Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Pinterest Trivia and Other Data for Social Media Marketers

This past week I've been puttering around with my Pinterest Boards and got to wondering how many people have staked a claim on the Pinterest terrain. I'd read that Pinterest can be a useful marketing tool, though I'd never used it in that way before. I used it more like a scrapbook that you show friends. Recently, though, I noticed that people place links in their pins and in this manner can begin a relationship that -- if this is your aim -- leads to a sale or customer relationship.

All this to say I became curious how many Pinners there were and other such numbers. Here's a current set of ballpark numbers from the Omnicore Agency. Once I started collecting numbers I went ahead and checked into analytics for other types of social media. Omnicore has way more than you need here to get a sense of Pinterest's scale. A link at the end of this blog has more data to digest.

Pinterest Stats of Note
Pinterest was founded in 2010 and currently has 75 million monthly users in the U.S., 175 million worldwide.
Total Number of Pinterest Pins: 50 billion
Number of Pinterest Boards: 1 billion+
Men account for 7% of all Pins, 19% of all users.
There are over 17 billion recipe Pins here.

Noteworthy Numbers for Marketers
87% of Pinners have purchased a product because of Pinterest.
Over 5% of referral traffic to websites comes from Pinterest.
80% of Pinterest's users access the site through mobile devices.
FWIW, you can find data for Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Periscope at Omnicore as well.

Social Media Statistics: SEO
Better content can drive traffic to a blog by up to 2,000%.
Google is responsible for 96% of all smartphone search traffic, and 94% of total organic traffic.
Search engines drive 93% of all website traffic.
About ½ of all searches are four words or more.
Two seconds is all companies get when it comes to website load time. Anything longer increases bounce rates by 50%.
82% of searchers will use their phone to help them make a decision about an in-store purchase.
42% of all men use their phone to call their wives and ask what it is they were supposed to get.*
Google claims it has an average of 63,000 searches every single second of the day.
#1 social media platform for teens is Snapchat. (What kid wants to hang out where his or her parents are?)
40% of all mobile users are searching for a local business or interest.
16% are looking for a parking spot.*
Location-specific ad campaigns are 20 times more effective than traditional banner ads.

Content Marketing Stats of Note
Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising.
Content creation leads to 434% more indexed pages than websites without updated content.
38% of marketers are publishing content at least once a week.
60% of B2B marketers say they have a difficult time coming up with content that will engage their audience.***

Noteworthy Blogging Stats**
Featuring a blog as a key part of your website will give you a 434% better chance of being ranked highly on search engines.
Using images in your blog posts gets them 94% more views.
Companies that published 16 or more blog posts per month got 4.5X the leads than companies that published 4 or less monthly posts.
EdNote: The matter of how often to post is something I will address in a separate post. I post daily but at least one blogger says posting daily is "silly." 
B2C companies that blogged 11 times or more got more than 4X as many leads than those that publish only 4-5 posts per month.
Blogs that post daily get 5X more traffic compared to those that don’t.
58% of marketers voted for “original written content” as the most important type of content, outdoing images, videos, and infographics.
EdNote: This stat seems to affirm how I feel about video content. I don't watch videos online, or hardly ever. I like skimming written content for the nuggets I am looking for. The info on this blog post comes from cutting and pasting words, which would be far more time-consuming if delivered via video.

* * * * 

When you start looking for stats, you'll find more than you ever dreamed possible. The ones that jump out for me pertain to content marketing, SEO and blogging. But I'll save my remarks for another post because there's more to say than time allows right now.

Till next!

* Fake Stats
**More Blogging Stats   
*** Need help? Talk to me.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Emerging Photographers at the Duluth Art Institute

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” 
— Dorothea Lange

If you ever go to the offices of the Duluth Art Institute on the 4th Floor of the Depot you will nearly always see art on the walls there. The hallway has been dubbed The Corridor Gallery. It enables the DAI to share more work throughout the year. And beside, what's the point of keeping walls bare anyways?  
The current show in the Corridor Gallery is Territory: Emerging Photographers. If you take the elevator one flight up here are some of the images you will see this month. 

Would this be considered Selfie erotica?

There is always something to see at the DAI.
Maybe we'll even see you. 

Related Links
Shakespeare's in the Alley: A Tribute to Bob Dylan will be on display in the Great Hall at the Depot during Dylan Fest. 10 years in the making. Read this Interview with the Artist Skye.
A visit with the new DAI Executive Director Christina Woods.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Duluth Armory Becomes Stage for the CW Duluth Television Program

My first visit inside the historic Duluth Armory took place Memorial Day weekend in 2010, the closing event for Hibbing's Dylan Days that year. It had been a family tradition to attend to the Battle of the Jug Bands at the Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe so we were already downtown. At some point I slipped away to grab this opportunity to get an inside look at the historic building. For safety reasons all entrances have been chained or locked. When I heard of this temporary lifting of the ban for a few hours I knew there might not be another chance to see the stage where young Bobby Zimmerman saw the legendary Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) perform just days before they were killed in a plane crash.

Getting an inside peek is rare, but it happens. This year KBJR 6 producer Keith Hopkins was driving past the boarded up historic building when it dawned on him that this might be just the ticket for a new production he was assembling. Concept: use the Armory stage as backdrop for a five-episode television series focusing on the robust Twin Ports music scene. The program would evolve to become Night at the Armory,

It came together quickly. Station Manager Jeanne Filkins bought in and reached out to Mark Poirier, Executive Director for the Armory Arts & Music Center (AAMC). Together Filkins and Poirier worked to secure permissions from the City of Duluth, and on January 3 -- one of our coldest days this winter -- filming began for a five part program loosely based on Austin City Limits.

Kudos to Christa Lawler and the Trib for the Pursuits page feature in Sunday's paper, which a lot of us had to wait till Monday to receive (due to weather.) Read Music Returns to the Armory if you are from out of town or don't get a newspaper.

The series was filmed in January in less than ideal conditions. There is no heat inside the Armory, so we have a photo of Charlie Parr making his own heat for the first show in this five-part series that will begin next Sunday, March 4 at 9 p.m.

Because of the demolition order that was placed in 2001, no one can technically make use of the building. Since that time the AAMC has been been raising funds to fix the five issues cited by the city, among them being no heat, no water, hard to occupy, windows need fixing or replacement, and a batch of other miscellaneous issues.

The building is deserving of its name, the Historic Duluth Armory, minted by the cast of celebrated names that have visited, spoken or performed here, including Harry Truman, Louis Armstrong, Dale Carnegie, Hank Williams, John Philip Sousa, Johnny Cash, Bob Hope, and Liberace. The list goes on an and on, with many in town here still remembering many of those occasions cemented in time.

The artists featured in CW Duluth's Night at the Armory series will be Charlie Parr, Superior Siren (Laura Sellner), Rick McLean, Ingeborg Von Agassiz and Alan Sparhawk of Low/The Murder of Crows/Retribution Gospel Choir. The series will be a nice way to showcase the richness of our local music scene,

Mark Poirier has been laboring for a very long time to see something special happening inside the Armory. "The Armory Arts & Music Center is thrilled to hear live music, once again, in the Armory. It feels like the beginning of a new era. We are very appreciative of the Duluth CW for undertaking this project and bringing awareness to the historic building." Yesterday he went on to say that "we've been this close" (thumb and forefinger almost touching) and they have been again talking with a developer that many hope can see it through. "We would love to see the building being used again," he said.

The AAMC is grateful to the local music community. Featured musicians Sparhawk and Parr have long been supporters of the AAMC Music Resource Center, the free after-school music program for area youth 6th-12th grade. The MRC is now in its 7th year and is open 4 to 6 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons at Sacred Heart Music Center.

Tune in for Night at the Armory, the next five Sunday nights beginning March 4, 2018 at 9:00 p.m. on the Duluth CW (KDLH), Broadcast Ch. 3.1, Charter Cable Ch. 2, Direct TV Ch. 7, and Dish Ch. 11.

Items of Note Regarding the Historic Armory
The Duluth Armory Website

Monday, February 26, 2018

Local Art Seen: Jane Wunrow's "Waking Dreams" at The PROVE

"She Wore A Red Coat"
"Of Varying Intensity"
Saturday evening a dozen or so Duluth poets assembled at The PROVE Gallery downtown for a St. David's poetry reading event. It was an insane night to be out with the severe weather already decimating the roads. At times the readings were interrupted by cars outside spinning their wheels while attempting to climb Lake Avenue from Superior Street. In short, I don't some of us felt a sense of satisfaction at being so hard core about poetry. People already consider poets a strange breed, so being out Saturday night was affirmation of such assumptions.

I actually had a dual purpose in attending. I'd intended to be present for the opening reception of Jane Wunrow's "Waking Dream" exhibition the week before, but was unable to attend. This blog post shows some of the work you missed if you were not there.

Detail from "She Wore A Red Coat"
She has 19 pieces on display, created with pen and ink, layers of gouache and occasional collage. Her work is in part influenced by the fragmentary nature of dreams, abstract imagery representing fleeting subconscious memories, not literal but rather elusive interpretations of reflections related to identity, metaphysical exploration and the nature of self in relation to the Divine.  The show will run through March 17.

"It Has Not Yet Been Revealed"
"When The Attack Is Due"
"Waking Dream"
"The Bridge"
Photo that shows scale of the work.

To learn more are Twin Cities artist Jane Wunrow, visit
Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

School Violence: Answers Are Still Blowing in the Wind.

"How many deaths will it take till we know that too many students have died?
The answer, my friend..." 
--Bob Dylan (paraphrase)

* * * *
While snowblowing the driveway, a fierce wind blowing snow in my face, I kept thinking about the students. And my mind kept returning to the tragedy that is our current political morass.

What would happen if our legislative "leaders" actually decided to lock themselves in a room and be human toward one another and commit to open dialogue as human beings and not legislators, talking honestly and openly and sometimes even with weeping as they wrestled with this epidemic of gun violence in the schools?

Here's what I fear would happen. Is it possible that most of our legislators are no longer capable of being free agents and humans because they have constituents who have financed their campaigns and whom they (claim to) represent. Undoubtedly a candid remark might be recorded and later used against them on social media or in a newspaper editorial. Posturing and grandstanding is the way it works these days. When someone proposes a good idea, the opposition party sits on their hands because "we can't let those guys get credit for a good idea." And so it goes.

But what if... what if a bipartisan subcommittee were assigned to hash out a realistic response? What if there were citizens on that committee who work in various capacities at the schools, who had no political aspirations of their own, whose sole desire happened to be to really and truly... listen to one another. What if they remained in that room for however long it took? (Food trucks can park outside the back door.)

The reality is that we do not want our freedoms restricted, yet we want to feel safe.

Advice for that committee: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

* * * *
As it turns out, today's widespread cynicism about political solutions is not isolated to our unique moment in history. Take a listen to H.L. Mencken's somewhat disturbing assessment of the political class. This is the opening paragraph of a 1940 essay titled "The Politician."

After damning politicians up hill and down dale for many years, as rogues and vagabonds, frauds and scoundrels, I sometimes suspect that, like everyone else, I often expect too much of them. Though faith and confidence are surely more or less foreign to my nature, I not infrequently find myself looking to them to be able, diligent, candid, and even honest. Plainly enough, that is too large an order, as anyone must realize who reflects upon the manner in which they reach public office. They seldom if ever get there by merit alone, at least in democratic states. Sometimes, to be sure, it happens, but only by a kind of miracle. They are chosen normally for quite different reasons, the chief of which is simply their power to impress and enchant the intellectually underprivileged.

The essay, which you can read here (which appeared in the January edition of The Sun) has a number of choice morsels to chew on. This sentence popped out from paragraph three in which Mencken describes the process politicians go through to become successful barnstormers. They learn early on that when making speeches telling it like is is makes people uncomfortable. It "disquiets and alarms" them.

The truth, to the overwhelming majority of mankind, is indistinguishable from a headache.

It is undoubtedly true that the issue of school shootings, like many other features of our time, has no easy answers. That is why politicians are averse to addressing it. For zebras, wildebeest and gazelles there is safety in the herd. Take a bold step away from the herd and you're suddenly a target for lions. There is safety in numbers.

If only... 

Learning to Deal with Criticism

This past fall I was asked to write something about how to deal with criticism. It's something we must all confront at one time or another if we live and interact in the real world. Sometimes it hurts because we ourselves are overly sensitive. Sometimes it hurts because it hits the mark. And sometimes, its unjust and uncalled for.

My brother Ron recently published an article dealing with this issue. I asked permission to share it here.

Dr. Ronald Newman

Seeking Balance When Coping With Criticism

You will be criticized. How do you handle that feedback from others when it is critical of you in some way? Politicians have to develop a thick skin in order to survive public scrutiny, as do leaders of all types, whether in the church or community. How we handle criticism will have a profound impact on our future, so here are a few tips for making it a more positive experience.

1) Begin with a secure sense of yourself. This requires self-acceptance which comes from knowing who you are, and your values, desires, and goals. From this foundation, criticism can be examined more objectively. In this way, you can remain positive and confident through the process of self-examination.

2) Listen intently. The critics in your life are saying something. What is it? Tune into the feelings and content of their message. What are they afraid of, or angry about? Listen as objectively and without defensiveness as possible. You are seeking to truly hear what is being said.

3) Accept that you are not perfect. We all have flaws, including habits we ourselves do not like. At least be open with yourself about these areas for improvement.

4) Discern constructive versus destructive criticism. If the intention of the criticizer is simply to tear you down, you may find it difficult to find the beneficial elements of the feedback. When negative comments simply fuel your "inner critic," take a step back and evaluate their words more carefully, in a non-judgmental manner.

5) See criticism as an opportunity for growth. It can actually keep you balanced, as others may be giving you objective feedback on how to improve in some area of your life. Feedback can produce positive change. Allow the objective truth in the criticism to feed the voice of your inner coach.

6) Seek truth objectively. Engage the rational part of your mind, which can be difficult when our emotions are crying "foul" and we feel hurt by the external critic.

7) Respond with understanding. Communicate that you hear and see the truths contained in the criticism. Sometimes this means only agreeing in part or in principle, or saying you will reflect on their feedback if you think the criticism is unfounded or only partially true.

8) Accept responsibility. If the feedback is true and accurate, accept responsibility for it. No excuses. It is not about image. It is about your heart and personal growth. You can even thank the person for the feedback, if it is clear their desire was to benefit you.

9) Apologize when appropriate. This can help repair a relationship, especially if an unintended hurt has occurred. While apology communicates the desire to improve a relationship, it should be done thoughtfully, in a manner that tunes in to the feelings and perceived offense to your critic.

10) Learn assertiveness. The temptation to respond in angry ways, whether by being aggressive or passive aggressive (such as by criticizing people behind their backs through gossip), can be an opportunity to exercise self-control by learning new assertive habits. You can correct misconceptions directly or set stronger boundaries on inappropriate criticism. You can also work on the forgiveness process. In this way, you take the higher road and can be more at peace, even when reflecting or responding to criticism.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a practicing psychologist at the Lakeview Professional Center on Route 30 in South Jersey. He can be contacted directly at write2balance [AT] gmail dot com.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Quick Visit with Brian Matuszak, Where He's Been and Where He's Going in 2018

Anyone who has watched Brian Matuszak's career over the past 30+ years knows he's had his fingers in a lot of pies, some of them raspberry, a few blueberry, and even one huckleberry. What I know is that when Susie and I moved here in 1986 we thoroughly enjoyed our first Colder By The Lake Christmas Show, and were pleased to discover the robust quality of the local theater scene over the years.

In addition to theater, Matuszak has been a columnist in the Budgeteer, ever chewing up the scenery. Here's a little snapshot of the man many of us only know from the audience.

EN: How would you describe Brian Matuszak? Writer? Performer? Entertainer?

Brian Matuszak: I would say Entertainer. Originally, I was a Performer, eventually became a Writer/Director/Producer. Since I retired from the stage in 2015, I have been focusing on my writing. I have some ideas coming up for Rubber Chicken's 10th Anniversary this year (we formed in February 2008) that will involve me wearing all my old hats again. But I think ultimately, I just want to make you laugh/cry/feel something. That's entertainment!

EN: What did you study at UWS?

BM: Theater, but the unique thing about the program at the time was that you had to take radio and TV production as part of the major, which ended up giving me the bulk of my employment right out of college. I have worked at several radio and TV stations here in the Northland, as well as advertising agencies.

EN: You were an integral part of Colder By The Lake with Margi Preus. Who else was involved with CBTL and what did you learn through that experience?

BM: That was a fantastic time of my creative life! I LOVED Colder and what Margi and crew were doing with their sketch comedy shows. I went to as many as I could at the Orpheum, DeWitt-Seitz, even the Norshor back in the day. When I was invited to be a part of that group, I jumped at the chance. My first show involved working with Bruce Ojard, Susan van Druten, Julie Ahasay, Bud Backen, Donn L. Hanson, and Andy Nelson. All amazing, talented, funny people. Most rehearsals, I just sat back and laughed. I was in awe of all of them and didn't contribute right away. I'm pretty sure Margi was going to ask me to leave at some point, probably because I was being too much of a fan boy and not enough of a performer. But I eventually learned to get out of my own way, trust my instincts, jump in, and join in the fun. I also learned a lot as a writer.

The first sketch I submitted was OK, nothing special. It was a parody of Bob Ross and his painting show on Channel 8. But Andy Nelson took it and turned it into something magical, weird, and wonderful. I learned how you don't have to struggle to put ALL the funny into a script. Trust that the actors will help it succeed by bringing their unique talents to it. And, boy, did Andy make me look good with that one.

EN: In addition to Rubber Chicken Theater you were a long-time columnist for the Budgeteer. What other pies have you had your fingers in?

Atlas trying to decide whether to shrug.
BM: Well, over the years, I've been fortunate enough to take part in several creative projects in the Twin Ports. I've acted and directed for Colder, UMD, UWS, St. Scholastica, the Duluth Playhouse, Wise Fool Theater, Twin Ports Stage, and the two theater companies I co-founded, Renegade Comedy Theater and Rubber Chicken Theater. Working with John Munson from WPR, I created the Renegade Radio Hour and Rubber Chicken Radio. I also created the Chicken Hat Plays, which gathers eight writers, eight directors, and a whole bunch of actors from around the region to create eight original one-act plays in 24 hours. Also with Rubber Chicken, I developed the popular Live Reads, where we take a famous movie script and give it a staged reading. So far, we've done Star Trek 2, Ghostbusters, Young Frankenstein, Princess Bride, A Night at the Opera, and Clue.

EN: The Improv nights seem to have been remarkably successful. To what do you attribute the attraction of this kind of entertainment?

A hard-hitting humorist. The gloves are off.
BM: When James Young and I started Renegade Comedy Olympics back in the late 90's, we knew right away we had a hit. People just enjoy being a part of seeing something created right in front of them. The idea of "Yes, And" is powerful and funny.

EN: Has anyone ever compared you to the Energizer Bunny? What's ahead for 2018?

BM: Not that I'm aware of, although I have been compared to a few other things….

Lots coming up for Rubber Chicken's 10th Anniversary! We'll be doing another Live Read this May of Doctor Strangelove and our big Holiday Comedy Revue 10th Birthday Celebration this December. Also, later this summer, we'll be debuting a completely original type of theater down at the Underground. It's a one night event that will have some fun with the idea of funding the arts, how artists go through that process, and the board of people that get to decide who gets how much money. Tentative title is "The Twin Ports Annual Board Meeting of the F-ARTS (Friends of the Arts)."

* * * *

Photos: Sue Matuszak

Friday, February 23, 2018

Can Other People Read Your Most Secret Thoughts?

This week I saw a press release announcing that The Amazing Kreskin was back. He bills himself as a mentalist, but when cornered says he's just an entertainer. The news item brought to mind some of the ways eCommerce technology is reading our thoughts. Here's a blog post from 2011 about the degree to which we're being watched by the machinery of the Internet age.

It Doesn't Require Mental Telepathy Any More

Magicians have always been fascinating to me, and no doubt to many others as well or there wouldn't be so many sold out magic shows in Las Vegas every week. Much of the magic is simply technique and trickery, illusion and misdirection. But what about the mind readers? How real is mental telepathy? Can one person read another's most secret thoughts?

Actually, now that we live in the Facebook age there's very little hidden any more about many of us. A 2011 UPI story stated, "The social networking site, whose profits come primarily from advertising, had been vague about its collection of tracking data. But it now acknowledges it can use cookies to create a 90-day log of where each of its members have gone on the Web after visiting a Facebook page, USA Today reports."

Privacy advocates want to stop this practice, but the ad agencies love it. It gives them the ability to target specific rifle shot ad messages to people who by their behavior have revealed their hot buttons.

This explains why the day after I was looking for a hat on eBay there appeared ads for hats on my Facebook page. What's scarier is that people are having their emails scrubbed for hot-button words so that ads can be thrown their direction via their browsers.

How much do the computers know about us? The UPI story goes into great detail on exactly how many details they own on us. The ad industry doesn't need mental telepathy to know who we are or what we're about. Our social media and Internet activity proclaims all.

The article is thought provoking and worth checking out. Be sure to take two minutes to watch the video, What Facebook knows about you.

Just a little something to think about. (And yes, I know what you're thinking.)

* * * *

EdNote: I do not know the most current policies and practices of Facebook, Amazon, Google and the like. I only know that they're better at mind reading than Kreskin.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rainbows, Fairy Tales and The Golden Key

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. --Genesis 9:13

The Golden Key
On Quora someone recently asked for suggestions of other stories like The Little Prince, that wonderful gem by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The book that immediately came to mind was George MacDonald's The Golden Key. In fact, in my previous readings I've found the book so heart-warming that I felt compelled to take it off the shelf and read it again.

It had been a number of years, but I never forget the scene in which Tangle encounters the Old Man of the Fire. I won't spoil it, but the feeling one gets while reading this scene is similar (for me, at least) to that sense of the transcendent that occurs when the trapezoidal and diamond pyramid-like structures appear during the hallucinatory light-show culmination in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Ezekiel's strange visions of fire and wheels within wheels and the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1).

On the other hand this story, The Golden Key, is not like either of these other than it has a powerful way of making you feel that you were in the presence of something otherworldly, and in this case something so sublime, so beautiful, almost magical... in some ways like Oz, except with no witches.

It is a beautiful story, and helped serve as a perfect antidote to some of the painful stories in the news right now, and a recent loss that many of us have shared.

George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a pioneer of fantasy writing as well as a friend and mentor to Lewis Carroll. His influence was extensive, including the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and W.H. Auden, who wrote the afterword for this volume that I have. While reading The Golden Key I could see some interesting parallels to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (The boy here finds a golden key as opposed to a ring, and goes on a quest.) Likewise, elements of Lewis' Narnia books are foreshadowed.

From a review by reader named named Charles:
This is a very famous book, not quite children’s fairy tale and not quite adult allegory—or rather, it’s both, and more. As fairy tale and as allegory, it has so light a touch as to be ethereal, combined with a feeling of enormous substance. There is, for child or adult, little obvious moral, yet the reader is left with a feeling of transcendence. Quite an accomplishment in what is really just a short story, and doubtless why the book is still famous today.

Auden, in his Afterword makes an interesting observation about the book, which struck home with me on a few levels. He stated that it is a mistake to attempt to interpret the elements of the story as symbolic in one way or another. Rather, there is something uplifting and rewarding in simply experiencing the world which MacDonald created, to enjoy its beauty, to feel it rather than interpret it.

* * * *
Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde
While we're on the subject of fairy tales, it seemed worthwhile to note this collection by Oscar Wilde, who is better known for his witty plays and his one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I stumbled upon my copy at the Midway Book Store in St. Paul, which 35 years ago was a great source of treasures... and may still be to this day. (Rare books and collectibles were upstairs.)

At one time I sketched out a treatment for a 32-page picture book based on his tale "The Nightingale and the Rose," which touched me at the time. His story "The Happy Prince" has been turned into an illustrated book now. In the back of the book are a number of shorter pieces which he calls Poems In Prose, but which nowadays we'd label Flash Fiction.

One of these, titled "The Disciple," is an exquisite gem. It begins, "When Narcissus died, the pool of his pleasure changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, and the Oreads came weeping through the woodland that they might sing to the pool and give it comfort."

Somewhere Over the Rainbow
This past year I somehow discovered Eva Cassidy, perhaps through Pandora, and her stirring version of Sting's Fields of Gold.

More recently I've been listening to her album Simply Eva, and one of the songs here is a rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" that really goes straight to the heart. According to the RIAA this song was the number one song of the century, Judy Garland's signature song after bringing it to the world as Dorothy in the wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
there's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue,
and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
and wake up where the clouds are far behind me,
where troubles melt like lemon drops
way above the chimney tops, that's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow, why then, oh, why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow,
Why, oh, why can't I?

music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

This is a live version of Eva performing the song, performed in 1996, the year she died of melanoma.

* * * * 

Perhaps the Golden Key we're all looking for is beauty. We see it in rainbows, but it's also in the world around us as well, though too often shrouded by shadows and mist. If we could but have eyes to see afresh. George MacDonald's little story was probably conceived with this end in mind.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

John Bushey Legacy Leaves No One Untouched

"My brain is the key that sets me free." --Harry Houdini
On Monday, February 19, we gathered at Clyde Iron Works in West Duluth to memorialize the passing of a significant contributor and gift to our community, John Bushey.

You know how it is. Funerals and memorial services can be emotionally challenging, so we steel ourselves because of all the people we will be meeting, interacting with, touching, sharing the moment with. In spite of such efforts to play it out, something deep was happening because this was no ordinary man we were honoring and remembering. This was John Bushey, a man whose influence and impact went far beyond what most of us realized. He was too modest to call himself important, but as we listened to the stories Monday it was evident to all that this was one remarkable man.

In so many varied ways all who attended Monday's Memorial Service were touched by this guy who was so unassuming and yet noteworthy. Special thanks to Zane and the family, his brother Jim and sister Barbara, and all who helped craft this special occasion.

Cowboy Angel Blue (Bill Maxwell, Jamie Paavala and Bill Bulinski), John's favorite band who helped keep him alive by always giving him something to look forward to, provided the music for this service, opening with the poignant "Girl from the North Country," followed by "He Was a Friend of Mine."

Karen Sunderman, host of the WSDE program Making It, opened the program by sharing a bit of John's life story and its varied elements--magician, teacher, Eagle scout, musician, Dylanophile and host of Highway 61 Revisited. A noteworthy feature of his personality was its total commitment to whatever he was interested in. During the service story after story would be told revealing the extent to which John pursued his passions, whether it be magic, teaching or Dylan. The speakers that followed amplified each of these themes.

Magician Mark Mitton was first to present, beginning with one of John's talks to a lock convention. Yes, he was a master of locks. In addition to a remarkable locksmith, John collected an extensive handcuff collection and even created locks of various kinds.

Mitton began with a number of rope tricks, which John always loved to perform whenever opportunities presented themselves, including the annual Blood on the Tracks Express during Dylan Fest. He also told a story about the time John's brother shackled him to a pole in the basement for several hours, a story Jim would add details when it became his turn to speak.

Terry Roses, founder of the Duluth Mystics (magician club), was an early inspiration and influence on John with regard to this fascination with a career in magic.

There were several stories told that highlighted John's sense of humor. People who knew him knew that he could be a prankster. One of the stories Mitton told was about an incident that took place out east at the home of a famous magician friend. One of the items in his possession was a magic wand once owned by the legendary Houdini. Unbeknownst to everyone, John made a reproduction of this wand and replaced it where it had been displayed. Later, with everyone gathered round, he took the wand and broke it, leaving everyone startled. Until he did the reveal.

Other stories were shared and then a special ceremony performed, a magician tradition. Alex Madsen, Terry Roses and Jodie LeBlanc joined Mitton to perform the traditional Broken Wand Ceremony. When a magician dies, his fellows perform the broken wand ceremony that "his magic would live on in the hearts of all who were enchanted by him."

The next to share was Linda Stroback Hocking, who owned and ran Zimmy's with her husband Bob for near three decades. The first time John came to Zimmy's he noticed that there was no Dylan stuff on the walls. John arranged for Bob Dylan's mom to bless the place so that they could assimilate Dylan memorabilia for interior decorations. John began it all by donating several items. A week later he returned and saw that they had been framed, so he donated more.

Linda shared many other stories about John, and Zimmy's as a place for many people who came to Hibbing from other countries seeking a touchstone to connect them to Bob.

Cowboy Angel Blue followed with the evocative "Not Dark Yet" from Time Out of Mind which has been a special favorite of John's in this past difficult year.

Maija Jensen, program director for KUMD Radio, shared emotional reminiscences and how John loved the May Dylan Days so much that he would begin talking about it on his program in January. The power and reach of John's show resulted in the studio he recorded in being renamed The John Bushey Highway 61 Revisited Studio. His show's importance was profound. Maija then thanked all who were involved in giving him rides or devising set lists that he could air.

Cher Obst, the next speaker, shared stories about John's gift for teaching. This is where John's legacy goes into the outer limits. His teaching career began as a substitute. He loved working with children and enjoyed dazzling them with his magic. The next year he was a 4th Grade teacher at Piedmont and based on the results he was a spectacular teacher. Legislators can propose fancy statements like "No Child Left Behind," but John lived it. His aim was never to "win" as an excellent teacher, but to excel at teaching for the sake of his students.

"Ah, youth!"
When "No Child Left Behind" was implemented, he was able to achieve the remarkable result of having 100% of his students achieve scores of 100% on the required tests. Later, after the memorial service, I met and talked with two of the students from that class who were now in college. They shared how John not only set high standards for the kids, but also produced ways of motivating the kids to achieve those results. When John required them to learn their times tables, one of them said she has no ability to memorize anything, let alone times tables. The way he showed them how to improve their memory was to have them memorize all the lyrics to one of Dylan's longer songs. This experience gave her the confidence to learn her times tables.

For John, Obst said, "the music was not only patterns and rhythms, it was also history and modern culture."

Ms. Obst shared many other stories about John's involvement with Wolf Ridge, bird classes, Chickadee Landing -- now renamed Bushey Landing -- and the all night grad parties, ending with the affirmation, "As long as he was alive he was going to live life to the fullest."

John with his magician friends.

Friends through shared musical dreams,
Billy Hallquist (L) and Marc Percansky (R)
Cowboy Angel Blue followed up with "Red River Shore," another beautiful song that John loved to listen to and play on his show.

The Bushey siblings, John, Barb and Jim
Jim Bushey was the final speaker. He told of John's (lack of) hunting prowess. He also set the record straight on how John missed school one day by being handcuffed to a pole in the basement that morning. Jim got blamed, but John played a role in his situation.

"Shelter from the Storm" closed the testimonial story telling and Karen Sunderman's closing remarks released us for a time of fellowship and refreshments.

Susan Laing of Australia, who is helping with Duluth Dylan Fest this year, later shared with me the following observation. It wasn't just the quantity of people who came, but the caliber of those who came that impressed her. What's more, sometimes we can get jaded about the superficiality expressed at many such services, people paying respects because it's expected of them, but with John "people gathered out of a genuine desire to bear witness to the strength of friendship they had with him." I can't think of any better way than that to express what we experienced Monday.

Mayor Larson honoring John for his service at KUMD.
Most funeral and memorial services have a photo display, but the extensive collection of photos of John was far beyond anything I can recall ever having seen. His various lives, situations, places and growing up shots in manacles served to affirm all that had been said. Photos told the true story of John friendships, achievements and interests. Also on display was the official Mayoral Proclamation of October 15, 2016 as John Bushey/KUMD Highway 61 Revisited Day.

I share these things as a memorial for John, but the family is especially interested in gathering your stories as well. Email your stories to

If you have photos or videos of John Performing magic, or other stories, you may also mail them to Barbara Bushey, 279 E. Harney Road, Esko, MN 55733.

Special thanks should be extended to Clyde Iron Works for donating the space, Valentini's and family members for providing treats, and everyone who shared photos or stories.

John Bushey -- December 6, 1961 - February 8, 2018

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