Thursday, December 31, 2020

Throwback Thursday: Rosie the Riveter, R.I.P.

TEN YEARS AGO TODAY

As usual, it has been a year of many significant passings. No "year in review" is complete without noting the persons who have touched us in one way or another. A the beginning of this week, as if to round out the year, Geraldine Hoff Doyle passed away in Michigan. Doyle is not a household name, but her image as "Rosie the Riveter" may be as ubiquitous as a Coca-Cola logo. 

Doyle was 17 when the famous UPI photo was taken. She had been working at a metal pressing plant near Ann Arbor at the time. The U.S. government liked the image so much they used it as a recruiting tool to encourage women to join the workforce and support the war effort. Later it became a popular poster and has been reproduced endlessly, here seen as a metal sign on one of our kitchen cabinets. 
 
During World War II millions of women moved into jobs at factories to produce, among other things, the weapons and ammunition that kept our boys equipped for the fight. But in the aftermath of the war this image probably helped serve as a reminder that "sometimes a woman is the man for the job" serving now as an inspiration for more than half a century. 
 
Other memorable personages who have departed in 2010 include Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, directors Blake Edwards and Irvin Kershner, actors Tony Curtis, Dennis Hopper, Fess Parker, Peter Graves and Leslie Nielson, Beaver's mom Barbara Billingsly, entertainers Lena Horne and Captain Beefheart, and novelist J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye, whose Holden Caulfield proved to be an omen of sorts for the adolescent alienation that that would subsume the Sixties generation. 

None of us is here on earth forever. Therefore, as you move into the new year, make the most of your days. May your 2011 be your best contribution yet.

* * * 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Cockroaches

I'm not sure if I ever saw cockroaches before I lived in Puerto Rico, or at least I wasn't familiar with them. The first reference to a cockroach that I recall was in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, which we read in high school English class, which was discussed in greater depth in a college class I attended on Existential Literature. It is a tale of the absurd in which Gregor Samsa, the family breadwinner, wakes up one morning to find that he has become a giant cockroach, an atypical experience which readily presents some special challenges.

My first personal encounter with cockroaches, that I know of, was during my internship year in Bible school where I worked at a bookstore in suburban San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I don't remember them being a problem. These were big cockroaches--one to two inches long--and what I most remember is how the lizards would try to eat them. The lizards weren't much larger than the roaches, but if a three inch lizard grabbed a one inch cockroach by the head, he'd spend a full hour trying to get that monster into his gullet, even if it were twice the size of his head.

One evening suring that year in Puerto Rico I badly stubbed my toe on a rock while running barefoot. The toe turned black and hurt like crazy. I eventually fell asleep, but then had a horrible dream. In the dream I was looking at this swollen black and blue toe and noticed something peculiar. There was movement inside the toe beneath the callouses. Suddenly my toe burst open and a giant cockroach crawled out as if coming out of a cocoon. I woke in horror and was relieved that my toe was still just as it had been.

THE PEGBOARD INCIDENT
At the end of 1980 Susie I went to work at an orphanage in Mexico for a year. The apartment we were provided had no furniture other than a bed and a kitchen countertop. We smuggled in wood from across the border (sheets of plywood in Texas were $15 and in Mexico $75) and I built some cabinets to place the countertop on. 

Because of the moisture in the walls, and bare wires somewhere within, the walls carried 45 volts of electricity, not enough to kill you but plenty to give you a shock if you touched metal clothes hangers while barefoot, or the shower curtain rod with the water running.

We were young so to some extent it was an adventure. Resolving the rat problem was challenging initially, and scorpions in the house occasionally distracting, but the cockroaches... they were something else.

I had fastened a pegboard to the wall so we could hang pots and pans in the kitchen. At some point we realized that there were cockroaches gathering there behind the peg board. You seldom saw them but at night, when it was dark, you might see a few when you suddenly turned on a light.

What we learned about rats applied equally to cockroaches. I'd read that if you see a rat, there are dozens you don't see. If you see a rat in broad daylight on the open lawn, there are a hundred you don't see. The principle applied equally to cockroaches.

One day we decided to buy some insect spray to kill the cockroaches. We removed all the pots, pans and other kitchenware, then covered the countertop. I began spraying behind the pegboard and to our horror it seemed like a thousand cockroaches emerged, scattering in all directions on the wall. 

MINNEAPOLIS SLUM 
In 1982 we found a place to live in the Twin Cities back in Minnesota and started painting apartments. The apartments we painted were in all parts of the Cities including some of the worst neighborhoods. One of the apartment landlord owned several houses a few blocks East of the Metrodome. We'd been asked to go there and paint the walls to make it ready for new tenants. The place was infested with cockroaches and really not fit for habitation.

How bad was it? In order to paint the bathroom walls I would use a dry brush in my left hand to sweep the cockroaches off the wall while rolling the paint onto the wall with my right hand. Literally, the walls in that room were completely covered with cockroaches. My hair is crawling just thinking about this.

* * *
According to Wikipedia there are some 4600 species of cockroaches, 3000 or so in Washington D.C. There is so much darkness beneath the surfaces that the entire city is infested with cronyism and waste. I have always believed that people would benefit by living in a Third World country for a year or so while young. I also believe that reading a good book about pork barrel politics and government waste early in one's life, preferably a politically non-biased book, is a useful and educational experience.

One purpose of a free press is to shine a light into the dark corners, that we might have more transparency in government. Instead of sweeping all these cockroaches back under the rug, let's sweep them out the door. First, someone on the inside has to turn on the lights. 

What do you think?


EdNote: I made us the number 3,000.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Call for Art and Auditions at the County Seat Theater

Yes, there are a lot of events that have been scuttled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Something that has not been stopped in its tracks is the County Seat Theater in Cloquet, with its ongoing support for the arts. 

This afternoon I received a Call for Art from Kris Nelson, whose advocacy for local artists as well as the theater has been noteworthy and commendable. The 2021 Season for the theater is just around the corner, and in keeping with tradition there will be art shows accompanying the five shows being produced. No, they will not be live (initially). Instead they will be viewed "On Demand" or via Livestreaming. 

To stay current with events at the Encore Performing Arts Center & Gallery, home of the County Seat Theater Company, become a follower here on Facebook.

 

2021 Schedule at a Glance


Auditions: January 3
February 12-14 & 18-21, 2021

Do Not Go Gentle

One-act Drama By Suzan Zeder.

Lillian Boedecker Barron is 84 years old, vibrant, funny, wise, and recently deceased! During her lifetime, Lillian shared a special, long-distance bond with her granddaughter, Kelly, and suffered an estrangement from her son Windsor, a Colonel in the Air Force. After her death, Lillian discovers that she cannot “move on” until the rifts are somehow mended. Windsor and Kelly come from overseas to settle Lillian's affairs and are aghast to discover that the walls of her house have been painted with wild, sometimes humorous, sometimes horrific murals and drawings. As they unravel secrets of the paintings, the two make astonishing discoveries about themselves and a special relationship between Lillian and a neighborhood child. This powerful, poignant play explores the wonder of words and the transformative power of art as it offers humor and hope to anyone who is, or has ever been, a grandparent, parent, or a child.


April 9-11 & 15-18, 2021

Almost Maine

Romantic Comedy By John Cariani

Welcome to Almost, Maine, a place that’s so far north, it’s almost not in the United States. It’s almost in Canada. And it’s not quite a town, because its residents never got around to getting organized. So it almost doesn’t exist. One cold, clear, winter night, as the northern lights hover in the star-filled sky above, the residents of Almost, Maine, find themselves falling in and out of love in unexpected and hilarious ways. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. But the bruises heal, and the hearts mend—almost—in this delightful midwinter night’s dream.


May 28-30 & June 3-6, 2021

Finishing School

Comedy By Elaine Liner.

This comedy about life’s second act finds older gents Al and Wizzer meeting on a park bench every morning to read and mock newspaper obits. Their daily rituals—shooting the bull about sports, women loved and lost and the many annoyances of aging—are suddenly shaken up by the appearance of a friendly young woman and her flirty mom. Wizzer pep-talks lonely widower Al to convince him to break out of his self-imposed “quantum of solace” and maybe find love again, while also dealing with his own fear of ending up in the memory care unit at their assisted living facility. Punctuated with true-to-life moments familiar to anyone with an aging parent or spouse, the play takes an upbeat attitude toward life after 60, 70 and beyond.


You can't drink all day if you don't
start at breakfast.
September 24-26 & 30-Oct. 3, 2021

Beer for Breakfast

Comedy By Sean Grennan

A group of middle-aged buddies reunite for a "guys' weekend" in a snowed-in cabin to eat chili, drink beer, and relive the good old days. Despite divorce, unemployment, and a stroke, spirits are high until Jessie, the wife of absent friend Adrian, shows up in his place. An epic battle of wits and stamina ensues: will the men win their right to an all-out guy fest, or will woman be crowned the stronger sex after all?


December 3-5 & 8-12, 2021

A Doublewide, Texas Christmas

Comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope & Jamie Wooten

In this outrageously funny comedy, it’s Christmas-time in the newest—and tiniest—town in Texas. And it’s beginning to look a lot like trouble in Doublewide. Not only are the trailer park residents dealing with the stress of the holiday season, but they’ve just discovered that Doublewide is being double-crossed by the County. With their official incorporation papers in jeopardy, this band of eccentric Texans throw themselves into taking on the “Big Guys.” Determined to bolster their legitimacy, they first set their sights on the County-wide “Battle of The Mangers” competition. 


* * *




County Seat Theater Company

Performing at the Encore! Performing Arts Center & Gallery

2035 Hwy 33 South (on Frontage Rd.), Cloquet, MN 55720

www.countyseattheater.com

218-878-0071

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2020 at Ennyman's Territory

Well, here we are, finishing off another year. With the end in view, it's often a good time to look back over our shoulder to see what has happened before saying a last goodbye. 

What follows are my Top 10 blog posts from 2020, a year like no other that most of us have experienced. It may not have been the worst year in human history, but it has certainly been an unsettling year for most, especially those who lost a loved one this year.

On January 1 my daughter Christina had the first NYTimes crossword puzzle of the new decade. That was a pretty exciting start to the year for us. (One of her puzzles will be appearing January 5 in 2021, fwiw.)  

Most of us probably never heard of Zoom at the beginning of the year. By April all of us were aware of this company that helped isolated people connect. If you bought stock in the company in the first quarter, your investment would have increased over 500%. 

The hardest hit businesses were those in the travel and tourism industries. Duluth, being a tourist town, has taken a financial hit this year, as have hotels, restaurants, airlines and others in the hospitality sector. 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or long term as a result of the restrictions implemented after the pandemic arrived. 

Add to this the racial tensions, triggered by the George Floyd incident and amplified by social media, and I suspect there are a lot of people eager to turn the page. 

The divisive manner in which  these and other issues have been addressed is almost more unsettling than the events themselves. It's probably a fantasy to hope for leadership that will seek bi-partisan solutions by means of honest and open dialogue and transparent decision making. The Machiavellian nature of our two-party system is clearly not serving the best interest of the masses.

* * *

That being said.... here are the  top blog posts of 2020 according to page views.  If you've been a regular reader these past 14 years, thank you. Did you have a favorite E.T. blog post from 2020 that isn't here? Feel free to share in the comments.

EdNote: Each title below is hotlinked to the original story. Enjoy.

#10
Midnight in Chernobyl: Adam Higginbothm's Explosive Story About What Really Happened

#9

#8

Friday, December 25, 2020

Feliz Navidad -- Seed Thoughts for This Special Day

 



It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!
--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

* * * 

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
--Dr. Seuss

* * * 

God's visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn king but a feed trough. … For just an instant the sky grew luminous with angels, yet who saw the spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks of others, "nobodies" who failed to leave their names...
--Philip Yancey


Photo courtesy Gary Firstenberg

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Throwback Thursday: It's a Wonderful Life

 

"You've been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you. " ~Clarence

The celebration of Christmas has resulted in a whole host of traditions that families pass down from one generation to the next. Decorating the Christmas tree, singing carols, reading the Christmas story and exchanging gifts are just a few of the common traditions that extend back many long years through the generations.

In more recent years, because movies and television have more or less emerged during the Boomer generation, a new set of traditions has been added. For some families it's the watching of Charlie Brown's Christmas, created by Charles Schultz near 60 years ago for television. In our family it has been the shared watching of A Christmas Carol, the George C. Scott version.

Before we finally got the DVD we used to watch a VHS version that we taped from television in the late 1980s. Watching this story for ten, fifteen and twenty years has not only brought a continuity to our traditions, but a lot of laughs as we try to say some of the lines just before they're said on the film. "Cratchitt!"... and "Another sound from you... and you'll keep your Christmas by losing your situation."

Our favorite version of the story.
After the visit by deceased friend and partner Bob Marley, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future all visit the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas eve and teach him that there are other ways of looking at the world besides the way he sees things. The lessons are many and valuable, and the story richly entertaining and heart-warming to boot.

There's another film that many families share as a tradition. Like A Christmas Carol it's the story of a man who has been seeing things wrong, but instead of ghosts helping him get perspective on his life, it's a quirky guardian angel named Clarence, striving to earn his wings.

This film, too, has so many memorable moments and lines. The scene where Jimmy Stewart is inwardly despondent over the lost money and lashes out at his children is heartbreaking in the extreme. The screenwriting, directing by Frank Capra and the acting are all five star. In honor of the 65th anniversary of this film, the Los Angeles City Council declared this past Friday "It's a Wonderful Life Day." *

One theme common to both these films is the deep insight that our lives are interconnected to others in ways we often don't see because we're caught up in our selves. If we're fortunate, we can begin to grasp the truths contained here without a visitation by ghosts or George Bailey's suicidal despair.

Whatever your traditions as regards Christmas, my prayer is that you will be richly rewarded with new self-understanding this season as regards your role in the bigger scheme of things. For some reason I keep wanting to say thank you.

"You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

* This blog post was originally published in 2011

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Woody Allen's Cafe Society... No Sizzle, and No Steak Either, But Some Noteworthy Elements

As most people who follow the career of Woody Allen know, at a certain point in time he veered from producing comedy to making more serious films, though some are spiced with comedic elements. Another way of saying that is that his later films appear to be more reflective than mere entertainments. Case in point: his painfully pointed Match Point

Since we're still in the pandemic lockdown regarding our local library, we're unable to enter the building and browse the DVD selections. Therefore, we search using the online browsing app. If you search by movie title, you can find quite a few flicks that are not in the library, and thereby waste a lot of time looking. An alternate way is to search by actor and all the films featuring that actor will get listed. 

I just finished watching Woody Allen's Cafe Society, starring (most prominently) Jesse Eisenberg and Steve Carell. Essentially, it is a movie about love triangles, against a backdrop of high society Hollywood and New York.

Jesse Eisenberg (Bobby) is the central character in this movie about a young man who leaves New York to get an education with his uncle, Phil Stern (Steve Carell) in 1930s Hollywood. Eisenberg struggles with the challenge of being at home in Hollywood, but through his experience meets and falls in love with his uncle's secretary. His uncle, has similarly been smitten, and Penelope choose the richer, successful Hollywood agent. 

As one of the losers on the love triangle (Steve Carell's wife is the other loser) Bobby goes back to New York, and takes on a primary role at his brother's hot nightclub. As it happens, he meets another love of his life, who coincidentally is named Penelope. Their amorous relationship results in her becoming pregnant and ultimately married.

The parallel story of his brother the gangster becomes a vehicle to insert ethical issues into a somewhat less complicated story. Love triangles and infidelity are almost commonplace, so a backstory about a brother who is a thug helps add a dimension.

Noteworthy Elements
There are a number of features in this film that tell you this is a Woody Allen film. Here are just a few.

Love for New York
Woody Allen was born in New York, and his passion for the city of his birth is hard to conceal. Manhattan was an opus of sorts. Here in Cafe Society it is barely concealed.

Philosophical Ponderings
The manner in which Woody Allen weaves theological questions and philosophical digressions into his films is quite intriguing. Over and over again we find characters debating conflicting views on ethical matters. 

Recurring Themes
High society glamour, jazz, Jewishness and gangsters are frequently inserted into Woody Allens films. Rule one to young writers is, "Write about what you know." High society, jazz and Jewishness are all facets of who he is. Where do the gangsters fit into his life experience? It probably doesn't matter, but serves as a method for dissecting some related ethical issues.

Witty Dialogue
As usual the characters have a lot of good lines. For some reason, though things feel emotionally barren. We've met these argumentative Jewish parents in an earlier Woody Allen film or two, so it almost feels like a cliche.

* * * 

There is a sense in which I was reminded of Robert Redford's screen adaptation of A River Runs Through It. In that film it seemed to me that Brad Pitt was chosen to play the role Redford would have played had he been a younger man. Redford also narrated the story. In this case, Woody Allen narrates, and Eisenberg is selected to play the role Allen would have played. In fact, in the early part of the move Bobby even sounded like Woody Allen. I don't think I was imagining it.

My original title for this movie review was going to be Woody Allen's Cafe Society... "Meh." At IMDB.com even the reviewers who liked it didn't go gaga over it. Yes, the exotic quality of high society life is well done, but we have seen that before, too. Hollywood is very much in love with itself, though Allen does have. Bobby and his uncle deliver a few barbs about it all.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Several Local Artists Whose Work You'll Find at Lizzard's

Silver Laced Dreams. Shawna Gilmore
There are a lot of people doing really wonderful things in the arts here locally. Here are some more paintings and images by people whose work I admire. 

I will be brief and let the pictures speak their thousand words. Essentially, I want to apologize in advance to the artists because I've dropped my iPhone a few too many times over the years and their art may not be as sharp as it out to be.

Be sure to stop in at Lizzard's sometime if interested in getting a painting, pottery or some other special items for that special someone.

Shawna Gilmore
White Tailed Buck on Hill. Alexa Carson
Elk. Alexa Carson
Common Original III-Color Space Refraction--Martin DeWitt
Fairhaven Cafe--Lloyd Backus
Perfect Day Duluth--Scott Murphy
They Never Hunter Sober--Scott Murphy
Ballon Boy--Scott Murphy
This is one by Jeffrey. Oh, the hillside.
A display near the front of the store.

Most of the photos here are up on the second floor landing. 
Do be sure to stop, look around and take your time. There's plenty to see.
Lizzard's Art Gallery and Framing
11 West Superior Street

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Ed's Favorite Reads of 2020

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash
Every year around this time people write articles about what Bill Gates is reading or Warren Buffet's best reads of the year. Here's some of what I've been reading in 2020. 

Since our library keeps a record of everything we've checked out, it's pretty much a cinch to see a catalog of the movies you've seen and books you've checked out. Usually you know what you've finished and what you've enjoyed. Those I myself have most enjoyed often get written about here on my blog, so I'm including links to reviews about or insights gained from what I've been reading. 

I should note that I consider listening to audio books to be the same as reading. Nearly any time I'm in the car a book is playing. Since most are from the library, some have tracks in which there are skips or even full stops, and the more popular the author, the more times you will experience this annoyances. For example, Agatha Christie is popular and though I took out 11 of her whodunnits, I may have only read eight or nine. I also got into a John Sandford binge and took out 20 of his novels, but read only 14 or 15 due to excessive scratches, jumps, stutters, skips and stops. Alas. 

My 2020 reading included Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, Jim Collins' How the Mighty Fall, Knut Hamsun's Dreamers, Henry Louis Gates' 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro, books on Ida Wells, Sojourner Truth and other African American women during Black History Month.  finally finished James Joyce's Dubliners, a short book by Marquez titled I'm Not Here to Give a Speech, early stories by Philip K. Dick, and Stuart Woods' Skin Game, which I found preposterous and seriously inferior to Sandford's stories. 

Having said all that, here are my favorite reads of 2020. 

* * * 

1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy

My year started with this.
Fellowship of the Ring -- The Two Towers -- Return of the King
J.R.R. Tolkien

During my second year in college a friend encouraged me to read this series. He said I would find them inspiring and they seemed like something I would enjoy. The quantity of pages felt imposing at the time. When the movies came out in 2001-2002 I was a captive audience, and when I saw the audiobooks in our library at the beginning of the year, I began the journey that I should have started long ago.

Here's a blog post inspired during my trek through these great stories.

A Dream, and Writing Tips from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy

2. August 1914
First volume of The Red Wheel series
Aleksandr Solzhentisyn

Midyear I read Solzhenitsyn's World Communism--A Critical Review, which led me to pick up other writings by this 20th century prophet. I purchased August 1914 to. gain a new perspective not only on the Russian Revolution, but also on the story of the Eastern Front during WWI. Many of us have watched movies (eg. Paths of Glory) and read books about the Western Front, trench warfare, the horrors of Somme, the Ardennes, the Marne and other travesties. Solzhenitsyn gives a broader context for not only understanding the fall of Russian monarchy, but broader insights into the global upheaval that occured a century ago.

At the bottom of the  page 846, the last page of this book we read:
UNTRUTH DID NOT START WITH US AND IT WILL NOT END WITH US

Here's a blog post inspired during my trek through these pages.

Solzhenitsyn on the Magical Power of Art

3. Midnight In Chernobyl
Adam Higginbotham

I'm always impressed when writers go the extra mile to dig up so much information that has been outside the public eye, talking with witnesses, acquiring documents that have lain buried and dormant for decades. This was an event of major significance with enormous potential consequences. The meltdown in Chernobyl was Mikhail Gorbachev's first major test as regards his commitment to becoming a more transparent nation. His advisors were saying he had to cover it up, but he knew that the U.S. probably knew about what happened before Moscow did, and with radioactive rain falling in Sweden it would be useless to pretend that nothing had happened. 

Here's a blog post with details, hoping to whet your appetite for more.

Midnight In Chernobyl: Adam Higginbotham's Explosive Story About What Really Happened

4. Good Strategy, Bad Strategy
Richard Rumelt

This is one of my recommended business books for 2020. It's one of the best books about marketing that I have ever read, or more specifically, about marketing strategy. During my 30 year career in advertising I've seen a lot of confusion when it comes to marketing. For example, marketers often discuss tactics as if they were strategy. I have rarely seen a company produce a truly integrated marketing strategy. Can you imagine if a car were dismantled and all the different parts--engine block, wheels, drivetrain, gas tank, pistons--each were free to do whatever they wanted? The car only moves forward when all these parts are assembled and work together. And even then, only when there is fuel in the tank. 

If you are in business management, especially marketing, this book is a must read.

Bad Luck? or Bad Strategy?
Lord Nelson, the Battle of Trafalgar and a Lesson in Strategy

5. Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro

I can't say enough about Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature. The best films aren't the ones we enjoy in the theater, but the ones we carry out of the theater in our minds and hearts, discussing with friends and considering their broader implications. All of Ishiguro's books have had this effect on me, especially The Unconsoled and this one. The narrator is looking back at her life, viewing it through the lens of new insights gained in the later part of her short life. The result for me as a reader has been to reconsider my own life journey. 

Ishiguro Again Shows His Mastery: Never Let Me Go
Ishiguro's The Unconsoled is an Achievement of the First Order

Bonus Track
Experiencing the Trinity
Darrel W. Johnson

For Christians who want to have a clearer understanding of the Trinity, a unique feature of the Christian faith, or for spiritual seekers who desire to better understand a central concept regarding the nature of God, Darrell W. Johnson's slim volume is superb. 

My attempts to write about this book have been coming up short. Here's where you will find some good Amazon reviews.

Experiencing the Trinity

*

Encores

The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu

and

Baseball Haiku: The Best Haiku Ever Written About the Game
Nanae Tamura, editor

*. * *

What books were especially meaningful to you this year? 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Gnat and the Bull (A Fable of Aesop)

If you've not leafed through a book of Aesop's Fables in a while, you may be surprised at how many pithy maxims have their origin in the simple stories of this ancient Greek. I say simple because they are simple to apprehend, but they are by no means simplistic. His stories each have a point, much like Dr. Seuss or Mr. Rogers. It's not simply entertainment.

I was recently trying to find one of his fables about a gnat and a bull, to share here. Unfortunately I didn't find the story I was looking for and kept running into this one. I will share my recollection as a follow up.

The Gnat and the Bull

A Gnat flew over the meadow with much buzzing for so small a creature and settled on the tip of one of the horns of a Bull. After he had rested a short time, he made ready to fly away. But before he left he begged the Bull's pardon for having used his horn for a resting place.

"You must be very glad to have me go now," he said.

"It's all the same to me," replied the Bull. "I did not even know you were there."

We are often of greater importance in our own eyes than in the eyes of our neighbor. The smaller the mind the greater the conceit.


Here's how I remembered the story of... 

The Gnat and the Bull (Variation on a Theme)

One day as a Bull was following a trail through the mountains a Gnat buzzed around his head and asked for permission to rest on the tip of his horn. The Bull laughed and said, "Go right ahead."

They went a ways together until the came to a rickety wooden-slat bridge over a deep ravine. After sizing up the situation, the Bull carefully clambered across the bridge. When the two travelers reached the other side the Gnat said, "Boy, we sure made that one quake."

We are often of lesser importance than we think we are.

* * * 

I'll close here by sharing a Friend Link to another of my favorite tales by Aesop: Who Will Bell the Cat?

Trivia: Did you know that writers on Medium get rewarded by the
number of claps given by readers. Furthermore, a reader can
clap up to 50 times there. 

Enjoy your day. Tomorrow will be the shortest day of the year...
and then the days will begin getting longer.

Illustrations by the author.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Flashback Friday: Why I Try

I don't recall when I wrote this poem, but do recall when it was published, in December 2011. I was even contacted by a Hollywood producer who was touched by it. If you find this page and take it heart, go forth and make a difference.

Photo by Alex Wigan on Unsplash

Why I Try

Do I really want on my deathbed to lie
wondering why I didn't try?

Regretting life I didn't live?

Regretting the strength I didn't give?

Regretting what I didn't share,

wondering why I didn't care?


And so, you see, till the day I die

I'll try and try and try and try.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Our Restaurants Are Suffering. How Bad? Let's Look at the Numbers

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash
When the pandemic began I knew from the start it was going to be bad for area restaurants. My son is in the restaurant trade and he said this spring that 1/3 of our local restaurants would be out of business when this was over. 

I don't know where that guesstimate came from, but it was clear that government mandated shutdowns and inequitable "relief" packages from on high were going to leave a lot of business owners hurting. There was no question that damage was being done. Quantifying it was something I was unable to wrap my head around, until this announcement from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) was released 10 days ago.

The headline is stark: Restaurant Industry In Free Fall; 10,000 Close In Three Months.

The following numbers come from an open letter to Congress from the NRA. The source of this data is a survey conducted the latter half of November.

--Eighty-seven percent of fullservice restaurants (independent, chain, and franchise) report an average 36% drop in sales revenue.  (EdNote: Profit margins in this industry average 5-6%_

--Eighty-three percent predicted things would be worse for the next three month.

--As of today 110,000 restaurants are closed permanently or long term due to shut downs.

--On average these restaurants had been in business for 16 years, and 16% had been open for at least 30 years.

Many of the difficulties have been complicated by the hasty manner in which legislation was cobbled together for the initial bailouts and CARES Act. You can read the NRA's letter to Congress here to see their recommendations for a more equitable solution for our nation's restaurant owners. 

LETTER TO CONGRESS HERE
https://restaurant.org/downloads/pdfs/advocacy/nat-l-restaurant-assoc-ltr-to-congress-12-7-2020.pdf

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Last Minute Christmas Ideas for Art Lovers: Lizzard's Worth a Look

"While our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all."--Ray Bradbury

Were you bummed when Waters of Superior closed this year due to Covid? Fortunately there are still some art galleries where you can find something old, new, bold or blue. I've long been a fan of Lizzard's Gallery & Framing down on Superior Street across from Minnesota Power. Jeff represents a whole host of local artists and also does framing to help their work look the best it can be when it's on your wall.

Yesterday I dropped in to have something "mended" and took a few photos to share here as a reminder that we're less than 10 days from Christmas, and if you still need to shop the doors are open. 

* * * 

Forest Floor Late Fall -- Terry Millikan

"All creative art is magic."--Joseph Conrad

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Checking Out Two Loons Gallery & Boutique in the Craft District


As some of you know, Susie has been making some cool Christmas Tree Ornaments with goose eggs from our gaggle of geese. She also make quill pens from decorated goose feathers. Some of these can be found at Two Loons, an arts and crafts shop founded five years ago and run by Joel & Lori Baird.

I stopped in this afternoon to drop off more pens and took some photos here. There's really much, much more to see than what I am sharing here, so you really need to go visit the store before Christmas, just to get one more gift or stocking stuffer. The Bairds are a local business that supports local artisans. 

Be sure to check out their website, which I have listed below at the bottom of this page. 

You'll find Susie's Goose Egg Ornaments here under this lamp.
The Bridge to Nowhere

Two Loons. 2025 West Superior Street. 

Here's the website. CHECK IT OUT. There's lots to see.