Sunday, June 13, 2021

Ishiguro's Klara Is Apparently No Fiction

I have a habit of acquiring, through purchase or library borrowing, more books than I will read. My curious approach to reading is to try to read a little of each one. Afterwards, I have three stacks: must read, hope to read, most likely not finish. Books in the latter stack is that are library books will be returned. If they are books in my possession, they will be shelved. 

Which brings us to Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the SunKazuo Ishiguro is unquestionably one of the great novelists of our time. At this moment Klara and the Sun is in my Must Read stack. Having. book like Klara in that stack is forcing me to finish two other books there so I can dig into it. 

In the Ken Burns documentary on Ernest Hemingway this past year, Hemingway is quoted as saying that writers who win a Nobel Prize never produce anything great again. Ishiguro is proving Hemingway wrong. 

Ishiguro's stories are beautifully crafted and each an original. He paints such vivid characters and scenes and always leaves you feeling something and engaged in reflection. For example, in Never Let Me Go the story is told by a character who is nearing her life's end and discovering how many different ways what she experienced was misunderstood while living it earlier. This led me to reconsider many events in my own life and the ways I failed to see what was really happening.

WHAT PROMPTED this excursion into Ishiguro's writings was an article I came across this week about robots being created to serve as assistants for health care providers. Their mission, among other things, is to brighten people's lives. They can also do "talk therapy."

For the past 30 years I've held the opinion that by the time Baby Boomers are in nursing homes, there would be renewed opening of our borders to immigration in order to have more workers available to attend to our needs. (i.e. empty bedpans, keep us company, etc.) It never entered my mind that robots might be created for this purpose one day. 

The article is a photo gallery with a bit of description as regards what you are seeing. It's titled, Meet Grace, the healthcare robot COVID-19 created.

Having been introduced to Klara, the AI narrator of Ishiguro's novel, I can hardly wait to hear the rest of her story. 

* * * 

Related Links

See my reviews of two other Ishiguro novels I've read in the past couple years.
The Buried Giant
The Unconsoled

Friday, June 11, 2021

Nashville Skyline and a Selection of Images from the Country Music Hall of Fame

Nevada Bob Gordon was in Nashville this week recording his second album. A lot of history here. Charlie McCoy, one of the session musicians on Bob's first album recorded here, also contributed to this second set of songs. Next thing ya know, Nevada Bob will be singing "Act Naturally" as he steps onto the silver screen in Hollywood. He'll have to complete his book deal first.

I enjoyed Nashville the three times I went there on business. As John Sebastian sang in Nashville Cats that there were thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville back in 1966 when Bob Dylan recorded Blonde On Blonde. (Charlie McCoy was a session musician for that Bob, too.) I'm certain there are way more than 1,352 guitar pickers there today.

Nashville has been the heart of country music for ages. Photographer Gary Firstenberg, who has been in accompanying Nevada Bob this week, sent these photos from Nashville and the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

The gator guitar of Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dun.
The Queen of Rockabilly
21 #1 hits on the Billboard country music charts.
Kentucky-born songrwriter whose memorable songs included
"Dark as a Dungeon" "I am a Pilgrim" & "Sixteen Tons"
They were all there, as were many others.
He knew what he wanted, and found itin Nashville.

A life too short, whose music lives on.
A man of distinction.
It's the real deal.
A little piece of the Nashville Skyline

Be sure to visit Gary Firstenberg's photography site: 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

My Unkind Letter to Mother Maybelle Carter

Grave of Mother Maybelle Carter. 
Photo courtesy Gary Firstenberg.
To my shame I once wrote an unkind letter to the much respected and now legendary Mother Maybelle Carter. I was young, a hippie artist and idealist at the time. I had just purchased her newly released double album of 1973 and was more than a little disappointed. I'll explain why in a minute.

I was attending Ohio University in Athens, Ohio at the time. My eclectic mix of musical interests ran the gamut from Bowie to Velvet Underground to Jefferson Airplane, Beatles, Stones and all the various forms of rock and roll, to jazz, classical, folk and bluegrass. 

My own family roots were Kentucky and West Virginia so that my "native tongue" could be considered to be bluegrass. The college hosted a long weekend Folk Festival in 1971 in which many familiar names were present. Mary Travers, The Youngbloods, Doc Watson and many others were there. There were three days of workshops during the day, with a lot of spontaneous bluegrass immersion.

The following year the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's major hit triple album was released, Will the Circle Be Unbroken Mother Maybelle was featured on this album but I also listened some older records with A.P Carter. Maybe the soundtrack for Deliverance popularized the genre and made it mainstream. Whatever reason I was drawn to it, just as I had been to earlier folk music. 

Mother Maybelle's 1973 double album
So when Mother Maybelle's Mother Maybelle Carter album was released, I purchased it as soon as I saw it. I really don't know what I expected but my first and immediate reaction was something akin to Greil Marcus's response to Bob Dylan's Self Portrait

Why? Three reasons. First: It was all instrumental. What happened to the songs? I was a lyrics guy. I liked Nine Pound Hammer and Tennessee Stud for the stories. Second: the album included a bunch of studio chatter that was fun and seemingly original on Will the Circle Be Unbroken and now came across as cliche. Third: It seemed to me something that was assembled to capitalize on her name. Record companies like Columbia are in it for the money but I held it against her personally. 

Oh well. It wasn't the first time I said something unkind that I'd later regret. It may have been the first time I wrote something unkind to someone of stature, and thankfully the last (if my memory serves me well.)

I just finished listening to it again on YouTube, the first time in near 50 years. (You can listen to it here. It's friendly and warm, and it's unpretentious.) I'm hoping that whoever opened that letter discarded it before she ever laid eyes on it. And when I meet her on the other side, I'll ask her forgiveness just in case she opened it herself.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Wild Elephants on the Loose in China

Some stories stimulate the imagination more than others. Yesterday I heard about a herd of elephants on the loose in China and several tag-along thoughts popped into my head. One of these was the film 12 Monkeys with Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis. Wild animals on the loose. Sharknado came to mind as well, just because it is so bizarre. 

What happened is that 15 elephants left their nature preserve and began a road trip. As of today they have done about 1.1 million dollars damage to farmland, plundering and pillaging. According to a story in Travel & Leisure, 675 police, 62 emergency trucks, 12 drones and 11 tons of food have been deployed in an effort to keep the elephants from ransacking the city of Kumming, capital of Yunnan province.

The story also appeared in today's Wall Street Journal, with a somewhat comical observation that perhaps the leader of the herd "lacks experience and led the whole group astray." (This wouldn't be a veiled, tongue-in-cheek barb regarding our government leaders, would it?) The title of the piece is, "A Herd of Wild Elephants Wandering Across China Captivates Millions."

Now actually, they have only traversed about 300 miles and China is roughly the size of the U.S., so they've hardly wandered too far across China. And when you dig further, this herd is only about 15 in number. Whether the herd be large or small, the elephants are large and the story does have a weird factor.

Evidently millions in China have been watching this story unfold. Now, the story's been carried to the four corners of the world via news media and social media. Here's an ABC account with some footage of these lost vagabonds.  And here's a photo on Twitter of the sleeping herd with that darling little toddler scrunched between them.

I can't help but wonder what these elephants are thinking as they explore some of the cities they're passing through. 

To close this out, George Orwell once had to deal with an elephant out of its element when the young Orwell was stationed in India. I first wrote about that unhappy story here: Shooting An Elephant. My hope is that this unusual event will have a happier outcome for everyone, because the world world is watching.

Agatha Christie's last crime novel was titled Elephants Can Remember. Will this herd remember how to find their way home?

Here's a link to the WSJ story.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Inspired by Saved! A Dylan-Themed Painting by Claude-Angele BONI


Over the course of many decades of Bob Dylan's career, countless lists of Bob's best songs, best albums and rankings have been published. A recent article on ExpectingRain.com ranked ALL of Dylan's songs from 1 to 382 or something like that. (Brittanica.com says he's written 500+, but I will overlook the shortcoming in that list. I've personally thought the number closer to 600.) 

That task certainly required a monumental amount of work and seems immensely challenging because there are simply so many great songs. How narrow down even a top 10 list. Believe me, I've tried. 

The point of that intro is to make this observation: I don't believe I have ever seen Saved in a top ten Dylan albums list, and maybe not even in a top 25 list. Yet truthfully, when it comes to earnest energy and passion, this album has a lot of great songs. 

Granted, it's unflinchingly saturated in Gospel earnestness, which doesn't create an enthusiasm for repeated listenings if one is adamantly opposed to this kind of thing. So be it. I personally think a lot of these songs should be sung in church. I mean, why not? 

I share this by way of introduction to French artist Claude-Angele BONI's painting, Saved! Her evocative representations frequently remind me of Dali's memorable landscapes and symbolic imagery.

I'd planned to publish this on Pentecost Sunday. It is Ms. Claude-Angele BONI's portrayal of Bob Dylan's evolution over the years. Here is her explanation in her own words.

Upper half...

Dylan casting the dice as: DYLAN-MAN / as every man he is at first an adolescent contesting the image of the father, then in search of love at any price he looks for good fortune.

Dylan flying  with horns as: DYLAN-SATAN (which means  the Outlaw-Dylan who sings "but all my fathers they've gone down." ( In Christianity and Islam, in both of those two religions of Abraham, Satan is usually seen as either a fallen angel or a jinn, who used to possess great piety and beauty, but rebelled against God,) 

Lower left

In the lower left quadrant you've got DYLAN-ADAM  holding a book of behavior in one hand and giving a name to an animal. 

Lower right

In the lower right you've got DYLAN-BORN AGAIN dressed as Jesus. He is a father now and he needs some help from his Master. "Lord protect my child"  

"I was under the influence of Slow Train Coming and Saved when I did it. It's more a painting on the ASCENSION than the PENTECOST but it fits the same."

Related Links

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Serious Labor Shortages Are Threat to Economic Recovery

Help Wanted. Now Hiring. It seems like everywhere I go I see signs announcing the need for workers to fill vacancies.

As it turns out this appears to be a national problem, not just a Northland issue. Nearly every restaurant is short of help here. A friend who owns 11 fast food restaurants between Duluth and the Twin Cities normally employs 350, but has to keep things running with 250 employees. Panera Bread has put up a sign that says they're limiting hours because of the shortage of help.

The government's good intentions in providing financial help above and beyond regular unemployment has, for many, become a disincentive for returning to the workplace.

In addition to labor shortages we have materials shortages, partially caused by labor shortages in this arena. According to a Bloomberg article, Biden's infrastructure plan could be hamstrung by the lack of qualified workers to execute this ambitious dream. Currently the U.S. manufacturing industry has 500,000 positions unfilled.

The great irony here is that this massive infrastructure push has as one of its aims to provide Americans with more jobs. But with the shortages in materials, we may end up outsourcing to other countries, benefiting others rather than those we're supposed to be helping. Lumber (now up five-fold) aluminum, copper and cement prices are high due to tariffs, so building homes has become exceedingly expensive. (EdNote: We have lots of copper inside the U.S. borders, but have made it near impossible to mine it.)

An article at CNN.com begins with this telling Q & A: "Chicken, lumber, microchips, gas, steel, metals, chlorine and ketchup packets: What do they all have in common? They're all (nearly) impossible to find."

A New York Times article this past week is titled "How the World Ran Out of Everything." It explains how the evolution of "Just In Time" manufacturing and sales systems resulted in businesses minimizing inventories. The concept of J-I-T is fine when all is good. It reduces waste, and reduces the amount of space you need to store things, which also reduces costs. It's efficient. 

But when the entire system experiences a major hiccup -- like our unplanned year-long pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, these efficient systems can be disrupted in ways many businesses could never have imagined. That appears to be what we are now experiencing, at a time when we believed everything was opening up with clear sailing ahead.

Once again, Andy Grove has been proven right. His book Only the Paranoid Survive details all the forces that businesses must juggle and manage. He then asks, "What happens when one of these forces -- government regulations, consumer demand, raw materials, labor, financial impacts, legal matters, etc. -- hits us with an unexpected 10X tsunami?"  

For businesses that survive this will be remembered as the year of the wake up call. 

The weird thing is that politicians and think tanks will undoubtedly spend gobs of money and time piecing together a strategy designed to ensure that it never happens again. Alas, these things can never be so easily predicted. It will surely come in a manner that was unforeseen. Like Pearl Harbor. Like 9-11. Like the Housing Crisis. Like the Pandemic. It will be original. It will be different next time.

Something to think about. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Munger Mission: Another Excuse for Bikers to Get Out and Explore the Munger Trail

“Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There's something wrong with a society that drives a car to work out in a gym.”—Bill Nye

One of the items in Duluth's 2035 planning for the future of the city is making more bike lanes so that it's easier and safer for bikers to get around town. Tuesday, while I was in town doing errand, I saw that there has been a lot of reconfiguration taking place on Superior Street. Bike lanes are being added and newly painted lines for parking cars more efficiently have been added. 

All about the city there are hiking and biking trails. On any given day you can see biking and hiking along the Lakewalk, with extensive trails all the the up the waterfront. On the Western end of town these bike trails stretch South to the cities of Carlton, Moose Lake and even Hinckley. That portion is called The Munger Trail. 

THE MUNGER MISSION
This year, Joelene Steffens of Carlton Bike Rental & Repair has created special event to encourage people to experience the rewards of biking Minnesota's Willard Munger Bike Trail. It's been dubbed The Munger Mission.

The concept is fairly straightforward. Purchase a starter kit, which has maps, mission instructions and goals. Your primary objective will be to take photos of yourself with your bike in front of the three bike shop locations in Moose Lake, Carlton and Hinckley and share them on one of your social media platforms or website. Upon completion you'll receive a Munger Mission Accomplished T-shirt and become eligible for bigger prizes.

EdNote: Although the business is a bike rental shop, you do not have to rent a bike from CBR&R to participate in the mission.

Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash
On May 18 the Duluth News Tribune featured a story titled "Munger Mission" aims to get riders out on the trail. The story by Jamey Malcomb begins, "Bicycle shop owner hopes to encourage people from around the state to use the Munger Trail and patronize the businesses along its route."

If you live anywhere between Hinckley and Duluth it is easy-peasy to get to one of the three CBR&R locations as a starting point. The Carlton location was initiated in 2011 with a ribbon cutting ceremony that included the late Congressman Oberstar. Congressman Oberstar was a noteworthy supporter and advocate for trails and biking.

I've not personally biked the trail from Carlton south, but I can tell you from experience that the trail running along Jay Cooke State Park is beautiful any time of year, spring, summer, fall and winter. Biking in winter is somewhat hazardous however. The Munger Mission began June 1. You can start any time and have until the end of September to completer your tasks.

* * * 

You can sign up online or, if you prefer, at one of their stores. Addresses for the store locations can be found on the CBR&R home page at carltonbikerental.com.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Flashback Friday: Man Gave Names to All the Animals

Gospel-phase Dylan, SF 1979*
Jann Wenner's 1979 Rolling Stone review of Slow Train Coming makes the following bold statement about this new phase in Dylan's career: "It takes only one listening to realize that Slow Train Coming (Columbia Records) is the best album Bob Dylan has made since The Basement Tapes (recorded with the Band in 1967 but not released until 1975). The more I hear the new album — at least fifty times since early July — the more I feel that it's one of the finest records Dylan has ever made. In time, it is possible that it might even be considered his greatest."

Wenner's review seems to diss his late 70's work (which many fans -- including myself -- consider rich and underrated) but without doubt Slow Train did reverberate in ways that nothing else had since the mid-Sixties. No one questions the production values of this first of Dylan's three "Gospel" albums. His passion for this work comes through in its attention to detail throughout.

When he took it to the road, this shift to a Christian viewpoint may have been off-putting to many of his fans that year, but it wasn't the first time he encountered boos. My brother and his wife attended a Philadelphia Dylan concert at the time in which their third row seats were directly behind a row of drunks who spent quite a bit of energy hurling abuse toward the stage.

This song came to mind last night while I was doing a series of pen, brush and ink illustrations for a logo my daughter had asked me to design. After completing the farm animals it was a simple matter to make the bear and the snake.

Though the song has had its detractors, in the grand scheme of things Dylan must have liked it as he performed Man Gave Names in concert 155 times from 1979 at the Warfield (where the photo above was taken) to Stockholm, Sweden in 1991.

For me the song was fun the very first time I heard it, and is fun to this day. As in all his songs it isn't just the words, but how he sings them that makes them enjoyable or thought-provoking or whatever. In this case, fun. "He saw milk comin' out but he didn't know how. 'Ah, think I'll call it a cow.'" That little "ah" pause makes it hilarious. Like Adam is thinking about all this, deliberating the way a child would. Maybe we have to be like little children to appreciate its reggae-inspired simplicity.

A number of artists have covered Man Gave Names To All the Animals including Townes Van Zandt. It's based, obviously, on the creation story found in Genesis 1:19-20. The manner in which Dylan leaves the last creature unnamed is a nice little zinger to walk away with. In a light-hearted way the story leaves off with a reminder that there is real danger in the world. Innocence isn't forever.


Man Gave Names to All the Animals

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago


He saw an animal that liked to growl
Big furry paws and he liked to howl
Great big furry back and furry hair
“Ah, think I’ll call it a bear”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago


He saw an animal up on a hill
Chewing up so much grass until she was filled
He saw milk comin’ out but he didn’t know how
“Ah, think I’ll call it a cow”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago



He saw an animal that liked to snort
Horns on his head and they weren’t too short
It looked like there wasn’t nothin’ that he couldn’t pull
“Ah, think I’ll call it a bull”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago

He saw an animal leavin’ a muddy trail
Real dirty face and a curly tail
He wasn’t too small and he wasn’t too big
“Ah, think I’ll call it a pig”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago


Next animal that he did meet
Had wool on his back and hooves on his feet
Eating grass on a mountainside so steep
“Ah, think I’ll call it a sheep”

Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, in the beginning
Man gave names to all the animals
In the beginning, long time ago



He saw an animal as smooth as glass
Slithering his way through the grass
Saw him disappear by a tree near a lake . . .


Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music





* Photo courtesy Bill Pagel, November 8, 1979
Setlist for that night at the Warfield Theater.
This song was fifth on the setlist that evening.

Illustrations courtesy Ed Newman

This blog post was originally published June 30, 2015
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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Grouchy? Cranky? Get a Gratitude Book

Guest blog post by John Prin

Photo: Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash
You can probably name in five seconds someone in your life who grumbles, grouses, and gripes as a habit. They’re in a rut and can’t, or won’t, get out. Maybe someone bitter toward anybody or anything contrary to their way of doing things"It’s my way or the highway!” 

Certain people habitually moan and groan about all kinds of circumstances and difficulties. Result? A stinking swamp of negative thoughts that pollute a person’s moods and attitudes. The root cause of many complainers’ anger is often deep ingratitude. 


This post offers AA wisdom for folks gripped by ingratitude and its partners in crime, resentments and self-pity. You don’t have to be an alcoholic or addicted, or a member of any 12-Step group, to benefit from the tried-and-true practices of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous, estab. 1935). 


Before I attended my first AA meeting in 1996, I was up to my neck in my own stinky swamp. I carried inside me a running list of hurts and grudges. Things began to change when each meeting began with 25-30 men standing in a circle and praying aloud the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot  change. . .” STOP, my mind would cry, stop right there. Did I have serenity? My drinking had squeezed the possibility of its rewards to zero. Too many things were unacceptable in my life, several of my own doing. How could a sad mess like that change?  


Se-ren-i-ty, noun: the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. A positive state of mind wherein you won’t feel as troubled by life’s ups and downs; serene, tranquil, unclouded.       Oxford Languages


One evening, my sponsor “Jack” warned me that other members were aware of my grouchy, cranky demeanor. He asked, “Do you have a gratitude book, John?” I stared at him as though he had spoken gibberish. “Your pent-up anger is working against you,” he added, “and if you don’t face it and deal with it, it will undermine your sobriety and you’ll be back at square one.” I fired off a well-rehearsed list of grievances: hangovers, black-outs, two failed careers, marriage troubles, a sore toe, the economic recession, icy cold winter weather, and my own failure to control the damage of too much booze. He told me about his own history of ingratitude and spoke of the success to unburden his angry emotions that had resulted from following his sponsor’s advice.


Fast-forward six years. Now I was a Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor with six years of life-changing sobriety without a relapse. At the out-patient recovery clinic where I worked, a new client named “Kevin” made others uncomfortable with his nasty remarks and a brooding temper like I had once behaved. Having experienced the wholesale changes from keeping my own gratitude book and practicing each of the 12 Steps, my personal transformation from following Jack’s advice had led to a more peaceful and upbeat manner
definite periods of serenity. I now saw the opportunity to pass on Jack’s same guidance to Kevin.


“It works like this, Kevin,” I said. “Go and buy a small, hand-sized, spiral-bound memo pad that fits in your pocket, then write on one side of one page just one thing you are thankful for each day. Don’t try to use too many words. Carry it with you wherever you go. The goal is to notice, to pay attention to, to be aware of the times you feel gratefulfor a beautiful sunset, a kind comment from a stranger, your wife’s cooking, a co-worker’s good deed. You get the idea. It’s about getting outside yourself and developing the habit of appreciating some fact or reality of daily life, either big or small.” 


We then turned to page 62 in the Big Book and I asked him to read aloud: “Selfishnessself-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. . . Above everything we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!" (1)


Kevin was skeptical. He delayed starting his own gratitude book, participating instead in group therapy sessions and science-based lessons about neurotransmitters in the human brain. A few days later I learned he had made a list of grievances instead. To get him to focus, I showed him examples of jottings in one of my own early memo pads (to demonstrate how the habit developed of looking for reasons to be thankful), and the importance of taking time to write down such kinds of things. Kevin’s interest really revved up. We then flipped to page 64 and he read the following: “Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” (2)


Something clicked for Kevin. He hooted and said, “That’s gotta be it. Resentment! I’ve been told that so many times!” I showed him how the root word of “resent”“sent” means “feel” in Latin (think sensual, sensitive, sensational)thus ‘re’ (means ‘again’) added to ‘sent’ equals “resent” which means to refeel past painful abuses and disturbing emotional injuries. Clearly a break-through occurred for Kevin as he experienced the feeling of freedom from letting go of his burdensome grudges and, later, choosing to change his thinking. 


The clincher came when he showed me one of the grievances on his list: “Those no-good Twins missed the playoffs again this season.” As a tried-and-true fan of Minnesota’s MLB baseball team, the Twins, Kevin railed on about his history of disappointments, which we identified as long lingering resentments. “How can their season end so miserably year after year? It’s so infuriating. What better reason to get drunk?” Then came the light-bulb insight: “Whenever I’m reminded how they blew it, that’s when I refeel the anger and letdown. Well, no more!”    


Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash
With this understanding, Kevin’s burden of ingratitude began to lessen. He turned his attention to writing down each day the new positive things he noticed which he felt thankful for in his own gratitude book. The success of this process was confirmed two years later when he visited me at the recovery center with a fancy cake to celebrate his second year of successful, relapse-free sobriety. 

Aren’t we all walking wounded at some point in our lives? Perhaps that disgruntled person is you. But allowing one’s mind to stay in that dark cave is unhealthy. It’s up to us to change, and the good news is we can choose whether or not tobecause we control how we think; our thoughts don’t control us (they definitely don’t have to). 


The Big Book of AA has wise advice for people who complain or whine too much (that’s whine, not wine!). Open its pages and read about practicing gratitude, and the blissful feeling that often follows of “serenity.” Ask yourself, “Am I missing out on this positive state of being?”


Who do you know that could benefit from releasing their anger and resentments by discovering the freedom of brighter emotions and attitudes with the gift of a $2.49 gratitude memo pad from you? 


Part 2 will explore the role of Step 4 and “Acceptance” in boosting gratitude, for example: “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” (3)


* * * 

Footnotes here are from The Basic Text for Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001, ISBN 1-893007-16-2, USA.

  1. page 62.
  2. page 64.
  3. page 417. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Dylan Fest Aftermath: He Was There

Opening evening Duluth Dylan Fest 2021.
Bob Dylan Revue
One of the ongoing undercurrents of these annual Northland Dylan Fests seems to be the recurring question, "Do you think Bob will show up?" The inquiry is usually earnest but privately I find it amusing that our locally born world traveller would make his way here to spend his birthday with strangers while he has family elsewhere. He's a famously private person, so my suspicion is that if he did desire to visit his boyhood homes it would be any other time than while we're all gathered here.

Nevertheless...

One of the features of our annual Duluth Dylan Fest that is a carry over from Hibbing, is a poetry event. In the past, we've had a poetry night, but this year we had an actual poetry contest, as they used to do for Hibbing's Dylan Days.

Our 2021 DDF Poetry Contest was created and managed by Phil Fitzpatrick, a poet who also won one of those heralded Hibbing poetry contests years ago. Phil gave poets a choice between two themes for their submissions: Miles from Home or Changing Course

DDF Poetry event via Zoom. There's a second screen
as well. Photo courtesy Michael Anderson.
Last Wednesday the poets and attendees shared a Zoom Poetry Event in which the winning poets and runners up shared their work. Several others also participated, though these were not required to share poems on the contest themes. I believe a good time was had by all, even those who dislike Zooming.

I intended to share the winning poems here on my blog, but Phil's piece was so much fun I've selected instead to post this for your reading pleasure. For a little background, Sacred Heart is the former Catholic church which has served as home for the Music Resource Center as well as numerous concerts, including our Bob Dylan Revue and several other Dylan-themed events.

* * * 

He Was There
by Phil Fitzpatrick

“It’s going to happen”
from “Two Degrees of Separation” by  Connie Wanek


Whaddya know: finally, he showed up

snuck in the side door, dark glasses on

fedora pulled low, raggedy-ass black coat

couldn’t tell in the dark of Sacred Heart

but he might have been using a cane, to boot!

I was studying the stained-glass windows

admiring those deep reds, yellows, and blues,

the heavy-lined robes, the mournful smiles --

and that band: they were playing “Hard Rain,”

reminding me of Stockholm, Patti Smith, and all

I caught a movement at the corner of my eye

and turned quick; Mark, he was really feelin’ it,

not showy stuff like G E Smith; I scanned across

an’ above all the bobbing and nodding heads,

past Miriam and Laura jukin’ n’ jiving,’ watched

the stranger slink into the seats, like a shadow

and then slouch low and stay still as the dead,

no head swaying, no booted feet keepin’ time;

you’d never have known it was his music, his

“Maggie’s Farm,” his “You Ain’t Goin’Nowhere,”

or “Lay, Lady Lay” with Big D’s twanging whine;

an’ after Jane had soothed us with her “Born in Time,”

I looked over to watch him clapping . . . and that door,

it was just whispering closed, but I swear: he was there.


for Mark Bennett & The Bob Dylan Revue Band