Sunday, October 14, 2018

Mark Gober Shares Ideas About Consciousness from His New Book, An End to Upside Down Thinking

One evening this past month my mind went down a path that began like this: What If We’re Wrong?

I then began scribbling down notes, which I set aside to ponder later.
What if we’re wrong about what it means to be good citizens?
What if we’re wrong about voting being something that really, really matters?
What if we’re wrong about democracy being good? Is Democracy sacred? Why? Our American experiment is a little over two centuries old.
What if political action is a massive distraction from more important things in our families and communities?

When I began reading Mark Gober's book An End To Upside Down Thinking a whole new set of questions emerged, pertaining to the nature of reality and consciousness. At one time Copernicus must have asked, "What if the earth was not the center of the universe?" Gober believes that in time many of the commonly held beliefs of science, as regard consciousness, will be upended. His book is a contribution to this revolution.

The book, which I wrote about here on Friday, explores a lot of areas where commonly accepted views are being challenged, where more "what if" questions need to be revisited. What follows here is an interview with the author.

EN: You have invested a lot of time into investigating your instincts or presuppositions about consciousness. What were the catalysts or trigger events that nudged you in this direction?

Mark Gober
Mark Gober: In August 2016, I randomly stumbled across podcasts that challenged everything I thought I knew. The more I investigated, the more I realized I needed to re-think existence and who and what we are. To be clear: before this, I had no explicit instincts or suppositions about the ideas discussed in my book. If anything, my views were opposite what they now are. After my initial exposure to thought-provoking podcasts, I then researched extensively for a year while continuing in my day job in finance/consulting. Over a few weekends in July 2017, I wrote what is now my book An End to Upside Down Thinking. Why write a book? I realized the ideas represented a revolution bigger than any we've ever seen. For example, we used to think the earth is flat. Then we thought (incorrectly) that the earth was at the center of the solar system. The next one is: we used to think the brain produces consciousness.

EN: In my philosophy of mind class in college, our first assignment was to write a paper addressing this issue: what would you experience if you woke one morning and your brain had been exchanged with someone in England? This seems like a central theme, as you ask readers to reconsider the brain’s relationship to consciousness. How would answer the question posed by my professor in 1971?

MG: In my book, I first address the fact that we have no idea how a brain could produce consciousness. This is known as "the hard problem" of consciousness. All we know is that the brain is related to consciousness. But we don't know if the brain produces it. I then provide evidence suggesting that consciousness doesn't come from the brain at all, that the brain acts more like an antenna/receiver or filter of consciousness, and that consciousness is more fundamental than matter. Matter doesn't create consciousness; rather, consciousness creates matter. Furthermore, the evidence points toward the idea that we are all fundamentally connected as part of a singular, underlying consciousness. So even though we seem to have individual experiences, our minds are actually connected.

One of the phenomena I discuss in my book is called a "near-death experience." These are instances in which a person has a severely impaired brain or sometimes is even clinically dead, and yet the person reports lucid memories. In An End to Upside Down Thinking I explain why the near-death experience can't be explained as a mere hallucination but rather it may teach us something about the broader reality that our brain normally filters or obfuscates from our perception. In the near-death experience people often report a "life review" in which they experience their life in a flash, judging themselves for how they treated others. Now here's the kicker (and finally getting to your question): in many cases, the person experiences the life review from the perspective of the person he/she affected. So let's say Bob is having a life review and is reviewing a time in which he harmed Jane. In the life review he feels the pain he caused to Jane, as if he were Jane. This example points to the notion that we are actually part of the same consciousness but in our everyday experience we are viewing life through the lens of our limited, individual brain. In the life review people seem to have the ability to view life through the lens of another.

The brain and body allow consciousness to have specific experiences. So (returning to your original question) experiencing life through the brain of another would be like viewing life through a different lens.

EN: What are the implications for how we might live life and treat one another?

Carl Jung likewise asked many questions
about the nature of consciousness.
MG: If consciousness isn't produced by the brain as I argue in An End to Upside Down Thinking, then the death of the brain/body would not imply the death of consciousness. I provide evidence suggesting that consciousness exists independently of the physical body. In other words, our consciousness lives on when our body dies. This has massive implications for how we live. If we lost the fear of the death, how might we live differently? For some, this changes everything.

If we are all truly interconnected as part of the same underlying consciousness, then all separation we see is an illusion. "You" vs. "me" and "us" vs. "them" are illusions. So if at the core level we are all the same, it becomes irrational to do harm to another. Altruism takes on a new meaning: helping others feels good because we are ultimately helping our "self" as part of the same consciousness. Altruism is then the highest form of selfishness. This changes everything. Imagine how many of the world's problems would shift if we appreciated this notion. The solution to world peace and the survival of the species, in my mind, are dependent upon the realization that we are not separate.

EN: I think here of Jesus in his parable of the sheep and goats, where he says, "As you did it unto the least of these... you did it unto me."

The book has much to ponder. You can find it here on

Saturday, October 13, 2018

George Harrison & Friends: The 1971 Concert for Bangladesh

Madison Square Garden, 1971
For Dylan fans it was one of his rare public appearances between the Woodstock motorcycle incident and the Rolling Thunder Revue. The Concert for Bangladesh, initiated by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, served two important functions. First, it drew attention to a major catastrophe in a remote region that few Americans were even aware of, overnight turning Bangladesh into a household name. And second, by being the first concert of its kind to bring a host of famous rock musicians together for a charitable cause. The achievements and mis-steps would help future such efforts by famous musicians to bring aid to needy causes.

My aim in this blog post is to shed a little light on what was really happening in Bangladesh in the previous ten months before the concert. If you are like me, you only seem to remember the tragic cyclone, a natural disaster of epic proportions.

* * * *
There were tactually two trigger events that led to the concert, the first this natural disaster, and the second a monumental man-made disaster. I've just finished reading Paul Thomas Chamberlin's The Cold War's Killing Fields, subtitled Rethinking the Long Peace. I can't recall when I've been so moved by a single book. While reading it I have mentioned to several friends that "this is the saddest book I've read in my life." The underreported human suffering that has been perpetrated in the course of our lifetimes since World War II is nothing short of shocking when you lay it all out in one book. What Chamberlin does, probably unique, is to show how a single thread actually connects all these disparate atrocities, that thread being the cold war and corresponding fears of the major superpowers.

So much of what has happened these past 70 years was delivered through the media piecemeal so that Americans not only were left in the dark much of the time, the general impression has been that Americans have always been the good guys, the white horse heroes. The tragedy of Bangladesh was two-fold. The first was a destructive cyclone of historic proportions that devastated the country and left as many as 500,000 dead in its wake. Because East Pakistan was located 1000 miles from Pakistan there was a move for liberation which led to a military incursion by the Pakistan army that resulted in the deaths of a quarter million civilians and seven million refugees fleeing to India. This latter had been building for years and did not occur overnight, but the timing of its escalation couldn't have been worse.

The Chamberlin book outlines how WW2 changed the face of the world's power game. We tend to forget that before the World Wars European powers were colonialists whom for hundreds of years had their fingers in every corner of the known world. Suddenly this all changed. The aftermath of WW2 resulted in a variety of complicated conflicts as groups within various regions struggled for freedom and autonomy. Looking back, we've forgotten, or failed to notice, the relationship between the collapse of Colonialism and the various mini-wars in all corners of the world.

The subsequent power struggles occurred against a new backdrop, the Cold War. The big players in this new game interpreted events through their own lenses. Pakistan was an ally of the U.S. so when it began committing horrors against its own people, President Nixon and his advisors chose to support Pakistan with arms and did nothing to restrain the genocidal horror under the pretext that we need an ally like Pakistan in this part of the world. China was breaking with Moscow, and we wanted to be tightly embedded in the region.

After the cyclone the United States initially wanted to help alleviate suffering, but then National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger weighed in, indicating it would make Pakistan look bad in the world's eyes if we did more than they did for their own people. After West Pakistan's bungling relief efforts, a December election showed how divided East Pakistan sentiments were from West Pakistan. In their divine wisdom the West Pakistani leaders decided in March that instead of meeting needs they would invade and slaughter, using American made M-24 tank units. Within a few days there were radio reports of three hundred thousand killed.

Reports like this were easily dismissed as Bengali exaggerations, but when Nixon's own foreign office reported how brutal the atrocities were Nixon and Kissinger applauded the success of the Pakistan army in crushing the "uprising."

I don't need to repeat all the details, only that U.S representatives in Pakistan wrote a scathing indictment of our leaders that begins with this: "Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy." The London Times reported "This is genocide, conducted with amazing casualness." Millions of refugees fled to India. Cholera and smallpox began breaking out, taking even more lives.

You can be sure that all these horrors weighed heavily on Ravi Shankar, the Bengali musician who  taught George Harrison how to play the sitar which is featured on "Within You, Without You," the opening track on side two of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album. Ravi Shankar, who had remained a friend of Harrison since that time, had relations in East Pakistan and he (Shankar) was well aware of the trauma there.

The Concert for Bangladesh took place at the beginning of August featuring "a supergroup of performers that included Harrison, fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and the band Badfinger. In addition, Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan – both of whom had ancestral roots in Bangladesh – performed an opening set of Indian classical music. Decades later, Shankar would say of the overwhelming success of the event: 'In one day, the whole world knew the name of Bangladesh. It was a fantastic occasion.'"*

The  account here is much abbreviated from that which is in The Cold War Killing Fields.  When I think back on that period in my life I can't recall a single word about the atrocities that took place after the initial devastation of the cyclone. The war in Viet Nam was the focus of our media and the complexities surrounding the political struggles of these various nations made it easy to not really say much. Americans were too distracted by other things to really try to figure out what was happening here or what happened in Indonesia where in 1965-66 500,000 to a million civilians were similarly slaughtered by their own government for reasons of their own while the U.S. simply stood by and watched.

All this to say that it was a beautiful thing what these performer did. But it makes me sad to reflect on how little I knew about the world we've lived in all the years. And this is but one chapter.

Related Links
Bob Dylan's 18-minute set during the Concert for Bangladesh
The Feature Film of the Concert directed by Phil Spector

"Still my guitar gently weeps..."


Superior North End Days Kicks Off With Art & Music: Continues Today With Parade, Street Dance & More

Sterling Rathsack @ The Spirit Room
Superior's North End community is celebrating this weekend. Today will feature a parade, a car show, activities for kids and a street dance. Here's a link so you can see the details as regards what and where and when today. The Superior Spooktacular Parade starts at 2:00. Just so you know.

Last night there was art and music in seven venues around the North End. Here are some photos from my own walkabout. If you live on the Superior side of the bridge, most of the art in these venues will be up for a while. You missed the music, however.

A couple items of note. Superior has had quite a bit of public art produced on many outdoor surfaces. If you drive on Banks, Ogden or in the alleys off Tower, you will see some of what was created during the Tower Avenue road project. This summer there was an extensive effort to help the community become aware of the storm drainage systems here. Artists were commissioned to produce sidewalk art around storm drains in various parts of the city. You can find photos of the drains at Framing By Stengl at 1720 Tower Avenue.

The Spirit Room has a variety of artists featured (Thank you, Linz) and Goin' Postal as well, as usual. VIP Vintage Pizza featured photographers, and Thirsty Pagan has photos by John Heino along with vintage signage. Art on the Planet had their doors open with music by Similar Dogs. Here are more photos from last night.

Steel Wool Spinning: Amber's Impressions Photography 

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

Friday, October 12, 2018

Mark Gober Wants to Put an End to Upside Down Thinking

Elizabeth and Farrell Sandy, 1956, with granddaughter Lois.
My grandmother had a stroke in the early 1960’s that resulted in brain surgery at the Mayo Clinic. During the surgery, she had an out-of-body experience in which she was hovering over the operating table observing about 20 minutes of activity by doctors and nurses. An educated woman, this experience sent her on a quest to understand what had happened. Where does the “I” lie in a human? My grandmother was a conscious person looking down upon her own body.

When I was in college I would visit her and we’d discuss the range of things that were routinely on her mind. Is it possible that our minds have much greater power than we realize? Is it possible to move objects with the mind? Is mental telepathy real? Can we know the future? What about remote viewing, where we see or sense something from a distant location? What about communication with people after they are deceased?

I will tell you here that I’ve had three of the preceding experiences personally. Likewise I have had a lifetime interest in philosophy, and how the mind works. For this reason, Mark Gober’s An End to Upside Down Thinking captured my attention because of its bold promise to dispel the myth that “the brain produces consciousness.”

His book is essentially an assault on the arrogant assumptions of science, specifically as it pertains to materialism. Over and over throughout the course of a lifetime we’ve heard the old, old story of how there was a big bang and then all these atoms and molecules kept doing things that led to the emergence of DNA and life and evolution and how the robin’s nest-building developed over millions of years of evolution and the chameleon’s remarkable self-protective color shifting evolved and on and on till there was humanity.

Now that we’re all humans, Gober asks pointedly, where did consciousness come from? How did being aware during out-of-body experiences come from the evolution of matter? How does the notion of life after death evolve from nothing?

In the face of these questions, science has walked down two paths, stemming from their opposing presuppositions. If people “experience” paranormal events or a spiritual visitation after the death of a loved one – as my wife and I and my grandmother have experienced – there will be scientists who deny our experience and explain it away as something chemical in the brain for no other reason than they have already concluded that such can never be.

GOBE'R'S BOOK ADDRESSES THESE ISSUES first by explaining the paradigm shift involved, and then by analyzing the variety of ways in which the inexplicable has been experienced.

In the Preface Mark Gober sets up a framework for the ideas he is about to present. “Whether you realize it or not, most of modern society’s thinking is based upon a philosophy known as ‘materialism’—the notion that physical material, known as ‘matter,’ is fundamental in the universe. In other words, matter is the basis of all reality. Everything is comprised of matter, and everything can be reduced to matter.” Gober immediately undermines this premise.

First, he cites Dr. Bernardo Kastrup, who describes Materialism as “a reasonable castle built upon a rotten foundation.” With a few quick brushstrokes he produces a question that forms the basis of what is to come: “How does a physical body that you can touch produce a non-physical mind that you can’t touch?” Reading this brought me back to my Philosophy of Mind class at Ohio University. Our first paper dealt with the issue of where does the “I” reside in “Who am I?” The problem we had to write about was this. Suppose you wake up one day and your brain has been exchanged with the brain of a person in England. What would you experience? Gober notes that issues surrounding the mind are at the center of what Science magazine has identified as the second hardest question in science: How can something as immaterial as consciousness arise from something as unconscious as matter?

FROM START TO FINISH he delivers quotes and observations which show that Gober is not acting in isolation. For example, this statement from stem-cell biologist Robert Lanza, MD and physicist Bob Berman: “Nothing in modern physics explains how a group of molecules in your brain create consciousness.”

In some ways he's like a newborn child whose eyes have been suddenly opened. Or perhaps Plato's man-in-the-cave who discovers not only that the shadows are only shadows but there's a whole world of light and wonder above ground.

Chapter one introduces the author, with an overview of the book's contents. Chapter two is titled: The Unproven Assumption: "The Brain Produces Consciousness." In chapter three Gober finishes laying the groundwork with a deep dive into Quantum Relativistic Chaos: Proven and Accepted Science that Defies Common Sense. Chapters four through eleven each deal with specific topics beginning with remote viewing (RV), mental telepathy, precognition, etc.

When my grandmother and I would talk about these things in the early 70's she would tell me that the Soviets were studying all these things as if they were real. Gober here presents documents showing how our own CIA was also conducting experiments in these areas, with findings that verify rather than deny some of the premises of the book.

Much has been written about the conflict between science and religion, with scientists themselves on both sides of the issue. Some, in awe of the design and spectacular wonder of the creation, believe it is impossible that this all occurred by accident. Or as the psalmist write, "The heavens declare the glory of God." That is, God's signature is all over creation.

Other scientists, like Richard Dawkins, ridicule faith, much as Marx calls religion the opiate of the masses. Gober cites Dawkins' remark in the preface: "What is faith but belief without evidence?" In response, the author of the Book of Hebrews in the Christian New Testament states that Faith is the evidence of things unseen.

The front cover features a quote by former Harvard University neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, MD, comparing the ideas in this book to the Copernican Revolution, which he states will be minor in contrast. The word "revolution" is probably misleading, though. The ideas of Copernicus probably took a century to become adopted as accepted wisdom.

An End to Upside Down Thinking is a 2018 release by Waterside Press and available on Amazon. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Potter & Potter to Feature Rare John Bushey Houdini Memorabilia in October 20 Auction

The first 15 pages of this catalog feature items from
the John Bushey collection. Smaller items are
likewise sprinkled throughout.*
Auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's are frequently in the news when an important painting by Picasso sells or original handwritten lyrics from a famous Bob Dylan song. Less well known to the public-at-large, though not to their clients and fans, is an auction house in Chicago called Potter & Potter which has announced that their October 20 auction will include the late John Bushey's collection of Houdini pitch books and other magic memorabilia. Bushey, long time host of KUMD's Highway 61 Revisited Dylan-themed radio program, was also a highly respected magician and collector.**

Potter & Potter specializes in the sale of collectibles and antiques of all types, including paper Americana, vintage advertising, rare books, coin-op, playing cards, gambling memorabilia, vintage posters, prints and magicana -- antiques and collectibles focused on magic and magicians. If unable to attend, buyers can bid online or by phone.

The Bushey Collection is possibly the most complete collection of its kind in the world. Harry Houdini was not only a masterful magician, he was likewise a masterful promoter. For each show wherever he went he would produce a new pitch book or program that told his story. Each was unique for each city he travelled to. When I got the "grand tour" of John's handcuff collection in 2014, he said that he had acquired all but two of these.

Close-up photo of a portion of John Bushey collection
OCTOBER 20, 2018 • 10:00 AM

Our October sale features the Houdini collection of John Bushey. Known as a true scholar and student of all things Houdini and escape related, John assembled one of the best collections of Houdini pitch books and related items in America. Bushey's collection will be complemented by a strong selection of magic memorabilia, books, and posters. In addition, the auction will feature a selection of choice antique apparatus, and the largest collection of Mikame Craft-made props to ever come to market. A collection of original props, books, and decorative objects from the collection of Kalanag, the famous German illusionist, will also be in the auction. Catalogs ship approximately three weeks prior to the auction. Previews take place in our Chicago gallery October 18 -19, from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

* * * *
Potter & Potter has a full staff of people trained in all aspects of the business but, according to their webesite the two principles are Gabe and Sami Fajuri, with their experience listed as follows:

Gabe Fajuri
Finding and auctioning rare and unusual objects is Gabe's passion. Widely regarded as an authority on magic history and collectibles, he co-founded the auction house in 2007, after conducting a not-to-be-believed appraisal of Jay Marshall's legendary collection (to read the story of this Herculean task, click here). Since then, he's discovered and brought to market an astonishing variety of material, from original Houdini mementos, to rare posters, early books, and more.

Sami Fajuri
Our managing auctioneer, Sami brings decades of experience in the fields of antiques, paper Americana and collectibles to Potter & Potter. Sami has a strong background in the auction and collecting fields, having operated a wholesale auction firm specializing in philately and cartophily for over 15 years. Other areas of specialty include antiquarian books and tobacciana.

The late John Bushey, 2014. Houdini booklets on John's right, rare books to his left.
Potter & Potter auctions off more than just magicana. Their auctions feature rare manuscripts, posters, circus and Wild West, movie and music memorabilia, gaming, antiques and other valuables, though when you scroll through past and future auction listings this is clearly one of the places magicians and fans of the magic arts like to go shopping, or collecting. 

Related Links

* Those wishing to know specifically which lots or items were part of the Bushey collection may contact Terry Roses, John's mentor, via his website at
** Dylan was once asked "If you could go back in time to experience any one moment in time, what would it be?" and he replied, "To see Houdini shackled and placed in a chest when he was dropped into the East River. Here is John Bushey performing a bit of Houdini magic at the 2014 Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Win $100,000 with 3,000 Thoughtful Words. The Nine Dots Prize Is Back

"Dusk Call" -- Oil on canvas, Frank Holmes
Have you ever wished you could be on the receiving end of a $100,000 advance to complete a book idea that you've been percolating? If you're a writer, here's a writing contest where this is precisely the prize you'll be privy to if you win. It's called The Nine Dots Prize.

The Nine Dots Prize is a prize for creative thinking that tackles contemporary societal issues. Entrants are asked to respond to a question in 3,000 words, with the winner receiving $100,000 to write a short book expanding on their ideas.

The aim of the Prize is to promote, encourage and engage innovative thinking to address problems facing the modern world. The name of the Prize references the nine dots puzzle that we've all encountered at one time or another – a lateral thinking puzzle which can only be solved by thinking "outside the box."

The theme for this year's 3,000 word challenge: Is there still no place like home?

The deadline for your 3,000-word response is January 21, 2019, which means that if you are a slow writer you only have to write 1000 words a month to reach the goal, or 33 words a day, or just over a word an hour.

There's more to it than writing a 3,000-word statement. The Nine Dots folk are offering a $100K payout because they're looking for a book in return, so in addition to the 3,000 words you will be needing to produce an outline of the book, and some kind of document indicating that you would be capable of completing the book in within seven months of being selected. Their aim is to have the book in print by a 2020 deadline.

Actually, though, they are not really looking for just any book. They are seeking an idea big enough to be worthy of the prize, which will be expanded on for the length of a short book. Not an epic, just something powerful that addresses a contemporary issue... Do you have something inside you that you believe big enough to change the world?


A summary response to the set question, which must be no more than 3,000 words in length. Should you win the Prize, you will be required to develop this summary into a short book of between 25,000 and 40,000 words. The summary should cover the main ideas and arguments your proposed book will make, the evidence and research on which it draws and the key conclusions it will reach.

An outline structure of this short book, including provisional chapter headings. This can be up to 1,000 words and will show how you see your response expanding into a complete book and how you would develop your arguments, should you be successful. It is an opportunity to prove that there is enough depth to your arguments to provide content for an entire book.

A justification statement of your ability to complete the book in the time given (approx. seven months). This can be up to 1,000 words, and will outline your previous experience in communicating effectively about evidence, research and ideas, and a commitment from you that your responsibilities will allow the book to be completed in the seven month period.

DEADLINE: Entrants must submit their 3,000-word response, an outline structure for their proposed book and a justification statement of their ability to complete the book in seven months via an online submission form.

* * * *
Over the years I've thought a lot about the notion of "home" and why this longing for home has such power for many. Here are a few blog posts I have written about it.

Reflections on the Meaning of Home
An Easter Reflection on Gardens in the Bible
Thoughts about being banished from Eden and our longing for a Promised Land

Here's the Home Page for The Nine Dots Prize: 


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Kevin Odegard's Artifacts Seasoned with Blood On The Tracks, Sweat and Tears

This past month I acquired a copy of Kevin Odegard's most recent CD release titled Artifacts.with the intention of simply writing a review. After a couple listens I wanted to learn more. I was especially moved, spellbound, by the third track titled Dear Friend. I was fairly certain the song was inspired as a result of the loss of two very dear musician friends these past two years, both of whom I'd come to know through the Northland's Dylan Fest celebrations these past many years. If you do not want to spring for the whole CD, I would nearly insist that you go to the Amazon link at the end of this post and download that particular track. I am certain that if you remember the Summer of Love, you will have also experienced the loss of at least a few of your own dear friends. This track will connect to something you may have been unable to express.

Anyways, I learned Kevin was sailing in the Aegean Sea this week, but amenable to answering a few questions while out on the big water there.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Odegard was one of several musicians assembled in Minneapolis by Bob Dylan's brother David Zimmerman approximately three months after the initial recording sessions for Blood On The Tracks in New York. Dylan evidently had mixed feelings about some of the tracks that had been recorded and, as he had with Blonde On Blonde, decided it would be worth the effort to go somewhere and try to capture the sound he wanted.

So it was that Kevin Odegard was invited to play guitar on Bob Dylan’s 1974 album on Columbia Records with his guitar opening the now-oh-so-familiar bars intro to “Tangled Up In Blue.” After touring the Midwest with his KO Band Odegard moved to Los Angeles, where he became executive director of the National Academy of Songwriters (NAS), protecting the rights and earnings of songwriters. He co-created and co-produced “A Salute To The American Songwriter” for VH-1 and Showtime networks. In 2004 Kevin co-authored with Andy Gill A Simple Twist Of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood On The Tracks. (DaCapo Press/Perseus Books).

As it turns out, Blood On The Tracks became the best-selling album of Dylan's career, emerging from a deep internal place while his marriage of many years was unravelling. 100,000 album covers had already been printed by the time the Minneapolis sessions were a wrap so that none of the session musicians were acknowledged or recognized publicly. Eventually, Odegard and writer Andy Gill put the story in print as a means of setting the record straight. With the release of More Blood, More Tracks, the full account has been laid bare once and for all.

EN: How old were you when Blood On The Tracks was recorded? How did that whole experience recording with Dylan unfold?

On the water in Hydra, Greece: Kevin Odegard with Susan Casey.
Kevin Odegard: I was a twenty four year-old brakeman on the C&NW when Blood On The Tracks was recorded. Although David Zimmerman had been my manager, my 1971 first album on Wooff Records failed in the marketplace and I was driving Red & White Taxis and playing occasional gigs and recording (Mill City Records Quadraphonic “Can’t Turn Back/Sunshine Silver Mine) with friends whose work I admired. Gregg Inhofer had been at my side early on, so when I got a call from David Zimmerman just after Christmas, 1974, I recommended Gregg immediately. My other suggestions, Stan Kipper and Doug Nelson, were in vain. The rhythm section had already been chosen. Bill Berg and Billy Peterson were Sound 80 favorites and David’s excellent choice.

Zimmerman chose me out of his friendship with my mother, a special person in both of our lives. I was nothing special on guitar, though I possessed a strong rhythmic command of an instrument I can only compare to a Stradivarius. Purchased following a summer stock run in Medora, North Dakota from Manny’s Music in New York, where Dylan himself had shopped, I now had an instrument in my hands pushing me forward with the Travis-picking method used by Steven DeLapp and Dr Chuck Anderson that summer in Medora.

These guys weren’t fooling around, noodling with forgettable hits of the day. Their repertoire dug deep into the Appalachian and Delta folk blues championed by Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt. I listened, spellbound all that summer of ‘69, rapt in my observational learning style. Stuck with a cheap Epiphone 12-string concert model, I simply put it down and watched where the boys’ fingers were going from string to string; what they were doing, when and how (metal fingerpicks!).

This is how I still learn today. My takeaway was an attitude, a refined point of view as to where imaginative accompaniment springs from. It comes naturally second nature, and only after practicing until my fingertips were bloody from the rapture of that Martin D-28 sound. There is nothing else like it in nature or craft. I can tell a Martin sound blindfolded at forty paces in a noisy room. It is, in my small world, the still, clear voice of the Prophet on the mountain. Nothing compares. Nothing ever will.

Touring the factory in Nazareth, PA last year, my heart and mindset was doubly reinforced. These are the American luthiers. Don’t bother showing me your custom Olson once owned by James Taylor. It’s just another expensive artifact to me, next to a Martin D-28. My Martin took me into the room with Bob Dylan for "Tangled Up In Blue." You can hear my Martin clearly on that song. How can I top that? To be honest, I play a 5-string Kani Lea uke nowadays, due to degerative arthritis in both hands. It’s a beautiful instrument that almost plays itself and has a thrilling, built-in jingle-jangle, but bury me with my Martin. I believe to this day it was the siren’s song of that Martin that got me on the Dylan session.

EN: Your book A Simple Twist of Fate was no doubt written to set the record straight since the Minnesota musicians received no public credit on the album. Were you pushed by anyone else to write that story? How did the book come to be?

KO: Fast-forward thirty years and I get a phone call from Gary Diamond, a music industry pal who’d discovered a feature article in MOJO magazine about the New York sessions for Blood On The Tracks. By this time I was a transit manager commuting to work. “Hey Kev, you could write the other half of this story and do a book with this MOJO writer, Andy Gill. Also on my mind by then was a healthy mix of mortality-awareness, Dylan’s recent output and growing legend. He was becoming a laureate of letters and a master of all he attempted. I admired that and jumped in with both feet, securing the best agent in the business, Paul Bresnick, a wonderful editor and publisher, Ben Schafer, and proceeded to a form of obsession so intense, art imitated life and I, like the character of Blood On The Tracks, lost my marriage, family, home, the works.

Paul Metsa had reunited most of the BOTT band a few years earlier for a show at First Avenue, and we partnered again to launch the book in March of ‘04 with a full band concert at the Pantages Theatre In Minneapolis. That first real blush of creative success was the unhappiest time of my life, and it took three more years to regain my footing. After the second printing, the book continued to be available as it remains today, a hard-won source of pride that somehow had legs and stood up.

The good folks in charge of researching the new More Blood, More Tracks Limited Edition have educated me on certain minor inconsistencies in the versions of events I was given while researching my book. There were vocal overdubs in the session logs I hadn’t seen at the time. That doesn’t keep me awake at night. Overdubs are an accepted part of the process. What DID keep me awake at nights over forty four years was the lack of written credits for the guys I helped get the gig. I’m talking about Gregg, Chris and by rote Peter Ostroushko. I have always felt guilty that I didn’t press harder for credits in real time. I spent decades thereafter in the Los Angeles music industry campaigning for the rights, earnings and credits for songwriters and film composers. In the digital age, everything required renegotiation.

I no longer carry that guilt around with me. Dylan’s office opened the door for me to accurately help credit everyone this time around, with correct spellings. I am free of that charge, that mission in my life. America now needs to laugh, so I’m gonna try to write a funny book with my life partner and spouse, Susan Casey. She appeared in my life in 2007 and witnessed much of this ado about something or other. The music business is hilarious. It has no form or structure. When geezers like me form dad bands, all hell breaks loose.

EN: Artifacts is a very nice album with some strong songs on it. The spirit of the opening songs is so mellow. Have all your albums been like this or is it a reflection of who you have become?

KO: Postscript: Artifacts is closure for me, a collection of selected recordings going back to Sound 80 in 1971. I did it with my buddy Gary Lopac to wrap things up for anyone who wants to trace the arc of an American kid who was struck by the lightning of the Beatles and Dylan. It’s my anthropology.

EN: Can you elaborate on the backstory for El Nino Suite? 

KO: El Niño Suite is my Blood On The Tracks, no more, no less. American working stiff hates his job, worries too much about the weather and death, loses job, marriage and life on a charter fishing boat in Mexico with an alternate, equally deadly ending wherein he commandeers his grandfather’s old wood boat and smuggles Marielitos out of Cuba, only to be eaten by a whale in the end. No good deed. Susan resurrected this poor man’s manifesto from recorded fragments in the cardboard boxes I moved into her basement.

Related Links
Artifacts on
A Simple Twist of Fate by Kevin Odegard and Andy Gill

Plus Kevin's website and a generous number of social media links: 

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

Local Art Seen: Virago @ Kruk Gallery, UWS + A Reminder About North End Days

Sarah Riley
Last Thursday I visited the Virago exhibition in Kruk Gallery, UWS and Lizzard's opening reception for Murphy & Murphy. Virago, the title of the Kruk show, means, "a domineering, violent, or bad-tempered woman." Synonyms include harridan, shrew, dragon, termagant, vixen, fishwife, witch, hellcat, she-devil, tartar, martinet, spitfire and more. The archaic definition might be, "a woman of masculine strength or spirit, a female warrior." The trio of featured artists include Chelsey Rae, Jillian Dollars and Sarah Riley.

According to the accompanying handout, the word's Old English origin dates back to the Latin, "heroic woman, female warrior." The impression one gets is that it will be a show by women, featuring strength, fighters who refuse to be dominated, verified in Chelsey Rae's artist statement.

Chelsey Rae
"I knew that I wanted my body of work to focus on the idea of woman, of femininity, and of strength. I also knew that the two other Alumni that I exhibited with would have a similar theme in mind," Chelsey Rae states. "I came across the word virago in a search related to strong women. We never questioned the word and knew that it fit perfectly with our intentions of the exhibit."

Jillian Dollars pictures are about women who are courageous, powerful, resourceful, kind, smart, talented and funny as hell. "I want you to see these women," she states. "I want you to see their spirit and strength and vulnerability. I want you to see some of the many faces of this sisterhood... resilient and enduring women. I admire them and I am inspired by them, and you should be too."

Sarah Riley has found her inspiration in the human form and all its diversity and fascination. Her portraits consist of both people she's imagined and people whom she admires for their artistic endeavor and overall significance, in this life and in this world. Her aim is not simply to capture a likeness but also to capture something of the personality and demeanor of her subjects, a unique challenge every time. Rooted in the concept of "body positivity" it's her stated hope that the viewers of this series "feel empowered, validated and secure in their own unique beauty."

Jillian Dollars
The show was curated by Annie Dugan and will be on display through October 30. Kruk Gallery hours are one Google search away.

Jillian Dollars
Sarah Riley
Sarah Riley
Chelsey Rae
Chelsey Rae
See more:

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Monday, October 8, 2018

DAI Masquerade Gala Just Around the Corner

Here are two announcements regarding the DAI Masquerade Gala which I received within the past week. 

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This year's Masquerade Gala is just under a month away. Not only does this event promise an art-inspired and art-filled night-out but the funds raised provide critical support for the Duluth Art Institute and our programming.

Join us on Saturday, November 3rd from 5-11pm in the Moorish Room at Greysolon. Inspiration for this gala comes from the Bauhaus as is evident in the design of the event invitation and in the staging and activities throughout the evening.

At the Gala, guests will enjoy a happy hour with signature cocktails and a drawing for 3 great prizes, a 3-course sit down meal (with meat, vegetarian and vegan options), a gift from an artist table-host that you will get to know over the course of the evening, as well as silent auction items inspired by the neighborhoods and communities the Duluth Art Institute serves. New this year, will be a couple rounds of "Bauhaus Bingo" as well as a Fund-a-Need which will make the DAI's educational programming more accessible to all through a scholarship program. End the evening by dancing the night away.

Early Bird Tickets can be purchased for $85 until October 26. Buy your tickets here.

What's the Bauhaus? A German art, design and architecture school founded by Walter Gropius and which was active in Germany from 1919 until 1933. The school emphasized workshop or hands-on training and creative thinking. After its forced closure by the Nazis, some of the members moved to the United States and taught; for example: Gropius ended up at Harvard and Mies van der Rohe in Chicago. Of particular note is the involvement of Anni and Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. As the centennial of the Bauhaus approaches, more articles are highlighting the central role women artists played in the movement like architect Ise Gropius or fiber artist Anni Albers. (Reference: Rainer K. Wick, "Bauhaus" Grove Art Online)

The Duluth Art Institute’s Annual Masquerade Gala will be held on November 3, 2018 from 5 to 11pm at the Moorish Room in Greysolon. The Gala includes a plated, three-course dinner by Black Woods Catering, drawings for prizes, silent auction packages, Bauhaus bingo, a Fund-a-Need, original art for auction, and more. Seated at each table will be an artist, who has exhibited at the Duluth Art Institute in the last few years, and who will provide each of the guests at the table with a work of art to take home. Attendees are encouraged to wear a mask and to find inspiration from this year’s theme: the Bauhaus.

The Masquerade Gala is the Duluth Art Institute’s main fundraiser. Funding from the Gala supports the organization in bringing art to and inspiring art in everyone. We serve 68,000 artists and art lovers in the region and throughout the state with visual art exhibitions, art classes for all ages, and artist services such as professional development and networking.

The Duluth Art Institute fosters all types of artistic expression, empowers diverse voices, and lives the value that art is for all. The Institute is driven by its mission to enrich daily life with innovative visual arts programming that upholds excellence and promotes inclusive community participation.

Guests of the Gala include Duluth’s local talent Edward Moody as Emcee and Jazz Guitarist Briand Morrison. Artists hosting tables include: Jonathon Thunder, Tia Salmela Keobounpheng, Wilson Johnson, Susanna Gant, Julie Zenner, Aaron Squadroni, Brian Barber, Naomi Christenson, Debbie Cooter, Shawna Gilmore, Matt Kania, Elizabeth Kuth, Paul LaJeunesse, Karen Nease, Nik Nerburn, Kristen Pless. Please know, supporting artists and their careers means The Duluth Art Institute splits the sale of art with the artist. The artists may decide to donate proceeds.

Join art makers and art lovers in celebrating Duluth Art. Everyone takes home art, making the evening inspiring and memorable. Special thanks to our Artists Sponsor Krenzen and Collector Sponsor Republic Bank, as well as our in-kind sponsors Barefoot Florista, Duluth Event Lighting and ProPrint.

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Dylan's "Dignity" as Relevant Today As Ever

It opens with a couple bouncy bars establishing the rhythm then two stanzas of people looking in various places for dignity. An ugly incident occurs on New Year's Eve and dignity splits that scene as well. Then Dylan begins his search, high and low, for dignity.

So begins another great song from the Dylan catalogue as the narrator sets out on a long quest to somewhere, anywhere, find dignity in this world. I am reminded here of Socrates' quest as he went all over Greece looking for one wise man.

“So I withdrew and thought to myself: 'I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, neither do I think I know; so I am likely to be wiser than he to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know.” 

I've begun a quest of my own recently, which began about a month ago with a question: What if I'm wrong?

When we're young, we try to be objective and make decisions that are wise, built on the information we have available. But as we go along, these foundation stones of our belief systems may go decades without serious reconsideration. Many answers are just blowing in the wind, but we had to make choices along the way and kept cobbling a worldview on foundations that might be shaky at best and rotting at worst.

So it is that Bob Dylan beckons us to probe, to help him find "dignity." The word dignity means "to be worthy of honor or respect."

It's chilling how transparently Machiavellian our American democracy has become. As I read The Cold War Killing Fields by Paul Thomas Chamberlin, it's even more apparent that our leaders have been playing power games for decades, while perpetually posturing to appear to be the good guys. Hence, when Dylan wrote his "Masters of War" in the early 60s, he was right on target. "I can see through your masks," he sang.

Dylan's power as a songwriter stems in part from his ability to capture timeless themes and wrap them in imagery that gives them a new vividness. Though "Dignity" was recorded in 1989 as part of the Oh Mercy sessions, it wasn't released till 1994 on his Greatest Hits, Volume 3. Another song from those same sessions has a parallel theme: Everything's Broken.


Fat man lookin' at a blade of steel
Thin man lookin’ at his last meal
Hollow man lookin’ in a cottonfield
For dignity

Wise man lookin’ in a blade of grass
Young man lookin’ in the shadows that pass
Poor man lookin’ through painted glass
For dignity

Somebody got murdered on New Year’s Eve
Somebody said dignity was the first to leave
I went into the city, went into the town
Went into the land of the midnight sun

Searchin’ high, searchin’ low
Searchin’ everywhere I know
Askin’ the cops wherever I go
Have you seen dignity?

Blind man breakin’ out of a trance
Puts both his hands in the pockets of chance
Hopin’ to find one circumstance
Of dignity

I went to the wedding of Mary Lou
She said, “I don’t want nobody see me talkin’ to you”
Said she could get killed if she told me what she knew
About dignity

I went down where the vultures feed
I would’ve gone deeper, but there wasn’t any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn’t any difference to me

Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Drinkin’ man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered-up mirrors
Lookin’ into the lost forgotten years
For dignity

Met Prince Phillip at the home of the blues
Said he’d give me information if his name wasn’t used
He wanted money up front, said he was abused
By dignity

Footprints runnin’ ’cross the silver sand
Steps goin’ down into tattoo land
I met the sons of darkness and the sons of light
In the bordertowns of despair

Got no place to fade, got no coat
I’m on the rollin’ river in a jerkin’ boat
Tryin’ to read a note somebody wrote
About dignity

Sick man lookin’ for the doctor’s cure
Lookin’ at his hands for the lines that were
And into every masterpiece of literature
For dignity

Englishman stranded in the blackheart wind
Combin’ his hair back, his future looks thin
Bites the bullet and he looks within
For dignity

Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams

So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take
To find dignity

Copyright © 1991 by Special Rider Music

The song appears on several Dylan albums in various forms, including Tell Tale Signs which I was listening to in my studio while painting the other night. In the swirl of recent current events, it prodded me to write this blog posts.

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Killing Fields: New Book Proposes that the Cold War Wasn't Really Cold, It Was Just Different

This past ten days I've been reading Paul Thomas Chamberlin's The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace. Chamberlin attempts to connect the dots regarding what was happening in the world during the cold war for the purpose of seeing it as it actually was rather than as mediated to us through the media. The book has been meticulously researched and for myself has been exceedingly compelling.

One reason Chamberlin wrote the book is because most of us have received our history by means of mediators who put a spin on events that, in our case, favors an American perspective. For example, when the My Lai massacre came to light it was treated as a shocking anomaly in the Cold War. What Chamberlin points out is that from the end of World War Two till the end of the Cold War, the casualties to civilians who were not involved militarily would have been equivalent to a My Lai EVERY DAY from 1945 thru 1990, many of these directly by American aggression or American armaments.* In other words, though there was no official world war, it was never a time of peace.

The audiobook I've been listening to is read aloud by Grover Gardner. It's always a pleasure to begin an audiobook where I discover that Gardner is the reader. In this case, there was no mention on the cover, though I eventually learned that his name appears on each disc of this Harper Collins Audio.

The book itself is filled with so many fresh insights about this period of history that I've now ordered a copy in print so I can review sections of the narrative. Everything is documented, sadly.

KIRKUS REVIEW summarizes the book in this manner: The traditional historical narrative of the Cold War is that it was a bipolar conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union during which proxy conflicts occasionally flared, and in which tensions were at times almost unimaginably fraught, but where the two antagonists avoided a hot war. However, as Chamberlin (History/Columbia Univ.; The Global Offensive: The United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the Making of the Post–Cold War Order, 2012) shows in this ambitious, important book, while the two nuclear powers never engaged in a shooting war, the era from 1945 to 1990 was hardly the “Long Peace” of legend. The author explores a vast swath of geographical territory and shows how, at the time, these “bloodlands” were engulfed in myriad devastating conflicts, sometimes as Cold War proxies but often as combatants in internecine struggles tied into Cold War politics but not always bound to the major powers. The result was some 14 million deaths, the majority of which were civilians; for them, the war was anything but cold.

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An read wrote this review:
The conventional wisdom has always held that the Cold War was an era of uneasy peace because the United States and Soviet Union had their nuclear weapons pointed at each other and the threat of mutually assured destruction largely prevented the two countries from engaging in combat.

Paul Thomas Chamberlin in The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace throws the conventional wisdom on its head. The Cold War was actually a bloodbath, but only for peoples throughout the developing world who were involved in wars seeking independence and freedom from colonial control. And sadly for most people in the US and Soviet Union these conflicts had an out-of-sight out-of-mind feeling, with notable exceptions.

Chamberlin’s work takes the listener from Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran among others to illustrate that the proxy warfare brought on by Cold War strategic calculations actually led to hundreds of thousands of deaths among native populations and gave rise to a new breed of Islamic conflict that the world is still fighting today. 

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I began writing this blog post after having read the first years after WW2 up through the Korean War. It's scary to think that even with such a marginal conflict there were discussions in Washington regarding the use of an atomic bomb. Instead of seeing conflicts within countries as internal struggles for power after the eviction of Colonialists, the American interpretation always escalated matters into a global good guys and bad guys struggle between us and them (meaning the Communists.)

When the American forces landed in Korea, they brought an American arrogance that led them to believe this was going to be a quick operation like mopping up a kitchen floor. When we pushed them back to the 38th Parallel, Chamberlin shows how this arrogance had a near devastating outcome. Chamberlin states that the North Koreans retreated purposely, making the American army believe North Korean forces were weak, thereby stirring up American arrogance another notch, which was already excessive, and turning our soldiers into sitting ducks spread out and far from where they were supposed to be.

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TODA\Y I'm two-thirds through the audiobook and awaiting my own print copy so I can cite some of the shocking statistics from this under-reported recent history. At this point Nixon and Kissinger are debating how to withdraw from Vietnam. Both know we lost, but Nixon wants to leave South Vietnam in a manner that looks like we have handed power over to the South Vietnamese so when Hanoi overruns the South, America didn't lose, but rather the South Vietnamese, whom we armed and trained, were the ones who blew it. Such stupidity and posturing is the whole game in Washington, and so transparent. And clueless leaders wonder why the general public has lost respect.

It's unbelievable how much suffering has been caused, in every corner of the world, by the weapons American arms-makers have produced. The massive quantities of bombs we've dropped (or that our "friends" have dropped) makes Guernica look like a raindrop. American bombs have produced more devastation in more places than most of us were really aware of. When we think of the wars we've been in, we only think about American casualties. Yes, we're losing fewer troops these days, but we're still blowing up multitudes of innocents.

I'm not suggesting that we are the only bad guys. Mao's "Great Leap Forward" was a costly tragedy. And the Pol Pot's Cambodian experiment, a greater stupidity still.

If you're my age consider this: These things have happened in our lifetimes. Why didn't we weep? Partly because we were left in the dark.

The book is important because, as the saying goes, if we don't know our history we're bound to repeat it. Paul Chamberlin's book makes an important contribution to our understanding.

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* Our Republic of Korea (South Korea) allies slaughtered innumerable quantities of peoples with "Communist" sentiments. After shooting hundreds of villagers on one occasion, the South Korean army said, "O.K. if you are not dead you can stand up and go home." Then they shot all these as well. The author cites another example of U.S. soldiers rounding up unarmed villagers and gathering them into a mass of 400 or so beneath a bridge, then taking turns firing machine guns into the crowd until there were none left alive. In all, Chamberlin states that there were more than 1200 instances of mass killings of civilians by U.S. and South Korea troops in the Korean War.

** NSC 68. United States Objectives and Programs for National Security, better known as NSC 68, was a 66-page top secret National Security Council (NSC) policy paper drafted by the Department of State and Department of Defense and presented to President Harry S. Truman on 7 April 1950. It was one of the most important American policy statements of the Cold War. In the words of scholar Ernest R. May, NSC 68 "provided the blueprint for the militarization of the Cold War from 1950 to the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s." NSC 68 and its subsequent amplifications advocated a large expansion in the military budget of the United States, the development of a hydrogen bomb, and increased military aid to allies of the United States. It made the rollback of global Communist expansion a high priority. NSC 68 rejected the alternative policies of friendly détente and containment of the Soviet Union.

While NSC 68 did not make any specific recommendations regarding the proposed increase in defense expenditures, the Truman Administration almost tripled defense spending as a percentage of the gross domestic product between 1950 and 1953 (from 5 to 14.2 percent).