Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Local Art Scene: 15 Excerpts from the June Twin Ports Calendar

Zen Swirl by Esther Piszczek
There are moments, above all on June evenings, when the lakes that hold our moons are sucked into the earth, and nothing is left but wine and the touch of a hand. 
--Charles Morgan  

Here we go. Fasten your seatbelts. We're on the cusp of yet another big month of arts activities in the Twin Ports. Big shout-out to Esther Piszczek for compiling all these events for us. She's a true trooper on this stuff, and a huge source of encouragement. Thank you, Esther.

I threw in the Grandma's Marathon at the end of this list only because I will be running my first 5K that weekend. As the locals are well aware, it's always good to know which weekend the town will be blam-jammed with runners and their friends, so you can either join the party or flee to the hills.

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1. Starts tonight. The Duluth Superior Film Festival runs May 31-June 4. Here's where to get the full menu.

2. Thursday, June 1, 6-8 p.m., Sinew: Female Native Artists of the Twin Cities, Artist Reception, Tweed Museum of Art, 1201 Ordean Court "An exhibition curated by Dyani White Hawk, who is also one of the eight artists featured. The show was originally organized for artistry in Bloomington, MN in conjunction with the Guerilla Girls Twin Cities takeover. The exhibition presents an eclectic selection of works by each artist that include paintings, prints, weaving, drawings, digital videos and sculptures. Other artists: Carolyn Anderson, Julie Buffalohead, Andrea Carlson, Elizabeth Day, Heid Erdrich, Louise Erdrich, Maggie Thompson and Dyani White Hawk. On view at the Tweed Museum of Art through September 24, 2017.

3. Thursday, June 1, 6-8 p.m., Ellen Taylor Artist Reception, Beaner's Central Concert Coffeehouse, 324 N. Central Avenue.

"Dreamtiger" by Ed Newman
4. Monday, June 5, 5-7 p.m., Art Show Opening & Reception: Larry Turbes: Figure Paintings and Scripture, Zeitgeist Atrium, 222 E. Superior St. "Larry Turbes is primarily a self-taught artist, working for the past 24 years drawing, painting and sculpting. His focus is the human figure.... Since retiring from architecture in 2015, now dedicates full time to his art."

5. Saturday, June 10, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Nice Girls of the North 2nd Saturday Marketplace, Lakeside Lester Park Community Center (the former Lakeside Library), 106 N. 54th Ave. East. "Free coffee, cookies, and a friendly atmosphere await while you browse a collection of handcrafted clothing and bags, pottery, jewelry, stained glass, photography, personal care products, baby items and much more. One central checkout, most major credit cards accepted."

6. Thursday, June 15, 5:30 p.m., Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Celebration, Fitger’s Brewery Complex, 600 E. Superior St. "Executive Director Bob DeArmond of Arrowhead Regional Arts Council is retiring after 30 years of work with the organization. There will be food, drinks and music at the event."

7. Monday, June 19, 5-7 p.m., Stephanie Wilcox Art Show and Reception, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Community Room, 425 W. Superior St., Suite 1060.  "Join Stephanie for an artist reception featuring a one night pop-up of her handmade jewelry and other small works in addition to the show! Refreshments provided. All are welcome!" Show runs June 1-July 17.

8. Wednesday, June 21, 6:30-9:00 p.m., Zentangle (R) & Wine with Esther Piszczek, CZT, Master Framing Gallery, 1431 London Road. Come experience the fun and relaxation of drawing simple, repetitive line patterns with pen and ink and pencil shading. No previous drawing experience necessary. Class Cost: $35; Supplies: $10 (or use supplies provided without additional cost). RSVP to Seats are limited.

9. Saturday, June 24, Chum Rhubarb Festival 2017, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., London Road along 11th Avenue E. (outside the First Lutheran Church) "Chum’s 13th annual Rhubarb Festival promises lots of rhubarb — including hundreds of pies, muffins and crisps, as well as rhubarb brats and burritos. There will also be live music, games, crafts, auctions and stage shows."

Park Point Art Fair, 2011
10. Saturday & Sunday, June 24 & 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Park Point Art Fair 2017, Park Point Public Beach House, 5000 Minnesota Ave. "The 47th annual Park Point Art Fair will feature the juried fine art and crafts of over 120 artists from the upper Midwest and beyond. In addition to the outdoor gallery, there will be a food court, demonstration areas, a stage with live music and more — all at the Park Point Recreation Area."

Each year, an estimated 10,000+ visitors attend the weekend festival as artists display and sell work in media such as ceramics, glass, jewelry, painting, photography, woodwork and sculpture. With artist tents lining a paved path that extends through the park, the show allows people with physical disabilities the chance to fully experience the event."

11. Thursday, June 29, 5-7 p.m., Exhibit Reception for Jonathan Thunder, Robert Dewitt Adams, Elizabeth LaPensee and Chris Sellek, Duluth Art Institute at the Depot, 506 W. Michigan St. "Jonathan Thunder’s solo exhibit showcases a new body of paintings dedicated to deities in Ojibwe mythology placed in a contemporary context. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue. The adjacent gallery features “Play” — showcasing the work of artists Robert DeWitt Adams, Elizabeth LaPensee, and Chris Sellek — who explore games, gaming and game mechanics in their work."

12. The Farmer's Markets are blossoming. Here are places to find fresh produce this summer and harvest seasons:

Tuesdays, 3-7 p.m, Hilltop Farmer's Market, First United Methodist Church, (Copper Top), 230 E. Skyline Parkway (formerly @ UMD)
Wednesdays, 2-6 p.m., Duluth Farmer's Market, 14th Avenue E. & 3rd Street
Thursdays, 4-7 p.m., Lincoln Park Farmer's Market, Harrison Community Center, 3002 W. 3rd St.
Saturdays, 7 a.m.-12 p.m., Duluth Farmer's Market, 14th Avenue E. & 3rd Street
Saturdays, 8 a.m.-12 p.m., Barkers Island Farmer's Market, parking lot near the S.S. Meteor at Hwy 2/53 and Marina Drive in Superior, WI

Photo from the Bill Pagel exhibit.
13. Throughout the month of June you can still see the Bill Pagel's exhibit of archival Dylan memorabilia and historic documents. Here's a link to the show Einstein Disguised As Robin Hood. For those who do not know Bill Pagel, he's been written about in chapter one of the book The Dylanonlogists by Pulitzer Prize-winning author (and Dylan fan) David Kinney. He also collects artwork, which it is Dylan-themed, so is worthy of a blog post about local arts happenings. Maybe one day we'll curate a show of the paintings he's purchased over the years.

14. Speaking of Dylan-themed paintings, I currently have several paintings on display at Goin' Postal and at Art on the Planet, both of these on Tower Avenue in Superior. (1400 block and 800 block.) Check 'em out. You can see the variety of Dylan portraits I've generated at my Flickr pages.

15. Oh, and let's not forget Grandma's Marathon... Just so you can plan around it. Grandma's is the third weekend of June, with activities from Thursday thru Saturday. Details HERE.

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Esther Extras

Learn a Tangle! Draw along with ZT co-founder Rick Roberts in this 12 minute video from the Kitchen Table Tangles series and see what he does with his unexpected OOPS! moment while drawing the tangle Diva Dance through his original tangle Paradox.

Her Book & Film

Patterned Peace, by Esther Piszczek, CZT, published by Whole Person Associates, Duluth. Available on, at The Bookstore at Fitger's, and Duluth Fine Pianos. Original, hand-drawn artwork ready to color. Includes full pattern index.

Life & Art Entangled, a 17 minute art documentary created by Lola Visuals featuring Zentangle (R) inspired artwork on a piano created by fine-line pattern artist Esther Piszczek, CZT, and the improvisational jazz piano music of Peter Brown. Life & Art Entangled debuted at the 2016 Duluth Superior Film Festival. Watch here on

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Writing Lesson: Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up

"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath." 
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

This past month I listened to a set of lectures from the Great Courses series on the subject Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft. This is a seriously good set of lectures that I believe can help anyone serious about their writing. (EdNote: If money is a barrier, you might try your local library, or wait for this set to go on sale.)

The course description begins like this:
Great writing begins—and ends—with the sentence. Whether two words ("Jesus wept.") or 1,287 words (a sentence in William Faulkner's Absalom! Absalom!), sentences have the power to captivate, entertain, motivate, educate, and, most importantly, delight.

In an early lecture by University of Iowa Professor Brooks Landon he dares to kick over one of the sacred cows of nearly every writers conference, the venerable Elements of Style by Strunk & White. Nearly every serious writer I know has a copy of this little volume by their writing desks. It's ideas have nearly Biblical authority in the writer's world, drumming home at least one fallacy that Prof Brooks deplores, that shorter is always better.

We think of Hemingway as a prime example of powerful short sentences, but Professor Brooks cited Hemingway sentences of more than 100 and 200 words, putting the kibosh on this fallacious notion. Alas.

Since listening to this lecture series I've been paying closer attention to sentences again -- their composition, the relationships between words and ideas --- with renewed enthusiasm. For this reason, while reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up this week I decided to make use of this essay as an example of a central point of Professor Brooks' lectures, that sentences can be really interesting, and cool. Here's the opening paragraph of Fitzgerald's essay:

Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work—the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside—the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don't show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within—that you don't feel until it's too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again. The first sort of breakage seems to happen quick—the second kind happens almost without your knowing it but is realized suddenly indeed.

Look how that first sentence, which says so much, is followed by a contrast, with the third summing up what has just been set before us. In paragraph two, Fitzgerald then makes it clear that this story of a breakdown is going to be his story. The subject matter has been studied at length under the lens of a high-powered microscope, to be solemnly shared by this man who has spent a lifetime honing his craft. Note the variety of sentences, and even though none are exceedingly short, the manner in which the sentences have been constructed is worth examining.

Now to paragraph two:

Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation – the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true. Life was something you dominated if you were any good. Life yielded easily to intelligence and effort, or to what proportion could be mustered of both. It seemed a romantic business to be a successful literary man – you were not ever going to be as famous as a movie star but what note you had was probably longer-lived – you were never going to have the power of a man of strong political or religious convictions but you were certainly more independent. Of course within the practice of your trade you were forever unsatisfied-but I, for one, would not have chosen any other.

* * * *

In the follow-up essay, titled Pasting It Together, Fitzgerald dives deeper into some of the causes of his malaise. Here's are some additional sentences with heft and nuance, artistic beauty and unveiled truth intimately woven together.

In this silence there was a vast irresponsibility towards every obligation, a deflation of all my values. A passionate belief in order, a disregard of motives or consequences in favor of guess work and prophecy, a feeling that craft and industry would have a place in any world—one by one, these and other convictions were swept away. I saw that the novel, which at my maturity was the strongest and supplest medium for conveying thought and emotion from one human being to another, was becoming subordinated to a mechanical and communal art that, whether in the hands of Hollywood merchants or Russian idealists, was capable of reflecting only the tritest thought, the most obvious emotion. It was an art in which words were subordinate to images, where personality was worn down to the inevitable low gear of collaboration. ...there was a rankling indignity, that to me had become almost an obsession, in seeing the power of the written word subordinate to another power, a more glittering, a grosser power…

I can so identify with these sentiments, as did David Foster Wallace, whose life was also cut short by his own undoing. What he's saying is the in Hollywood, special effects (SFX) have taken over. Character development and storyline have become marginalized. How many times have you heard people complain about movies with action and no substance? (Fortunately, the Pixar leadership team held fast to their vision that Toy Story had to be, above all, a good story, not just a new kind of SFX animation process.)

The same shift has been happening in other aspects of our culture as well. Instead of character being the most important feature of a political candidate or business leader, the culture values charisma. Do they look good on camera? Do they make good sound bytes? This values shift, Fitzgerald laments, helped contribute to his breakdown.


Lest we drift too far, let's get back to the point. Writing is a craft. If you're a writer, learning how to build great sentences is invaluable. Words and sentences are the tools of our trade.

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Read The Crack-Up in its entirety herePasting It Together, can be found here.
The three essays which appeared in Esquire have since been compiled in a book along with material from his notebooks as well as letters. You can find the book here on Amazon.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Even My Droning Lawnmower Was Playing Dylan This Week, Plus a Recap of Friday Night's Singer/Songwriter Contest Winners

"This is in many ways the essence of the blues. It wasn’t my fault, it was fate, it was the drink, it was the woman, the cards were fixed… And all the time there is that gentle voice, the controlled music, pulsating away in the background, unremitting, moving on all the time."
--Tony Atwood 

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There were too many highlights at this year's Duluth Dylan Fest to list them all. For those who joined us at any or all of the events, we hope you will be back. It was very special this year.

Highlights of the week for me, in order of occurrence, included
--Robby Vee & His Rock & Roll Caravan at Karpeles
--The Dylan-Themed Art Show at Zeitgeist
--Poets of the Northland event on Bob's birthday
--The annual Blood on the Tracks Express
--The Singer/Songwriter Contest at Clyde Iron Works
--Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation at Karpeles again
--Cowboy Angel Blue at Carmody's
--and the Farewell Brunch on Sunday, which is alway full of warmth as parties depart for another year.

I lost track of how many people said this year's Singer/Songwriter Contest was the best ever. Every performer/competitor there brought their A-Game and the most repeated comment I heard Friday evening was "I'd hate to be a judge."

Amy Grillo & Gene LaFond (L) with Pat Eliason opened the show
with Dylan's touching "Every Grain of Sand."
Pat Eliason stepped up this year to serve as Master of Ceremonies. Our esteemed panel of judges consisted of Christa Lawler (Duluth News Tribune), Karen Sunderman (the Playlist), Christine Dean and Gene LaFond.

Each contestant is asked to perform two songs, the first one being their own composition and the second a Dylan selection. Daniel Botkin, who went first, came the furthest this year. He sang a heartfelt "Once In A Lifetime" and "Don't Think Twice." There were many impressive moments, though. Oe highlight was the 12-year-old Josie Longhorst's pair, "Don't Let Go" and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." Wowzer.

When all was said and done -- and sung -- the votes were tallied and winners selected. Congratulations to Pat Jacob Mahon, whose original "Gingerbread Man" knocked it out of the park and earned him first place. John Sonofmel took second. Third place went to Eric Lavelle and Shojin Be Alford.

Thanks to all the great performers. Clyde Iron Works has proven itself to be the perfect venue for this event and we hope to see you all here next year.

The Lawnmower Blues Riff

Can you guess what this is?
Dylan once said, "I don't look for things to write about. They just happen to me." To some extent I would have to say the same.

For some reason we've had a particularly dreary spring this year, though many would assert that our lack of sunshine is nothing new. When you get a week of gloomy skies and drizzle you really have to take advantage of those breaks where the sun succeeds in getting its say.

So I was out there Friday morning doing the yard on a ride-around MTD mower when I couldn't help but notice the rhythm my engine was groaning. If you pay attention there are many sounds we hear that could be translated to notes on the scale, and this particular morning the engine was doing just that, winding out a four bar riff that you can hear repeated throughout the duration of Dylan's wonderful blues tune from Modern Times, Someday Baby.

Naturally the entire time I mowed this song was running through me head. I'm not making this up. Open another tab and listen to the how the tune goes here. It's that little quirky descending scribble riff that I am referring to. The lawnmower seemed to grind it out with a perfect tempo, and yes it made me smile and sing for an entire acre.

What follows are the lyrics, but for an insightful breakdown of the song check out Tony Atwood's Untold Dylan.

Someday Baby

I don't care what you do, I don't care what you say
I don't care where you go or how long you stay
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

Well you take my money and you turn me out
You fill me up with nothin' but self doubt
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me anymore

When I was young, driving was my crave
You drive me so hard, almost to the grave
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me anymore

I'm so hard pressed, my mind tied up in knots
I keep recycling the same old thoughts
Someday baby you ain't gonna worry po' me anymore

So many good things in life that I overlooked
I don't know what to do now, you got me so hooked
Someday baby you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

Well, I don't want to brag, but I'm gonna ring your neck
When all else fails I'll make it a matter of self-respect
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

You can take your clothes put 'm in a sack
You goin' down the road, baby and you can't come back
Someday baby you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

I try to be friendly, I try to be kind
Now I'm gonna drive you from your home, just like I was driven from mine
Someday baby you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

Living this way ain't a natural thing to do
Why was I born to love you?
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more.

© 2006 by Special Rider Music

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Does your lawnmower make music? Do you hear soundtracks in unusual places? I'd like to hear about it.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Listen to the music.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

If I'm So Smart Why Ain't I Rich?

Yesterday afternoon I again stopped to visit  the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art here in Duluth, which is currently having its first annual Student/Instructor Art Exhibition, in which a totally impressive body of work is being displayed. At one point I was listening to a conversation that circled around the question of why some artist's work increases in value or declines in value. What gives a person's work significance? Why is this painting, which two years ago could be purchased for $5,000 now worth $150,000?

The discussion shifted to musicians, but could have encompassed engineers, mathematicians, novelists and other fields of endeavor. The highways of life are littered with people who pursued fame instead of their passions. The latter will find that their excellence at honing their gifts will likely enable them to provide for their families and grant them a deep satisfaction. If, however, they nurture a secret resentment because someone else got hold of a ticket to fame and fortune, they will become susceptible to a root of bitterness that infects their souls and steals the happiness and contentment that ought to have been their.

The Book of Ecclesiastes, one of the "Wisdom Books" of the Old Testament, has a verse that years ago became a favorite of mine. I once did a drawing of a runner to illustrate this passage, Ecclesiastes 9:11.

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.

Line, shape, form, perspective and light.
There are so many images packed into this little gem of a verse, with a hundred applications. It's an axiom of American Dream literature, beginning with Horatio Alger stories, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill's Think And Grow Rich and all the modern spin-offs of this ilk, that riches are guaranteed in America to anyone and everyone who simply works hard and believes in themselves. The downside here, if you buy into the possibility thinkers' rhetoric, is that if you are not rich then the problem is you. If you don't win the battle, win the job, catch the golden ring, then you are no good. Or that God is not with you. Maybe God is even against you. This verse clearly indicates that that kind of thinking is all crap. Winning or losing says nothing about your worth.

Some of the most influential people are ordinary people who through years of quiet personal sacrifice enriched others. They didn't have to do what they did, could have simply kept to themselves. Instead they turned outward, and almost unintentionally touched so many lives. I'm thinking very specifically of two people here, John Bushey and Dr. Robert Powless.

As Rumi said, "Let the beauty of what you love be what you do."

All this to say that when I visited the Great Lakes Academy of Art this weekend, I got the impression that Jeffrey Larson, the school's founder, was one of these kinds of people. As I spoke with the students who have been part of this new school, it became apparent that lives were being touched, shaped, inspired and becoming serious and intentional.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it generously.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Local Arts Seen: Cutting Edge and Great Lakes Academy Student/Instructor Exhibition

Great Lakes Academy, an invitation to splendor.
I was able to briefly drop in on two art openings last night. I primarily wanted to grab a few photos so I might encourage others to attend these shows if able.

The Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art had its first annual Student/Instructor Open House and Exhibition. It's a full weekend affair, as in Friday through Sunday. We also dropped in on Ellen Sandbeck's The Cutting Edge at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. You can read details about both of these art exhibits in yesterday's post.

The purpose of today's blog post is simply to encourage you to go check out these events. We also have a Duluth Dylan Fest event at Karpeles Manuscript Museum from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m., Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation "Roots & Echoes: Images and Influences in Dylan's North Country. Karpeles is hosting Bill Pagel's Dylan-themed archives, "Einstein Disguised As Robin Hood" till the end of June, but you can get a double scoop of good stuff if you stop this afternoon. Karpeles is directly across the street from St. Luke's Hospital emergency room entrance on First Street.

Ellen Sandbeck's work has become increasingly complex, and her current themes are attention-getting. Check it out if you are able.

Her Buddha-A-Day project should have been preserved in a book.
Sampat Devi Pal, founder of the Pink Gang. "We, we giths rapists with sticks.
If we find the culprit, we thrash him black and blue so he dare not attempt
wrong toany girl or woman again."
The Cutting Edge is can be viewed at the former YWCA at 202 West Second Street. GLA of Fine Art is on the 800 block of Third Street on the West side of Mesabi. This show is open from 1 to 8 Saturday and 1 to 5 tomorrow.

Meantime, the sun is out. Seize the day.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Local Arts Scene: Ellen Sandbeck On the Cutting Edge, Lake Superior Academy of Art Exhibition and More Duluth Dylan Fest

I hope you've had a rewarding week. If you've been attending our Duluth Dylan Fest events I am certain you have. As we enter the weekend there are some art events you may wish to be aware of. 


Brock Larson, oil on canvas.
Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art invites you to attend our first Annual Student/Instructor Exhibition. We will be showcasing our students first year curriculum and also lead you through what an atelier style of classical art training looks like. We will have many examples of their work as well as that of our instructors (Jeffrey T. Larson and Brock Larson) on display here at the Academy. We are also excited to be able to show the progress with the renovation that has been made on our building (the old St. Peter's Church)
May 26th, 5pm - 9pm
May 27th, 1pm - 8pm
May 28th, 1pm - 5pm

Be sure to read Christa Lawler's story from yesterday's DNT, Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art wraps year one of operation with student-instructors exhibition.


Another great event at the AICHO's Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center is opening tonight. Here's the press announcement I received, but I will preface by saying her work is exceptional in its detail and exquisite vividness. Needless to say, she can also pack a punch.

Papercut artist Ellen Sandbeck will be exhibiting her latest, politically-charged body of work in the newly renamed Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center at Gimaajii Mino Bimaadizimin, alongside 3 other completed series of work. The exhibit will open with a reception on Friday, May 26 from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The exhibit itself will be on display through June 7th. Music will be performed by Mina Kaiser and refreshments will be served.

On top of her newest body of work that features imagery exploring the strength of women in modern social movements, Sandbeck’s exhibit will also include her series Valentines for Grownups, pretty papercut patterns made up of animals mating (insects, reptiles, ocean invertebrates, etc.). The second included body of work will be her Odd Duck cards, illustrations paired with limericks by Mina Kaiser, which are expressions of her experience in transitioning from male to female; they are meant to help encourage/validate people who are going through experiences that are generally not covered by Hallmark Cards.

The final series included in the exhibit will be a selection of images from her A Buddha A Day project, executed over the course of a year, during which Sandbeck did 365 papercuts of Gautama Buddha. Proceeds from the sale of the Buddha art will go directly to a charity of the buyer’s choice at the event.

Ellen Sandbeck has written and illustrated four books about non-toxic housekeeping and gardening, all published by major New York publishers. She has written, illustrated, and self-published a book of non-toxic gardening and housekeeping, and a book about vermicomposting.


Australia's Susan Laing, a week long visitor to the Northland for Dylan Fest this year, has observed that our Northland's influence on Dylan's life and music is most apparent and quite striking. We almost take our region's features for granted, much like the proverbial inability to see the forest for the trees. This reality has become repeatedly apparent in various ways, most especially during the panel discussion Wednesday at our Poets of the Northland event.

One of the poets who would have shared with us Wednesday would have been the former teacher Phil Fitzpatrick, except that he was at Harvard making a presentation there to former classmates at a 50th anniversary class reunion, a presentation that "exceeded fondest hopes." Tomorrow's presentation will include slides and music and is a family-friendly event.

Karpeles Manuscript Museum
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

If you've never been to Karpeles, this presentation would be a great excuse to visit. 
There is a fabulous exhibit of Dylan originals on display.

* * * *

Tonight at Clyde Iron Works the Duluth Dylan Fesr continues with the annual Singer/Songwriter Contest. This event begins at 7:00 p.m. with four local celebrity judges and singer-songwriters from as far away as Chicago. Each performer will share a favorite Dylan song and then a composition of their own. For many people this is a highlight of the week.

EdNote: It's not too late to check out the Dylan-themed art at the Zeitgeist Atrium. That show will come down this weekend.

* * * *

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blood on the Tracks Express Preview & Poets of the Northland Overview

Typical scene in the electric car... youth and energy.
Duluth Dylan Fest has been picking up steam, building toward a crescendo that includes tonight's first peak, the annual Blood on the Tracks Express featuring a host of acoustic and electric music acts including Red Mountain, Rich Mattson & The Northstars, Gaelynn Lea & Al Church, Erik Berry & Ryan Young of Trampled By Turtles, and the Freewheelers, plus Kyle Ollah in the Million Dollar Bash car which will include finger foods by Chef Jonathan Berthel in this historic dining car VIP experience.

In short, it's been a historically memorable event. You can buy tickets and read more about the musicians here.

* * * *

Last night the Poets of the Northland was a special time that went too fast as far as I was concerned. Five poets laureate and another seven shared their thoughts about Bob Dylan, and their own poetry assembled for the occasion. The event took place in the newly renovated Spirit of the North Theater upstairs in the Fitger's Complex. Andrew Lipke was strumming tunes on his Fender-amped Gibson guitar as the crowd slowly sauntered in, many of them nibbling on Valentini's Bob Dylan chocolate mocha birthday cake. At 6:30 Zane Bail of the Duluth Dylan Fest team introduced Karen Sunderman of The Playlist, who served as our moderator for the evening.

Jim Johnson, painting word pictures about the Northland.
MC Karen Sunderman in the background.
The featured poets were all quite good, so much so that the time simply disappeared with a blink. Ellie Schoenfeld, our current Duluth Poet Laureate, always entertaining and thought-poking, read several poems including "The Rain Poem" from her book The Dark Honey, which I dip into now and then. Jim Johnson next took the stage, sharing two short poems and a long poem, including a vivid "Frozen Lake In April." He prefaced this by noting that not too many years ago his lake still had ice on it on May 25. Sheila Packa, who has lived in Hibbing, began by affirming Dylan's influence and that he is a worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize. Her poem "Keg Party" painted a picture of working-class people in small town America with "nothing to lose but our chains." The expression "Around the Horn" -- title of her next poem -- was an Iron Range expression used to describe a rural road trip accompanied by a 12-pack. Packa's poems are full of phrases that carry you places. She introduced her poem "Time When" by noting that "Dylan said speak out against the darkness."

Deb Cooper shared how deeply she was touched by Dylan's lyrics. She read a passage from Chimes of Freedom bfore sharing her own work which included "The Poetry Reading" and "Deliverance" and "Van Gogh's Starry Night Seen Through the Window of His Asylum Cell." Maybe the poem was titled "Blue Window" and that log title was an intro remark. Either way, an insight was conveyed.

Tbe Basement Tapes Band served up the afterparty entertainment.
The last of the featured speakers was Max Garland, a professor at UW-Eau Clair who grew up in Western Kentucky and served as former Wisconsin poet laureate. His first poem featured an uncle of his who was a Pentecostal minister. His other poems included "Green Day", "Hold On Me", an amusing "The Best Things Are the Most Expensive" and a final one for the child in the audience.

The poetry was evocative, and the audience responsive. A panel discussion followed with Karen Sunderman initiating, then questions from the audience. Sheila Packa, in response to one question, affirmed that Dylan is "very much of the soil of Northern Minnesota." Like a Minnesota working man, Dylan was himself on the road, too busy working to go get that award initially. "Isn't that just like an Iron Range man?" she said.

Max Garland noted that the division between poetry and music is a relatively new phenomenon. Dylan brought the two forms together, taking simple form and bringing the surreal and abstract to bear upon it.

One question pertained to the manner in which rhyme may have been affirmed by the Nobel committee in choosing Dylan. Sheila Packa noted that for a while rhyme was considered old-fashioned, but it's coming back.

The local poets were equally fluent and stimulating.... but if I don't get this published I will miss the train!

Amy Lynn, one of our local poets whose work I admire, was unable to read, so one of her poems was shared by another reader. Here's a poem she'd also intended to present, and since it applies so well to this evening's event, it has to be shared here.

Blood on the Tracks

when I opened the morning door
to take the rotting garbage out
a small bird lay on the bricks
of the walkway, one eye staring up at me

barely fledgling, it was unclear
if he had hit the big window above
or had a run-in with the cat
but he was still breathing, begging
me to grant him mercy

startled, I stepped back inside
and, like a coward, waited
for death to claim him


in winter here, when it snows
the big machines scrape their metal
blades over the roads

it’s an awful sound, in a world
where even dying things make
a cruel kind of music

and in this land, already ravaged
by years of digging through the earth for ore
I cannot bear to watch the road grader
push piles of diesel-soaked snow
onto the sidewalks


but before the machines came,
when the lake was angry, and dark,
and the idiot wind howled,
and from miles away
my lover reached out to tell me
he was restless and unsettled –

the young sparrow perched
high in some weathered tree,
tucked his head into his wing,
and let the cold snow settle on his feathers,

* * * *

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

More from Duluth Dylan Fest: Bob's Birthday, Poets of the Northland and The Basement Tapes Band

Long Journey Home, Tim Beaulier
"We live here in the present time. We get up and have to deal with today. Yesterday's gone, tomorrow's not promised. So this is all we have really."
Bob Dylan, 1986 press conference, Sydney Australia

Today is hump day for most workers, defined by the Urban Dictionary as "the absolute best day of the week, the day of maximum hope that maybe, you might make it out of this week alive."

Today is also Bob Dylan's birthday, and if you've been attending all the events here at Duluth Dylan Fest this week, then you may be happy to know that today we're half-way through, and if you make it through today then there is hope that you will also make it through this week alive.

Today's events include:

3:00-4:00 p.m. Music and birthday cake at the duplex a young Robert Zimmerman called home till he was six years old and the family moved to Hibbing. 519 Fifth Avenue East, a block and a half above Positively Fourth Street.

6:00-8:30 p.m. Poets of the North Country, at the Spirit of the North Theater in the Fitger's Complex. Five poets laureate from Duluth and Wisconsin, plus additional local talent.

9:00-11:00 p.m. The Basement Tapes Band, at The Rex, downstairs at the Fitger's Complex. Tribute to Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes recordings with an all star line-up including Marc Gartman, Teague Alexy, Sarah Krueger, Tyler Dubla, Lee Martin, and Veikko Lepisto. Advance tickets are on sale at Eventbrite -- $7 plus fees. $10 cover charge at door.

* * * *

Someone sent me a link to a YouTube video featuring Bob Dylan at a press conference in Sydney, Australia in 1986. There are a number of insightful remarks. At one point he's asked if he sees his fans as "Christian fans" and "non-Christian fans" (this was about three years after his "Gospel period") to which he replies that they are all just people.

What's interesting is that this video clip was posted four years ago, in 2013, on Bob's Birthday.

Watch the press conference here:

* * * * 
See full schedule of events at

Here's a birthday tip that I give everyone on their birthdays:
The secret to long life is to keep having more birthdays.
Happy #76, Bob
And congrats on that Nobel Prize!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Local Arts Scene Intersects With Dylan Fest To Produce Rewarding Event @ Zeitgeist

Daniel Botkn's Self-Portrait
in a Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
The highlight of the evening for me came when John Bushey, host of the KUMD radio program Highway 61 Revisited, came over to me and asked, "Who are all these people? I've never seen so many of them before." "These people" were our local artists and the many Twin Ports fans of the visual arts who came out to enjoy this Dylan-themed art show in the Atrium at Zeitgeist. It was gratifying to feel the vibe generated.

We were entertained by "The Group That's Not A Group" -- Tom O'Keefe & Friends -- with Scott Junkert on keyboards, Tom Franczyk on guitar and harmonica, and Daryl Yankee, percussion, Dylan-themed art all around.

The artists represented included Kristi Abbott (Australia), Moira Villiard, Daniel Botkin (Chicago), Mary Rauschenfels, Adam Swanson, Tim Beaulier, Becky Perfetti and myself. The work will be up all week, so if you were unable to attend last night there's plenty of time to slide by if you're downtown or you work downtown and wish to check it out while grabbing a bite at the Zeitgeist Cafe (recommended).

Patty Hallbeck and Zane Bail manned the souvenir table.
Dylan Fest pins, T-shirts and art will be available for purchase
at select Duluth Dylan Fest events. 

Tom O'Keefe & Friends provided ambiance.

* * * * 
Local news stations WDIO and Fox21 visited last night and covered the event.

* * * *
Tonight, Duluth Dylan Fest continues with music at Sir Ben's. Will you join us? Meet friends and make new ones while enjoying an evening of music and making memories. 

Find the full schedule of events  for the week at

See you on the scene.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Jeremiad: A Triptych, by Phil Fitzpatrick and a Heads Up About Wednesday's Dylan Fest Poetry Event

Phil Fitzpatrick @ Homegrown
Last night's Dylan Trivia Contest at Carmody's included the following somewhat challenging question:

1. What local poet first saw Dylan live while attending Harvard in the early 1960s?
a. Barton Sutter
b. Stephen Burt
c. Phil Fitzpatrick
d. Louis Jenkins

I'll concede that it was unfair for out-of-towners who didn't know our local poets, but my purpose in asking the question was to set up a couple events for this week's Dylan Fest in Duluth. They are the Poets of the North Country on May 24, Dylan's birthday, and Poet/Dylanologist Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation at Karpeles on Saturday from 3-4 p.m.

Sheila Packa, former Duluth Poet Laureate
Wednesday's Poets of the Northland is a free event from 6:00 p.m. till 8:30 p.m. at the Spirit of the North Theater upstairs at Fitger's, to be followed by the Basement Tapes Band at the Rex downstairs afterwards. The first half hour will be a reception that includes birthday cake, beer from Carmody's and music by Andrew Lipke. The event itself will be hosted by Karen Sunderman of The PlayList. We again have a great cast of poets reading including Duluth Poet Laureate Ellie Schoenfeld, past Poets Laureate Jim Johnson, Sheila Packa and Deborah Cooper and 2013-14 Wisconsin Poet Laureate Max Garland. After a brief break in the action there will also be readings by eight select local poets.

Sponsors for this event include Fitger's, The Boat Club Restaurant & Bar, Duluth Poets Laureate Project and Carmody's (Thank you, Eddie.)

Phil Fitzpatrick will himself not be present to read Wednesday. Instead, he will be at a 50th class reunion at Harvard making a Dylan presentation there regarding the influence Dylan's Northland roots have had on his world-changing career. It's been a privilege getting to know Phil through these Dylan circles. In addition to writing poetry and teaching, he has authored an entertaining book titled A Beautiful Friendship: The Joy of Chasing Bogey Golf.

The following is the poem Phil performed at the May 1 Homegrown Festival poetry event at Sacred Heart.

Jeremiad: A Triptych

Chester Creek fulminates
explodes past mafic walls
repositioned basalt boulders
and brittle uprooted trunks
centuries of hammering
by relentless cataracts in
their gnarly seasonal race
a high-pitched kree
a gull strays inland
glances down eyeing
the shiny object an unruly dawn
unveils on the path below
angry crows gather on a conifer
a four-legged bandit snorts
among refuse in the bracken
from drab twigs
no greening buds yet peek in this
apocalyptic gray expanse


an’ a voice says, “Why so glum, Pal?”
this guy’s just standing there;
leaning on a walking stick
looking like George Carlin.
I say, “What?” an’ he says,
“What’s the trouble?”
I’m in a bad mood: “Jesus!”
an’ he gets down like this
an’ says, “How’d you know?” He’s making funny eyes
like George Carlin, too!
“Know WHAT?”
I gotta get going.
“My name,” is all he says.
He picks up
the crumpled Hamm’s can
on the ground
“This what’s eatin’ you, Pal?”
I shake my head
“Bummer, eh?”
“Yeah . . .”
“Well, just pack it out.”
“Wait, who the hell are you?”
“I already told you, I mean - you told me.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s your NAME, but . . .”
“Does it really matter, Pal?”
and he hands me the can.
“And bring a bag next time.”
Then he starts up the trail.
“Hey,” I yell. He turns.
“Um, is anyone else coming?”
“There’s a few waiting,” he says.
“But I jumped the line;
I’d keep my eyes open.”


word has just come down today
spring’s been cut back
as a concession, we get to keep
Saturday, April 22, Earth Day
yard work, robins, t-shirts
open windows, laundry on the line
deep breaths and long looks
everything drying out
above the great sapphire lake
nothing at all to compromise
enjoying what’s been given
the earth giveth . . . now, it’s our turn
before the earth taketh away
my bag is already half full, but it’s not heavy;
I hoist it over my shoulder
and head on up the trail
keeping my eyes open

* * * *

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Duluth Dylan Fest Continues: Bill Pagel's Einstein Disguised as Robin Hood at Karpeles

Dylan signed this classmate's Hibbing High yearbook.
I like people with a sense of humor. Archivist Bill Pagel may be a serious collector of Dylan memorabilia and iconography, but he can also tweak the funny bone when he wishes. Last night, before the Robby Vee show at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Bill gave me a guided tour of the various display cases and their contents, pointing out what's new and different this year. This was useful because some of what's new is similar to last year and only subtly different. (c.f. the acetate.)

One thing that didn't exist last year at this time was the Nobel Prize that Bob Dylan received this past fall. And so, in one display case you will find a program from the Nobel Prize Ceremony that includes the seating arrangements, an official document from that auspicious occasion, and in that selfsame case there is the Nobel Prize. Bill says to me, "I called Bob and asked if he would loan it to us this week." As I wrapped my head around that, an impish smile crossed his face.

In Dylan circles the players all know one another, just as in magician circles there's an insider's club of sorts, a mutual respect society. I don't know where Bill Pagel's collection stands in the grand scheme of things, but for sure there are some impressive items of note on display here through the end of June. And this is only a sliver of what I've seen, which was purportedly only a slice of what he has collected.

Last year we saw the acetate for Visions of Johanna. 
Here are some of the things you can expect to see if you visit Karpeles. This week is Duluth Dylan Fest and if you find an opening in your schedule I encourage you to make your way to this Duluth treasure.

The Hematite is the name of the Hibbing High yearbook. I was informed that this year's Hematite (top right) is different from the one that was on display last year. If you blow up the photo you will see how Bob used the word "huh" at one point. If you look elsewhere you will notice the "huh" is something of a tell-tale sign of authenticity.

A withdrawn library book becomes home to lyrics for
the Ballad of Donald White.
One of the famous early events in the Dylan saga.

Dylan famously scrawled across all the pages of a Robert Shelton book of photos.
Bill Pagel has collected some of these pages.
Bob's mother Beatty is here seen behind Joan Baez and Bob.
I think she's enjoying herself.
Scarlet Rivera (left) has become much loved in the Northland in her efforts
to support the renovation of the Armory.
The name of the exhibit is once again Einstein Disguised As Robin Hood. If you're a Dylan fan, this is something you won't want to miss. Thanks, Bill, for sharing.

Bob's handwritten Chimes of Freedom atop the printed music.
If you had been there, this is what you would have received.

* * * *

Dylan Trivia at Carmody's tonight was fun. Susan Laing from Australia' Outback came the furthest to be here. And she proved herself to be an extremely knowledgeable Dylanologist. Congratulations, Susan, for the many exciting things you've seen during your Stateside Dylan journey.

Meantime, life goes on all round you... get into it.

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