Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Bizzarro: From Stranger Than Fiction to John Malkovich Being David Lynch

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Pulling it off is another story. Here are three stories in film that began as an idea.

Stranger Than Fiction
An I.R.S. auditor figures out that he is not a real person but rather, is a character in a book that someone is writing. When he learns that he's soon to be bumped off he goes on a quest. Can he find the author in time to have the end of the story re-written?

No doubt the story began with a "what if" question. Will Ferrell is the somewhat obsessive-compulsive lead character Harold Crick and he pulls it off. One reviewer of the film at imdb.com states that it could have gone further in exploring the issues it raised and labeled it "Charlie Kaufman Lite." I liked it though.

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt 'The Orchid Thief' by Susan Orlean for the silver screen.

This one, and the next, really are Charlie Kaufman screenplays. With echoes of Carl Hiaasen (Everglades, unusual characters and a plot that veers in unexpected ways) my only suggestion is that at a certain point in time you'll want your seat belt fastened when this film goes off the rails.

Being John Malkovich
The storyline reads: A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of movie star John Malkovich. Directed by Spike Jonze, this is another remarkable script by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, a truly original film that takes you places you can't begin to imagine. This is what "Magical Realism" (Borges, Umberto Echo, Marquez) looks like when translated to the silver screen.

John Malkovich as David Lynch
The title of this trailer is Psychogenic Fugue, "a psychological state in which a person loses awareness of their identity or other important autobiographical information."**

It was this last little snippet that became catalyst for the blog post. This summer I've been reviewing everything I've ever written for this blog, and am finding a lot of material that was initiated but then abandoned in favor of something else for that day. Always hoping to make you visit worthwhile...

Imagination is an amazing thing. Where does it come from? Why is it so active in some and restrained in others? What will they think of next?

**Psychology Today:&nbsp -- https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/dissociative-fugue-psychogenic-fugue

Monday, August 20, 2018

Another Stellar Evening with Pippi... Cookin’ @ the O

The Oldenburg House seems to have found its groove this year, and Pippi Ardennia was back at the O this weekend for two more evenings of entertainment. One thing different this time. She's now married, to her keyboardist Daniel Leahy, and has left her home in the Twin Cities to join Daniel in Illinois.

The backing trio – Daniel Leahy, Matt Mobley and Glenn Swanson – opened with a Herbie Hancock number, providing a foretaste of the skillset these guys possess. This was followed by a funkified variation of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," made famous in the Sixties by The Buckinghams, with Daniel Leahy’s fingers delightfully dancing on that keyboard.

You could tell it was going to be a special night, and very different from the previous year of performances inside the Carlton Room. We were outside, under a big tent, and Swanny was free to let go a bit more on his drum kit, all the amps turned up a tad for the others, allowing the sound to sweep out over the landscape, as opposed to ricocheting off the walls. I later learned that they entertained and served 80 people Friday the night before, which tells me that the next time Pippi's in town you'd best get your tickets early or you'll be left out in the cold.

After warming up the audience Leahy slides into some Ramsey Lewis mood music to usher in Pippi Ardennia who ascends to the stage, ready to take us away, singing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oh what a beautiful morning,” elevating the audience and winning us with ease.

There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
There's a bright golden haze on the meadow,
The corn is as high as an elephant's eye,
An' it looks like its climbin' clear up to the sky.

Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I've got a wonderful feeling, Everything's going my way.

And we’re right there with her, because that’s why we’re here, to be lifted up, to be swept away.

IT'S EASY TO SEE why everyone loves Pippi. She brings a shine wherever she goes. She coils the music into a tight ball of energy within, then releases it into her audience.

Before slinging in to her next song she mentions her latest CD, Black Coffee, then tells a story about a club she used to perform at in Chicago. When things were going good, but the band was set to break off for the night, the manager in the back of the room would gesture, lifting his arm and moving it as if spinning a wheel to indicate, "Keep it going, keep it going." Pippi would look at Killer Joe on the piano and he would be shaking his head, "No more." Then Pip would look again at the manager, and he's still gesturing because he wants to sell more drinks. She's stuck in the middle, unable to end it there... Hence the title of the CD, Black Coffee. Black coffee is what kept them going.

After the anecdote Daniel rips in on the ivories, Swanny getting that swing-time rhythm hpping and Mat Mobley walking his fingers up the strings on his big bass as Pippi smiles and sing the ever popular Josef Myrow/Mack Gordon tune made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Bublé, among others.

You make me feel so young
You make me feel as though spring has sprung
And every time I see you grin
I'm such a happy individual

A big surprise for many was Pippi's invitation to be joined on stage by James Pool, lead singer from the Moonlight Community, to perform two songs together. Poole made his way to a microphone that was awaiting him on the left side of the stage. He's got the iconic look of a Jim Morrison and the stage presence and moves of a veteran lead singer like Robert Plant or Roger Daltry.

The two songs he performed with Pippi are classics beginning with "Summertime" which has been covered by artists as varied as Doc Watson and Janis Joplin. He not only sings and moves, but he's a white boy who can do scat. Watching the veteran Pippi share the spotlight with a young dude doing his first live performance in a jazz setting was fun.

Flipping the page they jumped into "Fever."  Where there's smoke, there's fire, though the heat Pippi shares is clearly generated by Daniel Leahy whom she married this past year, his only crime being that she's now been carried off to Illinois and no longer lives in the Twin Cities. No prob. There's little doubt a portion of Pippi's heart will remain here in Carlton at the O.

Pippi sang a song for the womenfolk next, or rather for the Sisters. Then she asked them to stand and shake their shimmy. This was the end of the first set which allowed the servers to bring our main course: grilled pork tenderloin doused with spiced orange and cranberries on roasted orange/almond green beans and baby potatoes. (Or something like that.) Yummmmm. (I should have taken a picture.)

The backing trio once again gets the mood going for the second act. Pippi takes the stage and lifts us once again with an inspired rendition of another classic, "On a Clear Day."

On a clear day, rise and look around you, and you'll see who you are.
On a clear day, how it will astound you
That the glow of your feelings outshines every star.

During the intermission Pippi has done a wardrobe change, returning in an altogether different outfit that strives to be equal to the task of matching her kaleidoscopic spirit, embellished with her sequins, jewels and fan of feathers. Her sumptuous voice delivers Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Making Love" with a wholesome sensuality that is restrained and tender.

From there she brought Louis Armstrong's classic "What A Wonderful World" to life. It's such a beautiful song. "I see friends shaking hands, sayin', 'How do you do?' They're really saying, 'I love you." And I think to myself, 'What a wonderful world.'"

It's a song about the beauty and simplicity of friendship. And love. Pippi sings it so persuasively that I'm certain there were eyes moistened there under the ten.

This was followed by George Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away from Me," another classic performed by Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and boatload of other crooners. originally introduced by Fred Astaire. This was followed by another highlight of the evening, a tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, so moved us all. The song was Carole King's "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)" during which she charmed a number of women from the audience to join her on the stage to be a backing chorus, a maneuver that delighted participants and audience alike.

The night ended with a rousing rendition of "Taking It To The Streets".... Pippi knows whereof she speaks.

* * * *
We drove home with hearts lifted, our spirits energized by the generous manner in which she pours herself out for her audience. For Daniel and Pippi, you can tell it's not just entertainment. It's about transforming lives. Thank you, Pippi.

* * * *
You can take Pippi home with you by following this link here: https://www.amazon.com/Black-Coffee-Pippi-Ardennia/dp/B009191Q2M

For upcoming events at the Oldenburg House visit oacc.us

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Medium-Sized Update on Medium

Medium Update
Photo courtesy John Heino Photography
Earlier this summer I began blogging on a platform called Medium. Medium was founded by Ev Williams, the same geek/entrepreneur who created Blogger and later co-founded Twitter. As a writer I have found both of Williams' creations exceedingly valuable, so it seemed only natural to explore what he was trying to achieve with the third iteration of social engagement. Since I learn best by doing, I have been going through my Ennyman's Territory blog posts (near every day since Spring 2007) and building an archive of the "evergreen content." (Evergreen as in "not seasonal." Much of my blog content features events and happenings that are here today and gone tomorrow... or important for the season.) In other words, I have been taking an inventory of my 4000 blog posts to determine what has enough value to be recycled and what should be left on the vine. 

It's been an eye opening experience, and I will share more of what I've learned about blogging in a separate post. 

Right now I am trying to learn what I can about Medium. This Hubspot blog post offers a Beginners Guide, but it's two years out-of-date so that some features have changed, because like the Internet itself, things keep getting upgraded, revised for the purpose of improving the "user experience."

For what it's worth, I am liking many features that Medium offers. The platform has been clearly designed to make it easy for writers to create elegant pages. One of my favorite features is that you can re-post (import) other things you have created online by pasting the URL into a box and hitting a button. Boom! Your whole article with images is right there. You may need to edit a couple things or make adjustments on photo placement, but dagnabbit that's a really nice feature. 

More importantly, though, for all you SEO buffs... Medium automatically writes code into your blog post that tells Google where the origin of this article or story came from. Google accepts this and does not penalize you for duplicate content. (As someone familiar with the ways of Google Search and SEO, this was a huge HUGE relief... 

I Still Have Questions
The whole point of writing and sharing your work is to have it read. I haven't yet found the best path to find readers yet on Medium. Currently I average more readers in a day (1000) here at Ennyman's Territory than I do in a month on Medium. Granted, I only just started there in June, and that first month I did better by three-fold than my first month here in 2007. By way of contrast I am averaging 5000 readers a week on Quora. I never did any promotion of the Quora writings. I simply found it an intriguing diversion at first, and kept answering questions trying to help people, occasionally linking to blog posts here when the post addressed issues people were inquiring about. 

SO, BOTTOM LINE, if you participate in Medium and have had success finding readers, I'd be interested in connecting with you. Send me a note via my ennyman3 Gmail account or Message me on Twitter @ennyman3.

Some of my Medium results:

MY BEST ARTICLES so far (Number of Readers)
Why Print Still Matters For Marketers
Future Hype: The Myths of Technological Change
Five Significant Qualities Shared By Balzac, Picasso and Dylan

Ten Art Quotes That Will Surprise You
What Is A Writer?
Why Print Still Matters for Marketers
11 Sterling Quotes Reflecting the Wit & Wisdom of Mark Twain

Though my fiction has significantly fewer readers, here are my three best performers:

MY BEST STORIES So Far (Fiction)
Two Acts That Changed the World
Duel of the Poets
The Gladiator

Medium has an unusual method of rewarding its writers (who pay $5 a month for the privilege of earning income for their words.) You earn revenue based on readers showing their appreciation by clapping. WHAT I DIDN'T KNOW is that you can actually Clap UP TO 50 TIMES if you really like a story.

Thank you to all those who have given encouragement through the years. It means a lot and is part of what keeps me going. My aim, always, is to provide something of value for those who return from time to time. You are much appreciated.

Related Links
The Medium Model in Ev's Own Words
12 Types of Writers on Medium

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Making Note of Some Aretha-Dylan Connections

When Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the former First Lady, passed away in May 1994 I was in a chat room on America Online when a person announced that Jackie O was dead, that she had died "20 minutes ago." It came from a nurse who was there, sharing news that had not yet been officially announced, producing a sense of immediacy. This confiding of that historical passing drew us in, even though we were strangers, and moved us in some uncanny way.

Nowadays when we see familiar names in Twitter's Trending feeds or headlines of other social media, though we don't know what happened we know something has happened. Prince, Bowie, Robin Williams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman... You see the name and it gives you pause.

So it was that on Tuesday or so I saw a notice that the First Lady of Soul was in hospice. My thoughts and prayers went out to her. Something inside me said it would be soon, and Thursday "Aretha Franklin" was trending.

No question she had a powerful impact on the music scene, was a force as a Black female vocalist in the Sixties. So many great songs she gave us, so many great memories.

Eulogies have been appearing everywhere because there are ample numbers of writers and publications desirous to acknowledge her achievements. "Stellar" is a suitable description. Some have focused on the hardships she had to overcome. I thought I'd draw attention to a few connections between Aretha and our Nobel laureate from Minnesota.

Bob Dylan's first reference to Aretha Franklin, that I know of, appeared in his experimental prose poem titled Tarantula: “aretha with no goals, eternally single & one step soft of heaven/ let it be understood that she owns this melody along with her emotional diplomats & her earth & her musical secrets”  This was written in 1965 or '66, an early nod to the great lady, who was born only a year after he was, both so very young.

The second connection that caught my eye was the connection both these great artists had to producer Jerry Wexler. Steve Chatterton's account on Medium gives backstory on one of Franklin's most iconic songs. "R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me."

Chatteron tells how "Respect" was an Otis Redding song that Franklin transformed into her own. He writes, In 1967, Franklin started working with Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic Records. He suggested she try a version of “Respect,” thinking it would be a good fit for her voice. He wasn’t wrong, but the lyrics weren’t right, either.

By re-working the lyrics, the song took on new meaning.

“I don’t care how much money you bring in,” she seemed to be saying, “It doesn’t mean a thing if you think it gives you the right to boss me around.” She turns the tables, demanding respect in the words of a song originally written for a man. “Give me my propers when you get home,” she sings.

November 1979, Dylan at the Warfield in SF.
Photo credit: Bill Pagel. Used with permission.
Jerry Wexler began his career as a journalist, writing for Billboard magazine in the early 1950's. He's been credited for coining the phrase "rhythm and blues." In 1953 he became a partner at Atlantic Records, contributing significantly to its success. Over time he signed or produced some of the biggest names in the business including Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles and the Allman Brothers. He was the force behind the Muscle Shoals recording studio sound where he worked with Aretha Franklin and contributed to her career success.

Bob Dylan first met Wexler in the early part of the 70's . Later in the decade Dylan sought out Wexler to produce what would be the first of three albums in the new phase of his life after his conversion to Christianity. When he received the Grammy for his hit single "Gotta Serve Somebody" he proceeded to thank "the Lord, Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett, who believed."

According to Wikipedia, Dylan approached Wexler to produce the upcoming sessions. Wexler, who referred to himself as a Wandering Jew, had no idea at their initial meeting that the album was going to be wall-to-wall Gospel.

According to Scott Marshall, author of Bob Dylan, A Spiritual Life, Barry Wexler's phone call to co-producer Barry Beckett was "Bear, we're screwed. Dylan's gone Christian." Becket wasn't phased by the news, replying, "I think it will work out Jerry, if he doesn't get too schmaltzy on the lyrics."

Matt Wake of Alabama Entertainment goes on to share the role Mark Knopfler and Pick Withers of Dire Straits played in bringing Dylan and Wexler together.

For more insights on the production of Slow Train, check out this interview with Jerry Wexler upon the release of Trouble No More, Bootleg Series #13 featuring live performances from 1979-1981 and other material of that era.

To dive any further into all this would be a distraction from the real impetus for this blog post, to acknowledge the passing of another luminary. Thank you, Aretha, for all your gave, and for your resilience in the face of hardship, for all you overcame to make it happen.

Related Links
Aretha noted in Dylan's Tarantula
The Aretha-Wexler Connection 
Slow Train Coming Backstory

Aretha, you will be missed.  

Friday, August 17, 2018

1964: No Question About It, The Times Were A-Changin'

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
--the prescient Bob Dylan
First performed live: 26 Oct 1963

We were just kids.
I just finished watching the American Experience documentary about 1964, the year America split. It was a year of racial conflicts, generational conflicts, gender conflicts and political conflicts. It was a year in which significant changes were beginning to take place, foreshadowing the turbulence to come. What follows are some notes I jotted as the program covered events from January to December of that year.

“People who grew up with outhouses in their back yard are now taking their children to vacations on a lake,” said Rick Pearlstein in the documentary. This was my experience precisely. 

When the year opened, it had only been five weeks since the Kennedy assassination. LBJ had only been sworn into office weeks earlier, but at the outset he was determined to take advantage of the office, declaring an unconditional war on poverty in his January 8 State of the Union address.

On January 20 my family moved from Cleveland to New Jersey, an incident without any media notice whatsoever, but it was a move that made a significant impact on my life personally.

18 days later, on February 7, the Beatles planted their feet on American soil bringing a sense of joy and hopefulness, while simultaneously sowing seeds of rebellion in a somewhat harmless way as boys began avoiding barbershops. Parents didn't like it.

The documentary showed a photo shoot that brought together the Beatles and Cassius Clay. Clay, who would soon become a Muslim and change his name to Muhammed Ali was not yet champion of the world. The Beatles' handlers sought to pair them up with Sonny Liston, but Liston was too serious and declined the distraction. Cassius Clay found it to be just another audacious "day in the life."

The Clay vs Liston fight took place on Feb 25, and we all know what happened next. Clay, who had won Olympic Gold in 1960, scored an upset.

* * * *
1964 was a presidential election year which ultimately pitted Barry Goldwater against LBJ. Goldwater's rise was considered the birth of the modern conservative movement.

* * * *
Photo released into public domain by Ron White.
The World's Fair in New York was given a brief nod, in part for having been the launching pad for the Mustang. Many people remember the Unisphere as symbol of the World's Fair. My neighbor's father was a union welder who worked on the construction of that iconic symbol. What many people forget is how it was a two-year World's Fair. Because of our proximity, we hosted a family reunion in our new home, which became a springboard for many relatives to attend the Fair.

* * * *
The documentary zeroes in on the impact youth were beginning to make. More kids, and more kids with Money. The theme of Youth would be woven into the fabric of this documentary several times.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

* * * *
It was in 1964 that President Johnson introduced new phrase: The Great Society, which would included a promise to end racial injustice and bring an end to poverty.

Civil Rights protests were continuing in the South where civil rights activists were striving to register black voters. There was new legislation to end Jim Crowe rules in the South, but efforts to pass a Civil Rights Bill in Congress was met with the longest filibuster in U.S. history, two months duration. Ultimately the revolutionary Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

* * * *
Snippets in passing included young fans' extreme emotional craziness for Ringo, Andy Warhol's Cambell's Soup cans and Ken Kesey's LSD-infused madcap cross-country adventure with the Merry Pranksters.

* * * *
Freedom Summer in 1964 brought manifold college students to the Deep South as part of the effort to end discrimination against blacks. On June 21 three young Civil Rights workers --Andrew Goodman, James Cheney, Mickey Schwerner -- came to Mississippi as volunteers in this effort. When they came South they had been warned to be careful about being out after dark. When they got arrested, purportedly for speeding, they were held and then released... after dark, never to be seen again alive.

* * * *
Republican National Convention took place at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. In his acceptance of the nomination he famously stated, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..." Mad Magazine would soon feature a mushroom cloud in one of its cartoons expressing concern about what this really could mean.

* * * *
"Summer's right for Dancing in the Streets" -- Martha Reeves and the Vandellas hit song played against scenes of violence in the streets. It was apparent something was cooking...

* * * *
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident puts Viet Nam on front page of newspapers. In truth, Johnson and high government officials distorted the facts in order to escalate his powers. Johnson retaliated against the North Viet Nam by seeking and obtaining from Congress a blank check to expand the war in Viet Nam. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or the Southeast Asia Resolution, Pub.L. 88–408, 78 Stat. 384, enacted August 10, 1964, was a joint resolution that the United States Congress passed on August 7, 1964, in response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

This legislation was of historical significance because it gave U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

* * * *
Under Johnson there was an emerging sense of betrayal by our own government, -- faultlines around politics, race, gender, and what is status quo began to appear. When the Warren Report declared Lee Harvey Oswald to be the sole gunman in the Kennedy Assassination it only exacerbated our sense of distrust in our government.

* * * *
Free Speech Movement in Berkeley led to a campus demonstration that would foreshadow many years of student protests. In Berkeley 800 demonstrators arrested. Though charges were dropped it was labeled as the beginning of the Student Movement, which would shape American politics for years to come.

* * * *
The Johnson vs Goldwater election in November pitted to very different visions.

Johnson made this promise: "Everyone can have a job. Every kid can have an education... in time we can have the Great Society we're all entitled to."

Goldwater came back with: "We can prevent depression. We ca have full employment. I've heard there pipe dreams for the mast 30 years and I've never seen one of them come true."

Johnson took his landslide as a mandate, but 27 million people voted for Goldwater and this became the foundation of a conservative movement that would find resurgence. Young Republicans regrouped...

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Young people would grow to be a force. Sam Cooke's hit song at the end of '64 announced "Change is gonna come..."

The events of 1964 revealed a new mix of idealism and outrage. Though hindsight is 20/20, very few people at the time really saw what was about to come down.

If you get a chance, it's a surprisingly insightful assessment of the time...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A New Epicenter Forming on the South Side of Town: Upcoming Happenings in Carlton and Wrenshall

It's Jazz Weekend and Pippi will be Cookin' at the O on both Friday and Saturday evening. Pippi, Daniel & friends will be here to give you a soul-satisfying uplift.

* * * *

Glenn & Emily Swanson began the summer with an ambitious schedule that included Movies at the O, a Honey Bee Festival and more. This coming Saturday the Oldenburg House Arts and Cultural Community has lined up an afternoon and early evening of music as a fundraiser for Noteworthy Kids. The Family Music Picnic will kick off at 1:30 with the Moonlight Community followed by Pippi Ardennia at 2:45, Robot Rickshaw at 3:30 and the Big Time Jazz Orchestra at 4:00.

* * * *

If you've never been to the Free Range Film Festival in The Barn on County Road 1 outside Wrenshall, well, let's just say it's a wonderful venue. August 26 will be the opening reception for a new art exhibition titled FREE RANGE TRIALS, featuring work by Kathy McTavish and Cecilia Ramon.

Having followed Kathy McTavish's creative explorations since 2011, I can honestly say that the one consistent feature throughout can be summed up with this rule of thumb: Expect the unexpected.

According to the announcement:
In farming terms, field trials are an opportunity to determine effectiveness of experimental techniques in agriculture. In the arts, experimental trials are usually only visible in the artist studio. Free Range Trials functions as a visible lab for artistic process and creative experimentation through the exhibition of work by two contemporary artists -- Kathy McTavish and Cecila Ramon - that will be open for viewing and audience interaction from August 26 through September 3, 2018 from 2-5pm daily.

From a birds-eye perspective, Free Range Trials explores the cross section of culture and agriculture. An apt metaphor for the space can be found in the agricultural features of hedgerows. These dense spaces form boarders on the farm that foster beneficial insects. They are a little more wild and diverse and they function as an overlapping ecosystem where the more highly controlled aspects of the farm intersect with the unmitigated aspects of the natural world. They can be planned and planted but they are designed to invite chance and wild growth. These spaces serve as a metaphor for Free Range Trials. It is a literal as well as conceptual space on the margins of both art and farming where we are allowing for experimentation to foster beneficial diversity that can be brought back into both of those "fields" of study.

Kathy McTavish recently completed a year-long solo exhibition at the Tweed Museum of art and was recently selected as an "Artist on the Verge" by Northern Spark. She is the recipient of numerous Jerome grants and is a recognized voice in new media art. Cecilia Ramon has exhibited work on an international scale and recently returned from presenting her work in Iceland and the Netherlands. She completed her masters in systems thinking from the Schumacher Institute and presented her work at a symposium last fall entitled "Terrain".

* * * *
There's a lot of creative energy at play on the South side of town. If you've never been to the Oldenburg House, I'd almost make it an imperative to become familiar with it. Saturday afternoon will be a beautiful day for a short drive to this "Paradise in a Clamshell" on the edge of Jay Cooke State Park, adjacent to the Munger Bike Trail.

Related Links
In 2014 Kathy McTavish, along with Joellyn Rock and friends, assembled The Sophronia Project in the Barn @ Wrenshall.
Oldenburg House website: OACC.US
Oldenburg House Jazz Education Programs

Meantime art goes on all around you. Let the music move you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Just Another Night at the Chipmunk Oasis (A Story in Pictures)

The Chipmunk Oasis:
A Typical Dive in the Zenith City, January 2018
Narrated by Yours Truly

It was a cold, dark night. I was standing by the stove to keep warm.
Mikos and friends were getting pretty heated about Trump's latest move when...
Roger Redbelly turned and made a sharp remark.
On the far side of the room da boys were in their own high stakes world.
Kingpin Carl had a dice table going down there, too.
Roger was hot now. Benny should've cut him off an hour ago...
Louie fidgeted. He didn't want to get involved.
"I'll see your five and raise you ten."
When Maxie expressed her concern to Benny he shrugged. "It happens every night.
Just then someone brought up the Russians and for a minute it looked like...
Well, you know how it goes. It wasn't pretty.
For what it's worth, everybody got home safe. 
Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Trail of Tears + A Reminder about Tomorrow Evening's Forum at AICHO on Treaty Rights & More

"When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre."
 --Chiksika, Shawnee

The relationship between our U.S. government and the native peoples who occupied these lands before the coming of the Europeans has had many tragic moments. One of the most appalling was the removal of the Cherokee, Choctaw and others from their native homelands in the Southeast to a desolate barren region called Oklahoma.

In 1830 President Andrew Jackson championed the Indian Removal Act which was essentially a forced deportation. There were objections raised in some quarters. Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court stated that the act was unconstitutional. President Jackson said, essentially, "Try and stop me." In other words, the president had the army, the Court only had pieces of paper.

"The Chaos of Ghost Fish" -- painting by Moira Villiard
Alexis de Tocqeville, French philosopher who was studying the American experience at the time, wrote of this forced removal, "In the whole scene there was an air of ruin and destruction... one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung."

Essentially it was a land grab and, amazingly, the country allowed this thing to happen. All through the 1830's tribal peoples were forced out and relocated. Thousands died along the way. As they made their way west from the Carolinas, however, many escaped and disappeared into the forested hills of Tennessee and fled north into Eastern Kentucky.

Today, most people give little thought to this forgotten incident. Yet we honor President Jackson with his portrait on our twenty dollar bill. No wonder history is so messy and confusing.

“Treaty Rights, Climate Justice and Decolonization”  

Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. three local organizations – AICHO, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, and TakeAction Minnesota – are hosting a free informational forum on the topics of “treaty rights, climate justice and decolonization.”  The event will feature four speakers who will share their knowledge and personal experiences about these topics. They include: Ricky Defoe, Lyz Jaakola, Niib Aubid, and Joseph Bauerkemper.

The panel will unpack the history and origin of treaty rights, how they have been used over time, and the role treaty rights currently play in resource extraction, resilience and relationships between Native and non-native peoples.

WHEN: August 15 at 7 pm
WHERE: AICHO – 212 W. 2nd Street, Duluth, MN.

Related Links
State of Minnesota, Fond du Lac Band reach agreement on treaty rights
Endangered, the current exhibition at AICHO
A Brief History of the Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears and Its Aftermath

Monday, August 13, 2018

Public Art in the Twin Ports: Spirit of the Lake by Kirk St. Maur

Spirit of the Lake (detail)
It wasn't until I stopped and read the inscription on the Albert Woolson statue in 2015 (in front of the Depot) that I began to look more closely at the public art on display around the Twin Ports, hence my desire to write about some of these works that we take for granted and provide a few insights about the artists and their work. In July I kicked off the theme with a blog post titled Public Art Isn't Just for the Birds, following up with a piece on the Leif Erickson statue and a related controversy. This morning I wanted to acknowledge the Spirit of the Lake monument by Kirk St. Maur.

I'd always assumed she was Scandinavian, perhaps misled by the braid that falls across her shoulder, and in part because we have such a strong Scandinavian community here. This is why I am writing about it, to set the record straight for anyone else so misled.

Till recently I, like many others, usually gave but a passing glance at the statues as I headed toward a store, beach or restaurant. In other words, it was not real engagement or real appreciation.

As it turns out the bronze sculpture by Kirk St. Maur, is titled Spirit of the Lake and features a young Ojibwa woman.

Born in 1949, the artist was raised in the hills just across the Mississippi river from Mark Twain’s birthplace. To this day St. Maur has maintained his American studio there. When not in the States, he sculpts in Florence, Carrara, or Pietrasanta, Italy. His first one-man show took place at the Art Center in Quincy, Illinois in 1974. Since then he has had shows in both the United States and Italy.

After producing abstract art in a number of media in the U.S., he went to Italy for further experience in figurative and naturalistic art. He has studied with or assisted numerous sculptors, particularly Raimondo Puccinelli and Oscar Gallo in Florence. After receiving his M.A. in sculpture under Enrico Manfrini, he taught for a year as Professor of Sculpture at Gonzaga University’s program in Florence.

Since 1979, his work has ranged from small action pieces, such as the Flying Torchbearer, to life-size or heroic-sized realistic or symbolic works. His life-size bronze of Oregon State University’s first woman graduate commissioned in 1982 and installed in 1983 is realistic while “Against Tyranny,” “Womanhood,” and “News from the Pass at Thermoplyae" are examples of his heroic sculpture.

The Spirit of Lake Superior sculpture stands 63"x 27"x 38" and was installed in 1994 across the street (toward the lake) from Little Angie's Cantina in Canal Park. The statue features a dancing/running native American girl holding a birchbark ricing tray between her right hand and torso, atop a red granite boulder.

It's a pretty cool piece. Take a minute to appreciate the workmanship next time you're in the neighborhood.

On this day in Art History, French painter Eugene Delacroix passed away at age 65 in 1863. If you do not know hie, he was the artist who painted the classic painting of Lady Liberty Leading the People.

Related Links
DPAC Monument Maintenance 

Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Local Art Seen: Sandbeck and Villiard Explore Issues Surrounding Endangered Species and Endangered Lifestyles Portrayed

Ellen Sandbeck (left) with Moira Villiard
Friday evening the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) paired two disparate artists in what might appear to be disparate themes under the single heading, Endangered. Upon deeper inspection the two bodies of work share the same root, an exploration of our impact as people on the lifestyles of Native peoples and our impact on the more vulnerable creatures of the animal kingdom.

Both artists have been making an positive impact with their art, and I was intrigued when I learned they were doing a joint show. Moira Villiard's paintings captured my eye from the first time I encountered them at a PROVE Gallery show a few years back. She's an emerging artist worth watching with a lot of future ahead of her. I've been following Ellen Sandbeck's work since the 1980's and the paper-cutting technique she's developed produces work that is jaw-dropping in its ornateness and beauty.

"Niu Ox" -- Conservation status: Vulnerable
Few people realize that Ellen at one time produced books of stencil patterns for Dover Books when she was younger. Her skills and interests have been diverse as have been the directions in which she focuses her creative energies. An author of several books on topics as varied as Green Housekeeping, worm wrangling and horticulture, her special skill producing paper cutouts is most noteworthy. One can see that although making stencil patterns fell to the background, the skillsets involved never went away.

"Interconnected" -- Moira Villiard 
Like any polymath, her wide-ranging interests intersect and produce permutations such as the incorporation of animalia from the Chinese zodiac. A couple years ago her worm business (worms assist in composting and produce organic food for plants) brought her to Southeast Asia on a business trip. Similarly, her daughter currently lives in China, and these influences have been absorbed by the ever-developing artist. Her own natural ability to focus and her attention to detail make the work she is now producing quite striking. And she's shows no signs of slowing down.

It was fun overhearing a few people making comments indicating their awe at the detail in Sandbeck's pieces. But both artists have this as their primary aim: to make people think about what we as a culture have been doing, how we are endangering animal species and lifestyles.

Endangered opened Friday in the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. One side of the room feature Ellen's paper cut depictions of endangered species. On the other side, Moira's illustrations depict the history of wild ricing and delve into what’s at stake in terms of a way of life in the face of sulfide mining. The exhibit will be on display through the end of August.
"Waterways" by Moira Villiard
"The Chaos of Ghost Fish" -- Moira Villiard
"Protect Water" by Ellen Sandbeck
Giclee reproductions also available for both artists' work.
Ellen Sandbeck pieces displayed here. 

Related Links
Getting Real: New Work by Moira Villiard
An Introduction to Painter Moira Villiard
Ellen Sandbeck's Buddha-A-Day Project (2013)
Ten Minutes with Ellen Sandbeck (2008)

Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Robert Lillegard Shares Practical Insights on How to Get Published in Major Media

Yesterday's Twin Ports Social Media Breakfast, hosted by UMD, convened in a rather impressive room on the third floor of Maloskey Stadium. On a perfect Duluth summer day with cloudless skies, the light streaming through walls of glass gave such a welcoming feel that it was hard to get started and hard to leave. A special shout-out to Molly Solberg for organizing these events.

Our speaker for August was Robert Lillegard, founder of Be Our Guest PR who was also a guest speaker in late 2016. His presentation at that time was both practical and thorough, which no doubt contributed to the strong turnout yesterday.

Lillegard essentially presented an outline of his career with each anecdote designed to teach a lesson about the writing life. The title of his talk served as a drawing card, mainly because he's done it: How To Get Into Major Media.

1. We all start somewhere.
He began by sharing how in 2005 he wanted to become a journalist. He shared an anecdote about his first assignment for the campus newspaper, how he went out and began surveying students regarding their level of concern regarding terrorism.

2. Rejection is part of the game.
He next spoke candidly about the numerous rejection letters he received when he first began pitching story ideas to editors. It brought to mind my own experience of sending out queries back in the days when you typed letters and included a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). After maybe dozens of form letter rejections I received a form letter rejection with a hand-written note on it from the editor. It was thrilling to learn that an actual human being had read my pitch and rejected it personally. Editors were real people.

3. Learned about newsroom from inside.
Lillegard landed a job in which he had the opportunity to experience what it was like on the receiving end of pitches. This gave him a number of insights, including the following:
a. Never complain to media
b. Do send nice letters
c. Send photos
d. Send stories well in advance, not last minute
e. Be persistent

4. You can always get better.
He began in 2008.

5. NYTimes published an article about an idea he had had … he never pitched it.
He shared a story about an idea that he had regarding a craft beer event here in the Twin Ports. He was nearly floored when he read a New York Times story about that very same event, as if someone had read his mind. On take away for him was that he was on the right track. His idea was on target. Another lesson is to pay attention to what is being written to see what kinds of stories the media are looking for.

6. Your Content is what is important.
He underscored the importance of content. Editors are looking for stories people want to read.

7. Large Media looks at Mid-Size Media which is looking at Small Media
Media begets media. We can be seduced into thinking that the smaller media are just emulating the big dogs. The reality is that the Times is looking down at the smaller media, sifting for stories that are worthy of a wider audience. Begin at the bottom and work your way up.

He left an extensive time for Q&A and the audience, which had been full engaged, had many practical questions. Afterwards he briefly reiterated his career path and then outline his three step process for getting published in major media.

1. Come up with stories worth writing about
2. Tell editors
3. Repeat

Related Links
Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers from the New York Times
How I Got Published in the NYTimes on My First Try
And finally, there is a Facebook Event Announcement of note: Michael Fedo, author of The Lynchings in Duluth and many other books, is having a book signing party for his newest release from Holy Cow! Press, Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The Adventures of a Midlist Author
I mention this only because he will be having a writers workshop preceding the book signing. The workshop will focus on how to write publishable Op-Ed articles. Details on the book signing and workshop here.

Meantime... if you're a writer, write on.