Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is Poetry Only Meant To Be Read, Not Heard?

The past few years I have attended a number of poetry readings here in the Twin Ports, and even read in a few. I've appreciated most of these public readings and performances, and hadn't given much thought to the notion that written poetry and performed poetry might be in a very different class of experience. Until I read an early passage in rock critic Christopher Ricks' Dylan's Visions of Sin.

Even if you don't know who Ricks is, it doesn't take long to grasp that this is a man who is intimately acquainted with not only the full span of Bob Dylan's creative output, but its historical context as well, in relation to poetry and literature and performance as art. It was Ricks who was selected to edit the 2014 collection of Dylan's songs titled, The Lyrics, also writing the introduction for this 13 pound book.

Among his many distinctions, the British scholar was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford (England) from 2004 to 2009 and former president of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. He has a reputation as a champion of Victorian poetry while simultaneously being an enthusiast of Bob Dylan. In short, he shares his unpredictable and astute insights with authority. (See his full Wikipedia profile.)

Sir Christopher Ricks notes that Dylan's words are only one element of his art. "Songs are different from poems, and not only in that a song combines three media: words, music, voice."

In a section designed to set down foundation stones for analyzing Dylan's work, he inserts a passage from the English poet and novelist Philip Larkin on the difference between a poem and a public reading, or a recorded reading.

"I don't give readings, no, although I have recorded three of my collections, just to show how I should read them. Hearing a poems, as opposed to reading it on the page, means you miss so much -- the shape, the punctuation, the italics, even knowing how far you are from the end. Reading it on the page means you can go your own pace, take it in properly; hearing it means you're dragged along at the speaker's own rate, missing things, not taking it in, confusing 'there' and 'their' and things like that. And the speaker may interpose his own personality between you and the poem, for better or worse. For that matter, so may the audience.... I think poetry readings grew up on the false analogy with music: the text is the 'score' that doesn't 'come to life' until it's 'performed.' It's false because people can read the words, whereas they can't read music. When you write a poem, you put everything into it that is needed: the reader should 'hear' it just as clearly as if you were in the room saying it to him. And of course this fashion for poetry readings has led to a kind of poetry that you can understand first go: easy rhythms, easy emotions, easy syntax. I don't think it stands up on the page."

Whether you agree or disagree, I myself find the passage quite agreeable. I know that immersing oneself in a good poem is a luxury enjoyed best in an easy chair or some other quiet place, with no limits on time, at an unhurried pace. And there's something appreciate visually about the look of a poem on a page. I can't imagine what e.e. cummings would have done were his poems only shared at public readings. Not all poets excel as performers, though those who do seem to impress us. Maybe there are some poets whose oratory skills don't have the same flair as others. Let's hope they don't abandon their gift for writing verse just because of that.

For what it's worth, Ricks' book, now that I am deeper into it, is shaping up to be a very good read. If only there were more hours in a day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

American Chronicles: Norman Rockwell at the Tampa Museum of Art

From March 7-May 31 the Tampa Museum of Art is exhibiting one of the most popular American artists of the 20th century, Norman Rockwell. For nearly seven decades in an era of great change, Rockwell chronicled our changing society in the small details and nuanced scenes of ordinary people in everyday life, providing personalized interpretation – albeit often an idealized one – of American identity. Much like Rolling Stone has provided a mirror for our era by means of the music of our times, Rockwell contributions have provided a visual legacy,

Though most famous for his Saturday Evening Post covers, 321 in all over the course of a lifetime, he produced more than 4000 paintings and drawings, each of them telling a totally different story. In fact, that is the most striking thing about this exhibition. Each fully-engaging illustration is a complete story, with remarkable details. I try to imagine a writer trying to do the same and suspect very few achieve a hundred let alone thousands. (Joyce Carol Oates may be the exception.)

From his Boy's Life days
This show includes some of Rockwell's earliest paintings, used to illustrate Boys Life magazine, for which he was art director by age 19. His big break came in 1916 when one of his paintings was use on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, for which he painted covers over the next 47 years. His distinctive paintings were also featured in Look, Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle, Boy’s Life, Literary Digest and Life.

What's striking to me when I see this exhibition is that Norman Rockwell was an exceptional artist and one of the most well-known artists of the century. Only a handful of artists achieve the kind of name recognition that Picasso and Dali achieved. Rockwell is of the same ilk, except for some reason he's never been given respect by art critics who dismissed him as "just an illustrator."

The Critic
In fact, one of his paintings pokes fun of these critics by depicting a critic stooped forward with a magnifying glass examining a painting while two faces in the painting are examining the critic. It's a comical commentary, but Rockwell did feel stung by the manner in which he was not taken serious by the critics.

Many of the paintings in American Chronicles are as familiar as the presidents featured on our paper money, but there were plenty of surprises as well, including two paintings of pioneer Daniel Boone, and the detailed records of his efforts to portray the murder of three young men in Mississippi in a manner more akin to Goya than his usual characterizations.

Included in the exhibit are the Buy War Bonds posters inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s address to Congress utilizing Rockwell's Four Freedoms paintings which were reproduced in four consecutive issues of The Saturday Evening Post with essays by contemporary writers. These are among his most familiar works, depicting Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. These paintings toured the United States in an exhibition that was jointly sponsored by the Post and the U.S. Treasury Department, raising more than $130 million for the war effort.

When one views this life overview it strikes me as impossible to dismiss Rockwell by saying he's not a serious artist any more thank one can dismiss Mark Twain as a literary figure. "He was just a humorist," doesn't cut it. Both Twain and Rockwell were keen observers of human nature, excelled at capturing their observations and transmitting them by images in either words or pictured to the wider public. In the event you agree with me, you may enjoy Cat Weaver's sarcastic How to Talk About Norman Rockwell.

Meantime, if you happen to be in Tampa, over the next two months, be sure to check out this very special show. And while you're there, note how beautifully renovated the area is, with parks, a children's museum and more in this sector of the city. This art district has brought people back downtown again.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Artist Olivia Cisneros Villanueva Revisited

I discovered San Antonio artist Olivia Villanueva through one of the art eNewsletters I get on a regular basis. Not only did the work I saw speak to me, I was also impressed by her story. Shortly after finishing high school she married and raised a family. It was only later in life, when her kids were grown, that her art career blossomed and flourished. Her work has been featured extensively in shows and galleries throughout Texas. She has also been featured in numerous publications including USA Today, and this month will see her work featured in a major exhibition in New York.

Or first interview took place in the spring of 2011 and from the start I found her paintings very exciting and dramatic. This is a follow up to that first interview.

EN: What are you working on now that has you jazzed?

Olivia Villanueva: Right now I am very excited to be showing my new paintings at the Artexpo in New York. It has been a major showcase for 37 years and is the largest international gathering of qualified trade buyers, gallery owners, art dealers, interior designers as well as architects and corporate art buyers. Bernard Solo Fine Art in New York City will be representing me there this April 23‐26 2015 and Art Basel Miami Florida in December. The first day of the Expo NewYork exhibition will be closed to the public and open only to museum art collectors, art dealers, serious art collectors and the media as well as celebrity VIPs. Bernard Solo Fine Art will be in the prime location in the very center of the main pavilion at Pier 94, 711 12th Ave. New York, NY. 10019‐5399

EN: Tell us more about your New York exhibition.

OV: The Artexpo New York will also be promoting a two-page article about my art in their magazine The Artist Showcase, I am very blessed and thankful for such an amazing opportunity to let thousands of art dealers, museum collectors and many others from all over the world to consider owning an Olivia original.

EN: We did this in 2011... what have you been working on the past three years?

OV: The past three years have been a spiral. I was not able to really paint for over a year and a half, due to a bout with sepsis that turned into septic shock in a matter of hours. The doctors gave me little to no chance of survival and had to revive me when all my organs starting shutting down. I had no idea I was dying! Until I started seeing the tears of my children. My words to them and in my heart were, this is just a test from God, pass it and you will see a miracle. Well I'm the living proof of what faith and believing can do. Just ask my doctors. They still can not believe I survived. I am still dealing with the aftereffects, but that is not keeping me from creating.

EN: Do you have a favorite medium and why?

OV: If I were to say I have a favorite medium then I would limit myself to so many other outlets to painting. I use many things to create, from found objects to paper. My favorite is to create with what is near to my heart. If it's not, then it is just a painting.

EN: What kind of music do you listen to while you paint?

OV: I listen to all types of music. When I paint figurative I like listening to Jazz, depending on the type of painting I'm working on a the time. I love working in high heels when I'm abstract painting. It gives me a sense of freedom. No rules, no boundaries.

EN: Where can people see more of your work?

OV: My new insights this year are moving forward with my art, not allowing any distractions when it comes to creating. The past few years have been the hardest, but keep in mind that we are the captain of our own ship. I stay away from negativity and keep to myself. I prefer to stay away from the art scene to create from my own being with no other influences. Finding one's self is most important when it comes to painting. I become one with the paint as it leaves my brush onto the canvas. This is the mystery to my creativity when it comes to art. There is no substitute to capturing the raw art in motion.

If someone would like to see more of my art they can contact me direct at oliviaarte at yahoo.com.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Five Minutes with Tom Borrup on the Value of Public Art

Ten days ago I attended a lunch meeting involving a new new initiative to move the markers forward a notch in the development of creative community here in Duluth. The Duluth Public Arts Commission is on the forefront of this year's activity, hoping to build on the work others have done over the past ten years.

Tom Borrup from Creative Community Builders and two members of Forecast Public Art, Carrie Christianson and Bob Lunning, led this first meeting which you can read about here. Afterwards I followed up with Mr. Borrup to help gain a better perspective on the aims of this year's efforts.

EN: What is Creative Community Builders?

Tom Borrup: Creative Community Builders (CCB) is a small consulting practice that includes myself and other planners, designers, artists and arts professionals who team up as needed to assist communities to better appreciate, coordinate and leverage their cultural assets for the purpose of making better places. We work for cities, nonprofits, and foundations across the U.S. In Duluth, CCB has teamed up with Forecast Public Art and a team who bring a complement of skills to help the City develop an arts and culture master plan with a special emphasis on public art and placemaking.

EN: Why is public art important?

TB: Public art -- when understood broadly to include a wide variety of temporary and permanent art in public places — is the most visible and outward expression of a community. It speaks loudly to the identity and values of a city. Art in public places, when done thoughtfully and well, brings people together and makes places more livable and enjoyable. It strengthens our connection to places and to others with whom we share those places. Public art can also draw attention from far and wide to places and stories that have special meaning. It can help our communities build their self-esteem and help each of us to learn and to remember.

EN: How did you come to take an interest in art personally? What's your story? Were you an art student?

TB: From an early age I had a love of photography — both making pictures and looking at pictures. In elementary school I took part in school plays but always behind the scenes, off the stage. I also enjoyed writing as a teen and began shooting and editing movies back in the day of super-8 film. In college I studied film and video making but found myself gravitating to the organizing process and to helping others make their films and get those films seen. That led me into the field of arts and cultural management in the 1980s, raising money and growing nonprofit organizations. I still enjoy taking pictures wherever I go and it helps me better understand places, how those places are made, and how people interact in those places.

EN: What kinds of things can be accomplished by an organization and through the process like this one you have undertaken in Duluth?

TB: Forecast and CCB hope to engage with many people in Duluth who represent the widest spectrum of arts and culture and to work with them to learn, formulate and begin to implement strategies to strengthen the cultural community. This spectrum includes the arts and also the historical and the natural environment. Central to any culture is the relationship to the environment, the foods, the traditions, the stories, and of course how we relate to each other, how we communicate and how we organize. From this, we articulate the special and unique qualities of place. And, already we have seen and heard so much of what is unique and special about Duluth. We believe that only by building on what is unique and special can Duluth express and grow its best qualities, find ways people can best work together so that arts and culture can flourish and bring much value to all aspects of life here.

EN: This isn't your first such project. Can you give an example of another city where your group helped facilitate positive changes that have lasting value?

TB: There are many stories and each, of course, is different. Ten years ago we worked in a small Ohio town called Yellow Springs. A citizen group felt there was something missing in the community and that by building a new performing arts center they could fill that void. After spending time there and convening hundreds of people through an active community process, we realized the last thing the town needed was another building that they couldn’t maintain and operate. They already had several. They didn’t need an arts center, the entire town was already a vibrant center for the arts. We were able to get artists and the Chamber of Commerce to join forces and to revitalize the Arts Council. Already an amazingly active and vital creative community, Yellow Springs needed to appreciate more of what they had and to understand how the arts were central to the local economy and way of life. A small college in town already had a theater building that was near to being condemned. Years later, funds have been raised and the college and community have come together to share that space. They have a performing arts facility and the means to operate it and maintain it. They have a public art program, a newly organized community theater, a renovated art cinema under a new nonprofit umbrella, a highly-active arts council, many new and thriving creative sector businesses, and very importantly, a stronger self-image. They re-invested in what they had and they found new ways to work together.

In a much larger city, San Jose, CA, we spent considerable time between 2007 and 2009 looking at the unique qualities there. It is a city of one million people in one of the wealthiest and most highly educated regions of the world known as Silicon Valley. Arts leaders there were puzzled as to why they couldn’t grow and maintain a symphony, ballet, professional theater, museums and other such institutions. They lost several major arts organizations to bankruptcies before, during, and after those years we worked there. Through extensive research, we found that smaller, participatory, culturally diverse arts organizations were thriving and new ones were starting constantly. Silicon Valley represents the world’s most international, creative, new technology start-up cultures. Industrial-era production and distribution models that focus on Western European cultures were not going to achieve a broad base there like they have in other, older U.S. Cities. San Jose and Silicon Valley arts leaders have now come to terms with their unique and amazingly wonderful culture and have stopped trying to replicate models that seemed to work in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

As you can imagine, Ed, I could rattle on and on, given the time. Nor do you have the space!

EN: There's always more space for a good cause. Thank you for sharing and I know many who will be looking forward to seeing what evolves.

* * * *
After last week's meeting I did speak with a few who attended. There's a general feeling among some that there will be a need to bring a more diverse group of artists and arts representatives. I myself have had a number of ideas in the aftermath and one key observation. There are many groups who are making real contributions in various ways who were not at the table. They're voices will need to be heard. The possibilities can be significant.

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Internet Cat Video Festival Returns to Duluth

Get ready, Duluth. The Internet Cat Video Festival is coming to town, presented by the Duluth Art Institute and Zinema 2. Are cat video the new kitsch? I dunno. But they certainly seem to be a 21st century sensation.

Personally, me and cats haven't seemed to hit it off too well. I got bit while petting a stray cat when I was around six or so, and remember lying on a metal table in a semi-dark room at the hospital waiting for tests to determine whether the little fellow had rabies. I was spared.

Tow years later, on Easter morning while visiting my cousins in Boston the tail hairs of their cat brushed against my eyeball, which in an of itself may not have been a problem except that I have a profoundly effective cat allergy that I was unaware of until that day. My cornea began itching, and lacking the discipline to leave it alone I kept rubbing it. When I finally looked in a mirror to see how bad it was I was shocked to see that my eyeball looked like a wrinkled prune. It shocked my mom, too, who as an RN immediately set about trying to get me to an ophthalmologist. This was Easter morning, and to everyone's relief the doctor was in.

His office was in the back of his house and I was studiously examined. At one point the lights were turned low and I was to look at an eye chart comprised of all E's facing different directions and reducing in size. In the end he gave me a shot of some kind of medication, right into the corner of my eye. I will never forget that one.

I've forgiven that doctor, and those cats, too.

Over the years we've had a number of barn cats to take care of the critters that steal the grain our geese and other animals rely on. Elsie, our current feline, seems to not be as dutiful as she ought to be. Mario's the only one that I've really been close to, but they have all been interesting to observe, especially when playing with their food. (Those poor little mice.)

So, Monday, April 6, the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Festival is returning to Duluth, with two shows, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are $9 for adults, $7 for students and $6.50 for senior citizens.

The 2015 iteration of this event features a new selection of videos curated by Will Braden, the creator of the Henri Le Chat Noir videos and recipient of the festival’s first Golden Kitty (People’s Choice) Award.

When I checked out the Walker's website on this event, I quickly noticed that this is more than just going to the movies. You're invtied -- no, encouraged -- to wear a cat costume, with the winner taking home artist Nancy Cramer-Lettenstrom’s Strata, a large-scale, dream-like pastel portrayal of cats ($650 value). According to the announcement, "Animal Allies Humane Society and Marvelous Melissa, our community’s cat-based vendor who creates eco-friendly toys for cats, will be represented at booths on site. A signature ‘pretty kitty’ cocktail featuring Vikre Distillery gin will be on sale at the Zeitgeist lounge, with half of the sale proceeds going to the Duluth Art Institute."

Who woulda thunk it?

Speaking of cats, have you ever played the party game "Nice kitty"? It's a stitch, too. Maybe while some of you still have your costumes on you'll want to play a couple rounds in the lobby.

The Duluth Art Institute's programs and services are made possible through the support of contributing members of the Duluth Art Institute, Bush Foundation, Depot Foundation, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation, McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and Wildey H. Mitchell Family Foundation. ##

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Quotes About Books

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends. ~ Dawn Adams

Of all the diversions of life, there is none so proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors. ~ Joseph Addison

Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life. ~ Mortimer J. Adler

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. ~ Ray Bradbury

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. ~ Joseph Brodsky

A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

The pleasure of reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. ~ Jessamyn West

Books had instant replay long before televised sports. ~ Bert Williams

To feel most beautifully alive means to be reading something beautiful, ready always to apprehend in the flow of language the sudden flash of poetry. ~ Gaston Bachelard

He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes. ~ Barrow

Reading is not a duty, and has consequently no business to be made disagreeable. ~ Augustine Birrell

The mere brute pleasure of reading --the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing. ~ G.K. Chesterton

A room without books is like a body without a soul. ~ Marcus T. Cicero

* * * *
Do you have a favorite quote about books? I'd like to hear it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Events Round Out This Year's Duluth Dylan Fest

The times are indeed ever changing. In a world gone wrong, one of the more disappointing local events of the last year has been the closing of Zimmy's in Hibbing, with the subsequent end of the historic Dylan Days. Fortunately, the Duluth Dylan Fest team has picked up the slack and will carry on with two of the highlights of Dylan Days: the Singer Songwriter Contest and the Bob Dylan Bus Tour, which had been a centerpiece of the annual weekend celebration. The Friday evening Singer Songwriter Contest will this year be at The Red Herring Lounge in Duluth, a first. The annual bus tour of Dylan sites will again be Saturday.

Bob Dylan Bus Tour

Young Robert lived here six years.
The tour is slated to start in Duluth at the Historic Duluth Armory where a young Robert Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly perform just days before he died. The tour will visit some significant Duluth sites in Dylan’s birthplace before heading for Hibbing where Bob Dylan grew up. The Bob Dylan Bus Tour had been a mainstay of the Hibbing Dylan Days and the Duluth Dylan Fest is honored to continue this tradition. A luxury charter bus will provide comfortable accommodations.

In order for the event to happen, 20 tickets must be purchased by Sunday, May 10th. Tickets are $40 plus tax and fees. Lunch will be available at Sammy’s Pizza in Hibbing for $10.49 per person (lunch is not included in the ticket price).

Tentative Itinerary
9:00 AM Board Bus
9:30 AM – 10:30 AM Duluth Dylan sites
10:30 AM Head to Hibbing
12:00 PM Lunch at Sammy’s Pizza in Hibbing
12:45 PM Board Bus
12:45-3:30 PM Visit Hibbing's Dylan Sites
3:30 PM Head back to Duluth
5:00 PM Return to Historic Armory

The ride from Duluth to Hibbing and back promises to be as entertaining as the site-seeing.
The bus tour will be hosted by local Dylanologists. This is a “can’t miss” opportunity.

The bus tour will return in time to grab dinner and attend the benefit concert for the Armory Arts & Music Center at 7:00 PM at Sacred Heart Music Center at 7:30 PM.

Geno and Scarlet will both be back for the Armory Benefit Concert
For more information on the Duluth Dylan Fest visit:
Web – www.bobdylanway.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/duluthdylanfest
Twitter: www.twitter.com/dylan_fest
Amory Arts & Music Center - www.dulutharmory.org

If the event is cancelled, refunds will be given. Please email duluthdylanfest@gmail.com with questions on this or any other event.

Order Bus Tour Tickets Here

Acoustic Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan
The Saturday evening concert has been shaping up to be another special event. Each year seems to one-up the year before and you can't blame the Armory Arts & Music Center for trying.

I was told initially that Scarlet Rivera would not be here this May because she was slated to perform here later in the year. What a nice surprise to learn that once again Scarlet is on the bill which includes many other familiar names and a few new voices.

To purchase tickets visit http://dulutharmory.org/event/dylan-fest-concert/

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Celebrate it. And come May, celebrate it here in the Northland with us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Starbucks Did It Wrong, Dylan Got It Right: Only A Pawn in their Game

"'Only A Pawn In Their Game' is one of Dylan's truly great songs, and what puts it over the top... is its unmatched tone." ~ John Hinchey, Like A Complete Unknown

This week Starbucks pulled the plug on its "Race Together" campaign. The coffee company made an attempt to get people talking about a topic we're not always comfortable talking about. But as fast as it appeared, in 12,000 locations across the country, it disappeared.

The company explained the plan like this:
As racially-charged tragedies unfolded in communities across the country, the chairman and ceo of Starbucks didn't remain a silent bystander. Howard Schultz voiced his concerns with partners (employees) in the company's Seattle headquarters and started a discussion about race in America.

What was supposed to happen was that servers would write the words "Race Together" on cups of Starbucks coffee and thereby start a conversation on race. Or something to that effect.

The reactions were quick from all sides, many quite hostile, and some defending the company's courage. Here's a detailed article worth reading that was posted at The Atlantic titled Overcaffeinated Attacks on the Starbucks 'Race Together' Campaign.

One wonders how uncomfortable it made employees feel who had to stand on the front lines for this well intended effort. I liked the subtitle on the article “Let’s talk about race!” – your Starbucks barista that went up on Le-gal-In-sur-rec-tion. "Would you like room for social justice in your coffee?" 

I believe it is good to talk about race, but there's a time and a place for everything and I'm not really sure that anything meaningful will be discussed when you're standing in line waiting to grab a latte before you run to catch a plane.

The Hinchey quote at the beginning of this blog post puts a sharp point on it. The subject is serious, not frivolous. Which is why Dylan's music was not mainstream when he initially appeared on the scene. The Beatles' "She Loves You" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" fit like hands into a pair of gloves when they dropped in to our pop culture. This was a world apart from "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll".

Dylan's roots were planted in the classic folk tradition. His aim: to wear the mantle of Woody Guthrie for a new generation, drawing attention to the outcast, the forgotten, the downtrodden, the misfit, the alienated and disenfranchised. Some might describe it as bleak, but I say otherwise. It's a harsh realism. Dylan's grim countenance was a counterweight to the cheery, oblivious lighthearted distractions of the pop culture within which much of America was bathing.

Which is why a Starbucks campaign was destined to fail from the outset. I can only assume that servers there have been trained to be friendly, many even hired for their good cheer. It just seems like an impossible switch for them to now have to discuss such a serious topic on the spur of the moment. It's the wrong note in the wrong key. There's no way it could have worked. Though to Schultz's credit it did get us talking.

Only A Pawn In Their Game

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers' blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man's brain
But he can't be blamed
He's only a pawn in their game.

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
"You got more than blacks, don't complain
You're better than them, you been born with white skin" they explain
And the Negro's name
Is used it is plain
For the politician's gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool
He's taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
'Bout the shape that he's in
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoof beats pound in his brain
And he's taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide 'neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain't got no name
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

The day Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He'll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game.

Recorded June 1963
Copyright Bob Dylan

Monday, March 23, 2015

Two Short Movie Reviews: The Lego Movie and Secret Life of Walter Mitty

While flying back from California in January the person next to me was watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on her iPad. She had earbuds in so I could not hear any sound, but after watching about three minutes or so I somehow figured it out and went back to listening to my own music and writing notes about one thing or another (probably my trip summary as I was on business.)

I remember watching the original 1947 film with Danny Kaye, which was based on a short story by James Thurber, which I have also read. Thurber's piece is classic, having first appeared in The New Yorker in 1939.

The Thurber story is about a man whose mundane life is made tolerable through daydreams. The recurring "ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa" that sets Walter Mitty off into various fantasies is a feature of the original film as well.

The short story and this film starring Ben Stiller are two very different things, and you can absorb one without disturbing your enjoyment of the other. The short story is a brief (a few pages) look from the perspective of a man who enjoys fantasizing. This movie places a similar (but not identical) man in a two-hour story as he reacts to an upheaval of his work situation and experiences a lot of growth.

The backdrop for this story is the downsizing of Life magazine. Walter Mitty's job is managing the negative assets of the publication, meaning the negatives that are used to print photos that will be in the publication. A famous Life photographer has indicated that his greatest shot should be used for the cover of the magazine, but Mitty has somehow misfiled it or misplaced it. He goes on a quest to find the photographer so he can get a better clue as to what he is looking for.

It's a departure from the original story, yet charming and completely satisfying as a film.

The Lego Movie is actually an amazing film that far exceeded my expectations. When the title song was performed in the Oscars I really didn't "get it" because there was no context. Obviously anyone who has seen the film in advance would have understood the zany activities taking place on that Hollywood stage. Now I understand as well.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are cited as the screenwriters for this incredible script which sparkles with brilliance in nearly every line. It's an animated film on the order of Toy Story, which in its day connected on multiple levels with audiences. Instead of Woody and gang, we have a new generation of grown up kids who had Legos when they were little. My son had them and they were endlessly diverting.

If you had Legos in your house you will remember the little people all had yellow heads. Originally they all wore the same expression, too. They were happy. Hence the song, "Everything Is Awesome" which was nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars.  Once I saw the film I was surprised that t had not gained a nomination for Best Animated Feature. Makes me wonder what made those other five so good.

The storyline goes like this: An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.

There are so many incredibly clever lines in the film that it's difficult to not be impressed. And who doesn't get pumped up when their starting their day with this?

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is awesome when we're living our dream

If you ever had anything to do with Legos, the film is a must. And even if you have not, you'll probably still find it awesome.

There's a remarkably clever twist in the story near its end, and I won't spoil it for you. It's awesome, too.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Miscellaneous Weekend Smatterings: Readings and Musings

Confession time. I have a hard time making up my mind regarding what to order when I go out to eat. Everything looks good. It takes a lot of discipline for me to not change my mind after my order has been placed because there are so many other delights listed on the menu in front of me.

That's the problem I had when I began my blog this morning. I started down one path, but when near completion I changed my mind. It was too late to complete something on the Eric Swanson fund-raiser at R.T. Quinlans and I'd guessed that Christa Lawler's frontpage story in the Trib would accomplish more than this blog post anyways. What a nice turnout this afternoon. Packed to the gills, with people coming and going throughout the day to bid on an abundance of generous gifts by artists and others to help defray the costs associated with Eric's medical expenses after his recent stroke.

Polka Dots
Another story that caught my eye this a.m. had to do with Damian Hirst's "Polka Dot" paintings, which are currently on display in the Gagosian galleries around the world. Sometime in recent years I read a story about how Hirst didn't event paint most of his polka dots himself, but utilized students or interns or whatever. Which begs the question, "What's the fun in that?" I know that Michener used a team of researchers to provide the fodder for many of his massive volumes. In short, these celebrity artists and writers become mini-factories and their works simply a bi-product, like Coca-Cola bottles. It doesn't strike me quite the same as a Van Gogh whose pigments were mixed with blood and tears. You can check out his polka dots here.

Patton, Montgomery and Rommel 
For those who enjoy reading war stories Patton, Montgomery and Rommel stands out as a worthy addition to one's reading pleasures. I've been listening to the audio book during my commutes, and I find myself looking for additional reasons to take a drive so I can hear more.

I've read plenty about World War II but do not recall ever having read exactly what Germany's strategy was with regard to its famed North Africa Campaign. Or maybe I simply did not notice it before. Rommel and the German armies were headed to the Middle East to take possession of the oil fields there. Simultaneously the German army cutting through Russia was aimed at the same objective, forming a giant pincer movement. Had they succeeded, the Allies would have been without one of the essential supplies for their war machinery.

The book does an exceptional job of revealing the three personalities, and characters they were. The power of PR is highlighted throughout. Rommel was the first general to become internationally known, and the PR machinery used this man's persona to diminish the confidence of his adversaries. How Montgomery groomed his image and Patton established his is detailed here.

The Philosophy Problem
I get too many eNews to read everything that clutters my inbox to capacity, but there are occasional standouts which do manage to stop my mind-flitting and capture my attention for a spell. One of these was a piece at The Philosopher website titled Wittgenstein, Tolstoy and The Gospel in Brief.

I'd first become aware of Ludwig Wittgenstein through a philosophy class at Ohio U. The only thing I really remembered about him was that he'd taken an interest in the meanings of words. I knew nothing of his personal life, so it was interesting to see that both he and Tolstoy came from the elite wealthy class, but disposed of their wealth and attempted to live as common people doing manual labor.

Although the Gospel in Brief was not published in Tolstoy's lifetime, it clearly comes from the period of his religious and moral writings between 1879 and 1902. It is a fusion of the four Gospels, the purpose of which is to seek an answer to the problem of how we should live. It is both philosophical and practical, rather than theological and spiritual, in its intention.

It's a universal problem that has been wrestled with by philosophers throughout history: How should we then live? What does it mean to be human? And the corollary, why are we here?

Wittgenstein's response to Tolstoy's work affirms the need to find meaning in life, but that science alone can provide no solution to this quest. The article ends with Wittgenstien's own solution to the challenge. It's a good thought-provoking read.

* * * *
Well, didn't get near a few of the other topics my mind stumbled upon today, but there's always tomorrow.

* * * *
Feedback on my first collection of short stories, Unremembered Histories: Six Stories with a Supernatural Twist has been very positive. I consider these stories to be some of my best work. The book is available here at Amazon.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Local Art Seen: Thursday Eve at Lizzard's and Zeitgeist

Shelley Target by Wendy Rouse
Thursday evening I planned to slip in to Lizzard's Gallery on Superior Street to see an exhibition of paintings by Wendy Rouse that had been donated to raise money for the Spirit of the Lake Community School. I can't recall when I first learned of the school and how different its approach was to education. I do know that if public education was working, we would not have all these alternative schools and teaching methods, and the homeschool movement would probably not have become so pervasive. Spirit of the Lake School has adopted the Waldorf Method of education, which I learned about from one of its instructors last fall.

Lizzard's always puts on a nice event and this was no different. Wendy Rouse was not present, but the presence of her work in the gallery has been something one could always count on. Her stunning oil paintings have become well known. In this show her familiarity with watercolor and other media were displayed. The works varied in size, but all showed her to be adept.

When Adam Swanson and a friend arrived I learned that the Zeitgeist was also hosting an event featuring something like 11 artists. Though I'd intended to be home for supper it seemed impossible to bypass this as we were only two blocks away. To my surprise this was no small affair. The artwork not only filled wove its way around the Atrium, it sprawled into the hallway and back into the Zuccone Theater.

There were many familiar faces, both artists and friends of the arts, talking in clusters or sifting through he crowd. Karin Kraemer's ceramic works were shelved to the left of the entrance where a handful of people were talking animatedly. Adam Swanson's work hung in the center of the Atrium wall across the room. Eric Dubnicka had a wall of small pieces in the region before the theater and Ryan Tischer created an interesting space by shrouding a section of theater seats and amplifying his vibrant outdoors photography.

But it was David Bowen's acrylic sculpture's on a pedestal that stopped me. It wasn't clear what I was looking at but the work was indeed fascinating. I located the artist and learned that the pieces were created using a drone to fly over Lake Superior and take 3-D scans of the same location. These scans were converted to the 3-D blocks of acrylic using new technology and chemistry. Five hundred years ago this would have been called Magic.

Here are a few of shots of Bowen's pedestal.

Adam Swanson paintings will be displayed at Pizza Luce again this year.
Thursday evening there were also two poetry events, one at Beaners and one at the Red Herring. Sometimes you wish you could clone yourself, but then that is what makes us who we are. We have to make choices and decisions about how we use our time. 

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Notice, and engage it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Introductory Meeting for Duluth Creative Community Builders Lays Groundwork for Year of New Visioning

This week three consultants from Minneapolis met with the Duluth leaders to begin the process of developing new initiatives for our city on the lake. Tom Borrup from Creative Community Builders and two members of Forecast Public Art, Carrie Christianson and Bob Lunning, had been invited by the Duluth Public Arts Commission (DPAC) to begin work that would move forward the development of a more intentional arts and culture master plan.

The mission of Forecast Public Art is to strengthen and advance the field of public art -- locally to internationally -- by expanding participation, supporting artists, informing audiences and assisting communities. The organization was formed in 1978.

On Tuesday I attended a lunch gathering of people who had been invited by Peter Spooner of DPAC. The group included Bob D'Aramond of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, Anne Dugan of the Duluth Art Institute and Free Range Film Festival, Penny Clarke of Lizzards, freelance set designer Ann Gumpper, artist/writer Ann Klefstad, and Ken Bloom of the Tweed. Spooner himself is an independent educator, artist and writer.

What brought us together is this conscious effort to move the markers forward another step. Duluth leaders approved the formation of a public arts commission, and there have been real efforts in the past to identify the needs and opportunities here, but there have been limitations as well. The DPAC has been a volunteer organization and as such has limited authority and energy.

After introductions, a brainstorming session commenced in which we threw out ideas with regards to what we have here that is already good, and then what can be improved. There's much good happening in our community, and we have good foundations to build on.

Near the outset Ann Klefstad pointed out that we have in certain ways been down this path before and that many of us are a bit guarded about getting their hopes up with regards to what can be accomplished through another such effort. The charette of a few years back and certain efforts of the Twin Ports Arts Align did much to bolster optimism while appearing to have fallen short on some of their ambitious aims. Ann's comments helped set the table by putting out there a notion many of us were no doubt thinking.

Everyone present no doubt agreed, however, that it is good for continued consideration to be taken toward a conscious effort to plan the future strategically rather than just let the city march haphazardly.

The reason for such efforts is because of the belief that public access to art improves the everyday life of all people. Communities are sometimes broken into silos that fail to see what the power of collaboration can do when businesses and artists and cities work together. One reason Duluth is successful in many respects is the beauty of the lake and the beauty of its architecture. There has been a conscious effort to ensure that the new integrates with the old. The public fountains and other embellishments are also a gift of thoughtful decision-makers.

What will come of this 2015 effort is impossible to forecast, much like our weather, but I believe there is much to be hopeful about. It's always good when there is a serious dialogue taking place. Thank you to Peter Spooner, Mayor Ness and whoever else is involved in this effort to make a difference.

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Twin Ports Happenings: Art, Poetry, The Beatles and More

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

One of the values that newspapers bring to a region is their documentation of history. If you've got a hankering for what happened back in time around here, the first place to dig would have been the public library. Today we can Google a lot of things, and sites like Zenith City Online bring us endless riches from our oft-forgotten past.

What's a little more difficult to unearth are the grass roots activities going on. I see so much happening in the local arts scene that is not being covered in the papers at all. And if at some point in time there be a major emergence that occurs, drawing national attention to the Midwest as an arts center, it might not be the newspapers that lead the way in documenting what happened. It may be The Playlist and blogs like Perfect Duluth Day or this one that people cull to see what happened.

Maybe. Or maybe it doesn't matter all that much whether the outside world notices. We've got something good going on, and here are few more glimmers from that treasure of local arts activities.


Duluth Art Institute
Artists Ryuta Naka Jima & Aya Kawaguchi Gallery Talk
5:30 p.m.
Artistic Director Anne Dugan will lead the conversation, and the three will discuss artistic practice and inspiration.

Painting by Wendy Rouse
An Evening with Wendy Rouse's Paintings
5:00 p.m.

Spoken Word Open Mic
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Red Herring
Poetry Motel Thursday Night Slam
8:00 - 10:00 p.m.


Benchmark Tattoo
Aqueous Volume Eight Release Party
6:00 p.m.

Teatro Zuccone
The Revolution 5 Presents: "The Beatles' #1 Hits"
7:00 p.m.


Studio 15
Kids Art: Eruptive Art
2:00 p.m.

RT Quinlans
Benefit for Eric Swanson and his Family
2:00 p.m. till Midnight

* * * *
Because I don't cover the music scene here, you will want to make sure you follow the Reader and the Transistor. The Trib shines a spotlight in a few places each week as well, including this week's bluegrass festival in Canal Park. Also there's a car show at the DECC this weekend, Motorhead Madness. Cars can be works of art, too. At one time, automakers produced cars with real style, and many of those lost gems can be found this weekend in the DECC.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Visit with Artist Philosopher Dan Hansen

I'm not sure he would call himself a philosopher, but he's in that territory as an explorer of intellectual concepts. He would probably call it grazing, and certainly brings an enthusiasm that is unusual to everything he does.

Dan Hansen's current enthusiasm is preparing for his upcoming show at Benchmark Tattoo for the month of April. I first met Hansen in the fall of 2012 in a show at Duluth's PRØVE Gallery. I quickly discovered that the artist is as entertaining as his work.

Currently he is racing against the clock to get his work ready for the exhibition, with its opening reception slated for April 3.

EN: What are the themes in your upcoming art show? 

Dan Hansen: My upcoming show entitled 'Sofia' (Greek for wisdom) is a work of historical fiction that is presented as an archeological find of Pythagoras' lost writings. So the theme is very Indiana Jones for lack of a better description. The content is focused on the philosophy and creation myth of each number 1-10 in our base 10 number system. Pythagoras is most famous for being the originator of western mathematics and the Pythagorean Theorem, yet he was foremost a philosopher and mystic. All we know of him is what has been written from other Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. There's controversy as to whether Pythagoras existed or not. For me this does not detract from the fascinating idea that numbers comprise everything from nature to music to cosmology.

EN: How did you become interested in fractals?

DH: At first in high school I thought fractals were interesting from an aesthetic design perspective with its infinite complexity. A few years later they became more profound to me when I learned of the Fibonacci sequence and golden spirals. Whether it was fantasy or not I was convinced there was some kind of infinite resolution and pattern built into the fabric of reality. This pattern of reality I viewed in my minds eye as some kind of 4 dimensional fractal. This combined with the idea of hypercubes got me thinking maybe this is how movement is possible within a fixed infinite tapestry that is the fractal. It could all very well be a pseudo scientific fantasy playing in my head but it has a tendency to provide an entertaining context to the world around me. It also gives me that Game Genie feel from the NES era... let's get Mario to jump over the flag pole and see what's on the other side!

EN: How did you go about producing the work that will be displayed in this show? Run through the stages from concept to execution.

DH: It all started with a ton of research. I studied up on various Greek philosophers. Since so many Greek philosophers seemed to be heavily influenced by Pythagoras I decided to steal a bunch of their ideas and pawn them off as Pythagoras himself. Then I tried to write it in a Biblical/Shakespearean style. I'd use Illustrator to manipulate the text to make it look worn out and scrunch everything into neat tidy columns. Designing the images accompanying the text came after that. I went for a modest hand drawn look. I checked out some Greek writings from Euclid and his drawings were basic. I couldn't find Socrates writing. Plato was a bit more artistic and it seemed Aristotle was a lot more artistic. So considering Pythagoras came before all of them I went for an in between of Euclid and Plato look. After all that I ordered up 12 sheets of 24"x36" Egyptian papyrus from Egypt because I couldn't find a place in the US that sold sheets that big. That process was a fiasco, but I did finally get them 4 weeks later after getting my bank involved with the transaction dispute. Now I'm still waiting on the print shop to get their printer operational so I can experiment on the test print to artificially age the papyrus to give it that ancient feel. So it's down to the wire folks!

EN: You are a disabled artist. Has your disability influenced the premise of this exhibit?

DH: Great question, Ed. Yes it surely has. One of the most challenging things in my situation is staying interested in life without having access to thrill seeking activities such as parkour, free climbing, a career, hang gliding, women, wingsuit flying or base jumping. Many times I've fantasized about running down 21st Avenue with a hang glider just to see if I could clear the power lines and catch the biggest adrenaline rush known to Dazzle Town. That's all just that...fantasy. I have to dig way deeper than that to up my fantasy rush. That has been evolving the past decade which has arrived at investigating the nature of reality. Peeling back the veil like a kid taking apart his Blu Ray player to see what's inside. As a kid I'd be fascinated by that little projector window in the back of the movie theater. I'd look at it more than the movie and observe not one person even remotely concerned where this movie was coming from. Who is the mysterious projector guy running it? I think subconsciously I've always been trying to find this projectionist. He's never where anyone claims he is. It's a controversial task. People have their beliefs and I have miles of boredom to remedy. It could get ugly, it could be the best move I ever made. That's my disability, that's my art show, that's my new thrill!

EN: What is your favorite color and why?

DH: My favorite color is Yellow Brick Road. Because I'm a Wizard of Oz fan. I wish all my t-shirts were this color they really pop with my red headed dome. Unfortunately I can only find those awful canary yellow shirts with nothing clever written on them.

* * * *
You can see here why Dan Hansen is on my short list of most interesting people I've met through blogging about the arts. Thank you, Dan, for sharing your ideas here and in your upcoming show.

Benchmark Tattoo and Gallery is located at 1831 East 8th Street, kitty corner from Chester Creek Cafe/Sarah's Table.

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