Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Louie Kemp To Visit Duluth as Part of His Dylan & Me Book Launch in Two Weeks

RTR luggage tags were designed by Louie Kemp for the tour.
Every picture tells a story, they say. For me, the two most telling photos about Louie Kemp and his new book Dylan & Me are the one from Herzl Camp where the two met when they were just kids, and any of the shots from three decades later when Bob was best man at Louie's wedding here in Duluth.

On August 15 Louie Kemp will be sharing more stories and photos here in a special evening featuring music and a book signing as part of the John Bushey Memorial Lecture Series. It's being billed as an Encore for the memorial lectures usually held in conjunction with Duluth Dylan Fest each May.

Herzl Camp with Larry, Bobby and Louie center stage.
"He was twelve years old and he had a guitar. He would go around telling everybody that he was going to be a rock-and-roll star. I was eleven and I believed him.” -- Louis Kemp

The full title of the book is Dylan & Me: 50 Years of Adventures. The event will take place at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum on the evening of Thursday, August 15. Hosted by the Duluth Dylan Fest committee, the John Bushey Memorial Encore Lecture with Louie Kemp will give Northlanders the opportunity to hear first-hand never-before-heard stories about Bob Dylan.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m. there will be a reception featuring music by Gene LaFond and Amy Grillo with guest guitarist Dave Bennett at 5:30 p.m.  What makes this a cool deal is that Gene LaFond used to perform with the late Larry Kegan who was also a buddy of Bobby Zimmerman from Herzl Camp days. There's a sense of reunion taking place because Larry and Geno were there at the beginning portion of the Rolling Thunder Revue of which Louie was the producer.

The release of Martin Scorsese's Rolling Thunder Revue documentary in June was the perfect kickoff for Louie's book release. Both Larry Kegan and Louie briefly fill the screen at different moments. In one scene Bob Dylan and Larry are in the back of a van singing a Hank Williams song, Larry the big guy in the red shirt. If you had X-ray vision you could see Gene LaFond on the other side of the wall, driving the van as the two old friends sing together.

Best man (Left) at Louie's wedding, 1983.
Louie Kemp's Dylan & Me promises to deliver stories not shared in the multitude of other Dylan bios. One chapter is devoted to the night he and Bob attended the Winter Dance Party at the Duluth Armory just days before "the music died."

The lecture will begin at 6:30 p.m. followed by a Q&A period and book signing.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to see the William Pagel Archives’ Bob Dylan Exhibit featuring original handwritten lyrics, personal letters and other rare documents. Pagel was recently in the news when he acquired the house Abe and Beatty Zimmerman called home where Bob grew up in Hibbing. About ten years ago Pagel purchased the Zimmerman's Duluth home where Bob lived till he was six.

The Kemp name is well-known in Duluth. Louie's grandfather had a Lake Superior fishing operation the grew to be one of the largest and most successful in the country. Louie left college shortly before graduating college to take over the family business, expanding it into Alaska. His 350-foot mothership, the M/V Bering Trader, was the largest-capacity seafood processor in Alaskan waters in its day. An ancillary enterprise, the Louis Kemp Seafood Company, created the thriving market for imitation King Crab in the United States. (Ask me about my crab quiche sometime. It's yummy.)

All this to say Louie Kemp, whose roots were here, is returning August to share stories from his years of friendship with Bob, and the public is invited.

EdNote: The William Pagel Archives exhibit is free to the public, on display till August 15. Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is located at 902 East First Street in the former Christian Science church building across from St. Lukes Hospital.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

On Breaking In to the New York Times Crossword Puzzle Community

My Aunt Barbara was into solving crossword puzzles. In fact, she was so into it that one year we bought her toilet paper with a puzzle on every sheet. My dad was into the Cryptoquip puzzles in our daily paper. I've always been compelled to solve word scramble puzzles like the daily Jumble when I see them.

So it was no surprise to find my daughter doing Sudoku when she was younger. This past year she and her husband began doing crossword puzzles together, which also seemed a natural progression. What did surprise me, thought it shouldn't have, was when Christina began creating crossword puzzles.

As she shared with me some of the inside dope on crossword puzzle creation, it made me want to share her story here in a June blog post about making crossword puzzles for fun and profit.

What's especially cool is that this morning, as the sun rose over the Eastern skies, people who enjoy solving the Times crossword puzzle each morning will be working out the solution to Christina's first puzzle to be published in the New York Times.

What I just learned today is how extensive the community of crossword puzzle fans is, especially the NYTimes players. There's a daily column in the NYTimes itself in which a staff puzzle critic writes about that day's puzzle. Deb Amlen's column is titled Wordplay, The Crossword Column. The title of her piece this morning is Obvious Signs of Pregnancy and subtitled Christina Iverson makes her New York Times Crossword debut. Amlen's wit shines through in the piece. In addition to three paragraphs about the author of the puzzle she proffers her own critical assessment of the puzzle itself. It's a good read. Clearly Amlen loves words herself. 

The front page of today's Times, July 30, 2019.
I've been reading Seymour Hersh's memoir Reporter for the second time and I just finished reading about how frustrated he was when first trying to break in to the New York Times. Way to go, Christina! I'm impressed.

There are other websites that write about each day's NYTimes puzzle. It shouldn't be surprising that such communities exist. Every subject that has fans no doubt has an online community of fans and followers these days. Here are two more articles about Christina's puzzle.

The first, at Rex Parker, has the answers along with a critical analysis of the degree of difficulty, favorite clues and answers, etc.  Here's the link.

And here's another, at Xwordinfo.

* * * *
The skies are blue here, but today my heart is warmed from within. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

MN Film Board Veteran Riki McManus Has Rolled Up Her Sleeves for Catalyst

I met Riki McManus when she was casting extras for the 1993 Disney film Iron Will which was shot here in the Northland. Our paths have crossed numerous times over the years, most recently at a few Duluth Superior Film Festival events, of which she has played the role of Filmmaker Liaison. One of the many feathers in her extensive resume was being responsible for securing all the Minnesota speaking roles and extras casting for the feature film Purple Rain.

The list of films that have been shot here in Minnesota is extensive, in part due to the Minnesota Film Board and the work of people like McManus. Everyone knows that Fargo was filmed here, but did you know Airport, Slaughterhouse Five, Far North, Catch Me If You Can, Little Big League, and Grumpier Old Men. The actual list of films is ten times this in length.

Riki, director of the Upper MN Film Office, has become involved with the Catalyst Festival devoted to “series television,” now making its headquarters in Duluth in its 14th season. At the Catalyst meeting that I wrote about here, she shared her perspective on why making movies in our region get her jazzed.

“I think that behind the scenes is the most interesting part. Did you know that the last 5 minutes of The Good Son was shot up the shore? In just one day they spent over $30,000 at the Beaver Bay Hardware Store. When you look around on a set you will see a lot of blue collar workers: carpenters, electricians, caterers, make-up artists, seamstresses etc… What I see when I am on a set is job creation. That is what I get excited about.”

It reminds me of the story of how different people look at a tree. One sees a poem, another sees a chair, a third sees a place to put up a swing for her grandson.

EN: How did you get involved with ITV Fest which is now re-branded as Catalyst? What is the aim of Catalyst?

Riki McManus: I met the Executive Director of Catalyst, Philip Gilpin Jr. after he was the keynote speaker for WebFest which was held in the Twin Cities. The Executive Director of the MN Film TV Board, Melodie Bahan, was at the festival. When they were chatting, Philip mentioned that he was looking to move ITVFest. They were in Vermont and they had pretty much outgrown the area. When he told Melodie some of the specifics of what he was looking for she said he had just described Duluth.

Shortly after that we brought him up to Duluth to show him around, and it really was not a hard sales job at all. It was exactly what he was looking for: An area that supported the arts, a major airport, colorful foliage in October, and a state that had supported this industry. It’s just what he was looking for.

The aim of Catalyst is to bring the executives of HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Disney, etc. together with the creatives in a more intimate setting away from the hustle and bustle of either coast. As they meet and have the opportunity to hear about the projects, as well as seeing some on the big screen, it starts a relationship that helps the content makers to meet the people who may be interested in their shows or ideas. There will be around 500 meetings that will be set up at the event in October.

EN: In addition to the current Catalyst Festival assembling a talent and resources guide of sorts for the Northland, can you elaborate on the Production Guide project?

RM: What we want to do in addition to showing the executives and content makers these amazing locations that we have to offer is that we also have the cast, crew and vendors here to support their productions. They do not have to bring everyone from either coast. We have people here that are very capable of doing those jobs. That is why we want to hand them a production guide that will show them the resources that we have here, from people to locations. There will be a produced piece that every attendee will receive as well as access to an online guide.

EN: How can we help get the word out and make this guide as complete as possible? What is the website and where people can find more information?

Riki (R) with Keely Gelineau
RM: Our team of Keely Gelineau, Katie Strand, Beth Austin, Lance Karasti and photographer JoAnn Jardine of Studio One and myself are actively going out and we are having Town Meetings in various cities in the Upper MN Region. We are also going through Visitor’s Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce to speak to the business people and share how they too can get their free listing. A link is being set up on to access the Production Guide and sign up. Or you can contact Keely at or Katie at

EN: Anything else you’d like to add?

RM: I think this is a game changer for our region and I am so excited to be a part of it!

EN: I believe it has that kind of potential, and I look forward to helping get the word out.

Related Links
ITV Fest Rebranded as Catalyst in Relocation to Duluth
Register Now for the Production Guide

Sunday, July 28, 2019

McMindfulness: Are You Lovin’ It?

One of the big “new words” of 2018 for me was the Danish word Hygge, which is pronounced something like hoo-ga, and carries a meaning one might associate with mindfulness, creativity and flow. Another translation associates the word with coziness and contentment. Think of being nestled before a warm fireplace with friends, being laid back, reflective.

The word was even on the front page of the newspaper shortly after I blogged about it, but the concept has been around longer than last year. After a late career layoff, a friend of mine decided to call it retirement. When I asked what he was doing, he said he was pursuing mindfulness.

This week I came across an interesting Aeon article that dredged up some of my own thoughts about the Mindfulness movement of recent years. The piece by Sahanika Ratnayake is titled The Problem of Mindfulness.

I liked the title because it immediately begs the question, “What could be wrong with Mindfulness?"

The author, raised as a Buddhist in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, is a grad student in philosophy at Cambridge working on her Ph.D, studying the history of philosophy and contemporary psychotherapy.

A premise of her article is that mindfulness, as practiced in Eastern philosophy, is at odds with Western cognitive therapies and self-understanding. She writes, “To understand why mindfulness is uniquely unsuited for the project of real self-understanding, we need to probe the suppressed assumptions about the self that are embedded in its foundations.”

The article is a deeper dive than you will find here, so I’ll link to it at the end. Here are a few items of note as regards Eastern and Western ideas.

In Western philosophy, Self-Understanding is a virtue.
In Buddhist thought, there is no Self to understand.

In Western philosophy we take responsibility for our choices and feelings.
After a certain point, in Buddhist thought, “mindfulness doesn’t allow you to take responsibility for and analyze your feelings.”

Having spent a lot of time reflecting on these things since the Seventies, I condensed this into the following contrasting statements:
In Judeo-Christian meditation, the mind reflects upon the Word, engages the meanings of the sacred texts and their application to the broader world and our relationship to that world.
In Eastern meditation, the mind is the enemy standing in the way of non-thinking, as we lose ourselves in the process of our breathing and “being.”

In Judeo-Christian philosophy, the world is broken and we have a responsibility to engage its suffering and injustice.

* * * *
After reflecting on the Aeon piece I decided to compare it to a couple other stories on this them, stumbling next upon a Straight Talk article by Dr. Jeremy D. Safran titled McMindfulness: The Markeing of Well-Being. a 2014 blog post at

The author opens with my precise sentiments:

“McMindfulness.” I wish I had coined the term. It would be nice to be able to make a claim to originality. But coming across the term is almost good enough.

He starts with the all-important defining of terms.

Mindfulness practice is a meditative discipline, originating in Buddhism, that involves the cultivation of a type of present centered, nonjudgmental awareness of the ongoing flow of one’s emerging experience. While mindfulness enjoyed some popularity in the 1960’s as a countercultural phenomenon, in recent years it has surged into mainstream prominence to be embraced with gushing enthusiasm by both popular culture and mainstream psychology.

The reference to the Sixties (which carried over into the early 70’s) brings to mind authors like Alan Watts, and the popular Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass, Dr. Timothy Leary’s co-host (formerly Dr. Richard Alpert*) from Harvard in introducing the LSD movement to mass culture.

Next, Dr. Safran defines the newly coined word, McMindfulness.

So what is McMindfulness? It’s the marketing of mindfulness practice as a commodity that is sold like any other commodity in our brand culture. “Mindfulness really works.” It reduces stress, cures depression and anxiety, and manages pain. We know so because research proves it.

The research is more pseudoscience than real, though. But the reason it’s so popular, is that it "satisfies spiritual yearnings without being a religion. It’s backed by brain scientists at Harvard and MIT. It’s magic without being magic. It even transforms corporate culture and increases market share!”

McDonald’s coined the phrase “Lovin’ It!” to create an association between the slogan and its Golden Arches. The McMindfulness marketers offer us a new drug from Dr. Feelgood’s bag of tricks, and it’s natural. What’s not too like?

Here’s Sahanika Ratnayake’s response:

“With its promises of assisting everyone with anything and everything, the mistake of the mindfulness movement is to present its impersonal mode of awareness as a superior or universally useful one. Its roots in the Buddhist doctrine of anattā mean that it sidelines a certain kind of deep, deliberative reflection that’s required for unpicking which of our thoughts and emotions are reflective of ourselves, which are responses to the environment, and – the most difficult question of all – what we should be doing about it.”

* * * *
I don’t doubt living mindfully is a good thing as long as we can find the Golden Mean with regards to  our responsibilities toward the broken world outside us and around us.

Here are links to the two article:
The Problem of Mindfulness

*I met Dr. Alpert’s nephew when I was at Ohio University. He described his uncle as “the black sheep of the family.”

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Neil Gaiman: Art Matters and Other Insights for Writers

Neil Gaiman. (photo: public domain)
“We have an obligation not to bore our readers.”—Neil Gaiman

Last week I was talking with my daughter and asked if she had ever read Neil Gaiman. She replied that she’s heard a lot about him and has been intending to, but hadn’t. Which was precisely where I was at, until last week. I’d just finished reading Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World. And then I read it a second time.

It’s actually a very short book and I listened to the audiobook version. But it’s got many great thoughts to savor, which is why I gave it a second read, and will even listen to it again before returning it to the library.

Or as one Amazon reviewer succinctly put it, “This is a book that you can read quickly and yet spend a lifetime thinking about.”

(EdNote: The printed version is illustrated with four-color artwork by Chris Riddell.)

* * * *

One of the things Gaiman said that rang true with me from my lifetime of freelance writing was the following bit of advice for writers.

There are three things necessary to make it as a writer. First, the ability to make good art. That is, be a good writer. Second, be easy to get a long with. And third, always meet deadlines.

I can’t say enough about the importance of meeting deadlines. Nor the basic requirement of honing your skills, constantly applying yourself to improve. And I know one writer who lost a potentially big deal by losing his temper before the contract was signed. Alas.

* * * *
The book isn’t just for writers. In one portion of the book he makes an impassioned plea on the importance for children of reading. He shares how he grew up in the library and the difference it made for him.

He insists that its not what they read but they simply fall in love with reading. When people enjoy reading they will find their way through the vast world of books. Efforts to direct them to what we think they should read can backfire and be de-motivational.

* * * *

After reading Art Matters I  half wanted to see if I could find him somewhere and meet to talk about writing.  Here are some Neil Gaiman excerpts that I resonated with from the Wiki Quotes page dedicated to this contemporary writer.

* * * *

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.”—Neil Gaiman

* * * *
“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.”
—Neil Gaiman

* * * *
Insider Look at the Writing Life
“Writers may be solitary but they also tend to flock together: they like being solitary together. I knew a lot of writers in London and many of them were award-winning writers and many of them were award-winning, respectable writers. And the trouble with being an award-winning, respectable writer is that you probably are not making a living. If you write one well-reviewed, well-respected, not bad selling, but not a bestseller list book every three years, which you sell for a whopping 30,000 pounds, that's still going to average out to 10,000 pounds a year and you will make more managing a McDonald's. With overtime you'd probably make more working in a McDonald's. So there were incredibly well-respected, award-winning senior writers who, to make ends meet, were writing film novelizations and TV novelizations under pen names that they were desperately embarrassed about and didn't want anybody to know about.”

* * * *
“The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before.”
—Neil Gaiman

* * * *
“Chesterton and Tolkien and Lewis were, as I’ve said, not the only writers I read between the ages of six and thirteen, but they were the authors I read over and over again; each of them played a part in building me. Without them, I cannot imagine that I would have become a writer, and certainly not a writer of fantastic fiction. I would not have understood that the best way to show people true things is from a direction that they had not imagined the truth coming, nor that the majesty and the magic of belief and dreams could be a vital part of life and of writing. And without those three writers, I would not be here today. And nor, of course, would any of you. I thank you.”
—“Mythcon 35 Guest of Honor Speech", in Mythprint (October 2004)

* * * *
“Make good art.”—Neil Gaiman

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Visit with Actress/Producer Keely Gelineau: A Believer in Dreams

Keely Gelineau
Earlier this spring ITV Fest announced that they were moving their annual festival related to television series production to Duluth for their 14th season. This past month I attended a follow up meeting in which a name change was announced. The international festival going forward will be called Catalyst.

One short term project (it will no doubt be ongoing) is the assembling of a Catalyst Production Guide so that movie producers who choose to work in this region will have a directory of local skills related to building sets and other requirements for supporting a major production.

Manager of the production guide is Riki McManus, with a long history of being an advocate for Minnesota when it comes to Hollywood film making here.

Keely Gelineau is another member of the team and her story begins with a dream.

EN: You started out here in the Northland, but followed your passions. Can you share some of how that unfolded for you?

Keely Gelineau: Yes, I was born and raised in Duluth. I have never moved away. I started a family young so I’m anchored here with my three children. This also made it nearly impossible to work in my industry.

Since I was 8 years old I wanted to be an actress, no one knew what to do with me in Duluth. My parents trying to be supportive put me in acting classes at the local playhouse, though I was never really into theatre. I wanted to be involved with TV. When I was 11, I was told I may want to rethink my goals.

As I would get older I would volunteer to be in local TV commercials to keep that itch scratched, but I took others’ advice and focused on a career in business.

I continued to act and model as a hobby, but I never knew how to make the jump between a hobby and a career. Nor did I realize this was a viable option.

By fate I also met my agent, Caryn Rosenberg. She developed me into a professional model and actress and took me out to New York to network. Within six months of having an agent I was presented with 7 international awards in modeling and acting. After that my career began to take off.

Gelineau being presented with award for International Female Lifestyle
Model of the Year in New York City, July 24, 2015.
EN: That must have been exciting. How did you end up staying rooted in Duluth?

KG: I was traveling constantly, loving the life but at the time I had a partner with cancer and three young children so the travel was too much. I also missed operating a business.

I am in love with business, I have owned multiple companies so I decided to take my business network and combine it with my newly acquired knowledge of the entertainment industry and become a producer. This way I could work primarily in Minnesota, travel less, and be home with my kids more. AND bring my kids on set with me if I were the boss!

EN: So what’s the show about that you’re producing?

KG: It’s a TV show called Starfish. I take celebrities and their biggest fans on wild fishing adventures all around the world.

In the meantime my bread and butter is working with businesses creating commercials, internal videos and creative content for their social media. Besides having a business background I’m educated in medias and production as well.

On the set of upcoming TV movie Wing Girl.
EN: How did you get involved with Catalyst?

KG: I actually met Philip Gilpin randomly when we were sitting at the bar at JJ Astor. We were sitting next to each other and just struck up a conversation. He asked, "What do you do?"

I said, "I'm an actress and producer."

"In Duluth???"

Because of my vast business network and experience in the industry Catalyst enlisted me as part of the team to create the production guide.

To me, this is a true blessing to have Catalyst move to Duluth. I love my industry more than anything and I love helping others advance in their careers as well. To have the ability to bridge the gap between local and mainstream is a dream come true.

I had a different take on the modeling and entertainment industries when I first became involved on a professional level; I saw a lot of competitiveness and wanted to change that. I decided to help people learn the industry and break in any way they can. By helping others rise, I rose.

Another shot from Wing Girl.
EN: I’ve seen that amongst writers as well.

KG: I began a production company utilizing as many freelance crew as possible. Instead of competing, I wanted to work with as many as possible, pay them well and develop quality work with great people. I am also in the process of developing a database of Minnesota talent to launch a talent agency early next year. My company (Polished Perception) also provides safety and EMT services to film sets.

EN: You said you own other businesses as well?

KG: Aside from the entertainment world, I partially own a steel cutting company (Magnuson Cutting Specialists) working in the Duluth and Iron Range areas. I also do business consulting in a variety of industries. I work based out of Duluth but operate nationwide. My next steps are attending law school to become an entertainment attorney.

Being able to live and work in Duluth is amazing. I'm a huge outdoors girl and have never found a more perfect place to live.

EN: Seeing how busy you already are, what was your motivation for getting involved with Catalyst?

KG: I’m doing this because I believe in our region, the people, the land, the talent. I’m doing this for the blue collar, hard working people who deserve quality, well paid work. I’m doing this for the little girls in small towns such as Ely to show them that they can live out their passions right from where they are planted.

I didn’t have that as a young child. I was told the entertainment industry wasn’t a real thing. With Catalyst being here, they have changed my life as well as my children’s. Being able to work here in my home state is a dream come true. Being able to stimulate the economy in a major way is something I am very proud of and it wouldn’t be possible without Catalyst. When I tell Catalyst my story and how thankful I am, they respond “it wouldn’t be possible without community support.”

EN: How can people sign up to get their skills and businesses listed in the Catalyst Production Guide?

KG: Individuals and businesses can find the sign up form online at 

Or if they need additional assistance they can contact me directly at

Related Links
ITV Fest Rebranded as Catalyst
Catalyst Content Home Page

What Do Jason Wussow, Bob Boone and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Have in Common?


Now tell me if this isn’t cool. Congrats, Bob. Vintage car. Vintage theater.
This week I caught a cool photo of a classic car parked in front of the newly renovated and re-opened West Theater, Bob Boone’s latest adventure. It’s right across the street from where Beaner’s Central used to be. I say past tense because this weekend Jason will be celebrating 20 years of serving coffee and other delights here on Central Avenue in West Duluth with a name change. The celebration, which includes ample quantities of music, will also feature a Best Dressed Dog Competition hosted by Paul Lundgren and Christine Dean.



Here is the question: What Do Jason Wussow, Bob Boone and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Have in Common?

The clue is the same one Jimmy Durante gave all the seekers of his fortune in the film…
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
..but if you figure out the answer I confess that I do not have a treasure for you.

On one level, this 1963 comedy was formulaic. Create a quest, assemble an all star cast and invite the masses to see what happens.

The story begins during a massive traffic jam, caused by reckless driver Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante), who ends up driving off a cliff. Before he bites the dust, kicks the bucket, trips the light fantastic and pushes up daisies, he cryptically tells the witnesses that he's buried a fortune in stolen loot. Naturally they’re all smitten with the bug to be first to find the buried treasure.

In addition to Spencer Tracy as a police captain, you’ll find Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Andy Rooney, Phil Silvers and long list of others, beating the bushes, including Jonathan Winters who was at his zany best. The clue again: Where did Jimmy Durante say the treasure was hidden? (The answer to that question is here on this page.)

Answer to the Puzzle
Bob Boone has opened the West Theater.
Beaner’s is now Wussow’s Concert Cafe
The Buried Treasure was under the Big W.
The answer, my friend, is…
This was an attempt to create something fun.
If I failed, you can be sure to have real fun
at Wussow’s this weekend.

TRIVIA: One of my first Duluth solo art shows was at Beaners
in July 2010. Were you there?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Woman-Made Art and Gift Fair @ Peace Church and Other Arts Related Events

This Friday evening, July 26, the doors will be open for studios and galleries in the Duluth HART District for the monthly Downtown Duluth Arts Walk. You can find a Map and More Details here on Facebook.

On Saturday, the Woman-Made show is again being held at Peace Church. The event is organized by, a way for the community to buy locally made goods, no re-salers. Wendy has put on more than 60 fairs over the last dozen years, striving to be an agent for good in our local economy. You can learn more about this event on their Facebook page.

Jewelry, ceramics, glass, soaps, garden items, photography, water colors, books, clothing, glass art and more. Susie will have her gift bags, wrapping paper, gift tags. gift boxes. feather quill pens. and honey bee themed baby onesies

Honey Bee Onesies by the Down Home Creator.

TIME:10 a.m.-3 p.m.
ADDRESS: Peace Church, 1111 N. 11th Ave. E.

For a more complete list of arts and community events,

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What Do These Four Non-Fiction Books Have In Common?

Over the years I’ve many times mulled over the question as to why so many people watched Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Or why people read tabloids. The answer to that question is at the end of this brief read. Basically, it’s the answer you get when find what these four books have in common.

Reporter: A Memoir 
by Seymour Hersh

I’ll Be Back Right After This: My Memoir 
by Pat O’Brien

The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife 
Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice
by Rebecca Musser

Dylan and Me: 50 Years of Adventures 
by Louie Kemp

* * * *

The first book is a memoir of a hardworking journalist with a determined work ethic and insatiable hunger to get at the truth, who unveiled significant stories like My Lai and Abu Ghraib. His books and journalism cover everything from Camelot to the war on Terrorism.

The next is the memoir of a kid from a broken home who rubbed shoulders with many of the most well-known people of the last half century including Oprah, Muhammed Ali, Mickey Mantle, the Beatles, the Stones, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Timothy Leary and many more. A radio and TV announcer who rubbed shoulders (and sometimes more) with the rich and famous.

Third in the list is an inside account of what its like inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Mormons censored polygamy in 1890, but the “true believers” in this Fundamentalist sect went underground, much like the bootleggers during Prohibition. What was it like to be wife 19 for an 84 year old leader who takes 46 more wives afterwards?

The last is a book by Louie Kemp who became fast friends with young Bobby Zimmerman at a Jewish summer camp with they were breaking into their early teens. Their friendship of several decades includes many remarkable phases in the life of this kid who would grow up to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

* * * * 
Did you catch the common denominator”
It’s not that complicated.

The common denominator is not “great writing.” By this I mean carefully crafted and beautiful sentences, such as those penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. No, rather, it’s this: each book takes readers places they would never get to see or experiences in their normal lives. 

Hersh brings us inside the halls of Washington, Hanoi during the Vietnam War, to Abu Ghraib, the Washington Press Room, to meetings with influential editors for the New York Times, The New Yorker, the Washington Post. We meet Lt. William Calley of My Lai and many more familiar names from the front page news stories of our lifetimes.

Pat O’Brien’s book is a string of stories as well, populated by a different set of characters. His stories are insider stories about people we know, have heard about, as the appear and recede in his own life story.

Rebecca Musser’s book became a tedious read, but her life circumstances were so unusual that you feel compelled to keep turning the pages. The lifestyle of this group of people was so foreign to our “normal” lives that it was hard to get your head around. 

Louie Kemp’s book is not yet out, but it appears to promise new stories not yet covered in the dozens of other bios of one of the most analyzed and written about songwriters of the past 100 years. Of the four, this likely has a narrower target audience. Nevertheless, its many readers will be motivated by the same drive that attracts readers to these other books, stories about people and places we ourselves have never been. (EdNote: Louis Kemp will be in the Twin Cities at four events in Mid-August. Details Here.)

They’re all about storytelling, stories that take us places we’ve never been or could never go. We’re curious creatures by nature and these kinds of books whet our appetite, entice us, and promise to give us something in return for having invested time turning the pages. 

What do you think?

Monday, July 22, 2019

An Interview with Michael Samson, Founder and CEO of Eruditely

There are all kinds of people in the world. There are doers and there are watchers. There are collectors and there are creators. Of the creators, there are musicians, artists, writers, chefs, inventors and a host of other channels of creation.

What I’ve observed, in myself and many other creative people, is how their later work draws upon multiple channels of expression. For example, Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class in college, which later re-appeared as an important feature of the Macintosh design. That is, the look of the text on the screen became as important as the content itself.

Michael Samson is the founder and CEO of a new social media platform called Eruditely, which is dedicated to expanding human knowledge and connecting people and ideas around common interests.

You can visit Eruditely before reading this at or wait till the end where I include a hotlink to the newly launched site.

EN: Eruditely appears to be another place for creating and sharing content. How does it differ from Medium and Quora?

Michael Samson: There are many differences between all three of these platforms; Eruditely, Medium, and Quora. Medium is focused on full length articles, while Quora is limited to only asking questions. By contrast Eruditely has a flexible publishing system that enables members to post in a wide variety of formats, including articles, ideas, images, galleries, videos, audio, links, and questions. We designed our publishing system to allow people to fully and freely express themselves in a format that best suits their particular content. Writers can publish articles, photographers can share photos, musicians can show off their music, educators can show videos, and the list goes on. The publishing system on Eruditely is far more flexible than almost any other platform I’ve seen.

Eruditely is also very different in how it presents the content. We designed the platform with a responsive masonry grid, that puts the focus on the media. Our grid presentation makes it easy to quickly browse the wide variety of posts and media formats, and to look at the posts that intrigue you the most. When viewing any of the posts in the grids (we call these “cards”), you can view the media independently without leaving the page. If you want to dig in deeper and see the details of the post, each card then links to its own post page where people can comment and have conversations. This type of presentation is completely different from how you browse content on Medium and Quora. We’re also soon going to be providing alternate viewing modes on Eruditely, for users who want other options. You’ll be able to view content in our original masonry grids, a single column format (similar to a news feed), or in an optimized view for faster loading times.

Another important difference between Eruditely and these other platforms is how it is structured. We designed Eruditely to resemble a tree of knowledge with an infinite number of branches. The branches of this tree are the topics that one can learn about. When you create posts on Eruditely or specify your knowledge and learning preferences, you are creating new topics in the process. Each topic has its own independent page that anyone can say they’re knowledgeable about, learning about, or subscribe to. Through this process the platform grows itself in size organically as people post and interact with the features.

When you browse Eruditely, we are presenting you not only with posts, but with the most relevant topics and members relative to the page you’re currently on. This enables you to constantly be exposed to new information and people that you can learn from. The more you browse the site and navigate this “infinite tree,” the more opportunities there are to learn and connect with other members. This purposeful design separates us from many other platforms, and the intent is to enrich our users and always provide them with opportunities for learning. The tagline of Eruditely is “Because Knowledge Belongs to Us All,” and every single feature and tool we have built is designed to serve this purpose.

EN: What is the motivation for writers to contribute here at this stage since there are so few readers and people write in order to be read?

MS: I should start by saying that every platform that exists today started with zero members. There are platforms that grew fast, and others that took years to grow large. I remember reading a story about the founder of Pinterest, and that he personally wrote to the first 5,000 members of the platform in order to get them to join (including providing his phone number apparently). This is something that I can relate to, as I’m now going through that same process of reaching out to people one by one and convincing them to give Eruditely a try. It is always an uphill battle when launching something new and trying to convince people to use what you have built. It is far easier to build products than to get people to use them.

With that said, there are many motivations for people to join and contribute to new platforms. Being a founding member of a platform provides a unique opportunity to help shape the community that it becomes. The posts that you make act like seeds that help to shape the vision of the site and influence how future members will contribute. Being one of the first members also provides more exposure for your content, since there aren’t huge numbers of posts to push your content further down the page.

There are many people I’ve spoken with who are simply interested in trying something new or are particularly interested in our mission; the sharing of knowledge. Many people today are turning away from the larger social media platforms (ex. Facebook) due to things like privacy and security concerns. They are looking for more enriching environments in which they can both connect and learn. In fact, more people today are learning from social media than from traditional sources. This provides a unique opportunity for us to fill in this gap and create an environment that is both educational and inspiring.

I also want to mention that we do have plans in the works to provide our members with rewards for contributing to the community. I don’t want to go into details yet as it’s too early, but suffice to say we’ll be providing members with strong motivations to participate! Good things are worth waiting for!

EN: It seems that the aims are ambitious, and you have spent three years developing the site. Are your sufficiently funded to maintain the site? Even with a billionaire behind it, Medium is “down” occasionally… and Facebook as well.

MS: You don’t have to be a billionaire to create a stable and scalable application infrastructure. But let’s talk about the funding first…

For the last three years I have personally financed Eruditely. It is a six-figure endeavor. We spent nearly three years developing the platform so that when it launched it would be dependable, refined, and capable of competing with far more established platforms. We have to compete with companies like Facebook, Pinterest, and Medium that have millions (if not billions) of dollars behind them. People have now become accustomed to highly refined and sophisticated applications. It wasn’t good enough to produce a minimum viable product. I knew that we had to create something that would impress people from day one. This is what we accomplished over three years, and I funded this personally and in a very efficient manner.

In the coming weeks are going to be launching an equity crowdfunding campaign, in which anyone can easily invest in Eruditely and help us to take the next steps. We’ll likely be setting this up at either WeFunder or SeedInvest (we haven’t chosen yet). I would highly encourage anyone who is interested in this investing opportunity to watch those two platforms in the coming months. I can also be contacted directly on Eruditely via our private messaging system (my username is @Michael).

Our first step in raising these funds is creating an informative and inspiring video to tell our story and explain what Eruditely is all about. We’re working with an amazing video production company (Sparkhouse) in Southern California to create that video. Once the video is ready, we’ll setup the funding round and start marketing to investors. It will be a one-million-dollar round, so even if we’re only partially successful it will enable us to move the company forward.

Regarding ensuring that Eruditely is always available, that depends upon the infrastructure behind the platform. I spent nearly two years working on our infrastructure which is setup at Amazon Web Services (AWS). We’re using a variety of highly available and scalable services, including Docker containers, Elastic Container Service (ECS), Amazon Aurora (database), and CloudFront (CDN). Our infrastructure stack is deployed with CloudFormation and is easy to adjust and improve. Most importantly, we have created a stack that can easily scale as the platform itself grows.

Of course, this all takes funding to maintain. So long as we can keep our growth at a steady pace, and inline with our funding sources, we should have no problem maintaining a stable infrastructure. We’re lucky to have created this company at a time when such amazing cloud computing technology is available to almost anyone at a reasonable price.

EN: How did you originally become interested in tech?

MS: I have always had a strong interest in technology and the sciences. This stretches back to my childhood. For as long as I can remember I was always interested in how things work and in building and creating things. When I was in middle school, I used to spend a lot of time inventing various contraptions and gadgets. Many of these “inventions” often landed me in the principal’s office, but they were rather clever for a middle-schooler. Some of the more notable inventions were a television signal jammer, a gigantic powerful spotlight, and my most infamous of inventions – an electric zapping device made from a hand-held camera flash. As I said, these inventions often got me into trouble, but I think they also demonstrate I was not the typical kid.

My interest in computers reaches back to the mid-1980’s. We always had computers at home when I was growing up; starting with the Commodore 64 and then later the Apple Macintosh. In fact, I can remember writing a program on the Commodore 64 from the instructions that shipped with it. As I recall it created a small ball that would bounce around the screen (similar to the game “Pong”). This was in the 1980’s of course, so back then such things were considered to be cool. By the time I made it to high school (in the mid 1990’s) I was diving deeper into computers and the early stages of the internet. But looking back on all of this, I’ve simply had an interest in technology and science my entire life.

EN: What is your background and what prompted you to attempt such an ambitious project?

MS: My professional background and history in internet technology in particular is an interesting story. This story starts in late 1997 when I attended college at the University of Maryland at College Park.

I had brought with me an old Macintosh Quadra that used to belong to my father. As I recall it was barely able to play the first mp3s and had a 250 MB hard drive. But this was the computer that I started to learn web design with. I used to spend hours on end teaching myself HTML by looking at the code of other websites and from a handy HTML bible. This has the unfortunate side effect of keeping my roommate up all night (his bed was next to my computer), and this is probably why he didn’t spend the second semester with me. I was really obsessed with creating a website for myself, and I spent a lot of time in that endeavor.

My very first website was called “The Nexus” ( and was primarily a Star Trek fan site, although it also contained content from my other favorite science fiction shows at the time like The X-Files and Babylon 5. I spent years working on The Nexus and built it up to be one of the largest Star Trek fan sites in the world. Amazingly you can still see this site today using the WaybackMachine (I visit it now and then for fun). During my college years I also started to build my own custom PCs, which lead to my interest in computing “modding” (modification). Years later that lead to my creating a computer modding ecommerce business (

I was in college a little too early to take courses in web design; such courses were just starting to become available as I graduated. So, I focused my degree on Fine Arts with a specialization in Graphic Design. My background in graphic design has served me very well over the years, and to this day is something I consider one of my strongest skills. Almost everything that I know in web design and development are skills that I either taught myself or learned from other people during the course of my career. I have always tended to learn things on my own terms, through direct experience, or because I had to learn those skills out of necessity.

After leaving college I worked in a wide variety of jobs, and not all of them were involved with the internet. In fact, for a short while I designed wrist watches for a notable company (E-Gluck Corporation). I also worked for someone who had started a watch company (Timing Trends / Figaro Milano), first designing watches for them, and then later focusing on their web development and marketing. In the years that followed I did a number of freelance jobs developing websites for small business clients. When I was in my mid-20’s I was hired by a large hardware and houseware manufacturing company (Howard Berger Company) to lead their technology and internet needs. I worked in that position for nearly 5 years, while simultaneously building my computer modding company (

After two years of building up ArcticMOD I decided to sell the company, as I could no longer handle the load while simultaneously working my day job (which was paying the bills). Ultimately, I left that day job to pursue a career in music. In addition to my interest in technology, I am also a musician. I have been involved in music my entire life, starting with playing the viola (in school), and later learning to play the piano privately. In college I had started writing my own solo piano compositions. Years later I had accumulated a lot of original music and wanted to pursue that interest full time. I recorded two solo piano albums simultaneously (“Until Tomorrow Comes” and “A Still Motion”) and released them as my professional debut. My second album (A Still Motion) did quite well on the new age charts reaching the number 6 spot. A few years later in 2012 I released my third album entitled “Rapture,” which is my best work to date.

At approximately the same time I was releasing my third solo piano album I decided it was time to get back into business for myself. I had grown tired of trying to make a living in music and knew that I needed to separate my music from the process of making money. It was at that time that I founded DigitalRage (, a highly diverse digital marketing agency catering to small and medium sized businesses. DigitalRage was unique in that we were offering a wide variety of services in an ecommerce environment. Our customers were able to purchase anything they needed on our ecommerce platform, ranging from websites, to hosting, logo design, and various forms of marketing. It was during these years that I cultivated many of the skills that enabled me to ultimately create Eruditely. I sold DigitalRage in early 2017 after deciding that I wanted to do something more ambitious with my time.

The main reason I created Eruditely was because I wanted to build something amazing for both myself and the world. After nearly 20 years of designing and building websites for other people and businesses, I wanted something that I could call my own. I have always had an interest in deep learning and thought that this would be a great type of platform to build. I wondered, what would it be like to have a platform as diverse and thorough in content as Wikipedia but combined together with the type of social experience you see on sites like Reddit. This was how Eruditely started, as an attempt to make a platform about all possible topics in a more social environment. In effect, I wanted to build a platform that reflected my own personality and embodied the drive and desire to always learn more things. Eruditely is also very much a return to my roots in web design; building something for the purpose of reaching out to the world!

EN: When you got involved in web development in 1997, what excited you most at that time?

MS: The thing I remember most about my first experiences with the internet and starting to create websites was the excitement of creating something from my desk that could be seen by anyone, anywhere in the world. It seems like a quaint notion today as we are all so used to this amazing level of connectivity that the internet provides; but back when the internet was new this was an amazing concept! I built my first website “The Nexus” ( because I wanted to share my passions and interests with the world. As mentioned earlier, The Nexus was a Star Trek and science fiction fan site.

During those early days of working on The Nexus I vividly remember how exciting it was to hear from people all over the world. I was in touch with other Star Trek fans who were praising me about the website, and also talking with other fan site owners, and making partnerships with them to further extend our reach. It was just so much fun, and it only made me want to work harder to make that site the best it could be.

The other aspect that excited me was simply the act of building and creating something. I really enjoyed learning HTML and working with early graphic design programs (it was Photoshop 4 at the time). Just like when I was in middle school and building all those crazy inventions, I was creating something original from the ground up. That process of creating and building is an integral part of who I am. I have to be creating something, and usually something ambitious, in order to be happy. Whether it is writing solo piano songs, creating new businesses, or creating something as large and ambitious as Eruditely, it is the process of creation that gives purpose to my life. I can’t imagine living any other way!

EN: Since things are always changing, how does one keep up?
MS: Good question! I’ll let you know when I figure that out! 😉 j/k!

Well, I’ve been keeping up with technology for my entire life. There is no trick to this. To keep up with technology you simply have to stay involved with technology and always be open to learning more. It takes hard work to be on top of things, and to be informed about what is the state-of-the-art. Part of my strategy to keep current is to surround myself with the most talented, smart, and informed people possible.

No one person can really keep up with technology forever; it simply moves too fast! Eventually you do have to depend upon the skills of others. Therefore, as Eruditely grows I intend to make sure I surround myself with the right people, who can ensure that we remain on the cutting edge. Eruditely will no doubt grow, evolve, and change with time. If we’re smart and adaptable, we can keep Eruditely current with the world around us. In effect, this is technological Darwinism, and I intend to make sure that Eruditely will survive and thrive in the years that come!

Visit/Join Eruditely 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Materialism Gone Amuck: A Nation of Hoarders

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash
When I was at the library last week the book Shiny Objects caught my eye. I brought it home and couldn’t put it down. The book’s subtitle says it all: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy.

The message of the book dovetails with a range of thoughts I have been having lately (again) about clutter. One of these thoughts had to do with storage facilities. It’s bad enough that our homes are stuffed to the gills. Our nation has more stuff stored in storage lockers than any generation in human history.

According to this Huffington Post article, “There are more self-storage facilities in America than there are McDonald's restaurants, according to a recent report from the commercial real estate publication REJournals. There were 48,500 self-storage facilities in America at the end of 2014, Curbed points out, compared to a mere 14,350 McDonald's restaurants.”

I dug into another site and found these startling storage industry stats.*

Annual revenue generated: $38 billion
Number of storage facilities: 45,000-52,000
Total rentable storage space: 1.7 billion square feet
Self-storage space per person: 5.4 square feet
Percentage of households renting storage space: 9.4%
Average monthly cost per unit: $88.85

The book goes into detail about many aspects of consumption, including credit card debt, the American Dream’ false hopes, and a pointed chapter about The Prosperity Gospel. Our unhealthy consumerist culture of accumulation is not only killing us but also our relationship.

In the Sixties there were many voices emerging to warn us about this mass consumption. I remember a 1973 book that I read in college called Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. I liked the subtitle here, too: Economics as if People Mattered. The Oxford-trained economist argues against excessive consumption.

One reviewer says Schumacher’s book should be placed alongside many of the most important and influential in history, writing, “I think this is the most underrated book on economics out there—because with the sheer degree of soundness of its discussions and the scathing critiques of our current materialist economic paradigms (both capitalist and socialist), it provides a blueprint for HOW to think about what economics actually IS in the context of its place in human civilization on planet earth.”

For a good read about what it’s like to grow up in a home where hoarding has gotten truly out of control, check out Eddy Gilmore’s Emancipation of a Buried Man.

Shiny Objects has many important messages. One is to live within our means. The second is to question the messages of our culture that prod you to consume more, as if things can truly lead to happiness.

*Storage industry stats

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