Monday, May 31, 2010

Hot Spit Wins Battle of the Jugbands

I didn't see it on the news, so I guess I'd better report it here. Hot Spit went home with the coveted Yid-Weigan Krumkake Iron in Duluth's 14th Annual Battle of the Jugbands. The competition was stiff, as usual.

De Elliot Bros., featuring hizonor Elliot Silberman and friends (Lee Johnson, Ted Gay and yours truly, Ennyman) opened the show with a few of their standards including "I Like It In Duluth." Elliot is the primary force behind the annual Battle, organizing and orchestrating in an effort to make it better every year for the packed Amazing Grace crowds who assemble here just for this occasion. As Dave Lynas noted about Elliot, "He's the one who keeps the music going."

Many from the slate of bands who performed hailed from Minneapolis-St. Paul, and some have jugband roots which span more than four decades. The order in which they performed yesterday was as follows:

People's Jugband
Juke Savage
The Geezers
One Man Johnson
The Malignant Rumors
Fat Chance
Egg Harbor

and Hot Spit

Mid-afternoon I slipped away to the Duluth Armory for the Save the Armory/Bob Dylan Way Open House. The modest turnout looked sparse inside the cavernous auditorium, especially when compared to the packed out Amazing Grace. This is the hall where Buddy Holly played shortly before his life was cut short in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.

After purchasing my Bob Dylan Way pin for $5.00 I explored the back rooms, which looked more devastated than even the worst places I'd painted apartments in Minneapolis. Yet when I circulated amongst the faithful and spoke with many of them, all were optimistic about the restoration of this Duluth heirloom which has seen many great concerts during the days of its former glory.

Having just been in the overcrowded environs of Amazing Grace where the Battle of the Jugbands was cookin', the scene at the Armory struck me as especially dismal. The musicians, one of which was this years winner of the Dylan Days Songwriting Competition, were worthy of a larger crowd. I did get to meet John Bushey, host of the Dylan Hour which I listen to almost without fail every Saturday eve at 5:00 on KUMD. Bushey, is turns out is a public school teacher and a professinoal magician who has helped improve his students' test scores by use of misdirection and other techniques. In addition to being a Dylan fan he is a Houdini and handcuff collector.

Among many others, I also spoke with a woman from France who flew to Minnesota for Dylan days, and an artist from Europe who was likewise digging the Dylan ambience this weekend. Quite a few here were in the crowd that night when Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie "La Bamba" Valens performed so long ago. Dylan, too, was in that crown, a 17 year old kid at the time when he heard the music play.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nobody's Child


Cy Coben and Mel Foree wrote a song called Nobody's Child which was recorded in 1949 by Hank Snow. Last night I heard the 1990 version of this song by the Travelling Wilbury's, the supergroup of George Harrison and friends -- Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne. Roy Orbison was still a Wilbury but preparing to leave for another destination at the time.

The song became the opening track on an album titled Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal. Romanian Angel Appeal was an effort to raise awareness, and money, for the needy children of Romania.

Yesterday when I heard the song on KUMD, it reminded me of the outreach started by our friends Silviu and Tirzah Pop whom I wrote about last summer. The needs in Romania have not gone away, even if they are not in the news like all the global economic turmoil. While earthquakes and tsunamis cause massive destruction and media coverage, the ongoing needs in places like Romania are all but forgotten. It was this ongoing need that prompted Silviu and Tirzah Pop to create Romanian Hope Springs International.

Nobody's Child
As I was slowly passing, an orphans home today
I stopped for just a little while to watch the children play
A lone boy standin', and when I asked him why
He turned with eyes that could not see, and he began to cry

I'm nobody's child, I'm nobody's child
Just like a flower I'm growin' wild
No mama's arms to hold me no daddy's smile
Nobody wants me, I'm nobody's child

In every town and village
There are places just like this
With rows and rows of children
And babies in their cribs

They've long since stopped their cryin'
As no-one ever hears
And no-one there to notice them or take away their fears

Nobody's child, they're nobody's child
Just like a flower they're growin wild
No mama's arms to hold them, no daddy's smile
Nobody wants them they're nobody's child

Nobody's child, they're nobody's child
Just like a flower they're growin wild
No mama's arms to hold them, no daddy's smile
Nobody wants them they're nobody's child
Nobody wants them they're nobody's child

It just so happens that this weekend I received an invitation to Silviu & Tirzah's next fundraiser for orphaned children in Northeast Romania.

We are going to have a traditional Romanian meal Including home made bread and other goodies that my be a new cultural experience. The meal and entertainment will be $20.
The event will take place at East Ridge Community Church on July -10 Time 5-7 pm.
Location: 3727 West Arrowhead Road, Duluth MN 55811

Silviu is himself an artist, singer and excellent cook. Yum. It is my understanding that there will be a silent auction that includes art by potters and painters. All proceeds will go to help meet the needs of the children.

For more information about Romanian Hope Springs International visit

Trivia: George Harrison's first recording of Nobody's Child was with Tony Sheridan and the Beatles in 1961.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

This Memorial Day Weekend

The lead front page story in yesterday's USA Today was "Afghanistan: America's Longest War." After 104 months of fighting this remote region has now eclipsed Viet Nam as the longest war in our history. No, it's not yet as long as the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), and hardly a blip in the casualty department when with World War II, or even Viet Nam.

Afghanistan: 996 deaths
Viet Nam: 58,209 deaths
World War II: 405,399 deaths

All these facts serve as a good reminder as to why we have remembrances like Memorial Day. Casualty numbers cannot be equated with inventory of goods and services. One man's spilt blood leaves many hearts wounded, for each of us has been knit into the fabric of society through family and friendships. An untimely death rips a hole in that fabric, with only scars to remind us of what once was and might have been.

This morning my inbox contained an email from our historian friend from Italy, Mario, with a link to a YouTube video about Anzio, one of the major battlefields of World War II. My father-in-law. Bud Wagner, wrote about Anzio in his war memoir, And There Shall Be Wars.

At Anzio, in this one battle zone alone, there were 43,000 casualties, with 7000 killed and 36,000 wounded or missing. 4,000 Allied troops died in a single week in the effort to make a beachhead here. It was an important battle because the German forces had to be divided and could not concentrate solely on the assault from the English Channel.

As I considered these things I re-read Chapter 22 from Bud's book, which included a letter describing a portion of the hell which was the invasion at Anzio and the fate of some who were there.

Dear Bud,
My brother, Billy C. Rhoads -- Army Service Number 16001304, was in Company C, 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion and was killed in action off the coast of Anzio on 26 January, 1944. My family has been searching for many years in an attempt to find someone in his unit who knew him or perhaps served with him. If possible, will you please help?

Bill joined the Army in 1940 in Freeport, Illinois, although his home town was Albia, Iowa. He took training at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and remained there after being assigned to the 60th Field Artillery, 9th Division. He was with the 9th when they arrived at Casablanca, North Africa in November, 1942 and still with the 9th until Sicily was taken in August, 1943. The 9th went to England for R and R and to train for the Normanday Invasion. Bill was transferred to the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion in September, 1943 and was involved with the fighting at Maori, Chuinzi Pass, Fala, Venefro, etc. with the Rangers. The 83rd were pulled off the line in early January, 1944 and sent to Pozzouli to conduct amphibious training for the assault from the sea on Anzio.

On 22 January, Companies A & B of the 83rd, plus the 1st, 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions landed unopposed at Anzio. The Germans were totally taken by surprise. LST 422, after unloading at Anzio, made an uneventful trip back to Naples and, during the night of 25 January, 1944, after being loaded to capacity with tanks, jeeps, half-tracks, ambulances, trucks and various other vehicles, plus tons of ammunition, including the write phosphorous shells for the 4.2 mortars and hundreds of barrels of gasoline, the LST proceeded toward Anzio. The personnel aboard consisted of Companies C, D and Headquarters of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion and the 68th Field Artillery.

The Germans, after the preliminary appearance of enemy troops on the 22nd, and in anticipation of an assault by sea, dropped floating mines into the water from airplanes. At 0520 in the dark morning hours of 26 January, with dense fog, twenty foot high waves, a mixture of snow and freezing rain, and the water in the Tyrrhenian Sea too cold for human endurance, LST 422 hit a mine resulting in a gaping hole in the bottom and the right side. The intense explosion immediately caused a raging fire which caused the steel to become extremely hot and ammunition to explode. Some men were blown overboard by the initial explosion. Most of them were in the lower level of the ship where it was much warmer than on the main deck. The ship became a raging inferno and the men had to abandon it or be consumed.

Relative to information from survivors of the LST 422 tragedy, the number of men in the frigid water of the sea was unbelieveable. Some were obviously dead, some injured and others were struggling to stay afloat in anticipation of being rescued. At 0540, 20 minutes following the LST explosion, LCI 32 (Landing Craft-Infantry) was ordered to pick up survivors. It also struck a mine and sank in less than five munutes with the loss of most of its crew and infantrymen it was hauling. The brass then put out the order to discontinue all rescue operations for fear of jeopardizing more men and ships. Those men in the water were left to the unrelenting and merciless doom of the sea. With the weight of equipment, the immense fatigue, and hypothermia of the icy water, many of the men, including my brother, ultimately drowned. His body was found floating at approximately 10:00 a.m. the same morning of 26 January, 1944. His body was brought aboard a boat long enough for identification (dog tags) then he was returned to the sea.

Unit Journal - aboard LST 422

Board of Officers Report
26 January, 1944

83rd Chemical Battalion: 479 Enlisted men, 16 Officers
68th Coast Artillery: 20 Enlisted men, 1 Officer
Total: 516

53 men survived - returned to duty
37 recovered dead and buried at sea.
54 recovered dead and buried at cemetery in Nettuno, Italy
362 never recovered or identified.
506 - Total

The Unit Journal lists two men, Privates Lawless and Kuykendall of Company B as killed in action on LST 422 26 January, 1944.

Kindest regards,

George Rhoads
Iowa City, IA

P.S. If you have any knowledge of Pvt. Wiley Wheeler I would greatly appreciate knowing about it. Wiley was in Company D, 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion and was never recovered following LST 422 hitting a mine off the coast of Anzio on 26 January, 1944. I'd be most appreciative for any information!
As we go our various ways this Memorial Day weekend, let's be sure to pause in remembrance of those who paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedom.

Friday, May 28, 2010

69 + 4

Big weekend ahead. Got plans? Here are some suggestions, assuming that you're not heading off to hibernate at your cabin on the lake.

14th Annual Battle of the Jugbands
Produced by Icehouse Studio, Coho Handcream for Men and De Elliot Bros., the Battle is this Sunday May 30th from 1:00 - 8:00 p.m. The Battle of the Jugbands is held in Duluth each Memorial Weekend Sunday. In years past, eight to ten regional bands have shown up, celebrating seven hours of old time down-home, string band roots music. It is also a competition as they vie for the Coveted Yid-wegian Krumkake Iron. As you might imagine, some of it is quite over-the-top. Unique homemade instruments are shown and played, audience participation encouraged. Check it out at the Amazing Grace Cafe, downstairs in the DeWitt-Seitz Building, Canal Park. For a foretaste, check out these scenes from last year.

Pre-Show Jugband Escape
Tomorrow night, de Elliot Bros. will be performing at Amazing Grace from 7:00 to 10:00 in a pre-battle performance. If you like good music, and can't make it Sunday for the annual hoopla, then stop in Saturday evening. Maybe you'll even want to participate. I believe the stage is open.

Dylan Days
The only acceptable excuse for not joining us at Amazing Grace is because you went up to Dylan Days, which officially began yesterday in Hibbing, MN, Bob Dylan's hometown. Poetry readings, a writing contest, all kinds of music, bus tours and other distractions make for a great destination, if you're even remotely a Dylan fan or music lover. Get the whole story and weekend schedule here at

Indianapolis 500
For me, Memorial Day Weekend used to mean only one thing: I was not going to church that Sunday because I was going to watch all the pre-race interviews and opening ceremonies for the Indianapolis 500. My Indy 500 weekend always begins when I pick up Friday's USA Today in order to obtain the special Indy 500 racing coverage, with starting grid, profiles of the drivers and the latest dope on all the backstage gossip. This year's stories include a first time four women drivers, though the way the Penske team is racing, these ladies will have to get seriously lucky to have even the remotest chance. (Ana, Simona and Danica are my sentimental favorites.) So, if you have an ear for music but like the action in Indy, do what I often do... check out the Battle of the Jugbands at Amazing Grace, then slip across the street to Grandma's Sports Garden for a brew and a bit o' big screen TV. See if you can catch Danica Patrick in her neon green Go Daddy machine. Prediction: Will Power will set the pace.... and will drink the milk in the winner's circle. And for the record, the average lap speed these days for drivers in the front row is over 227 miles per hour.

Open House at The Historic Armory
In the event that you're not a racing fan, but you are a Dylan fan, but you can't make it to Hibbing for Dylan Days, Sunday there will be an open house at the Armory from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. during the 500 and the Battle of the Jugbands. Not sure how I will fit it all in, but I'll give it my best shot.

"Meantime life goes on all around you." ~ Dylan

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We Can Thank Napoleon For That

My initial interest in Napoleon was due to a reference to him in Arnold's Grant Wins the War: Decision at Vicksburg. I ended up purchasing Chandler's The Campaigns of Napoleon, a mammoth volume of 1200 pages that details the strategies the famous (infamous) general used in each and every battle. What interested me was trying to take Napoleon's strategic thinking in war and applying it to modern business, as Ries & Trout had done with Clausevitz in their bestseller Marketing Warfare.

Napoleon was a brilliant general, but his influence off the battle field was also significant. Here are a few notes about Napoleon that can't be overlooked.

First, he was the first (or among the first) to use the media to forward the ideas of the government. In other words, the press became Napoleon's mouthpiece, a stratagem used by politicians to this day. The media beats the drum, the young boys go off to war. According to Holtman, "The greatest importance of Napoleon's propaganda is that he was the first to use the machinery of government in a systematic fashion to control public opinion--and that he used it positively to formulate favorable as well as to prevent unfavorable opinion. He was the forerunner of all twentieth-century dictators--none of whom would try to force through a program for which he did not have public support." Napoleon affirmed that censorship "is necessary if political propaganda is to achieve its purpose."

Second, Napoleon believed that "religion should be in the hands of the state. He understood that religion was a powerful influence on people, but it need to be organized for the purpose of systematic surveillance. He also knew the importance of posturing for the purpose of winning the hearts of the people. "I was a Mohammedan in Egypt, I shall be a Catholic here, for the good of the people. I don't believe in religions," he said.

Third, he was pro business and industry, not because he believed in Capitalism per se, but because unemployment has a dampening effect on the attitudes of the masses and a leader's popularity. Since France was almost continuously at war during Napoleon's reign, a strong economy was necessary to fund this war effort.

Fourth, education in France was set up so that it was under centralized control. Education the manner by which the State maintained influence and power. In the past half century we have seen education as a battle ground here in America as well, with charter schools, private schools and home school movements all striving to escape from under the thumb of government run education.

Fifth, Napoleon was famous for all the laws he had written into the fabric of life. While in exile at the end of his career, he declared that all his genius in battle would be forgotten as a result of his loss at Waterloo, but that his most enduring achievement would be his Civil Code. The Napoleonic Code was a systematized set of laws that "cemented the ideas of freedom of person and of contract (including the right to enter any occupation), equality of all Frenchmen, and freedom of civil society from ecclesiastical control." In addition, "the family once again became the most important social institution."

All this serves in stark contrast to what preceded his rise to power, a period of anarchy and chaos known as the French Revolution.

When we look at the civilized world as we know it today, much of it was shaped by ideas first implemented by this long dead general whose leadership to a continuous revising of the maps of Europe. For better or worse, though long dead his influence is with us today.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Goya's Ghosts

The Spanish painter Francisco Goya, 1746 to 1828, is considered by many to be the most important Spanish artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Though he painted the usual dignitaries with a master's hand, his portfolio also includes some of the most hideous and disturbing images you will see anywhere. It makes for a strange combination when you are a young art history student, or gallery walker.

The 2006 film Goya's Ghosts directed by Milos Forman becomes a vehicle for illuminating the context of Goya's life, thereby lifting the curtain so that we see how these two styles and seemingly discordant subject themes could exist in the same man. Stellan Skarsgard plays Goya, an artist who paints royalty and simultaneously makes pamphlets undermining Papal authority. The Spanish Inquisition is still in full swing. The French Revolution is being played out to the North, followed by Napoleon and his megalomania.

It is only against this backdrop that we are able to comprehend Goya's work. The famous painting The Third of May of a man in front of a firing squad, arms outstretched like the crucified one, was produced by an eyewitness to horror in the era before cameras.

Javier Bardem (Lorenzo) and Natalie Portman (Inez) also star in this film. Bardem is a despicable and devious character serving on behalf of the Inquisitors, till later he maneuvers for a better position with the next regime. He is a warm, friendly evil person -- the scariest kind. And whenever he is on the screen, he "steals the scene" as they say. I find him to be a powerful and versatile actor whose work never ceases to impress me.

I commend Portman for a most challenging role. Her willingness to be disfigured is commendable. During her imprisonment I couldn't help but hear echoes of her role in V for Vendetta which I again watched recently. Later in the film she also plays her own daughter, a spirited young woman in an undignified profession... but a survivor.

In my opinion the film had two shortcomings. First, Skarsgard seemed just too cheerful for me as Goya. Maybe the director and screenwriter know more about Goya than I, but this fellow did not strike me as having the artist temperament. And maybe the real Goya didn't. Yet his paintings carried such pathos and troubling images that one has difficulty picture a cheerful man wielding those brushes. Second, the scope of the film becomes a burden. From the Inquisition to Napoleon's invasion... yes, we now see Goya's life and work explained. But does this a great film make? I dunno.

I did enjoy Goya's Ghosts, and despite its shortcomings I commend the effort. Perhaps we'll see a new interest taken in this Spanish master's work as a result.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


So Bob Dylan is 69 plus one day today. I mention this only because, because... because I wanted to.

I missed the party last night. I was busy out in my studio finishing the first of two or three compositions I'm devising for the Bob Dylan Way Manhole Art Contest. I did get a few more details. You can submit more than one design. Also, these will be regular manhole covers, one color, embossed, not mini-murals. These are practical manhole covers, to be cast in iron.

Speaking of Dylan, this morning I remembered the first time I saw one of his albums. Ed Hilliker, whom I rode school bus with in junior high school, had The Freelwheelin' Bob Dylan with that iconic image of young Dylan walking through the streets of New York, head tilted forward against the wind, with a smiling woman in a green coat tightly clutching his arm. The liner notes were by Nat Hentoff, who followed the music scene and wrote for the Village Voice. Hentoff's fame stemmed from his intimate portraits of obscure jazz greats who were producing incredible sounds during the fertile fifties and sixties, before jazz filtered into the masses.

Hentoff's Liner Notes begin like this...

Of all the precipitously emergent singers of folk songs in the continuing renascence of that self-assertive tradition, none has equaled Bob Dylan singularity of impact. As Harry Jackson, a cowboy singer and a painter, has exclaimed: "He's so goddamned real it's unbelievable!" The irrepressible reality of Bob Dylan is a compound of spontaneity, candor, slicing wit and an uncommonly perceptive eye and ear for the way many of us constrict our capacity for living while a few of us don't.

Not yet twenty-two at the time of this album's release, Dylan is growing at a swift, experience-hungry rate. In these performances, there is already a marked change from his first album ("Bob Dylan," Columbia CL 1779/CS 8579), and there will surely be many further dimensions of Dylan to come. What makes this collection particularly arresting is that it consists in large part of Dylan's own compositions The resurgence of topical folk songs has become a pervasive part of the folk movement among city singers, but few of the young bards so far have demonstrated a knowledge of the difference between well-intentioned pamphleteering and the creation of a valid musical experience. Dylan has. As the highly critical editors of "Little Sandy Review" have noted, "...right now, he is certainly our finest contemporary folk song writer. Nobody else really even comes close."

The highlighted observation above proved to be dead on as far a prescience goes. Who would have thunk it? Dylan has appeared in more forms than a Hindu god.

This memorable album cover actually becomes a scene in the eternally recurring happy dream gone awry of Tom Cruise in the film Vanilla Sky. What's interesting to me is that the song which Cameron Crowe chooses to play while these Dylan-in-love copycat images are being displayed is not from Freewheelin', but rather is the song Fourth Time Around from Blonde On Blonde. Fourth Time Around implies "over and over again." Very interesting, and it's about something good gone bad.

Well, we're taking Dylan back to the streets again here in Duluth with a few new manhole covers for Bob Dylan Way. Deadline is just around the corner.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Remains of the Day

Yesterday I saw the film Remains of the Day again. What a powerful story, subtle and vivid, with so many profound insights. The film runs along two primary themes, the first being the heartbreak of unrequited love. (Emma Thompson as Miss Kenton, head of the women staff, is completely phenomenal.) The second story is about the fall of the House of Darlington, where Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) serves as head of the servants overall.

I think Hollywood is fond of these kinds of settings which show common folk like the rest of us "how the other half live."

The film is tragic on both of its levels. The manner in which Hopkins restrains all of his humanity in order to properly serve his master is sad. You could say that Miss Kenton was foolish to allow her heart to be captured by such a man, but he did have a measured dignity and he was an exceptional person.

The context for this story is around the important private meetings in which Lord Darlington and his fellow "gentlemen" work behind the scenes to enable Germany to become strong again. The setting is pre-WW2 and the naive attitudes of good will toward all stand in stark contrast to the events we all know will come to pass.

Two scenes especially struck me. There is a banquet scene in which all the Brit gentlemen give a toast to the woman from Nazi Germany. Christopher Reeve, an American legislator, is forced to speak up and sound the note for an opposing viewpoint, the minority opinion. He suggests that the world has changed and cutting deals with global powers should be left to the professionals. This is the era of Realpolitik, not a parlor game.

The second scene which especially stood out for me in this viewing was the one in which a friend of Lord Darlington questions Mr. Stevens about various international and political problems. To each complex question, Mr. Stevens replies, "I wouldn't know, sir," or "I'm really not in a position to understand, sir." The interrogator then turns to Lord Darlington, having made his point that the common people really should not have the power to decide matters of which they have not understanding.

Trivia: In one scene Mr. Stevens is ironing the pages of the London Times. The newspaper is to be presented crisp and clean to the master of the house. This is the same London Times you see here atop this page.

Anyways, the film is worth seeing, and the book even more so.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bob Dylan Way Manhole Cover Art Contest

Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
’Cause the vandals took the handles
~ Subterranean Homesick Blues

The news is on the street. Yes, it's for real. There will be new manhole covers cast for Bob Dylan Way, and the deadline is just around the corner. Here's the story, extracted from this week's blog post at Perfect Day Duluth.

Bob Dylan Way Manhole Contest
By Jeff K. on May 21, 2010 in Art

Common Language is sponsoring a competition for artists interested in designing Bob Dylan-themed cast-iron manhole covers for Bob Dylan Way in Duluth, Minnesota. The manhole covers will be cast at the 9th North Shore Iron Pour, which will be held this summer in Duluth.
Artists selected will be given free instruction at the North Shore Iron Pour seminar and an honorarium of $300. They will see their work installed on Bob Dylan Way.

Artists may submit designs in either digital or printed format. Printed designs may be no larger than 8 1/2 by 11 inches. Do not send original artwork. Printed designs for Bob Dylan-themed manhole covers should be sent to Common Language c/o Jeffrey Kalstrom, 114 Laurie Street, Duluth, MN 55803. Digital designs should be sent to The postmarked deadline for submission is June 11, 2010. The selection will be made by the Duluth Public Arts Commission. Artists selected will be informed by June 18, 2010.

This activity is funded by the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota state legislature with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008, and an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature.

Contact Information:

Common Language c/o
Jeffrey Kalstrom
114 Laurie Street
Duluth, MN 55803

It could be fun having one's Bob Dylan art permanently installed as a manhole cover here in the Northland. My ultimate aim will be to produce something both street legal and worthy of Jack Frost. Even though it would be more prestigious to produce art for a Dylan album cover, a manhole cover works for me.

You can check out my blog entry from 2008 for more information about Bob Dylan Way.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Comic Book Market: Ten Minutes With Tim Broman

Over the years I have noticed the continuous rise in the quantity and varieties of comic book novels and magazines. Some are quite amazing to me. A few weeks ago I saw comic books on Barbara Walters, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, among others. The magazines were not only well researched but also quite edgy, with a "no holds barred" style of journalism typical of tabloids but strangely different.

It made me curious, too, about both the range of comics themselves and the artists who create them. To learn more I spoke with Tim Broman, of Duluth's Collector's Connection.

Ennyman: I am somewhat surprised at the sophistication of the comic book scene sometimes. Do you know roughly how big the comic industry is off hand?

TB: In the USA, there are roughly 1,500 Comic-book specialty shops. I suspect that annual sales for new comic books tops out at roughly 500 Million Dollars. That might be a little high, and includes sales generated at non-comic book shops.

That number is dwarfed by the Japanese Comic Market, which is more like $1.5 Billion (as of 2007). The number also does not include sales of what are called Graphic Novels, which are how comic books get reprinted and sold in stores like Barnes and Noble, or on
That number is probably higher than the sales of comic, themselves.

Comics are sold all over the world, with Japan and the US in the lead. More money is made in Video Game licensing than in the sale of Comics. One hot video title can all but eclipse the sale of all new comics in the US in any given year. Plus, Clothing, Toys, New Movies, and anything that can be licensed makes the actual sale of the Comic Books seem rather puny.

Enny: Is there a typical demographic for the comic books you sell?

TB: Typical customer is Male. Age 15-35. Younger folks normally get their comic books from grocery stores, Wal-Marts and such. When they get older, they hunt us down. I’ve been in this business for over 20 years, and now the children of the children that I used to wait on are becoming regular customers.

Enny: What do your typical buyers look like and what are the hottest selling titles, themes?

TB: Wow - what a loaded question. The cheap and easy answer is to check any episode of THE SIMPSONS or THE BIG BANG THEORY.

But the real answer is tougher to get. The average comic-book customer is, in my opinion, a little smarter than average, and a lot shyer than average. They like to read, and read lots more than just the comics. Most are also readers of fiction, and enjoy books. Economically, they’re all over the place. I have 2 lawyers, 3 entrepreneurs, a Dentist, a News Reporter, a Banker, and an Accountant. I also have a couple of pizza delivery guys, and a human slug on public assistance (it’s his “dream come true”, according to those who know him better than I.)

Hottest selling titles are almost always, in order:
Wolverine, X-Men, Amazing Spider Man, Batman, the Avengers, Superman, Star Wars, and Spawn.

Hottest Themes currently involve Zombies, like you mentioned. Trends tend to come and go.
The current trend is still making titles into Movies. A few years ago, it was Alternative Covers.
The comic industry has consistently sought out the goose that lays the golden egg, and worked
it to death. Then it goes to find another.

Enny: I assume you have an interest in the comic culture. Who are your favorite comic book artists and why?

TB: Honestly, the senior partner hired me because I had retail experience, not so much due to my passion in comics. He needed someone to trust, and I needed a job. I did collect comics when I was younger, but dumped them when I was about 14. None of my friends were still reading them, so out they went. Two bucks for a grocery bag full at a local rummage sale And I was glad be out of them. I did keep all my wrestling magazines.....which now are worth about as much as they were back then.

But, to answer your question, my current favorite Artist is Terry Moore. I also like Will Eisner, but for different reasons. Terry does a comic book called Strangers In Paradise. Two straight, one on the lamb from her past, which keeps dogging her.......lots of twists and turns. Well written, and distinctive art. Currently, Terry Moore is doing a new story called Echo. A young female photographer is caught up in a Military Experiment gone awry. The fragments of the Experiment have bonded onto her skin, causing untold mayhem. Stay tuned.....

Will Eisner is the neatest artist I’ve ever met in this business. He’s gone now, but he was a consistent presence in the history of the Comic Book business since the 1940's. His most popular work was a title called THE SPIRIT, which was just made into a movie a year or two ago. While I never cared for the Spirit, I do like his New York-based stories. Most are somewhat gloomy, but they are filled with the culture, and tell interesting stories of life in NYC in the 40's, 50's and 60's.

Enny: What percentage of the people who buy comics buy them to read and how many buy them as collectors?

TB: Nowadays, almost all buy to read. Those who buy to collect got slaughtered several years ago, before the economy went nuts.

Enny: Are old comic collections going up in value and will that trend continue?

TB: Overall, yes. There will always be a market for hot titles in better-than-average condition.
In the last 60 days, there have been 3 comic books that sold at Auction for over a Million Dollars each. Those are the first three to ever get that high a price. Currently, the reselling market is tough. That is due to high unemployment, and will change as the economy improves.... whenever that is.

Enny: You also have baseball cards and other kinds of cards. What is the current status of baseball card valuations? Warm, hot, cold?

TB: Until unemployment rates drop, I have to call the Card Market only Warm, at best.
Again, high quality stuff always sells. But the current market in ALL collectibles is still more Sellers than Buyers. Now is a good time to pick up bargains. But unless your stuff is top-notch, it’s a rough time to get anything near full value on your collectibles.

Enny: Do you see baseball cards ever coming back to a craze again?

TB: Nope. Maybe one player at a time, like Steve Strasburg (hot pitcher for the Washington Nationals). But not so much the industry.

Cards and Comics (and all collectibles) will always have an investment-based component to them.... it’s the nature of the beast. But, personally, I feel that these have to be hobbies first and foremost. A hobby is something that you do. Something that relaxes you. Like Toy Trains, or Fishing, or even Whittling. It should be fun, more than profitable. When I buy items, I buy them because I think that they’re “neat” (wow, do I feel old saying that). The last comics I bought were some graphic novels at Goodwill. They were fun to read, but there’s no long-term value to them. The last trading card I bought was a Wahoo McDaniels Rookie Card, because I remember him from local pro wrestling back in the 1970's and 80's. It cost me $12.00.

Some new item will take up the mantle of being Hot and Trendy, but just like Beanie Babies, and Pokemon Cards, it will be mostly due to hype. They get hot quick, because we all join in almost as one. Then they die out, because we each decide - on our own - that it’s no longer worth it.

There’s an old book on the subject of mass hysteria It’s called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It’s written by Charles McKay, and deals with historical trends such as Ponzi Schemes, and the Dutch Tulip Obsession of the 1600's. It’s a dry read, but parts of the book are very interesting.

Closing Remarks
I was impressed with how articulate Tim was on this topic. He also forwarded links to the History of Comic Books and an overview of what's Hot today.

Thanks, Tim, for your contribution and insights.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dylan Days 2010

As I have already noted, May is a busy month for a lot of folk, with Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, graduations and weddings. In this neck of the woods it is also Dylan Days, a week of festivities celebrating the Northland's most celebrated musician, Hibbing's own, Bob Zimmerman.

I do not believe it an accident that Dylan Days always falls on our near the birth date of Mr. Dylan. Monday he will turn 69, if you want to know. Though some of the fanfare occurs in Duluth here (where he was born in 1941 and lived till he was six) most of the action is in Hibbing.

Though Dylan's legacy is the centerpiece of all this hoopla, the broader aim is to support the arts in general, so there are music events, creative writing competitions, poetry readings and an art show. A big highlight is the Singer/Songwriter contest. This year it is my aim to enter one or more of my Dylan portraits into the show, which takes place at Zimmy's

The broader purpose behind Dylan Days is to encourage a greater appreciation for the arts, whether music, writing or pictorial. In whatever form it takes, let your creative spirit rise up and fly.

If you are a Dylan fan, and you are anywhere in the neighborhood (that is, north of Twin Cities) you owe it toyourself to check it out sometime. For more info about this annual celebration of a native son, visit

The Dylan portrait top right is available as a signed, limited edition giclee print from the DiscoveredArtists online gallery. It looks quite awesome framed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Too Many Artists?

This week I have been corresponding with a woman from Germany about art and life. Yesterday I threw out the thought that it would be cool to find someone who could represent my art in Germany.

She replied that Dusseldorf indeed has a great art tradition, and her husband co-wrote a book about one of the most important galleries there (Galerie Schmela), but that today the art market is saturated and it is hard for artists to get traction. "We see it happening to friends of ours. They are dreaming of selling their artwork in the U.S."

This reply led me to think about the arts in general. Why are there so many artists? And do we have too many artists?

John Naisbett's 1982 bestseller Megatrends offered a notion which might explain the high tide of creative output we see in the civilized world today. (I won't call it a tsunami, because that implies a destruction which I can't associate with this output in the arts.) If you recall the book, you will remember his mode of developing forecasts of what's happening came from massive clipping and analysis of local newspapers. I have to believe that this is all done via the Internet now with data harvesting tools like Mozenda.

Anyways, the famous insight he had was called High Tech/High Touch. "The two biggest markets in the United States are consumer technology and escape from consumer technology." In other words, the more we get inundated with technology, the more you have a need to immerse in something that is not technology. Music, art, film, hiking, gardening....

I resonate with the observation Naisbett's team of researchers reported, but interpreting what it means might depend on the perspective one brings to the data. I myself believe being creative is part of being human.

The problem may not be that we have too many artists, it's just that we might have too many art products. That is, in an economic supply/demand equation, value diminishes when the market is glutted. I saw this when I was first doing freelance writing in the 80's. The writer's magazines tell you how to make money writing articles and fill your head with sugarplums and rainbows with pots of gold at the end of them. The reality is, so many people are willing to write for nothing that it is hard to be paid for the time you invest in producing good work. In the art scene many of the mags seem to have the same slant: all encouragement and nary a discouraging word.

The bottom line is thus, why do we want to make art? Why did we do it in the first place? Many artists will say, "Because it's who I am." When I was first learning how to create three dimensional depth on a two dimensional surface when I was eight, it never once crossed my mind that I was into it for the money. It was simply sheer fascination.

If you're a fellow artist, remember your roots. Cherish every moment you have to create and discover something new. And thanks for visiting my blog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Very Cool Van Gogh Slide Show

Today is "Self Portrait Day" with two of my own self-portraits here and a third on my Many Faces of Ennyman blog. But the important link is the one at the end of this blog entry, to a very cool Vincent Van Gogh Self-Portrait Slide Show.

Last fall I wrote about a new book that had compiled all the letters of Vincent Van Gogh. It was a monumental work. Even more monumental, however, is the online version of this epic effort in which you can do searches for words and themes, find exactly how many time Mr. Van Gogh wrote about the pain in his head or his heartache for the suffering of his friends. At the end of that blog entry I had a link to a Wikipedia page that had compiled in one place a lifetime of Van Gogh self-portraits. My hope was that the faces would be studied, because each really does tell a story.

Within the past two weeks I came across such a cool find on someone's blog that I have been wanting to share it. It is a slide show that takes these portraits and by means of modern technology shows the troubled artists transformations from one era to the next. I found it quite fascinating, and I thought you might enjoy it as much as I. It's less than a minute in length. Check it out.

Top Right: Self portrait as Dark Knight
Left: Self portrait, Mexico 1981

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Five Minutes with Oil Painter Pam Holnback

This past several weeks I've been interviewing artists in a range of styles with a variety of aims, from fine arts to ACEOs (Art Cards, Editions & Originals). Seeing some of Pam Holnback's paintings brought back memories from my Kentucky roots, particular Natural Bridge State Park. Pam hails from Colorado, and there is undoubtedly no end to the inspiration that can come from being surrounded by natural beauty.

What interested me even more, however, was that her career had been as an art teacher. I remember well going to the art room while in elementary school in Maple Heights, Ohio. Later, I found great encouragement from Mr. Sebes who taught art at BRHS-West. My college professors were equally formative in helping me bring a confidence to my work. Even when the execution was bad, they saw a spark of something more. But I'll never forget those special times in the art room at Stafford School in Maple Heights, made possible by an art teacher and a school that supported the arts.

So, without further adieu.... Pam Holnback.

Ennyman: You taught art for a lifelong career. How did you become an art teacher?

Pam H: When I started college I was an art major. During a required freshman speech class, I was always giving the speeches on art related subjects. The speech teacher told the class that I'd make a great teacher, and my mind said, Yes, I would love that. I switched my major to Art Education and never looked back.

E: What grade levels did you teach, elementary, mid-school or high school?

PH: Through my career I taught K - 12. The last 13 years were in middle school. I taught at a wonderful, supportive school. I loved the energy of those kids and the fact that they came to art everyday for one semester. I incorporated many of my lessons with their Social Studies curriculum.

E: Did you ever wish you were teaching college art students?

PH: No, my personality, interests, and aspirations were always with challenging, inspiring, and teaching kids.

E: Have you always lived in Colorado? I see you derive a lot of inspiration from the natural beauty that surrounds there...

PH: Thank you. I came to Colorado as a college freshman, and except for 6 years that I lived overseas, I've been here ever since. Colorado is a great fit for me. I love the out-of-doors, the mountains, the vast skies, the sun. It's all here and I incorporate it into my paintings. When our kids were small and I had little time for painting, our family was always enjoying the out -of-doors. It's why people live in this state.

E: What are your biggest influences and why?

PH: One of my biggest personal influences was my mother. She was a little ahead of her time. My sisters and I were raised to believe that anyone could do anything they wanted if they put their mind to it. She traveled and worked after college, and then married. I followed in her footsteps. One of the biggest influences on my paintings is my environment. I paint what's around me and what I love.

E: Oils can take so long to dry. What do you like about oil painting, and why do you paint on panels?

PH: I started painting w/ oils because the artist that I wanted to study with was an oil painter. I like using them because they're forgiving, and I love how well you can mix colors. I've never really painted with any other medium. I use small panels for my daily paintings. I use stretched canvas for my bigger pieces.

E: Are you selling your work, and if so how and where?

PH: My work is all for sale. I've sold some through the Internet, some in shows, and now have some pieces in a local venue.

E: I believe all children have a natural inborn creativity. Any suggestions for art teachers on how to be a source of motivation to develop that instead of becoming the wet blanket that squelches their creative dreams?

PH: I believe that whether you're an art teacher, or teacher of any subject, that children respond to a positive, fair, consistent, motivating environment. This will help students of all ages, all subject, all levels.

E: Any favorite painters of your own?

PH: Monet for his incredible colors. Russell for his love of the West. Dixon for his vast skies and clouds. Bougeraux for his portraits of girls. Sorolla for his incredible whites. All of them for their hard work and discipline.

E: Thanks for your time and insights....

Be sure to visit Pam's blog. No wonder Ansel Adams took to the mountains...

Monday, May 17, 2010

3 Lincoln Films Coming to the Silver Screen

I'm not sure what trigger was but there seems to be a resurgence of Lincoln interest in Hollywood. According to an article I was reading on the plane ten days ago, three new films will be coming out this coming year or so. At the same time I have been listening to the audio version of Team of Rivals, the deeply researched book about Lincoln and the men whom he ran against for the presidency, who ended up on his cabinet. President Obama drew attention to the book at the time he was forming his own cabinet, which features at least one of his rivals, Hillary Clinton.

The book paints an amazingly detailed portrait of Lincoln, and it is quite different from the Lincoln I imagined. We know the details of his birth, the legendary fascination with reading, etc. I did not know that he was the life of any party, however. Wherever there were men, his stories had them in an uproar of laughter. It makes sense that someone headed to leadership would also be someone others enjoyed being around and listening to.

As a public speaker he was second to none. And his anecdotes were always both entertaining and pointed.

What got him into trouble was that he was a man of conviction and conscience. As a young congressman, he gave a speech denouncing the Mexican War because the U.S. had been the aggressor. "Show us where first blood was spilt, Mr. President. Was it on U.S. soil?" Everyone knew that it was not. The Illinois papers, who bought into the Manifest Destiny dream, declared that Lincoln had brought shame to the home community he represented. The bad press helped squash his re-election efforts. He never won another election till he took the White House.

One of the new Lincoln films is by Steven Spielberg. Evidently it will be a "big" film, on the order of Schindler's List. At least one reviewer has a sense of foreboding about the length. Potentially due out by the end of this year, it will feature the abolition of slavery among other things.

Robert Redford is also weighing in with a film that indirectly features the president. The Conspirator focuses on the events directly following the war, and specifically the assassination of Mr. Lincoln. This one is also due to hit theaters in 2010.

Spielberg? Redford? How can you top that?

Well, here's how. Tim Burton is also doing a Lincoln film. Yep, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It's author Seth Grahame-Smith's follow-up to Pride & Prejudice & Zombies which took the reading public by storm this last year. The book is now in stores and I guess the ink is dry on some of the contracts which will set the project in motion. What will they think of next?

Original paintings created this past weekend. For more information visit The Many Faces of Ennyman blog.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Confess

Some call it Hitchcock’s most forgotten film. Some say deservedly so. Having just watched it again, I confess that I really liked I Confess and might rate it his most underrated film.

In signature Hitchcock fashion, we know from the start whodunnit, so the film is about something else. The story opens with a murder by the man named Keller who works in a Catholic church in Quebec as caretaker, who proceeds to make confession to the priest, Father Logan (Montgomery Clift). That "something else" is essentially the question, "Will a man lay down his life for something he believes?" This is what it appears Father Logan might have to do because he cannot break silence with regard to Keller's confession of being the killer.

There is, of course, the love interest, and Anne Baxter is perfectly cast for this. The secret nature of her relationship with Father Logan puts increased suspicion on the priest so that by coming forward to the police (Karl Malden is excellent as Inspector Larrue) she inadvertently dooms him by trying to be helpful.

Things I liked about the film:

1) The black and white film helps amplify the gloom and doom in the story. There is something dramatic about superb B&W photography, and that "something" carries over to film.

2) There are just so many really powerful camera angles and cool shots.

3) Hitchcock treats religion with respect. The Church is part of the culture, and Hitchcock treats the institution as honorable. Father Logan acts heroically in the face of a great temptation to do otherwise by breaking silence and clearing his name.

Things I didn't like:

1) Father Logan's anguish as he goes for his solitary walk later in the film comes across as a bit melodramatic. One understands the pressure he is under, but the attempt to convey it this way comes off as hokey by modern standards. It did, however, give Hitch the opportunity for some really great camera angles and cool shots.

2) Could the flashback scene have been told a better way? It did, however, convey important information in the story.

This is not a film with witty Cary Grant quips. It is a but more serious and not scary in the typical Hitchcockian way. But it has his fingerprints all over it, and I do confess, I enjoyed it.

SPOILER ALERT: The scene I liked most was when Father Logan exited the courtroom near the end of the film. (Yes, he had to stand trial.) The jury found him innocent. The judge announced that he disagreed with the verdict, but that Father Logan was a free man. But when Logan emerged to the light of day, it was apparent that in the court of popular opinion he was going to be crucified. This scene said a lot.

If you get a chance, add it to your list.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to Price Your Art

Last night I finally got into my studio and worked on three new Lincoln paintings, each from a different source image and with varying styles. I have painted several Lincolns over the years and was motivated to come up with some new images to accompany my upcoming review of Team of Rivals, which I have been currently reading.

While painting I was pondering how Lincoln is somewhat of an iconic image, and how Warholesque this repetition of a theme might be, Warhol's themes being cultural icons like Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's Soup.

Here's a question for any artists who follow this blog: What kinds of things go through your mind while you're painting? Do you have a notepad to scribble notes, thoughts, ideas, insights?

Last night I was thinking about how there is something of a carelessness in much of my work and I was analyzing the root of it. I create something and then move on, instead of taking time to really "finish" the piece. The attention to detail is sometimes and it's disappointing to look back at certain pieces. The real artist will sand the edges of his or her panels and make them smooth before painting, instead of rushing into it and afterwords noticing that the sawblade cut was a bit rough.

Sometimes the emotion of creation produces really interesting effects. The next day you wonder if the painting should be left "as is" because it so perfectly captures a moment in time, or if the work should be completed using both left and right brain.

And what about pieces that you create that you just have mixed feelings about afterwards. Last night I pulled my 2 x 3 foot JFK painting out of the back room and smeared over it with the foundation for a new Lincoln image. I like where the new piece is going. Many of my paintings have layers like that... with patches and portions peeking through.

Before heading out to the studio I was reviewing a couple art blogs and found an interesting page about how to price your art. I'm preparing for a show at Beaner's Central in July and have come head on to the problem we all wrestle with. For years I made it easy for myself by simply giving things away to people who liked them. But, it's hard to build a retirement income by giving everything away, and it's also hard to convince galleries to display your work if they are not getting a cut. ("Sure, you can have 90% and I will take 10%... let's see, 90% of zero is... uhm, zero.")

Anyways, here are seven ways to figure out how to price your work. If you're like me though, the article doesn't settle the question. It does offer a few pricing models, however, that you might not have thought of.

Today is Saturday... make it special and do something you love.

Friday, May 14, 2010

An Example of How Social Media Fosters Connections

On Wednesday I published here my interview with Davilla Harding, which included a question about her influences, in particular the books that helped her. One of those books was Painting the Things You Love by Adele Earnshaw.

Somehow Adele learned of the mention here and left a comment here. What happened next is contained here in the email below which I received yesterday.

Ed - I did go on Adele's site and have passed along this email to her from me. I thought she might enjoy knowing how much her book has gone on to inspire others...artists and young students. It was such a long "story" behind (and beyond) the influence of her book just on me....there just wasn't enough room on the blog. Thank you again for taking the time to make connections between artists, through your blog, and "passing on" your enthusiasm and love for art and the artist!

Have a great week!


From: davilla Harding
To: adele earnshaw
Sent: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:49 AM
Subject: Thanks for comments to blog

Hi Adele - I wanted to thank you for your kind feedback to my blog interview with Ed Newman. As a career elementary school teacher, I always treasured the moments when I knew or found out how much something I said or taught had affected one of my students. And although I could not put all of the information in the blog, your book (and philosophy of Paint the Things You Love) basically changed the way I I mentioned in the blog. I would like to pass on a little more information to you as to how your book has further affected me and others - as I mentioned in the blog, I have tried to "pass it on"!

Personal Experience - The first thing I painted after reading your book was a portrait of a sepia photograph my father had taken of me when we lived in Athens, Greece. He had just passed away a few months earlier, and so the photo took on an even more signifigance. It has received a couple of recognitions/awards, and I do believe it is the because I began to paint the things I love!

"Passing It On" to Others - A lady came to our watercolor group about 1 1/2 years ago. She had a tremendous desire to paint, but often left, crying in frustration over what she "could not do." I had her read your introduction. She continued to come with her DESIRE, EFFORT, TENACITY, TIME and ATTITUDE. Because of her determination, today she paints happily away without the deep frustration of "I want to so badly, but just can't." In fact, our latest workshop was painting a very complex modern cityscape. Hers was very good...and we all applauded and marveled at her wonderful progress.

The World of Children - Although I have retired from the classroom, I still serve as an educational consultant for a local school district helping the 4th grade students with composition writing (which is tested by our state's standardized TAKS test). I used your book as one of the foundation points of effective writing. I showed them your book and told them about how profoundly it had changed my painting, and then showed them the painting Waiting. I suggested that whenever they write to the writing topic, they should be sure to write about something they love (or feel very strongly about) and make the reader of their composition "feel" what they feel/felt during that experience. I gently patted my heart, and had them do it also, and said, "You should feel your heart thumping with excitement/emotion over whatever it is you are trying to put on paper, just as I did when I painted this portrait of me. I included a photo above to show me at the class demonstration. I wore a red heart to symbolize, and remind students of, this writing strategy...sorry the quality of the photo is not that sharp. (I "tongue in cheek" told them on the day of the state TAKS test, I would be sitting at my lake home - 20 minutes away - and I wanted to hear all of their hearts beating with excitement to get every word on the paper). The scores have not come back from the TAKS test, yet, but I am positive they will do well!

I hope you don't mind my going into so much detail, but I think you might enjoy hearing how much, and in how many ways, your words have helped others! Thank you for sharing your inspiration with all of us and helping each of us to become better artists in our own way.

Davilla Harding

This remind me of a couple of my own experiences online involving books, Internet connections and affirmations. Thank you, Davilla, for sharing this....

If interested, here's where you can find your own copy of Adele's book Painting the Things You Love. Have a great day.

Top right: Waiting, by Davilla

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