Thursday, April 30, 2020

By Government Orders. A Poem by Paul McGlynn

Paul McGlynn
The other day a friend of mine shared a poem that his friend Paul McGlynn had written.

"Every day, I read poems by the great poets and the lesser known poets. I believe the world of poetry is my one, if not my only, place where I am halfway at peace and successful at this living thing," McGlynn replied when I asked if I could share his poem here.

I inquired as to whether he was a writer of other kinds of things. He replied that he is chiefly a poet.

"I have written for many years. I write exclusively poetry. I try to write every day and I work hard at the poems I write. Every now and then, I write something more easily and it seems to work. Such is the poem you liked. But that doesn't happen as often as I would want. I believe I write maybe one good poem for every 75 attempted. And that may be too generous."

I suspect that that might be a little too modest.

McGlynn, a career educator, has served as a teacher for 23 years and a director of charter schools for 9 years. Of this experience he stated, "I find education to be a worthy endeavor in life." He is currently Executive Director at Great Oaks Academy in the Twin Cities.


By Government Orders

"Man's Fate" -- Ed Newman
The
Sky will be shut down
Until it is fully secured from falling.

Something terrible is always near
Calling for you to fear it.

We bear the burden
Of trying to save you
From this dangerous world.

Your
Living is the problem.
You should distrust your own breathing.
We understand that
Better than you.

The plan is for us to guide you
So, you may exist
Safely.
You must understand
What we do

Is, of course, for your own good.
You need to be saved from you.
That is what we do.

Always,
The worst is yet to come,
This will always be true.
This is never going to change.

What you cannot see
Intends to hurt us all,
And if that be you,

Well, we can fix that, too.


Related Links
Are Children Today Being Raised "Too Safe To Succeed"?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

SPECIAL REPORT: YouTube Removes Viral Video by Kern County Doctors Presenting Alternative P.O.V. On COVID-19 Response

Does sheltering in place make sense as a response to COVID-19? Maybe, maybe not. But we'll never know if each time those who question the lockdowns are gagged or forbidden to present an alternative P.O.V.

On Friday I shared a significant video by a pair of doctors who presented facts based on the last few months of historical data. Based on what they've observed, the doctors drew conclusions at odds with the prevailing views and held a media event to make known their findings.

By Tuesday, a few days later, after more than 5 million people had watched it (including Elon Musk, who tweeted about it), the video was removed by YouTube as inappropriate. Why? "For violating YouTube's terms of service." (i.e: Community Standards.)

When ABC of Bakersfield, California contacted YouTube for further illumination on this action, a company spokesperson for the social media giant "issued a statement saying the video was pulled because the content contradicted the guidance of the local health authority."

Was it because the doctors pointed out that there has never once been a pandemic in human history in which the response has been to quarantine the healthy instead of the sick?

“We quickly remove flagged content that violate our Community Guidelines, including content that explicitly disputes the efficacy of local healthy (sic) authority recommended guidance on social distancing that may lead others to act against that guidance," said the statement. "However, content that provides sufficient educational, documentary, scientific or artistic (EDSA) context is allowed -- for example, news coverage of this interview with additional context. From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had clear policies against COVID-19 misinformation (emphasis mine) and are committed to continue providing timely and helpful information at this critical time.”

* * * *

Does it make sense for YouTube to exercise censorship so as to prevent any alternative viewpoint on a significant issue that impacts all of us?  I do concede that they have a right to maintain standards. On the other hand, how do we learn what is true and what is not if we're not even permitted to hear something contrary to a government sanctioned point of view? (And in this case, they stated it was a local health policy, which seems to stretch credulity.) How can the court of public opinion draw accurate conclusions on important matters if they are not permitted to hear more than one side of an issue?

Abraham Lincoln went out of his way to hear all sides on important issues and maintained a cabinet comprised of contrary views for the express purpose of listening as they each argued their positions.

* * * *
Here's the beginning of that ABC News story.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — YouTube issued a statement Tuesday regarding the removal of a video press briefing with Accelerated Urgent Care doctors Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi. The video was the first of two videos playing the entire briefing from a press conference last week. Reports of the video being taken down suggest YouTube pulled it for violating community guidelines.

23ABC received an email from YouTube on April 27 giving the station notification the video had been taken down, citing YouTube’s “community guidelines.” 23ABC has appealed the ruling through YouTube.

23ABC News also reached out to YouTube regarding the notification and a company spokesperson issued a statement saying the video was pulled because the content contradicted the guidance of the local health authority.

YOU CAN READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE:
https://www.turnto23.com/news/coronavirus/video-interview-with-dr-dan-erickson-and-dr-artin-massihi-taken-down-from-youtube

AND WATCH THE ORIGINAL CENSORED VIDEO HERE:
https://www.turnto23.com/news/coronavirus/accelerated-urgent-care-doctors-recommend-lifting-shelter-in-place-order

* * * *
When I wrote my original blog post, my working title was, The Most Important BIog Post of My Life. While posting I changed it to the softer, less hysterical-sounding Important Information Related to COVID-19 -- April 24.

ADDENDUM: Here is a blog post that presents an opposing point of view regarding the statements made by Dr. Erickson, claiming it to be shoddy statistics and false claims

For what it's worth, it's sometimes useful to be aware of the psychology concept of "confirmation bias." We're all, to some extent, stained by pre-existing presuppositions. Our inability to observe things through a totally objective lens ought to keep us humble. All too often we don't know what we don't know.

For the interested, a Friend Link to my poem, The Lamp of Liberty

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

What was the 1932-33 Holodomor Horror?

Sigmund Freud. He studied dreams.
Sigmund Freud chose to publish his epic Interpretation of Dreams in the year 1900 because he and his peers believed the 20th century would see the fruition of humanity's Golden Age. How unexpectedly different the 20th Century proved to be. World Wars, Cold War, military disasters like Viet Nam and Afghanistan, genocides, apartheids, African horrors like Idi Amin and Rwanda's tribal slaughter, the Spanish Flu epidemic (50 million killed worldwide, 675,000 in the U.S.), Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the perpetual threat of nuclear war... OK, you get the picture. I do not believe the idealists of 1900 had a clue what lay ahead.

Though I've oft heard reference to the massive quantities of deaths produced by Stalin and Mao in their efforts to acquire and maintain power, I was not familiar with the word Holodomor, so it intrigued me to read about it yesterday.

The word Holodomor means "to kill by starvation." It is used in reference to what occurred in the Soviet Union because it has now been recognized as an intentional man-made genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out in 1932-33 by the Soviet government under Stalin.

The Wikipedia account goes on to say, "The term Holodomor emphasizes the famine's man-made and intentional aspects, such as rejection of outside aid, confiscation of all household foodstuffs, and restriction of population movement. Whether the Holodomor was genocide is still the subject of academic debate, as are the causes of the famine and intentionality of the deaths."

* * * *
FAST FORWARD
This past week I noticed a story about potatoes being dumped in Idaho. Someone else sent me a story about lettuce being plowed under. Once you look and see stories about the food chain breaking down, it's easy to wonder how far this (our current pandemic) will play out.

All my life I've heard expressions like "the cure was worse than the disease." Is our government's initial knee-jerk mass closures and panic-driven determination to "do something quickly" doing more harm than good?

Are all the inefficiencies and poorly thought out "remedies" due to good intentions gone bad? It's easy to see how some conspiracy theorists have already begun to conclude that it's "all part of a bigger plan."

* * * *

Well, let's not overthink it. Here's a song to give you a lift as you enter another day of lockdown. Freight Train Blues, Doc Watson.




Related Links
Holodomor at Wikipedia, source material for this blog post.
COVID-19 Highlights the Harms of Bad Food Regulations and the Benefits of Lifting Them
Coronavirus creates glut within previously tight potato market
'Food supply chain is breaking,' Tyson Foods chairman says as processing plants continue to close

Monday, April 27, 2020

Introduction to William H. Gass by Means of His Temple of Texts

"The only problem - if we can call it that - with this collection of critique, biography, and philosophy is that the professor is frequently operating at depths nearly inaccessible to the rest of us mortals."
-- Il'ja Rákoš, Amazon Reviewer

* * * *
William H. Gass. Creative Commons
As usual I have too many books going at once. The stack to the right of my easy chair here has That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis) on top of the pile because I am trying to finish it. Below that are two thin volumes on journalism and How to Control the Military by John Kenneth Galbraith, both of which I have finished this month but not returned to my shelves because I want to write something about them. Beneath that is Russell Brand's Mentors, of which I read the audiobook in February and bought this little hardback volume in order to read it again.

Evan Hughes' Literary Brooklyn is below that, as a book to dip into when I need something different. The rest of the pile includes Graham Greene's Ways of Escape, Bob Hoffman's Advertising for Skeptics, James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time and P.M. Forni's The Thinking Life. This latter is a library book, so I will have to return it someday.... when the public library opens its doors again.

* * * *
The purpose of this blog post is to introduce readers to William H. Gass. I was familiar with him only because of the essays of his which appeared occasionally in Harper's Magazine. Here's a description of the book I borrowed from the library to write about.

Winner of the 2007 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, "A Temple of Texts" is the latest critical collection from one of America's greatest essayists and novelists. Here, William H. Gass pays homage to the readerly side of the literary experience by turning his critical sensibility upon all the books that shaped his own development as a reader, writer, and human being. With essays on figures ranging from William Shakespeare and Gertrude Stein to Flann O'Brien and Robert Burton, Gass creates a "temple" of readerly devotion, a collection of critical explorations as brilliant and incisive as readers have come to expect from this literary master, but also a surprisingly personal window into the author's own literary development.

* * * *

From the NY Times' William Gass Obituary

He used ordinary words to great effect, as when he described a character as having “a dab of the dizzies,” but it was his metaphors (which he said came to him in “squadrons”), his rhythms and the effort he put into each sentence that made him the object of other writers’ admiration.

Mr. Gass was widely credited with coining the term “metafiction” to describe writing in which the author is part of the story. He himself was one of the form’s foremost practitioners.

* * * * 

Excerpt from a Paris Review interview, 1976:

INTERVIEWER
Have you spent a good part of your writing life getting even?

GASS
Yes . . . yes. Getting even is one great reason for writing.

* * * *
As indicated above, I am simply making an introduction here. Please go read my Medium story The Erudite William H. Gass: A Writer of High Degree

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Blues Cruise and Other News

Omelette containing Tiki brat, mushrooms and onion, accompanied by
grape tomatoes, pickled carrot slices and whole grain toast.
The top story in our local Sunday paper is about a couple from our region who went on a cruise a couple days before all the borders were slammed shut. It was a holiday at sea that turned out to be no picnic. Story here. If you are able to open it, my apologies.

It brings to mind the Gabriel Garcia Marquez story Love in Time of Cholera. It's a love story about in which two young people's initial infatuation does not unfold the way our young hero anticipates or desires. Thus, Florentino must wait a lifetime to possess the object of his desire, because Fermina Daza has married a doctor and lost interest in the waves of time that have receded behind her.

The title of the book [SPOILER ALERT] comes from the climax in which the two are finally united aboard a sailing vessel displaying the warning flag indicating contagion on board. They decide to share their love in this floating paradise for ever.

My interest in Marquez stemmed from having seen his name on a list of authors influenced by Jorge Luis Borges, whose magical realism influenced a host of authors including Umberto Eco, Carlos Fuentes, Italo Calvino an myself.  A Colombian author of both fiction and non-fiction works, Marquez received a Nobel Prize "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts."

Another of his best known works is 100 Years of Solitude, a multigenerational novel on the order of Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks.

In addition to novels, Marquez also wrote short stories and non-fiction works. Because of his significance, I acquired and read his News of a Kidnapping, a journalistic recounting of the kidnapping, imprisonment, and eventual release of a handful of prominent figures in Colombia in the early 1990s. (Picture Dan Rather or Ted Koppel being kidnapped.) My interest, in part, was peaked by the mysteries surrounding Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel. I found it a compelling read at the time, bringing to mind a number of other stories, and the Johnny Depp film Blow.

* * * *
In other news.... from the FWIW Dept.

WHO Deletes Misleading Tweet That Spread Paranoia About COVID-19 Reinfection

Michigan Gov. Rolls Back Some of State's More Insane Coronavirus Restrictions

The Lamp of Liberty

Keep in mind that worrying diminishes the strength of our immune systems. Gratitude strengthens it. Relax. And have a safe week.  

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Bert Hursh Shares His Leadership Style

Bert Hursh
This past December I decided to join a Toastmasters group here in Duluth. It’s never too late to learn new skills or hone old ones. Who knows? I may want to do a book tour someday after all this quarantine stuff is lifted in 2023.

Our last five meetings have been held via Zoom, the easy-to-use virtual meeting technology that now has over 300 million users. I’ve been quite impressed by the skills some of these other members have developed. Also, attendees get an opportunity to hear some very interesting speeches.

When Bert Hursh, a Social Studies teacher at Ashland High School, gave his speech 10 days I knew I wanted to share part of it here. Hursh’s insights on leadership were no doubt partially formed by his service in the U.S. Navy and in Desert Storm.

Hursh began his speech with a statistic, citing how many hundreds of billions of dollars businesses lose each year because of bad leadership. The scope of his message was business leadership, not political leadership where trillions can be frittered away through careless decision making and poor oversight.

My Leadership Style

“It has been loudly expressed that in our society today there is a crisis in leadership, a crisis that if left uncorrected could be the demise of a once thriving culture,” he said in his intro.

After studying 35,000 corporate leaders the Gallup Research Group discovered that only 18% of them actually demonstrated a high level of talent and skill for managing people. This is quite a statement, and Bert elaborated. How do we explain this? How do people get to be in positions of leadership if they don’t have a knack for it?

Most of us are familiar with the Peter Principle which states that employees tend to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach a level of respective incompetence. Bert, however, identified a different cause of this problem. “It turns out,” he said, “that the characteristics of these managers often fit the desire of the corporation-- Ambition, Competitiveness, and Perfectionism--and who has had these characteristics the longest, that is, tenure.”

He quickly pivoted, pointing out that this bureaucratic style is not his own favored leadership style.

“There are certain segments of society that like, and even love, bureaucracy,” he said. “I am not among them.”

What else is a leader to be if not ambitious and competitive?

The last time he checked, Bert found that Amazon lists 57,136 books on this topic. After a quick read of their titles he found an interesting common thread weaving its way through them all. It was the word LEADERSHIP.

He then gave us a little etymology lesson.

“Being a leader means… just that, to lead. To be up front, nothing interesting there.”

When you add the suffix SHIP you get all sorts of fuzzy feelings. It’s a little morpheme, but it’s got power! By applying this unique suffix to nouns it can change their meaning in four different ways,

1. Adding ship to some nouns creates a new one that implies STATUS Like chairmanship or citizenship

2. Adding ship to other nouns makes it part of a collective in a group as with Membership, for example, or kinship.

3. Adding ship to yet other nouns will speak to the art or skill in something. Craftsmanship comes to mind or penmanship.

4. To express quality or the condition of something you can add ship to other nouns. Having the principalship was a condition I had for a while. Partnership is another example.

“Why I think this is interesting, if not exciting, is that when I looked down the list of 915 words that are in our language that end with this ship, only Leader fits all four cases: condition, quality, status and being part of a special group.”

Leadership has only one synonym that denotes all of these ideas and this is my style, he asserted, and that is Coaching.

A COACHING style of leadership looks like this:
*Prepares others for the future
*Excels with those who have potential
*Motivates others by challenging
*Uses positive statements
*Mentors/disciples
*Strong personal relationship
*Promotes high morale

Hursh closed with this tidy affirmation, “This is just my style. Thank you.”

Related Links
Duluth Toastmasters Club 1523
Toastmaster Close Ups: Dave Boe and Randine LePage
Toastmaster Close Ups: Katy, Wulfgar and Yana
Toastmasters Club 1523 Facebook Page

Friday, April 24, 2020

Important Information Related to COVID-19 -- April 24

I HAVE BEEN TRACKING NEWS STORIES and trying to work through what is happening by reading about the COVID-19 story from as many angles as possible. I believe that what these doctors are presenting is a "must hear."


The above video is a brief excerpt from a longer video that was shared with me this morning. I strongly encourage you to watch it from the beginning:

Key points:
1. The Panic/Fear of the unknown has resulted in measures taken that are doing more harm than the disease itself.  "There are a lot of secondary effects that are not being talked about. We want to look at how we respond as a nation."
2. When in human history have the Healthy been quarantined rather than  the sick?
3. Initial responses to the pandemic were based on guesswork based on projected scenarios. But The scenarios were created without real data. These immunologists now have two months of data to begin making more accurate assessments on how to respond.
4. Exposure to Coronavirus will strengthen are immune.
5. Corollary to point one about secondary effects from the lockdown: A spike in domestic abuse, more suicide, more stress.

* * * *

What resonated with me in this presentation here is that it corresponds with a bottom line conviction of mine regarding the use of our critical thinking faculties. i.e. Applied Common Sense. Doctors make prescriptions based on diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis can only be made when we have the facts. Our political response was based on panic extrapolations without regard for all the real facts.

* * * *

Here's a related article that shows how our Panic Reactions led to wildly unreal expectations as regards what was going to happen.  The article is titled Instead Of ‘Flattening The Curve,’ We Flattened Hospitals, Doctors, And The U.S. Health Care System. Here's a quote:
During a press conference Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis noted that health experts initially projected 465,000 Floridians would be hospitalized because of coronavirus by April 24. But as of April 22, the number is slightly more than 2,000.

* * * *

I have noticed that there are some very strong emotions associated with this issue. How can we see clearly what is happening when the noise from both sides is so deafening? It would be great if we had a time machine into the future, even the near future, to see what has really been happening here in 2020.

If able, I may share a few more thoughts soon.

Related Links
Instead of Flattening the Curve"...
This is what a death certificate looks like 
This next one was written for marketing and business professionals but is applicable and a good ruling principle for decision making of any kind.
Who Are Your Experts?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Miscellaneous Thursday Scratchings About The Lockdown Etc.

"There must be some way out of here," said the Joker to the Thief.
"There's too much confusion. I can't get no relief."
--All Along the Watchtower


Seems like there's a relevant Dylan lyric for every situation, doesn't it?

* * * *

It's interesting how when some governors enact draconian regulations they want all governors to follow suit.

Here are examples of what I call draconian:
In Encenitas, California people were fined $1000 for parking at the ocean to watch the sunset. No mixing with other people. Just sitting inside their cars.

Michigan Governor Whitmer's executive order purportedly bans people from visiting relatives, and even bans people who own two homes from going back and forth between homes.

It's weird that stores that CAN be open CAN"T sell certain products, so Wal-Mart has tape on the shelves in front of the forbidden items like flooring, paint and garden supplies. (EdNote: I did not go to Wal-Mart to confirm this because I am social distancing.)

You can read John Stossel's rant about these things here.

* * * *

OK, so one of the arguments some people make in favor of legalizing Doctor-Assisted Suicide is that "It's my body, therefore I should decide how I want to die and when."

I'm guessing that the same people who favor expanding assisted suicide laws are the ones most opposed to people being allowed to put themselves at risk for COVID-19 or not. "No, you cannot go to your other house to make sure the doors and windows are all locked. It's too risky."

* * * *

HERE'S A THOUGHT that I had recently regarding the issue of who's got the power, or who ought to. Before the advent of Nation States the world operated in smaller units which would occasionally collide with one another. Tribes or clans or extended families looked after their own, occasionally quarreling with adjacent clans or tribes regarding hunting grounds or drinking water.

How we got from there to 190+ countries that make up our United Nations is a part of history that may be worth exploring in greater depth. (If you can point to a brief history of France from pre-historic cave painters to the present, feel free to leave a comment.)

Even so, the COVID-19 epidemic is showing us a variety of conflict zones where power struggles are being fought. In the U.S., governors have the power to implement executive orders for their states, but some want the federal government to make a more punitive across-the-board decision for all states. So we see chafing among states that border one another but do not share the same lockdown policies.

THEN within states themselves we have cities that are out of step with their governors and want different rules from the rest of the state.

Against this backdrop, we have individuals protesting for the right to decide for themselves how far to go along with or against restrictive policies. It's a Constitutional right to protest, they say.

On the Global scale, how much should the United Nations or WHO decide what each individual nation should be doing in this or any other matter.

* * * *

I've written a few poems during Lockdown. This one from Tuesday is called The Lamp of Liberty. I'm interested in what you think.

* * * *

Lockdowns would be a lot easier if we had time travel, wouldn't it? Here's a short list of favorite time travel films.
Midnight In Paris
Back to the Future (1, 2 & 3)
Peggy Sue Got Married
12 Monkeys
The Terminator Series

I once wrote a time travel story. In it I travelled 100 years into the future. I'd rather not tell you what I found.

* * * *

Jonathan Thunder
As I noted Tuesday, people who make time to appreciate the arts live longer, according one 14 year study. Here's one way to see a lot of art during our lockdown period. Do you have some favorite artists? Google their name, then click on Images. You will see all kinds of things they have done. Many have websites so you can explore in more depth. If you don't follow the arts much and would like some names to dig into (and art to dig) here's a short list of Twin Ports folk I have written about.
Tonja Sell
Joellyn Rock
Karen Nease
Timothy Cleary
Bill Shipley
Aaron Kloss
Sarah Brokke
Ann Klefstad
Adam Swanson
Andrew Perfetti
Esther Piszczek
Scott Murphy
Sue Rauschenfels
Kathy McTavish
Karin Kraemer
John Heino
Karen McTavish
Carla Hamilton
Moira Villiard
Eris Vafias
Vern Northrup
Margie Helstrom
Kris Nelson

This list could go on and on, so I better just say got to Twin Ports Art and see what else you've been missing this past year. Frankly, I'm missing you, too.

And for the heckuvit I will also add this Pinterest board from the Tweed Museum of Art featuring Twin Ports Artists. (You may even see something of mine.)

In the meantime, it's Spring. Time to Ken Bloom wherever you've been planted. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Down By The Bay

On the waterfront.
Police photographer taking photos of people failing to do social distancing.*
* * * *
Where the Lakewalk used to be.
* * * *
Where promises are pledged and locked in place.
* * * *
Gold and silver, red, green and blue... 
* * * *
...it takes all kinds.
* * * *
Canal Park: Where memories are made.
* * * *
There were a few people out and about, but most in Lockdown mode still.

*Just kidding. Not really a policeman. Just a photographer capturing a sunny day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

14 Year Study Suggests Art Lovers Live Longer

About 10 years ago I wrote a blog post that shared how doodling improves memory. It was based on a study published in 2009 that had been written up in Time magazine. Does Doodling Improve Your Memory? You can read about it here.

That blog post, and the article it cited, came to mind when I read this link to a Psychology Today story titled Do Art Lovers Live Longer? The article by Christopher Bergland begins:

People who engage in arts-related cultural activities such as going to museums or musical concerts may have a lower risk of dying prematurely, according to a new study by researchers from University College London (UCL).

Well, what do you make of that? Frankly, I thought I was going to the Tweed Museum here in the Twin Ports and the Duluth Art Institute because I enjoyed the art. Was I subconsciously driven by a secret mega-maniacal quest to live forever?

* * * *

Scarlet Rivera with Gene LaFond at Weber Hall
Photo: Andrew Perfetti
My first taste of art appreciation came when I was enrolled in classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art the summer before I attended kindergarten. I've been forever grateful to my parents for having given me that opportunity.

Here's what I recall about that ten-week class, of which I may have been the youngest "student." My parents dropped me off once a week and disappeared for a while. Our class head off to a different section of the art museum where that day's activity would be conducted. Talk about getting exposed to art and developing art appreciation. The Middle Ages were especially memorable, with all those detailed embellishments on the armor, swords and the like. To this day I have enjoyed visiting art museums, galleries and artist's studios.

An interesting feature of the Psychology Today article is how music also contributes to long life. My only recommendation as regards live concerts is that you be careful to take care of your hearing. Who wants to live 10 years longer than their hearing lasts? This, I suppose, is one advantage of visual arts over rock concerts. There is no evidence that I'm aware of that a person went blind from looking at too many Van Goghs.

The 14 year study involved nearly 7,000 adults, claiming to demonstrate that "those who participated in cultural activities 'every few months or more' had a 31 percent lower risk of premature death."

See Wendy Rouse's paintings at Lizzards Gallery, Duluth
That's intriguing. After peer review the study was published in the British Medical Journal. FWIW the paper's authors are not suggesting that there is a causal link between arts appreciation and longer life, only that cultural activities and long life are correlative.

The authors of the study point to 8 ways the arts and longevity may be correlative.
1. Alleviates chronic stress and depression by facilitating face-to-face social interactions.
2. Enhances social capital, which builds individual and collective resources.
3. Reduces perceived social isolation and loneliness.
4. Promotes emotional intelligence, boosts social perception, and may increase empathy.
5. Increases physical activity and reduces sedentary behaviors, which benefits psychological and physical well-being. (EdNote: As opposed to becoming a lifelong couch potato)
6. May increase having a stronger sense of purpose in life.
7. Fosters creativity and imagination.
8. Arts-related activities, in addition to a wide range of other "leisure time" activities (e.g., gardening, having a hobby, going to church), may have a protective association with premature mortality.

The authors note that you do not have to be rich to enjoy the arts. Art openings are a regular feature of the Twin Ports arts scene, all free and all are welcome. Yes, it costs an arm and a leg to go to a show on Broadway, but there's plenty of college and community theater taking place around the country that is well within your means.

I'm probably just preaching to the choir. So be it. Will I see you at the next opening? I mean, when this quarantine lifts, of course.

Related Links
Twin Ports Art
A Virtual Gallery Hop Like No Other: The Louvre, Guggenheim and Local Art, Too
You can even see the world's greatest galleries while quarantined!
Do Art Lovers Live Longer?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Dylan Indeed Contains Multitudes

“I’m a man of contradictions, I’m a man of many moods
I contain multitudes.”--Bob Dylan


Of course Dylan contains multitudes. We've known this for ages, but only in more recent years have we discovered how vast the span of those multitudes really was.

He'd begun inhaling multitudes when he took deep dives into friends' record collections when he went to Dinkytown in Minneapolis upon leaving home. When he landed in New York Dylan's first stop was Izzy Young's Folklore Center at 110 MacDougal Street. It became a place to hang out, where he could continue his threshing of the American songbook.

I use the word threshing because it's the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. I'll carry that notion further and compare what he does to the magical process of baking bread. The ovens in Dylan's mind were continuously processing, reconfiguring all these human experiences into the songs of his experience.

This process of sifting, baking and serving his delicious aromatic product (songs) to the world also got him accused of plagiarism. What's apparent is that those accusations came from people who didn't understand the historical basis of intertextuality.

It wasn't till I heard Harvard Classics professor Richard F. Thomas speak at Duluth Dylan Fest in 2018 that the light went on most fully for me. Among other things, he talked about Intertextuality. At one point he cites a statement from T.S. Eliot: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

Dr. Thomas, who had been a lifelong Dylan fan, began to see Dylan's later source material more clearly than most because Thomas teaches the Harvard Classics and was thus more intimately acquainted with Ovid, Virgil and Homer than the average man or woman on the street. Here's an excerpt from an interview with Dr. Thomas by the editorial staff of Harvard's Persephone:

P: When did you first begin to notice intertextuality between Bob Dylan and classical authors?

RFT: It really wasn’t until 9/11. Dylan had an album that came out on that morning called “Love and Theft.” Now I had noticed intertextuality of a similar sort in 1997 with the song “Highlands” from the album Time Out of Mind, a very long, narrative song that 2 has the refrain “My Heart’s in the Highlands.” So [that was from] Robert Burns... But it wasn’t really until the 2001 album “Love and Theft” [that I noticed intertextuality with classical authors]…Now if the intertexts are activated in the mind of the listener, it’s not just Vietnam, the war of Dylan’s youth, it’s all of these literary wars, including the Roman wars of Aeneas and the Civil Wars, for which they in some way stand.

* * * *
Like many others who listened to I Contain Multitudes the day after it was released, my mind noticed how all these pieces were stitched together into a whole, but it would take a few days to isolate its component parts. Murder Most Foul similarly is an enormous patchwork quilt of references. What I'm going to suggest is. that there's a common denominator in the two.

If we consider I Contain Multitudes as a self-portrait, Murder Most Foul is a portrait of our generation. That is, that these are influences that we--or more precisely, the generation of Bob's peers--have shared in common. Wolfman Jack, conspiracy theories about the assassination we all witnessed and lived through, the music, films, a historical tsunami of life-shaping inputs, including those Dylan himself showered on us, sometimes pelting, sometimes nourishing.

The string of images in both these songs strikes me as similar in construction to Desolation Row of his early songwriting, another sprawling cast of characters lined up along a flowing music track that serves as a lyric background landscape.

David Kinney, in his book The Dylanologists, breaks Dylan fans into eight categories from Pilgrims and Collectors to Front Rower-ers and Scholars. And then there are the Lyric Dissecters. This last category is probably the most energized by these kinds of songs. There are simply so many endless clues to follow, rabbit holes to enter. As Dr. Rollason notes on his Bilingual Culture Blog, "‘I Contain Multitudes’, clocking in at 4:36 minutes and, while shorter than its lengthy predecessor, still replete with allusions in numbers enough to keep the planet’s Dylanites happily occupied."

* * * *
Page from The Measure of His Song, Holy Cow Press
The references to other poets have already been noted by many these past few days, most readily to Poe, Blake and Whitman.

I'm not going to do lyrics dissection here, as so many have been undertaking this already, but I did think the opening lines interesting enough to lay side by side with Whitman's Song of Myself 51.

Today and tomorrow, and yesterday, too
The flowers are dyin’ like all things do.
      --Dylan, I Contain Multitudes

The past and present wilt--I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
      --Whitman,'Song of Myself, 51 

Both poems begin with the trisection of time, Dylan's conveying a looking back, and Whitman still looking to fill his next fold.


As with all things Dylan, much more can be said. Though many things have changed since he first appeared on the scene, one thing that's unchanged is that you never know what revelations tomorrow will bring.

When I was young I audited a class on the Book of Revelation at Princeton Seminary taught by the esteemed Greek scholar Dr. Bruce Metzger. There's a sense in which dissecting Dylan lyrics can be a little like interpreting the Book of Revelation, so rich with symbols. At the end of the semester, after teaching all the various ways that this last book of the Bible had been interpreted he was asked by a student, "And what do you believe?" He smiled and said, "The Book of Revelation attracts people who are cracked, or leaves them that way."

Can the same be said of obsessive Dylanite Lyric Dissecters? I dunno. The puzzles are many and considerably problematic while remaining immensely entertaining.

“I carry four pistols and two large knives."

Related Links
"Go Away Bomb:"---Dylan Writes A Song for Izzy Young
Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song       
Whitman's Song of Myself, 51
Harvard Classics Prof Pulls Back the Curtain to Reveal New Insights on Dylan's Art
An Interview with Richard F. Thoomas on Bob Dylan and the Classic by the Harvard Persephone Editorial Staff 
Why Bob Dylan Matters

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Times They Are a-Changin' -- Pandemic Parody

I used to love when Mad Magazine would write new words to familiar songs. Sometimes it was satire and sometimes simply silly parody, but always fun.

Well, my wife and I have also done that quite a few times over the years. One of our favorites was a parody of a Simon & Garfunkel song, which we turned into a story about our sheltie, Sterling Blue Angel. It began... "She was a most peculiar dog. That's what Sharon Kappas said, and she should know, she lived upstairs from her..."

Anyways, with the COVID-19 epidemic on everyone's minds, it only seemed natural that sooner or later we'd be hearing songs about it. Susie began the weekend by offering up this pandemic-inspired revision to the familiar Dylan classic.

The Times They Are A-Changin'
 by Susie Newman
(with apologies to Bob Dylan)

Don’t gather ‘round people
Don’t go out and roam
Just stay in your houses
Oh please just stay home
And accept it that soon
We must all be alone
If your life to you is worth savin'.
For if you get this virus
You could sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come president, governors
Please heed the call.
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For those who get sick
Will blame you who have stalled.
The virus outside that's a-ragin',
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
Homeschool your children
Though it’s hard to understand
If your sons and your daughters
are beyond your command
They will to you be estrangin'
Give your best to them now,
And lend them your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast.
The sick ones now
Will all need their rest
The Pandemic now,
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin',
Please don’t minimize,
This really is vast
For the times they are a-changin'.

* * * *

Related Links
Sing Along with Mad
Dylan and Fifty Years of Change (Six Songs About Transitions)
For a list of parodies of classics by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter & others:
Berlin v. E.C. Publications, Inc.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Dylan Town: Minnesota Brown Talks About Life on the Iron Range and Its History, Past & Present (Part 2)

Minnesota's Aaron Brown
This is part two of a fascinating interview about the Iron Range with Minnesota Brown blogger/journalist Aaron Brown. Yesterday he shared some of the backstory about the expansion of the Oliver Mining Company that resulted in moving a third of the city (home and buildings) to a new location. He also shared how the culture shifted during the 20th century.

In this blog entry we'll look at the political landscape, including one of the biggest political issues facing the region, the battle between environmentalists and the mining interests as regards copper and other metals. Aaron Browns articulate insights will shed light on why these issues are not black and white.

A link to yesterday's post will be at the end of this one.

EN: The Northland once had a strong CPUSA component. During our Great Depression more than 10,000 people, especially Finns, were persuaded to join the future and go to Stalin’s Russia, primarily deceived by propaganda. How much did that happen here on the Range?

Aaron Brown: Yes, early 20th Century Iron Range mining communities had lots of socialist and some communist activity. And I've heard, more second hand than first, of some who left for Russia after the revolution. These were mostly Finns and they headed for Karelia, the region that borders Finland. There was already a large Finnish population there. Keep in mind, these were mostly people from Finland, who still spoke Finnish as their first language. I can't cite you dates or specifics, but I have heard that it proved to be a very bad decision for those who went. After about a year of living in a socialist utopia, with some American elements like baseball thrown in, Stalin grew wary of the Karelian Finns and threw most of them in the gulags. Some survived but most didn’t. It was a cautionary tale about revolutionary communism. These people who went were true believers in the cause. They didn't anticipate how quickly men like Stalin would consolidate power at the expense of the original ideals of the movement.

Humphrey campaigning for presidency, 1968.
EN: Hubert Humphrey made a name for himself by extricating the Communist Party USA from the DFL. CPUSA was a labor movement with strong roots in the Northland. Can you give a brief summary of that history for those who are not from this region?

AB: Of course, this is book. I’ll give you a paragraph.

When immigrants came from Europe to America, and then to northern Minnesota to find work, they brought with them many European languages and cultures. Some of them also brought political ideologies like socialism, anarchism, and communism and dozens of strains of all these movements. They were lured to America with promises of political and economic opportunity. When they realized that things here were surprisingly similar to conditions in Europe (and because they were too broke to go back) they set about to enact a democratic version of the same ideals they had been reading about back in Europe. Many who came to the Iron Range were already socialists. But, in time, they joined their own societies and clubs here as well.

The CP-USA was never all that big or important in local politics on the Range, but many immigrants were sympathetic to it. But the peak of socialist thought probably occurred before WWI and the first Red Scare, which caused Range miners to avoid talk of socialism for fear of economic reprisals.

Copper miners in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, 1905
EN: It’s my understanding that the Iron Range also has abundant copper reserves, but that there’s been an almost impossible barrier erected to prevent copper mining from occurring. It’s also my understanding that the environmentalists who oppose mining are opposed to gasoline powered cars and want more EVs. EVs are battery powered and copper is a primary resource required to make battery-powered cars. Is there no way to find a middle ground and have the mining and Green advocates find a solution that is safe and economically beneficial here?

AB: The chief barrier to copper mining in northern Minnesota is and always has been the cost of production. The general understanding that copper and other elements could be found in the region has been broadly understood for at least 80 years. The problem is that the ore is diffused within a vast amount of overburden and waste rock, requiring significant processing to extract. This has never been commercially viable. Nonferrous mining was seriously explored back in the 1970s with a large amount of political support. But that effort was abandoned because the companies doing the promising could never put the money together.

Some twenty years ago (!) talk of mining nonferrous minerals rose again, this time under the umbrella of PolyMet. In the aftermath of LTV’s closure in Hoyt Lakes there was a sucking void of political hopes and dreams, and this fit the bill. The argument was that by using new technology the company could crack the cost/benefit code to mine this site profitably. Not only that, they purported they could do it cleaner than any other copper mine in the world. Twin Metals joined in some years later promising the same near Ely.

Since then, most of what we hear about is related to the environmental risk of this form of mining. And that’s important, but not for the reasons most people think.

It might appear, for instance, that these mines would be running right now were it not for the obstinance of environmentalists. And it’s true that environmental opposition to these projects has been consistent, coordinated and, at times, effective. You might blame regulatory agencies like the MPCA or EPA for their cumbersome red tape and the piles of legal documents they collect and produce. But most of the longest delays have been related to asking the companies for cost-specific information that was withheld for strategic reasons.

PolyMet and Twin Metals are shell corporations, or what the business calls “junior miners.” There won’t be a PolyMet mine or a Twin Metals mine. Rather, there would be a mine run by a real mining company, probably Glencore and/or Antofagasta, respectively. Companies like these are cutthroat international wheeler-dealers. They won’t come in here with their billion dollars a pop unless they are getting a very good deal. So these junior miners, whose targets are really these big corporations, want to make these mines look as good as possible. That means vague permit language and non-binding promises about labor, production, and environmental impact. They don’t have to lie, they need only create enough gaps in the language for a company like Glencore to tear into vast chasms with their team of lawyers at some point in the future.

That’s why you see them talking about using union labor for construction (because all the local construction companies are union anyway) but not signing a non-compete clause with the United Steelworkers of America to seek to represent the workers in the eventual mines. The prior is an assumed cost, but the latter is something that would cost money down the line.

Chalcopyrite from Peru. 
Copper prices are low now and always volatile. It’s copper prices and cost of production that will really determine whether these mines open. The rest is rhetorical noise. Yes, demand for copper might increase going forward, but that assumes no other developments that might make copper wiring obsolete, or that recycling or other sources won't be able to provide what industry needs.

To your question, is there a way to mine Minnesota copper in an environmentally responsible way? The answer is yes, but that it’s very expensive and that efforts to make it less expensive in order to attract investors will lead to it being less environmentally responsible in the long run. The fear isn’t necessarily a large scale disaster while the mine is running — though that’s technically possible — but that the costs of mitigating the mine site after the mine is closed will be placed entirely on the state. Eventually, this would likely negate or even reverse the economic benefits of opening the mine in the first place.

EN: How long have you been writing Minnesota Brown?

AB: I’ve been writing this site since 2006. Prior to that I had used the site as a place to post my weekly newspaper column for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. (I left the Tribune in 2003, but continued to write a column on contract for them. In fact, I still do). But in the fall of 2006 I added the blog component.

EN: Thank you for taking time to share some of the insights you've gained during your life and career on the Range. 

Related Links
Karelia: A Finnish-American Couple In Stalin's Russia, 1934-1941
Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range
Minnesota Brown: Modern Life in Northern Minnesota
Dylan Town: Minnesota Brown Talks About Life on the Iron Range and Its History, Past & Present (Part 2)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Dylan Town: Minnesota Brown Talks About Life on the Iron Range and Its History, Past & Present (Part 1)

Mahoning-Hull-Rust Open Pit Mine--Hibbing, MN
When Bob Dylan’s "Murder Most Foul" was released a few weeks ago a friend shared with me how John F. Kennedy made three visits to this part of the world, creating quite a sensation each time. Two, in 1959 and 1960, were related to his running for the presidency. The third was in September of 1963, just weeks before his fatal visit to Dallas.

As I wrote about the visits I read the speech that JFK delivered in Hibbing. It intrigued me, but also raised some questions. In looking for answers I naturally turned to Aaron Brown, a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune and creator of the popular blog Minnesota Brown.

Just as many families have their genealogist who collects the family lore, so also many of our communities have local historians who research and share their region’s histories. Tony Dierckens (Zenith City Press) exemplifies this description for the City of Duluth. For the Iron Range we turn to Minnesota Brown, whose research has resulted in the book Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.

* * * *

EN: The Mahoning-Hull-Rust mine forced the city to move. How many homes were transported to new foundations 2 miles away? When did that happen and are those vacated lots still visible?

Moving houses to expand the mine. (MN Historical Society photo)
Aaron Brown: The move of Hibbing was more complex and drawn out than most contemporary histories take time to explain. Indeed, the Oliver Mining Company made a deal with the Village of Hibbing to move the town so that it could access the rich vein of iron ore under the townsite. The exact terms of the deal were unclear, even to townsfolk at the time. It was broadly understood that the Oliver Mining Company would build a new high school and village hall, that it would pay for the infrastructure, and that it would build downtown commercial buildings for existing businesses using low interest loans.

The Oliver, as it was called, would buy North Hibbing lots at market value, allowing people to move the structure if they wanted. However, when major businesses and property owners began to move, the value of the real estate in North Hibbing plummeted. That meant that anyone who waited to sell was given a pittance for their land. This led to a protracted lawsuit that the village would ultimately win, but that arguably cost Victor Power the 1922 race for Village President, a humbling fall from grace for the man who orchestrated the town's rise to prominence.

North Hibbing consisted of three 40-acre “additions.” The northernmost was the original townsite. Histories often refer to this as the “North Forty,” and it was subject to the most legal and political controversy. That’s also where the ore was located beneath a very dense, valuable commercial district. The North 40 was cleared first, very dramatically. Iconic buildings like the Power Theatre, Itasca Mercantile, and village hall, were razed while a steady stream of houses and stores puttered by on wheels. They were headed to a brand new townsite next to an annexed village called Alice. The new downtown was cut into undeveloped land to the northeast of Alice. All new, a city raised from the mud. For longtime residents of Hibbing, the sight was equal parts exhilarating and disconcerting.

Colonial Hotel being moved to a new resting place.
I don’t know exactly how many structures were moved. Hundreds. The entire North 40 was cleared quickly, but the other two additions of North Hibbing moved more slowly. Pillsbury (the middle section) and Southern addition moved bit by bit for decades. The last buildings weren’t moved or razed until the 1950s.

If you go to North Hibbing now you can still see the street layout from Southern Addition. Washington Street, Lincoln Street, Garfield and McKinley. You can see the foundation of the Lincoln High School and the old Carnegie Library. People camp there in the summer. But the heart of the old townsite has been atomized. Not only are the buildings and streets gone, but the very earth beneath them.

EN: The iron range is no longer just a blue collar culture here. What is the biggest industry on the Range? What are the signs that this is an uneasy synthesis of cultures?

AB: Mining remains a very large part of the Iron Range economy. It’s still the biggest industry in terms of GDP, but its employment numbers have dropped over the past four decades because of industry consolidation and automation. The Iron Range’s largest industry in terms of employment is health care. For instance, in Hibbing the largest employer is the hospital. Hibbing Taconite is #2. This is broadly true across the region. And more workers fall into the category of service workers than either health care or mining, but this is dispersed across many different kinds of generally low wage work and hard to classify.

Churches were moved, too. (MN Historical Society) More than 200
structures were moved from 1919 to 1921.
Because mining is a dominant force in the culture of the Iron Range it has retained political and social power despite losing economic power. Mining companies and workers alike want consistency. They want to keep mining uninterrupted for any reason, for as long as possible. When this is happening, everybody involved is making good money and living their best lives. Anything that disrupts that goal — markets, regulations, technology — is perceived as a threat not just to mining but to the whole region’s culture.

Now, the actual population could use some new industries, new people, new tech and ideas. But making that happen isn’t a priority for those committed to a mining-first culture. In fact, talk of bringing in people who either don’t care about mining or who might actually oppose it is broadly discouraged. People of that description generally find that there is a limit to how far they can go in local politics or cultural assimilation.

One specific example is the challenge in recruiting and keeping doctors and specialists. As I said, health care is the biggest industry and pays a lot of bills around here. But highly educated doctors tend to have highly educated spouses who want to do something meaningful with their lives. They struggle to find work outside of mining or health care, and are often stymied when they try new things. Similar for a lot of college educated professionals. If you like fishing, hunting and four-wheelers, you’re set. But if that doesn't interest you it’s tough sledding. There is a culture of support for educated professionals, but it operates more as an underground network than as an elite society. And for many that's just not appealing long term.

Economically, new entrepreneurs — no matter their politics — often feel it’s not worth trying to navigate a parochial network of local politicians and feckless bureaucrats that isn’t curious about anything other than mining. Especially when their high skilled human resources will have to come from someplace else, and might not be welcome if they do.

EN: With increased automation, it’s become apparent many of the jobs will never return. What are the mineworkers doing who no longer have work?

Mining was once far more labor intensive. (MN Historical Society photo)
AB: Well, this is a little more complex than the question implies. Automation and job losses have been happening slowly over many years. Layoffs can happen, but so does attrition. Many of the workers first affected by automation have long since died of old age. But going back to the localized depression of the 1980s, you saw a lot of miners leave the area, while others retrained for new work. In 2001 when LTV closed many were retrained in health care or other industry. But a lot of them found their way back into the industry when older baby boomers began to retire. And highly skilled people are also finding their way into the industry. If you can understand the computer code that is used to load trains or operate automated machinery you can be a miner as long as you like. But that’s a small subset of the bigger mining workforce.

It’s attrition mostly.

EN: This didn’t really happen overnight. Were there promises made – by mining companies or politicians or union leaders – that were never kept?

AB: This is a tough question to answer. There is a long and winding promise that began a century ago and still persists. That promise is that if you put your head down and stick with the company (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the union) you will always have work in the mines. This is an impossible promise to keep, but it has endured because demand has persisted. When the steel industry convinced Minnesota to underwrite the development of taconite in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s they bought another half century of the same promise. But you can't look at this from afar and say that it’s headed in a good direction for the long-term health of the region. A ton of ore can be mined with less and less labor each year.

More recent developments strongly suggest that the strength of unions in local politics was more a marriage of economic necessity than a “workers of the world unite” situation. It’s always been about keeping the trains rolling south while the checks wheel through everyone’s bank accounts.

TO BE CONTINUED
Tomorrow: Questions about CPUSA, Hubert Humphrey and Mining Today

* * * *
Related Links
Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range
Minnesota Brown
JFK's Speech to the Northland Shows What Hibbing Was Like During Dylan's Youth 
Pussyfoot Johnson Arrives to Clean Up Hibbing
Zenith City Press