Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shootout at the O.K. Corral

The other day while looking up information about Arizona I came across a link to the shootout at the O.K. Corral. With the weekend's headline announcing the shooting of Richard Matt and yesterday's capture of David Sweat, the two fugitives who escaped from a Federal prison on June 6, I thought it would be an interesting topic today.

The Wikipedia account of the shootout begins like this:
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a 30-second gunfight between outlaw Cowboys and lawmen that is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Wild West. The gunfight took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. It was the result of a long-simmering feud between Cowboys Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury, and opposing lawmen: town Marshal Virgil Earp, Assistant Town Marshal Morgan Earp, and temporary deputy marshals Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

In this case the lawmen won. Three of the cowboys were killed and two ran away. And yet it wasn't till 50 years later the incident reached the broader public, due to a largely fictional story about the life of Wyatt Earp. In the mid-1950s the legend grew even larger through a television show that aired for six years with a catchy lead-in ditty, "Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold." (Here's the song in full, as manly as the man. Not hard to imagine a Monty Python spoof on this one.)

While European writers were wrestling with issues of existence and meaning, 1950's Americans were taken up with B&W television heroes in a world where good and evil was highly defined in black and white.

What gave us such an insatiable thirst for Hollywood Westerns? When I Googled the question as to why Westerns were so popular in the 50's I came across this discussion thread with many insights. First, Westerns weren't just a staple of the Fifties. Hollywood had been making such features since the early silent movie days. Second, as more than one person noted, "They were simple morality plays that could translate to any audience and had slightly believable violence.... Also they were inexpensive to make."

When the film version of the O.K. Corral incident came out it featured Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. How real the story gets told is anyone's guess, but Hollywood's aim at that point was financial.

There's at least one similarity between the O.K. Corral and the New York prison fugitives. Once bullets were fired the encounters with authorities were over pretty quick.

There's a difference between the two stories as well. Fifty years after the shootout in Tombstone a book was written about it and 80 years later a movie and television series. I can't help but imagine this most recent drama will be long forgotten in fifty years, if not fifty weeks by most of us. But then again, who knows? Maybe someone will write a book and sell the rights to Hollywood...

For the Wikipedia account: click this link.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Local Art Seen: 45th Annual Park Point Art Fair

Brady Glower's Photo Letter Project
A whimsical mosaic pig created by Joan Wilson of Shorewood.
Painting by Tonya Sell with crackle paste and string gel.
For locals, the Park Point Art Fair is a local summer staple, much like the annual Park Point Rummage Sale in which nearly every house on the Point has its array of stuff set out and prices, or so it seems. In this case, its fine art and crafts, wall art and sculptures, and a stage with a lot of fine music.

The setup is same as usual, and many of the artists are the same as well, mostly regional artists from the Twin Cities to the Iron Range. The weather for the weekend was most enjoyable, though a late afternoon storm broke around three o'clock and dampened some spirits.

I do have one complaint about the show. The handout with all the artists' names and information was less helpful this year. The artists were listed in various categories by their type of medium they worked in, from printmaking to jewelry to painting. This year they were listed in alphabetical order by last name. But if you don't recall the name, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find which artist you were talking with. I recommend contact information for everyone in next year's program.

Nevertheless, here are some of the things that caught my eye.
Husby ceramics have become a given here.
I recognized Escher's influence in Kyle Osvog's ceramic work.
Embroidery as fine art.

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Orange Is The New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison -- A Review of the Audiobook

After hearing several people talk about the miniseries Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman I decided to borrow the audiobook from the library, read by Cassandra Campbell. Fortunately I have not seen the show based on this book, as it is apparently using only the title as a springboard for creative screenwriters whose aim is to produce a compelling series.

From the start I found the book well written. The opening chapter does what all good stories do, it hooks the reader and makes him or her want to keep turning the pages.

Kerman's story seems to be a frank account of how a young, carefree young person makes life choices that have serious consequences beyond anything they could have imagined. Midnight Express comes to mind here. In Kerman's case she got involved with a woman who was part of an international drug smuggling ring. Exciting times in exotic places seemed the story of her life, until it came time to pay and she ends up in the women's federal prison in Danbury.

There are more than four thousand reviews of the book on Amazon.com with 46% weighing in at five stars. But there are ample quantities of negative comments. Some found the book boring. Some didn't like the narrator like this one who states, "Didn't everyone really go to high school with Piper Kerman? She is just the stereotypical, little, mean-girl, blonde, who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She makes an absolutely abysmal life choice, that she shrugs off as happening due to her being bored and adventurous, even though life has given her every advantage, and after 11 years finds herself dropped into the middle of the cesspool that is the American prison system."

I myself listened to the book as a writer, assessing all the decisions Kerman made as she told her story. The author had a delicate dance to do here. How frank should she be about her life choices? It would appear that she puts it all out there. Some say that she made the prison seem too much like a women's summer camp and not so bad, but it's clear from the numerous references to the challenge of keeping one's sanity and dignity that this was not a joyous picnic.

One of the criticisms of the book is that it's not as interesting as the television show. Well, the TV show doesn't have to be faithful to the facts. It can draw from all the stories ever experienced in women's prisons and while using Piper as a central character that serves to hold the stories together. There were no murders at Danbury the year she was there, for example. In fact, it would seem the biggest excitement was the possibility of Martha Stewart becoming an inmate there.

I agree with the Amazon reviewer who wrote, "It is written like a series of sequential articles rather than a narrative with true character development, but it still provides interesting insights into the rhythm of institutional prison life, with its mind-numbing bureaucracy and its mash-up of humanity trying to adapt or deal with incarceration. It is told from Kerman's pov, and thus her reactions to life in prison make up the bulk of the book, but she still provides a lot of food for thought about our prisons and the people who live in them."

It's clear throughout the book who has the power and who doesn't in a prison setting. The humiliation of being strip-searched or periodically groped has no recourse. And the ever-present threat of being sent to the SHU (Security Housing Unit, better known as solitary confinement) is a recurring theme throughout. The SHU comes up repeatedly as an ever-present reminder that you are an insect in the system.

The women at Danbury come from all walks of life, but there is a predominance of the poor -- black, Latino and white. Kerman is a college grad who had it good, but wound up in the tank. She had a boatload of support from her fiance, friends and family, and it was clear she had good prospects for her life after release. This is not the case for many, if not most, of the inmates she did time with.

Having just finished the book this morning, my fresh take here is that Piper Kerman has had an unusual experience that brought her many new insights about life, not only hers but the lives of others. I believe the book worth reading not only for hearing what prison life can be like but also for the insights she gained from the experience.

One of those insights was the observation that prison doesn't seem to be about helping people get rehabilitated. It's simply a form of punishment carried out with indifference by people who are simply performing a job.

And kudos to Cassandra Campbell for her reading. She did an admirable job in cnoveying the personalities of the various characters we  encounter along the way.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Is Sleep Overrated?

Why is it that some people say they need nine hours sleep and others say they need six? Some insist that eight hours is the requirement for everyone. My observation is that we all have different metabolisms so that defining the number of hours everyone else needs doesn't make sense. One thing is a given, though. Our bodies do need rest. And when we're exhausted, there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good night's sleep.

According to the National Institutes of Health, "sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety."

The NIH website goes on to say, "Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke."

Modern science has done a lot of research on sleep. They keep trying to figure out what happens with we dream, too. And what is it that makes deep sleep so beneficial?

You can read more of what NIH has to say on the subject here.

We've all sacrificed sleep at one time or another in our lives, especially if we've ever been parents. Fortunately those little ones become big ones and don't require our attention at all hours of the night.

Here are some quotes about sleep, some of them just for the fun of it.

“I’m not a very good sleeper. But you know what? I’m willing to put in a few extra hours every day to get better. That’s just the kind of hard worker I am.”
~ Jarod Kintz

“Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.”
~ Albert Camus

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.”
~ Homer, The Odyssey

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book.
~ Irish Proverb

"If a man had as many ideas during the day as he does when he has insomnia, he'd make a fortune."
~ Griff Niblack

"It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it."
~ John Steinbeck

"Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sleep is one of those things that we think about and talk about for the duration of our lives, in part because our sleep patterns change and in part how we feel is often directly related to how well we're sleeping at any point in our lives. This past winter I wrote a poem about sleep as if she were a lover: It's Time To Get Tired.

Right this moment, however, it's time to get dressed and head off to work. It's a new day. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Upcoming Art-Related Events in the Twin Ports

Am currently reading Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman. I can't tell if it's the writing that makes it gripping or the story. Both reasons make it a compelling read. If you want to know how the other half lives -- i.e. life behind bars -- you'll get a pretty good inkling here. In one week I heard three people talk about the television show, so was surprised to find it was based on a book. I shouldn't have been. To get an understanding of what the expression "Orange is the new black" means you can check out the discussion on Reddit.

This weekend is the 45th Annual Park Point Art Fair, and if the weather is nice you can go make a day of it. It's a two day event, which means you also get a chance to mow your lawn or go fishing one day and take in the fair on the other.

As many as 10,000 people cram their cars onto the end of Park Point when the art fair falls on a nice-weather weekend. Park Point Community Club (PPCC) and a pack of volunteers make it happen, though this year is expected to be bigger than ever due to a  2015 Festival Support Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board that allows for new interactive sights, sounds and more.

If you want to see how vast the creative energy is in our region, you can't do much better than this. It's all in one place, from functional art to fine art.

The PPCC is touting a number of new activities this year such as:

• Saturday visitors can witness and participate in an iron pour by Common Language art collective (opportunities for 60 people to make a metal tile);
• Sunday visitors can participate in printmaking with the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts.
• An Emerging Artists Tent will feature work by up and coming artists, including students from area high schools and colleges.

There's always music, and a wide range of food options to satisfy even the pickiest eater. For more details on this and other aspects of the event visit their Facebook page.

Rhubarb Fest
One of the funniest words in baseball is rhubarb. When an argument or a fight breaks out it is often referred to as a rhubarb.  Announcer: "This could be an interesting matchup with Sisco at the plate. He and Roger Clemens got into a real rhubarb last time they faced other."

Well this is not the kind of rhubarb you should expect in Duluth this weekend. On Saturday it's the annual Rhubarb Fest down at Leif Ericson Park on London Road. Rhubarb pie is only the beginning. After a day of all things rhubarb there will even be a rhubarb after-party at Red Herring Lounge.

See details in the Trib.

Estate Sale with Lots of Art
Someone sent me a note about an estate sale in Hayward with lots of art. The Round Lake Estate Sale runs from today through Sunday. Supposedly there's a ton of framed and unframed art, including a huge selection of wildlife prints, original art, some 3-D pieces....a few mid-century furniture pieces as well. Visit the Estate of Value website for details. In addition to the art (some of which you can see on this page here) there's all the other usual estate sale type of items from jewelry, coins and crystal to furniture and apparel and all the rest.

And if you're not in the mood for crowds you can just sit on your porch and read a good book. Why not?

Meantime, life goes on all around you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mind Games

The power of the Beatles' breakup was such that when they each went their own way many of their fans followed all of them. I was one, purchasing all their first solo albums and several that followed from Paul and John. Mind Games was John Lennon's fourth album since the breakup, released in the fall of 1973 while I was on a semester break from college. The captivating cover art was itself memorable. The following year the title song from the album went gold as a single. This single is the topic for this blog post.

In the early 70's John Lennon's songs were very open about his inner struggles, his conflicts with family, relationships and religion. A previous album captured his explorations with primal therapy as one method of dealing with these inner conflicts. I think to some extent this candor in his songwriting is what made these albums so riveting.

Songs have hundreds of ways of introducing themselves. Sometimes it's a guitar lick after which each of the other musicians joins in. Sometimes they join in one at a time and build layers to form a backdrop for the vocals. Sometimes it's the snap of a drumstick blast, as in Like a Rolling Stone. Sometimes it's a syncopated drum intro like Honky Tonk Women. In this case, the shimmering, scintillating tapestry of sound is full and flowing from the first note, perfectly reflecting this sense of entering a timeless stream that has no beginning and no end, the wheel of life as it were. Three notes, one sustained and the other two stepping up with a leap to the third, over and over and over. At the song's end the theme carries on doing that "ritual dance in the sun."

In 1963 Eric Berne published the best-selling Games People Play, introducing the popular culture to the concept of transactional analysis. A few years later session musician Joe South produced his one and only mega-hit in a song by the same name. "Oh the games people play now, every night and every day now, never meaning what they say, never saying what they mean."

John Lennon offers a different take in this one, foreshadowing a concept that would re-emerge in his song/album Double Fantasy.

In the movie Yellow Submarine we find Lennon quoted as saying, "It's all in the mind, you know." The extreme version of this philosophy embraces the notion that reality as we know it is all in our minds. That is, there is no objective reality but only a projected reality. Lennon's behavior did not affirm this solipsist view, but reflected an ongoing concern for the world at large, a commitment to peace and love.

The song Mind Games was itself written in the late 60's before the Beatles parted ways, originally titled "Make Love, Not War." The inspiration for the song came from another book about games called Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space by Robert Masters and Jean Houston.

The line "Yes is the answer" is an acknowledgement of the artpiece by Yoko that originally brought them together. Too often, as Eric Berne documented, the games we play keep us apart. John Lennon's appeal is for us to play a different kind of game that brings us together.

Mind Games

We're playing those mind games together
Pushing the barriers planting seeds
Playing the mind guerrilla
Chanting the Mantra peace on earth
We all been playing those mind games forever
Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil
Doing the mind guerrilla
Some call it magic the search for the grail

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower
You got to let it, you gotta let it grow

So keep on playing those mind games together
Faith in the future out of the now
You just can't beat on those mind guerrillas
Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind
Yeah we're playing those mind games forever
Projecting our images in space and in time

Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender
You got to let it, you gotta let it go

So keep on playing those mind games together
Doing the ritual dance in the sun
Millions of mind guerrillas
Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel
Keep on playing those mind games forever
Raising the spirit of peace and love

Monday, June 22, 2015

Deserted Cities of the Web

I don't recall precisely when I got my first Goldstar modem to link my Mac to the various worlds beyond my home town. The World Wide Web did not yet exist. But there were communities forming, via chat rooms on America Online (AOL) and I was exploring them. It was a year or two before the WWW emerged, accessible first with Mosaic, then later that year with Netscape. The online networking giant was only a fledgling then with a million members or less when I first took the name ennyman as my handle.

What I do recall is how invigorating it all was. There were chat rooms for everything, from writing and art to favorite authors, music, politics of all stripes, cars, history interests of all types, and on and on.

I taught a few writing "classes" in a chat room there where people typed "clap clap clap clap" at the end. I also did research on the series of articles I authored for The Senior Reporter exploring the issue of doctor assisted suicide.

Essentially, these forums enabled the development of short term or long term communities of people from anywhere in the world, if connected to the Web. One of these "communities" that I participated in included a former member of the '60's psychedelic band Strawberry Alarm Clock. I forget now the theme that gave our group coherence, remembering only that we existed for a space of time.

The internet as we know it today has fostered innumerable numbers of such communities over the years. Sometime around eight years ago I became part of a Ning community that shared art. The site became a means of not only seeing the work of artists in other countries but fodder for blog content.

Social media platforms like Facebook advanced the sense of community possibilities as well.  After our 2011 Red Interactive show as part of Phantom Galleries - Superior, John Heino and I created a Red Interactive "community" on Facebook in which friends and participants were encouraged to share art and photography featuring the site's red theme. Red Interactive had a lot of energy initially, but over time though carried forward by the initial momentum this energy subsided and the center of the community dissipated.

About three years ago Twin Ports Arts Align was formed here in the Twin Ports with more ambitious aims. The local nature of this online community included face-to-face meetings on a regular basis. But what I have noticed is the recent slacking off in participation, and the feeling I get is that another community is evaporating.

The internet has often been compared to the Wild West and the metaphor seems to hold. There were territories to be settled, rules laid out, and an influx of people driven by different passions, whether to
explore the unknown, or to make money through commercial endeavors, or to meet people and start anew. And like the West, there are ghost towns everywhere, places where a community once thrived and now all that is left are abandoned homesteads.

While listening to an old Cream CD the song "Deserted Cities of the Heart" was playing and I couldn't help but think of all these deserted communities on the web. According to Forrester research the web is changing yet again. The big buzz in recent years is around the idea of content. "Content is king" seemed to be some kind of Holy Grail in the realm of marketing your goods and services. However, making content is so easy today that we have a problem. There's far more content than there is demand for it. In other words, as one B2B marketing spokesperson notes, "the supply of content is growing, but the demand is static."

Is this what happened to all those communities? Initially they promise something but to what end? When it is easy to belong, it is equally easy to disengage.

Maybe an online town comes and goes because the reason for its existence is unclear.

Or maybe there's something happening but many of the community members would rather lurk than contribute. I mean, we live in a culture where the actors are few and the fans are many. Have television, theater and sporting events turned us into a nation of passive viewers as opposed to active players? Then it should come as no surprise when the same thing happens online, for the cyber-world simply mirrors what is taking place in our "real" world.

Just making an attempt to articulate a few thoughts that were passing through my head this past week. What do you think?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Local Art Seen: Goin' Postal Summer Art Show 2015

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” 
 ~ Edgar Degas

Mark Anderson provided the soundtrack.
'Twas a beautiful summer evening, a perfect night for an art opening, visits with friends and suitable libations. Everyone who came out Friday evening to the Goin' Postal Summer Show was richly rewarded. What a talented community of artists we have here. Nearly everyone brought something new that was appreciated by all.

Here are photos depicting some of what was on display. There was also a full slate of music including Marc Anderson, Theft By Swindle, Israel Malachi and a portion of Revolution Jones. If you wish to see some of the work here in person, and more, most will still be on the walls for the duration of this week at Goin' Postal in Superior, from 8 a.m. till 5:30 p.m.

One of many new pieces by Tara Stone.
Dusty Keliin presented works in a new style. This is "Parr"
Two Mary Plaster pieces joined the show, one large (this elephant) and one small.
A Windows upgrade by Lindsey Graskey

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

Local Art Scene: Things To See, Places To Be

A couple visual arts events are slated for tonight in the Twin Ports. On the Duluth side of the bridge you may enjoy stopping in at Studio 15 to see Emily Hayes' closing reception, which begins at 6:00 p.m. Hayes is a young traveling artist whose work has been on display there these past couple months. The paintings she has on display were created between Montana and Minnesota.

I would be there, except I have to be here:

Goin' Postal 2015 Summer Art Show
The Goin' Postal art shows have become an annual mainstay over in Superior. Usually held spring and fall, scheduling conflicts pushed this one back a couple months. More time for the artists to produce new work, and new work a-plenty will be on display tonight. Andy Perfetti pushes his contributors to bring in their latest. He's not interested in getting bored with the same old same old.

More than 20 artists are participating in tonight's show, some for the first time, though there are also plenty of the usual suspects such as John Heino, Dusty Keliin, Becky Buchanan, and Jeredt Runions. I will also have some new work on the walls.

There's also music and an always lively, lovely afterparty.

The 2015 Summer Art Show also starts at 6:00 p.m. You can find it adjacent to the tracks at 816 Tower Avenue. Hoping to see you there.

Don't forget Wanda's Excellent Plant Sale.  I shared a few photos Wednesday. For best results park out front and walk to the back.

Last night was the opening reception for the MN Comics show in the Morrison Gallery at the Duluth Art Institute. What an impressive array of talent we have here in Minnesota, many right in our back yard. I'm referring to comic books, not stand up comics, though we have those, too. If you get a chance visit the DAI sometime soon. There will also be a pair of gallery talks, the first of August 4 at 5:30 with Kate Vo Thi. The second will be at noon August 21, by David Beard and Tim Broman.

Meantime, art goes on all around you.  Come out tonight and enjoy it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Cuernavaca

The post here was written on this date in 2008. At that time I didn't know that I would be publishing my young adult novel on Kindle three years later. What I do know, and knew then, is that I had many rewarding memories of my year south of the border and one of my favorite places there was the city of Cuernavaca on the southern slope of the high altitude mountain that supports Mexico City.  (Cuernavaca itself is nearly a mile above sea level, hence its comfortable spring-like temperatures year-round, despite its proximity to the equator.) 

Among other things in life, I have taken a stab at writing a novel. The setting for part of the story was Mexico, having lived there a year and having become enthralled by its magic. The Red Scorpion is its working title.*

Last night I came across a disk with some of the slides I took in Mexico that year. Over the next few days I'll try to share some of the images here. The people and places of Mexico, and the accompanying memories, will always have a special place in my heart.

What follows is the beginning of my story.

Chapter 1
He woke abruptly, jostled to alertness by the screech of brakes and final recoil as the bus jerked to a stop. He was surprised to find that he had managed to fall asleep at all. The crowded bus included peasants with chickens, crying babies and a crush of people from all stations in life.

Dr. Comstock, glancing out the window, was dismayed to find the bus had not yet reached its destination. It was picking up more passengers, even though the aisle was now full. Several villagers squeezed up onto the steps, some hung out through the doors which had been left open. The bus lurched forward, gears grinding.

A small boy eating a mango placed a sticky hand on the rail in front of Comstock’s knee. Comstock smiled at the boy, but the boy turned his face away. Comstock was a stranger and a foreigner. The boy had been trained not to trust him.

Once more the bus screeched to a stop. This time he could see they had arrived. It was the last leg of his journey, descending to Cuernavaca from the high altitudes of Mexico City. He was eager to begin his work.

Dr. Comstock, a professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, had come to Mexico to locate the final resting place of Quetzlcoatl, the plumed serpent of Aztec legend. This was Comstock's second research expedition in Mexico. He intended to develop contacts that would enable him to obtain funding for a longer trip the following year. It was Christmas break back home at the University. He could think of nothing better than being in Cuernavaca. While arctic winds chilled the Minnesota countryside, flowers remained perpetually in bloom here in the land of Eternal Spring. Red and coral bougainvillea, lavender jacaranda, flaming poinciana, and golden geraniums splashed the air with color and fragrance. The floral tapestry delighted his eyes in every direction that he looked.

His wife Adele had wanted to join him, but he balked at the idea. Her presence would interfere with his work, he said. He promised she would accompany him on next year’s trip if they could find caretakers to run the Eagle’s Nest, the bed and breakfast they owned and operated.

Comstock had an angular face with deep set eyes and thick, dark eyebrows. He wore his hair cropped short. He felt he looked too British to pass for Mexican, though occasionally it worked out that way because he tanned easily and well.

Exhausted from the journey and relieved to have arrived at all, he carried his baggage the two blocks from the bus station to the hotel.
click on photos to enlarge

*The hotlink for the book was obviously not in the original post, since the book did not yet exist at that time.

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