Monday, August 31, 2020

The Bloody Nose Saloon

Photo courtesy Gary Firstenberg.
Gary Firstenberg sent this photo of The Bloody Nose Saloon and I couldn't help but think of my story The Nose, which I had written in the 90s and published on my original website.

I believe, if I'm not mistaken, the Bloody Nose Saloon is located in Deadwood, nestled snugly in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Here's how that story begins. To finish, follow the link below.

The crammed little bar sizzled with so much energy that it began to unsettle him. He wondered why he ever said he would meet his friends here.

His friends were late, and Ted’s brain started running on the hyperactive groove that, once out of control, often left him terrified and unsettled.

But Ted Krueger had a mind game he played to help him gain control of himself in these situations. He would focus on an object, enabling his thoughts — which at this point were so numerous and random that he felt overwhelmed by them — to narrow their scope. In this way he was able to harness them and feel he had some measure of control over himself.

He held the view that though feelings were nebulous and impossible to direct, with a great effort of will thoughts could be managed and coerced, and that one’s feelings would eventually come into alignment with the thoughts that preceded, and stirred, one’s emotions. His feelings of terror were often so immense that only a more immense distraction could deliver him from being tyrannized by his fears. Hence the game.

Finish reading my story here: The Nose

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Putting Marxism In Perpective: Brief Interview with Economics Professor Evan Osborne

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash
Near the beginning of August an article headline caught my attention: Economics professor barred from teaching class critical of Marxism to student body.

The professor in question was Evan Osborne of Wright State University, who received his Ph.D. in economics from UCLA in 1993. The striking feature of the article for me was the fact that there are five pro-Marxist economics classes taught at Wright State University, and this would be the only one critical of Marxism. The innocuous title of his class would be "Marxism: A History of Theory and Practice."

As a result of the publicity generated by media coverage of the school's opposition to Prof. Osborne's proposed class, things have changed. He's now going to get the opportunity to teach the curriculum he developed. (EdNote: He had taught this course in the past but it was not available to undergraduates.) After seeing The College Fix article I reached out to Professor Osborne to get further clarifications on some of these ideological economics matters.

EN: What is the appeal of Marxist economic ideology?

Evan Osborne: Market economies produce a lot of inequality in outcomes. They also produce continual progress across time, but people who are bothered by inequality right now, can only think of it as a result of some unfair process, don't view the ability to be free to start a business, buy what you want to buy and not what the government tells you you must buy, and other commercial freedoms as part of freedom more generally are prone to be fans of Marxism.

EN: What are its biggest flaws?

EO: Marxism fundamentally gives a small handful of people the power to direct the fates of millions. The results, when compared to when people are free to run their own lives, are of course miserable. Morally that is a problem already, but empirically it leads to mass terror when plans don't work out as planners forecast, and frequently mass famine when the government's plans don't work out.

EN: How would you differentiate between Marxian and the Socialist economics espoused by Left-leaning Democrats like Bernie Sanders?

EO: You are right to ask that, because they are different. But they have a common feature of supposing that a political process is better than a decentralized, competitive market process in producing wealth, and increasing amounts of it overtime. People like Senator Sanders call themselves democratic socialists, but if the senator and people like him ever got the kind of power that governments in Britain, France or Sweden had in decades past, the results would be the same as they were in those countries. I do fear though that today's American left is far more demagogic than these examples.

EN: What were your biggest takeaways, regarding how we understand China economically, from having taught in China, both Taiwan and Mainland.

EO: I actually never taught in China, although I spent several months there as a visiting scholar. I saw enough to know that actually China is a fairly free economy now, although considerably more corrupt than Taiwan. Honestly, I think that the processes through which mainlanders get their clothing, food, and consumer goods generally is not that different from how it happens in Taiwan, although it is dramatically different from the circumstances in China in 1979. The dramatic increase in the average wealth in China, and the obvious signs of it in Chinese cities, is actually one of the great human rights victories of the postwar era, although clearly the Chinese government violates many human rights daily.

EN: We live in a broken world and there's no perfect economic system. What are Capitalism's biggest shortcomings?

EO: Capitalism makes some people very rich, and those people may be able to influence the government to limit their competition, making them harder to displace through the usual market process. If by "capitalism" you mean completely unregulated businesses, clearly many environmental problems would be generated.

EN: What is the role of incentives when it comes to economics and the creation of wealth?

EO: Irreplaceable.

EN: In January I read an article that said for the first time in human history half the world was middle class or above. That article attributed it to Capitalism. Would you say this was an accurate assumption?

EO: Yes.

EN: Do you have a blog or place where people can read more of your ideas?

EO: I don't have a blog or anything like that, although I have written three books, two of them academic and one textbook for my own students. They are all available through Amazon.

* * * *

List of unique or at least distinctive courses designed by Evan Osborne:
Economics of State and Society; Marxism: Theory and Practice; Adam Smith; Economics of Diversity; Financial and Economic Instability; The Great Depression; Globalization; Business and Society.

Related Links
Marxism: Theory and Practice (The curriculum Prof. Osborne developed.)
List of scholarly articles published by Prof. Osborne
Life Among the Academic Radicals
Books by Evan Osborne (at Amazon)

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Today Is "Play Music on the Porch Day"

At some point this afternoon I will break out my harmonicas 
and do a shuffle on the front porch. Will I see you here?

We've got flowers and ripening tomatoes on the front porch adding visual harmonies.
What's on your playlist today? (Sacred Heart, Dylan Fest 2017)
By this time next year I will be playing this Hohner Bob Dylan Signature Series Harmonica

Friday, August 28, 2020

Flashback Friday: A Dozen Mark Twain Quotes To Carry Through the Weekend

Illustration by the author
No question Mark Twain was one of America's great wits. Do you think he would have hosted a television show had he lived in the latter part of the last century? When I read some of these quotes, especially the latter ones on this page, I can't help but think of Groucho. His advice for writers is as pointed and spot on as his observations about life. It's interesting how Twain's observations and witticisms never go out of style.

EdNote: Most of this was posted in 2015. I added one and also boldfaced a pair that I thought especially relevant today.

“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

“God created war so that Americans would learn geography.”

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

“If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed.” 

“Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.”

"Definition of a classic — something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read."

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.”

“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.”

“A gentleman is someone who knows how to play the banjo and doesn't.”

“There is nothing so annoying as having two people talking when you're busy interrupting.”

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

* * * *

You can read all the Mark Twain quotes you want here on Wikiquote. I just wanted to help get you started, in the event that it's been a while since you dug into Twain.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Rocketman Reveals Elton John's Audacity and the Aching Loneliness That Contributed to His Powers

Finally saw Rocketman the other night, the Elton John biopic that is part Broadway musical, part psychiatric study. The film-maker's attempt to create a movie as audacious and over-the-top as the subject himself failed for me, but my appreciation of Elton John's music remains undiminished.

The film begins in a group therapy session with a dozen people seated in chairs in a circle as you might expect to find in an AA meeting. The people are all in ordinary street clothes, and then this guy walks in wearing a bright orange outfit with horns and wings. He begins by listing all his addictions. The, using flashbacks, we learn the story of his life.

Despite my dislike of certain aspects of the film, it triggered a number of thoughts that I kept reflecting on afterwards. First, though I need to clear the air about what I did not like. The choreographed dance numbers.

When the Coen Brothers re-created these over-the-top scenes with dancers or sea-swimmers in Hail Caesar, it felt like it was intended to be a satirical re-creation of those 30's Hollywood musicals, which actually worked in films like The Wizard of Oz and Oklahoma. In this instance it felt out of place. Or maybe it's just that I dislike musicals and the problem is me. I know people who are wowed by this kind of choreography. If you like that kind of thing, I will accept that I am the odd man out. This did not kill my appreciate for the story.

That being said, the film did a fantastic job of revealing the challenges of success and that well-worn adage, "It's lonely at the top."

When the movie was over, a haunting line from Hendrix reverberated through me: "Loneliness is such a drag." Along with that came the chorus of Eleanor Rigby: "Ah look at all the lonely people." Followed by a remark that Kurt Vonnegut made to me when I said how much I liked Hesse: "You must be lonely."

* * * *

In show business people frequently assume a stage name for various reasons. I'd always assumed it was to protect their families, which is a noble motive, or to put on a more glamorous identity. Thus, Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. became John Denver and Frances Ethel Gumm became Judy Garland. For Elton John his name change emerged from an ice cold childhood that he simply felt compelled to escape, and a self-hate that bound him in chains.

In becoming Elton John, he could become anything he wanted. Elton was someone quite different from Reginald Dwight, and he would keep it that way.

In the past I have written about audacity in show business, specifically as regards its usefulness as a marketing tool. 

The new thought I had about audacity, though, is this. It's not audacity alone that makes greatness. Instead, audacity only works when the thing you are drawing attention is golden to begin with.

What I mean here is this. Muhammed Ali recited poetry and made outrageous claims, but he delivered the goods in the ring, taking out Sonny Liston in two successive fights and become a legendary boxer. Bob Dylan likewise was audacious, but he backed it up with incomparable songwriting.

In Rocketman we early on get a glimpse of how remarkably talented young Elton John was as a pianist. Had he been an average talent who dressed in over-the-top attire show after show all those years, he would not have captured the audiences he captured in concerts. Nor would he have sold over 300 million records.

The Real Elton John & Bernie Taupin
Bernie Taupin
I first heard of Elton John in the spring of 1970. Your Song was getting air time and when I saw his album at the Farmer's Market in Bound Brook, NJ I purchased it instantly. These were the days when you absorbed liner notes, and this was the first time I saw the name Bernie Taupin. I vaguely recall someone commenting that Elton John was a homosexual and Bernie Taupin his partner, as if this were a negative against their music. "So what?" I remember thinking. The songs were great. The music was great.

As it turns out Taupin was a lyricist, and in Elton John he found the perfect vehicle for what he'd been writing. Theirs was a mutual admiration society type of thing. A gifted writer meets a gifted song-score creator who is likewise a compelling performer. Each proved to be impossibly valuable to the other. Rodgers and Hammerstein come to mind here.

"Take Me To The Pilot" and "Border Song" and "The King Must Die" on that first album I bought showed that Elton John was going to be more than a one hit wonder. The hits kept coming.

Taron Egerton as Elton.
Taron Egerton
One of the bright spots in this film had to be the acting of Taron Egerton, who played the Elton John character. He not only acted the role, he sang the songs. Many reviewers at said Egerton deserved an Academy Award for the role, and even though he didn't grab the Oscar there, he did receive the nod at the Golden Globes for Best Performance as an Actor.

The Magic of His Music
As noted earlier, Elton John's tunes, the music with which he clothed Taupin's lyrics, we so often effective because it channeled his inner loneliness with an ethereal quality you just can't capture in words alone. Hence the power behind "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues." And again, that loneliness theme leaps out with these aching lines:

Loneliness was tough
The toughest role you ever played
Hollywood created a superstar
And pain was the price you paid

The power isn't simply the lyrics, but the haunting melody that carries these words on wings. Along with a delivery that comes from someone intimately acquainted with the emotion.

When all is said and done, it's a "big" film about a man who has been a very big star, one of many whose careers were birthed in the Sixties.

Here's something to take you away.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

What do Crytsal Bridge, Bill Murray, Matt Oman and The Mask Police have in common?

We're nearing the end of August and thus far it's been the most unusual year of my life. Many years have been marked unanticipated events that either happened (60's assassinations, 9/11) or didn't happen (Y2K), no year has been as life-changing in terms of its effect on behavior and the economic impact, nor the variety (surge in violence in the cities and racial friction).

In short, the year is two-thirds complete and I wish I could say that the worst is behind us but with an election ahead and no end to the violence in sight, I have a foreboding about what's
to come.

Against this backdrop, here are a few links that can serve as miniature diversions for whatever comes our way in the week ahead.

1) My satirical poem The Mask Police was published this past week in No Crime In Rhymin'.

2) Bill Murray has made an industry of his deadpan demeanor. Someone that that in addition to playing roles in films, he might be a good candidate to be inserted into famous paintings from history. It's an imaginative stroll through art history not unlike Woody Allen's Zelig. Here's the link.

3) While visiting the garage gallery of Matt Oman a few weeks back I learned about the Arkansas art museum Crystal Bridges in the vicinity of Branson. There are many great exhibits there, including an Ansel Adams exhibit for photography buffs, but Deborah Sverbers After The Last Supper, produced with 20,736 spools of thread, is utterly mind-blowing. Follow this link to learn more:

4) The images on this page are Matt Oman's. We met at an art show in 2012 and have stayed in touch since. This is how I began my review of his gallery in 2018:

Unconventional means someone who doesn't follow conventions. Matt Oman's garage is not a garage at all. It's an art gallery. I've known people who can't use their garages because they're so full of clutter. I have not known any who turned their garage into a gallery. (I do know a few who have converted their garage into an art studio though.) 
You can read more about Matt Oman here.


Onward and upward. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Twitter Tweet About Covid in Uganda Stimulates Discussion

Christmas at an orphanage in Uganda, pre-Covid. As a result of the
economic lockdown this orphanage in Kampala had to close.
Twitter is a remarkably useful platform. You can follow individuals, or you can do searches for topics and see what is being said about that topic, any topic. You can type in the word "Riots" and see all the places in the world where riots have been taking place. You can also type in the names of places and see what is happening there. You can follow countries or cities where you have friends, or simply places you are curious about. And you can also see responses from others to all these things, often being carried on like an out of control bar fight. It's Reality TV in some ways, though a little more raw and less edited.

I know a few people in Uganda so I check in via Twitter to see what has been happening there since the lockdown.  Here's a Tweet that caught my attention last night.

* * * *

News Flash!
Uganda (43,000,000 people), where Hydroxychloroquine is eaten like candy due to malaria, have had 20 deaths.

Not 20,000!
Not 2,000!
Not 200!


* * * *
In checking the factuality of this at the Global COVID-19 Dashboard, I find that there are now 22 deaths. There have been a little over 2300 cases. The country has been in lockdown, which explains some of it, but there are 43 million people and it's curious to see so little impact in many of these poorer countries.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Hydroxychloroquine is not recommended (a) because it is not effective as a treatment for Covid-19 and (b) because it has side effects.

The Food & Drug Administration also cautions against the use of Hydroxychloroquine outside of the hospital or in a clinical study.

According to this BBC story, Uganda reported its first Covid death in late July. The BBC underscores the strictness with which their lockdown has been enforced. In fact more people had died at the hands of the enforcers of the lockdown than had died from the virus (at the time the story was published.)

This article in Science magazine states that scientists have noticed the low death counts in Africa but can't understand the reasons, since the virus does seem prevalent. "The pandemic appears to have spared Africa so far. Scientists are struggling to explain why."

* * * *
Here are several Tweets in response to the Tweet I shared above:

A Canadian in Germany  
Probably not like candy but as a medication against malaria. People will say the average age is in the twenties but I guess there are more than 20 older ones, actually a lot more. The CFR in basically all "malaria countries" is much lower than in EU and US. The difference is HCQ

Hey...I'm Ugandan and offended ...though the deaths are just 20...we dont eat Hydrochloroquine like candy we take as medicine besides..we use masks,sanitize regulary and at times keep the social distancing ....thank you

Matt Young
I go to Uganda every year! Ugandans are amazing people! I love Uganda. The people were promised masks by the government and they didn’t get any. I talked to one of my contacts who said 2 of those cases were falsified because the Dr’s were paid to lie. God bless Uganda.

They are falsified deaths

Mike B
that's why the MSM don't talk about it

RIP critical thinking

I have been asking why we haven't heard about all the deaths we were supposed to expect from under developed countries? Well now we know why they haven't happened! Take note WORLD.

Graeme Goodall
Which begs the question why hydroxychloroquine was withdrawn from the shelves in all European and North American pharmacies just prior to lockdown? Why was The Lancet commissioned by the WHO to brand this safe,effective treatment 'dangerous'.

Daydrinking Drunkard
Replying to @jzippy84 and @NJDeptofHealth 
You still here pushing a bogus miracle drug??? The study doesn't prove shit. Good-bye, knucklehead

* * * *
If nothing else, the Twitter stream is an immediate and unmediated place to find information you won't find elsewhere, and misinformation. If you read thoughtfully, though, you can certainly get a pretty good sense of what is happening.

This brings to mind the 2008 event that showed me the power of Twitter. Here are the two posts I wrote back then in response to the Mumbai Hotel incident:
Mumbai Heartbreak Hotel
Why Mumbai Massacre Matters To Us

Just sowing seeds. Make the most of your day. When it's over it will be gone forever.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Noteworthy Steinbeck Notes and Quotes

This past week I've been reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It's possibly the last of Steinbeck's major works that I'm finally getting around to reading after having gone through a "Steinbeck phase" earlier in my life.

From his opening descriptions of the Salinas Valley one is dazzled by Steinbeck's linguistic dream-weaving. His patient character development and vivid psychological profiles reflect the unfathomable landscapes of the soul that make us human.

The 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to him "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception." Upon reading Steinbeck again, it's easy to see why the Nobel Committee was sufficiently impressed with his writing and impelled to award him this prize.

Here are some excerpts from his work that reflect his prose and perspectives on the world we live in. Much has changed since the Dust Bowl days of The Grapes of Wrath, yet our essential human and the struggles we face to maintain our dignity remain unchanged. In this sense, the great writers are timeless.

* * * *

John Stenbeck. Public domain.
"We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome."
--In Awe of Words

"In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other."
--Journal Note, 1938

"In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable."

For man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.
--Grapes of Wrath

There are no ugly questions except those clothed in condescension.
--East of Eden

It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
--Sweet Thursday

No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.
--The Winter of Our Discontent

To be alive at all is to have scars.
--The Winter of Our Discontent

No one wants advice, only corroboration.
--The Winter of Our Discontent

Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.
--Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Related Links
Conversations with John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck - Writers Take Sides 1938

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Bluegrass State Photos Bring Back Memories

People and places of Kentucky
Courtesy Gary Firstenberg

aka Muddy Waters

Grave of Chester Arthur Burnett. Howlin' Wolf features
prominently in Dylan's Murder Most Foul.

My grandfather was born there (in Eastern Kentucky), and his father and his grandfather. I remember visiting my great-grandfather when he lived on the mountain in Eastern Kentucky across from Yellow Rock, and later again when he had moved to Bear Track, population 36 at the time. I can trace my roots back through great-great grandparents and their parents all the way back to Daniel Boone, whose offspring I am. "Daniel Boone was a man..."

I have so many memories, including visiting the places where the newborn Abe Lincoln lived, one being pictured above. Mammoth Cave, Cumberland Lake, Gethsemani, the Trappist Monastery where Thomas Merton is buried. After I'd grown there were business trips to Louisville for truck shows and National Street Rod Association events, and to Chevy Chase for diesel truck competitions.

In short, it's a beautiful state with a lot of history for me personally.

* * * *
Photographer Gary Firstenberg sent me these fotos from Kentucky as he continues on his points-of-interest road trip through the Midwest.

Related Links
Gary Firstenbergs Recent Midwest Travels
Best of Gary Firstenberg Collection

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Jane Kim Shares Thoughts On Toastmasters, Power and Powerlessness

The pandemic has altered many aspects of our lives in 2020, but it hasn't stopped our lives altogether. It's just been a matter of making adjustments. One such adjustment has been the advent of Zoom.

Zoom videoconferencing has made it easy for companies to transition to the cocooning now common for the past seven months. And for our local Toastmasters club it's had some special perks because a few of our members have attended meetings in other parts of the country and the world, and occasionally we have had guests Zoom in from elsewhere.

Jane Kim
At our Toastmasters meeting Thursday Jane Kim gave an interesting speech about how we carry ourselves and its impact on both ourselves and others. I asked for permission to share her talk here and a little about herself.  Her talk follows this brief interview.

EN: How did you become interested in being part of Toastmasters?

Jane Kim: I became interested in Toastmasters after some folks from my inner circle encouraged me to check it out. I was working for two public access broadcast television stations in the Twin Cities when I joined one of the local clubs there and, while I was exposed to much journalism and communication while working at these two jobs, I still had this desire to polish up my skills. I joined the Plymouth club in the Twin Cities in November of 2019 and when I learned that I got hired at FOX 21 Local News in Duluth, I decided to jump right into the Duluth Toastmasters Club, mainly to make great connections in the Northland and to keep working on my skills.

EN: What have you learned through your involvement with Toastmasters?

JK: I've learned that no one is a perfect speaker, which is a good thing! Everyone has something that they can improve on. I've learned for myself that I tend to speak with a lot of um's and and's, and I tend to rush when I speak (I consider that to be a nervous tic of mine). I would say the Ah Counter's role and the variety of Evaluators for my speeches have been key to my growth in these areas. But on the other hand, I've learned that in a supportive and encouraging environment like the one at Duluth Toastmasters, you can reach the goals that you set for yourself. For instance, during the most recent speech that I gave, I was able to use gestures naturally and effectively, even during a Zoom call! I'm learning a whole lot through my participation in Toastmasters, and I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to take part in such a sweet group!

* * * *
Let Your Light Shine

Presence. What allows for someone to have a great or not so great presence?

It was at a garage sale where I stumbled upon a book that would shift my perspective about body language and how your body contributes to changing your mind. We were covering rummage sales and the summer trends of selling one’s old treasures for a story at work, and I think it was the second or third garage sale we went to where I found the book Presence by Amy Cuddy for a measly two dollars.

I wasn’t too familiar with Cuddy’s work – I watched part of her TED talk maybe a few years ago, but it wasn’t until I actually read her book Presence that my understanding of the effectiveness of body language changed.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
There’s a part in her book where talks about feeling powerful and powerless. It’s actually interwoven throughout the entirety of the pages in the book, but Cuddy basically makes the claim that feeling powerful and powerless are two types of dispositions one can have. One can feel powerful, feeling decisive and confident and ready to take on the world, or one can feel powerless, indecisive, insecure, defeated.

As she mentions in her book, power makes us approach while powerlessness makes us avoid. When one feels powerless, not only do our minds have thoughts of insecurity and defeat, we also quote constrict our posture, tightening, wrapping, and making ourselves smaller (limbs touching torso, chest caved inward, shoulders slumped, head lowered, posture slouched). We also use restricted gestures and speech by hesitating, rushing, using a small vocal range, a high pitch and so on.

She goes on to say that when we are feeling powerless, in virtually every way that we can, we make ourselves smaller. Rather than take up more space, we take up less – through our postures, our gestures, our walking and even our voices. We shorten, slouch, collapse, and we restrict our body language end quote.

In response to this, one can only see that those watching us will find us also powerless. Did you know that if you stand in a powerful pose – something like this, this or this – will actually change the hormones in your brain? Yes, the body indeed can change the mind. According to Presence, the body and the brain are a part of a single integrated complicated beautiful system.

“I don’t sing because I’m happy,” said William James, “I’m happy because I sing.” Let that sink in for a minute. It’s not because of the emotional cues of the song that makes one happy but you’re happy because you participate in the act of singing.

According to studies sponsored by Oregon and Harvard universities, doing power poses leads to a high level of testosterone and low levels of cortisol. Testosterone is connected with dominance while cortisol is a stress hormone. According to an article by, people holding power poses tended to be more confident, authoritative, assertive and relaxed while those in low power role poses had low levels of testosterone and high levels of cortisol. When we decide to do something like asking someone out on a date or raising your hand in class or volunteering, we consider the possible benefits or the possible costs of the action. Benefits being a new relationship or being able to say what we think and costs being looking foolish in the eyes of others. If we are constantly focusing on the costs of the action, then we miss out on the decisions that we can make and opportunities to feel powerful in the moment. I don’t mean to keep quoting this book, but presence is the way you carry yourself and is a source of personal power. It’s the key that allows you to unlock yourself, she says, your abilities, your creativity, your courage and even your generosity.

I hope that both you and I learn the secret to finding our presence.

Related Links
Duluth Toastmasters Club 1523 
Duluth Toastmasters Club 1523 on Facebook
Meet Duluth Toastmasters Club 1523: Dave Boe and Randine LePage
More Toastmasters Testimonials: Katy, Wulfgar and Yana
A Visit with Transition Life Coach Yana Stockman

Friday, August 21, 2020

Duluth Farmer's Market 2020: Veggies, Flowers and Other Signs of the Times

Wednesday we did a walkthrough at the Duluth Farmer's Market on the corner of 14th Avenue East and Third Street. Susie's parents met at this Farmer's Market way back when. The market is now a century old, with a lot of history under that roof. 

In recent years it seems that a lot of new "Farmer's Markets" have sprung up in the Twin Ports, but none compare to those glory days when this market was moving truckloads of produce. 

One thing for sure, growing up on a farm teaches you a lot about what real work is. Picking cukes when its in the mid-thirties and raining may not be the most fun you've ever had, but you do what you have to do to get everything picked and washed so it looks desirable come Saturday morn. 

Much more can be said, as always. Here are the hours so. you can check it out. There's something for everyone.

Every Wednesday (2-5:00 PM) & Saturday 
(8:00 AM-12:00 PM) 
May through October
At the corner of 14th Ave E. and 3rd St.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Let's Face It. A Lot of People Are Suffering. Here Are Some Links to Useful Grief Resources

Losses can be devastating. It can be like a wound that initially feels numb, but then the pain hits you with an unexpected intensity. For some, the wound can become infected and require a more complicated healing process. Over time, the wound may heal, but the scar remains as a reminder of the pain and loss you endured. For some, the wound never fully heals.
--Dr. Ron Newman

Loss has always been a part of life, and alongside loss is that inner anguish we've come to label "Grief." The above is a quote from my brother's article Seeking Balance When Experiencing Grief.

I've already noted in several blog posts that 2020 is a year very few could have imagined. The economic challenges are pervasive and news stories somewhat striking, but when families lose loved ones, it's very personal. We're not just statistics. Their absence, especially when sudden and unexpected, leaves a massive hole in our hearts.

For this reason it's good to be aware of resources that are available to soften the wound and aid in healing. That is the purpose of this blog post. The trigger for this post was discovering that Quiet Heart Music has a new website:

* * * *

So far COVID deaths are currently more than three-quarters of a million globally, more than 170,000 in the U.S. There may be a few, but most people have friends and family members who have had hearts broken this year, and more to come. Are you among those who have lost a loved one?

Pianist Henry Wiens has spent a lifetime producing and sharing music designed to comfort those who are hurting. Through Quiet Heart Music Henry sought to provide a meaningful, inexpensive alternative to sending flowers to friends, co-workers and employees who have lost loved ones. Flowers are a temporary token, but you can tell that many people today are requesting that "in lieu of flowers" you should consider giving to a charity that the loved one cared about.

Giving music that truly heals those who are left behind is another alternative. (EdNote: My intention here is not to put florists out of business. It is to add options to friends and family, especially an option that contributes to the well-being of someone you care about, the ones left behind.)

I found this note about the gift of music in one of my old journals:

Music is one of the more fantastic gifts of God. It lifts the soul on wings to ethereal inner spaces. Nothing more effectively breaks life’s monotonous hold on us, transporting us to the portals of paradise. How do musicians and composers do it? From nothing & emptiness they bring forth combinations of sounds, melodies, themes, so pregnant with feeling it seems an inexplicable mystery. Rainbows of sound, trembling with life, causing our hearts to break open with rapture, or sweet sorrow.--Journal Notes, June 30, 1993

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The new Quiet Heart website allows you to listen to Henry's music free, something I heartily recommend. Then purchase the CDs that you most relate to. (I have all, but also have favorites.) In addition to being a potent form of healing, Henry's music is perfectly suited as a background track for writers and artists. It doesn't intrude. Like a light breeze on a summer's eve it carries you along on its wings.

* * * *

Another truly valuable feature of the site is a section titled Grief Resources. One page in this section has links to an overabundance of articles on grief by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt. In one of these he writes, "Grief is not a train track toward acceptance. Instead, it is more of a 'getting lost in the woods' and almost always gives rise to a mixture of many thoughts and feelings at once.

There are links to more than 50 articles dealing with all aspects of grief. Some deal with grief in general, some with helping you in your grief, or with helping others through their grieving. Others deal with grief with regards to specific situations like suicide, or grieving children or teens. Life is hard, and I know first hand how isolating it is to suddenly lose someone close when you are a teen. There are even sections to help hospice workers and funeral directors.

Visit this page for the grief resources noted above:

For what it's worth, Henry Wiens is a beautiful man with a beautiful spirit. You can feel it in his music.

Related Links
Henry Wiens Talks About the Power of Music as an Agent of Healing and Hope
Healing the Hurting Through Music
Quiet Heart Testimonials
A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Photographer Gary Firstenberg's Recent Midwest Travels and Links to Five More Photographers

Related Links
All the photos here are courtesy Gary Firstenberg, lifelong entrepreneur and rolling stone whom I met last week on his tour of the Northland. His work has been shared via a variety of formats from cards to breath mint tins. You can find a link to his work below.

I've enjoyed friendships with a number of photographers in my career and in my blogging. For this reason I am including numerous additional links to photography websites whose work you will appreciate and may consider for potential future assignments.

Gary Firstenberg

Photographer Andrew Perfetti

John Heino Photography

Michael K Anderson

Jeff Frey Photography
Giclee Reproduction

Karl Dedolph (Street Photography)

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