Monday, July 13, 2020

Global Job Site Has a Great Startup Story -- It's Jooble

Jooble is a job aggregator currently operating in 71 countries.
It seems to be an oft repeated story in the Tech Age. Young people see a problem, people their heads together, and create a solution. They forgot to think about all the barriers to making it work. They just do it. And what's the result? Amazing stories and what are now household names: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon.

A couple weeks back Anastasiia Skryzhadlovska contacted me to ask if I could put a link to Jooble on my blog here. It seemed necessary to first learn a bit more about this young company in the job hunt space and the story is actually quite thrilling.

The home office at Jooble.
EN: Before asking about the company, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Anastasiia Skryzhadlovska: In brief, I am from Ukraine, 19 years old. I finished a Ukrainian school with honors, participated in several international youth exchanges, which covered various topics, like sustainability, for example. In 2018 I was awarded a full scholarship to study International Baccalaureate in the Eastern Partnership European School in Georgia. This is where I got lots of international experience (by studying and living with people from more than 30 countries) and the essential skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership, and language skills needed for my work.

EN: How long has Jooble been around? Where did it begin and how?

Jooble founders Roman Prokofyev and Eugene Sobakarev.
Anastasiia Skryzhadlovska: Jooble was created in 2006 by two Ukrainian students, Roman Prokofyev and Eugene Sobakarev. Moreover, without any external investment, and just thanks to founders’ desire to make the job search process fast, easy and effective.

Roman and Eugene met in Kherson (Ukraine), at the physical and technical lyceum, where they studied together for 3 years of high school. During that time, friends accomplished a lot: won several math, computer science and physics Olympiads. They continued their education at the same faculty of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute--Computer Science and Computer Engineering. Working at different software development companies was also a part of their student years.

Once, when Roman was trying to find new employees for one of the companies where he was working, he came to understand that there was no good and effective service that could help him to do so. A programmer discussed this problem with Eugene, with the result that he and friends decided to create a resource which can make a job search fast and simple. This became the first version of such resource. Jooble was written in a dormitory. The students didn’t do any market analysis. They simply came up with the idea and started implementing it.

One of the main features of Jooble became its algorithm, which makes it possible to aggregate vacancies from other employment sites, recruiting agencies and other websites. That’s why it saves time and effort as much as possible: a job seeker should just enter one request and Jooble will quickly provide complete information about existing offers and choose the most suitable option.

Today, Jooble is ranked #2 among Top Employment Websites in the world! It works in 71 countries and continues to expand and improve.

Jooble proves the fact that an IT-company from Ukraine, developed by students, can achieve a great success on a global level!

EN: What is your roll with company? And how big is Jooble today?

Anastasiia Skryzhadlovska: I am a country manager for the United States. I have been working at Jooble for 1 year. In our team there are around 225 people working in the office and more than 200 working remotely. These are approximate numbers. We serve 71 countries and currently have 3 million visitors worldwide daily.

EN: Impressive. Thanks for your time and your story.

Are you currently looking for a career reboot? Or did the pandemic earthquake shake you loose from your job so that you're wondering where to go next? Two recommendations: Richard Nelson Bolles excellent job hunt manual What Color Is Your Parachute? and Jooble.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Breaking News: Fun Has Not Been Canceled at Art on the Planet

Watercolors with Anthony Sclavi
Though Cancel Culture has done a lot of steamrolling this year, and Covid-19 has cancelled a multitude of events and activities, there are pockets of our community where Art and Creativity remain a central part of our lives and have not been cancelled. One of these pockets is Art on the Planet in Superior.

Yesterday I received an email from AotP that began in this vein:

The last time we talked we promised that we would find a way for us all to get back to the "FUN" Art to be found in our classroom.... and we are thrilled to announce that art classes are absolutely available for private groups of 6 or less!!!

It appears that they have all the sanitization and social distancing figured out, so all you have to do is call to get set up. Contact Wine Beginnings* (715-392-8466) or message Art On The Planet ( to schedule any of these private classes:
Paint Pour Peel Jewelry ClassPaint a masterpiece with Checkalski Fine Art
Watercolors with Anthony Sclavi
Liquid Acrylic Paint Pouring
Rachel's Rustic Decor Sign-Making
Customize a Wine Glass Set with Checkalski Fine Art & Wine Beginnings
Color-Wash Cork Trivet Projects with Framing by Stengl
(*Art on the Planet shares building space with Wine Beginnings.)

Artists and artisans whose work is available 
at Art on the Planet:

Julie Abraham, Dennis Aho, Rebecca Aitken, Shelley Alvin, Jill Anderson, Lynn Anderson, Richard Anscomb, John Autrey, Kimberlene Ball, Pete Barnett, Kelly Beaster, Debra Berg, Chelsea Branley, Bridgette's Cadillac, Dave Brochu, Sue Brown-Chapin, Craig Bruce, John Buczynski, Reba Buczynski, Sabrina Bunnell, Valarie Burke, Joseph Carlson, Kyle Carlson, Deb Carroll, Scott Checkalski, Richard Chilton, Jan Chronister, Joleen Clendenning, Rebecca Couch-Iatonna, Denise Denu, Frank Doran Associates, Rachel Eisenmann, Barb Engelking, Ann Esala, Susan Fabini, Elizabeth Fedorowicz, Becky Foster, Mike Fudally, Jeff Fujan, Charlene Galazen, Jack Gergen, Cindy Gilbert, Shawna Gilmore, Jamie Goodiel, Anne Marie Gorham, Jack Green, Mary Gregg, Mary Lou Harris, Paula Hegg, Margie Helstrom, Joan Hendershot, Stanley Hendrickson, Laurie Hernandez, Cameo Hilliard, Celia Hintsala, David Hoad, Susan Holley, Thomas Holmstrand, Joan Holmstrand, Theresa Hornstein, Jan Jenson, Ronalee Johannsen, Dawn Karlon, Marge Kehoe, Lindsey Kilgore, Rachelle Kirk, Denise Kitchak,
Aaron Kloss, Jayson Knutson, Lashana Koivisto, Jessica Krueger, Cari Larson, Patricia Lenz, David Lesczynski, Ki Lindgren, Gretchen Lisdahl, Susan Litehiser, Don Little, Devin Lowney, Bill Lyth, Lee Makinen, Lauren Marmorine, Michelle Marquart, Steve Matheson, Donald Mattson, Sue Matuszak, Sarah Mayne, Martha Miller-Powell, Mary McMahan, Ryan Murphy, Kris Nelson , Janet Nelson, Rachel Nelson, Ed Newman, Susie Newman, Amanda Nindorf, Lydia Noble, Sheila Oak, Rebecca Olson, Kathie Otterino, Kathleen Patchen, Bruce Pauc, Sue Pavlatos, Emily Peterson, Holly Phillips, Laurie Pinther, Esther Piszczek, John Poldoski, Joe Polecheck Tom Postudensek, Michelle Purvis, William Ralph, Sue Rauschenfels, Cari Reder, Kathleen Rehm, Jamey Ritter, Pat Roberts, Gloria Roy, Madison Rupp, Dan Savoye, Patty Schafter, Dani Schmidt, Nancy Senn, Kat Senn, Margee Senn, Rachel Senn, Pat Shehan, Similar Dogs, Betty Steeg, Kristen Stetzer, Richard Stirling, Cassandra Stovern, Caroline Strezishar, Edna Stromquist, Kenneth Swensen, Michelle Swanson, Phaedra Torres, Judy Webb, Jamie Welch, Mary Jo Wiseman, Sandra Wojtoff, Dellwin Wright, Joseph Zastrow, Karen Zeisler

Zentangle design by Esther Piszczek
Paint Pour Peel Jewelry Class. You can do this.

FOR CURBSIDE PICKUP. Click on the Art2Go tab.

1413 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI 54880 
Gallery Hours - Wednesday - Friday: 11:30 - 6:30 / Saturday: 10:00 - 4:00

Friday, July 10, 2020

Global Warming Is Not the End of the World Says Says a Longtime Voice of the Green Movement

A few years ago I was surprised by a survey which showed the extent to which Climate Change had become the number one issue on peoples' list of concerns. I know that it's been talked about for decades and in the 90s some projected that the ice caps would be melted by now and all coastal cities underwater.

This past week I saw a Tweet from Michael Shellenberger regarding an opinion piece he'd written for Forbes which he intended as an apology to all the people whom his environmental activism had terrified. When I went to copy it for sharing here, Forbes had removed it. Did Forbes cave in to Cancel Culture?

That's what John Robson says in the National Post. The piece is titled Forbes falls to cancel culture as it erases environmentalist's mea culpa. Robson begins, "It’s big news when somebody prominent apologizes for being badly wrong on a major public matter, promises to do better going forward and urges others to do the same, right? Unless the person commits heresy like, say, Michael Shellenberger."

Robson lays out an in depth list of Shellenberger's Progressive credentials, just so those who know him not might see what a big deal this is.

One reason a lot of people want to put a gag on Shellenberger might be that the Democracts have all been piling on to this end of the world scenario, which will enable them to take drastic action should they acquire. the reigns of power. As I have written elsewhere, he who controls the narrative controls the people. The Green agenda would appear to no longer be about truth but about control.

This is what Reason is suggesting in it's latest barb by Nick Gillespie, 'Climate Change Is Real, But It's Not the End of the World': Michael Shellenberger. The Gillespie story puts the political angle front and center at the outset: "If there's one consistent message coming from activists and politicians pushing the Green New Deal and massive new subsidies for renewable energy it's that if we don't take radical action now, life on Earth as we know it will soon be irreversibly destroyed. Greta Thunberg, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden all have claimed that we have less than a dozen years left in which to save the planet."

* * * *

Photo by RawFilm on Unsplash
The trigger for this media firestorm is Shellenberger's new book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All,  in which he argues that science doesn't support doomsayers' claims.

Here are some facts that he underscores in the book, facts which have been repeated so often they've been accepted with the same legitimacy at the earth being round and 93 million miles from the sun.

• Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
• The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
• Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
• Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
• The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
• The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
• Carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations including Britain, Germany and France since the mid-seventies
• Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
• We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
• Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
• Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
• Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

* * * *
It's easy to see why Shellenberger's message is controversial. If deforestation and deaths from extreme weather are declining, it weakens the motivations to dish out boatloads of dollars to enviro-groups whose primary function is to save Planer Earth.

This is precisely what Michael Crichton's disputed State of Fear was about. Fighting for a cause, even if the facts don't support the existence of the problem, is good business. The more you fan the flames of fear, the more people open their wallets. Fear moves people to action, which is why both the major political machines (Dems and GOP) are so fond of it as a fundraising tool.

* * * *
When I read about the dust-up at Forbes, it did enter my mind that Shellenberger's opinion piece may have been pulled because he was promoting his new book. It's a foggy matter, since someone decided to publish it initially. I recall a similar incident back in the 90s when an article was pulled from the magazine because of a sit-in in the publication's lobby in NYC.

How interesting that the center of the controversy takes place where the Media Messages are crafted. Ibsen's An Enemy of the People centered around a small town's newspaper. Orwell's 1984 likewise primarily revolves around The Ministry of Truth. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Throwback Thursday: Waltzing With Bears

If you're anything like me, you sometimes like to listen to the same song several times in a row. For some reason I occasionally listen to the same song three, four or even more times in a row. Or in a variation, start my day with the same song, for weeks.

The same with reading books, though not always in a row. But I do read favorite books multiple times. Perhaps we’re comforted by the familiar.

As early as second grade I had a favorite book that I kept taking out from the elementary school library. I’d taken it out so many times over and over again that the librarian was concerned enough to comment about it. Interestingly enough, it was a story about bears.

That memory came to mind after I had watched and listened to a song on YouTube maybe four, five or six times in a row by various artists. The song was “Waltzing With Bears.” Afterwards I began to wonder what it is about this song that gives me such a kick. Maybe because it’s so frivolous.

Here are the lyrics. 

Waltzing With Bears

I went upstairs in the middle of the night,
I tiptoed in and I turned on the light,
And to my surprise, there was no one in sight,
My Uncle Walter goes waltzing at night!

He goes wa-wa-wa-wa, wa-waltzing with bears,
Raggy bears, shaggy bears, baggy bears too.
There's nothing on earth Uncle Walter won't do,
So he can go waltzing, wa-wa-wa-waltzing,
So he can go waltzing, waltzing with bears!

I gave Uncle Walter a new coat to wear,
When he came home he was covered with hair,
And lately I've noticed several new tears,
I'm sure Uncle Walter goes waltzing with bears!
[Repeat Chorus]

We told Uncle Walter that he should be good,
And do all the things that we said he should,
But I know that he'd rather be out in the wood,
I'm afraid we might lose Uncle Walter for good!
[Repeat Chorus]

We begged and we pleaded, “Oh please won't you stay!"
We managed to keep him at home for a day,
But the bears all barged in, and they took him away!
Now he's waltzing with pandas, and he can't understand us,
And the bears all demand at least one dance a day!
[Repeat Chorus]

Here's another fun version.  Loving the brogue.
And yes, I kinda relate to Uncle Walter a wee bit. Sometimes ya just wanna get away.
Have a fine day. 

John Gardner On Writing Fiction: Nine Quotes for Writers

John Gardner. (Public domain)
In my first first writer's conference in 1983 I took both the fiction and non-fiction (article writing) tracks, in part because I wanted to be a publishing freelancer and I also wanted to learn the craft of fiction. It was a life changing week for me and I have been a publishing writer ever since.

In the advanced article writing class, the instructor recommended reading Jack London's Martin Eden, advice which I dutifully followed up on. Years later I read it again, and though now a century old it still offers rewards for wannabe writers.

John Gardner was another author whose books were also recommended. The Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist are considered classics. After finding one of these in our local library I purchased both for my personal library. I'd pretty much suggest that if you are a beginning writer, you do the same. That is, read all the books you can find in the library about the writing craft, then purchase the best ones for your own ongoing usage. (This formula works for advertising, marketing, entrepreneurialism and other pursuits.)

John Gardner was both a writer and a teacher. He wrote more than a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction including Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf tale from the point of view of the monster.

Gardner died in a motorcycle accident in September 1982, not yet 50. Like too many other artists, he died too young. Here are several quotes from the two books cited above. If you are serious about writing fiction, I commend both of these to you.

The Art of Fiction

"Though the literary dabbler may write a fine story now and then, the true writer is one for whom technique has become, as for the pianist, second nature."
J. Gardner

"... whatever the genre may be, fiction does its work by creating a dream in the reader's mind."
J. Gardner

"Thus the value of great fiction, we begin to suspect, is not just that it entertains us or distracts us from our troubles, not just that it broadens our knowledge of people and places, but also that it helps us to know what we believe, reinforces those qualities that are noblest in us, leads us to feel uneasy about our faults and limitations."
J. Gardner

"What the young writer needs to develop, to achieve his goal of becoming a great artist, is not a set of aesthetic laws, but artistic mastery."
J. Gardner  

"At least in conventional fiction, the moment we stop caring where the story will go next... the writer has failed, and we stop reading.
J. Gardner  

"When the amateur writer lets a bad sentence stand in his final draft, though he knows its bad, the sin is frigidity: he has not yet learned the importance of his art..."
J. Gardner 

On Becoming a Novelist

"It may feel more classy to imitate James Joyce... than All In the Family; but every literary imitation lacks something we expect of good writing: the writer seeing with his own eyes."
J. Gardner

"Detail is the lifeblood of fiction."
J. Gardner

"The study of writing, like the study of classical piano, is not practical but aristocratic. If one is born rich, one can easily afford to be an artist; if not, one has to afford one's art by sacrifice."
J. Gardner  

* * * 

* Philip Yancey was keynote speaker at the banquet. I had the good fortune of having a meal with him that evening.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Impediments to Sustained Attention

Several decades ago, while walking quietly through an old growth deciduous forest in Pennsylvania, I stopped to contemplate a chirping sparrow which was flitting from branch to branch in a young elm tree. The little bird hopped from this branch to that, chirped a few times and flitted to another.

This hopping about captured my attention so that I stood there quietly observing for the longest time. For some reason, and I know not why, it entered my head that my own thought life was like this little bird, flitting from this topic to that, bouncing about almost aimlessly, momentarily intent on this idea then leaping to another intense interest, ever flitting here and there, from this thought to another unrelated branch of thought.

What was the meaning of this? This was long before I'd ever heard the concept of ADHD, attention deficit disorder. And, the pattern has not really diminished all that much.

This Appalachian mountain memory was brought to mind by a lecture on Optimizing Brain Fitness by Professor Richard Restak in which he lists a set of impediments to sustained attention. These impediments, he stated, were:
1) Boredom
2) Emotional blunting or burn out
3) Sensory overload
4) Multitasking

The word that leapt from this list for me was multitasking, though each of the other items contribute to our inability to maintain focused attention for a sustained period of time. Prof. Restak says we are not really multitasking when we multitask, because our mind doesn't really do two things at once. We are flitting back and forth between the two.

Have you ever been to a party where you get introduced to new people but later can't recall their names? Once again it's a matter of focus. Our minds may be focused on "managing the room." Or we're distracted by everything else going on. If it is a business meeting, someone may hand you their card and later, if you wrote a note on the back, you will remember who the person was. That act of writing a note required a moment of focus.

In this lecture he also talked bout how to learn new material. Rote memorization is possible for short term quizzes, but long-term value is created when we involve ourselves more deeply in the information, by writing a paper about the topic for example.

"The most important principle for improving your memory is focusing your attention on what you are trying to learn." This is why disruptive behavior in a classroom is such a problem. It distracts other students and interferes with their ability to focus.

This morning I posted a story in response to a California decision to forbid suspensions in K thru 8th grade. In School Daze: Whats's Going On I took a walk down memory lane to my own grade school experiences in which I can't recall a single suspension taking place throughout my elementary school years in the 1950s and early 60s. Were there any students suspended for bad behavior in junior high when I moved to New Jersey? My memory may be faulty but in those days students listened to the teacher, obeyed when told to spit out their gum, and showed respect.

On one occasion my 5th grade teacher asked me (told me) to not put my pen in my mouth, which I did quite frequently evidently. I liked the taste of the metal, I think. At least that is what I said in the 500 word essay I had to write (as punishment) explaining why I kept putting my pen in my mouth.

As I look back over the meandering direction this blog post has taken, it's apparent I've lost my focus. And rather than drag you with me any further, let's turn the page.

Till next.

Extra Credit: What was your experience in elementary school? When and where?

Monday, July 6, 2020

Local Art Seen: Yes, Duluth Art Institute Is Open Aagain

From "The Long Journey" (detail)
Last week I saw an announcement that the Duluth Art Institute was opening up on July 1. Naturally I stopped in the next day and did a walk-through. This is a brief intro to some of what you'll find if you go.

Sue Rauschenfels: Sisterhood
Several of Rauschenfels paintings reminded me stylistically of
Carla Hamilton's colorful portrayals of people.
If you take the elevator to the DAI offices on the fourth floor of the Depot, the hallway where you emerge is called The Corridor Gallery. Sue Rauschenfels acrylic and water colors line the walls here. The theme is Sisterhood.

Either I never knew or had forgotten, but Rauschenfels is one of six sisters, hence the paintings have a more natural origin than I'd imagined.

The artist's statement speaks of the international interconnectedness of women across boundaries, and the challenges of connecting as well as the everyday world in which they live.

The Pike Lake artist is a member of the Lake Superior Abstract Group. You can find more of Rauschefels' work at 47 Degrees Gallery in Knife River, MN and Art on the Planet Gallery in Superior, WI.

Kari Halker-Saathoff: Odysseus & Penelope: The Long Journey
Halker-Saathoff's work appears to be a composite of several passions. As an artist, she works in ceramics and is also an illustrator, hence the unique form her works take.

The title is indicative of the origins for this collection of work. Most will recognize the influence of Greek mythology in general and specifically Homer's Odyssey. The artist's wife happens to be named Penelope, so that brings these stories closer to home. The art therefore reflects a merging of ancient stories with contemporary ones.

From the DAI show description: Halker-Saathoff describes Penelope’s situation, “Suitors invaded her home, ate her food, threatened her son, assaulted her servants, and pressured her to remarry. In resisting the suitors Penelope had to use all her resources, showing herself to be as courageous, wily, and brilliant a figure as Odysseus. The courage of her resistance is the inspiration for my interpretation and the struggle of women’s persecution and for equality are ever present.”

Emily Stokes: Reveal
I've always been fascinated by printmaking of all stripes and the unique manner in which Emily Stokes combines painting, drawing and digital imaging to produce her work is quite intriguing.

There are actually two kinds of things to see here in the Steffl Gallery. Her small mixed media panels on the walls, and also something akin to "books" that unfold in a systematic but unconventional manner. The work purportedly explores “how economic and demographic shifts impact traditions and how these shifts are revealed in the symbols around us.”

I myself found much of it to be elegant and distinctive iconography that begs to be examined more deeply. For this reason I recommend a leisurely unhurried visit to the gallery in order to have more time to engage those pieces that especially resonate with you visually or psychologically.

Stokes, who received her MFA at Arizona State (printmaking), teaches at Northwestern University in Orange City, Iowa.

Tia Salmela Keobounpheng: Bloodline
The artist works in a multimedia three-dimensional form so it technically falls into the category of sculpture. Two of the four pieces in this series are in the Mayor's Reception Room as part of the ongoing relationship between the DAI and City Hall.

Here is the beginning of her statement about the work: “Combining scientific and mythical concepts, I imagine the ways that my grandmothers are part of me despite the fact that I have no lived experience with them. What began as a quest to define the void that I perceive (they would have filled) has led me on a journey of uncovering history that is both fact and inferred.

A graduate of Central High School here in Duluth, her Finnish roots provide a foundation for a portion of her inspiration. Tia Keo lives and works in North Minneapolis.

* * * *
Emily Stokes
Sue Rauschenfels
Kari Halker-Saathoff
Odysseus and Penelope

For more in-depth commentary on these current exhibits visit the DAI's Current Exhibitions page.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Zentangle Goes Zoom with Esther Piszczek

I'm guessing that if at the beginning of the year you asked Esther Piszczek if she imagined she'd be teaching Zentangle drawing classes online via Zoom, she very likely would have laughed. "What's Zoom?" she may have asked.

As we've all discovered, much has changed these past six months, both globally and locally. The craving to make art remains alive in so many of us. The creative spark or creative urge is something many feel innate, as part of being human. Hence, Leo Tolstoy more than a century ago said, "Without art mankind could not exist." 

As I read this month's Twin Ports Art blog I noticed that Esther Piszczek has continued her Zentangle classes, even with the lockdown. I reached out to learn more about how her classes were going.

EN: How long after the lockdown occurred before you discovered you could teach Zentangle online? 

Esther Piszczek: It took me one month to start teaching on Zoom. I taught my first official class on Wednesday, April 15, after a quick prep class with two Zentangle (R) teacher friends.

The lockdown occurred mid-March. I knew almost right away that other teachers were teaching online Zentangle (R) classes, but I'd never imagined I would be able to teach online with any success as I value the in person interaction a live class provides. When the quarantine happened in mid-March, I'd taught one of four Advanced Zentangle classes in person at Ordean East Middle School through Duluth Community Education. We decided to put the class on hold, hoping we'd be able to meet again in person to finish the class. So that class didn't spur me to begin teaching online, but my Zentangle (R) & Wine class was scheduled for April 15 and I didn't want to cancel it because that group of students has been drawing with me monthly for years. When I finally decided to teach online, I met with a teacher friend of mine in Madison, WI, who helped me get started on Zoom and set up a Paypal account to accept donations. Next, I created a website so I would have a place to advertise my classes and showcase my students' work. I'm so glad I decided to teach online. It has challenged me and delighted me in many ways.

EN: When you teach at the gallery you take 3 hours. Are your Zoom classes shorter or the same?

EP: My gallery classes and my Zoom classes are 2.5 hours long. Sometimes they run long, especially at the gallery where everyone has been drawing together for years, but the Zoom classes generally end on time or sometimes early.

EN: What were the biggest challenges?

EP: My biggest challenge initially was converting my drawing pad and easel set up where I stand to teach to a Zoom set up that limits my set up to the area where my webcam is located. I held an initial class with two Zentangle teacher friends in mid April using a standing set up before holding my first class on April 15. For the April 15 class, I was still standing to teach and the camera height required me to place my easel on a platform, which also required me to stretch to draw on the drawing pad. I was exhausted and experiencing physical pain by the end of the 2.5 hour class and knew I needed to tweak the set up. Next I set up a table in front of my computer / web cam and put a table easel on it that held a much smaller drawing pad than the one I use on my standing easel. That worked much better. My next challenge was lighting. I was using a shop light to light one side of my easel that a friend allowed me to borrow, but it wasn't a standing light. I propped it up with a hand held weight and leaned it against my drawing easel, but if I bumped my easel while drawing, the light would tip over and I had to scramble to catch it more than once. So I did some research on standing lamps and purchased a standing Ott Lite that never tips over and also lights my space.

Another challenge is creating the class mosaics you see on my website. When I hold a class in person, I arrange all of the student tiles into a class mosaic on a black piece of poster board and take a picture. I then email that picture to the class. My students love receiving the class mosaics where they can see all the class tiles together and study/learn from other students' drawing/shading choices. Now, students take their own tile pictures and send them to me so I can create a class mosaic. For my largest class so far, I had 11 individual photos to edit and place to create the class mosaic, plus a picture of my demo tile. When those pictures are well taken, the editing process is easy, but when the camera is misaligned or an edge of the tile is cut off, it becomes more difficult to edit the photo and have it look good. Fortunately, I have really great photo editing software that can fix quite a bit.

EN: Has it gotten easier?

EP: Yes! Now that my set up is figured out and I have a pretty consistent group of students, I'm spending less time sending out introductory emails talking about what supplies students will need for the class (all things you can find at home), and my set up is really quick now. And I am so grateful that I never have to worry about knocking over my light during class. I've also spent time educating my students about what makes a tile photograph easiest to edit, since then, the quality of the photographs has improved and now I spend less time editing each photo to create the class mosaic.

EN: Have you had students from other parts of the country or overseas participating? 

EP: Yes. I have a longtime friend, we met in India when I was a Rotary Exchange Student there in 1987, who found my classes on Facebook. She'd been looking for a new art class to explore and I was delighted when she emailed me from Oregon to sign up for the class. She's been taking classes, sometimes twice weekly, since May 27. Another longtime student lives in Ontonogan, MI, and invited her artist niece Lauren from Baton Rouge, LA to come to class. They both draw with me on Monday nights for my advanced class. Lauren invited her 13 year old stepdaughter to join my Zentangle Foundations class on Wednesday nights and they have been drawing with me weekly, as well. Another long time student is a nun from the St. Scholastica Monastery who got quarantined in Chicago and she joins us from there. I've also had classes with friends in ME and NH. I haven't had any international students yet, but friends of mine want to have a class with my friend's mother who lives in Romania, so I could have an international student sometime soon.

EN: The gallery space was compressed and had a feeling of intimacy that was special. If you were in a larger room, could you return to socially distanced Zentangle classes in person? 

EP: Yes, however, my students have expressed concern about meeting in public and have also said how much they enjoy the Zoom format. My community ed class that was put on hold in mid-March met for the second class of the four class series on Monday, June 29. I asked them whether they would like to meet in person at the school for the remaining two classes, as I was told by the coordinator that that is now possible, but they all said they are more comfortable meeting online.

Another benefit to Zoom is the number of students I am able to teach at one time. You mentioned the intimate feeling of the space at Master Framing Gallery where I have taught Zentangle & Wine classes monthly since 2014. That space holds 7 at capacity and it is a bit of a squeeze. My first official Zoom class was a Zentangle & (bring your own) Wine class on April 15 and there were 9 students in the class. I wouldn't have been able to fit 9 students in the Gallery at any time. My classes say they are limited to eight, but that reflects the number of screens. I regularly have a mother / daughter duo who draw together on their front porch in Lakeside. When they are on one screen, it means I can add a ninth student to the class. The largest class so far has been eleven with six of those students on only three screens.

The Duluth Art Institute is now Open.

Related Links
Esther Piszczek's Patterned Peace
Local Art Seen: First Lesson in Zentangle with Esther Piszczek
A Slideshow of Zentangle Drawings at

Friday, July 3, 2020

Marlene Dietrich Quotes and Reflections

Marlene Dietrich
I first learned the backstory on how Marlene Dietrich was discovered via the book Fun in a Chinese Laundry, Josef von Sternberg's autobiography of his life in Hollywood in the first half of the last century. The title has nothing to do with Chinese laundries and everything to do with the life of an interesting director. The title is essentially Clickbait, something a forward thinking Hollywood director might think of since who wants to read an autobiography about someone that they really hadn’t known all that well.

The film that set her career on fire was von Sternberg's The Blue Angel, of which the director produced both German and English versions. Her role as Lola-Lola garnered for her a contract with Paramount and she became one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.

I discovered von Sternberg through a reference by Orson Welles who had the upmost respect for the Austrian-born director who was also an artist with the camera.  Welles himself gave Marlene Dietrich some limelight in his distinctively dark Touch of Evil, which critics have ranked #2 in his directorial oeuvre, a notch behind his epic Citizen Kane.

Marlene Dietrich was famous for her husky, sultry voice and seductive good looks. There was, however, more to her than meets the eyes. Though she was not a central character in Touch of Evil, but she was definitely a memorable one. All her scenes packed a punch. Here's a snippet from her last dialogue with Orson Wells:

Quinlan: Come on, read my future for me.
Tanya: You haven't got any.
Quinlan: Hmm? What do you mean?
Tanya: Your future's all used up.

You could read the whole story in these four lines.

As Tanya, the fortune teller in Touch of Evil
* * * *
Here are some Marlene Dietrich quotes to bring you home.

Dietrich as the Blue Angel, Lola-Lola.  I am reminded
 of Liza Minnelli in Cabaret.
On Quotations: "I love them because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognizedly wiser than oneself."

On Forgiveness: "Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast."

"Most women set out to try to change a man, and when they have changed him they do not like him."

"America took me into her bosom when there was no longer a country worthy of the name, but in my heart I am German – German in my soul."

"The Germans and I no longer speak the same language."

Ms. Dietrich came to the U.S. during the turbulent period between the two world wars.

"The tears I have cried over Germany have dried. I have washed my face."

"The average man is more interested in a woman who is interested in him than he is in a woman with beautiful legs."

"Think twice before burdening a friend with a secret."

"Without tenderness, a man is uninteresting."

* * * *

Born in December 1901, the German-American actress passed away in May of 1992. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Revisiting a Classic: "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"

"If you look closer, it's easy to trace the tracks of my tears." ~Smokey Robinson

In the 1930s American composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Otto Harbach wrote the heartbreaking song called "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" for their 1933 Broadway musical Roberta. Though sung on Broadway by Tamara Drasin, it was first recorded by Gertrude Niesen with orchestral direction by Frank Sinatra's cousin Ray. It later went on to be recorded by a whole boatload of stars including Harry Belafonte, Connonball Adderly, Polly Bergen, Clifford Brown, Sarah Vaughn, Tommy Dorsey, Vic Damone, Nat King Cole, Cher, Judy Garland, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Goodman, Al Jolson, Glenn Miller and even Charlie Parker. And this is but a partial list. The list of lesser knowns is twice as long. The version we remember best, however, is the rendition by The Platters, ushering this song to the top of the charts in 1958.

Last night this song came to mind as I began reading a memoir by a writer friend and I wondered to myself, "What's this song about?" For some reason whenever I heard this song I pictured the smoke being referred to as cigaret smoke. I never really listened to the words. I pictured a smoky room, and something tragic happens and the cigaret smoke swirls into the guy's eyes. The song is much more than that when you finally dig into it.

In four concise verses a painful story emerges.

The narrator is a man in whom the flame of love has been burning in his heart, his chest cavity nearly bursting as he strives to contain it. His friends, in the first verse, ask him a question about his lover and how he was so certain the feeling he was feeling was mutual. Perhaps the very fact that this question is being asked should have been a clue for him.

They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside
Can not be denied

Unfortunately his confidence is founded on subjective feelings. In the second verse our narrator listens as they continue, summing up that when you love this madly, this deeply, you really don't always see things as they are because the smoke of that internal inferno gets in your eyes.

They, said some day you'll find
All who love are blind
When your heart's on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes

Who hasn't seen this or personally experienced it? The young can be especially susceptible, but hope ignites hearts of all ages. And when it's there verse three presents the usual dismissive reaction... until reality sets in.

So I chaffed them, and I gaily laughed
To think they would doubt our love
And yet today, my love has gone away
I am without my love

When the shadows fall away, when our storyteller finally sees, the picture is far different from what he imagined. This is one of life's hardest moments, especially when the heart is tender and as yet unscarred.

Many a story has been told and song sung about life's first major disillusionment. As the song ends we hear the words again about smoke getting in the eyes. It's not a cigaret. It's not a crowded room. The smoke this time comes from another source... a snuffed out flame that no longer burns.

Now laughing friends deride
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes

Smoke gets in your eyes

If you've ever experienced this, there's a measure of comfort in knowing you are not alone.
More about the song can be found here on Wikipedia.


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Local Artist Margie Helstrom's Uplifting Colors Make Spirits Sing

It's been a joy seeing all the unheralded but dedicated painters in this town. What's interesting is how many "groups" there are who are affiliated through their shared interests. I'd long heard about a Lake Superior Watercolor Group, and more recently learned of the Lake Superior Abstract Artists group. During the lockdown they have been meeting on Zoom.

If I'm not mistaken, Margie Helstrom has been part of both of these creative explorers. Here are examples of some of the work she's been creating. I especially like the Matisse-like feel of  her interior scenes.

Swirly Twirly Tree. Watercolor and watercolor crayon on paper.
Homage to Nolde Lilac. Watercolor and pen.
Jim. Acrylis on canvas.
Pink Henrietta. Oil on canvas.
Lucy. Watercolor acrylic and crayon on paper.
Orange Margaret. Watercolor acrylic and crayon on paper.
Three Umbrellas. Watercolor on paper.
Michelle. Watercolor on paper.
Gert. Acrylic on canvas.
Sumac. Watercolor on paper.
Really love what I see happening here, Margie. Keep it going.
See more of Margie's work at

To you reading this: what are You working on during these strange times?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Twin Ports Art: Things to See and Do in July

Ink on 1939 London Times. Signed. 
These are certainly strange times. I'm referring here to the ongoing lockdown, which brings to mind the little button fans of The Truman Show were wearing: When Will It End. (It may have been How Will It End.) The film with Jim Carrey as Truman has been a personal favorite for the psychological and philosophical issues it raises. It stands alongside Groundhog Day as an example of a creative entertaining way of having us think more deeply about the meaning of our lives.

All that being said, the urge to make art seems pretty innate in a lot of us. Therefore, there's still plenty of creative expression taking place here. Thanks to Esther Piszczek, you can find a lot of it at the Twin Ports Art Blog that she maintains. You will find the list of July activities here:

Item of note: There will be what's billed as an Arts Industry Social Hour next Tuesday. Local Artists Moira Villiard, Adam Swanson, Ryan Tischer, and Amanda Hunter will be co-hosting a panel discussion on the impact of current events on the local arts community and businesses. This will be the first of several such virtual events this summer. Login details at Twin Ports Art.

EdNote: If you are not a regular Zoomer, it's a good protocol to log in early and then mute yourself so that background noises and interruptions are kept to a minimum.

* * * *
On a semi-related note, here's a Jay Leeming poem that was shared on Garrison Keillor's The Writers Almanac in 2006. I discovered it through Phil Fitzpatrick's March Madness-style bracketed poetry competition. Each week he paired off four sets of poems and we (the participants) would select the winner for each pairing. At this point we've narrowed the field but still have a ways to go. It's been a tremendously fun experience, stimulating more poems than usual from my own pen.

Here's the beginning of this poem, with a link to the rest, after which I share a link to one of my own.

Man Writes Poem
This just in a man has begun writing a poem
in a small room in Brooklyn. His curtains
are apparently blowing in the breeze. We go now
to our man Harry on the scene, what's

the story down there Harry? "Well Chuck
he has begun the second stanza and seems
to be doing fine, he's using a blue pen, most
poets these days use blue or black ink so blue

is a fine choice. His curtains are indeed blowing
in a breeze of some kind and what's more his radiator
is 'whistling' somewhat. No metaphors have been written yet,
but I'm sure he's rummaging around down there
(You can read the rest here.)

* * * *

And finally, a link to one of my own: Cancel Culture.

* * * *
Whether you write, paint or make music, don't bind your creative spirit to a post in the basement. Give it wings and let it soar.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Duluth-Born Les Crystal Dies at 85: an Influential Executive Producer for the PBS NewHour

It's well known that Bob Dylan was born here in Duluth. There are many from here who've made an impact, perhaps in part due to the work ethic that seems as pervasive as the red ore of the Northland.

This weekend I heard an interesting story from Craig Grau, retired UMD professor of political science, Dylanologist, and influential member of the Duluth Dylan Fest committee. He shared, “Back in the 1980s, I met a ship captain in Duluth from Italy.

He asked if Duluth had produced anyone famous besides Dylan. I said, ‘Les Crystal.’

“He was the man behind the News Hour. I never met him but I knew his babysitter. She was quite proud. I wish Duluth had been as proud.”

Though most of Crystal’s career took him elsewhere, he wasn’t forgotten where he was from. I asked Louis Kemp, author of his friendship chronicle Dylan and Me, if his family knew the Crystals. Louie sent me this reply: “Yes, his Father and my Father were very close all their lives. His father was very active in the Duluth Jewish Community. In fact, I bought the property at 40th Ave. West where I put my Crab Delights plant in Duluth from Izzy Crystal, Les’ father. His sister Dinah was my age and we all spent time together.”

Louie went on to add, “Izzy had a specialty fine food store on Superior Street for years and later he had a wholesale food distribution company in Duluth. They were a Great Family."

* * * *
I mention all these anecdotes because of the recent passing of Lester Crystal last Wednesday, June
24. His obituary appeared in the New York Times two days later, and many other media outlets as well.

The Times obit begins with this brief summation of his life before sharing a more in depth overview of significant moments in his life: Lester M. Crystal, who after 20 years at NBC News, including two as its president, moved to “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” on PBS and immediately set about transforming it from a half-hour program into “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” a broadcast widely acclaimed for its breadth and depth, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 85.

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, on Sept. 13, 1934, Mr. Crystal went on to acquire two journalism degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School and returned her to work for a spell at KDAL, our local AM radio station. His career serves to underscore the reality that you really don't know how high our local talent can fly till they leave the nest.

The Times obituary is filled with anecdotes that make it a good read. While he was president of NBC one of his tasks was to unseat CBS as the number one evening news provider. With Walter Cronkite as the talking head for CBS, he can't be faulted for failing on that particular mission. With the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour at PBS, he was able to create a new set of rules.

Crystal's most gut wrenching experience during his time at NBC came after sending a news correspondent and cameraman down to Jonestown to see what was going on at the Peoples' Temple in  November 1978. The two were killed as they tried to leave. Hours later Jim Jones' 900+ followers literally "drank the Kool-aid," ending the cult's earthly sojourn.*

Numerous news outlets have written about his passing, including this one at which focuses on his character and begins:
“Gentle.” “Calm.” “Generous.” If you ask someone to describe Lester Crystal, who helmed the PBS NewsHour as executive producer for more than 20 years, you’ll hear those words again and again. He died at age 85 on Wednesday after a battle with brain cancer and pneumonia, but in his long career as a leader in broadcast journalism, he stood out to his colleagues as a font of singular kindness, fortitude and grace in the hectic business of daily news.

Click the links to find the full story, which is really only an introduction to a life with some impressive achievements.

Related Links
Lester Crystal, Guiding Force Behind ‘NewsHour,’ Dies at 85 (NYTimes)
Louis Kemp's Dylan & Me Book Signing: Bringing It All Back Home

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Complicit Support for Stalin Showed Media's Lack of Integrity: Mr. Jones Tells the Story

Over the years I've had a number of writers influence me in significant ways. Upon discovering a writer I resonated with I would dig through their works the way a miner follows a gold vein through a mountain, reading everything I could get my hands on. Hemingway, C.S. Lewis, Jorge Luis Borges, Graham Greene are a few such writers whose works I collected.

Another was Andre Gide (1869-1951), the 1947 Nobel Prize winner who was at the center of the French literary scene for decades. An author of more than 80 books, he exemplified beautiful writing, integrity and original thinking.

At some point in the mid-nineties I read The Journals of Andre Gide, all four volumes, from which I learned much about the writing life and have frequently shared insightful quotes. One incident especially stuck with me, from his 1936-37 journal notes.

While the Great Depression rocked America, economic trauma was also eroding European confidence about the future. As Marxist/socialist idealism swirled through intellectual circles, the notion emerged that over there, in the Soviet Union, a Golden Age was dawning. The workers paradise was being praised and the promise of a brighter future.

Writers were being invited to come see with their own eyes what was taking place so they could tell the story of what was happening. One of these was Andre Gide. He went expecting to see something promising, or at least evidence that something promising was happening. Instead what he saw and learned resulted in a book that discredited what many other writers were saying. His 1936 book of essays began with "delightful approval" but ended up a denunciation.

I'd never read that book, but saw clearly in his journal entries for 1936 that things were not what they purported to be and he could not, with good conscience, parrot what others were saying. His September 3 journal entry begins, "A tremendous, a dreadful confusion." Then he describes a conversation with another who spoke of his "disappointment" with the U.S.S.R.  Gide responds that the word disappointment is not really accurate, "but I do not know what to suggest in its place."

Because he was expected to come away from his U.S.S.R experience with a book that praised Stalin's achievements, he writes in a later journal entry that he must write an introduction that "warns the reader at the outset." It took courage to publish this book so out of alignment with what his peers were saying.

The book he published was titled Return from the U.S.S.R. Here are excerpts from a review on Amazon that offer a snapshot of what Gide saw.

Publicity still from Mr. Jones
The political situation André Gide noticed that now that the revolution had triumphed, those who kept the revolutionary ferment became an embarrassment and were hated by the powerful; worse, they were simply swept from the earth. What the Politburo demanded, was a full endorsement of all that happened in the USSR. 

André Gide saw the inertia of the masses, the complete depersonalization of the individual.

Critical thinking was forbidden and soviet citizens remained in an extraordinary ignorance of what happened in foreign countries.

The Social Situation
André Gide saw the emergence of a new aristocracy ... of conformists. Joining the Party was the first and indispensable step for a successful career.

In the USSR, an artist had to follow `the line'. Art had to be popular; otherwise it was branded as 'formalism'. But André Gide correctly stated that without liberty art loses all its meaning and value.

André Gide expected to find in the USSR at least the beginnings of an anti-capitalist State. But, his hopes were bitterly dashed and he had the courage to publish his devastating verdict. He should be an example for all commentators and writers today, who should speak out and tear the curtain of the virtual world created by the media.

* * * *

All of the above came to mind when I read about a new film called Mr. Jones that has been released on Amazon Prime. I read about it in a review titled The Media's Role in Concealing Stalin's Evils Exposed in Mr. Jones.

The setting is Moscow 1932. The review begins (T)wo reporters are in a venomous argument. One has just admitted to filing false stories attributing miraculous economic achievements to Joseph Stalin while ignoring the fact that he's systematically starving peasants by the millions. Hitler, she declares, is on the march in Germany and, soon, the rest of the world, and without Stalin's help, he'll never be stopped.

"You sound like you work for Stalin!" the other reporter declares in horror.

"I don't work for Stalin," the first reporter haughtily insists. "I believe in a movement that's bigger than any one person."

The convergence of all these things is somewhat striking. The movie that had circulated through European film festivals in 2019 finally came to theaters in February and now to the public right in the middle of a new historical zeitgeist involving clashing cultures and competing worldviews. Notions of right and wrong are being turned on their heads.

A second article from Reason this week highlights a new attitude being proposed by some journalists. The article is titled Journalists Abandoning 'Objectivity' for 'Moral Clarity' Really Just Want To Call People Immoral. There are journalists who wish to abandoned the notion of objectivity. My response is two-fold. First, it's long been apparent that news is not always objective. Second, isn't this why Opinion pages exist so that people can express opinions on whatever is happening?

Maybe the solution to the latter problem would be to make larger opinion pages. As for the former issue, every fiction writer knows that if you want to create empathy between a reader and a character in a story, you hurt him or her. It's a normal human response. So it is that when covering riots, by focusing on rioters being hit, you create empathy for these "victims" of brutality. Why do we never see all the bricks and bottles that have been smashing into the faces and heads of police, sending them to hospitals around the country?

The coverage this past month has not been objective. Neither was the journalistic coverage of Stalin's atrocities.

Related Links
The Death of Stalin
The Media's Role in Concealing Stalin's Evils Exposed in Mr. Jones
Carol Veldman Rudie Sheds Light on Soviet Era Art in Lecture at the Tweed
Local Art Seen: Tweed Spotlights the Art of Russia
Karelia: A Finnish-American Couple In Stalin's Russia, 1934-1941