Friday, April 30, 2021

Dylan On Loneliness: References A-Plenty, Sorrows Run Deep

This week I was thinking about Eleanor Rigby and that famous line, "Ah, look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from?" This song influenced me to post Thursday about David Bowie's Space Oddity, though I was only scratching the surface on this topic. 

A 1950 bestseller, The Lonely Crowd, addressed it from another angle. It's a striking title. How can you be lonely when you're with a crowd? Is that an oxymoron? Not really. It's probably quite common, even too common.

When I turned to my Bob Dylan Concordance, I was not surprised at how many of his songs include the words lonely, lonesome and loneliness.

For example, Dylan used the word Lonely 13 times in his songs. One of my favorites, Born in Time, begins, "In the lonely night..." Time Out of Mind has a lot of moody lyrics, including this line from Can't Wait: "While I'm strolling through the lonely graveyard of my mind..." What an evocative image. Think about it. 

In I Shall Be Released he references "this lonely crowd." And Dylan uses the word thrice in his latest album, Rough & Rowdy Ways -- twice in Murder Most Foul and once in False Prophet: "I go where only the lonely can go." 

Dylan uses the word Loneliness four times, as follows:
"There are those who worship loneliness, I'm not one of them." (Dirge/Planet Waves)
"In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space..." (Every Grain of Sand/Shot of Love)
"Father of loneliness and pain..." (Father of Night/New Morning)
"Loneliness, tenderness, high society, notoriety..." (No Time to Think/Street Legal)

As if that weren't enough, the word Lonesome appears over 25 times in Dylan's songs. In 1962 he sang "I wanna leave my lonesome home." Going forward he sings about all kinds of lonesomes: Lonesome shadows, the lonesome ocean, a lonesome day, a long lonesome road, the lonesome nighttime, the lonesome sparrow that sings in Gates of Eden, a lonesome grave, a lonesome organ grinder, lonesome fear and lonesome clouds are just a few of the places where the word is an adjective expressing lament. Yes, "today has been a sad and lonesome day" he sings on Lonesome Day Blues (Love and Theft) and "lonesome comes up as down goes the day." (That latter is an especially interesting image from Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie) 

His lonesomes are not always due to longing for a lost love. In The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll it's a reference to the pathos of injustice.

* * * 

Dylan didn't originate the idea of lonesomeness. Elvis ("Are you lonesome tonight?), Hank Williams ("I'm so lonesome I could cry"), Billie Holiday ("The Lonesome Road"), and a host of others before him have testified to this feature of the human condition. 

On the other hand, there's another aspect of being alone that shouldn't be overlooked. I'm referring to the satisfaction of healthy solitude. Being comfortable with our selves in solitude is a good thing. Most artists, writers and musicians value that timeless feeling of being absorbed in one's work. 

In short, being alone does not necessitate our feeling lonely. How are you doing today?

Related Link
Bob Dylan's Dreams

Duluth Dylan Fest 2021

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Space Oddity and the Quest for Connection

Photo courtesy NASA

This past week I read an article about loneliness, which simultaneously brought to mind The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby and a book by Swiss psychologist Paul Tournier, Escape from Loneliness. This post on that particular theme was shared 11 years ago today.

Ground Control to Major Tom
Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills 
and put your helmet on 

Ground Control to Major Tom 
Commencing countdown, engines on 
Check ignition and
may God's love be with you
[spoken] Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff

These opening lines from David Bowie's Space Oddity were such a radical departure from the contemporary pop of its time. Contrast this to Honky Tonk Women (Rolling Stones) or Build Me Up, Buttercup (Foundations). The space race was in full swing when this was being written. The title is a transparent take-off on Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which had been continuously playing in New York for years. But the song is clearly about something else. 
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare
You can picture the astronaut, out there alone, cut off from the world floating beneath and away from him, separated not only by space but by his strange experience, uniquely disquieting because how many people can understand or imagine what he is thinking, feeling, going through at this moment, his fears, his anxieties... and that strange comment about his fame... "the papers want to know whose shirts you wear" as he ponders the meaning of his life.

I don't always sleep well, with so much on my mind so much of the time. You have to wonder how these astronauts got any rest at all, wrapped in Mission Control outfits that can't possibly have been as comfy as being in one's underwear between sheets.

As with all great poetry, a rose is not a rose. And the capsule Major Tom is to emerge from is more than a capsule. He is leaving the security of what he knows for the uncertainty of the unknown; he is leaving the domain where he is in control. He is letting go.

This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do
Tom Wolfe's bestseller The Right Stuff is one fat book, but it's a fascinating read and a great picture of the audacity of the space program and the space cowboys who made it happen. Not everyone has what it takes.

There are many endeavors to which we are suited or ill-suited based on our personal dispositions. Career choices, if at all possible, should not only dovetail with our interests but also our personalities. Some people have to be outdoors and find office space stifling. Some are more social, and others most comfortable in solitude. Some like being active, others prefer contemplative tasks.

Wolfe made it clear that The Right Stuff is more than physical toughness. There's a mental facet involving courage, risk taking and steel nerves, among other things.

Wolfe made them out to be America's heroes, and on one level they were thus. But if you trace the aftermath of their space walks, moon walks, multiple cycles 'round the globe, you find that they were mortals, just like you and I. They struggled with the basic needs we all struggle with, how to make peace with ourselves in a world that often fails to understand us. Learning to overcome the loneliness of our isolation and find peace within our solitude.

Here's the culmination of Bowie's song.

Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles
I'm feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much she knows

Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you....
Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do.

Is it tragic, or beautiful? Thomas Wolfe (author of Look Homeward Angel, and not to be confused with Tom Wolfe above) once observed, "The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence."

Perhaps Space Oddity makes a connection because nearly all youth feel to some degree a measure of alienation, a disconnection with friends and family, partly out of fear of revealing our most vulnerable selves. When we recognize that nearly all have struggled with self-doubts, uncertainty and apprehension, then we understand we're not so alone as we imagined.

Of these things much more can be said. Have a thoughtful day. For those around you struggling with their isolation, reach out and share your ray of sunshine.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Fun With Collage: Claude-Angèle BONI's Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, Versions 1 & 2

Click to enlarge.
When I first saw French artist Claude-Angèle BONI's Dylan-themed paintings and collages, I was thrilled and looked forward to sharing. I have since learned that there's much more to share than there's room to share it, though with Duluth Dylan Fest approaching, I certainly have a ready excuse to share more Dylan-themed stories than usual, and as Batman once reminded Robin, "There can NEVER be too much Dylan."

Today's collages feature Dylan and peers inserted into classical settings. The first is titled Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. It's based on a famous painting by Renoir titled Luncheon of the Boating Party. Can you find the five characters of Joan, Bob, Sara, Sally and Albert Grossman? Is that Bob Neuwirth in there as well? Sally Grossman and Sara Dylan were friends, so they play the roles of Lily and Rosemarie in this collage. Albert Grossman was a big guy and Claude-Angele seemed to recall a place in Chronicles where he referred to himself as Big Jim. (This may or may not be a fiction, but it works.)

"When I make those collages I'm using a lot of pieces of pictures then I stick them together and I obtain an original creature, like Dr Frankenstein used to do," Claude-Angele explained. This, of course, made me think of the song My Own Version of You from Dylan's latest release, Rough & Rowdy Ways

Wearing costumes from French Cancan. Click to enlarge.
The second version of Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts uses a different setting for the characters portrayed. In this version Claude-Angele has the characters wearing costumes from Jean Renoir's 1955 comedy French Cancan. What's interesting to me is the inspired adoption of creations by two different Renoirs. The painting at the top of the page is by French impressionist Pierre-August Renoir. 

What especially surprised me was how when I mentioned the director Jean Renoir on my Monday blog post, she immediately responded like a short order cook with these two Renoir-inspired collages depicting Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. In this latter version we see (L to R) Sally Grossman as Lily, Albert Grossman as Big Jim, Bob Dylan as the Jack of Hearts, Sara Dylan as Rosemary and Bob Neuwirth on the right, as The Judge.

Here are the photos our artist used to assemble these images for us.

Sara Dylan (Renoir Luncheon & French Cancan)

Dylan, for the Renoir Luncheon

"Big Jim" Albert Grossman for Renoir Luncheon

Baez for the Renoir Luncheon

Sally Grossman

Bob Neuwirth
The Jack of Hearts in the French Cancan setting.

* * * 
Duluth Dylan Fest 2021 is just around the corner.
Count down the days with us. Visit

Related Links
My Own Version of You (on YouTube)

Meet the Minnesota Musicians of Blood on the Tracks 
The guys who recorded Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts could tell you stories.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

In Times Like These We Need Art's Place by Michael Fedo -- It Will Make You Smile

When I first began my pursuit of a writing career, I had no idea where it would take me. My inspiration to write initially came from Hemingway's short stories, so I immersed myself in the reading of short fiction by other masters while simultaneously learning the ropes about writing articles for publication. But I've never ceased to be a fan of the short story form, and still make time to spin a few yarns when the muse whispers an idea into my ear.

I first met Michael Fedo at a book signing at Barnes & Noble here in Duluth. I don't recall the book he was promoting, but I do recall the book I purchased: The Lynchings in Duluth. This incident left a powerful stain on Duluth's history (the lynching, not my purchase of his book) and I suspect most people knew little about it because so little had been written about it. I don't even recall hearing it discussed before the Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial was erected in 2003.

I find it interesting how some writers establish a reputation as a certain kind of author that fits into some neat category, and others explore all the various facets of their personalities and interests. Agatha Christie wrote mysteries and Hemingway wrote "serious" fiction (generally) but a good portion of Graham Greene's catalog was a mix. His serious novels brought him international acclaim. Yet, he also wrote a fair number of books that he called "Entertainments." 

All that is a roundabout way of saying that Art's Place is an "entertainment." And indeed, these stories are entertaining. Suitable adjectives for these tales might include words like witty, hilarious, quirky (borrowed from the cover), over-the-top, off-the-wall, out-of-the-ballpark and wacky. Well, maybe wacky is too weird. Bottom line is that the stores are fun.

A quick scan of the titles will give you a feel for what's in store. Here's a sampling.
Quilters Sew Up Olympic Berth: Whistlers Blow It
Gunnar Sundstrom's Sushi Bar
I'm Dead, Now What?
The Ladies of West Rarington Falls Get Down
Mozart in the Mosh Pit

OK, you get the picture. The names are fun, the scenarios hilarious. In his story 
Poet Relinquishes Language we read about a bard who wishes to create poems that don't require words. In The Musicians' Corner in Purgatory, we find musicians who like to sit around and talk shop. The musicians include Mozart and Beethoven, Elvis and Virgil in a meandering stream that crosses the ages. Then there's Finito, Inc. about the woman who discovered she could not only make a living, but build a business around the theme, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings."

I asked Mr. Fedo to share which stories were his faves, and talk a little how he goes about writing humorous fiction.

Michael Fedo at Op-Ed Workshop
Good morning, Ed. I suppose my three favorites here are, in no particular ranking: Art's PlaceThe James Boys, and The Wedding Reviewer.  Each amuse me because of their improbability.  They all stemmed from the question, "What if . . . .?"  What if patrons of a blue-collar bar discussed art and literature with the same passion and patois used when talking about sports, or what if the James boys happened to meet, how would that encounter ensue, and what if weddings were reviewed along with films, theater, art, music, etc.  How would these notions evolve?  

When I'm writing humorous/satirical fiction, I look for dialectics--sort of putting opposites together to see what happens.  Writing these stores was great fun for me, and during the decade I was creating them, they came together rather easily, after I involved myself with the What If question.  Of course, there were false starts, and pieces that didn't work also, but most of my efforts were completed and published, and important too--paid for.  

Of the three, I think The James Boys (which received a huge batch of rejections) wasn't snapped up because, while everybody knows about the gangster James brothers, almost no one under 60 knows about William and Henry, and thus would miss all the clues pointing to Frank and Jesse suggesting titles and topics that the erudite brothers would incorporate into their writings.  The piece requires a foreknowledge in order to be appreciated. 

Writing humor is not as easy as you might expect. It is quite rewarding, however, when it works. Getting paid for what you produce is likewise rewarding.

One of the reviewers of this book on had this to say about Art's Place:

It feels like I was the target audience for a lot of these short stories. Page-long riffs on literature, history, and wry "what-if" scenarios are the sorts of things constantly running through my mind, and it was a joy to read.

I concur. 

The book opens with Art's Place, which immediately sets the stage. The James Boys: Summer, 1881 follows. Absurd? Well, if you know Jesse and Frank James, and you're familiar with Henry and William James... put 'em together and what have you got? A good yarn.

Maybe there should be a sequel in which Jesse and Frank go East to get a higher education. Henry and William manage to get them scholarships to an Ivy League school and... well, we can only imagine.

Related Links

Notes from an Op-Ed Writing Workshop

Michael Fedo Talks About Writing and His Book The Lynchings in Duluth

The Lynchings in Duluth (A Review)

Michael Fedo books on Amazon

Monday, April 26, 2021

A Post-Modern Effort to Create a Blog Post in the Classical Tradition

A Postmodern Man
This past year I came to realize that blogging had begun to become passé. It dawned on me that I must return to the roots of blogging and attempt to create a blog post in the classical tradition.

To return to the classical spirit means leaving behind the human beast and naturalism. Even Flaubert, if it were possible. It was time to return to Marivaux, Beaumachais and Moliere. It was an ambitious goal, but I must point out that the other way only led to a most dismal series of rabbit holes. To quote Renoir, "When choosing masters, it's best to choose a plump one." This does not mean you are comparing yourself to them. It simply means you're trying to learn something from them. 

And so it is that I tried to create a classical work that incorporated classical music. I had to perform it in something of a comedic fashion in order to lift some of the heaviness that has saturated our times. The result was something of a pantomime. 

In this post I determined to place some extremely simple characters who carry their ideas through to their natural conclusions, who go as far as the development of their thought takes them. They are frank and straightforward. It's a portrait of this society, albeit a society in decline, though we love it because it wears no mask.

When this blog post was originally produced, it came across as ill-conceived and even controversial. The comments were interesting, though. A few could not be published. No harm done. There were no threats on my life, only insults.

As is well-known the 20th century was one of deconstruction, which I'd hopde to see followed by an era of reconstruction. To my dismay, we've become heirs to an era of destruction. Nothing is sacred to the destroyer-technicians who have turned values on their heads. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there. 

To shine a light on this zero sum game was never my intention. I had a different story to tell, and it was only later that I was rewarded. But then, that is another story.

Sensitive hearts, faithful hearts, who shun love whether it does range
Cease to be so bitter, so bitter. Is it a crime to change?

* * * 

Many, if not most, of the sentences were transcribed and repurposed from Jean Renoir's introductory remarks to his 1939 film The Rules of the Game. It's similar to the technique I used in the short story Harry Gold, or the opening of A Poem About Truth

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Chopin: Desire for Love and Thoughts from the Keen Mind of George Sand

George Sand was a woman who could not  and would not live within the confining boundaries society placed on women of her day. To be published as a novelist, she therefore wrote under a pseudonym. Her real name was Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, baronne Dudevant. 

This week I was watching a movie about Frederic Chopin and his relationship to George Sand titled Chopin: Desire for Love. It brought to mind the 1991 film Impromptu with Hugh Grant and Judy Davis in which Davis (as G. Sand) states that the beauty of Chopin's music is "proof that there is a God." It was a great line, and a statement that is hard to argue with. His piano compositions were exquisite.

Chopin: Desire for Love is a more recent production (2002) and less enjoyable. Like Impromptu it centers on the relationship between Chopin and Aurore Dupin, but in this latter version their conflicts become the story. His self-centeredness becomes painful to watch, no matter how much his compositions inspire or convey of the turbulence at the center of their passions. 

Dupin has two children who still need a mother. Chopin, who has never married or had children, sees her children as an impediment to the inspiration her love provides him. It's a form of machisimo that is common in certain parts of the world. When we worked at an orphanage in Mexico, some of the children there were kicked out of their homes by a second husband who would have nothing to do with the offspring of the first. 

Director Jerzy Antczak was nominated for an Academy Award for this 2002 production, which he filmed in Polish, then dubbed in English. The score is fabulous, simply because there is so much of Chopin there. Yo-Yo Ma is even one of the players in the soundtrack. 

The effect that Antczak attempted to achieve was to illuminate the conditions that created these sometimes emotionally charged pieces, much like that which was more successfully accomplished in Immortal Beloved about the music of Beethoven. Beethoven's stormy temperament is fairly well-known, so that film worked for me. This film diverged significantly from the image I have of a fragile, perfectionist composer who struggled with sickness and depression. 

One reviewer stated that both Chopin films strayed far from the actual story of Chopin's career and affair with Aurore Dupin so that both were unacceptable. Of the two I preferred the former, even though I become impressed with the skill with which modern film makers are able to re-create the sets in these period pieces.

The actors were good and well cast for their roles--Piotr Adamczak as Chopin and Damuta Stenka as George Sand. Several of the reviewers gave the film high marks, so it may be something to consider, even if it does have a soap opera aspect. I will give it 5 stars out of 10, only because there is so much wonderful Chopin music in there. 

* * * 
George Sand by Auguste Carpentier
George Sand as a writer did not get as developed in this film. According to some, she was even more popular than Balzac and Victor Hugo in her day, and highly influential politically. 
I thought it would be worthwhile to share some quotes from this rule-breaking woman who had to make a go of it in a very restrictive time for women. She believed it was OK for a woman to wear pants (they were more comfortable than frilly dresses) and write novels. What I seem to recall was that she lived much of her life on less sleep because she did all her writing at night. Making sacrifices is what writers must do if they are to succeed. 

I'm always impressed by how much writers of that era accomplished without typewriters and word processors, or photocopy machines. George Sand lived in 1830, the typewriter was invented in 1872.

What follows are several quotes from her letters and writings.

* * * 
"I have an object, a task, let me say the word, a passion. The profession of writing is a violent and almost indestructible one."

* * * 
"Life resembles a novel more often than novels resemble life."

    * * * 
    "Life is a long ache which rarely sleeps and can never be cured."

      * * * 
      "Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth."

      * * * 
      "Masterpieces are only lucky attempts."

      * * * 
      About Chopin
      "His creation was spontaneous, miraculous. He found it without searching for it, without foreseeing it. It came to his piano suddenly, complete, sublime, or it sang in his head during a walk, and he would hasten to hear it again by, tossing it off on his instrument. But then would begin the most heartbreaking labor I have ever witnessed." 

      * * * 

      Saturday, April 24, 2021

      Saturday Snippets: Fragments of Imagination and Observation

      The other night I decided to do something useful: cleaned some of the debris and scraps of miscellany off my desk. What follows are various notes, interspersed with a few quotes from other sources. Every once in a while you just gotta do it.

      * * *

      "Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
      Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain..."
      Bob Dylan, Not Dark Yet

      * * *

      His method: Following an idea as far as it would go.

      * * *

      Don't gather 'round people
      don't go out and roam.
      Please stay in your houses 
      and please stay at home.

      * * * 

      As I was walking into town
      I met a man whose head was down;
      He used to be a happy clown
      But now he only wears a frown

      * * * 

      I'm so old I can still remember when it was illegal to break the law.

      * * * 

      She gave him a tornado and said, "Let's go for a ride."
      "I'm a little burned out, and it's late," he replied.

      * * * 

      One good thing about reading a lot of Solzhenitsyn & writing about it
      is that you learn how to spell his name without having to look it up.

      * * *

      How did it happen that people created a special day to be tricksters?

      * * * 

      The next person who asks me for for a glass of pineapple juice mixed with grapefruit is gonna get a punch.

      * * * 

      "The best conversations... start over good food." 
      Printed inside lid of Mezzetta Imported Capers

      * * * 

      "Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art."
      --Frederick Chopin

      * * * 

      "The truth is too simple: one must always get there by a complicated route." --George Sand  

      * * *

      Meantime life goes on all around you. Make the most of it.

      Friday, April 23, 2021

      French Artist Claude-Angèle Boni Explains Two Dylan-Inspired Treasures

      Don’t put on any airs When you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue They got some hungry women there And they really make a mess outta you --Bob Dylan, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues 

      The Rue Morgue Avenue
      A few weeks ago I was introduced to a French artist whose work is absolutely fascinating. Oh, and yes, she is a Dylan fan. And all her work is Dylan inspired and Dylan themed. 

      I learned of her existence through a friend who was planning to purchase a couple of her paintings. He sent me digital renditions of nine pieces so I could weigh in and give him my opinion. I was wowed, and reached out to her this past week seeking permission to share her paintings here and perhaps her story. 

      The artist is Claude Angele BONI, a long time Dylan fan who was given the rare opportunity to draw Bob and he drew her. That is a much longer story that has already been published in fanzines like Isis, Judas (#13, April 2005), and Endless Road (#6, Sept. 1984). 

      I contacted her to request permission to share her work here, and she quickly assented. Through our correspondence I discovered that her first meeting with Bob took place in Avignon and that she attended the concert there in 1981 during his Shot of Love Tour. It just so happens that I have a bootleg of a portion of that concert and wrote about it here: Blowing in the Wind and Dylan's 1981 Concert in Avignon.

      So I asked her to tell me more about her painting The Rue Morgue Avenue and the people who were there in the picture.

      The original "Les Vilains Bonshommes" by Latour.

      Claude-Angèle BONI: First of all it's a "pastiche" of one of my favorite paintings by Henry de Fantin Latour called in French "Les Vilains Bonshommes" and in English "The Corner." (a.k.a. "By the Table")

      EdNote: A pastiche is a work of art that imitates a work by another artist or period.


      On the first row you have, from left to right, VERLAINE & RIMBAUD (the French poets with their nargileh) (EdNote: Hookah) ROBBIE ROBERTSON, EDGAR ALLAN POE , DAVID CROSBY, and BOB with his Bible and his bottle of whiskey. On the second row you have from left to right: BOB JOHNSTON (Bob's manager), AL COOPER, ROGER McGUINN + a painting on the wall by Gustave Courbet sometimes called "Baigneuses" or "The Bathers." 

      There is a long story behind that painting. Courbet was supposed to have started it and another less famous painter had finished it. You can also find that on Wikipedia. This painting is important because of the signature of COURBET and because it's part of the numerous  Art Works stolen by the Germans during the last world war. That's the reason why I chose it instead of a portrait of Baudelaire who was supposed to be featured on the original painting because CHARLES BAUDELAIRE, the famous French poet, died before Fantin Latour had finished the painting.

      I made THE RUE MORGUE AVENUE after reading CHRONICLES, I liked the influence Bob Johnston and all those companions behind Bob had on him in the 60's. I also chose those three poets I used to read when I was a teenager, the same books Bob started to read in the early 60's, too.

      When the Night Comes Falling

      Claude-Angèle BONI: Now briefly, I can tell you something about “When the Night Comes Falling.”  It's about what it takes to love someone. From a woman’s point of view. It takes faith and waiting, like the main character MAGDALENA, the woman in red on the left. And it takes risk, like the woman walking alone on the chess board. And it also takes imagination (the image of Bob appearing in a dream at night.) If I had the desire to make this painting because EMPIRE BURLESQUE is an album from the 80's that I like very much. 

      EdNote: I actually enjoyed Empire Burlesque myself. I felt it had a lot of great tracks and was underrated. Or maybe Dylan had set the bar so high that it was expected that every song had to be stellar, as on so many of his other albums. 

      * * * 
      What's been shared here only scratches the surface of BONI's art. Many of her pieces contain layers of symbols and a complexity that compares with many of Dali's surrealistic compositions. I look forward to sharing more.

      Here's a bonus track: an outtake from Highway 61 Revisited which appeared on Dylan's Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge

      * * * 

      Stay Tuned. More paintings, more insights. More Dylan.

      Thursday, April 22, 2021

      Throwback Thursday: My 2011 Interview with Artist Paul Klee

      I have always enjoyed interviewing people as a means of sharing their stories. This is one of several imaginary interviews I have done with people such as Honore de Balzac or John S. Hall, the blind poet of Ritchie County. 

      * * * *

      Swiss-born artist Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a significant influence in my early art. What excited me about his work was the incredible variety. He seemed like an artist who defied categorization. Modern? Yes, but only in the sense that his work was liberated from everything before it. He worked using a variety of media and a seemingly endless variety of styles. He worked on paper, cloth, canvas, burlap, or what appears to be anything he could find. Like Dylan today, he seems to have been constantly re-inventing himself. 

      I caught up with him recently to discuss his life and work, somewhat eager to learn his impressions of mine. 
      Ennyman: Tell me about your early influences?

      My earliest influence was music. I was raised in a very musical family. My father was a music teacher and my mother a trained singer. I began playing violin at age seven. But my grandmother once gave me a box of sidewalk chalk and it was clear I had a good hand for drawing. As a teen my drawings showed a considerable level of skill and my parents, reluctantly, allowed me to pursue art school at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.

      My grandmother was an influence, too, in my art development. After college, then what?

      Red Balloon. Oil on muslin. Guggenheim Collection
      I went back home and lived with my parents. It was a rueful time, and my work travelled down two paths. My black and white pieces were dark, and so color came to mean something special to me, even began to possess me. I was also doing a lot of experimentation at the time, doing one series of 57 pictures drawing on a blackened pain of glass with a needle.

      Interesting technique.

      I still kept up my music and played violin in the orchestra and was writing concert and theater reviews.

      Yes, you were also a writer.

      I'd begun a diary very young and never quit that. It's a good way to learn how to capture abstract ideas in words and to develop an understanding of how you observe.

      How did you come to be a recognized figure in the European art scene?

      I was doing illustrations for Voltaire's Candide and met Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and other avant garde artists, who became known as The Blue Rider group. Wassily has a keen mind and had been developing theories and ideas about color, as I had. Art does not reproduce the visible, rather it makes visible. We both went on to teach at the Bauhaus school of art.

      Mr. Kandinsky wrote a number of books as well as opening modern painting to new spaces. I enjoyed his Concerning the Spiritual in Art. You wrote as well, did you not?

      I published my diary in 1918 and also some other writings later.

      You once stated that even drawing has changed for you.

      In the final analysis, a drawing simply is no longer a drawing, no matter how self-sufficient its execution may be. It is a symbol, and the more profoundly the imaginary lines of projection meet higher dimensions, the better.

      Are there any common threads in your world view with other disciplines?

      The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions.

      Any last thoughts?

      Some will not recognize the truthfulness of my mirror. Let them remember that I am not here to reflect the surface... but must penetrate inside. My mirror probes down to the heart. I write words on the forehead and around the corners of the mouth. My human faces are truer than the real ones. Also, when looking at any significant work of art, remember that a more significant one probably has had to be sacrificed.

      Thank you for your time.

       This interview is a work of fiction. The information is not fiction, taken from Klee's actual quotes and the entry about his life and work in Wikipedia.

      Tuesday, April 20, 2021

      What Can We Learn from a Look at Global Homicide Rates?

      Photo by Pope Moysuh on Unsplash
      Monday night I ran across a statement comparing the murder rates per 100,000 people in many countries in the world. It was accompanied by some commentary that made me want to fact check a little bit. Naturally I asked Google to find me the URL for the World Health Organization murder rates, and in less than a second I received over 20 million results. The first was all I needed, providing homicide estimates for every country around the globe.

      For what it's worth, if you want to bone up on your world geography, this might be one way to go. We have a number of countries on Planet Earth that I bet you've never heard of. Do you know where Eswatini is? How about Eritrea or Seycelles?

      What I wanted to do here was list the data and then draw a few hypothetical conclusions.

      Here are all the countries with more than 30 homicides per 100,000 people:

      Data Source
      El Salvador -- 85
       -- 67
       -- 63
       -- 50
       -- 43
       -- 39
       -- 38
       -- 38
       -- 37
      South Africa
       -- 36
       -- 32.5

      Countries with homicide rates in the 20s per 100K population, in descending order: St. Vincent, Mexico, Guatemala, Guyana, and Central African Republic. St. Lucia and Haiti each have 20 as well.

      Countries with homicide rates in the teens, in descending order: Eswatini, Nambia, Dominican Republic, Panama, Botswana, Seyceles, Iraq, South Sudan, Uganda, Philippines, Cabo Verge, Zimbabwe, Dem. Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Barbados, Papua New Guinea, Eritrea, Mauritania, Mali, and Congo.

      Yemen, Liberia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Peru, Angola, Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Chad, Togo, Guinea, Uraguay, Gabon, Afghanistan, Gambia, Tanzania, Paraguay, Sierra Leone, Russian Federation, Senegal, Comoros, Ethiopia -- all these have from 9.7 to 7. 

      Here are your sixes: Ecuador, Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic, Grenada, Burundi, Dijbouti, Madagascar, Zambia, Camaroon, Ukraine, Benin, Ghana, Mongolia and Argentina.

      The average homicide rate overall for the world is 6 homicides per 100,000 population. 

      We enter the fives with Pakistan (5.9), Suriname (5.79), Sudan (5.78) and finally the U.S. at 5.77 homicides per 100,000. In other words, nearly half the world has a lower score than we do when it comes to homicides. 

      * * * 
      As I consider these things I'm reminded of how we are told that it's not good to compare yourself to others. Yes, it would be a temptation to feel good about knowing that there are more than 70 countries with higher homicide rates, many with two, three, five times as many as us, and three with more than ten times as many. But looking at the other end of the scale, one has to wonder, "What's wrong with this picture?" The most civilized countries don't murder people at the rate we do. 

      When we look at Japan, Singapore, Bahrain, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Qatar, the numbers are so low that they are practically zero. Japan has 126 million people and less than one murder per day on average.

      * * *
      Taken as a whole, the most dangerous part of the world in terms of homicide rates is Central America. No wonder so many people South of our border have been fleeing North. It may not be paradise when they arrive, but it's safer than where they come from. What are the root causes of this social dysfunction?

      * * * 
      The matter of gun ownership has been a bone of contention in recent years here. Is there a relationship between guns and homicide? 

      The U.S. has more guns per capita than anyone, averaging 120.5 guns per every 100 people. The ratio of guns per capita does not entirely correspond to homicide rates. Switzerland, for example, has lots of guns, ranking 19th overall, but has nearly zero homicides. Finland, which is 10th overall in gun ownership is similarly amongst the lowest in homicides as well. 

      You might think that having more guns than everyone else would mean more homicides, but that conclusion doesn't hold up either.   

      * * * 
      I'm not really sure what to think of all these numbers yet. I got curious last night, and decided to do a brief survey. It's obviously we've only scratched the surface here. 

      Here are the links to the data I gathered above.

      WHO: Estimates of Rates of Homicides Per 100,000 Population

      Ranking of Countries Were Gun Ownership Is Restricted

      * * *

      Monday, April 19, 2021

      Aristotle, Courage and the Golden Mean

      I saw this quote and it rang so true that I wanted to write about it.

      Courage is the golden mean as a virtue, between too much fear which produces cowardice and too little fear which produces recklessness.

      When I Googled it to see where this sentence came from, I found that I had already written about it two years ago, on Medium.

      This experience brought to mind a friend who had read every Louis L'Amour Western. That would be 100, for those who might be counting. (He also wrote 250 short stories, so the guy was prolific.) What she said was that in his last books he sometimes mixed up his characters. That is, someone in book 87 might accidentally make a cameo appearance in book 98. She was certain that L'Amour's little mix-ups were unintentional. 

      I have occasionally found articles or blog posts I wrote that I forgot about entirely. Occasionlly I have opened a file that I thought was really well written, but wasn't sure if I wrote it or it was copied from somewhere else. 

      I'm not yet 70, so I have miles to go before I sleep, and will likely experience this more than a few times as the shadows creep in a little further down the road.

      * * * 
      Here's the original story on Medium. It's titled Courage: The Golden Mean Between Cowardice and Recklessness.

      * * * 
      The reason this Aristotle quote was on my mind was because I was thinking about our National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, who wrote a poem titled Aristotle. It happens to be one of my favorites and appears near the end of his book titled Sailing Alone Around the Room. It's a fabulous bit of writing that many writers would sacrifice an arm to be able to achieve. (You can still be a writer with one hand, right?) It might actually be enlightening to discover what it really feels like to experience the sound of one hand clapping. (Am I pushing that too far?) 

      Collins was on my mind because very recently an acquaintance of mine, a poetry prof at UWS, got a phone call from Mr. Collins. The National Poet Laureate had called to notify him that his book of poems, Roze & Blud, was under consideration for a Pulitzer.  Congrats, Jayson. Your fans are all on pins and needles.

      Related Links

      Sunday, April 18, 2021

      Sixteen Centuries Later, Augustine of Hippo Still Speaks

      Last week I began listening to a series of lectures from The Great Courses series titled Books That Matter: The City of God. The author of that massive tome was the Fourth Century luminary Augustine of Hippo. The lectures are by Charles Mathewes who earned his PhD in Religion from the University of Chicago.

      Several decades ago I read Augustine's Confessions, and perhaps ten years ago listened to a lecture series on Augustine himself. This series is entirely dedicated to Augustine's opus.

      In both the church and the Dylan song that references him (John Wesley Harding album) he's referred to. as St. Augustine. He lived from 354 to 430, which in those days was a pretty full life.  

      Keep in mind that all his writings were produced in the era before printing presses, so it is unlikely that such a volume as The City of God, which is more than a thousand pages in length, would have been a bestseller in its day. They didn't have typewriters, and it's probable that the scribes he dictated the book to got writers cramp from time to time. 

      The City of God was one of Augustine's later works. He lived during the fall of the Roman empire and saw the sack of Rome in 410 A.D., events that no doubt influenced his ideas about what matters most in the grand scheme of things. According to Mathewes, The City of God, is one of the most important books in Western civilization. You may not have even heard of it, but it's been highly influential in the 1600 years since it was written.  

      This book is not about the fall of Rome and collapse of its empire. It was only written with that as a backdrop. 

      If you're like me, you've probably pictured the invasion of the Visigoths from the North as violent warriors coming down into Roman territories with unsheathed swords, violent and terrifying. Eventually they pillage the Capitol of the Empire. The reality was quite different. 

      First, by the time the empire was collapsing, Rome wasn't even the capitol any more. Constantine had moved the Capitol of the empire to Constantinople in 330, decades before the sack of Rome. 

      Second, the Visigoths were not "giant, ignorant cavemen wearing animal skins" who plundered the countryside and then the City of Rome itself. Rather, they came to Rome decades earlier with their families as immigrants and refugees striving to escape the Huns. This began in 376 and by the 400s they were Arian Christians who were quite at home in this civilized culture. (I find this quite interesting in light of our current debates over immigration policy.)

      Much more can be said, but my intent here was to more or less give a little background on Augustine to give context to these quotes from an "Early Church Father." 

      Ten Quotes from St. Augustine

      1. "Love the sinner, hate the sin."

      2. "Patience is the companion of wisdom."

      3. "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

      4. "As a youth I prayed, 'Give me chastity and self-restraint, but not right now.'"

      5. "I have become a question to myself."

      6. "Doubt is the origin of wisdom."

      7. "What is love's perfection? To love our enemies, and to love them to the end that they may be our brothers."

      8. "Anger is a weed; hate is the tree."

      9. "I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.'"

      10. "I do not know what I do not know."

      * * *

      Related Links

      I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine and Thoughts on Being Human

      I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine: An Early Dylan Morality Play

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