Punnybone and Other Artsy Moves

If you're a regular reader you'll know that I've published a few posts sharing some of the paintings of Frank Holmes, one of my art instructors who in 1973 one the Prix de Rome. This summer we re-connected and it's been a pleasure getting a retrospective introduction to his career. Like many artists, he works in a variety of mediums. In addition, like many artists, writers, musicians, he produces serious work over which he labors obsessively and all that other stuff. I'm thinking here of British author Graham Greene (The Quiet American, The End of the Affair) who called a portion of his output nothing more than "entertainments." (This Gun For Hire.)

Well, one of Frank Holmes' line of "entertainments" has been producing a series of witty cartoons titled Dr. Punnybone. I thought it might be fun to share a few of these while passing along a several arts-related announcements as we head into the weekend.

AT THE TWEED
Tomorrow is a major Double Opening Reception at the Tweed Museum of Art featuring two great exhibitions. A Thousand Words opened earlier this year but its official "Opening" will be tomorrow. It's a powerful collection of large format photography and, as the saying goes, "every picture tells a story." The newer exhibition is titled America's Industrial Landscape, a show featuring the work of the national Plein Air Painters. The event runs from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Learn more here.

AT OLDENBURG HOUSE
This Sunday is a Wedding Showcase at the Oldenburg House from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. featuring wedding vendors, hospitality and more in a visually stunning setting on the edge of Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton.

All engaged couples, wedding vendors and those interested in seeing how Oldenburg House can be transformed into a wedding venue are invited. You'll have the opportunity to tour the grounds, chat with amazing vendors and to sample some delicious food. This event is completely free to attend, but you're being asked to RSVP through their event registration page.

BEANERS CENTRAL
Next week is another big week of music at Beaners, but tonight it's Third Thursday Spoken Word night at the coffeehouse. Poetry and other story telling, with this month's host being Gary Boelhower. Starts at 7:00 p.m.


* * * *

"James and Mary" -- 27"x 36.5"
ALLIANCE GALLERY
And if you happen to be from out of town and live in the vicinity of Narrowsburg,  there will be an opening reception for a new exhibition titled, “Paintings, Now & Before: Figures, Flowers, Landscapes” featuring paintings by artist Jill Mackie. The show will run from October 6 – 28, 2017 with the opening reception from 7 – 9 p.m. on Friday, October 6. Alliance Gallery is located in the Delaware Arts Center, 37 Main St, Narrowsburg, NY.

* * * *

MUCH MORE can be said, but I have run out of time. I believe it's Michael Jackson Day at the Red Herring tomorrow, but there's always something happening there, even when it is not a special occasion. In fact, there are all kinds of music venues that will be hopping, and arts events to round out September. Can't seem to keep up? Just keep tryin'.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Stephanie Wilcox @ Beaners Central (Local Art Seen)









Stephanie Wilcox is an artist who paints and draws in Duluth, MN.

* * * * 

Beaners Central is a great venue to experience local art, local music, poetry and culture. 
Located directly across the parking lot from the newly opened Zenith Bookstore, it is a great place to start your day (java and a warm greeting from Jason) as well as a nourishing mid-day stop for lunch.
Evenings it is music and more, always something fresh and real. 
Follow on Facebook Here. It's almost as good as family. 

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





Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How Real Life Settings Set the Stage for Readers of Fiction

Fundraisers come in all shapes and sizes, from Rotary Roses to all-night Zeitgeist parties. One of my favorite events is the Duluth Library Foundation's Libations at the Library. In addition to drinks, hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction, jewelry raffle, dessert and coffee, there were again options to attend eight different presentations, all of the interesting, from The Accidental Musher to discussions of interior design, genomes, and how to make whiskey. The event takes place inside the library, so if you love libraries you're right at home.

The presentation I was most interested in was titled Stride's Duluth. Author Brian Freeman took his audience on a tour of various settings around Duluth where murders have taken place -- not real murders but the fictional ones in his numerous books that have Duluth as their setting. For Brian Freeman is a writer of thrillers whose novels have won him many awards, found him readers in 47 countries and given him the opportunity to do what he loves, which is to be a creative story teller and get paid for it. The recognition and fame hasn't dimmed his enthusiasm either.

He set up his talk by sharing how important settings are. Good settings can increase the drama as the author drops the reader directly, and thoroughly, into the scene.

Every crime series seems to have its carefully crafted hero, whether he be Sherlock Holmes, MacDonald's Travis McGee or Mike Savage's Dave Davecki. For Brian Freeman, it's Jonathan Stride.

Death in the Afternoon, Evening and Night.
Freeman does Duluth.
Freeman's talk was about settings, but it touched on many features of crafting thrillers. Naming characters has to be fun. From the beginning of time people have been naming things, and the quest to discover new things to name is ever ongoing.

Freeman shared that most of his stories take place in Duluth, but he's working on a new series that has taken him to San Francisco. And since this talk was titled "Stride's Duluth" it seemed natural to focus on the places and spaces where deaths have occurred in his books. Throughout the talk he showed slides of these various landmarks.

Landmarks like the lift bridge set the stage, and he includes it in the first scene of Jonathan Stride's first book, just so we know where we are. "Stride and Duluth go hand-in-hand," he explained.

In his book The Cold Nowhere his character Kat Mates has been at a sleazy party in the William Irvin ore boat, which he's given the original name of Charles Frederick. (Outsiders: Chuck is editor of our Duluth News Tribune.) Mates barely escapes with her life after being chased through the bowels of the ship then finding her way to the top-deck from which she leaps into the water below.

The author said it's fun to explore these places and get details that one can only acquire through actually being there. The details are what make the setting so vivid in the reader's mind.

He described the access he gained to hidden parts of the Miller Hill Mall and other places where he's offed people in his numerous books. Someone asked, "When are you going to kill someone in my neighborhood?"

In addition to physical landmarks there are also experiential landmarks. That would include Grandma's Marathon, which he renames the Duluth Marathon in his book Marathon. The fun part is nosing out real places that fit the drama. Real houses. A green bench at the end of park point. (He shared that that bench is in a couple of his books, and yes, it is a real place.) He also spends a lot of time in cemeteries.

One section of his talk dealt with his approach to mapping a scene. He then outlined an incident that occurs in one of his books at a farmhouse on Lester River, and read a passage that left hearers almost breathless.

He's learned how to keep you turning pages.
He's evidently killed quite a few people in Duluth. Locations include Enger Tower, a beach on the Minnesota side of Park Point, inside one of the courtrooms of the St. County Courthouse, Fitgers Hotel, up at the antennae farm, out at Hartley Park, inside the DECC, atop the Blatnik Bridge and on some frozen lakes.

Wherever he turns he's got an eye out for creepy places where he can create another scene. The five creepiest, so far, which he's found include storage sheds, the Novitiate Building in Shawano, the William Irvin, the Graffiti Graveyard and the abandoned Clover Valley School.

I don't think this will be the end of the story. There are plenty of other places and spaces where Jonathan Stride will find crimework awaiting him.

The author is Brian Freeman. And maybe one day Hollywood will show up to do a Jonathan Stride thriller here, and the house where Stride resides will become a tourist attraction. The Visit Duluth website will have a map of Duluth points of interest like where Dylan was born and the house where Bob Dylan lived till he was six and Armory where young Robert Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly and the 94 settings where Brian Freeman had people killed in his Stride novels. Plus the green park bench out on the point where Stride reflected on all his adventures.

* * * *
For what it's worth, as a writer I, too, have loved researching settings. My young adult novel The Red Scorpion begins in Cuernavaca, one of my favorite places in Mexico, and then takes them to Tepotzlan, an even more fave place. The haunted house, a former bed and breakfast in Minnesota, is a hybrid patterned after a couple places out East with some interesting features. My short story Episode on South Street incorporated notes and observations from an evening on South Street in Philadelphia, which also had a Duluth connection when I found Sam Cook's first book in a used book store there. (A pair of film makers asked for permission to make a short film of the story, which is actually not too far off from the somewhat macabre storylines Brian Freeman has perpetrated on us. You can read the original story here and compare the two versions if you wish.

My favorite story setting that I went out of my way to investigated was for my story The Unfinished Stories of Richard Allen Garston. My narrator in this story strives to track down a character who was the last person alive to read the stories of a man purported to have been the greatest writer that ever lived, but his deal with the devil was that none of his stories would ever be published. The setting for this encounter was a Trappist monastery in Kentucky called Gethsemane. In researching the monastery I also saw the humble place where the remains of Thomas Merton have been laid. There is no better way to drop your reader into a setting than to actually experience the setting yourself, first hand.

This was the point Brian Freeman sought to impart to his hearers last Saturday night, many whom I suspect will be readers soon. As a writer myself I identified with every word.

Now, one suggestion for Mr. Freeman. Have you been inside the Armory? You mentioned "creepy places" where murders could be committed. I'm guessing that you can get some really great historical material there as well as some real drama. Opportunities for chase scenes. Hide and seek? Chills, spills and thrills? Just sayin'.

M

Monday, September 18, 2017

10 Things You May Not Know About the Oldenburg House in Carlton

At the end of July I attempted to convey some of the wonder I experienced during an evening at the Oldenburg House in Carlton. Since that time I've been doing a little research about the place and the people who have lived here. It's a pretty fascinating history. I serve this up today as the backstory for future events I hope to write about that will be taking place here. 

1. A Historic Home
In December 2006 the Henry C. Oldenburg House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1894 it was the home of Henry and Mary Oldenburg.

2. Built by an Early Conservationist 
Henry Oldenburg got his law degree in Madison. He first began writing about protecting our forests as early as 1876.

3. He Helped Create Jay Cooke State Park
Henry Oldenburg became a lawyer for the Weyerhaeuser lumber interests and a respected conservationist. When in 1915 the St. Louis Power Company, now MN Power, wanted to set aside 2,350 acres for the state to become a state park, the State insisted that $18,000 in back taxes be paid. It was here in the Oldenburg House that Henry Oldenburg gathered a group of businessmen to pay those back taxes on the property. Adjusted for inflation, that $18K would be $435,000 today. To honor him, the most fabulous vista in the park has been named after him, Oldenburg Point, and a boulder monument placed there to acknowledge his historic contribution. His other achievements include the installation of Carlton as the County Seat, and heading up rescue and recovery efforts after the 1918 fire.

4. His Wife Played a Significant Role in the Community
Mary Oldenburg was a person of significance in her own right. According to a 2007 Pine Journal story, she "hosted many social occasions at the home that were often related to her many civic and social engagements. Documents say she was a well-educated woman who was involved in the establishment of local and traveling libraries, and that she and their daughter, Margaret, may have helped inspire the work to create Jay Cooke State Park, among other projects." According to one second-hand source it is believed she was a suffragette, on the cutting edge of women's rights. 

5. Perfect Location for a Home 
The house, built in the Classical Revival style, sits on property that is adjacent to Jay Cooke State Park, the Willard Munger State Trail and walking distance from the National Kayak & Canoe Center, and the Thompson Reservoir.

6. Up to the Present Only Three Families Have Lived Here
Henry and Mary Oldenburg owned the home from 1894 to 1931. Alfred and Rosina Lee purchased the home in 1931. Lee was County Sheriff and owned a lumber yard in Carlton. Les and Helen Swanson bought the property in 1968. Leslie, a steel guitar player, began renovating the property to revive its original mystique, thus contributing to its becoming a national treasure in 2006. After Les' passing the B&B idea was birthed, with Glenn and Emily Swanson becoming the new owners, keeping it all in the family. This trio of Swansons -- Glenn, Emily and "Mama" (Helen) -- are the spices and seasoning that make visiting here so extra special.

7. Today, a Bed & Breakfast
Oldenburg House opened as a bed and breakfast in January 2013 after being certified in September 2012. Though there are at least six other B&Bs in Duluth, the Oldenburg House is the only one that sits on the edge of Eden. Several of the others are situated in East Duluth, impressive upscale homes from Duluth's early mining history. 

8. Perfect Setting for a Wedding
You cannot imagine a better place to hold your Wedding of a Lifetime. Next Sunday, September 24th from 2:00 - 5:00 pm Oldenburg House and the Swansons are hosting a Wedding Showcase featuring wedding professionals and vendors associated with making memorable wedding experiences. If you're an engaged couple who hasn't yet finalized the where and when, or related to friends and/or family who you think may one day be tying the knot, you might want to RSVP here and experience the magic first-hand.

9. Cookin' at the O in the New Carlton Room
The Carlton Room is billing itself as "a performance space with a nightclub atmosphere in a historic house and timeless setting." It's major league jazz/blues artistry and cuisine magic. Once a month "Cookin' at the O" will inspire you with certified satisfaction. There's chemistry here that has to be experienced to be believed. Yes, everything I am saying sounds a bit like hyperbole, but that's only because words are insufficient to describe what they aspire to. Next event is the weekend of September 29. There are still tickets available, here.

10. Find Your Nature
One of my favorite features of the Oldenburg story is the Motto or Slogan that Glenn and Emily have selected for the place: Find Your Nature. Like many things in life, it's what you make it. Life itself is a process of discovery. The more we learn about the world around us, the more we discover who we are. 

* * * *
Bonus Tracks
If you do happen to make is out here, Mama is a huge Minnesota Twins fan. Just letting you know.

Also, a couple years ago I came down and spent the day on one of the porches reworking one of my book manuscripts. This house is a perfect getaway for writers and artists. Again, just sayin'.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. If you need an escape, Oldenburg House is here waiting at Eden's edge.

Photos courtesy Kelly Rae Studio.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Every Grain of Sand: Dylan Finds a Basis for Hope in the Darkness of Despair

For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Psalm 40:12  Attributed to David

Paul Bond: And what is his (Dylan's) best song, lyrically?
Scott Marshall: "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" or "Every Grain of Sand" — it's too tough to pick merely one.
--The Hollywood Reporter

A Rolling Stone readers poll listed it as #3 on the 10 best Dylan songs of the 80's. It's always been a personal favorite, and since I've not yet tackled it as a theme today is as good a day as any, because we live in a world that often cuts us and bruises us and blinds us and seems determined to thwart our dreams.

* * * *
The song begins with a broken narrator, in the hour of his deepest need, his dark night of the soul as it were. There's a dying voice within -- being strangled? suffocated? -- reaching out, it knows not how, reaching out to connect to something, someone. He mentions danger, and it is indeed a dangerous game, and then he creates this interesting phrase: "the morals of despair."

What are the morals of despair? Despair is not only the loss of all hope, but also the loss of all meaning. It's that empty-soul vacuum where right and wrong feels meaningless.

He doesn't have the inclination to look back on his life's mistakes. The landscape is already too familiar. And then another great line: "Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break." This is another feature of despair. It is a paralysis of will. Instead of living, instead of choosing, we are folded up, passive. We watch life instead of choose life. Passivity goes hand in hand with hopelessness. It is a resignation to fate.

But the two quatrain verse ends with the miracle: "In the fury of the moment" he sees the Master's hand. Where? In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

* * * *
The second verse elaborates on the root of this despair, "the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear." Dylan here references Jesus' parable of the sower. Just as Socrates taught by asking questions, Jesus taught by sharing stories. Nietzsche once stated that Jesus and Socrates were the two greatest lights in human history. It is interesting that neither of them were writers, but that their followers recorded their words and deeds.

The parable tells about a sower who sows "good seed" but that it takes root or fails to take roots based on the condition of the soil where it lands, meaning the soil of the heart. Jesus explains the different kinds of soil -- stony, or on the footpath, etc.-- with the third example being the thorny soil. Dylan's line "the weeds of yesteryear, like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer." The seed is good, and even the soil is good, but there has been no weeding, and the seed is choked off.

Once again there is a reference to the passivity that has led to this condition, "the pain of idleness." In the Old Testament book of Proverbs the wise King Solomon writes, in chapter one, "the complacency of  fools destroys them."

The second half of this second stanza is striking because it parallels the reality of humankind. There are two voices calling. Again, see the first eight chapters of Proverbs. Wisdom calls out to us, but so does Folly. Each voice knows us by name.

But the wise man/woman who keeps walking on his/her journey toward the light comes to understand that "every hair is numbered like every grain of sand."

* * * *
This song is the last cut on what is considered to be Dylan's third album in his Gospel period, Shot of Love, released in August 1981. What's striking about the songs Dylan wrote at this time is how astutely he observed and creatively interpreted the spiritual activity he witnessed within and around him. The freshness of his imagery is what stands out all through his writing, with deliberate avoidance of the multifarious cliche-laden language that most people use because it is easy and we all tend to be lazy. Cliches like "the sky's the limit" may work in an office water-cooler conversation, but not for serious writers. Hence some of the people most floored by Dylan are writers who have been impressed by the inventive ways Dylan uses language in lines like "but for the sky there are no fences facing" in Mr. Tambourine Man, and "the ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face" in Visions of Johanna.

And yet, rules about the use of a hackneyed phrase or cliche, even those can be broken, and Dylan does so directly to open the third pair of stanzas: "I have gone from rags to riches..."

It's followed by a string of prepositional phrases of parallel construction:
"In the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream,
in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face..."

So here we see that money alone does not buy happiness. Simultaneous to his rags to riches experience he's seen sorrow, violence, chills, bitter loneliness and seen the "broken mirror of innocence."

The broken mirror, in pop culture, is a symbol of bad luck, or to be more specific seven years of bad luck, seven itself being a symbol of perfection or, more precisely, the perfect mount of time. And where do we see this broken mirror? We see it on the scarred hearts of youth. Over and over again we see and hear stories that show how humanity's sins result in suffering children, children whose innocence has been shaken, torn, scarred. The abusive alcoholic father, or the parents who abandon their young, the children carrying "guns and sharp swords" in war-torn Nigeria, the children of Sarajevo, and on and on, the children cited in "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall."

In the last stanza, Dylan hears again the ancient footsteps, like the motion of the sea, swelling and receding, and in this ambiguous encounter he realizes that he is "hanging in the balance of the reality of man." This is our human situation. We're "hanging in the balance." In what way? "Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand."

Dylan again references a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 10:29-31. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Every Grain Of Sand

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand
Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music


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The album began with its title plea "I need a shot of love" while detailing all the reasons we can end up in this place. "I seen the kingdoms of this world and it's making me feel afraid." It ends with this song of consolation.

In need of further consolation? Try this passage from the Sermon on the Mount.