Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Miscellaneous

It happens every spring. April showers bring May flowers, they say... and hopefully will also melt a bit of our snow. With near a foot still on the roof of my garage and a crusty layer of many inches on the yard, it is had to believe Tomorrow is opening day for Major League Baseball. Well, as they say, it happens every spring.

Our geese finally started laying. To give an idea of how much delayed spring is this year compared to last, March second was the opening of goose egg laying season here.

One of my brothers had a birthday this week. Another brother boarded a plane for China.

Tomorrow the big tattoo to-do will be a-happening at a weekend event called the Clyde-O Scope, with three days of live music, and even some live painting Friday and Saturday night. The paintings will be auctioned off as a donation to the Duluth Children's Museum. The Fractals are one of many talents slated to perform.

In other news, the Duluth Art Institute art auction/fund raiser is this weekend, “Goin’ Mad at the Rad” on Saturday, April 2, 6 – 11 pm. It's a theme based party based on the TV series "Mad Men" which will include the auctioning off of some serious art as well innumerable 5"x 7" pieces created especially for this purpose, including a few by yours truly. Money will be used to fund future events at the DAI. If Saturday night you see a bunch of people here looking like they just stepped out of the 60's, you'll know where they've been.

I myself will be painting with Jeredt Runions and others at the Clyde-O-Scope at nine both Friday and Saturday, so if you are a follower of this blog and want to say hi, you should be able to find me. And if you'd like to add a splash of color to a painting we're making, you're welcome to do that, too.

Wherever you be, have a great weekend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

My junior year in high school we had a great U.S. history class. Mr. Griffith, who later went on to become mayor of Bridgewater, our town in New Jersey, was one of three teachers who helped give us fresh eyes and new understanding as we covered the supposedly familiar terrain of our founding and our presidents, our wars and our struggles as a nation.

One vivid memory I have is their approach to teaching the Mexican War. We studied the story from the point of view of the Mexicans, whose land we grabbed in the name of Manifest Destiny.

For one of the best researched, most vivid accounts of Native American history during the mid-to-late 1800's I would urge you to read Dee Brown's excellent Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. The audio version I am listening to is read by Grover Gardner, and I simply can't say enough about this reader. Gardner has read many of the books I've listened to over the years, had recorded more than 650 books as of this one here. His restrained deliver has great power to evoke meaning.

As for Bury My Heart, I would compare it to another catalog of horrors known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Dee Brown's research goes far beyond the norm. Brown has sifted the letters of white men who were there, assembled the details of significant volumes of sources to paint a vivid portrait of a national travesty.

Michaeleve, a reviewer at wrote:

The book had a profound impact on readers when it was first published in 1971 for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it took a unique perspective. Reports of Treaty meetings, tribal histories, Congressional findings and interview transcripts have all been distilled to provide the Indian point of view. Indeed the books' subtitle is 'An Indian History of the American West'. The second factor has to do with when the book was published. Interest in environmental issues was growing and the accounts of the destruction by the settlers of the Eastern forests, the soiling of the rivers and the slaughter of the Buffalo herds struck a chord, especially when contrasted with the practices of the Indians. Readers began to see Indians in a different light, as the first conservationists.

The period of history covered is short. From about 1860 to 1890. The first chapter briefly sketches the interactions between European and Indians from the formers' arrival in Massachusetts in 1620 up to the setting up of the 'permanent indian frontier' west of the Mississippi in 1847.

The 'frontier' lasted no time at all. Gold was discovered, land was sought and settlers flocked west. To cover this in legitimacy it was necessary to invent 'Manifest Destiny'. The Indians were now doomed as history has shown that this policy made it manifest that the Indians were destined to be swept aside by the white man. All that we have left is their legends, their magical placenames and some works like this book that provides insights into how the West was really lost.

Rhonda Fox wrote:

Nothing could prepare me for the emotional effect that "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" would have on me. Dee Brown brings us the history of the white settlement of the American West as told by the people who were there, both white and Indian. This is not the history we learned in school, and the book will shatter the images of many of our heroes, but the story is important enough that I think every American should read it.

I also recommend "The Trail of Tears", by Gloria Jahoda, which is the history of the removal of the eastern tribes to the west. These two books are necessary if you, as an American, want a complete education of American History.

Beyond education, these books present a people who loved the earth, trusted and respected mankind, and lived honorable lives. I trust that these stories of the near annihilation of our native people at the hands of our forefathers will effect you in unexpected ways, and that you will come away from the experience with new heroes, and a broken heart.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee does not romanticize things the way Dances With Wolves did, as if all whites were bad and all Native Americans good. Dee Brown shows how the native peoples reacted in various was as a result of the frustrations imposed upon them by continuous lying and broken treaties, abuses and the horrors inflicted upon their families.

This book comes with my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ten Minutes with Artist Laurie Frick

There are many blogs and artist websites that mention other artists they like. When I have time I like to explore some of these links and several months ago discovered Laurie Frick's compelling work. Unfortunately I forgot to bookmark it and a week later could not recall who or where it was, but did not forget what I had seen.

Two weeks ago, I again came upon Ms. Frick's work, and this time did the right thing. Once bookmarked I could return, make contact and share her with you.

Ennyman: You're originally from L.A. How did you end up in both Austin and New York?
LF: Went to graduate school at USC, found high-technology incredibly compelling, moving up the ranks to eventual SVP level. Lived in LA, the Bay Area, Houston and eventually Austin….which is an incredibly fine city. Split time with NY to stay connected to my art-friends and community.

E: When did you first become serious about following a creative life
path? How did this happen?
LF: Quit my job, and began an art education in early 2003. Went to NY and graduated with an MFA in 2007.

E: Who were your early influences?
LF: Ambroglio Lorenzetti, early 14th century painter in Sienna, Italy.

E: Whose work inspires you today?
LF: Sooooo many. Still Lorenzetti, and am drawn to non-art sources, mostly in neuroscience.

E: And where IS the line between art and neuroscience?
LF: Both are fueled by the suggestion of an idea, or an hypothesis that needs to be tested and slowly proven. Both begin with the hope of an idea that will eventually be proven or tossed aside.

E: What is the relationship between your ink/watercolor drawings and your sleep patterns? That is, are you striving for some kind of literal brain activity mapping here or is it more nebulous? Is it some form of
LF: There is a direct relationship of the data gathered from nightly sleep data, and the watercolor drawings. The data is rigorously followed, where the wood cut pieces begin to bring in the element of chance.

See more of Laurie Frick's work on YouTube.
Or at

For best enjoyment, click images to enlarge.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Technical Difficulties

For some reason my email provider's server yesterday dumped two of every email I have received this past year into my inbox and then went kaput. Furthermore, some of the dates are jumbled. On the same day Blogger lost its formatting capabilities. Or at least some of us did. My blog entry yesterday became a long run-on.

So here we are, another day. No email. Blogger still not retaining my spacing very well. What I see is not what I am getting.

Well, life goes on. And hopefully spring will be here soon.

Enjoy the new week, our second week of spring.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Local Artists Talk About Painting Live

DISCLAIMER: THIS BLOG ENTRY HAS A FUNKY LAYOUT BECAUSE FOR SOME REASON BLOGGER WOULD NOT RETAIN ANY OF MY SPACING. Last fall I was invited to do "live painting" at a Halloween event in Superior. Beforehand, I consulted with Jeredt Runions as regards any tips he might have for me. I was aware the Jeredt has performed live before, and he quickly coughed up a handful of suggestions for me to chew on. Last weekend, Jeredt was one of three local artists who did live painting as part of a fundraising event for the Pineapple Arts here in Duluth. The two easels to Jeredt's left were occupied by Jessica Turtle and Adam Swanson. After visiting (it was the night of the "Super Moon") I asked if they'd be willing to talk about the live painting experience. Ennyman: Do you notice a difference between being in a live setting and being in your studio? Describe that? Jessica Turtle: In the studio I have zero distractions, as well as, everything I could ever need within arms reach. As to where live painting is anything but. I typically rely on constant interaction with people - be it far more hip moving and head bobbing. Not to mention, my inability to remember to bring ALL the materials I might need to the show. It seems improvisational skills are necessary. As for the artistic results, both differ greatly. In studio I have time to consider, change, draw out, or paint over. Whereas, live painting is timed around the bands. There's a certain expectation with live action painting. The works must be complete by the end of the show. Also, there's a difference in the paintings' existence in my life. In studio, I am fortunate enough to spend time living with the works as they're completed. Live painting is more of an in-the-moment production and if I am lucky, they find a home before I can really see what I made. Regardless of their similarities or differences, however, both are valuable to me as an artist and music lover/supporter. All I need to do now is figure out how to persuade a band to play in my studio while I paint. Jeredt Runions: Live painting is more of a street art or graffiti method... Fast. Simple. And good color combos to grab the attention of anyone… Studio art is more of a self-timed pace and has more interesting aspects for me. Adam Swanson: Yes. Having people watching is fun and makes me think about the moves I make differently. It was nice to consider what I might look like to other people as I paint, and what the painting might look like as I move along. Of course, I could envision a number of steps and plans as the painting developed, but it was fun to wonder what other people thought of the process. Mostly, the difference came with the music and not having my normal studio setup. My usual iTunes playlist was replaced with awe inspiring live performances. I had a lot more space to walk around and view the painting in. The people stopping by the easel to say hello or comment on the piece were welcome interruptions. Ennyman: Was this your first time doing live painting with an audience? Do you have other events lined up? Jessica Turtle: No, I've painted live a handful of times both in Minneapolis and Duluth. Yes, I have two more live painting gig's coming up. One in Duluth and one in Minneapolis. Jeredt Runions: I do a lot of festivals and events in the midwest that really keep me busy and that is the most important thing for me and the fact that I get to have fun! Adam Swanson: I painted in front of an audience once before in Ithaca, NY for a fundraiser event. There was live music, but there were 60 different artists, over 1000 people in attendance and film crews trolling the crowds. I don't have any other live painting events lined up. Ennyman: What do you like most and least about the live painting experience? Jessica Turtle: I love being motivated by great music blasting in my ear. I love the energy you absorb from the band members and crowd, and how quickly I can produce images. Furthermore, I am constantly inspired by the interactions that happen with people who attend said shows. There really isn't much to "not" like about it. It's a great way to spend my Friday or Saturday nights. Jeredt Runions: Live painting is very stressful sometimes and troublesome to see nobody take your painting home sometimes but the award to finish a painting in under an hour or so and be stressed puts you in a new level of painting! Adam Swanson: I like the festive atmosphere. I enjoyed the live music and felt good working at Pineapple Arts (I love that place). I had a great time being a productive member of the audience (dare I say part of the performances?), along with Jeredt and Turtle and the musicians. There is nothing I didn't like about the live painting experience I had at Pineapple. Next weekend, I will be joining Jeredt and other artists in a live event called the Clyde-O-Scope at Clyde Iron Works. Check it out. CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Zimmermann Telegram

"Had all the world been a school and Wilson its principal, he would have been the greatest statesman in history." ~Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram

In 2009 I wrote about the impact Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August made on Robert Kennedy and how it emboldened him to take a stand against escalation during the Cuban missile crisis. This week I came across a reference to another book by Ms. Tuchman about a little known detail of history which had significant consequences, as many small things often do.

The Zimmermann Telegram actually preceded The Guns of August, published in 1958. As a writer it would be my hunch that the first book helped make the latter better. Both books deal with World War I. The Zimmerman Telegram is about a critical incident involving Germany and Mexico that helped the British to persuade Woodrow Wilson to enter the war.

A Rhode Island reviewer on wrote this about the incident: "While the Zimmermann Telegram is one of the most important documents in history, and is perhaps the greatest result of code breaking in history, it is nonetheless frequently overlooked. Most people have at least heard 'Remember the Lusitania' which had essentially nothing to do with the U.S. entering WWI. Few, however, are familiar with this short telegram that is truly a hinge on which history turned."

The irony here is that everyone who has a faint recollection of World War I does remember the Lusitania. How many of you were aware of the Zimmermann telegram before reading this blog entry?

Essentially, the drama in this book centers upon how to persuade President Wilson that the telegram was authentic without also giving away the manner in which they broke the code to retrieve its contents. The British desperately needed the U.S. to enter the war, but they also wanted to maintain their covert connections to German intelligence.

If you already have too many other books in your queue, read the review by A Customer at Amazon and get some new insights into all that was involved behind the scenes in this significant chapter of modern history. To dig deeper, order the book itself or Thomas Boghart's Spies of the Kaiser: German Covert Operations In Great Britain During the First World War Era.

"Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. They are engines of change, windows on the world, lighthouses erected in the sea of time." Barbara W. Tuchman

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Poem By Pessoa On Social Media

From the highest window of my house
I wave farewell with a white handkerchief
To my poems going out to humanity.

And I'm neither happy nor sad.
That is the fate of poems.
I wrote them and must show them to everyone
Because I cannot do otherwise,
Even as the flower cannot hide its color,
Nor the river hide its flowing,
Nor the tree hide the fruit it bears.
~ Fernando Pessoa, 1914

As I read these words last night in my easy I chair, it struck me that they could just as easily apply to bloggers today.

From the highest window of my house
I wave farewell with a white handkerchief
To my blog entries going out to humanity.

...that is the fate of a blog post.

We write them and must show them to everyone....

Pessoa's little stanza shows insight about human nature. First, there is the desire to create. So we produce art, or books or pottery, or maybe a miniature railroad or carved hope chest or a city. We create things. Then, there is the need to share. Just as the tree must give up its fruit, and was not even deigned to cling to it, so we recognize our role and yield to it.

We share for many reasons, but one of them is an innate desire to connect with others.

And so it is that we see the remarkable growth of today's social media. Blogger, Twitter, Facebook. Pessoa continues:

Who knows who might read them?
Who knows into what hands they'll fall?

A flower, I was plucked by fate to be seen.
A tree, my fruit was picked to be eaten.
A river, my water's fate was to flow out of me.
I submit and feel almost happy,
Almost happy like a man tired of being sad.

Go, go away from me!
The tree passes and is scattered throughout Nature.
The flower wilts and its dust lasts forever.
The river flows into the sea and its water is forever the water that was its own.

I pass and I remain, like the Universe.

And if you have read this blog entry today, it is my gift to you for the weekend.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rediscovering Tragic Film

One of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's early works was called The Birth of Tragedy. Taking his cues from classical Greek tragedy, he presented modern (19th century) readers with the idea that tragedy is "an art form that transcends the pessimism and nihilism of a fundamentally meaningless world."* Spectators, by looking deeply into the depths of human sorrow, were affirmed in their own existence, and thus could see themselves not simply as petty peons in a pointless existence but as fuller, more complex persons.

Many there are who misunderstand tragedy in the arts. Hence the films we entertain ourselves with often tend to have tidy upbeat endings, such as the Hollywood version of The Natural, which produces a heroic end rather than the tragic one played out in the book.

This conflict regarding how to end films in Hollywood is a comical undercurrent in The Player, with Tim Robbins (1992). So it is that an analysis of the top 250 films of all time in most lists will reveal that tragic stories are a small minority.

Last night in a periodical called The City I read a fascinating essay by Paul D. Miller called Rediscovering Tragic Film, dealing with the films of Christopher Nolan. Nolan's name is no doubt familiar to movie buffs because he seems to be really connecting with the films he's been cranking out, most recently Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It was probably Memento that first caught the public's attention, and a string of hits have followed including Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Night. Miller notes that five of Nolan's six big films are are built around the elements of tragedy, yet the sum total of these films has generated 2.5 billion dollars in revenue, no small potatoes.

Miller writes, "A tragic plot is especially effective if it incorporates four elements: necessity, surprise, reversal, and recognition. Aristotle argues that the plot must proceed along a necessary chain of cause and effect, not by chance or randomness. 'The effect is heightened when, at the same time, [the outcome] follows as cause and effect,' because the tragic conclusion could not have been otherwise. A terrible but random event -- say, an earthquake -- inspires pity but also detachment, while a terrible event resulting from human choices and happenings that followed necessarily from them are terrifying because we can see how it could happen to us."

So it is that Chinatown, a Roman Polanski masterpiece, (spoiler here if you have not seen this movie) captivates us with its surprises, reversals and the plodding inevitability of its tragic end. Jack Nicholson sees it all coming, sees his part in the destruction and sees, in retrospect, how it all happened.

According to Dr. Miller, Nolan's successes as a director and screenwriter reveal a thirst amongst movie-goers for real stories. "Real stories," he writes, "are ones that reflect true things about life, human nature, and the world we live in. Most films depict cardboard charicatures, not human beings, and take place in a fantasy world where good always triumphs. That Nolan's films make money and win praise shows that movie-goers sense something true in them."

Though I was unable to find this essay onling at the moment, a Google search can lead you to more of Dr. Miller's work. This essay was satisfying and thought provoking.

The City is a publication of Houston Baptist University.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Five MInutes with Artist/Designer Marc Zapchenk

Sunday I wrote about the winners of our Bob Dylan Way Manhole Cover contest. One of those winners was Marc Zapchenk, an illustrator and designer from Shoreview, Minnesota. He graciously agreed to share with us a little about his art.

Ennyman: When did you first have an inkling that you would be an artist when you grew up?
MZ: I really enjoyed creating art as a child. I realized I that had some talent and potential in grade school. It wasn't until I was about to graduate high school that I learned I could pursue a career in art.

E: You make a living as an illustrator. How did that come about?
MZ: I started my career as a graphic designer. After that, I was hired to be an art director and I had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with other professional illustrators. Eventually, I was offered a position as an illustrator and designer.

E: You also express yourself in the fine arts. What is your favorite medium?
MZ: I prefer painting. Currently, I am exploring digital fine art and I am enjoying that process.

E: Who have been your primary sources of inspiration?
MZ: I have had many fabulous visual art teachers over the years. And, although I am a visual artist I am most inspired by singer songwriters like Bob Dylan, Bob Walkenhorst of The Rainmakers, Steve Forbert, Warren Zevon, and Paul Kelly.

E: How would you define the difference between "art" and "design"?
MZ: Because I have worked as an illustrator, a designer, and a fine artist, I have always struggled with how these different disciplines are related. I have come to the conclusion that they are more similar than they are different. However, design and illustration is more intentional. It is about problem solving and clearly communicating ideas. Fine art involves many of the same visual principles, but it is more suggestive. When I produce fine art, I let the image lead the journey... I let it surprise me.

E: It must have been fun to learn you won, and then a surprise to discover you had more work to do. What did you learn through the process of making the Dylan Way Manhole Cover?
MZ: I learned that I had to be patient and open to learning a new process. Most importantly, I had others that were willing to help me make this project a reality. I am most grateful for the Lase Magic, Inc. for laser cutting the prototype board. This project truly would not have happened without their generous assistance.

If you are in Duluth on Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, May 24, you might be able to meet Marc who will be here helping place a couple manhole covers that day. Here's a link to a site where you can see more of Zapchenk's work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

127 Hours

Whew! Just finished watching 127 Hours. Great film.

You’ve no doubt heard about this movie as it was nominated for an Oscar. You may have heard it’s about a guy who cuts off his arm to survive a climbing accident. THIS FILM IS NOT ABOUT A GUY WHO CUTS OFF HIS ARM TO SURVIVE AN ACCIDENT.

This is a film about the meaning of life. It is a film about what it takes to get us to see who we are and what our lives are all about. It is about the profound clarity of insight one can get when stuck between a rock and a hard place.

127 Hours features the struggle of the moment, but in coming face to face with death his life passes before his eyes as well. It is a story of remembering. And a story of unfinished dreams. A story about the weariness of unaltered circumstances, nostalgia and sadness.

I shied away because I really, really did not want to see a guy cut off his arm. And guess what? This film did not exploit that in the least, because it was not about cutting off an arm. It was about a self-sufficient man brought low… his altered states. And values. And hope. It’s about life.

127 Hours comes highly recommended. Yes, there is some intensity. It’s compelling. James Franco as Aron Ralston performs magnificently. Right from the start I was all in. Kudos to director Danny Boyle for what he has achieved in translating this dramatic story to film.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rear Window, My Old Camera and Kodachrome

This weekend I saw Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window again, a near perfect screenplay flawlessly executed. So many fine touches, especially the manner in which the story patiently ratchets up the tension. Jimmy Stewart is an award winning photographer whose work has been showcased on the covers of Life magazine, among other places. His willingness to put himself in harm's way in order to get the perfect shot has resulted in his being bedridden for a spell, leg encased in plaster.

Much more could be said about Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr and the rest of the story, but I'm really only using this as a springboard to the real topics on my mind. First, I got my old camera working again. Or rather, a friend resurrected it. I've been digital since the months preceding Katrina. Before that I used a Konica SLR with a variety of lenses including a Tokina 80-200 zoom that I used to be in love with.

Mine is nothing like the zoom on Jimmy Stewart's camera, though. That would be a setup to die for. But I used to really like this camera. (Till 1974 I had a Minolta, which to my dismay was stolen when I was in college.)

Second, I discovered that Kodachrome is no more. That is, Kodachrome film has been discontinued. A friend of mine noted this and shared with me the March/April issue of American Photo which features the photos taken by Steve McCurry using the very last roll of Kodachrome ever minted. McCurry, like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, produces iconic images with which everyone is familiar, his works appearing in National Geographic, the most famous being the haunted Afghan girl we've all seen.

Here's a tribute to Kodchrome which appeared in 2009. Check out the mag, though, if you get a chance.

Getting my old camera back has really been a thrill. Even if it's not Kodachrome, it's going to be good.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How Much Is That Manhole Cover In the Window?

Last May I posted the announcement here at Ennyman's Territory . There would be a contest for artists to design manhole covers for Bob Dylan Way. So I threw my hat in the ring and my imagination right after it.

Time passed and I wondered how things turned out. How many designs were submitted? I didn't know. Evidently I missed the September announcement of the winners whose finished manhole covers are now on display in the window of Electric Fetus, downtown Duluth. Bob's 70th birthday is coming on fast, the date selected to install the covers, May 24.

One of the winning designs came from Marc Zapchenk, a 46-year old Shoreview, MN, artist and Dylan fan. It's a very cool design (top right), playing off the yin and yang of Dylan's life and career. It's a crisp, elegant concept executed with measured flair.

An interesting feature of the manhole cover art contest was that it involved more than just making the design itself. It included the entire process of converting the art into a mold and actually casting the manhole covers. The iron itself was cast using recycled radiators from Split Rock Lighthouse and the St. Louis County Courthouse.

The second manhole cover was created by Laurel Sanders, who took her inspiration from the same lines that opened my blog entry last spring from Subterranean Homesick Blues. (That was a great album, incidentally.)

So, if you're in town and want to check 'em out, they're right across the street from Pizza Luce here in Downtown Duluth. Can't make it, well, here's the next best thing. Take a moment to see Marc Zapchek's story in pictures, the whole process of making a winning Dylan Way manhole cover.

Beethoven Decomposing

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Steve Martin Does It Again

Over the Christmas holidays I read Steve Martin's novel, An Object of Beauty, which gives an inside look to the machinations of the art scene. It is itself a work of art.

This past week, Martin released his second bluegrass CD, displaying his virtuosity once more with the five-string banjo... as well as creative presentation. I mean, every facet of this release is nuanced to an aesthetically high degree. It's not just a fancy package to sell a CD. Clearly, Martin wants every aspect of this project to complement the others like a high class five-course meal, including the very finest wine. There's also a wonderful booklet with that little extra background for the songs, equally delightful.

The CD is called Rare Bird Alert and clearly Martin is having fun. The band he has recorded with is the talented Steep Canyon Rangers, but there are also some special guests including Sir Paul, who hardly sounds like a Brit in the song Best Love which Martin wrote for his wife. How apropos that McCartney would be invited to croon a love song.

I've given Rare Bird Alert two spins this week and will continue to give it personal air time. The thirteen songs in this package include Atheists Don't Have No Songs, which I first saw on YouTube last fall. As many bluegrass lovers know, gospel music is an recurring theme in the genre. Martin felt that since Christians of all stripes have their music in its various forms, atheists ought to have one, too, and so he wrote this one... performed in that men's quartet gospel style. Guaranteed to make you grin.

Rare Bird Alert is saturated with Martinesque wit. One song, for example, is called Women Like to Slow Dance, but it's played superfast. Another is titled Go Away, Stop, Turn Around, Come Back.

All in all, it's an essential recording that will be at home in any bluegrass collection or Steve Martin collection... or both.

It seems there are numerous YouTube vids featuring Atheists Don't Have No Songs, but I liked this one from the 2010 New Orleans Jazzfest.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Return of the Luddites

Last night while surfing I came across a Paris Review article that referenced a Thomas Pynchon article about the Luddites. It triggered the recollection of a Wired magazine issue with large letters emblazoned across the cover, RETURN OF THE LUDDITES.

Now if you asked me what issue that was, I would have guessed 2002. But if you said 2005 I would have believed you because it's just strange how memory works and we so easily lose all sense of proportionality.

Well, I looked it up and discovered the Jon Katz article was published in 1995. Here's the opening.

Is technology a good witch or a bad witch?

In this country, where faith in technology is the closest thing we have to a national religion, and in the new media culture, where belief in technology is a religion, it's a riveting question. Few significant political or cultural entities -- major papers, political parties, academic institutions, religious groups -- have ever been openly antitechnology. Americans believe, after all, that machines can do anything; they can remove tumors, win wars, fly to the moon. Yet ferocious resistance -- and bitter resentment -- greets much of what technology produces: Beavis and Butthead, rap music, auto emissions, videogames, breast implants, noise pollution, intrusive hackers, TV tabloids, and sexually explicit newsgroups.

1995. Dawn of the Internet age. And it's the age old question, good witch or bad witch. Same question has been bandied about in the Web 2.0 era of social media.

Here's more from Katz...

The Luddites were fighting for their way of life in the most literal sense. For centuries, they had lived in small villages in ancient valleys, using simple machines that could be operated by individuals or families.

Big mills and factories meant an end to social custom and community, to personal status and individual freedom. Having worked independently on their own farms, they would be forced to use complex and dangerous machines in noisy, smelly factories for long hours, seven days a week, for slave wages. Their harvest and agricultural rituals, practiced for centuries, would perish. Fathers could no longer be with their wives and children. This new kind of labor changed notions of time and introduced concepts like work schedules and hourly wages. It despoiled whole regions, including Sherwood Forest.

What's interesting is the different ways people responded to the cultural shifts taking place. I just finished reading Marx's General, a biography of Friedrich Engels who funded Karl Marx's writing and agitation career through revenues earned by running a mill much like the ones the Luddites assaulted. As an executive at the mill he saw up close and personal the impact of the Industrial Age lifestyle on common people. Dickens wrote about it in Hard Times.

What's apparent is that we've come a long way, baby.

Pynchon's article was written in the mid-eighties when personal computers were beginning to make an appearance. I don't know if he was one of these, but a lot of writers chafed at the notion of having to give up their clackety-click typewriters.

The common denominators: people fear change, resist change, and feel powerless to do anything about it. Except some did do something. They wrote about it, and through their writings some wrought changes themselves.

If you have something to say, say it. Seize the day!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Power of Music

In college, I was an avid reader of Herman Hesse novels. The romanticism and imagery struck chords within me, as did the somewhat lonely, alienated characters in many of his books.

The story is about a middle-aged loner named Harry Haller who is also a writer. My memory is sketchy on many of the story’s details now, but one scene is especially vivid. Haller, who is renting a room, has become the object of attention for the curious nephew of the landlady. One evening the youth follows Haller out to see where he goes on his evening walks. He follows Haller and ends up in a music hall which Haller enters and the boy as well.

The older man is a troubled soul carrying a weight on his shoulders, but in the music hall the music washes over him, lifting his spirit and bringing a radiance to his face as for a space in time he transcends his sorrows.

This image came to mind yesterday as I listened to Bill Withers’ Give Me The Beat Boys.


Day after day I'm more confused
But I look for the light through the pouring rain
You know that's a game that I hate to lose
Now I'm feeling the strain
Ain't it a shame?

Oh, give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll
And drift away
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll
And drift away

Beginning to think that I'm wasting time
I don't understand the things I do
The world outside looks so unkind
I'm counting on you
To carry me through

Oh, give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll
And drift away
Give me the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll
And drift away

Here's a journal note I scribbled in 1993: Music is one of the more fantastic gifts of God. It lifts the soul on wings to ethereal inner spaces. Nothing more effectively breaks life’s monotonous hold on us, transporting us to the portals of paradise. How do musicians and composers do it? From nothing & emptiness they bring forth combinations of sounds, melodies, themes, so pregnant with feeling it seems an inexplicable mystery. Rainbows of sound, trembling with life, causing our hearts to break open with rapture, or sweet sorrow. ~June 30, 1993

Music has special powers, and whatever form it takes it's comforting to be swept away in it. Here's a link to another article, the power of music to comfort and heal.

Have a great St. Patrick's Day all ye Irish.... and Unification Day if you be Italian. May your day be filled with song.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Release Your Inner Artist

On April 2nd the Duluth Art Institute is holding a fundraising event at the Radisson Downtown called "Goin' Mad at the Rad." The theme is a take off on the popular television show based on the 60's New York ad agency scene called Mad Men.

The DAI is seeking 5"x7" contributions from artists in any medium. Your art, or our art since I dropped off a couple pieces Monday, will be used in some manner at this event. Centerpieces? Giveaways? Mini art auction?

The art can be created on any surface, from masonite to canvas paper. Your medium can be acrylics, inks, colored pencils, or whatever your hearts desires. The only special instructions are that it must be signed on the back and delivered by this Friday, March 18.


You can drop off your art in person before 5:00 p.m. Friday at the Depot (4th floor DAI offices) or mail it to DAI, 506 West Michigan Street, Duluth, MN 55802.

If you have more questions, you can probably get them answered here.

Top Right: Three Stooges, archival ink on recycled paper

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ray Kurzweil Predicts The Future

He first came to national attention in 1965 when as a teen he was a guest on Steve Allen's I've Got a Secret. For most of those watching he was just as quickly forgotten, though the piano playing computer really was a remarkable achievement.

Over the last two decades I have heard his name in various contexts, occasionally as a tech investment. The name Kurzweil was always spoken with a measure of respect. Words like visionary and genius, and Time magazine has devoted at least two recent articles to presenting his ideas of what tomorrow may look like for the human race.

What's coming is a concept Kurzweil calls Singularity. It is the merging of human intelligence with computer intelligence. The result is something new, totally different than anything that ever existed before.

The case is made that computers will become exponentially smarter in the coming decades, and at that the rate of change will accelerate ever faster. At a certain point, and he predicts 2045, a singularity will occur in which "technological change becomes so rapid and so profound, it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history."

What this will look like is anyone's guess, but Vernon Vinge, in The Coming Technological Singularity, writes, "Within 30 years, we will have the means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended."

The Time piece tells readers a little bit about The Singularity University which Kurzweil co-founded. And there is also a Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence which holds an annual conference called the Singularity Summit, which attracts not only neuroscientists and molecular biologists, but a portion of the UFO fringe.

The most talked about topic of the 2010 conference was life extension, a central concept in the film Vanilla Sky. Is old age just an illness to be cured like other diseases?

Like many who predict the future, believers point to past successes to give additional weight to their ideas about tomorrow. For example, Kurzweil once predicted a computer would be able to beat a man in chess, which did occur in 1997. (Deep Blue defeated chess champ Gary Kasparov in six games.) But to suggest the future is all roses because of Singularity feels more wishful than I am prepared to believe.

Questions that come immediately to mind begin with these:
Will supersmart be super wise?
Will superintelligence also produce super kindness? Super generosity? Selflessness? Good government?
Is immortality really good in a broken world?

Here's a link to the full article. If you have a few minutes, it's an interesting read. Feel free to comment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Two Artists: Francis Alys and Pere Salinas

Today's ArtDaily enews included a story about Antwerp-born Belgian artist Francis Alys. A Wikipedia entry on Alys tells me he has lived in Mexico City since 1986 after studying in Tournai and Venice. His most famous work is titled When Faith Moves Mountains, which he produced in Peru with 500 volunteers.

What's interesting to me is that if you search Google Images you can pull up countless thumbnail images of Alys' art, or any artist you wish to get acquainted with for that matter. Don't know what Miro's work looks like? It's all there. Looking for ideas? Follow the hyperlinked cyber-yellow brick road.

The second artist I would introduce you to is Pere Salinas. Salinas, having found my January blog entries on Fernando Pessoa, sent me an email inviting me to visit two artist's books in tribute to the Portugese poet/philosopher. Upon visiting Salinas' website I his work inspiring and inspired.

In addition to paintings, collages and drawings Salinas, who hails from Barcelona, makes art books. Here's a link to some of the work on his website.

This is the original link he sent to me regarding his two books in response to Pessoa.

And if you have time, check out his YouTube video, titled Contra Pessoa. Against a backdrop of Spanish guitar, the art is simply delicious.

Or visit

Open your eyes.... and see more of your world.

If you have never been there, check out my own art blog, The Many Faces of Ennyman, at

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wishful Thinking

Saturday, March 12
Don't forget to turn your clocks forward tonight. Spring... forward.
This morning I woke with the song Saturday in the Park by Chicago. Saturday is good.

Though never taking a stab at stand-up comedy, my father-in-law does have a wry humor that tickles a funny bone now and then. On one occasion, many years ago, he asked if I might help him write up and submit a handful of humorous anecdotes to Reader's Digest. Here are two of them from his experiences at the local farmer's market.

Sweet Thoughts

One of the things we sell at our retail farmer's market is super sweet corn. Some years ago it had to be explained that even though it looked older and was a darker yellow in color that it was super sweet and didn't lose its sweetness as it got older.

On one occasion, I was talking up our corn to a middle aged lady, emphasizing that this corn was extra sweet and actually stayed that way when it was older. She replied ruefully, "Mister, are you talking about your corn or about me?"

Wishful Thinking

At our farmer's market people will crowd around the booth when there is a supply of good vegetables. While waiting on two people at once, to save time and simplify adding up what they were buying I asked the young man standing next to an attractive young lady if they were together. He said, "No, but I sure wish we were!"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Renaissance Art

This past week I was in a store that sells used computers and related paraphernalia. A couple of the walls were decorated with motherboards. I have frequently thought all these broken computers would make interesting wall art, so it was a nice surprise to see my idea fleshed out, so to speak.

The name of the store is Computer Renaissance, hence the title of this column, Renaissance Art.

By the way, isn't paraphernalia the weirdest word? Nowadays it most commonly refers to equipment or apparatus or junk associated with a certain activity, but the original meaning of the word, according to Webster, is, "the separate real or personal property of a married woman that she can dispose of by will and sometimes according to common law during her life." It's origin is a Greek word that means, "beyond the dowry."

The word renaissance is also interesting. The origin of the word is a combine of two words, "ri" which means "again" and "nascere" which is "to be born." So Renaissance means to be born again, and was probably coined in reference to the flowering of culture that was occurring at that time in the arts, philosophy and culture from the 14th to 17th centuries.

So in a sense, a broken circuit board that ends up as wall art might be said to truly have been "born again." Can this be what happens to a broken life as well when it is taken from the trash heap and turned into a work of art?

It's a thought. Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Midnight Train To Georgia

When I was a kid 45s were the thing. AM radio played your favorite songs and you went out and bought the records. Your turntable had multiple speeds so you could play everything from 33 rpm long play albums or old 78s. And most of us had that tower device that enabled you to stack a bunch of 45s and play them in succession without having to get up every three minutes and change the tune.

Eventually that all faded out and the industry went to selling albums alone, or cassettes and later compact discs. So if you really liked a certain song, you had to buy the whole album. That's how I came to own Gladys Knight and the Pips Greatest Hits. I really liked a couple songs and didn't know how to get the singles back in the early nineties. Yes, iTunes and digital downloads have changed that back to how it used to be, but for a spell we didn't have the options we have today.

Gladys Knight and the Pips came to national attention through the Motown record label but their biggest hits came after they signed with Buddah Records where Knight got more r-e-s-p-e-c-t from the the label and its producers. (In her autobiography she states that with Motown they were always treated like a second string team, getting the scraps while the best songs went to the Temptations, Diana Ross & the Supremes and Marvin Gaye.)

Midnight Train To Georgia is a wonderfully painful song. Written by Mississippi-born country songwriter Jim Weatherly, Midnight Train captures something big in a very small package. The opening line sets it up. Simple as it is, it says so much with near perfect understatement: "L.A. proved too much for the man."

The woman singing loves this man very much and went across the country with him, hoping to be alongside as he pursued and reached his dreams. But his dreams were large and instead of success he has failed. The reality of his experience is different from his expectations. It is a painful realization. And now, "he's leaving, on a midnight train to Georgia."

He's not a superstar or even a star. He found out the hard way that dreams don't always come true. There's no press agent setting up photo opps for this trip, and no media coverage when he arrives home. It's a bitter pill.

But there is a poignancy in the song. The woman singing it this song has not only shared his pain, but has been given an opportunity to show that she truly loves her man, for better or worse, richer or poorer. He failed, and one gets the impression she had other options open to her, but let them go for something more important to her, being there with him.

For some reason the song resonated with something somewhere inside me. Most of us at one time have known failure, had to step back and re-evaluate the meaning of our choices and our lives. The way Gladys and the Pips sing this one really nails it for me. If you get the chance, give it a listen.

Midnight Train To GeorgiaL.A. proved too much for the man
He couldn't make it, so he's leaving a life he's come to know
He said he's going back to find
What's left of his world
The world he left behind not so long ago

He's leaving
On that midnight train to Georgia
Said he's going back
To find a simpler place and time
I'll be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia
I'd rather live in his world,
Than live without him in mine

He kept dreaming
That some day he'd be a star
But he sure found out the hard way,
That dreams don't always come true
So he pawned all his hopes
And even sold his old car
For a one way ticket back to the life he once knew
Oh yes he did, he said he would

He's leaving
On that midnight train to Georgia
Yeah, said he's going back to find
A simpler place and time
I'm gonna be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia
I'd rather live in his world,
Than live without him in mine

He's leaving
On the midnight train to Georgia
Said he's going back to find
A simpler place and time
I've got to be with him
On that midnight train to Georgia
I'd rather live in his world,
Than live without him in mine

My love, gonna board the midnight train to Georgia

My world, his world, our world, mine and his alone

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Karin Kraemer Talks About Pottery and the Upcoming Empty Bowl Fundraiser

Karin Kraemer has been a fixture of the Twin Ports arts scene since I first arrived on these shores in 1986. A long time friend of the Duluth Arts Institute (DAI), she is also a lover of music and has played in a number of area jugbands along the way. She's an active player in the DAI's annual Empty Bowl fundraiser, helping to promote it and making bowls that others can paint, it seemed like a good time to feature Karin here because Empty Bowl is just around the corner.

Ennyman: When did you first take an interest in the arts?
Karin Kraemer: I've been making things since I was gluing things to my Mom's carpet in the living room. I started getting serious about it in college.

E: How did you get into pottery as your chosen field?
KK: Well, I was a glassblower for the first 10 years of working as an artist, and then switched to clay in West Virginia. I had worked in clay, and got to take it again at Pigeon Lake Art Camp. Doug Johnson and Kurt Wild taught us to make a kiln out of anything, and be experimental. When I moved to West Virginia and didn't have a glass studio to work in, I started pit firing clay in the back yard, and haven't stopped playing with it since.

E: What's the name of your studio and how long have you been in operation?
KK: My studio is the Duluth Pottery, Superior Division. I have been here for 10 years, and worked at the Duluth Art Institute for three years before that. What a great place to work. I taught classes, worked on clay, and got a leg up in the incubator of the clay studio.

E: You sell a fair amount of work which means you have a sense of what "the audience" wants. Do you see a significant difference between functional art (pottery for example) and "fine art"?
KK: They are both "art" and both "functional". A Bowl has the job of holding your food in a beautiful way, and allows you to interact with living, eating and sharing food with others in a beautiful way. A Painting allows you to interact in the world, and have a conversation about beauty, content, and our interpretations.

E: Where do you get your inspiration from?
KK: I love being outside, seeing the flowers, architecture, the garden growing, the lake.

E: Who have been your biggest influences?
KK: Many people. I love the painters of the beginning of the 20th century. Monet, Manet, Matisse. For Clay, I love the potters and sculptures that I see as devoting their lives to clay and art and the exploration of it all. Warren McKenzie is amazing. He made it possible for folks like me to have a life as a studio potter. Local heroes: Bob and Cheryl Husby, Dick Cooter, Jim Grittner.

E: Tell us about the Empty Bowl event...
KK: Empty Bowl, (like others around the country) is a collaborative event benefiting the Second Harvest Food Bank. Many bowls are made at the schools, the Duluth Art Institute, Lake Superior College, Duluth Pottery and through many individual donors. (Bowl makers.) I wanted to see the Superior side of the River get involved, since both Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota's food shelves are fed by Second Harvest. So, we make many bowls and invite folks to come in and paint them with colorful Majolica glazes to contribute to the fund raiser. Wednesdays, 12:00pm til early evening, come on in and decorate bowls! 715-399-0921

E: How did it start and who can participate?
KK: Empty Bowl was the Brainchild of Dave Lynas and Linda Hebenstreit at the Duluth Art Institute 18 years ago.

E: When is the actual day of the event and where?
KK: This year the Sea of Bowls (preview of the bowls when they are priced according to market value) is on April 25, 5-7pm. The main event is Tuesday the 26th, 10am - 6:30 pm. There is a silent auction of the areas most wonderful artists. All the rest of the bowls are $15 all day. Soup is on, and lots of entertainment.

Duluth Pottery, Superior Division is located at 916 Hammond in the Trade and Commerce Marketplace (the actual National register name of the historic bldg.)
You can see more of her pottery at

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