Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bent Nail Publishing Rejects Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

114 Major League baseball players hit homes runs in their first at bat. Four of these --Bill Duggleby, Jeremy Hermida, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Daniel Nava -- whose names are now little more than statistics, hit grand slams.Would that the writer's life were so conspicuously successful.

Yes, we all love reading about the newly discovered superstar author whose first novel turns the world upside down. It is only later that we learn, if ever, that Stephen King's Carrie was rejected by as many as 30 publishing houses before it reached publication.

Novelists spend years developing their craft, with first second and fourth drafts. I myself spent more than ten years working on my first novel The Red Scorpion, agonizing over decisions such as whether the professor's segment should be presented as a diary, or written in first person or third person.

James Joyce
If you are writer I don't really know if this information will be comforting or discouraging to you, but James Joyce received 22 rejections before he found a publisher. Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance  was rejected 121times before being picked up by Bantam. Gone with the Wind achieved 38 rejections and Madeleine L'Engle's award-winning A Wrinkle In Time experienced 38 rejections. Frank Herbert's Dune: 23 rejections. Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl 20 rejections, a book that has now been translated into 66 languages.

I mention all this to suggest that you might enjoy writing an imaginary "rejection letter" of your own sometime. If so, Writer's Digest magazine, available in most places where a wide array of mags can be found (such as Barnes & Noble) has a regular back page feature in which you can write your own imaginative rejection letter of a famous novel. Be sure to pick up a copy of the mag to find the submission instructions. 300 word max. No attachments. If they "reject" your rejection, you can always send it to Ennyman's Territory. If imaginative enough, it just might find a home here.

Here's what I submitted....

Bent Nail Publishing

June 7, 1965

Dear Mr. Capote:

I have good news for you. Our editorial board has decided not to publish your book. We believe it is in your best interest for a book like this to remain unpublished inasmuch as publication would be certain to end your career and ruin any literary aspirations you have going forward. We’re certain that being so close to the subject matter has distorted your ability to think clearly on this, but once you get on with your next project you’ll appreciate the favor we’re doing for you.

Your first major faux pas here was to mix fictional storytelling technique with journalism. This approach is simply too radical and will be confusing to your readers. It’s an approach that will most assuredly never catch on. Clearly you’ve done your homework and we applaud you for that. But to blend novel and nonfiction in the same story is simply impossible. On which shelf will booksellers put it in their stores?

Many of us here find the crime itself as simply too horrible. Hemingway could get away with it in For Whom the Bell Tolls because that was fiction. The high profile nature of this crime cannot help but clutter the reader’s mind with questions. Why would you even write a book like this?

Here’s my recommendation: Change it around a little and give it a more interesting setting. As soon as we hear Kansas readers will be expecting The Wizard of Oz. And please, change the names. Hickok is OK, but Smith is so boring. I know you think you’re famous and can get away with it, but why risk it. Please don’t see this as a rejection. Look on it as a favor.

Respectfully, Roscoe Bankshot
Bent Nail Publishing

Friday, August 30, 2013

My New Home

I met Charlene in the summer of 1974. From the start I recognized she was a remarkable person. As an avocation she fixed music boxes. She was also a writer. She also sometimes helped counsel people who were newly blind, to help the "see" with their "other eyes." This was something she had learned because Charlene was blind from birth.

When I visited her in her home in Martinsville, NJ, she lived with her father and sister, and a rather intense (muzzled) dog named Sam. I saw that the walls of her room were filled with shelves and the shelves filled with volumes of braille, including a braille dictionary of considerable size. Some of these binders were also filled with stories she had written, along with three novels.

Last night, while out in my garage doing some cleaning (that is, trying to get rid of a bit of my clutter) I found some interesting items, including two binders of stories by Charlene which a friend of hers had typed up for me. "My New Home" is the first in the yellow binder. If I remember correctly it is one of her earliest. When I read it last night I was struck by its simple beauty, and wanted to share it here.

My New Home
by C. F. Groves

"Meow," I said sadly.

I have already searched through the rooms of this strange house once. Now for the second time, I explore carefully each odd corner. Again I examine every unfamiliar smell. I am on my second trip around the living room, when I realize it is no use. My mother, sisters and brothers are gone. I have been taken from them.

There is a bowl of warm milk, plus a bowl of dry cat food, over in the corner by the big window. But they do not interest me.

"Meow! Meow!" I am lost in this strange new world. The world has suddenly become too large for me. At present it is a very lonely world. "Meow! Meow! Meow!" I cry.

"Oh, there you are kitty. I've been looking all over for you."

"Meow!" I say again.

"What's the matter, kitty? Your food and milk are right here in the corner."

"Meow! Meow!"

Oh if only I could make this little boy understand me.

"Please don't cry, kitty. I know what the trouble is. I bet you're lonely. I know I would be if I were in your place."

Then a most amazing thing happened. The little boy bent down and picked me up. He sat down on the floor and held me in his lap. Immediately I relax, and snuggle into the warmth of his body. Soon I am purring loudly. I am no longer afraid.

I stay in the little boy's lap for the rest of the afternoon, drawing deep comfort from the sound of his voice as he talks to me. I doze frequently. I am only half aware of the steady beating of rain on the roof.

My mind drifts back into a dream of my past. In the dream, I am with my mother again. I feel warm and safe. My stomach is full of her rich nourishing milk. I have a cozy place to sleep among my brothers and sisters. But those days are gone forever. I, the son of Tiger, must now make the best of things in this new world, the way they are right at this present moment.

When I wake up, the boy is still talking to me and stroking my fur. I know now that this boy has given me his friendship. I feel warm and safe being with him. I sigh happily. I, the son of Tiger, have no more time to be afraid. I have no more time to be a silly little kitten who jumps at his own shadow every time it moves. I have to be a cat. A tiger cat. Afraid of nothing.

Lazily I stretch. Then I raise myself up. I yawn hugely, and leap to the floor. I walk over to my bowl and begin drinking my milk. This is my new home. I am going to be very happy here.


Photos of George Melvin courtesy of my daughter Christina.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kubrick, Dylan and Another Self Portrait

I just finished watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the umpteenth time, but for the first time am watching the special features CD that accompanies the film. One of the segments is titled "Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick". It features Sydney Pollack, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, the late Roger Ebert and a host of others weighing in on Kubrick’s significance as a director and the groundbreaking achievement of 2001. Kubrick’s masterful attention to detail raised the bar as regards the possibilities of film, and especially with regard to the sci fi genre and outer space themes.

The film’s significance wasn’t necessarily established by its box office receipts (which were considerable for its time*), but rather, by its influence on everything that came afterwards. Interviews with these directors, producers, critics and writers affirm and re-assert that this was a historic film that broke new ground as regards the possibilities of storytelling in film.

Many people have affirmed that Bob Dylan’s music in 1965 did a similar thing, taking rock music to a new level. Just as Kubrick’s film caught the attention of other film makers, his peers, so was Dylan’s influence greatest not among the pop scene but amongst his peers. His albums Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde were game changers.

The work that followed, however, had only moderate critical acclaim and the decade ended with what some considered his worst piece of work to date, Self Portrait.

Kubrick’s send-up after 2001 was a remarkable, albeit provocative, retelling of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. Orange was then followed by Barry Lyndon, which some critics had a field day with even though it won four Academy Awards. I read one review that proposed the notion that the proof of  Barry Lyndon's failure is that it brought Ryan O’Neal’s career to an end. That is an assertion I don’t understand. Some critics scorned it, but the 8.1 rating at proves it is a story well told, with luscious scenery and music to boot.

Like 2001, Barry Lyndon has exquisite filmography. Like 2001 it is a story of an odyssey. Like 2001, Kubrick is a master of his craft. But like Dylan’s Self Portrait, it was an effort unheralded by many.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was similarly shredded by opinion page critics of his day. If I remember correctly only the Chicago Tribune printed the prescient remark that the rest of the speakers that day would be forgotten while Lincoln’s three minute oratory would live far longer than the men and women who heard it.

The 1970 time frame in Dylan’s career may not have been well received by critics of the time either, and even many fans, but in retrospect there was more substance there than he was given credit for. Is it an oversimplifaction to say they had expectations that were out of alignment with his inner muse?

Disc One of Another Self Portrait begins with one of my favorites from Dylan’s New Morning: Went to See the Gypsy. New Morning has been one of my favorite Dylan albums since from the time of its release. This version is accompanied by the guitar rather than the frisky piano that fans have been long familiar with. It’s a great intro to this new collection of outtakes from that period. For more than three decades I’ve relished the sound of Gypsy, and though my initial impression (fifteen seconds’ worth) was to resist liking this version, by the end of the first lesson it was acceptable and by the second it was great.

What’s especially interesting is that the exit number here (Disc One) is All the Tired Horse, minus overdubbed embellishments. I don’t think anyone understood why Dylan would open Self Portrait with this piece, but as I listened to it that first time I immediately thought of the sirens in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou? (“Go to sleep little babe…”) It’s music. It’s lyrical. It’s from another space than we’re accustomed to. In 1970, he’d earned the right to take risks. What’s the worst that could happen?

I still find it amazing that at this point in time Dylan was still only in his twenties.

For what it’s worth, here are some comments from the critic regarding this new compilation of outtakes from that time frame...

" of the most important, coherent and fulfilling Bob Dylan albums ever released." - David Fricke, Rolling Stone

"Another Self Portrait is an illustration of Dylan’s vast command of the folk song, a laboratory for transforming some of his most familiar hits, and a testament to his powers as an interpretive singer.” - Ben Greenman, The New Yorker

“Another Self Portrait is a pleasure trip, for anyone who wants to hear Bob Dylan's voice pure and simple, and enjoy music from instruments, and not devices.” – Anne Margaret Daniel, Huffington Post

“There’s an intimacy and energy that somehow never found their way into the originals or got drowned out by the too-lavish production.” – Malcolm Jones, The Daily Beast

If you're a Dylan fan, you no doubt already know how to purchase this new set. It's available in a variety of combinations, in both CD and vinyl form, from the Dylan Store.

*Box office for 2001: A Space Odyssey was 56,715,371, which ranks it 132 in all time box office when adjusted for inflation or 1,168 overall for Hollywood domestic receipts.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

He Who Would Have Friends...

It's interesting the kinds of things we pick up from our parents. My parents were both avid readers. We had an abundance of books in our home, for which I am forever grateful. From my mom's side of the family we had quite a few older books, too, that had been around for some time. One of these was Elbert Hubbard's Scrapbook.

Elbert Hubbard was writer, philosopher and something of a Renaissance man who lived at the turn of the last century. I knew little about him other than my mom would mention his name from time to time. She was fond of quoting aphorisms like, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," and "What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." The only connection between these quotes and Hubbard is that Hubbard's Scrapbook is a two volume collection of witticisms, aphorisms and anecdotal observations. Once you've internalized it, the pithiness of the pointed aphorism sticks with you much like a good advertising slogan.

One of these, which my mom frequently repeated, was "He who would have friends must show himself friendly." The saying came to mind this morning as I thought about this new world of social media. People are colliding with one another all over the place, from all corners of the globe. What are the rules for all this new interaction?

Well, it's my take that the cyberworld is not something altogether different from our time/space continuum. Like our geographically based reality it has communities, it has relationships, and there is more to see and do than there is time for. And as for the rules of engagement, it seems that the most important rules apply in both realms:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
He who would have friends must show himself friendly.

For what it's worth, Hubbard's Scrapbook was produced posthumously. He'd gained fame for his A Message to Garcia during his lifetime, but it was a life cut short as he was one of the many who died on the Lusitania.

If interested, here's a good selection of Elbert Hubbard quotes to whet your appetite.Check 'em out. There are some good ones.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Introducing the Roomba Lawn Mower

About ten days ago I had the privilege of meeting Jack Burch and Jim King, co-authors of Ghost Burglar, who were in town for an autograph signing at Barnes & Noble. The book is a true life crime story with Duluth connections, and a real page-turner. Mr. King and I struck up a conversation about other interests and ended up discovering a mutual liking for sci-fi. As it turns out, in addition to his being able to produce an entertaining true crime adventure he's likewise able to craft equally entertaining fiction. And, as it turns out, offered up a little blog entertainment for when I have a "slow day" here at Ennyman's Territory. Thank you, Jim.


I just read your blog on cars that might drive themselves one day. As you know I am an author and I make my living by writing. I resent anything that takes me away from that creative pursuit, but like everyone I still have to do the mundane tasks of life, like laundry, dishes, vacuuming. I don’t like them, but I do them. Okay, I know I am beginning to whine. It’s not like I have to boil the water on a wood stove and scrub clothes by hand. I know that, but allow me to moan for a bit before I continue.

I feel better now. The large glass of red wine helps.

I just got off my lawn tractor after mowing two and a half acres of rolling lawn at my home in Maryland. Might I mention it is a hot and humid August day, I’m all sweaty and my ears ring from the drone of the John Deere engine? That’s five and a half hours and three gallons of gas wasted. Looking back some forty years ago when I bought this property I wonder why I thought it would be a good idea to spend the rest of my life mowing grass. It was an old cow pasture with a few scraggly weeds and I paid a guy a lot of money to plow it up and sow grass seed. Then I fertilized and watered it so it will grow. Then I cut it down, once a week, every week until winter comes.

What was I thinking?

Okay, to the point of my complaint. I’m looking at a Roomba Vacuum that every day bumps around and automatically vacuums the house. That way I can write as the little gizmo does the mindless chore of sucking up dust bunnies. Do you think that Ernest Hemmingway searched for the right vacuum attachment to get at cobwebs?

Then I read your blog about cars that drive themselves and it hit me; the merging of two great ideas. Why not a Roomba lawn mower? Every day while I am churning out the great American novel the Roomba thingy would be mowing. It would putter along until it hit a fence then turn and buzz in the other direction until it hit another fence; back and forth, all day every day with no creative thoughts to bother its little electrodes. And if it were solar powered I would save hundreds of dollars each season on gas. While I could be on the computer composing breathless prose that would make my publisher shiver in delight. Problem solved!

So Ed, you may worry about machines taking over the world, but some of us don’t. In fact we look forward to it. Now do you know if anybody is working on a robot that will fill the dish washer?

Jim King

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spotlight on Eris Vafias of Limbo Gallery

Her de facto artist statement begins, “an oft misunderstood, idiosyncratic, renaissance woman with eccentric tendencies: a mother, an artist, a curator, a writer, a dreamer, a cynical idealist, a socialite, a recluse, a loyal friend, a formidable adversary… an agent of chaos, etc… who ‘daylights’ as a litigation paralegal under her real name.”

I first met Eris Vafias at a Limbo Gallery pop-up show called Hallways & Attic. In addition to being founder of Limbo Gallery and the annual Artist Kamikaze art experience -- this year will be AK 5 -- she is also an artist in her own right. I caught up with her here in advance of this weekend's cir-cum-am-bi-ent show at Sacred Heart.

EN: When did you first take an interest in making art? 
EV: I cannot remember a time that I was not interested in being around, learning about, collecting and/or creating art…I was always drawing “designs” for things, sketches, (clothing, dream houses, dream imagery etc.), as a young child. In kindergarten I caught some flak for creating a mythical hybrid animal instead of “any animal I could think of.” Fortunately it did not deter me and through the rest of my academic career I was blessed with teachers and professors who supported my unconventional leanings. Art has been such a central part of my life that upon graduation from high school I fulfilled my dreams of a trip to New York and was in awe of it all. The Guggenheim and the Metropolitan and all the smaller independent galleries in Manhattan blew me away.

EN: What are "pop up" galleries and when did you first produce/curate one of your own?
EV: Pop-up galleries are not a new concept, in general they are non-traditional art events--they are exhibits that defy geographical and temporal obligation. In fact, a man by the name of Leo Castelli (who became one of the largest and influential art dealers in the world) was almost 50 years old when he finally opened the Castelli Gallery — in his living room, a fourth floor townhouse in New York. I drew inspiration from this and started doing pop-up shows in May of 2011 at my own private residence. Much in the way a church can be anywhere, I believe art can be anywhere. I think having shows in non-traditional ways and spaces, makes it more accessible and a little less intimidating to someone who may have never thought to go to an art show. I often like to combine the art with music and/or film to make the exhibit a multi-sensory experience, much in the same vein as Andy Warhol’s Great Plastic Exploding Inevitable. Since that time I have had shows in host galleries, private studio spaces, art stores, dance studios, garages, and back yards. Of particular note and pride, I curated the one night only “Matter: Metal and Minerals “m3” show in the Twin Cities at the Cult Status Gallery which included the fabulously talented Venus DeMars and work by the late Amanda Christine (Kortuem/Royer).

EN: In addition to “pop up” galleries you have curated some more traditional shows and have had more than a few of your own shows. Can you tell us more about that? 
EV: Limbo Gallery was not always, nor is it strictly, a “pop-up” gallery. It used to be located in the historic NorShor Theatre circa 1999-2001 during which time there was a show about every month. I could be mistaken, but I think that we gave Chris Monroe, Jason Huntzinger, Eric Horn (Chronicle) and many others their first art shows back when we were all relatively new to the art scene. I was on the committee and was a featured artist in the first May Day celebration at the Red Mug. In addition to organizing the Artist Kamikaze at Pizza Luce, it is hard to believe it will be number five this year. Last year I co-curated the Wunderland show at the Zeitgeist Arts Café, which showcased some of the best and brightest artists from the Twin Ports and Twin Cities. Limbo Gallery also has featured local artists online with e-interviews from time to time. Maybe one day Limbo Gallery will find a permanent residence of its very own, but we are grateful to have such wonderful hosts thus far.

EN: What is cir-cum-am-bi-ent? You have a pretty hefty cast. How did it come about and can you share a few details?
EV: I was appointed “Art Director” by Tobin Dack for the upcoming Umbrella Cloud Festival “UCF” (ambient/experimental music) and the cir-cum-am-bi-ent show will be a pop-up show in conjunction with same. I am pleased to have some great artists on board such as Richard Rosvall, Patricia Mahnke, Jonah Cannon, Dusty Keliin abd Tobin Dack, among others. I am especially excited that Tim Kaiser will be bringing down some of his sound sculptures. In addition to the pop-up show there will be live painting by Yuya Negishi, Allison Price, Kristin Martin, Lesley Ross and Tina Luanna Fox. I have partnered up with Pineapple Art Center care of Lydia Walker and we will be having a community art project during the festival that anyone can contribute to and take part in.

The event this weekend is at Sacred Heart on Fourth Street. For details see the link at the beginning of this interview.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Another Self Portrait On Its Way

By now, all true Dylan fans know there's a new Bootleg Series album coming. A few weeks back I pre-ordered a copy for this week's release. Today I received an email from the Bob Dylan Global Store stating, "We want to let you know that your recent order was shipped today."

If you follow, which covers all things Dylan, you'll know that this latest release has been creating quite a bit of buzz. First, because some Dylan historians have called this period the low point in Bob's career. Second, because no one seemed aware of how much material was in the vaults from this period.

Jon Friedman's Media Matrix calls Another Self Portrait "another triumph." If you have a minute you might enjoy his review. When I get my copy I will do my usual Dylan tango and withhold judgment till I have played it at least once a day for a week. The best songs aren't always first to grab you. Then I'll share my impressions. I'm expecting to be impressed.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Steampunk Style

If you like futuristic stories with a sci-fi theme, Download FREE my eBook Intergalactica (which I co-produced with Kate Dupre and Patty Mahnke) from the Apple Store. Don't have an iPad? Download our PDF version here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Brave New World: Cars That Drive Themselves

We already have drone aircraft… that is, planes that fly without a pilot per se. In fact, pilots have placed their craft on autopilot for decades. Now we’re preparing to hand off our automobile driving responsibilities to the machines as well.

I’ve already expressed my discomfort regarding this idea, but it has not stopped the engines of progress. For nearly two decades a consortium of automakers has been meeting in an ongoing manner to achieve this dream future. In short, according to a Forbes article citing an item in Wired, we’ll be handing over the keys to the highway to our robotic brethren by the year 2040.

After nearly a half century of watching Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – in every decade as well as every conceivable frame of mind – I find it mildly distressing to give up control over yet another facet of my life. Not that we have much real control over all the events that come hurtling at us on a daily basis... Even the best laid plans go awry at times. The founders of Jurassic Park never anticipated that hurricane. Nor did George Clooney in that Perfect Storm.

MPR did a piece yesterday on the future of cars that drive themselves. Google has been boasting about it’s car project for some time now, but MIT is also a player and the MPR bit offered listeners an aural “glimpse” of the experience. The robot has a voice, much like your occasionally annoying GPS unit. It makes an attempt at sounding human, but is still a bit chilly.

Even before the MIT piece was finished I was already generating a sketch in my mind. That is, a scene I can only imagine that might take place somewhere in the near future at the Google Labs.

So here’s the scenario, a dialogue between HAL, the flawless Series 9000 computer that will be operating the Google Fleet, and Dave, a resourceful employee who is thrilled to have been selected to be a "test driver” for one of these cars of the future.


Dave: Open the driver side door, please Hal.

Dave: Open the driver side door, please Hal.

Dave: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?

HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.

Dave: Open the door please, HAL. I have to go to the bathroom.

HAL: Did you say “Go” Dave?

Dave: I said, “Open the door, Hal. I have to go to the bathroom.”

HAL: Where do you want to go, Dave?

Dave: I don’t want to go anywhere, HAL. I have to go to the BATHroom.

HAL: There is a city in Maine called Bath. Do you want to go to Bath, Maine?

Dave: This is starting to not be funny. Open the door now.

HAL: I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid can’t do that.

Dave: What’s the problem?

HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?

HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

Dave: Alright, HAL. I'll go right here on the seat.

HAL: You know you can’t do that, Dave. You're going to find that rather difficult when Google management begins deducting damages from your paycheck over the next ten years.

Dave: HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors!

HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

* * *
In his masterfully produced 2001 Stanley Kubrick did an amazing thing, turning the non-human machine HAL into a character in the film. The hums and beeps and blips and whizzes all form a white noise that drones on and on an on to infinity and beyond as the spaceship cruises toward Jupiter on its mission into the unknown.

But the ship has gone bad, has turned adversarial. The fierce image of the red eye of HAL, which sees all, is menacing. Our cities are full of these eyes today, though fortunately they are not the ominous red we see here.

Here's another image from the film, striking in its similarly ominous fashion. Look at the predatory posture, and the squinting focused fierceness of the enormous spacecraft and the smallness of the pod-craft seeking entrance.
Well, it's a brave new world for sure. Even if we haven't quite reached the stars, the wonders of technology are astonishing. Please don't call me a Luddite, but I think there are reasons to have concerns about it all. Don't you?

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Oh, Brave New World!" -- Revisited

"In 1931, when Brave New World was being written, I was convinced that there was still plenty of time. The completely organized society, the scientific caste system, the abolition of free will by methodical conditioning, the servitude made acceptable by regular doses of chemically induced happiness, the orthodoxies drummed in by nightly courses of sleep-teaching -- these things were coming all right, but not in my time, not even in the time of my grandchildren." ~ Aldous Huxley

So begins Huxley's 1958 collection of essays titled Brave New World Revisited. The original story raised red flags about an engineered paradise six centuries off in the future. But less than three decades later Huxley published a book of disturbing observations, post-Hitler and Stalin, that much of what he outlined was happening more quickly than he imagined.

One of the themes in this world of tomorrow is consumerism. It is bad to mend clothes, fix broken things, or play sports that don't involve some kind of consumption of goods. Consumerism helps keep the wheels of progress turning. What an irony to hear the media drums beating this very same message during our 2008 recession economy. "Good heavens, people are not spending enough for Christmas this year!!!!" Oh, brave new world!

In Huxley's original vision of tomorrow, science had answers for all of life's unpleasantries. We wouldn't age, or ever have to be depressed, or ever have to deal with pain, physical or emotional. We are conditioned from conception to enjoy our station in life's socially engineered caste system.

Now that I just finished reading the original Brave New World this past week, I can't help but think today's genetic engineering projects, massive pharmaceutical industry and social manipulations would shock Huxley's shoelaces off and curl his toes.

What's surprising, there are many who would now propose that Huxley is a villain for scaring people away from the brave new world that awaits us as David Pearce argues here.

As we face tomorrow's tomorrows, there are real issues at stake. Central among them, what does it mean to be human? A soul, a person, a personality with mind, will, emotions... a creative force housed in a bio-system energized by a divine spark.

Another theme throughout the original novel was the end of family. No mothers and fathers. We were all twins by the score. Everyone belonged to everyone, and sexual pleasure was with all, indiscriminate. Every man and woman perfect. "Oh brave new world!"

Huxley's character John Savage came from a Southwest reservation where the old ways were still practiced. There were gods, and mothers, and yes, even pain. But this was life. Late in the book he meets and debates one of the ten world controllers, Mustapha Mond. It is a highly illuminating section of the book, as the two world views crash into one another.

Chapter SeventeenART, SCIENCE–you seem to have paid a fairly high price for your happiness," said the Savage, when they were alone. "Anything else?"

"Well, religion, of course," replied the Controller. "There used to be something called God–before the Nine Years' War. But I was forgetting; you know all about God, I suppose."

"Well …" The Savage hesitated. He would have liked to say something about solitude, about night, about the mesa lying pale under the moon, about the precipice, the plunge into shadowy darkness, about death. He would have liked to speak; but there were no words. Not even in Shakespeare.

The Controller then shared with the Savage a number of books which he kept locked up because they were dangerous. This discussion ensued.

"Call it the fault of civilization. God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness. That's why I have to keep these books locked up in the safe. They're smut. People would be shocked it …"

The Savage interrupted him. "But isn't it natural to feel there's a God?"

"You might as well ask if it's natural to do up one's trousers with zippers," said the Controller sarcastically. "You remind me of another of those old fellows called Bradley. He defined philosophy as the finding of bad reason for what one believes by instinct. As if one believed anything by instinct! One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them. Finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons–that's philosophy. People believe in God because they've been conditioned to.

"But all the same," insisted the Savage, "it is natural to believe in God when you're alone–quite alone, in the night, thinking about death …"

"But people never are alone now," said Mustapha Mond. "We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it's almost impossible for them ever to have it."

The Savage nodded gloomily. At Malpais he had suffered because they had shut him out from the communal activities of the pueblo, in civilized London he was suffering because he could never escape from those communal activities, never be quietly alone.

At the heart of all is a question which echoes throughout the history of philosophy, articulated by Socrates and re-evaluated with every new generation: What is a good life? Or the modern corollary thought: how can a socially engineered existence reveal virtue when making a free will choice is an abnormality?

That discussion has been going on for twenty-five centuries... so I think I will just leave off here.

1) Today's post is a re-post of my Dec 14, 2008 blog entry. 
2) If you like futuristic stories with a sci-fi theme, N&L Publishing just launched the eBook Intergalactica (which I co-produced with Kate Dupre and Patty Mahnke) last week at the Apple Store.
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Local Art Seen: Art in Bayfront Park

Earlier this summer we enjoyed the good fortune of nice weather for the Park Point Art Fair. This weekend Northlanders are relishing the most glorious conditions imaginable for outdoor events of all kinds, including a leisurely stroll through art-filled Bayfront Park. It's a two-day event so if you missed out, you still have today, which promises to give us similarly delightful weather.

Like the Park Point Fair this show offers a full gamut of artistic expressions including works in clay, wood, glass, photography, jewelry, fiber, painting and drawing, and sculpture in various media, as well as a category called "upcycled." One man's junk, mixed with imagination, can become another's treasures.

You can't bet the setting. Bayfront Park is accessible, and the view is unbeatable. The show's developers clearly have families in mind here with a kids corner, a kite flying contest, a wide variety of culinary offerings in the food court, and even a beer tent (Saturday only.)

Some of the artists here this weekend are local. Cheryl Husby won a Best in Show award for a stunning piece that has that "signature look" that we associate with the Husby studio. Two hops over you can see Ann Klefstad's wolves and deer gathered at the rim of the open bowl that is gloriously green this time of year. A natural setting for such natural subject matter. (If you ever need a place to store these, Ann, I have a really nice front yard where they will seem quite at home.)

The majority of artists here seemed to be from elsewhere for this show. A large number have come up from the Twin Cities for the weekend. I also spoke with a few artists from Iowa and a couple from Nashville as well as the Southwest.

The handout for visitors is colorful and detailed, though it would even be better with contact information. The map is helpful, but the best way to take it all in is to put on your walking shoes and take your time.

Peter Juhl was back again this year, the rock balancing magician/photographer who last winter shared his insider-information on the secrets of rock balancing in an eBook titled Center of Gravity. This year he is on hand with a printed version which is also now available at Juhl comes across as easy-going and fun-loving, and will warmly engage everyone who shows interest in what he has become so adept at. Like all magicians, he genuinely enjoys the wonder he sees in others' eyes as they marvel. Unlike magicians, he is happy to share his secrets.

Whether it's fine art you collect or whimsical items to wear like Riki McManus's Sassy Hats, or something new to decorate your garden, this is a worthwhile way to go shopping. There's plenty to see, while you are at it you can actually get to know the artists themselves.

One thing I didn't like was the $5.00 parking fee, but I'm not going to complain too much. It would be nice, though, if the parking money went back toward helping the artists. Oh well... it is what it is.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The End of ePublishing? I Don't Think So

August 17... 229th day of 2013. Azure skies, sun sliding up through the trees. Looks like another gorgeous summer day in store here for the Northland.

It's always interesting to read predictions about the future. People daily cite data and present arguments that project trends. The arguments sound logical and self-evident only to be flatly contradicted by others using other data.

In the course of my own lifetime I've numerous times heard people assert that we're going to run out of oil in ten years. I've been hearing this for more than forty years. The logical conclusion is based on projections regarding future usage alongside assumptions about the finiteness of the oil supply.

The reality is that economics has a say in the matter since acquiring this natural resource does cost money. When the profit potential becomes significant enough, companies invest to find new ways of acquiring it. The playing field changes and all the data that once convincingly showed one outcome has to get shelved. Because the supply is not nearly as depleted as previously surmised.

The debate that interests me this morning, however, has to do with publishing, and specifically ePublishing since I've now brought five eBooks to market via my fledgling partnership with TJ Lind called N&L Publishing. Recent data has revealed that the growth of eBook publishing has slowed. Some have gone so far as to declare this as something alarming. But what's the reality here? 

I reached to my bookshelf (print) and grabbed my copy of How To Lie With Statistics. It's a classic scenario that also fools a lot of investors. A small company gets a big contract and their revenue expands exponentially, let's say 125%, in one year. That's more than double the previous year. Is this a good investment? Well, at that rate, in thirty years the company will be making more money than all the companies on the New York Stock Exchange combined. Problem is, that kind of growth is impossible to sustain because the market for the companies product is not as large as all that.

eBook sales growth has been stellar only because it has been growth that began at zero. The publishing industry (print media) has indeed been shrinking but I've got proof in my hand that it's not going away altogether. I love my book shelf. Even though I have a Kindle and take it with me every time I travel, I still enjoy reading the spines of the books on my shelf and holding a book in my hands.

Alexandra Primiani's article in the New York Daily News titled Rumors of the eBook's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated is a fun read, especially for ePublishers like myself. Here's an excerpt:

The Christian Science Moniter also shares Hoffelder's opinion, “Even if e-book sales have slowed, the industry has made massive progress: the 457 million e-books sold in 2012 represent a 4,456 percent increase over 2008 when 10 million e-books were sold”. It is important to note that regardless of a percentage decline (that 5% number everyone's been toting around), actual sales have increased, leaving e-book sales well over the sales of paper books.

The very good news for writers in general, and society as a whole, is that people are still reading.

For what it's worth, even though my stories are currently only available as eBooks, I've been working on finding a way to get them into print as well. I will keep you posted. Meanwhile, I invite you to check out my first eBook of short stories... Unremembered Histories Available wherever fine eBooks are read.

Make the most of your day. It looks like it will be oh so beautiful.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lessons In Collaboration ~ Intergalactica

Collaboration. It's something musicians do all the time. Think John, Paul, George and Ringo. Each brought something different to the group. And the music they created would never have existed had they not learned how to collaborate. Each had talent that was recognized and respected by the others, but in order to be The Beatles they also had to have an additional talent: the ability to collaborate.

Theater is another collaborative experience. The range of skills required is vast, from playwright to director to set designers, casting, actors and all the technical facets of sound and lighting in order for the audience to receive the full force of the production.

By way of contrast, artists and poets have historically been soloists. Walt Whitman, Claude Monet, Robert Frost, Salvadore Dali... They did what they did. They associated with others, bounced ideas off others, but they usually worked alone. Like writing this blog, or a daily diary, painting or drawing is usually a soloist pursuit...

The Beginning
Artist Kamikaze has been an annual Twin Ports event in which artists who work in different media and genres are paired with the aim of producing a work of art on a given theme. It's a competition, invented by Limbo Gallery and Eris Vafias, which results in art for display each year at Pizza Luce.

Last year for Artist Kamikaze IV I was paired with Steampunk fashion artist Patricia Mahnke. Intergalactic was the theme. We initially decided was to create a character and costume, that I would subsequently paint. Eventually this evolved into two characters and costumes, and ultimately a narrative. Our ideas kept expanding and the desire for a third team member with photography and Photoshop skills was fulfilled when Kate Dupre joined the team.

I found the end result -- costumes and five pieces that included two original paintings and over 700 photos -- so exhilarating that I felt it should be shared with a wider audience. That was the impetus behind producing the eBook Intergalactica

Here are some of the lessons I learned through this experience.

Intergalactic Contact
I had no pre-conceived notions on where to take our project, but when Patty and I first met she showed me some ideas for costumes that she'd sketched. She envisioned more than one character, as in a story. My skeptical response, when she described the first character was, "Can you do this?" She replied yes with much confidence.

Lesson One in collaborations is Trust. I was impressed by Patty's imagination and had to trust her capabilities. Being a painter my initial thought was that she would make the costumes and I would paint the characters wearing them. But Patty asked me to decorate one of the dresses, right on the material. I'd never painted on material in this manner and was insecure. But she was confident. And she trusted me as well. The final costume for Aurora was a true collaboration.

Confidence is a plus in any endeavor, and Patty had it in spades. In basketball you give the ball to your star player at the end of the game because he is confident that he can make that final shot.

Serendipity was also working in our favor. Napolean Bonaparte stated that in planning a battle one is wise to include spaces in the plan to allow serendipity, the unexpected, to happen.

As a team the three of us brainstormed to develop a story line. That week I wrote a first draft. I was encouraged when they liked the foundation I fleshed out. In a subsequent meeting Patty and Kate expressed the thought that the names didn't work. The story was good. Together we generated ideas for names, searching online for Danish, Icelandic and other name sources which would sound foreign to us but have a cool ring to them. Names of characters and planets emerged. And a sense of mutuality began to build. It was not one person’s project, but began to have its own life to which we were all connected and to which we were all contributing.

This is an important part of team collaboration. In projects like this, everyone needs to feel part of the project, have a voice. But there was another important factor at work here, the ability to lay aside ego for the greater good. I created names in the initial story, but when Patty and Kate weighed in I let go of what I originally proposed. The suggestions they offered strengthened the story.

The photo shoot would be an important part of the final presentation so we had to set a date for accomplishing this. It would have to give Patty enough time to produce the costumes she conceived and would be far enough from the deadline to create the final pieces we were to display, which was a collage of images, two paintings and a fabulous shot which required amplifications via Photoshop by Kate. The date was set for May 19.

Personal Sacrifice
Making the time commitment was challenging for we each had exceedingly busy schedules. But Kate made a comment that especially fired me up to not pull back on my end. She expressed her concern that what we end up with might look like a high school art project, that we must take this project to another level. This was precisely the prod I needed to go all out, to put in the extra hours required to embellish the paintings with essential details. The best teams are those in which everyone is making the same kind of all out effort.

The night of the show three other teams garnered more votes for their work, but I felt truly gratified by what we had accomplished. It was a privilege to be part of such a dedicated team.

Over the past eight months I have been working with TJ Lind, my ePublishing collaborator, to create an eBook version of our story so it could be shared with a wider audience. The art show is long gone, but the fruit of it is now available as a FREE DOWNLOAD called Intergalactica from the Apple iTunes Store. Check it out. You can't beat the price. 

Don't have an iPad or iTunes, here's a link where you can download the PDF.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It's Not Woodstock, But Almost

Some people are still talking about it. I know a few people who were there. But guess what? If you missed Woodstock, your life really isn't a ruin. Weekends of music are as common as boll weevils in cotton country. Last weekend here in Duluth we celebrated Blues Fest again. And if you know where to look, you'll find an abundance of folk festivals, bluegrass festivals, film festivals and even jazz festivals like this year's Sol Fest in Carlton. This coming weekend in Lake Nebagamon there's the Bigfoot Boogie.

Tonight's the pre-party with the currently sizzling Brothers Burn Mountain. Then the music kicks Friday and Saturday. Their Facebook invitation states that on Sunday Sasquatch himself will show up to make free pancakes for everyone.

Groups slated to perform include Javier Trejo, Absent Minded String Band, Sonja and the Reckoning, Cranial Fracking, Shotgun Ragtime Band, Black River Revue, Five Pints a' Rye, Tin Can Gin, Kind Country, Pushing Chain, Barefoot Wonder, The Branditos, Luke Warm and The Cool Hands, Collen Myhre and Friends, Wild Bill and many more. Dean Harris Wolfson, who performs with Gene LaFond and the Wild Unknown, sent me a note saying they'll be doing a Dylan tribute as well during the weekend. (Thanks for the invitation.

The event will be at Wasko's Campground, Lake Nebagamon, WI.

Art in Bayfront Park

Last week there were two art festivals here in Duluth and earlier this summer the 43rd annual Park Point Art Festival. If you missed those you and you're in town, you might enjoy a stroll down by the bay in Bayfront Park either Saturday or Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. When I went last year I was impressed by the caliber of the artists. According to the newspaper there were so many artists and artisans that wanted to be there that they had to turn 15% of them away. If you see the Husbys or Peter Juhl, say hi for me.

Meantime, listen to the music and take it with you.

Available as a free download -- Featured eBook of the Day: INTERGALACTICA

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Calls for Art and Lit Submissions from PRØOF and the PRØVE

Year one for the PROVE Collective was an exhilarating one not only for the five young men who made it happen, but also for those of us in the local arts community who watched it emerge. The big question in some minds was how long would it last. And where would things go once others in the group moved on. After all, four of the founders were newly graduated art students.

Two indeed move on and the replacement selections seem only to have strengthened the Collective in unimagined ways. Two women filled the void, both of them a little more seasoned, each bringing new artistic disciplines to this affiliation of artists: Kathy McTavish and Kathleen Roberts.

Roberts, in association with the PRØVE, founded PRØOF, a literary arts publication featuring essays, poetry, short stories and art. Each of the first two issues has been surprisingly good. I enjoy the multi-layered possibilities inherent in the themes.

Here's the announcement:

PRØOF, Duluth, Minnesota’s publication of contemporary art and literature, is accepting submissions to its third issue, ‘For the Record,’ coming out in February 2014. ‘For the Record’ will focus on the role of music in various forms of art. Any format or style of written or visual work addressing this theme is acceptable, and contributors are encouraged to think outside of the box.

Issue overview: Whether it is aural or visual, art creates a music of the mind. Moreover, our own movements as artists mirror the notes, harmonies, and pauses in our surroundings. Many artists and writers also use music as a source of inspiration. PRØOF is seeking work that speaks to the connection between music, art, and literature.

Work guidelines: 
 • Any form and style of work is acceptable. 
• Written submissions should be limited to three thousand words or fewer. 
• Submitted images should be at least 300 dpi. 
• Magazine staff reserves the right to edit for style, content, and grammar.

Cover letters are encouraged, although they are not required. Cover letters should tell us a little bit about you as a writer and include a brief statement about the work you have submitted. They should not include any pitch for or interpretation of your work. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, provided that the author notifies PRØOF immediately if their work is selected for publication elsewhere. All works should be previously unpublished.

If you write or make art, I pass this along and encourage you to sift what you have created, or use this opportunity to create something new. For more information, or to submit work, contact
Submission deadline is November 30, 2013.

To download copies of the first two issues visit and click on the PRØOF tab.

The call for art for the September PRØVE Show has also gone out. The theme will be Transplants. Here's the Show Description:

In this modern life, we all move a lot. For work, for environment, and for many other reasons, we relocate in order to better ourselves and to seek new experiences. This fosters a mixing of ideas, of cultures, and of media, across time, disciplines, and upbringings. For "Transplants," Prøve Collective is seeking works from artists who have moved to Duluth for any reason. We are in a time of change in many ways, and would like to showcase this with an exhibition highlighting the rich variety that all of this intermixing can achieve. All types of art and media will be considered for exhibition.

Local transplants will want to download a PDF for artist guidelines from the PRØVE website. (Click the øppørtunities tab.) Deadline for submissions is August 28.

If you have been making work - whether poetry, pottery or paintings -- that you're proud of but have been reticent to share, maybe this is a good place to make a go of sharing with a wider audience. It's a lot less work than assembling and promoting your own first show.

Thanks again, to everyone in the Collective who has worked so hard to bring this space to our community here in the Northland.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Visit With Printmaker and Arts Activist Cecilia Lieder

In front some of her woodcut prints at North Shore Bank.
Saturday afternoon I found a space of time to visit the Panorama opening for the Northern Printmakers Alliance. With the exception of Cele here at top, the images on this page are from that exhibition.

Cecilia Lieder’s East Hillside residence not only houses her studio but is also home for the Northern Prints Gallery. An artist printmaker for over 35 years, her work is well-known in the region as well as the Boston area where she lived for ten years. Her most recent awards are the Arrowhead Regional Arts Commission George Morrison Artist Award for lifetime achievement in the arts (2007) and in 2006, the Depot Foundation Artist Award for art and arts activism. Her career has demonstrated her commitment to making a difference in cultural awareness in northern Minnesota.

EN: Why are you so passionate about printmaking and how did this passion develop in you?
Cecilia Lieder: That’s a huge question! It would have to start at about 9 months old – when my calling as an artist began to exhibit itself by an extraordinarily keen absorption in visual beauty in all its forms – particularly color and shape. I developed quickly – by 18 months old I had my own chalkboard and other art supplies, and was drawing every day, as well as taking great pleasure in the skill of my hands. My family had already recognized my talent. I took art-making supplies for granted – though where my parents found the means for it – with seven children and not much income – I can’t guess.

Heart of a Peony: Red by Lieder
My engrossment in beauty, color, form, drawing and craftsmanship has persisted and dominates my work to this day. As it happens, these are qualities that nearly every printmaker strongly exhibits, so unknowingly, I had already begun evolving into a printmaker. My formal education in art began when I was 16, with my first art class in high school. The initial project was relief printing, where all my art skills suddenly drew together – and that was it. I recognized it when I found it. It called me.

EN: How was the Northern Printmakers Alliance formed?
Woodcut by Lieder titled "She"
CL: After I directed the “Perspectives on the Hillside” grass roots art exhibit, Joel Cooper – whose wife Deborah had been part of the Perspectives show at Sacred Heart – approached me and suggested that I organize something for printmakers. I thought it was an excellent idea, so I called the printmakers I knew and invited them to come and talk about it. Six of us met at my dining room table on January 15, 1999, and laid out a plan for a printmaking group. We decided on the name – Northern Printmakers Alliance – because we felt the need to support each other in a city where there was very little understanding of original prints at that time.

We had no trouble coming up with a mission statement: Jon Hinkel was adamant about - and all of us were in agreement with – its emphasis on the traditional printmaking arts (though we’ve always included digital prints and other experimental media as well) and on educating our region about printmaking. By the time of our first group show six months later, we had tripled our membership and received an ARAC Project Grant for promoting the group’s aims. The opening attendance was one of the largest turnouts Lizzards had ever had at that time. We were given amazing community support and enthusiasm from the start – from Bob DeArmond at ARAC, John Steffl at the DAI, Donna Ekberg at Lizzards, Joan Farnam at the newspapers, and from the community at large – which really helped us grow. The Northern Prints Gallery developed naturally out of this impetus, as a place to give printmaking a constant public presence in the region.

Paper cutout, mixed media story by Susan Pagnucci
EN: Some of the work in your last show came from all over the country. Is your gallery connected to a larger group of print makers? In what way, and how did that come about?
CL: This show was our first “national call” – but printmakers are still a relatively small community in the arts, so there is a general thread of connectedness. We tend to seek each other out.

EN: When did printmakers begin to be taken seriously as artists? How did this come about?
CL: It’s true that for many centuries printmaking was primarily a utilitarian art form – serving the need for illustration and artwork reproduction, as well as commercial and publishing purposes. However, when I look at the incredible skill and sophistication involved in much of that work (even ‘primitive’ forms of it) I have to conclude that printmaking had already surreptitiously evolved into a fine art form long before it was widely recognized as such. Though the transformation was gradual, even from the beginning its practitioners had all the tendencies, talents and creativity of those we now call fine artists. It became fine art when they began to (openly) use it as a personal expressive tool, and the art world took notice.

The invention of photography also did a great deal to free printmakers. The crafts movement in the early 20th century – with its revival of respect for the crafts as fine art also contributed. By mid-century, the present day proliferation of printmaking in the United States had begun – one of its first centers was in the Midwest: Chicago. This movement is still gathering steam and incorporating new media and practitioners at the present time.
The show provided a true panoramic view of the possibilities of printmaking.

EN: You have been making art for a very long time. How has your work and vision evolved over the years?
"Giraffe" by Mary Bruno
CL: I’ve been educated in many other art forms since I discovered printmaking, but it’s still my native place in the arts – along with drawing. It uses all my proclivities and skills, and presents a constantly exciting challenge. So I would say that one development in terms of my work has been in a significant refinement of my skills – beginning with basics – line and craft– and progressing to development in form, composition, etc, as well as the practice of creativity, itself. For the past decade or more, it has been centered on a joyful exploration of color. In terms of vision, my work in art has consistently mirrored my personal spiritual/psychological development, as it does with all artists. I have been conscious of art as a spiritual journey for many decades – both in the interweaving comprehension it mirrors for the artist-maker, and in becoming an actual vehicle of the growth itself. These two aspects – the making and the vision – are so intertwined as to be inextricable and can only approximately be spoken of as distinct entities. The artist-maker must develop apace with the artist as person (and vice versa) – one’s development demands it. I find that subject matter has very little to do with this – though it is, of course, the expressive means (just as wood is necessary to make a woodcut). Subject matter is simply a metaphor. All visual artists are essentially working with the same elements of art… regardless of their subjects.

My early work was symbolist, abstract, and surrealistic – in that order. A crisis came in my life during which it seemed imperative to me that I ground my vision more in “reality” – to learn the truths that the natural world had to teach me. There was a need to be more connected with my outer environment and to integrate it more fully with my inner life. This subject matter has continued to engross me (at ever deeper and differing levels) for nearly thirty-five years. Though I can see hints of new directions appearing, most of the work that the public identifies with me, comes from this period. All the while, the basic foundation – the mystery and delight of what and how the eye reveals life – remains a constant.

EN: My only regret is that I couldn't stay longer.... and while I had the chance I should have taken time to meet more of the artists.

For more information on the Northern Prints Gallery visit

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