Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Serious Whimsy: Adam Swanson @ the Great Lakes Aquarium

Yesterday I grabbed an opportunity to see the Adam Swanson exhibition at the Great Lakes Aquarium. A lot of people are unaware of the GLA as a place where local artists have been showing their work, and the theme of Adams collection of painting here dovetails nicely with the vision and mission of the GLA.

This isn't Swanson's first show at the Aquarium. In May 2015 I attended an opening there in which singer/songwriter Mary Bue performed. (Read about MB's new album release here.) Whereas Swanson's distinctive style is colorful and uplifting, his content is serious as in this specific set of paintings which feature Minnesota's endangered species. Birds, bats, aquatic creatures, pollinators and more are all at risk in this region.

The Slender Madtom feasts on small insects and little boys. (Just kidding)
I believe the Great Lakes Aquarium is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. If you have not been to the aquarium in a while, there's plenty new. If you are only there to see Adam's work you can park in the lot over by Playfront Park and walk over, or pay the $5 to the parking attendant and support a local tourist attraction of note.

"Ebb and Flow"
Northern Long Eared Bat
"The Museum"
"Crystal Darter"
This exhibit will be on display through the end of August.
(If I have my facts straight.) Check it out.

Related Links
Ten Minutes with Painter Adam Swanson (2010)
Adam Swanson at the Magnolia Cafe (2019)
Adam Swanson Art
BE SURE TO READ PROF. CRICKET'S Environmental Blog on Adam Swanson's show:
A Delightful Way to be Introduced to Endangered Species

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Last Days of Ambrose Bierce: Revisiting the Mystery

Ambrose Bierce, 1892.. (Public domain)
This past week I read again "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce. The story is about a hanging that takes place during the Civil War. I remember reading it in English class at some point in high school, and it made an impression on me. I probably read it again in the 1980s when I was on a short story binge, aiming to produce stories of my own.

This past week I read it one more time, savoring the detail and the manner in which Bierce tells the story. The surprise ending would be no surprise, even after forty or fifty years, but the story remains a good read because Bierce is a keen storyteller.

Yesterday I happened upon an article called "The Mysterious Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce" and it brought to mind Carlos Fuentes' The Old Gringo, a novel about the last days of Ambrose Bierce. Fuentes is a powerful Mexican author in the same league as Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges, both of them masters of Magical Realism.

The Old Gringo is a novel that strives to shed light on the last days of Ambrose Bierce, which to this day have been shrouded in mystery. I found it a compelling read, in part because Fuentes is a superb writer and in part because of having spent a year in Mexico myself. The book is important because it provides a deeper understanding of Mexico's somewhat troubled history and the roots of the revolution of 1910-1920.

Bierce was a famously jaundiced and influential satirist, critic, short story writer, editor and journalist. A contemporary of Mark Twain, his incisive wit influenced writers like H.L. Mencken and Kurt Vonnegut.

Fuentes uses this tale not only to share what possibly happened to Ambrose Bierce, but also to show what happened to Mexico a century ago. The best way to understand Mexico before the Revolution is to think of the Plantation lifestyle in our United States. In Mexico, the people weren't "owned" the way plantation owners owned slaves, but the peasants and workers might as well have been. They had no rights, and the wealthy hacienda owners took advantage of the power they had over the peasants.

Gregory Peck and Jimmy Smits in Old Gringo
Hollywood went on to make a film based on Fuentes' book titled Old Gringo, starring Gregory Peck as the aging Ambrose Bierce and Jane Fonda as a naive young American woman who has gone to Mexico to teach English to a rich hacienda family. When she arrives the wealthy family has been run off by revolutionaries. The film, detailing their experiences in the midst of this civil war, got poor reviews from the critics and viewers alike, though it somehow connected with me due to my having read the book and lived there at one time. For whatever reason, I overlooked its shortcomings.

Bierce was a curmudgeon and an aging one at that when he slipped south of the border to flirt with his final destiny. The themes of the Fuentes book are dimly reflected in the film, but having the book inside you helps you better understand the significance of the story, what "the revolution" was really all about. It was a collision course: Bierce and the Revolution. But Bierce seems more akin to the Mexican tragic spirit than our American happy-go-lucky silliness and superficial fake depth.

In "The Mysterious Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce"author Chris Opfer presents alternative endings to the famous scribe's life. His demise in Mexico is but one story. Other possibilities put forth include death by his own hand in Texas or at the Grand Canyon. You can read Opfer's speculations here.

* * * *
I would be remiss not to include some quotes from one of Ambrose Bierce's most famous works, The Devil's Dictionary. The first half of the dictionary was published in 1906 as The Cynic's Word Book. Upon completion the A to Z volume was published in 1911 as The Devil's Dictionary.

Here are a handful of entries to give you the flavor of this work.

Abnormal, adj. Not conforming to standards in matters of thought and conduct. To be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested.

Accord, n. Harmony.

Accordion, n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.

Alone, adj. In bad company.

Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills.

Once, adj. Enough.

Twice, adv. Once too often.

Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.

Related Links
The Old Gringo
The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce: A Love Story
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Why Our Current "Cancel Culture" Is a Clear and Present Danger

Photo by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash
"Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction." So begins the listing in Wikipedia.

Intelligent people on both the Left and the Right recognize this as a serious issue and a practice that itself should not be abandoned. (EdNote: That sentence was amusing to write because there are people on the Left who do not see any intelligence on the Right, and vice versa.)

Thinking people of all persuasions recognize that the best ideas come from hearing all sides on a matter. This is why President Lincoln's cabinet was comprised of people with differing opinions. This is also why Steve Jobs, when he was with Pixar, preferred to skip meetings where decisions were being debated. He feared, correctly, that some people would only share ideas that they believed he would like, instead of the potentially best ideas, which may have been contrarian.

Here are excerpts from three articles, the first being a three minute YouTube video created from a longer podcast on this theme.

* * * *

How Cancel Culture Violates Intellectual Freedom

"An open society is a place that has a lot of intellectual pluralism," says Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of the landmark 1993 book Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought.

"Canceling comes from the universe of propaganda…it's about making an idea or a person socially radioactive."

In this short video essay, Rauch explains why canceling is different from criticism. The open society "is the most successful social principle ever invented" because it allows individuals to make errors as they seek out the truth.

* * * *

'Cancel Culture' Is a Dangerous, Totalitarian Trend

How many of us think twice before posting a legitimate message—not because the post is offensive per se, but because of the possible repercussions if some numbskull interprets it the wrong way?

We're allowing negation by society's dullest and most easily offended members. There's nothing wrong with calling BS on people's writing. It is wrong, however, to incite mobs to destroy their livelihoods.

A Letter on Justice and Open Debate

"The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty."

"As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences."

* * * *

In a lighter vein, I wrote a poem about this topic. It's titled Cancel Culture.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Bicycle Shortages Plague Nation During Pandemic

In May the NYTimes had a features story titled Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait.

May 18, 2020 - The United States is facing a shortage of bicycles as anxiety over public transportation and a desire to exercise has sent the demand surging.

In June, an Associated Press story said that people have been buying up bicycles like toilet paper, leaving stores cleaned out. Part of this is due to fitness freaks locked out of gyms, but also due to people wanting to commute and do social distancing. It's the biggest spike in bike sales since the 1970s oil crisis.

Painting by Adam Swanson
MPR had a July story that was headlined, "Sales boom, factory shutdowns leave bikes in short supply amid pandemic."

The story by Emily Bright included an anecdote about a woman in Plymouth, MN "who hadn’t owned a bike in years. But when the pandemic closed gyms and so many other parts of daily life, she started looking for a way to get outside and exercise with her two sons who still live at home."

If this describes you in any way, Carlton Bike Rental, located right on the Munger Bike Trail, still has bikes for rent and a repair shop if your dealing with an issue on one of the bikes you own.

Visit Carlton Bike Rental & Repair

I especially like their slogan: 
"Minnesota Starts Here."

Digital Marketer Eagan Heath Shares How His Company Helps Small Businesses Find New Customers

Eagan Heath explains analytics insights with client.
I met Eagan Heath at my daughter's wedding several years ago. He performed Dylan's Love Minus Zero/No Limit as I walked my daughter down the "aisle" at an outdoor wedding in Morris, Minnesota. This week we re-connected to discuss marketing matters, including the manner in which Facebook and Google use A.I. and how much the marketing playing field has shifted. This interview was a consequence of that discussion.

EN: What is your title and what is Get Found Madison?

Eagan Heath: I just say I'm the owner and founder of a digital marketing agency based in Madison, Wisconsin. We started out serving local businesses by helping them rank on Google with SEO and Google Ads, and we've since branched out into serving eCommerce and B2B companies with paid social media ads, email automation and WordPress websites.

EN: When did you found Get Found Madison and what were you doing up till then?

EH: I started the company in June 2016 after working at Epic as a hospital software project manager.

EN: Where did the idea for your company come from?

EH: I was itching to work for myself and I heard on a podcast that offering SEO services was a great way to start doing that. I did some free consulting for some local businesses while I still worked my corporate job, and after I got them from page 2 to the top of page 1 of Google, I knew I had something valuable to offer.

EN: You have some great testimonials. When you started you had no track record. How did you establish your credibility initially?

EH: SEO is different than most service businesses because people can tell immediately whether you're good at what you do. I focused on ranking for phrases like "SEO Madison WI" or "SEO company in Madison, WI" so people could see I knew my stuff. Prospects often comment that they found me through good and that I seem to know what I'm doing.

For the first clients, referrals were huge, so I developed relationships with local website companies who referred me to their clients and transferred a lot of trust thereby.

EN: A lot of people fallaciously think that “if you build it they will come” when it comes to putting up a website. Would you care to comment on this?

EH: Great question. I think too many small businesses think of their website as a brochure when what they really want is a lead generation machine.

What you actually need to do is plan out how you'll get the right people to your site so they'll contact you or buy from you.

Luckily, there is a pretty short list of places most people go on their devices, and we can reach them at every one:
• Search engine
• Social Media
• Email
• Browsing a website like news, sports, a blog, etc.

EN: I think one of the most fascinating features of data analytics is learning at what point potential customers fall out of the sales funnel. How does Get Found Madison help in that?

EH: Agreed. I've gotten concise about pitching the value of online marketing to skeptical small business owners over the years, and it comes down to:
• The targeting is better
• People's attention has shifted online, so that's where they are
• You can more easily measure the results
• You can test faster and with a smaller initial budget
• As a result, you can acquire customers cheaper online than offline

For a local business, the funnel looks something like this:
• Impressions
• Clicks
• Contact form submissions
• Sales

We measure the results and provide our clients with the data on the first three, and help them to track that last one in their CRM.

For an eCommerce business, it might look something like:
• Impression
• Click
• Email list sign up
• Email open rate
• Email click rate
• Purchase

EN: You have a small team but a wide array of skills and services. What are the services that your Madison customers have found most useful and compelling?

EH: We are about to launch a new brand called Caravan Digital (freshly named this week) that will market to and focus on eCommerce marketing. The reason we're doing this is because we can cleanly report on dollars out vs. dollars in on ad spend and because eCommerce is the present and the future.

While I'll always have a place in my heart and mind for SEO, the reality has been that we can drive stronger results faster and with better reporting with Facebook Ads for eCommerce companies. We have a client right now who has spent $23,000 on Facebook ads and made $467,000 in sales as a result. It's hard to get 2,000% returns like that anywhere else.

Related Links
Data Analytics: The Three Most Important People in the Room
Can Local Retailers Compete Against Amazon?

Thursday, August 6, 2020

10 Maxims That Helped Me Through Three Decades in Corporate America, Plus Seven More from the Ether

Illustration by the author.
I stumbled upon a web page with 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries and it brought to mind my own article Nine Maxims that Carried Me Through Three Decades in Corporate America. The maxims--sayings I'd internalized over the years--are listed here, but the manner in which I applied them and thought about them are expanded on in the article via the above Friend Link (blue text).

I added a tenth to this list (#8), which is not included in the article.

1. An Idea is only as good as its execution.
2. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
3. The butler who folds his hands spills no tea.
4. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
5. Small companies don’t win by spending like big companies.
6. Listen to the quiet people.
7. A stitch in time saves nine.
8. Don't major on minors.
9. There are no silver bullets
10. Slow & steady wins the race, so keep that slow and steady pace.

You can find the amplified version here.

* * * *

You can capture the flavor of the 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries by the seven I've pulled out here. I was tempted to change the name to 70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Machiavellians which also plays off the "M" alliteration without significantly altering the intent.

The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

12. A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head.

21. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Take his fish away and tell him he's lucky just to be alive, and he'll figure out how to catch another one for you to take tomorrow.

30. A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the further you'll go.
(The essence of modern Machiavellian politics in a nutshell.)

33. If you're leaving tracks, you're being followed.

42. "They'll never expect this" means "I want to try something stupid."

43. If it's stupid and it works, it's still stupid and you're lucky.

66. Necessity is the mother of deception.

68. Negotiating from a position of strength does not mean you shouldn’t also negotiate from a position near the exits.

See All 70 Here.

The book these were extracted from was originally called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, but in January 2011, Howard Tayler received a cease and desist letter from Franklin Covey, stating that Franklin Covey has a trademark on the phrase "7 Habits". Tayler then edited all dialog in the strip that mentioned the book's title or its rules, in what he called the Great Retcon of 2011. (I share this last anecdote in the event you were planning a book that begins with the words "7 Habits.")

The inspiration for my original 9 Maxims article was Colin Powell's Leadership Primer. You can go to this page and download a great PowerPoint.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Catching Up with Singer/Songwriter Mary Bue

Singer/Songwriter Mary Bue (Photo Darin Back)
This weekend I noticed that Mary Bue was performing at Sacred Heart later this month to launch her newest album The World Is Your Lover. It seemed a good time to reach out and catch up. She produced her first album in 2000 and has been a productive songwriter and steady performer ever since.

Her cover of "Desolation Row" on the album Bringing It All Back Home to Duluth Does Dylan, a compilation by local musicians that should be in any Dylan fan's collection, never gets old. As a performer she has an impressive resume. She's gained a notable following wherever she goes.

EN: I last interviewed you when your album Holy Bones was released in 2015. Since then you moved to the Twin Cities, but you're still making original music. Bring us up to date on the past three years.

Mary Bue: Wonderful to connect with you again, Ed, and I greatly appreciate your love of music! The Holy Bones era was a very pivotal time. I switched genres from playing mostly piano-based tunes to more grungy electric guitar indie rock vibes -- and even had a symbolic funeral for my keyboard! Ha! Now I've (sort of) returned to center and have found room for both.

I moved to Minneapolis in 2016 to follow an opportunity to open a yoga studio. It truly just fell into my lap -- a small space near Powderhorn Park which I called Imbue Yoga Studio. This was the catalyst to move down here, although I had been feeling the itch to move for awhile (I'd been back in Duluth since 2011 after a four-ish year stint in Seattle). I signed the lease for the yoga studio in February 2016. In March I broke my shoulder attempting to snowboard for the first time. In April I acquired the studio and my ex-husband and our friend Bob Olson started remodeling. April 7th my band went down to Nashville to record The Majesty of Beasts on some studio time I won from a Battle of the Bands scenario. In May, I moved and ... filed for divorce. June 11th Imbue Yoga Studio had its grand opening. In three months, I broke a shoulder, recorded in Nashville, moved, divorced, and opened a yoga studio. It was a wild time. LOL.

The yoga studio kept me sane in the midst of a very intense and emotional whirlwind. I met, worked with, and practiced with wonderful, caring, spiritual friends and teachers. I cried on the floor a lot, pretty exhausting. Musically, my band had blown apart, but I decided to still release the EP we recorded, The Majesty of Beasts. In it I had (finally) shared a song-story about a sexual assault which happened to me in 2006. I announced the song was coming and then BAM, #MeToo movement took off shortly after. Zeitgeist. I'm not sure why I waited so long to tell that story, but damn, it was apparent that I surely was not the only one, of course. Unfortunately. Horrifyingly.

Magically, around the time that I opened my yoga studio, I was notified that I received a three month Artist in Residence award to spend three months at the Helene Wurtlitzer Foundation of New Mexico to work on my craft. Of course I accepted, even though that was only six months after opening the studio. But how could I not? Music is my heart... and that experience in New Mexico changed my life.

Musically, I moved through a number of sweet band incarnations during this time, met a lot of music heroes I'd been following (for example, I took a few guitar lessons with Adam Levy who I'd been listening to since I was 14 in the REV 105 era) and then I met my former manager, Mike Buenting. He heard me supporting Tina Schlieske's (Tina and the B Sides) show at Icehouse for the holidays and was very genuine and almost apologetic for not having ever heard of me since I'd been doing music for so long. We agreed to work together and then he set me up with a new band formation to record some new songs. I wasn't entirely sure how this project would go, but I had a lot of songs in the hopper that never really fit anywhere, and had just written the title track The World is Your Lover and the writing in Taos on artist residency provided quite a few downloads from the universe while hiking along the Rio Grande River gorge (like Shit Storm--video and single were just released in July).

Mary Bue with her Gibson. (Photo Darin Back)
I was introduced to and began working with producer and bassist Steve Price (The Suburbs, Rex Daisy, former instructor at IPR), Jeremy Ylvisaker (who has played guitar with Andrew Bird, Haley, Jenny Lewis, John Prine to name a few), Richard Medek on drums (who drummed on Kevin Costner's rock albums! And plays with Molly Maher, Erik Koskinen, Chris Koza). We knocked a fourteen song album out in 4 months. I did TWO kickstarters to pay for it (ughhhhh!). Brought in the stunning cello of Julia Floberg (Delphia Cello Quartet), Shannon Frid-Rubin of Cloud Cult, my first touring partner Crystal Meisinger sang harmonies on Shit Storm, Stephan Kung of the Suburbs played trumpet. Both Adam Levy and Alan Sparhawk were special guests. Essentially, this was the album of my life. My life's work. So much love and money poured into this beast.

During the recording, I decided to close my yoga studio. It was making "negative money" as I like to say (with a sad, wry smile). I had always said, "if I close the studio after three years, I'm going to Bali. If I stay open after three years, I'm going to Bali."

So, I booked a freaking trip to Bali. I've been wanting to go for 15 years. More about that later. (Oh, and India, too.)

For the last three years, to return to your question, I've been making the world even more of a lover. Really getting intimate with it. Failure. Success. Relational, business wise. Taking risks. Crying on the floor. Stopping to smell the flowers as much as my monkey mind will allow. And really, feeling pretty damn good, considering.

EN: Covid-19 has put unexpected restraints on musicians this year. Dylan's Never Ending Tour was put on hold for the first time. How have you adjusted? And how are other musicians you know dealing with it?

Empty airport, Osaka Japan.
MB: I was traveling from late December 2019 to March 21st 2020, to India and Bali. I had to come home from my travels two weeks early due to USA issuing a "level four travel advisory" which basically said get home by whatever means possible or prepare to stay. Part of me wishes I would have stayed in Bali! But there is much to love here. My last minute flight re-book took me through Osaka, Japan. NO ONE was in the airport. It was very, very end-of-times.

Since returning home, I've been okay. I actually had a really wonderful two year relationship that ended mutually upon my return. So not only was I back sooner, but really alone-alone. I had to self-quarantine for two weeks after my trip, and then the stay at home order was issued. I went EIGHTY days without really seeing anyone except my neighbors or people out walking. Then I finally eased up for social distance hangs.

I feel so grateful to my meditation, yoga, mantra, and running routines. While I was in India, I received a certificate in Nada Yoga--the Yoga of Sound--where we explored the power of vibration, cleansing techniques to deeper experience sound, and deep discipline with which to listen and also practice (instruments, and voice). I fell in love with the sitar. I took 28 days of sitar lessons, bought one, and brought it home. I found a teacher here in Minnesota and am still taking lessons.

I had a feeling there would be a shift for me musically before I left. I couldn't put my finger on what it would be, but it felt like I wanted to perform fewer shows for awhile. I got my wish... but it has been financially not so happy. I lost quite a few well-paying shows. Many of my friends are struggling. Performing is a huge part of our identity. I've been performing my songs since 1998. I feel okay though, with the shift, and again, grateful to have other practices to balance it out with.

I'm not a huge fan of the live stream home concerts, mostly because I am not sure how it sounds to the audience. I did a show with Gaelynn Lea (thanks SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME, friend!), but my sound was shit! So I don't like that possibility of mortification... although that is a vestige of prior performing humiliations from my youth. I am so excited about live streaming from Sacred Heart, though! Eric Swanson will be at the helm mixing for us and oh my GODDESS I am so looking forward to performing with my band again, even if only the tech crew are in the room and everyone at home watching from their couches.

I truly do not know what the future holds for performing musicians, but I so look forward to hearing live music in a room with other people again!!!

EN: City Pages awarded you with Best Songwriter for 2020, which is pretty high praise in a major city filled with musicians and songwriters. Was this based on your 2017 release The Majesty of Beasts?

MB: Thank you so much and I am deeply, deeply aware of the weight of this honor. In the write up, the author said that the Majesty EP was "near perfect" (jaw drop!!), however my publicist sent City Pages my new album which is releasing Aug 21, so I'm pretty sure it is based off of that, and perhaps a deep dive into my last twenty years of work? I can't really say. It was an absolute shock and surprise and it's been only a week now and I'm still reeling. So grateful. So floored. So delighted.

EN: What are some of the themes you've been addressing in your newest album The World Is Your Lover? Is your upcoming Sacred Heart concert essentially an album release?

MB: The album is bookended with two rather apocalyptic numbers, Shit Storm and The Riverman. Shit Storm was one of those downloads from New Mexico... this low-to-high grade anxiety that the Earth is OVER IT. Fleeing the disasters, both natural and human-made. Watching Lake Superior turn into a desert before my eyes (a true story vision ...). The Riverman talks about the River Styx ... how one must have a coin under their tongue to give to the Riverman to cross to the other side. In between these little ditties are a whole lot of drama. Complex love gone wrong. Tons of longing and hope. Some real desperation in there. I like to find solace in the Anne Lamott quote: "If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." Ha! The title track is very positive, though. A forgiving realization; a letting go of shackles, a purging of the past.

The Sacred Heart show was purely serendipitous! I wasn't planning on having a release show until October 23rd (Hook & Ladder Theatre & Lounge in Minneapolis with Turn Turn Turn & Alan Sparhawk supporting). However Sacred reached out and the day they booked us for was the day after my album officially releases! So, yes. It is the Duluth album release. And very fitting, since that venue is so special to me.

EN: Briefly, how long have you been teaching yoga? Can you tell us more about the retreats in Bali, Taos and Grand Marais.

MB: I've been teaching yoga for 11 years now, since 2009. I received my training in Seattle at Whole Life Yoga Studio with Tracy Weber. Tracy sold the studio a few years ago, but I just heard one week ago that it is closing. Heartbreaking! Another casualty of COVID. Been grieving that. But yeah, the yoga community and my master teacher Tracy is still in my life. I got further training here in Minneapolis at Yoga Center Retreat (formerly Yoga Center of Minneapolis) and then an additional 200 hours at Nada Yoga School in Rishikesh, India this past January.

I launched a small "Creativity and Yoga" retreat side-hustle just last year in 2019. I have chosen these three locations because they are extremely dear to my heart. Grand Marais is in November, at Naniboujou Lodge (it is tentative if they are opening this year due to the virus). Taos will be in June 2021. The 2nd Bali, Indonesia retreat is coming up in late February 2021, fingers crossed they will let Americans enter Indonesia! I am 100% there if so. And you all are welcome to join!

I have a deep love of travel, yoga, exploring creative practices -- writing, painting, poetry, music. Why not combine them all? And my past experience in running a yoga studio, albeit briefly, and like hundreds of years in food service has really sharpened my skills and heart to serve and offer luxurious, hospitable, friendly travel adventures. This truly feels, also, like my life's work. Both Grand Marais and Bali sold out. But then, COVID ruins the party again and things have had to be postponed. It's all good. I trust that we'll get a handle on this and travel will, hopefully resume with new caution, and awareness, and a deep reverence for how precious life is and how much there is to explore, learn, and love. We cannot take anything for granted ...

EN: Where can people learn more about you and follow your career?

MB: So much lives on my website marybue.com. I also have a Patreon -- Patreon is a "membership" or "fan club" where people subscribe with a monthly rate for different rewards like vinyl, yoga classes, and exclusive posts (patreon.com/marybue). I'm also quite addicted to instagram (@marybuemusic).

My music lives on most major streaming platforms, YouTube, and bandcamp.

EN: Anything else you would like to add?

MB: It's been a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to ask these questions. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. The music is revealing enough!

Related Links
Five Minutes with Singers/Songwriter Mary Bue
Bringing It All Back To Duluth Does Dylan -- Inspired Local Musicians Step Up Their Game

Monday, August 3, 2020

Cash and Dylan Sing Songs of Remorse: I Hung My Head and I Threw It All Away

When Ken Burns' documentary on Country Music aired on PBS last fall, and Dylan's Bootleg #15 Travelin' Through came out featuring Johnny Cash on two of the three CDs, the world was twice reminded of the manner in which these two careers have routinely intersected.

Maybe intersecting isn't quite the right word. The image that comes to mind is the double helix of a DNA molecule in which the two strands corkscrew around each other like a twisted ladder. There's a sense in which Dylan and Cash have had parallel lives in terms of achievement and fame, sometimes in the foreground and sometimes in the shadows, and frequently connected by those ladder rungs.

It's apparent from their earliest recordings and footage of making music together that there was a mutual admiration society thing going on between them. They sometimes sang one another's songs. They clearly seemed to enjoy one another's company, both on stage or in the studio.

Later in their careers another interesting parallel began to occur. With the inauguration of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series, a recycling of countless hours of unreleased material was sifted through as they opened the vault to share with a wider public content that had been left on the cutting room floor. This has provided loyal fans the luxury of being continually surprised by the breadth of his imagination.

Something similar occurred with Johnny Cash when he began recording The American Recordings. Cash, with his resonant baritone, was given the opportunity to  take on this project when producer Rick Rubin, better known for heavy metal and rap, saw Johnny Cash perform at the Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary concert in 1992. The deal was this: Cash could do what he wanted and Rubin would produce something exceptional.

This would be a different kind of recycling. Cash would be recycling covers, but adding new dimensions of gravity to the songs. When American IV came out with Cash doing a cover of "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, an electricity went through the music scene, much like the electrical current that sizzled through Greenwich Village when young Dylan arrived. The net result was that American IV went platinum and many (like us who acquired it) followed up by buying the previous albums in the series, eagerly anticipating those that would follow.

This unlikely marriage--Rubin and Cash--received widespread critical acclaim including multiple American IV platinum and gold awards.

* * * *
Sting's version of "I Hung My Head" is a good song, but--and I mean no disrespect--the cover arrangement and gravelly Cash voice produce a chilling, incomparable effect that is heartbreaking, effectively amping the song to a new high.

It's a story in song, something both Cash and Dylan excel at. It begins innocently enough. The narrator is out one morning messing around, killing time, until he does something stupid that changes everything.

Early one morning with time to kill
I borrowed Jeb's rifle and sat on a hill
I saw a lone rider crossing the plain
I drew a bead on him to practice my aim
My brother's rifle went off in my hand
A shot rang out across the land
The horse, he kept running, the rider was dead
I hung my head, I hung my head

You can imagine the emotions, were this a real life event, your real life accident.

You may not play with guns, but you make mistakes. And not every mistake is deadly, though some can be. They kill something special that was living, and will never live again, perhaps a friendship, or an intimate relationship. So the song continues with an attempt at denial. This can't be real.

I set off running to wake from the dream
My brother's rifle went into the sheen
I kept on running into the south lands*
That's where they found me my head in my hands
The sheriff he asked me why had I run
And then it come to me just what I had done
And all for no reason just one piece of lead
I hung my head, I hung my head

But it is real and there are consequences. In the courthouse he has to explain what he was thinking. Sometimes we don't even understand our own actions, yet must make an account. He recognizes that he's orphaned a man's children and widowed this man's wife. And he's sinking inside.

The final verse has an intriguing twist. It's the day of his hanging, and it proves to be an echo of the event that brought him to this moment.

Early one morning with time to kill
I see the gallows up on the hill
And out in the distance a trick of the brain
I see a lone rider crossing the plain
And he'd come to fetch me to see what they'd done
And we'll ride together to kingdom come
I pray for God's mercy 'cause soon I'll be dead
I hung my head, I hung my head
I hung my head, I hung my head

* * * *
Photo Bob Landy
Bob Dylan's "I Threw It All Away" is a completely different story, but essentially the same lament. Whereas it's true he writes songs that blame the woman for this breakup--"I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul" for example; or the harsh "It ain't me, babe" as sung on Bootleg #5 1975--in this song he takes full responsibility for the end of this meaningful affair of the heart.

I once held her in my arms
She said that she would always stay
But I was cruel, I treated her like a fool
I threw it all away.

It's a beautiful song, recorded for Nashville Skyline. I have a friend who says his favorite "sound of Bob's voice" is here on Nashville Skyline. It was certainly distinctive.

The song evidently remained significant for him as he performed it live nearly fifty times, most recently in 2002, the second tune in a May Rotterdam show.

Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
rivers of grandeur every day
I must have been mad, I never knew what I had
until I threw it all away

There may be critics who call it sentimental pap, but if you've ever been hit with it deep, how that which you valued was destroyed by your own hand, this captures it.

The bridge is a basic nod to the all-encompassing and life-affirming notion: "Love is all there is, it makes the world go round..." following up with this admonition born of experience:

So if you find someone that gives you all of her love
Take it to your heart, don’t let it stray
For one thing that’s certain
You will surely be a-hurtin’
If you throw it all away

* * * *
These were thoughts I had this weekend as I listened to Johnny Cash American Series IV in conjunction with Dylan's Traveling Through. Both men saw a lot in their lives, both the highs and lows, and both were superb at conveying it in the songs.

Ultimately, it is life itself in the balance. Don't throw it all away.

* The lyrics Sting wrote and recorded were slightly altered here in the Cash rendition. Sting sang "salt lands" and "stream" as opposed to South lands and sheen.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Is In Town!

Maggie and Zachary with the Wienermobile.
This week the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile came to town. The pair who are accompanying t were guests at our Thursday evening Duluth Toastmasters Zoom meeting. Zachary Chatham and Maggie Thomas brought an exuberant, upbeat mood to the meeting. To be frank, they were bunderful. (Their repertoire features tons of puns.)

Before sharing more on their adventure I thought I'd tell a little about the history of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. The first Wienermobile was created in 1936 by Carl Mayer, a 27-foot-long hot dog on wheels. In fact, there are currently six traveling across the U.S. right now.

The 1952 Wienermobile has been residing at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

The 1969 Wienermobile model featured Ford Thunderbird taillights, a Chevy motor home frame and, legend has it, averaged 187 smiles per gallon.

The Oscar Mayer story begins in 1873 when 14-year-old Oscar F. Mayer moved to the U.S. from Bavaria, settling in Detroit with his first job as a butcher boy. From there he moved to Chicago and worked in the retail industry. The blending of these two experiences eventually led to a hot dog business that is as American as apple pie.

The first Oscar Mayer shop opened in 1883 with first day sales of $59. They were rolling in the dough, dough that would later be used for buns.

After WWI the brothers bought a meat packing plant in Madison, Wisconsin, with yet larger ambitions. To this day Madison is the HQ. When I spoke with Maggie and Zach, I learned that Madison is where they were trained for their one year trial by fire on the road as the face of Oscar Mayer in the Wienermobile. No matter how you grill them, though, they leave you smiling.

In 1929, Oscar Mayer created their Yellow Band as a signature of quality. It became the first branded meat in the country. This event had nothing to do with the collapse of the U.S. economy that followed. In fact, it was in 1936, in the middle the Great Depression, that the company introduced its first Wienermobile, driven by Little Oscar to events, grand openings and in parades.

Do you remember the Oscar Mayer Wiener Jingle? If you can identify the year in which it was created, then you can win a free wiener whistle. Answer, and where to get your whistle, at the end of this blog post.

* * * *
Yes, it is registered with the Department of Transportation.
The Wienermobile itself has a V-8 6 liter engine with an Isuzu chassis. Inside it has six seats with mustard floors, meat belts, catsup and mustard colored seats and a bun roof. The vehicle is 60 hot dogs long and 24 high. When I asked what it's like to drive, Zach said it's like driving a large SUV.

EN: How did you hear of this Wienermobile opportunity?

Zachary Chatham: I heard about the Wienermobile opportunity from my father and immediately jumped at the chance to apply because my great grandfather drove the Wienermobile! In terms of Maggie and I, we listen to different types of music but we’re both pretty open and have been going back and forth allowing the other the chance to explore our music interests.

Maggie Thomas: My mom read an article about the job opportunity and sent it to me because I have a degree in communications, enjoy traveling, and love hot dogs. When I found out I’d be one of twelve Hotdoggers in class 33, I was thrilled! To prepare for a year on the hot dog highways, we attended hot dog high. We learned about the history of Oscar Mayer and the Wienermobile, gained PR skills and were taught how to drive the American Icon.

They appear to really relish their hot doggin' lifestyle.
EN: Will you be staying within the same region all year? How many states and which ones? And what is the best way to find a Wienermobile near them?

Zachary: We will be traveling within the central region of the United state until December where we will switch regions as well as partners and experience a new region of the country.

Maggie: In terms of tracking the Wienermobile and following our coast to coast wienie roast, you can go on the Oscar Mayer website and they have a Wienermobile tracker filled with all 6 Wienermobiles upcoming cities and events.

It is purportedly the largest moving billboard in the U.S., though I did not fact-check that.

When I asked their backgrounds I learned that Maggie studied communications in college and recognized this experience as an invaluable way to learn more about Public Relations. Part of the training included learning how to reach out to media, and by the first day they'd already been in contact with our local TV stations. "This has been a real chance to learn" she said.

Maggie hails from Tupelo, MS. (Think Elvis.) Zachary is from Charlotte. Both have a Southern drawl and cheerful, upbeat disposition.

Want to know where the Wienermobile will be this week, month or year? 
You can also learn more here.
To follow Zach and Maggie on Instagram 
 @ZachnCheesin @MustardMags

Related Link
Reading the Oscar Mayer story reminded me of another German entrepreneur who came to America in the 1800s and made good. You can read the story of C.F. Martin here:
Add Martin Guitar Factory to Your Bucket ListMartin Guitars

* * * *
Trivia Question Answers: The Oscar Mayer Wiener Jingle made its radio debut in 1963. You can get a Wiener Whistle anywhere you find Zach and Maggie this week in the Wienermobile.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Twin Ports Art In August and Other August Thoughts

The Wienermobile was at Glensheen yesterday afternoon.
Has anyone else been experiencing time distortion since the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in? Hard to believe it is already August. This is not what most of us expected at this point in time.

Before comments on the current art scene, a few noteworthy movies with August in the title. According to Ranker, the top August title is August Rush, a musical drama with Robin Williams. Actually, this whole year has been a rush.

Other August films include: Our Beloved Month of August, Snow In August, Black August, and the David Bowie film August. And then there is August Underground's Mordum, A Cool Day in August, Christmas in August, English August and Five Dolls for an August Moon.

To be frank, I don't believe I've seen any of these films. And speaking of franks, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is in the Northland this week. I will be shoring more about that in the next day or two.

Other August films include Teahouse of the August Moon, which was used as the theme for one of the proms (that I didn't attend) when I was in high school. Whales in August, August Evening, August 15th, August Vacation, August Weekend, Red Lights August, The Guns of August, August, August Sun, Marigolds in August, The End of August at the Hotel Ozone, August the First, A Cold Wind in August, Sometime In August, Paris In August, Quiet Days In August, August Drizzle...  Yikes, I am starting to sound like Forrest Gump's friend who described all the ways you can serve shrimp.

It wasn't till I reached number 50 on this Ranker list that I found the one I'd put at the top: August Osage County.

* * * *

"I Just Had An Idea"
OK, so we're looking at Art in August, Twin Ports. Many events have gone virtual, some are just gone. The Duluth Art Institute is open. The Tweed is not. Yet.

There was a Virtual Art Walk Friday night, but I missed it. I miss seeing many of your face to face.

Esther Piszczek sent me an email with links to all kinds of virtual opportunities for experiencing local arts. My list will be brief here, but if you wish for details test me and I will forward her August arts activities announcement, which includes link. (Recommended: Ask to be put on her mailing list.)

Here are a few items of note.
North House Folk School has a new lineup of online classes, Lyric Opera of the North is taking its Summer Sparkler virtual, and the Downtown Duluth Arts Walk is featuring many talented artists and art venues virtually this month.

Farmer's Markets are open. It's the beginning of harvest season and you will find them popping up everywhere. The Duluth Farmer's Market at 14th Ave East and Third Street is still the best.

In lieu of Movies in the Park, the Downtown Council is featuring Movies in the Park(ing) Lot. Clever name. Follow the link for details and a photo that shows you where this is taking place.

* * * *

Need a Face Mask?
Mask Force, by Zeitgeist Arts
Buy a Mask / Donate a Mask: "The Zeitgeist Community Mask Force Program allows people who are financially able to purchase masks, while providing mask donations to local organizations using a “buy one, give one” model. The makers are using the mask pattern recommended by Essentia Health, employing a variety of fabrics to keep up with demand. All masks are reusable and machine-washable. A children’s size is also available.

"Donations are headed to local organizations such as the Damiano Center and the American Indian Community Housing Organization. Cost: $10 to buy a mask and donate a mask or donate 2 masks." [Note: Thank you Zeitgeist Arts, Sasha Howell and all the mask makers for making this effort possible.]

* * * *
Art on the Planet, 1413 Tower Avenue, Superior (ceramics, notecards, playing cards)
Duluth Fine Pianos, 331 W. Superior Street (next to Starbucks) (full gallery)
Master Framing Gallery, 1431 London Road, Duluth (notecards)

Art on the Planet, 1413 Tower Avenue, Superior 
Goin' Postal,  816 Tower Avenue, Superior

* * * *

Looking for New Ways to Make Art at Home? Susie's Art Kits are available for purchase at Art on the Planet in Superior, along with some other kinds of projects. See Susie's Art Classes 2 Go.

* * * *

The weather has been truly fab this summer, especially this past week. Make sure you get out and enjoy it.

LAST REMINDER: TO RECEIVE ESTHER'S MONTHLY TWIN PORTS ART UPDATES IN YOUR INBOX, Private message her or me on Facebook, or contact me directly and I will forward her August eNews email.

Make sure you keep ART in your HeART.