Tuesday, April 30, 2013

May 7 Will Be a Good Day to Visit the Tweed

This past December the Tweed Museum conducted a strategic planning session in order to help define its vision for the future. The Tweed is a home for this region's history, and a home within the UMD home. The word home means a place that hold things that are dear. Because of its location in the heart of the university, many people believe the Tweed is part of the school when in reality it is intended to be part of the community.

In his introductory remarks Bill Payne, Dean of Fine arts at UMD, noted how times have changed and because universities themselves serve many constituencies, there are many conversations that must take place when planning a new direction. The most important function of any university is to prepare its students for a future society requiring new kinds of tools.

“We want to confront the media that says degrees in the arts are a waste of time,” Payne said. His message is that “what we learn is transferable skills.” Even though only 40% of students with fine arts degrees make a living in art, most go on to utilize the skills they developed to enhance their value in companies they work for.

Something I learned that day is that UMD is a “land grant institution.” Payne explained, “What we create and learn should play a role in the enrichment of the state (of Minnesota) and the community.” As the Tweed Museum looks at its future, an integral feature of its mission is to ask itself what it’s value is to both the school and the community.

This is intriguing to me because we often envision academic institutions as ivory towers isolated from the community, devoted to a student experience but not integrally connected to the world at its borders.

It’s against this backdrop that I encourage you to visit the Tweed Museum sometime and explore its treasures. The museum, like museums everywhere, is a great repository of stories.

I already mentioned the Student Art & Design Show as being very much worth seeing and you can still catch it May 7 during our North X North Visual Arts Week. The agenda that day begins at 4:00 p.m. with music and vocals by soprano Lauren Severson and pianist Tyler Pimm. Beginning at 4:30 there will be an hour devoted to pottery wheel throwing demonstrations with Samantha Anderson. This will be followed by more music, a duet from The World of the Moon by Franz Joseph Haydn with Mathew Verbout (tenor) and Sarah Mehle (soprano), and Jacqueline Holstrom at the piano. Brian Barber will give an animation talk with visuals from 5:30 to 6:30 to be followed by more music and vocals featuring baritone Alex Federer and mezzo soprano Lisa Holman. This is all against a backdrop of fabulous art.

As if this were not enough, throughout the event there will be an art market with Ashley Leek (ceramics) and Jes Durfy (glass artist), plus some absolutely dreamy chocolate tasting with Heidi Ash from 185Chocolat, LLC.

I think you need to just let yourself go.

For what it's worth, the museum is located in Ordean Court on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth. Admission is free year-round. Museum Hours: Tues 9 am - 8pm, Wed - Fri 9 am -4:30 pm, Sat & Sun 1-5 p.m.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Steampunk Artist Eric Horn, Revisited

May 16 & 17 the Duluth Art Institute is celebrating the Second Annual Steampunk Spectacular featuring art, fashion, live entertainment and more for Midwest enthusiasts of the Steampunk genre and the creative people who make it happen. I first met Eric Horn at the world premiere of his graphic novel Chronicle (Part I) at a Friends of Industry event in the summer of 2011. Think Jules Verne. Think futuristic contraptions that might have been conceived 120 years ago. Think of a world where flight and travel and life is all steam-powered and imagination-driven. Eric Horn is a talented artist and illustrator who helps bring this world to life.

EN: What is it that gets you so jazzed about the upcoming Steampunk Spectacular?
Eric Horn: I'm excited for a few reasons. First, last year we only had a month to plan for the event and it turned out to be amazing. The second reason is that because we had more time to plan it is bigger, with more to do and see. For years now I’ve been wanting to have a Steampunk convention here in the Twin Ports. It would be fantastic seeing steampunks from all over swarming the streets of Duluth and Superior. We have so much to offer here that fits nicely into the genre and tends to be the type of things those who are Steampunk enthusiasts like to attend such as the Depot, William A Irving, Glensheen Mansion, and other such attractions. This is an opportunity that if done right will greatly benefit the community as a whole. It also gives people a chance to get dressed up and have some fun.

EN: How did you first take an interest in the Steampunk genre?
EH: I was originally introduced to it by a good friend, Erin Gunderson, who designed her own jewelry. She would make cool necklaces with nuts and bolts and gears. I was in my early twenties, around 2000. She’s now in Portland.

EN: Where did “Friends of Industry” come from?
EH: My involvement with Friends of Industry started with Gustave (Campanini) doing a piece for the Artist Kamikaze. He needed detail work done on this piece because he doesn’t do small detail well. I went to his studio and we came up with the idea of creating this show featuring my graphic novel. It was produced like a world premiere with live music and many of the guests wearing their Steampunk designs. Gustave wanted the show to be something with the word Friends in it. Eventually the space became an artist retreat and clubhouse after this show.

EN: What was the inspiration for your graphic Steampunk novel Chronicle?
EH: I’d been wanting to do a comic book for years. Every story line I came up I’d re-write and not like it. As I looked into Steampunk online I said, “Hey, it makes sense if I put my story in the steampunk world, a lot easier to do …. I kept trying to write a story for the modern day, but it wouldn’t work with the elements I wanted to have. But when I put it in Steampunk it could go anywhere. I started working on Chronicle about three years ago. I’d met Richard Rosvall at the Roller Derby and at Carmody’s but never really talked to him. Then I saw some of his work on Facebook and I sought him out to use some of his stuff in the comic.

EN: Can you explain the process?
EH: It begins with imagination. Then we create costumes and scenes and take photos which I then hand-draw based on images I’ve Photoshopped.

EN: How much time do you spend on your drawings? 
EH: Well, that all depends on the piece. Some of my pen and ink drawings have taken me months to do, putting in a couple of hours a day on them. Some I have cranked out in under two hours. As for my self-titled Over Art style (Over Art is when I take a photograph and then ink over it to give it an animated feel and look) I can do a piece in usually a day or three. The longest I have worked on something is years. I have one piece that I still have not finished because of the amount of ink involved, and I also lose focus on finishing it and put it away to work on something else.

EN: Where can people see some of your work? 
EH: People can find my work on my Facebook page. They can also follow the work I do in the studio and other group projects on our "Friends of Industry" Facebook page. I have also been doing Instagram for some time now which is a neat way to expose works to a large audience with ease. We’re currently trying to develop a website, but so far life gets in the way. I have works hanging up at Goin’ Postal in Superior including some new pieces which will be in our May 10 show during visual arts week.

EN: I'll be there. Thanks.

Top right: Photo by Andrew Perfetti

Sunday, April 28, 2013

2013 Student Art and Design Show at Tweed Impresses Once Again

It's a ritual of nearly every art school across the country, the ultimate showcase of student art. The Tweed Museum buzzed with energy last night for the opening of the 2013 Art & Design Student Show, a very public opportunity to see the fruit of the University of MN-Duluth arts programs. It's interesting to see what's trending as well as to get a glimpse of the caliber of our current crop of young art students.

I'd visited the Tweed a week earlier in order to see the exhibition at a more leisurely pace. Last night parents and friends were snapping photos of the young artists in front of the work. I enjoyed watching interactions with one another and with the art in this crammed student show portion of the museum.

The jurors of this year's UMD Student Show were Anne Dugan, curator at the Duluth Art Institute, and former student Jenna Akre, now an art director/designer in Minneapolis. Of the show Dugan stated, "The energy and passion in the next generation of artists was truly evident in the more than 400 images submitted to this show." 

It brought back memories for me of our student show my last year at Ohio University. It, too, was a fairly large exhibition. I especially remember about a half dozen of the student artists whom I privately believed were "going places" with their careers. I'm embarrassed to say I felt a little competitve about it all. My ultimate contribution was hardly my best work, but it was certainly "contemporary."

I actually remember nothing else displayed there other than the winning piece by Nick Kuvach, a friend from Long Island whom I recall more for his jazz connections and love of classical music than as an artist. He submitted a large minimalist, sculpted sandwork that captured the wave of where the early 70's art scene had been heading.

After college my classmates dispersed in all directions like dandelion seeds carried adrift in the wind. I'm sure some, like myself, benefited greatly from our fine arts training even if we pursued other life directions. Some, however, did continue building on those foundations laid at O.U. Steve Derrickson went on to obtain his MFA and taught for seven years at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and then made a push into the New York scene.

A second classmate in the arts program for whom I'd had much respect was Kim Abeles. After O.U. she went on to pick up her MFA at the University of California, Irvine. In the late 90's I had the good fortune of being able to visit her L.A. home and studio where I saw some of her amazing "smog art" that brought her national and international attention. Among other things she had produced a series of Presidential Commemorative Plates with portraits of the presidents, each one etched by L.A. smog, each containing a corresponding statement or proclamation regarding their commitments to clean air or a clean environment.

Her dining room table was itself a work of art, constructed of two panes of plate glass with place settings (plate, knife, fork, spoon, etc. ) beautifully etched at each spot. When I spoke with her I learned that some of these smog-etched works were created in a week. Her commitment to environmental activism and women's issues continues to this day.

Another thing juror Anne Dugan said that struck me. She chose are that delighted her, surprised her and made her think. "I choose work that asked questions rather than giving me answers. I choose work that took me somewhere new. Thanks for the trip."

Life is a journey. For these art students we can't know today where those journeys will lead, but it's almost a certainty many of these young people will make a difference in the future, and all have the power to do so. The choices will be theirs alone.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mad Men: More Than Meets the Eye

When Pop Art swept through the art scene in the Sixties, I didn't get it. A lot of other people didn't get it. In retrospect, Andy Warhol understood the world he lived in far better than most of us who were simply immersed in it, or viscerally reacting against it.

Warhol once pointed out, "It's the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented. They show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it."

In the preface of her book Mad Men on the Couch, Dr. Stephanie Newman writes, "What Warhol meant was that movies not only reflect major social trends and changes; they also shape cultural norms and expectations. Movie and television stars become the avatars of fashion and style, the messengers of ethics and morality.

"And TVs powerful effect continues today."

When Mad Men popped onto the cultural landscape a few years back I was not a television watcher, though occasionally I've dabbled here and there for the purpose of keeping my finger on the pulse of what people were being moved by. The notion of obtaining box sets of complete seasons of your favorite shows was a foreign concept when we were kids. Today, you can obtain collections of every episode of Perry Mason or Lost. And for the record, I have seen all the Perry Mason shows again, and lost myself in the first five seasons of Mad Men.

Mad Men was a special challenge because I practically hated a couple of the characters and didn't want to be around them when they showed up in a scene. At the bidding of a friend I persisted because he said so-and-so isn't such a jerk after the first season, etc.

Being an ad man, what fascinated me about the show was its realistic portrayal of the problem solving aspect of the advertising game and how the agencies provide real services to oftentimes clueless clients. The show's widespread popularity is driven by the manner in which it re-creates the Sixties, mirroring the values, styles and events of that time. The screenwriting is superb.

Newman's book takes each of the characters from the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and has them lie on the couch to be analyzed. We see what's beneath the surface in Don Draper the Mad Ave Marlboro Man, Betty Draper the Original Desperate Housewife, Peggy the Career Woman, Pete the Bulldog, Roger the Blue Blood, and Joan the Competent Sexpot. The book deals with the narcissism, racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and every other kind of ism... as does the show, actually.

Just for the fun of it, here's a brief peek at what the real Mad Men of the Sixties were producing for their clients.

Mad Men on the Couch by Dr. Stephanie Newman was published by Thomas Dunne Books, A Division of St. Martin's Press.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bogus Tweet Reminds Us To Be Skeptical


This past week a bogus tweet reminded us again  of the old adage, "Don't believe everything you see." In an already tense week of terror news the AP Twitter account was hacked and someone tweeted that there had been explosions in the White House and President Obama was injured. The stock market immediately responded. It went down. A few seconds later the Associated Press tweeted that it was bogus. Their account had been hacked.

What's interesting in this Ad Age story is that people took action on what they saw and read. The market sank 1% in seconds. If what we believe impacts how people behave, we need to take extra care with regard to the ideas we embrace and our sources of information.

Nine years ago the subject of man's walk on the moon came up in our department at work. To my great surprise our web assistant at that time stated that he did not believe Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, that it was a hoax. I was somewhat chagrined. I've always known there were people who thought that way, but to meet one in person was a surprise. For me it's like stating that there is no such place as England or that Northern Lights are a hoax. These are simply facts.

But what happens when an apparently credible source makes a statement as fact that isn't a fact?

One survey in the early 1980's found that nearly 90% of all Americans believed that the government's account on the Kennedy Assassination, which determined that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, was false. Though distrust of our government did not begin with the Warren Commission, this was a fairly good indicator of the times. What's disturbing is not just what people won't believe, it is amazing the things people do believe. Some people who do not believe the "lone gunman" theory are ready to believe that not only were there more gunmen, but also that the CIA, FBI, mafia and half the State of Texas including Vice President Johnson were involved.


How strange our world is today. Modern people have been trained to question everything, yet they believe the most foolish things. Yes, I can understand why someone might not believe the moon walk. We live in an age of falsification. Images, stories, urban legends, and cleverly devised myths abound, along with photos that have been doctored, stories that have no basis in fact. It is an era of deliberate obfuscation, an age of spin, of falsifying perceptions.

"Don't believe everything you see," is advice given wisely, but at the same time it can also unsettle us. Uncertainty makes us anxious. We like things to be firm, solid.

Uncertainty undermines confidence and leaves us feeling confused. When there are things at stake, we want to know what is true. But sometimes we simply can't know. We hear both sides of an issue and we don't know whom to trust.

This is even more the case in our internet age. Sometimes it's good to doubt. Then again, sometimes decisions need to be made and we have to make choices.

In the meantime... life goes on all around you. Enjoy the weekend, wherever you are. Be refreshed, and thrive!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

First Signs of Spring: Homegrown and NXN

Killer Dunkshot, student art show at the Tweed Museum, UMD.
Mayor Ness @ Z-geist Atrium
The relationship between media and events is longstanding. What would sportswriters write about if there were no sporting events? What would newscasters talk about if there were no news events? So it is that our 15th annual Homegrown Music Fest is here, and our local Duluth News Tribune is rolling up its proverbial sleeves because this is something to talk about.

Today's Trib has several stories in the Wave alone, and promises coverage throughout the 8-day week that begins with the Mayor's Proclamation at 7 p.m. Sunday at Tycoons. On Tuesday the the 23rd Mayor Ness, on behalf of both Duluth and Superior, demonstrated his bear hug embrace for all things art with the official proclamation of the first annual North X North Music & Arts Experience (NXN). Homegrown will flow through to the beginning of Visual Arts Week which then morphs into a week of ballet, theater, and performance art, carrying us on through a week of Dylan Fest, then conveying us to downtown theaters where we can take our seats in front of large screens for the May-end DuSu Film Festival.

It all begins with Homegrown. 180 bands in venues everywhere, along with the Homegrown Music Video Festival, Homegrown Photo Show and the Homegrown Poetry Showcase. There will be events at all hours and many unannounced pop-up events that you'll only learn about through Twitter and other social media. I've already been invited to so many things that I can't see straight.

On Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4, there will be a trolley shuttle to help carry you up and down Superior Street, suitably named A Streetcar to Desire. For the most complete schedule and updates you should bookmark duluthhomegrown.com.

FWIW you will need tickets to get into events, instructions at the website. $25 will get you the full 8-day pass that includes Trampled By Turtles on Tuesday at the Clyde. I was at Beaners the other day and Jason Wusson there said he was excited to be on of the opening acts for that big night of music. 

Jack Frost is reluctantly relinquishing his influence on our lives this weekend, so we can all start singing again here in the North Country. No, actually that isn't right. Music is what gets us through the winter. We never stop singing, do we?

Enjoy the shows!

The arts community appreciates the support shown by local officials.
Handbills and posters for upcoming events were shared Tuesday evening.
Big thanks to Twin Ports Arts Align for their hard work behind the scenes.
These kinds of cultural experiences are a true gift to the community.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Yesterday I read an article about an art opening titled The Art of Friendship, which features the collaborations between two of Argentina's most significant cultural icons of the last century, artist Xul Solar and literary giant Jorge Luis Borges. The article got me to thinking about some of the collaborations I've been involved with or observed recently.

Most businesses are essentially a collaboration in which people band together around common aims, to produce a car that drives itself or a better way to market a solution to the problem of (fill in the blank.) In the music scene we see collaborations from duos and trios to big bands and orchestras. And next week, April 28 thru May 5, Duluth and Superior are bringing the Twin Ports its 15th Annual Homegrown Festival. Make sure you pick up the printed guide to our annual Northland Festival and see how much is going on this year. The 82-page mag not only gives you in the inside scoop on all the groups performing this year, it also provides a five page history of the event from its incubation to the phenomenon it is today. (Can't find one, Jimmy? You can get the abbreviated, and somewhat less colorful, version on Wikipedia.)

Another local collaboration that has emerged here in the North Country is the development of the Twin Ports Arts Align, a loose network of artists from all disciplines that is serving as a catalyst to stimulate a vibrant, sustainable arts culture in the Twin Ports. One of the products of this synergy has been the development, with strong support from mayors, local businesses and many others, of North X North, a music and arts experience. Tonight is their kickoff bash at the Zeitgeist.

If you're curious about what the month of May holds in store here, stop in and learn more. Celebrate with us. It began as an idea. There were hurdles. It is now happening. And in fifteen years I look forward to writing about its history and significance.

You're invited. 5:30 p.m. The Launch Party and Opening Reception at the Zeitgeist Atrium, Downtown Duluth. See you there.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Eric Himy's Homage to Liszt

“Art is Heaven on earth, to which one never appeals in vain when faced with the oppressions of this world.” ~ Franz Liszt

I like surprises. Two weeks ago I discovered the Oldenburg House Bed & Breakfast. Located on the outskirts of Carlton it was the birthplace of Jay Cooke State Park. The Oldenburg House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, bordering not only the park but also the Willard Munger State Trail, the National Kayak and Canoe Center and Thompson Reservoir.

In addition to being tangent to a corner of North Country paradise, the Oldenburg House is also host to music and arts events, one of which is taking place May 9 when the world-renowned pianist Eric Himy performs here. Himy, who’s training from his youth is an amazing story in-and-of itself, has been compared to pianists as distinguished as Vladimer Horowitz. The “short list” of nations where he has played to critical acclaim include Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, and Slovenia… and, of course, the United States where he was born to immigrant parents in New York.

I’ll share a little more about Mr. Himy another time, but wanted to make sure you had a chance to put May 9 on your calendar because there are so many things happening in May with the inaugural North X North music and arts experience.

I took lessons in classical piano when I was a boy, falling in love with the staggering beauty of Chopin (whom I am listening to as I write this) and Beethoven and Tschaikovski at that time. Any comparison, however, between Mr. Himy and myself stops there. In additino to having the wonderful privilege of being able to obtain rich musical experiences and training at an early age, Himy followed it through to some great experiences on both coasts and all the way to Juilliard. Among his earliest teachers was a 90-year old Madame Rosa who claimed to be a student of the man who is clearly his hero, Franz Liszt.

This past week I asked Mr. Himy a few questions, one of which was to make a comment on each of several classic masters and what distinguishes them. Here were his replies.

Chopin: His soul, poet of the piano.
Beethoven: His defiance and will, triumph of the human spirit.
Gershwin: Cool independent unique genius, American par excellence.
Ravel: Craftsman, sensational piano writing and colors.
Tschaikovski: All heart and passion.
Rachmaninov: In the lineage of Liszt, pianist composer, thus knows how to write for piano, harmonies that overripe and wrenching.
Liszt: The MASTER pianist…. the ROMANTIC, the DEVIL, the VIRTUSOSO…. has it all.
Mozart: Music to get purged with after, such simplicity, honesty and purity.

In addition to being an amazing pianist he’s also an insightful writer. The liner notes to his Homage To Liszt CD make for an excellent reading experience even if you are not a lover of classical music. The essay begins with a gripping opening.

“To speak of Liszt is to speak of an immense force of nature. His music has been described as powerful, radical, enigmatic and spellbinding. With his music Liszt seems to have captured the very spirit, heart, soul and genuineness of humanity.”

For an even more satisfying experience I encourage you to set aside May 9 for this memorable evening of music. The program will be hosted by Keith Swanson, conductor of the Itasca Symphony Orchestra with cellist Jeffrey Erband opening. Purchase your tickets online at  oacc.oldenburghouse.com

Photo courtesy Eric Himy 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

See it. Say it. Stop it.

Over the past ten years I've had the privilege of being involved, to varying degrees, with a high school program called DECA in which kids learn through experience the various aspects of marketing, from market research to fund raising and PR. Projects involve collaboration, extensive research, writing and the honing of presentation skills.

The teacher who recruited me to assist his Proctor DECA students in 2002 was Jay Belcastro. The things I saw him achieve with these kids each year was nothing short of amazing to me. The long hours and personal sacrifices they made was impressive. Likewise, the kinds of projects the kids embraced were important. It wasn't make-work. They were learning valuable lessons for life.

Jay moved on to the Two Harbors school district last year, but his passion for the DECA program hasn't dissipated. This week he asked if i would read on of the projects and make comments or suggestions. The students, in an effort to tackle the problem of bullying, created a PR campaign called "See it. Say it. Stop it." I asked permission to share a portion of it here on my blog.

Here's a statement that made me sit up: "On any given day 160,000 students stay home from school because they are afraid of being bullied. That is twice the population of the city of Duluth, Minnesota. Bullying is one of the biggest issues in our nation’s schools today."

The Two Harbors DECA kids were aware of the problem but were not aware of how extensive it was. In order to address bullying they also had to learn about and understand its various forms.

"After researching the topic and talking with those with personal stories to share, we discovered that bullying happens in a variety of ways; but, those who target others do so in such places as locker bays, locker rooms, on the bus, and online where adults cannot witness these activities.

"Being bullied has a negative effect on students’ lives. Bullying can lead to students failing classes, dropping out of school, hurting themselves, committing suicide, or committing violent acts against others. In 1990, 12 of the 15 school shootings occurred by someone who had a history of being bullied."

Here are some other thought-provoking stats these youth noted in their presentation.

"One of four students in the United States reported being bullied on a regular basis. Seventy-seven percent of bullying is done verbally. Eighty-five percent of the time bullying occurs without any intervention from teachers or administrators. Suicide is the 3rd largest cause of death for teenagers and victims of bullying are 9 times more likely to consider it."

Bullying takes many forms including name calling, taunting, swearing, spreading rumors, gossip, note writing, whisper campaigns, laughing at someone's mistakes, making up stories to get someone in trouble, insulting nicknames, hate speech, mocking or imitating, sexual bullying, threats, and prank phone calls are all issues students deal with each and every day in each and every school across the country.

Children at risk of being bullied:
• Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider "cool"
• Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
• Are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem
• Are less popular than others and have few friends
• Do not get along well with others, are seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention

The solution these DECA youth proposed was not only to educate the community about the harmful effects of bullying, but to also have young people themselves speak up when they see it. Because most bullying happens where teachers and adults are not, the young people need to say, "Hey, that's not cool. That's not right."

There were other recommendations as well, beginning with increased awareness of the problem, which is the reason I am sharing this here. Our schools need to be safe. Kudos to the Two Harbors High School DECA team for their efforts here in Northern Minnesota.

The source for some of the stats cited in this article can be found at bullyingstats.org

Saturday, April 20, 2013

If You Happen to Be in Savannah Next Weekend: Sidewalk Art and Another Lure

One of the great features of a trip to Europe is its history. Especially noteworthy is its art history, from its centuries-old architectural wonders to the manifold statues and frescoes preserved for present-day appreciation.

When I was a young art student I went through a phase where each painting I worked on had to be the most significant statement, story or object I'd ever made, as if it were going to be my last. The idea behind this was the belief in the importance of permanence so that if the painting was going to be around for a long time it should be worthy of this, like the Sistine Chapel, for example.

The natural bi-product of such a philosophy is that it became a rather weighty proposition. Instead of just painting for the sheer enjoyment of expression or discovery, one is bound by a conviction that stifles rather than invigorates.

How liberating it is, then, to discard these shackles and go back to just having fun and sharing what you make, no matter how impermanent. Last summer I did about a hundred such paintings on 22"x 34" sheets of paper that will almost assuredly not last a decade. Half ended up in the trash, but there were quite a few pieces that were quite striking and I even sold a few.

Well, guess what? When it comes to impermanent art there's nothing quite like the Savannah College of Art and Design's Sidewalk Arts Festival. Next Saturday, April 27, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. SCAD Students will once again be filling Forsyth Park with chalk paintings, a tradition almost as old as the school itself. Admission is free and taking photos is invited.

This Restaurant Has Artists, Too

It's ironic that when my son was looking at colleges, one of the schools we considered was the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Micah was into claymation (clay-animation) at the time. Instead the career he pursued is another form of 3-D art. He's a culinary artist. That is, art you can eat... and even more impermanent than chalk on a sidewalk. As it turns out he ended up in Savannah by an alternate route, the restaurant trade.

So, if you make it to the SCAD Sidewalk Art Festival and need a place to eat afterward, I recommend a.Lure, a four-star gem of a restaurant in the City Market district. Here are a few online reviews about a.Lure that capture the spirit of the place.

(1) This restaurant does everything well. The service was friendly and professional (thanks Emily!). The decor is attractive. And, most importantly, the food is very good! I had the shrimp and grits and my wife had the seafood ravioli. Both were excellent. The wine selection is good and covers a range of prices. We would definitely return.

(2) Excellent food, diverse menu. Felt the food/experience matched the price range. Was a "splurge" for us. We usually are a little more of "budget travelers". Server was extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and professional. 

(3) Crab cake appetizer was excellent. Low country boil and carrots and peas (scallops) dish were both tasty. Wait staff is very good, ambiance is very pleasant, with paintings and a variety of tables. Goat cheese souffle was incredible, with a variety of flavors all of which complemented each other. Wine is indeed on the expensive side, but worth it for... 

Here's my take on a.Lure after stopping there in March to see my son the sous chef. Everyone was friendly, the atmosphere suitably upscale and the menu utterly inventive. The wine list was very select, and though pricy the connoisseur does have real opportunities here. And if you just want appetizers at the bar, the barmaid was nice, too, warm and attentive without being too aggressive.

While I was there I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Berman, the owner, who stopped in briefly while we were whetting our appetite. Here are a few insights about the restaurant and the restaurant trade I gleaned from him.

EN: Savannah has a fairly extensive number of restaurants. How does a.Lure set itself apart?

Dan Berman: a.Lure is unique in its quality of local ingredients, prepared and served with an inventive, sometimes whimsical approach. We are also the only contemporary LowCountry restaurant in Savannah specializing in local seafood.

EN: How do restaurants get ranked? Is there some kind of "authority"?

DB: Unfortunately, there are only a handful of credible, non-biased food based rankings. Most of them are national, i.e. Zagat. Since so many food blogs and rankings websites are out now, I believe asking a local is the way to go!

EN: How do restaurants devise their menus? Yours has some quite alluring dishes.

DB: We wanted to present traditional LowCountry cuisine that emphasized quality of local ingredients as well as a creative new approach to their interpretations. So much of Savannah's restaurant scene serves Southern food, which as you know, covers a large swath of the U.S. Our cuisine is more appropriate to the lowcountry area.

EdNote: Savannah is one of those places what a lot of history of its own. So if you're serious about making a few memories while you're here, and want a restaurant to match the rest of your Savannah experience, this is the place.

P.S. The scallops are to die for. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Exxon Passes Apple Once Again

While the nation’s eyes were on Boston this week, Exxon Mobil once again passed Apple to become the world’s most valuable company. Evidently this horse race has had several lead changes over the past few months. What’s interesting to me in this news story is that it used to be auto manufacturers at or near the top of this heap. A quick glance at the top companies by market value shows immediately the automakers have lost their luster. Exxon Mobil is an energy company, Apple a tech firm. Number three Berkshire Hathaway is an investment company. Google, number four, is another tech firm. Number five is Wal-Mart, a company that makes nothing but excels in generating service sector jobs.

There was a time when six of the top ten companies were auto makers and oil companies. Alas, the past is gone.

If we look to revenue as the ultimate measure, instead of market cap, General Motors does capture the number five slot after ConocoPhillips (oil), Chevron (oil), Wal-Mart (retail) and Exxon (oil). In terms of most admired companies the top five list spins in yet another direction:

1 Apple
2 Google
3 Amazon.com
4 Coca-Cola

No automakers. No oil companies.

What does it tell us?

The Chevrolet slogan "Heartbeat of America" had many layers of meaning. Manufacturing made the economy go 'round in this country, and Chevrolet was at the heart of it.

Times have changed.

Free Friday Book of the Week: Unremembered Histories

It seems like every time I turn the page I'm reading articles about the demise of print media. Even though I'm an ePublisher with four eBooks under my belt, I refuse to believe all the hype about eBooks.

Personally, I still love my Kindle as much today as when I got it two years ago. However, I also love the wall of books in my office. I like the way they look, I like the way they feel and I even like the way they smell.

Nevertheless, when I travel it's always with my Kindle. What a great concept. That's why as of last summer eBooks surpassed printed paper in U.S. book sales. In Britain, 1 in 4 books being read today is digital.*

You don't need a Kindle or Nook to read eBooks. All it takes these days is an app. Even if you don't have a Kindle or other digital reading device, you can still read this week's Free Friday Book of the Week on your iPad or tablet or most laptops and computers when you download the app. Anyone with an iPad, or a tablet of any kind, or most computers can download and read eBooks.

Today, April 19, N&L Publishing is making Unremembered Histories available for free download.

The supernatural or paranormal is one of the common denominators in these stories. An experienced reader might recognize the fingerprints of Jorge Luis Borges on a few of these pieces. An Unremembered History of the World is one of my personal favorites, as is the short lead-off story Two Acts That Changed the World. I had a lot of fun writing Duel of the Poets, and was gratified when in the 1990's I was contacted by a Croatian poetry website that asked permission to make it a centerpiece there. The story more recently appeared in print last year in PROOF Magazine.

Of this collection of six stories an Amazon.com reviewer wrote, "If you value the short-story form, written in a way that entertains, informs, and prompts you to think, then there's a lot to appreciate in this little gem." If you forget to download the book on Friday the 19ths, you can still purchase a Kindle version for $1.99 any other day of the week by clicking on the book cover on the right side of this page.

The photo on the cover of this book is really cool to me. I took the picture with my film camera and later when I processed it I had forgotten what it was I'd taken a photo of. The abstract design reminded me of a man on a raft on a river with ice flowing all around him. As I enlarged the portion with the man I realized suddenly what it was, a large moth that had alighted on the door of my garage. It seemed to work for me as a book cover here, and like the subject matter, appearances can be deceiving.

I personally enjoy stories with that kind of "Aha!" feature. I'm hopeful that some of these will do just that for you. 

Today only: download Unremembered Histories here.

CORRECTION: Unfortunately our Free Friday giveaway offer has run afoul of a technicality in the fine print of our agreement with Amazon.com. Hopefully this will be corrected by next Friday, but in the meantime, IF YOU EMAIL ME (ennyman at northlc dot com) I will send a a copy of the manuscript by email. OR, if you purchase the book from Amazon.com today, I will send you an Official Red Scorpion Bookmark, which is a dollar bill with a Red Scorpion stamped on it. Value: one dollar.


*wallstreetdaily.com, The Death of Print Media Continues, April 17, 2013.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

23rd Annual Gallery Hop, Riversmith and More

A new sculpture by Eric Dubnicka
Let's pretend that it didn't snow last night and that it's not going to snow some more today because tonight I'd like to be able to attend Adu Gindy and Eric Dubnicka's art opening, Dancing in the End Zone. The exhibit will be at Lizzard's Art Gallery & Framing on Superior Street here in Duluth. In the event that you can't make it to the opening, you'll be able to see the work Saturday if you jump aboard the 23rd annual Earth Day Gallery Hop.

The gallery hop has a bit of everything for everyone, including a shuttle so you don't have to think about parking in the various locations. Eleven galleries are involved from one end of town to the other, or rather, from the Duluth Art Institute to the Tweed up at UMD and all points in between. You can catch the full list
in today's Wave (DNT).

Saturday evening there's one more opening to catch, this one at Adeline's Hair Salon, 1132 E 9th St, Duluth, MN 55805.  Adeline herself is an artist and I was able to catch her first event when the salon had its opening there on the East Hillside. This Saturday evening Bridget Riversmith will be showing some of her new work. Riversmith's piece at last year's Steampunk Gala struck me as nothing short of incredible. So naturally, I will do my utmost to make it to Adeline's. The opening is from 7-9 p.m.  You can catch more of her art and creative spirit at RedRabbitRiversmith.com.

And finally, next Tuesday is the launch party and reception for the North x North Music and Arts Experience. NxN is the newly minted name for May arts month here in the Twin Ports. There is so much happening in May that it might do you well to show up even if it's only to grab a schedule of upcoming events. The party and reception will begin at 5:30 in the Zeitgeist Atrium.

Meantime, don't miss the train. It's going to be a very special ride.

Dancing in the End Zone, tonight at Lizzard's.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hello, Russia, I'd Like To Get To Know You

This is a brief note to all my blog readers in the former Soviet Union. According to my stats I have had a growing number of readers from your part of the world. Any chance we can start a conversation? Tell me why you have been reading my blog. It's quite amazing how our life experiences can vary so much yet our arms reach around the globe to find common ground.

Thank you for your manifold visits. May I learn more about you? Send your thoughts to ennyman at northlc.com.... I'd like to get to know you.

Apocalypse When? A Brief History of the End of the World

While cleaning my office this past week I came across a piece of paper with a list of Bible passages that demonstrated when the end of the world would be. The calculations concluded that the meaning of all these texts added up to the Lord’s return in either 1984 or 2004, depending on how you calculate the years of Israel’s exile from their homeland.

It got me thinking about all the other predictions of apocalypse I’ve heard over the years.

I remember when David Berg, a.k.a. Moses David, predicted that the possible end of the world would when the the Comet Kahoutek was coming in 1974. I was at Ohio University at the time and a bus with a lot of young people arrived in Athens to recruit students to join them. They were called The Children of God, and I well recall the tract they handed out, which was an elaborate explanation of the lyrics for American Pie. I know at least one art student who left school and ended up in a barbed-wire enclosed Texas compound.
In 1975, while auditing a class on the Book of Revelations by Dr. Bruce Metzger at Princeton Seminary, I learned that end times predictions have been a recurring theme throughout church history. Pope Sylvester II predicted the Lord would return in the year 1000. Christians were so fearful of the end being at hand that on the last day of the year they lay on the faces in the churches till the stroke midnight on the last day of the year. Many pilgrims headed East to Jerusalem for the occasion. When the end didn't come, they probably celebrated or reflected, relieved. But then someone got the notion that the 1,000 years of the church must not have begun at Christ's birth, but rather His death. so 1033 was the new prediction for earth's end.

Christians aren't the only once making predictions. The Mayan calendar got it's fair share of publicity last year. In the late '90's the group Heaven's Gate also made a bit of news for themselves with their 39 suicides and castration ritual.

Here are some of the other dates that have been predicted to be the end.**

1186  John of Toledo predicts the world will end in 1186 based on the alignment of the planets.

1284  Pope Innocent III (d. 1216) predicted that the world would end 666 years after the rise of Islam

1356-61  During the Black Plague many Europeans believed it to be a sign of the end times.

Feb 1, 1524  A group of astrologers in London predicted the world would end by a flood starting in London based on calculations made the previous June. 20,000 Londoners left their homes and headed for higher ground in anticipation.

1533  Melchior Hoffman, an Anabaptist prophet, predicted Christ's Second Coming would take place this year in Strasbourg. He claimed that 144,000 people would be saved, while the rest of the world would be consumed by fire.

Other dates in the 1500s which were predicted as the end included, 1504, Feb. 24, 1524, May 2, 1528, Oct. 19, 1533, April 15, 1534, 1555, 1585 and 1588. Then came the 1600s in which the world was predicted to end in 1600, 1624 (by the same London astrologers who goofed in predicting 1524), 1648, 1654, 1656 (by Christopher Columbus in 1501), 1857, 1658, 1660, 1673, 1688, 1689 and 1697 by Cotton Mather.

In the 1700s we saw still more predictions of the end followed by countless more predictions and prophecies in the 1800s right up to our very own time so that almost anyone who is anyone has made declarations, from Martin Luther, Sir Isaac Newton and John Wesley to Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Falwell.

As I deliberated on these things, I had a few thoughts on how to respond to these kinds of predictions, especially the very specific ones.

1. Sincerity is not truth.
Just because someone is earnest does not mean they are correct or to be followed. Many a cult leader has been earnest in the extreme, but sincerity can never be the measure of validity. Suppose a car is travelling north on Highway 61, and the driver believes he's headed south because he is on his way to Mexico. No matter how earnest he is, in a few hours time he will be in Thunder Bay, Canada.

2. Being wrong about one thing doesn't discredit everything else they said.
I think here of Martin Luther and Sir Isaac Newton most notably.

3. Let's practice humility when making pronouncements. 
I defer here to philosopher/theologian Jacques Ellul on this matter. "Incompetence is inadmissable on the part of Christians... when providing others with a sense of direction, speaking with authority and encouraging young people to become involved. ... But Christians allow themselves to be taken in by the prevailing vogue. They see everybody expressing his own ideas so why shouldn't they do the same? That's all right as far as I'm concerned... only let them be less pretentious about it, less authoritative, less inclined to expect everyone to follow in their wake. And let them not claim to be representing Jesus Christ." (False Presence of the Kingdom, p. 155-6)

For what it's worth, we live a broken world... It would be nice to be able to return home to the Paradise we lost.

** List of dates predicted for Apocalyptic events

Monday, April 15, 2013

Remembering Jonathan Winters

"I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it." ~Jonathan Winters

He made us laugh. He was one of a kind. He was Jonathan Winters.

On Thursday, April 11, Jonathan Winters died in his home of natural causes, in the midst of family and friends. There were numerous tributes to the eccentric comedian who made us laugh so hard that it hurt, who's whirling imagination could rake laughs out of porcupines. I'll defer to this one from CNN.

Most of his fans were unaware that the comic had also been an artist. Like Churchill and many others, painting served to bring a form of balance to his world. It was actually through his art that I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Winters. By accident I'd came across some of his original paintings which were being screen printed by Joe Petro, a Kentucky screen print artist. When I discovered that he painted, I acquired his book Hang Ups, and landed an assignment with Screenprinting magazine, to do a story on Petro, which opened the door for my forty minutes with Mr. Winters (and several of his other personalities.)

Of his painting Winters shared, "The bug bit me in show business. My art at the time was so commercial, so commercial it was sad. I would have been good if I was going to do industrial drawing or be a commercial artist, which I wasn’t. I’m not a commercial comedian, so I certainly wasn’t going to be a commercial artist.

"I didn’t find a style until I was well out of school. In the early 70’s I really got down to painting. I was working on the road, in gin mills and night clubs and stuff, but when I’d come home I’d paint. I think I had my first art show in ‘72, here in Southern Cal or LA, and I have been painting ever since."

In 1999 Winters won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a rather late acknowledgement in my opinion. Then again, maybe that's what we do with our old heroes, we acknowledge them and then we remember them.

Thank you, Jon, for everything you gave us.

Jon Winters photo courtesy Bergstrom Photography

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sea of Bowls Helps Feed Northland's Hungry

When I first came to Duluth seeking a writing job, the word on the street was that the place to be if I wanted job security was Harcourt-Brace-Javonovich (HBJ), a magazine publisher that employed as many as 400 people in their downtown offices. Despite the fact that a VP there had the same name as me, fortune intervened and I landed a writing position elsewhere. What people didn't see was the upheavals that would soon be so disruptive in the magazine industry. HBJ was sold, and the next company and the next. Consolidation moved some people to offices in Cleveland and left others to see employment elsewhere.

One of these was Dave Lynas, a graphic designer at HBJ, who chose not to leave the region, remaining here where he was already part of a community. The decision freed up his time to pursue his passion as a ceramicist and making pottery, teaching classes at the Duluth Art Institute and being a quiet influence for good to this day, and an unsung hero in the community for his lifetime of "giving back."

This week, in the Depot's Great Hall, the 20th annual Empty Bowl benefit is being conducted to raise money for the benefit of Second Harvest Food Bank, the largest provider of meals for the hungry in our region. According to potter Karin Kraemer, "Empty Bowl was the Brainchild of Dave Lynas and Linda Hebenstreit at the Duluth Art Institute." It's a remarkable event, both for its community participation and its impact. It's another major was in which the arts gives back to the community.

Nearly everyone involved in the pottery scene, artisan and amateur alike, is involved somehow. Many, like Kraemer, open their studios for months in advance so that others can join in making of decorating bowls. (I decorated two.) Local schools have students making bowls. The Duluth Art Institute, Lake Superior College and many others contribute. In the end, it's literally a sea of bowls and historically it works like this: you go to the Depot and buy a bowl of soup, except you get to take the bowl home with you. The Empty Bowl benefit provides you with a meal, and you also have a souvenir that also serves to remind you of the hunger here that has not been eradicated in our neighborhoods.

Second Harvest Food Bank provided 3.8 million dollars worth of meals last year. Empty Bowl helps stock those food supplies.

Because not all bowls are created equal, the event has evolved to include opportunities to bid on more exquisite ceramic works that have been set aside for this purpose. These are currently being auctioned online at BiddingforGood.com
Tomorrow evening, April 15, is the famous Sea of Bowls, a.k.a. Empty Bowl Preview Night, a gallery-style showing complete with wine and cheese reception. Bowls range in price from $25-$100. If you're expecting a nice tax refund, this might be a good place to consider sharing some of it. The event is from 5–7 pm at The Depot, 506 West Michigan Street here in Duluth. 

Tuesday's the big day, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  $20 includes a bowl and a simple soup meal. Price drops to $15 after 4:30. 

Everyone in the area is invited to come buy a bowl of soup. The bowl goes home with you, the money goes to the needy. You end up with your tummy full, and so do those whose stomachs need filling.

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