Sunday, June 17, 2018

Matt Oman's Species of Art

Unconventional means someone who doesn't follow conventions. Matt Oman's garage is not a garage at all. It's an art gallery. I've known people who can't use their garages because they're so full of clutter. I have not known any who turned their garage into a gallery. (I do know a few who have converted their garage into an art studio though.)

Friday I went to visit Matt Moan and see what's new in his spaces. (His home is itself an art gallery as well.) The images here on this page are from his garage.

Something I've always enjoyed in his art is the unexpected. One of his pieces has this message on it: I have been abducted by aliens. Now how do I tell my parents and who knows what else I have to do.


How do you top that? The compositions vary. Some are catchy and all intriguing. Most are compositions in the range of 9"x 12" or slightly larger. His pieces show a fascinations with symmetry, sensuality, global themes, color themes -- once again primarily highlighting red blue green and yellow -- dimensions, and unusual juxtapositions,

Recurring patterns and themes include Lincoln,  and faces that appear contemplative, thoughtful, concerned, and not necessarily cheerful.

There is a piece that has these readings on it: the nature of earth, There are 7 billion, greed, necessity, Johnson, how will you deal with it, economic growth, unemployment, inflation, the balance of trade, etc. There is the famous Japanese wave and four tiny maps of Korea in flux during its war years. May 1950, is half red half green. September 1950 is almost totally over run by red. November 1950, the green is now moved up almost totally taking the peninsula. July 1953 we see North Korea and South Korea divided again.


Another piece has a hand written, “I am the United States of America” and then "I am mutated."

Baseball is another recurring theme. Sports. Nature.

I was also invited to take a tour of the house again. His dog Species passed away this spring, which was exceedingly painful. The dog food company sent him a small painting of a white Labrador retriever like his own companion, in an expression of supreme knowing. Matt called the loss of Species his "worst day ever."

I look on his bookshelf and see all great books such as these: The Jungle, Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, the complete short stories of Mark Twain, Light in August, Team of Rivals, Black Elk Speaks, and the book I hold in my hand, David Foster Wallace‘s Infinite Jest. There is Demian by Hermann Hesse, another book that influenced me when I was young, The Idiot by Dostoevsky, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Farewell To Arms, Coal, Elie Wiesel's Night, a book on Huey Long, a book by Steinbeck, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike, The Age of Analysis and 1984.



The whole effect of being here is to make me want to try new endeavors that I’ve not tried before, to experiment. On one of the doors there is large piece of paper filled with names written in different colors on it. What names would I write if I were to just hand-write a long list of names in different colors? I’m just not sure what I would find off the top of my head but it would be an interesting experiment, a means of self discovery, a way of seeing possible new relationships within my own subconscious self.

Here was another interesting statement on a downstairs wall: “Michelangelo, arguably the greatest painter and sculptor of our time, came to believe architecture is the highest form of art proper.”


In short, the visit was stimulating. Much like the discharge of an incoming stream stirs up the sediment on the bottom of a pond, so my own thoughts were stirred anew.


Related Links
Matt Oman's Series of Art
Duluth Man's Home Is His Canvas
The Memory Palace

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

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Quote Nearly Guaranteed to Surprise You and Make You Think

I've been doing some housecleaning the last few days. By housecleaning, I mean organizing the files on my Mac, as well as some of the content on my blog. It was while doing the latter that I came across the following quote last night:

"The world is too big for us, too much is going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself. It's a constant strain to keep pace... and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen rapidly, you're out of breath trying to keep pace with who's in and who's out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can't endure much more."

Can you believe it? That was published 135 years ago on this day in the Atlantic Journal, June 16, 1883. I hear Twilight Zone music.

* * * *
When I first started blogging it was out of a desire to learn what blogging was. There were very few rules so it was like feeling my way along in the dark. A lot of those early blog posts began with . excerpts from my 30 years of journalling. Usually I would copy the journal segment and then expound on it, but on a few occasions I simply shared something from my journal as I did on June 22. This was my shortest ever blog post.

Observation from William E. Simon's A Time For Truth. He compares freedom to air. It's something you take for granted until you're without it. 
Sept 4, 1985

* * * *
Today is Grandma's Marathon here in the Northland. For the moment it appears that the storms our weather folk predicted are being graciously held at bay, most likely due to the Lake Effect which makes nearly all weather here unpredictable.

The Marathon easily triggers images of runners, and when I think of runners this verse from Ecclesiastes often comes to mind: "I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." --Eccles. 9:11

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Flashback Friday: Remembering Private Ryan

SIX YEARS AGO TODAY
They say the book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. Whatever your take on this piece of literature, whether divinely inspired or one man's remarkable effort to make sense of the universe, this book about the sufferings of Job is an incredible achievement.

The first chapter sets it up. Picture a theater with a lower stage and an upper stage. Job, his family and friends live in the lower stage. Theater goers see that God resides in the upper stage, but Job is unaware of what is going on there, a transaction between God and Satan. 

The story moves to the lower stage and we see Job smitten, but he remains faithful to God.

The next scene is back at the upper stage and we see Satan asking for permission to cause yet more suffering. Satan says, in essence, to God, "Job loves you because everything is going his way. God, you turn off the faucet of blessing and you will see Job turn his back on you because the core of this man is like all men. People are fair weather friends. People are basically selfish."

Once again even greater tragedy and suffering befall this man, with the result that he is destitute, covered with sores, sitting on a dung heap. All this occurs at the very beginning of this remarkable story. In literary lingo it would be called the setup.

There is a sense in which Steven Spielberg's potent war drama Saving Private Ryan becomes art by becoming metaphorical in the arc of its storyline. My poem Private Ryan will have no meaning without seeing the film or having a basic understanding of the story, so I will attempt to briefly summarize.

SPOILER ALERT

The context for the film is D-Day, the Normandy beachhead, and its aftermath. Tom Hanks is Captain John Miller, a soldier who leads his platoon into the bloodbath chaos that is war. Rated R for "intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence" is an understatement. One difference between the realistically graphic landing and real life is that in twenty minutes the film version of the Normandy landing was completed. 

Meanwhile back in Washington another scene is taking place. It is learned that a mother with four sons in the service has lost three of her boys. The fourth is somewhere in France. After the beachhead has been secured, and long before the war is over, Capt. John H. Miller is handed a new mission. He must find Private James Francis Ryan and bring him home. Like the story of Job, this is the setup. The rest of the film is about the challenges of completing the mission.

It's a costly mission, and in the end Capt. Miller is forced to sacrifice his life to save the young private. He knew what he had to do, and he did it, but he also wanted Private Ryan to understand the importance of his actions. His last words to Pvt. James F. Ryan were these: "Earn this."
 
Private Ryan

He understood the burden for
He carried it all his life.
A man had died to save him,
And for what?
He was nothing but a man.

One day he returned to France
To thank the man who died;
He wept, wept deep and deeper still,
His family by his side.
“Did I live a life that was worthy
Of what you did for me?”

As the wind swept through the gravestones,
No voice was ever heard;
The universe was silent…
It never said a word
And the bones where Ryan knelt that day
Were silent ‘neath the sod.

But Ryan knew what happened
On the day his life was spared.
A man had given his life for him
And he knew to make it count
He’d have to sacrifice his own,
Give back the same amount.

e. 
July 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Mark Joseph Talks About His Latest Book: Rock Gets Religion

His book, published in 2017, is titled Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil's Music. It's actually Mark Joseph's third volume of anecdotes and insights related to the relationship between rock music and musicians of faith.

A speaker at one of the writers conferences I attended in the 1980's described how all the major New York publishing houses had a wing devoted to Christian publishing. With the upheavals of the Sixties, a "Jesus Movement" followed in its wake, along with a return to the kind of fundamentalism that the publishing houses didn't understand. The Charismatic movement was similarly a strange animal to these publishers who weren't sure how to produce books that connected with this surging demographic. They lost money on many new product intros and most washed their hands of it all as numerous new Christian publishing houses sprang up, along with Christian book stores. This same process must have been happening in the music scene as a new genre emerged called Christian Contemporary Music.

Mark Joseph's newest book is about Christian artists who have crossed back over from the CCM pasture into the all-encompassing mainstream. Many of these artists never identified with the CCM subculture. Others, like Amy Grant, were successful in the CCM world but moved into the mainstream and had some success there as well. Separatists can quote Bible verse to support their view: "Love not the world..." The other side of the coin is Jesus's admonition to be "in the world but not of it."

In reading about the life of St. Augustine I learned that his first brush with a Bible turned him off. He was given a very poor translation of the Scriptures and felt it could hardly be God's word if it were so badly written. He was a lover of Greek philosophers and the writings of Cicero were among the most beautiful words in literature. Ten years later he did indeed encounter a good translation of the sacred texts when his life was bottoming out. He became receptive.

Augustine, however, never stopped appreciating the writings of Greek scholars. When criticized for this, he pointed out how the Israelites when they left Egypt brought gold with them. Augustine justified this love of classic literature by declaring that the gold of Egypt was still gold.

When it comes to rock and rap and other genres, some of the issues become controversial. Is it a compromise of one's religion, or the fulfilling of urgent need to affirm faith in the midst of the culture as opposed to standing on a pillar in the desert, a la 4th Century pillar saints. Mark Joseph delves into all of it in this volume.

EN: What was your purpose in writing this book?

Mark Joseph: I like to tell stories, whether through films, music or books and this is a great story that I've been telling in different formats for a quarter of a century and for the most part it's one that has slipped under the radar of popular culture. It began with a piece I did for Billboard Magazine back in 1994. When I was just getting started I realized the parallels between what was happening in Christian rock and what was then called the Negro Baseball Leagues and how in both cases the story was more complicated than it appeared to be--it wasn't as simple as black hats and white hats. I realized that it wasn't just racists who wanted to keep blacks out of major league baseball, it was also those who ran the leagues that were for blacks only--they had a vested interest in keeping the races separate. And the same was true in music. While many Evangelicals claimed they were being kept out of mainstream music, and there was some truth to that, there were also leaders of Christian music who were actively working to keep the music industries separate because that's how they made a living.

EN: In the 60’s and 70’s there appeared Christian publishers, Christian music (CCM), Christian television, Christian movies… Often of quite uneven quality. How did this “Christian” subculture develop?

MJ: It's a frame of mind that many Christians fall into--a kind of 'if I can't get my way on everything I'll take my marbles and go home" attitude. Life is about give and take and working together and sometimes you don't get everything you want and you have to keep at it, not run away. There has been cases of more secular people trying to block religious expression in popular culture, I document it in the book, but the answer isn't to run and create a safe harbor but to stay put and negotiate those differences. The LGBT community has done a great job in this area and Christians would do well to emulate their success. They don't escape and create gay subcultures in media, they work hard to be a presence in the mainstream. In my view, attaching the term "Christian'" as an adjective to describe various art forms is a huge mistake. First, it's not theologically accurate since Christian is a noun not an adjective and no thing can be Christian. But it's also a huge turnoff to those who aren't already devout. It makes art feel like it's not for them. American popular culture should be a place for everybody to share their ideas without being segregated into this or that camp by religion or political views.

EN: You produced the soundtrack for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Based on your own experience and observations, what are the special challenges that Christian actors, producers, screenwriters face in Hollywood?

MJ: The challenge that Christians in Hollywood must face and succeed at is working hard to not just preach to the choir but also to ensure that their art simultaneously reaches those who don't agree with them as well and this can be done. Narnia is a great example--a good part of the audience believed as C.S. Lewis did that Aslan as a stand-in for Jesus Christ. Others just enjoyed the story of a kind-hearted lion--and both groups enjoyed the show. That's something to shoot for. It's ok and important to tell religious stories or films that faith is present in--but it has to be done in a way that still allows the story to make sense to those who don't believe. Christians should always try to remember their own frame of mind back when they didn't believe and never forget to tell stories that can reach the people they used to be, in addition to the people they've become.

EN: Music has played such a major role in shaping our culture. What’s interesting is how many musicians of whom we’re all familiar with have been influenced directly or indirectly at one time or another by The Vineyard Church and its offspring. (eg. Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons). Who are some others that come to mind? And how was it that the Vineyard was so successful in this regard?

MJ: The Vineyard has had a massive impact in this area--it and Calvary Chapel are largely responsible for much of this. Lifehouse is another band that grew out of the Vineyard. These were two churches that took music seriously and didn't look down on musicians but celebrated them. If more churches emulated that attitude, we'd see another explosion of talent in the next two decades.

EN: Alice Cooper’s foreword is very direct and thought provoking. How did that come about?

MJ: Alice and his wife Sheryl have been friends and always supportive of the things I've been doing. We talk often when they're on the road. In many ways he has lived out the premise of the book that runs counter to the popular narrative that religious people have to flee public life. I've always maintained that if you're good, people will put up with your views even if they think they're archaic or quaint. That's Alice. He believes. And who better to listen to than a guy who knows and has experienced the dark side and the bright side? I had originally just asked him for a one line endorsement. But when the publisher sent me the cover I just thought it was such an Alice looking cover that I asked him to do the foreword instead. And he did. Our culture needs more Alice Coopers who are winsome, excellent at their craft, unflinching in their beliefs, but still fun to be around.

Related Links
The Rock & Roll Rebellion: Why People of Faith Abandoned Rock Music and Why They're Coming Back (1999)
Faith, God and Rock & Roll: How People of Faith Are Transforming American Popular Music (2003)
Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil's Music (2017)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Like Dylan, Artist Daniel Botkin Reconfigures American Classics

Dylan Crossing His Delaware (Detail A)
One of the speakers at this year's Duluth Dylan Fest was Harvard Classics professor Richard Thomas, author of Why Bob Dylan Matters. One of the features of his lecture, extensively expanded upon in his book, was the concept of intertextuality as a response to the accusations of plagiarism in Dylan's work. According to Wikipedia, "Intertextuality is the shaping of a text's meaning by another text. It is the interconnection between similar or related works of literature that reflect and influence an audience's interpretation of the text. Intertextual figures include: allusion, quotation, calque, plagiarism, translation, pastiche and parody. Intertextuality is a literary device that creates an 'interrelationship between texts' and generates related understanding in separate works."

North Country Gothic
Intertextuality has to do with texts, so I don't know what the word would be to describe artists who draw upon the works of other artists. A number of years ago the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hosted a exhibition of painters whose paintings were influenced by Picasso. Each room would have a Picasso painting with two or three paintings by others that were echoes of what Picasso had done. I specifically recall one piece by Jasper Johns in this show.

All this is by way of introduction to the four paintings Daniel Botkin contributed to this year's Duluth Dylan Fest art show. What follows are his artist statement and descriptions of the four pieces he shared with us in late May.

Bob Dylan borrowed elements of American folk music and wove those elements together to create brand new songs. Following Dylan's method, I have borrowed pieces of popular American folk art and used those compositions to create brand new paintings that blend Dylan and Americana.
-Daniel Botkin

Dylan Crossing His Delaware, full painting
When the Ship Comes In: Dylan Crossing His Delaware
Dylan crossing over from all-acoustic to electric. "Another Side" was his last all-acoustic album. "Bringing It All Back Home," his transitional album, was acoustic on one side and electric on the other. It was followed by "Highway 61 Revisited," his first all-electric album. Some fans considered him a traitor for going electric, one of them famously yelling "Judas!" at a concert. That fellow is in the lower left corner of my painting.
Oil on canvas, $778.



Forever Young
Patterned after Norman Rockwell's Triple Self Portrait. The small pictures on the easel are from Dylan's early career and his childhood home in Duluth.
Oil on canvas $678.



Bobby's World: Stuck Inside of Duluth and Hibbing With the Freight Train Blues Again
Patterned after Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World. The yellow house is the Dylan home in Duluth and the blue house is the Dylan home in Hibbing. The title of my painting is a tweaking of Wyeth's title, followed by a blending of two Dylan song titles, "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again" and "Freight Train Blues."
Oil on canvas, $578

North Country Gothic
Patterned after Grant Wood's American Gothic. Young Bob Dylan with Echo Helstrom, his high school sweetheart, with the Dylan home in the background. Echo died in January 2018, just about a month before this painting was completed as a tribute to her for being the inspiration for Dylan's song "Girl From the North Country."
Oil on canvas, $578

Dylan Crossing His Delaware (Detail B)
Dylan Crossing His Delaware (Detail C)
Related Lnks
Until death it is all life. Embrace it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Two Powerful Songs in Response to the Cold-Blooded Murder of Medgar Evers

On this day in history civil rights activist Medgar Evers was assassinated. Born July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Mississippi he became, in 1954, the first state field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi. As such, he organized voter-registration efforts and economic boycotts, and investigated crimes perpetrated against blacks. For these "subversive" activities he was assassinated outside his Mississippi home 55 years ago today. It took more than three decades to send his killer to prison. Such were the machinations of Mississippi justice.

Evers served in World War II from 1943 to '45 and returned, like many other African Americans of his generation, to see the Jim Crow South with new eyes. He graduated college on the G.I. Bill and soon became involved with civil rights work. In 1954 he came field secretary for the NAACP, travelling extensively throughout the state, a witness to the widespread injustices that were a way of life there. For context, 1954 was the year of the landmark legislation Brown v. Board of Education, 1955 the death of Emmett Till.

After years of organizing and standing up to the powers that be, "Evers's efforts made him a target for those who opposed racial equality and desegregation. He and his family were subjected to numerous threats and violent actions, including a firebombing of his house in May 1963, shortly before his assassination."(1)

* * * *
August 28, less than two months later, proved to be one of the most memorable days in our history as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a march on Washington for jobs and freedom, galvanizing the civil rights movement with his epic "I Have A Dream" speech, which reverberates to this day.  A young Bob Dylan was one of many singers who had been invited to perform at the event.(2) Even though he'd just released his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, with a number of suitable songs for the occasion ("Blowin' in the Wind" and "Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" come to mind) he sang three songs from his next album, including "Only A Pawn In Their Game" which he'd written in response to the shooting of Medgar Evers.

It's not possible for me to hear this song without being moved, and for decades I felt it to be the most powerful response ever written in response to Evers' assassination. Eventually, thanks to the Internet, I discovered Nina Simone's response to this and everything taking place in Mississippi at that time, a song which -- for reasons self-evident -- would not have been aired on the radio stations most of us listened to while growing up in the Sixties. It's called "Mississippi Goddam."(3)

The chorus, which also opens the song, goes like this:
Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi goddam

Lyrics like these reflect the burden of being black in the Deep South at that time:

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day's gonna be my last
Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time

I don't belong here
I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer
Don't tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying 'Go slow!'

It's a painful song, but its despairing tone reflects a strange beauty that I find incredibly moving. 


Like Dylan's "Only A Pawn" it's the manner in which the song is sung that goes right through you. Let's mark the day by remembering. 

(1) Medgar Evers life at Biography
(2) Music of the March on Washington
(3) Full lyrics, Mississippi Goddam

Monday, June 11, 2018

Items of Note: Two Calls for Art Plus the Free Range Film Festival

Zeitgeist Seek Artists for Public Art
The Zeitgeist is looking for contributions from local artists to decorate a new Parklet that will be installed next year. They are seeking to display up to 18 submissions from artists of all levels, beginners to veterans. The concept you submit will be a draft, not finished pieces. They will select artists and then give plywood to all those selected for completing their ideas. Drafts can be submitted on paper in person at the Zeitgeist Arts Cafe: 222 East Superior Street, or can be scanned and emailed to sarahlueck@zeitgeistarts.com.  For more information visit the Zeitgeist Arts Parklet Arts page.

City Pages Call for Comix Artists
City Pages in the Twin Cities is looking for talented artists to submit work for their annual City Pages Comix Issue. This year's theme: Summer Jobs. Cartoonists must submit work that flows as true sequential art that tells a full story while adhering to our designated image dimensions, but there are no restrictions on the number of panels or how you use them. Guidelines and full details HERE.

Free Range Film Festival
NOTES FROM ANNIE DUGAN

The harvest is in for the Free Range Film Festival and 29 films have been deemed chemical free and fresh for viewing. 2018 marks the 15th year for the Festival. A cult favorite since it started screening films in 2003, the festival provides a forum for filmmakers, film lovers, as well as barn enthusiasts and country living aficionados. With an earlier date for the barn screenings, festival organizers are eager to share the schedule with consumers.

This year’s crop of films includes a documentary about semi-aquatic beaverlike rodents with giant orange teeth that live in Louisiana, a virtual reality music video from the duo “Maple & Beach”, the story of local artist hero Chris Monroe’s last window exhibition for Treehouse Records, and a lot of movies that include exclamation points in the title.

“I’m particularly excited about our Saturday afternoon block of programming this year” says one of the festival organizers Annie Dugan. “We have a ton of filmmakers who will be in attendance that afternoon with great opportunity for Q&A and discussion. Plus, this is the first year that our Saturday afternoon screenings are completely rated G!”. Dugan continues that even if the films might not suit a particular audience, “there is something about watching movies in a big old barn that give people permission to relax and try something new. If they don’t like something, they can look up at the rafters and daydream. Its just such a beautiful space.”

The diversity in directors and subject matter is also of note in the 2018 schedule. Dugan points out that “One of the things we continue to be proud of in our programming is that over half of the directors are female, something you don’t usually see on the festival circuit”.

For a full schedule and more information on the Free Range Film festival: The harvest is in for the Free Range Film Festival and 29 films have been deemed chemical free and fresh for viewing. 2018 marks the 15th year for the Festival. A cult favorite since it started screening films in 2003, the festival provides a forum for filmmakers, film lovers, as well as barn enthusiasts and country living aficionados. With an earlier date for the barn screenings, festival organizers are eager to share the schedule with consumers.

For a full schedule and more information on the Free Range Film festival, visit www.freerangefilm.com

* * * * 
Special Message from Ennyman
It's never too early to introduce your kids to the arts.
My parents enrolled me in a ten-week program here at the
Cleveland Institute of Art when I was five. It changed my life.
Cleveland Institute of Art
It's Never Too Late to Start Making Art
You can find all kinds of art classes here in the Twin Ports, from Zentangle Designs with Esther Piszczek to all the assorted activities at The Duluth Art Institute, Pineapple Arts and Art on the Rocks, just to name a few. Learn something new. Expand your horizons. Creativity is in your DNA. Wake up your Inner You.

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

17 Thoughts In Response to Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit

1967 Detroit riots. Photo Credit: Public Domain/http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
It's an axiom of great photographers to focus the lens on a micro view that serves as a mirror of the big picture. For example, a closeup of a mother weeping over her shrapnel-damaged infant son as a means of showing the side effects of carpet bombing and the meaning of that impersonal euphemism, "collateral damage."

This, it would seem, is what Katheryn Bigelow was attempting to do in her 2017 focus on what occurred at the Algiers Motel in the movie Detroit, a purportedly fact-based film set against the backdrop of the Detroit riots of 1967.

My initial title for this review was going to be Detroit Starts Fine But Veers Into Horror for Horror's Sake.

My blog response was initially going to read... Recommended: Read the Reviews and Skip the Film. Or maybe, Recommended: Don't watch this if you're depressed.

I would have skipped it altogether (a public response) but then found myself dwelling on certain aspects of the story and decided to make a list of thoughts about the film, partly in an effort to purge myself of some things that were stirred by watching it.

1. "the city routinely declined to promote black patrolmen, and the police had a reputation for exhibiting 'crude racism' and ignoring the needs of the black community. The police were perceived as unwilling to enforce the law and slow to respond in black communities, and police harassment of African Americans was the norm. Subsequently, African Americans... tended to strongly distrust the police. There had also been several incidents of brutality committed by the police... which worsened the tension between the police and the city's African American citizens."

The above paragraph is taken from a Wikipedia entry not about Detroit, but about riots in a section of Cleveland in the mid-Sixties. It could have been Chicago, L.A., Newark, Louisville, Kanas City, Baltimore or a multitude of other places, including Detroit.

2. The incident at the Algiers Motel in Detroit served not as a microcosm of the problems in Detroit, but of a pervasive issue throughout the nation.

Newark riots. Photo Credit: Tabitha C. Wang, Public Domain
3. My family living in New Jersey at this time. After the Newark riots, a neighbor of mine stated that there were cops in Newark who welcomed the riots. It gave them an opportunity "to shoot a n***** and get away with it." His uncle, a cop, had said this. Being an impressionable teen it depressed me to hear this.

4. Will Poulter played one of the most evil characters I've ever seen in film, but this character was not really a character. Compare Poulter to Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men. Bardem was scary bad, but interesting. Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood was another evil man, but we saw a fully developed character, a human being with motivations, albeit bent.

5. Speaking of motivations, none of the characters appeared to be really developed. The five Motown singers were given a few minutes to let us know they were young folks with dreams. Characters have motivations. Characters must each have a quest, something they want. We only got that from one person in the film, a singer who had talent and a dream.

6. To quote from one of the reviewers, the film became "an over-indulgent orgy of violence" that failed to address the historical context in which the riots arose.

7. There are a lot of films that deal with tension, violence and the like, but the best films give the viewer some relief, places to catch one's breath. Maybe that is the point that Ms. Bigelow was making. "If you think an hour or two of unrelenting torture is bad, well imagine how these kids felt after eight hours of this, and worse." O.K., but I didn't sign up for that. And whatever happened to the maxim, "Less is more"?

There are dozens of films that effectively deal with injustice without putting this whole horror directly in your face. Even Tarantino's violence is interspersed with comic relief.

8. The deeper, long-term causes of the riots barely appear in the film. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "The deeper causes of the riot were high levels of frustration, resentment, and anger that had been created among African Americans by unemployment and underemployment, persistent and extreme poverty, racism and racial segregation, police brutality, and lack of economic and educational opportunities."

9. The crazy guy who fired the fake gun and initiated this whole crazy sequence events was killed right at the start. Why didn't anyone explain what happened? I dunno.

10. O.K., maybe I do sort of understand this. One time, in my hippie youth, I was beaten up by a couple tough guys from outside the neighborhood. The police talked to the assailants first and afterwards hassled me in such a way that I, like the victimized young people in the film, kept my mouth shut. I could tell the police had no interest in my side of the story. I suppose it is possible the young people were too terrified to speak and believed any attempt to say anything would be considered insolence. Power can be intimidating.

11. Getting back to Will Poulter... How do actors feel after playing a role like that? I mean. at the end of each day, where is your head at?

12. In some communities, like Duluth, there have been improvements. Here is an example involving an artist, Carla Hamilton, who was profiled, singled out and interrogated improperly. Her response was to go to Chief Tuskan and turn this into a learning moment for the police by having them hear how they mishandled the situation. The follow up was an art exhibition at the Duluth Art Institute the following winter.

This would not have happened 50 years ago. The dialogue with Chief Tuscan led to a broader dialogue, ultimately with the community.

13. Improvement does not mean that race issues have disappeared. There is much work yet to be done.

14. The animated re-telling of the story of how blacks migrated North for jobs in the rust belt and the "white flight" that occurred in the inner cities after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that permitted blacks to leave the ghettos, this was well done and got my hopes up for the film. Handled with a light touch, yet informative. The scenes that followed raised more questions than they answered.

15. There are many ways to tell a story. I can imagine that many people watching on DVDs quit watching before it reaches any kind of conclusion. I think here of 12 Angry Men, which deals with an injustice without hanging it in front of your face.

16. One reviewer at imdb.com  wrote, "Too bad the writing didn't create a more coherent picture of the time period. Statistics of unemployment, arrests of African Americans, a rising black prison population, would have helped create the setting in which the riots occurred." Well, that is the kind of material you can bring to the fore in a documentary.

17. The next comment from the reviews falls into the same category, info that could be better shared in a documentary. "The film fails to show how the riots were a watershed moment in the history of Detroit, how everything afterward became worse economically for the city and where that left the city today. Near the end of the film, Detroit goes from civil rights drama to procedural drama and completely loses its way. Certainly, presenting what happened to the three white officers charged with murder was worthwhile, but that could have been done in a paragraph as an epilogue."

* * * *

The history of race in America is depressing to think about, but it cannot be ignored.

Related Links
imdb.com User Reviews
DAI Exhibit Targets Tensions, Solutions

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Make a difference.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Roger McGuinn On Skiing with Dylan and Faith in God

Page 20, Radix Magazine, May/June 1981
If you get the mashup eNewsletter The Dylan Daily then you probably saw the lead story this past week about Roger McGuinn skiing with Bob Dylan. I will be the second to admit that I wouldn't have pictured Dylan as a skier (the author of this No Depression article admitted it first) but it was fun reading that Roger McGuinn had been here on a winter holiday in the North Country. Evidently he found Bob's swiftness on the slopes more memorable than than how chilly the weather may have been.

The click-baity opening quickly yields to some fresh insights about McGuinn's roots, the numerous bands he was in before soaring with The Byrds. I'd forgotten that Roger McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker was backed by the now-famous Wrecking Crew--and not his band--when The Byrds recorded Mr. Tambourine Man.

After summarizing McGuinn's career, the author quotes him modestly acknowledging, “I’m not really a great songwriter or great at anything, but I am very blessed that I’ve been able to make a living all these years.”

"I am very blessed," he said. It's an interesting turn of phrase, which leads me to the 1981 Radix magazine interview with Danny Smith that zeroes in on McGuinn's conversion to Christianity.

The Radix piece leads off with the newly released McGuinn and ex-Byrd Chris Hillmam album, produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett at Muscle Shoals. Dylan historians recognize this pair of names as the guys who produced Slow Train Coming and the controversial Saved.(1) They were also responsible for noteworthy sessions with Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cher and other familiar names.

At this point in his career (1981) McGuinn had 12 Byrds albums under his belt along with five solo albums and three records with Hillman and Gene Clark. He had additional Dylan connections with his music. "Chestnut Mare" was a song he recorded in Dylan's four-hour Renaldo & Clara. He also provided accompaniment in "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid."

The second half of the article covers McGuinn's spiritual journey. Few of us remember, if we ever knew, that Roger McGuinn was originally Jim McGuinn as a banjo-picker and part of the Greenwich Village scene. His mystical explorations led him into an Indonesian religion called Subud. To change his name he had to get approval from the "home office" in Indonesia, and his new name "Roger" was approved.

McGuinn says that for several years he was in a personal search for God that led him into Eastern religions, but that these did not make him feel close to God. The first Christians whom he met were pushy and off-putting. Later he met other Christians who were not doing the "hard sell" kind of faith sharing, which led into a lot of interesting discussions. After a couple months, and after a traumatic experience, McGuinn turned to God. "The Holy Spirit brought me to a realization of my need for God and the provision in Jesus," he said as he described his encounter and faith breakthrough. "It was then that I committed my life to him.

Smith's discussion with McGuinn included the conversions of Dylan and Noel Paul Stookey, and the pressure that some Christians put on celebrities to "fall into line" and allow themselves to be exploited for Jesus. McGuinn says he stayed away from the "Christian circuit" and took flak for it. But he's not deviated from what he considers primary in his life: "following the Lord."

"Previously, career, money, and success were the targets. But now it's the Lord who comes first. I don't have the desperate urgency to be successful. I fell fulfilled and satisfied, and that's a great thing."

Related
Skiing with Bob Dylan
Secrets Behind Bob Dylan's Muscle Shoals Albums

(1) Last week I was looking at a forum discussion in which participants were sharing what they considered Dylan's worst albums. Saved topped some lists, which said as much about the list makers as the quality of the album. For what it was, an authentic Gospel expression, it is considered by some to be among his best. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Last Night in the Carllton Room: Bruce Henry Was Cookin' Hot

Make no mistake, we've got a jazz club here in the Northland as intimate and compelling as any you would find anywhere. The Carlton Room is a gift to the community, and it's been exciting seeing the community embrace it. Here are my notes to myself on this weekend's featured singer, who will be putting on a second show tonight.

After a couple numbers featuring the backing band of Ryan Frame (piano), Matt Mobley (standup bass) and Swanny Swanson on the drum kit, Bruce Henry took the stage to show us his range. Within a minute the full house was eating out of his hand, and it never let up. Another great performer at a venue that hands down seems to have it all.

The singer opened with a Charlie Parker bebop tune, "Yes Is Best," showing his considerable vocal range and swinging moves. Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" followed, a song written by eden ahbez that was Nat King Cole's first solo hit and stayed at the top of the charts eight weeks.

There was a boy
A very strange, enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

It's a beautiful song and, as with everything else, it was beautifully rendered. (You can find all the lyrics here to see why it was such a hit for NKC.) He followed this with a song popularized by Ol' Blue Eyes, "The Second Time Around."

More than a jazz singer, Bruce Henry is a performer and a story teller. He interjected a few stories about things he learned from Michael Jackson and Tony Bennett, giving an example of how persuasive he was as a performer himself. Then we swung into a Duke Ellington number, "Postponed."

Song selection says as much about a singer as his or her stage presence, and hands down Bruce Henry served up a fabulous multi-course meal. As many of you know (especially if you read my blog post from Thursday) Bobby Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago this past week. Henry and the band's channelling of Marvin Gaye's poignant "What's Goin' On?" sent electricity through the room.

They finished off the first set with a bluesy rock piece, "Goin' to the Country" about brighter days and dreaming of life in Spain.

* * * *
If you've never been to Cookin' @ the O, it should be noted that there is also real cooking here. When we arrived Chef Paul was in action on the grill out back and in the kitchen, setting up the culinary features that accompanied our entertainment. There's also a fully stocked bar as well, so you really can have it all.

* * * *
The trio opened the second set with "One Day My Prince Will Come" and then Bruce Henry returned to the stage. He shared a humorous story about something that happened to him while singing onstage with his eyes closed and told us he has a whole catalogue of stories like that and is working on a book.

"Stand By Me" gave us chills, and I overheard someone behind me ask how they can be so tight as a band having never performed together before. That's the magic of jazz here, though.

They followed with Ray Charles' playful "I Got News For You."
You said before me met 
That your life was awful tame 
Well, I took you to a night club 
And the whole band knew your name...

View from a staircase window. Glory Pool and Fountain
on the right. Luscious views abound.
"Summertime" rolled out next... nothing pedestrian here. Bruce Henry, like all the greats, takes it and makes it his own.

Introducing a Mongo Santamaria song gave the singer a chance to tell his own story, about how rewarding and fortunate he was to find his roots... his great, great, great etc. grandmother eight generations back whose name was Tamar, brought over as a slave from Sierra Leone. The song, also performed by Coltrane, begins, "I dream of a land where my soul is from..." (Mongo Blue)

There was something magical about the evening. Songs that made us smile, and songs that made us think, yet inspired, that lifted us somehow. Closing out, Bruce Henry delivered a soulful, heartfelt rendition of the classic "House of the Rising Sun." Enthusiastic standing ovation followed.

Thank you to Glenn and Emily for creating this space, for setting the bar high, for putting it all together. It's been a lot of work, but the entire community is richer for it.

Related Links
10 Things You Didn't Know About Oldenburg House
Oldenburg House website. There may still be a few tickets for tonight's show.

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn 
Is just to love and be loved in return"
--Nat King Cole

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Best Job Hunting Book Ever: What Color Is Your Parachute?

According to this 2014 Forbes article more than half of all Americans are unhappy at work. The Gallup organizations 2017 study on the American workforce pretty much verified the same thing, that more than half of all workers are disengaged, resulting in massive productivity losses in. This Gallup study goes on to say that as a result of job dissatisfaction more than half are actively looking for other work.

This is why Richard Nelson Bolles' What Color Is Your Parachute? has continued to be so relevant. It's not simply for the unemployed looking for a job. It's also for the underemployed and mis-employed, that is, people who are not in positions that align with who they are. In short, the potential audience is vast, and the book has a message that addresses the fundamental core of the issue.

Who am I? Why am I here? What do I really want to do?

From his earliest versions of this now classic job-hunt manual, Bolles identified one of the key issues job-seekers have. They do not know themselves as well as they ought.

Any reader who frequents Quora will come across people who ask questions that only they can answer. "I want to start a blog. What should I write about?"

RNB's response goes like this: "The key to a happy and fulfilling future is knowing yourself. This self-knowledge is the most important component of finding the right career." He addresses this matter by offering an array of exercises and tools designed to help readers discover who they are and what really motivates them. In the early editions these exercises were contained in an appendix titled The Quick Job-Hunting Map.

What Bolles does in this job hunt manual that literally changed my life many decades ago was this. He provides tools to help us do a self-inventory so that we better understand who we are, what makes us tick (our values), the kinds of situations that turn us on, and what our strengths are. The exercises in this book, when we invest time in doing them, will open our eyes to our personal DNA and strengthen our resolve as we begin to recognize our superpowers. Like The Incredibles, which is about to release a sequel, we each have different skillsets or powers that enable us to make contributions to the companies and communities we serve

* * * *
For years I used to tell people who were looking for work to find a copy of this book and read the appendix. That is, I thought the whole point of this book was to get people to do the exercises in the back of the book. Not having read the book in more than 30 years myself, I was describing what to do based on my 1981 version of the book. What I didn’t realize was that over the years, was how much each new edition of Parachute had been updated and upgraded. At a certain point in time some of those exercises, became integrated into the content of the book. (I just went to Amazon and discovered the Quick Job-Hunting Map is now available as a separate book altogether.) Since his mission has been that of helping people in this specific point of need, he made plenty of his wisdom and insight available at a website jobhuntersbible.com. Be sure to click on the eParachute link in the lower right.

Among its many accolades Time magazine calls it “One of the All-Time 100 Best Nonfiction Books.” Its subtitle is A Practical Manual for Job-Hunter and Career Changers. And since one’s career is such a central part of one’s life on earth, it seems important enough to try to get it right.

Though the best time to do this is when we’re young, with our careers ahead of us, the adage remains true, “Better late than never.” In fact, he has also produced a What Color Is Your Parachute for Retirement.

Bolles passed away last year at age 90, and I get the impression he never retired from doing what he loved, which was helping people. 

* * * *

Related Links
RNB's New York Times Obituary 
Tribute to RNB on Linked In

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Assassinations, Riots and the Temptations' Ball of Confusion

 This week was the 50th anniversary of the Robert Kennedy assassination on the heels of his California primary win. Two months earlier Dr. Martin Luther King was slain. The Viet Nam War was in full swing and the summer more than 100 U.S. cities would experience riots in the streets. Thinking about these things brought to mind the Temptations' hit single Ball of Confusion, which seemed to pretty much sum up the decade we had just been through when it was released in 1970. 

For this reason I thought I'd share the song here as 1968 still seems so fresh in some of our memories. Upon Googling it I learned that I'd actually shared the song in 2010, ironically on the anniversary of Bobby's brother's assassination, November 22. Here's what I posted on that occasion, as relevant as ever.

* * * *
THROWBACK THURSDAY

This weekend on Twitter someone wrote, "The Truth will set you confused." Clearly a parody on the well-known saying from the Gospels. (John 8:32)

Interestingly enough, just before the weekend I'd torn Matt Gruhn's editorial message out of the trade journal Boating Industry with the title Uncertain times. He begins with an unattributed quote: "Anyone who isn't confused here doesn't really understand what's going on."

Harry Truman once declared, "If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em." Straight talk from inside the Beltway.

Dylan at times addressed the confusion of the times in his songs as well, beginning one 1962 song with the exclamation, "I got mixed up confusion, man, it's a-killin' me."

All this is lead in to a 1970 pop hit by the Temptations which pretty much sums up the tenor of the times.

Ball Of Confusion

People moving out,
People moving in.
Why? Because of the color of their skin,
Run, run, run, but you just can't hide.

An eye for an eye,
Tooth for a tooth,
"Vote for me and I'll set you free,"
Rap on, brother, rap on.

Well, the only person talking about
loving thy brother is the preacher;
And it seems nobody's interested
in learning, but the teacher.

Segregation, demonstration,
integration, determination,
aggravation, humiliation,
Obligation to our nation.

Ball of confusion,
That's what the world is today, hey hey.

The sale of pills is at an all time high,
Young folks walk with their heads in the sky,
The cities aflame in the summertime,
And oh the beat goes on.

Evolution, revolution,
gun control, sound of soul,
shooting rockets to the moon,
Kids growing up too soon,
Politicians say, "More taxes will solve everything."
The band played on.

So, round and around and around we go,
Where the world's headed, nobody knows

Oh, Great Googa-Mooga,
Can't you hear me talking to you,
Just a ball of confusion...
That's what the world is today, hey hey.

Fear in the air, tension everywhere,
Unemployment rising fast,
The Beatles new record's a gas,
And the only safe place to live,
Is on an Indian reservation,
The band played on.

Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
mod clothes in demand,
Population out of hand,
suicide, too many bills,
Hippies moving to the hills,
People all over the world are shouting, "End the war!"
And the band played on.

Great Googa-Mooga,
Can't you hear me talking to you,
Just a Ball Of Confusion.

* * * *

And the band plays on...

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Oh What A Week -- Duluth Dylan Fest 2018

ALMOST WORDLESS WEDNESDAY
A handful of images from another memorable Dylan Fest.
This year's winner of the singer/songwriter competition
Marths'a Stolen Horses, flanked by Amy Grillo and Pat Eliason.
Many of the photos on this page (all the better ones) and during my coverage of DDF 2018 were taken by Michael Anderson, who has so graciously been covering many of our events in the past. Here is a link to an online Dylan Fest gallery of Michael Anderson photography that you will surely want to check out. Thank you, Michael.

Related Links
Visions of Duluth Art Show at the Zeitgeist
Skye's Tribute to Dylan in the Great Hall at the Depot
May 24 Birthday Celebration at the House
Another Great Night: Singer/Songwriter Contest at Sacred Heart
Harvard Classics Prof Pulls Back the Curtain on Dylan's Lyrics

Do you have a favorite moment or highlight from this year's Dylan Fest? Did you celebrate Dylan's birthday somewhere else in some special way? Please feel free to leave a comment.