Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Half-Remarkable Question

I was introduced to the music of the Incredible String Band in the fall of my Freshman year at Ohio U. The playfulness of their unusual instrumentation, Scottish accents and metaphysical themes all combined to resonate with some part of my own interior quest for meaning. To this day I still smile when the climax of "Ducks On A Pond" is playing on my inner soundtrack.

"Following my fortune now the Holy Grail is found
and the Holy Bread of Heaven is given all around;
Farewell sorrow, praise God the open door
I ain't got no home in this world any more."

In literature, the word Onomatopoeia refers to words in which the sound of the word echos the thing itself. Examples might include words like sizzle, splat, eek, boing, gurgle.

The other night I was thinking about the Incredible String Band's song "The Letter", how the song itself was delivered in a style that reflected the song's message, much the same as those words that sound like what they are. "The Letter" is about how light-hearted the recipient became when he received it and that even the plane that brought it "must have been a little bit lighter."  

The lyrics sparkle and the song sprinkles some of that sparkling into one's very heart if you let it. 

* * * 

"The Half-Remarkable Question" is the last track on Wee Tam, which was sold as a double album, the second disc being called The Big Huge. The questions make me think of Paul Gaugin's famous painting Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? 

These really are the big questions, and I sometimes wonder if anyone is asking them any more? And if not, why not? 

The Half-Remarkable Question  

Who moved the black castle
Who moved the white queen
When Gimme and Daleth
 were standing between?

Out of the evening growing a veil
Pining for the pine woods that ached for the sail
There's something forgotten I want you to know
The freckles of rain they are telling me so

Oh, it's the old forgotten question
What is it that we are part of?
And what is it that we are?

And an elephant madness has covered the sun
The judge and the juries they play for the fun
They've torn up the roses and washed all the soap
And the martyr who marries them dares not elope
Oh, it's the never realized question
What is it that we are part of?
And what is it that we are?

Oh long, oh long ever yet my eyes
Braved the gates enormous fire
And the body folded 'round me
And the person in me grew

The flower and its petal
The root and its grasp
The earth and its bigness
The breath and its gasp
The mind and its motion
The foot and its move
The life and its pattern
The heart and its love

Oh, it's the half-remarkable question
What is it that we are part of?
And what is it that we are?
* * * 
You can listen to the song here.
I still enjoy their music and listen from time to time. Here's a favorite, simple and profound: AirKeep in mind that, like Dylan for some, the Incredible String Band is an acquired taste. I won't hold it against you if they aren't your cup of tea. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Lewis Lapham's Money and Class in America

Lewis Henry Lapham is an American writer. He was the editor of the American monthly Harper's Magazine from 1976 until 1981, and from 1983 until 2006. He is the founder of Lapham's Quarterly, a quarterly publication about history and literature, and has written numerous books on politics and current affairs. --Wikipedia
* * * 

For years I was a subscriber to Harper's Magazine during the second period Lewis Lapham served as editor of the publication. Many, if not most, magazines have an opening letter from the editor, and Lapham's lengthy editorial was always something I looked forward to reading. George Plimpton called him a cross between Mark Twain and H.L. MenckenEven when not in alignment, his prose was pointed and insights worth chewing on, even when sad and cynical. 

For this reason I went on to acquire his book Money and Class in America. Its subtitle: Notes and Observations on the Civil Religion

While reading yet another story about California, wealth and poverty recently, Lapham's California pedigree came to mind. I pulled it off the shelf in search of a couple comments he made about his family. Now I'm re-reading it and appreciating it even more than the first time I'd held it in my hands.

The factoid I was looking for I haven't found yet, but it went something like this: his family once owned about one-fourth of the real estate of California. What I did find was that his great-grandfather was a co-founder of Texaco and his grandfather was once mayor of San Francisco. Lapham came from money -- as in Big Money -- and understand the paradoxes associated with wealth.

Here's an overview of the book's contents. 

Money and Class in America

Creative Commons license. Author uncited.
Never in the history of the world have so many people been so rich; never in the history of the world have so many of those same people felt themselves so poor.

Chapter One: The Gilded Cage
Seeking the invisible through the imagery of the visible, the Americans never can get quite all the way to the end of the American dream.

    Chapter Two: Protocols of Wealth
    The history of the United States is synonymous with the dream of riches.

    Chapter Three: The Golden Horde
    At this late stage in the history of American capitalism I'm not sure I know how much testimony still needs to be presented to establish the relation between profit and theft.

    Chapter Four: The Romance of Crime
    The pose of innocence is as mandatory as the ability to eat banquet food and endure the scourging of the press.

      Chapter Five: Social Hygiene
      Once having proclaimed our loyalty to the abstract idea that all men are created equal, we do everything in our power to prove ourselves unequal. Among the world's peoples, none other belongs to so many clubs, associations, committees and secret societies.

      Chapter Six: The Precarious Eden
      The rich, like well brought up children, are meant to be seen, not heard.

      Chapter Seven: Descent into the Mirror
      Since the eighteenth century the immense expansion of the world's wealth has come about as a result of a correspondingly immense expansion of credit, which in turn has demanded increasingly stupendous suspensions of disbelief.

      Chapter Eight: Holy Dread
      Wars might come and go, but the seven o'clock news lives forever.

      Chapter Nine: Coined Souls
      That the obsession with money dulls the capacity for feeling and thought I think can be an axiom requiring no further argument.

      Chapter Ten: Envoi
      Surely they knew that the very idea of the future came in an American box - complete with instructions for assembling a Constitution, a MacDonald's hamburger franchise, a row of Marriot hotels and a First Amendment.

      * * *

      The book is a pretty scathing indictment of American values. Today there are more riches than ever being showered on sports stars, Hollywood celebrities, Silicon Valley whiz kids and Wall Street bankers. Lapham asks, "What's the point of all this wealth without Character?" Hence we see the self-destruction emblazoned across headlines, Tweets and supermarket tabloids. 

      "If we could let go of our faith in money, who knows what we might put in its place?"

      Tuesday, March 29, 2022

      The Broken Windows Theory Has Important Implications for Us All

      Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash
      broken windows theory: academic theory proposed by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in 1982 that used broken windows as a metaphor for disorder within neighborhoods. Their theory links disorder and incivility within a community to subsequent occurrences of serious crime.  --Brittanica

      * * * 

      The broken windows theory is a criminological theory that states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. The theory suggests that policing methods that target minor crimes such vandalism, loitering, public drinking, jaywalking and fare evasion help to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness.

      The theory was popularized in the 1990s by NYC police commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose policing policies were influenced by the theory. The result was a 40% reduction in felonies, with a 50% drop in homicides.


      * * * 

      What most needs explanation is not why some people are criminals, but why most people are not. --James Q. Wilson

      According to the Brittanica account, the broken windows theory "further posits that the prevalence of disorder creates fear in the minds of citizens who are convinced that the area is unsafe. This withdrawal from the community weakens social controls that previously kept criminals in check. Once this process begins, it feeds itself. Disorder causes crime, and crime causes further disorder and crime."

      The authors propose that to succeed at preventing vandalism communities must address the problems when they are a small. If broken windows are fixed quickly, there is less likelihood you will have more broken windows. Clean the sidewalks every day and there is less littering. When you allow problems to escalate, "respectable" residents flee the neighborhood.

      Right now, I am dealing with rats in our goose barn. When I saw the first evidence of rats being present I should have been more proactive. By allowing them to multiply, it has been a much lengthier battle. 

      "Public order is a fragile thing, and if you don't fix the first broken window, soon all the windows will be broken."--James Q. Wilson

      Worth Reading: The Fall of Seattle, by T.A. Frank

      Monday, March 28, 2022

      The Art of Digital Photography

      When you were a kid, did you ever 
      take things apart to see how they worked? 

      These are parts from the dismantling of a few old digital cameras.
      It's probably similar to taking the engine apart on your car. 
      The challenge is putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.
      No, not the cameras, just the car engine.

      Sunday, March 27, 2022

      All the President's Men, Revisited (Plus a Handful of Ben Bradlee Quotes)

      "Nothing's riding on this, except maybe the first amendment of the constitution of the Constitution, freedom of the press and, maybe, the future of the country."
      --Ben Bradlee

      "Now hold it, hold it. We're about to accuse Haldeman, who only happens to be the second most important man in this country, of conducting a criminal conspiracy from inside the White House. It would be nice if we were right."
      --Ben Bradlee

      * * * 

      I just finished watching All the President's Men again, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the journalists who broke the Watergate story that brought down the Nixon presidency. The film brought to mind some personal experiences from that period of history as well as Sy Hersh's insightful autobiography, Reporter.

      Though the film focuses on the efforts to which Woodward and Bernstein went to uncover the hidden connections between Watergate and the Nixon White House, Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee is the steady presence in the Washington Post newsroom who followed his instincts by allowing his two young guns to tackle this big story. Other veteran reporters felt someone more seasoned should lead this investigation. 

      Yes, there were missteps, but the work they undertook was ultimately revealing, and rewarded.

      There is always a need for intentional, persistent reporting at every level of government, whether federal, state or local. The challenges are many. No one wants reporters to upset the status quo apple cart. No one in power wants reporters snooping around to find out who's hands are manipulating the strings of the figures in the spotlight. 

      Ben Bradlee put his reputation on the line when he stood behind the work of his young reporters, one of whom had only been on the Washington beat for less than a year.

      What's unfortunate is when reputable newspapers sacrifice integrity to put forward an agenda. Opinion pages are fine for that, but when important stories get buried because they don't fit a pre-set narrative, it damages the reputation of the whole business. 

      When the Gallup organization polled Americans with regard to how much they trust the media, the results should have been a wake-up call. Here are the key takeaways from that report:

      • 9% in U.S. trust mass media "a great deal" and 31% "a fair amount"
      • 27% have "not very much" trust and 33% "none at all"
      • The percentage with no trust at all is a record high, up five points since 2019

      33% have no trust at all. That's a pretty dismal record. 

      * * * 

      Here are some additional Ben Bradlee quotes to accompany this brief post about an important issue in our time (not Watergate, but journalism):

      --As long as a journalist tells the truth, in conscience and fairness, it is not his job to worry about consequences. The truth is never as dangerous as a lie in the long run. I truly believe the truth sets men free.

      --As a child, one looks for compliments. As an adult, one looks for evidence of effectiveness.

      --It changes your life, the pursuit of truth, if you know that you have tried to find the truth and gone past the first apparent truth towards the real truth. It's very, it's very exciting.

      --If an investigative reporter finds out that someone has been robbing the store, that may be 'gotcha' journalism, but it's also good journalism.

      --It is my experience that most claims of national security are part of a campaign to avoid telling the truth.

      --Everybody who talks to a newspaper has a motive. That's just a given. And good reporters always, repeat always, probe to find out what that motive is.

      In the perfect world every source could be identified,
      but like the man said, "It's not a perfect world."

      * * * 

      Friday, March 25, 2022

      The Disaster No One Talks About: Venezuela

      Refugees in Bogata make crafts out of 
      worthless Venezuelan cash.
      Trendy economists say the US can spend much more, and pay for it by printing more money. This won’t cause further inflation, say "modern monetary theorists."
      But one country recently tried “printing more money." Here's what happened:

      A lot of us either never knew or have forgotten that Venezuela was the wealthiest nation in South America. Petroleum revenue rewarded it with wealth. It was a socialist government that became a darling of the Left. Hugo Chavez (president from 1999-2013) spent big bucks on social programs. He even sent money to the U.S. to help provide heating oil for poor Americans.

      A combination of political corruption and hyperinflation after his departure sent the country's economy into a tailspin. In 2014 inflation stood at 69%. By 2015, inflation was now 181%. That means what used to be a dollar in January 2014 was less than 30 cents by the end of two years. Inflation was up 800% by end of 2016 and 4,000% in 2017, followed by 1.7 million percent in 2018.

      According to details at Wikipedia "By early April 2019, the 18,000 Bs.S monthly minimum wage was the equivalent of $5.50 – less than the price of a McDonald's Happy Meal. Ecoanalitica estimated that prices jumped by 465% in the first two and a half months of 2019. In March 2019, the Wall Street Journal stated that the 'main cause of hyperinflation is the central bank printing money to fund gaping public spending deficits,' reporting that a teacher could only buy a dozen eggs and two pounds of cheese with a month's wages."

      * * * 

      Over the past 30 years my brother has taken 28 trips to South America to teach counseling to church leaders in various countries. When the Venezuelan economy imploded, as many as six million citizens fled their homeland, flooding into neighboring South American countries. My brother saw first-hand the challenges of this refugee crisis, which has received little coverage in our media here. Only Saudi Arabia has produced more refugees than Venezuela since 2000. 

      If the war in Ukraine continues, refugee numbers will likely surpass Venezuela in magnitude, though it is a crisis of a different character. 

      * * * 

      Please note, this is not an appeal to eliminate social programs. Rather it is an appeal for our government to embrace basic fiscal responsibility. The motive behind much government largesse seems more about winning voters than doing what is best for these voters and the future of the country. 

      The second lesson in this story--the first being that we need to cringe when politicians say they want to solve our problems by printing more money--is to note how quickly the strongest economy became a disaster.

      America is not immune from stupidity or corruption. Let's not say "It can't happen here." Rather, let's say, "It MUST NOT happen here."

      * * * 

      Read more about Hyperinflation in Venezuela.

                                                                                     * * * 

      Thursday, March 24, 2022

      Throwback Thursday: The Leonardo Interviews, Redux

      In 2009 I was interviewed for the ezine Leonardo, which dubs itself as the Virtual Voice of the iRenaissance. The topic was blogging. I repeated this in 2016 when I went back to see what I'd published on this date, this appeared. 

      Leonardo: How do you view your blogging? Is it a job or a hobby?
      ennyman: I've never considered it in those terms. Definitely not a job, though I feel a certain responsibility about it, much like one who has a job considers it important to show up every day. It's more of an exploration driven by passion.

      Leonardo: How has Ennyman's Territory changed since you first began this blog.
      ennyman: Initially the blog was simply an exploration of what blogging is and how it could be used. My content consisted primarily of extracts from 30-plus years of journal writing, with pictures of my art to illustrate each entry. The journal notes and quotes would be elaborated on with current feedback to what I had written in the past, amplifying or elaborating upon the initial entry.

      Leonardo: What is the origin of your blog address, Pioneer Productions?
      ennyman: Being a descendant of Daniel Boone, I have always identified with pioneers. Boone was a "long hunter" or what Minnesotans call Voyageurs. He would go out for a while and return with the goods that provided for his family. But he was always exploring. Even near the end of his life while living in what is now Missouri, he went by canoe all the way up to what is now Minnesota seeking the headwaters of the Mississippi.

      Leonardo: Your visual art seems to go in a lot of directions. Do you consider the source of your creative energy to be hyperkinetic or a living spring?
      ennyman: Well, to some extent it's both. I believe there's a well in each of us which we can tap into and draw from, a living spring. But yes, there are times when a catalyst sets off a burst of ideas and it does feel a bit hyperkinetic as you put it.

      Leonardo: Do you have an aim with Ennyman's Territory?
      ennyman: Several. I like to challenge people to look at things from a new angle and to think. Also, the artist in me is always in search of an audience, I believe. For example, when I built my first website in the mid-90's it was in part a place to showcase my stories which I had poured myself into, but continually failed to get published. Putting them online not only gained them readers, it resulted in one being made into a short film, and three being translated into foreign languages -- Russian, Croatian and French. Two of my daughter's short stories which I'd posted got published as well, in California and New Zealand. Ultimately, it is my aim to leave the world a better place than I found it, which I believe everyone should be striving to do.

      Leonardo: What are some things you want to write about that you don't currently have time for?
      ennyman: The list is endless. Infinite, really. Here's a quick skim of the first ten things that come to mind.
      1. Interview my father-in-law in more depth, possibly place it on YouTube. He was the second Minnesotan drafted in World War II, and is currently 89. (This was written in 2009 before his passing at age 94.)
      2. Explore in more depth our fascination with stats. Internet stats, population stats, baseball stats, astronomical stats, economic financial stats, number of fights Rocky Marciano had without a defeat, etc.
      3. Explore the notion that organized power can only be restrained by organized power based on the idea that Einstein was a pacifist who became non-pacifist due to Hitler.
      4. The Owens-Blevins shootout in Holbrook during the 1880s.
      5. Why does beauty make us cry? The Grand Canyon… Chopin… the Corn Palace in Mitchell South Dakota. 
      6. SWAT Team abuse. Who pays for the damage after the wreckage? How much of this goes on that we don't know about?
      7. Tina Mion
      8. Gordon Lish
      9. The crippled newspaper industry. How serious is it? What difference will it make if we lose our local newspapers? The numbers speak for themselves.
      10. Life On Mars, the David Bowie song from his Hunky Dory album, not the actual Red Planet.

      Leonardo: We'll look forward to what comes next.
      ennyman: Yes, it's one day at a time here. Today, sunrise in Sedona... tomorrow, back to the ranch in Minnesota.

      Leonardo: Thanks for your time.
      ennyman: And for your interest.


      EDNOTE: The Leonardo ezine referred to here is not to be confused with the MIT publication of the same name at It is a fabrication.

      Wednesday, March 23, 2022

      Now All We Need Is A Title: Famous Books and How They Got Their Names

      "A good title should be like a good metaphor; it should intrigue without being too baffling or too obvious." 
      --Walker Percy

      When I saw this book on the shelf at the library I said to myself, "I gotta have it." The actual title is Now all we need is a Title: Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way.

      The author, Andre Bernard, shares stories about many of the famous books we've all either read or heard of. It is structured in alphabetical order by author, beginning with James Agee (Now Let Us Praise Famous Men) to Tom Wolfe (Bonfire of the Vanities).

      Interspersed throughout the book are sidebars with lists like, Titles We're Glad Got Changed (eg. The Mute was changed to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), and books with numbers in the title, or books with colors in their title, and books with families in the title, etc. 

      If you're a reader of classic literature, you will almost certainly find this book a fun little diversion. Many powerful books had titles taken from famous poems. Dee Brown took the title of his Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee from the last line of a poem by Steven Vincent Benet. Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls is lifted from a poem by John Donne. And the title of O Henry's book of short stories Of Cabbages and Kings was lifted from some verse spoken by the walrus in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass. (Learn more about the life of William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. O Henry.)

      It's fascinating to read the variety of titles that got rejected by editors or sometimes the authors as their masterpiece stories headed toward publication. F. Scott Fitzgerald originally liked the title Trimalchio in West Egg as his title for what would ultimately become The Great Gatsby. Gold-hatted Gatsby and The High-bouncing Lover were other titles Maxwell Perkins, his publisher, rejected.  In reading this brief anecdote about Fitzgerald's most famous novel (but least profitable during his lifetime) I realized for the first time that all those suds-filled wild parties at Gatsby's place took place during prohibition. Hence, the Fitzgerald observation, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." In other words, they don't live by the rules like the rest of us are required to.

      Did you know that Joseph Heller's Catch-22 was originally going to be Catch-18? Simon & Schuster was notified by Doubleday that Leon Uris had a novel coming out called Mira 18. Since Uris was already a big name and Heller a newby, S&S caved and suggested Heller pick a different number. 

      The Bible has been a source of titles for numerous famous books. William Faulkner extracted the title Absalom, Absalom from the Old Testament story of King David's son in II Samuel. Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land was taken from Exodus 2:21-22. It's the story of a human being who returns to earth after being raised by aliens.

      Orwell's 1984, begun during WW2 and completed during the dawning of the Cold War, was originally titled The Last Man in Europe. The year selected was determined by reversing the numerals 48, the year this dark vision of the future was completed.

      At this point I think you get the picture. 

      EdNote: If you're an author, maybe you can pocket a few of these anecdotes to use in the talk you're planning for your next book signing.

      * * * 

      The Joy of Naming

      The Name Game (Includes titles for a number of paintings in my 2009 at The Venue @ Mohaupt Block.)

      The Big Read Does Gatsby

      H.L. Mencken's 1925 Review of The Great Gatsby

      Tuesday, March 22, 2022

      Someday -- A Poem About Dreams by Charlene Groves

      Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash
      Late yesterday I learned it was National Poetry Day. To honor the day, belatedly, I share this poem by Charlene Groves.

      * * * 

      I met Charlene Groves at a coffeehouse sometime in mid-to-late 1974, a blind writer and poet from Martinsville, New Jersey. Though I’d written some stories in college — a couple of which to this day I regret having lost — I had not yet determined to pursue a career as a writer.

      Charlene was roughly 30 at that time. In addition to fixing music boxes, she was a prolific author, having produced numerous short stories and countless poems. She also had two or three novel manuscripts under her belt, in the sci-fi genre.

      Over the decades we've stayed in touch, she being one of the many special people that have inspired me in various ways. This is a poem she wrote called Someday, sometime in the 60s or early 70s. I love the way she plays with language to produce imagery that is unexpected.


      I spend my days shooting darts at dinosaurs, 

      Fighting fire-breathing dragons with a wooden sword;

      I take time to allow toy men and animals the chance to live

      For a while in the real world of make believe. 

      I spend my days searching for the beginning of a new poem, 

      Dribbling letters on paper to form words. 

      Dreaming of when we can do handstands on moonbeams, 

      But there's always a teacher somewhere

      Pulling me back into the darkness of the classroom, 

      That I might be enlightened. 

      I can feel the sun sometimes, 

      Even when it's raining, 

      And taste peanut butter without the actual having. 

      But someday I'll be part of the earth again, 

      One day, suitcase in hand, 

      I'll put my feet on the open road, 

      And walk towards the sun, 

      Eating a box of chocolate covered raisins. 

      Then I'll build a house, 

      And maybe write another book, 

      Before the world ends. 

      Maybe I'll be a kite in a tree, 

      Or a snowflake caught in a snowman's ear. 

      Someday maybe I'll learn to give with my whole being, 

      Because I want to, 

      Because I need, 

      And feel good about the giving, 

      Not just talk. 

      And maybe, 

      Just maybe, 

      Someday, I'll stop saying maybe, 

      And be.

      Copyright Charlene Groves

      * * * 

      Check out Charlene's wonderful poem The Hermit.

      Monday, March 21, 2022

      Ralph Nader Discovers That Publishers Prefer Bad News and Dirt to Positive Uplifting Stories

      You would think that once you had an established name, and a lengthy track record as a best-selling author, that it would be easy to get published. Ralph Nader seems to have discovered that it just ain't so.

      Nader made a name for himself by castigating the auto industry in his 1965 bestseller Unsafe at Any Speed. Or to put it another way, this book set in motion a sea change in the auto industry with regard to auto safety. Nader lifted the veil on automakers' resistance to features like seat belts, and was an early advocate for addressing the pollution cars emit.

      After revealing the deficiencies of the auto industry he next tackled that Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by assembling a team of volunteer law students (dubbed "Nader's Raiders") to unveil the mysteries and machinations of this government entity. In the 70s he turned to environmental activism, always ready for a fight.

      After a lifetime of interactions with leaders in government, business and industry, Ralph Nader wanted to write yet one more book. This book, however, was different from the others. In this one he wanted to acknowledge some of the good leaders he has encountered, people worthy of being role models.

      Strangely enough, the major publishers haven't wanted to touch it. They want Nader to write more finger-pointing books. "Your schtick is bashing executives, not praising them," they seem to be saying.  

      The tentative title was "Twelve CEOs I Have Known and Admired."

      I remember reading an article once about authors who write in various genres, how whatever genre they first succeed in may overshadow their ability to get published in other channels. J.K. Rowling is known for her Harry Potter books, but she also had other interests. Was this a factor in her choosing to write The Cuckoo's Calling under a pseudonym?

      Though Nader has written 30 or more books, he's not had the best of luck finding a publisher for his manuscript praising execs. One publisher said, “I didn’t tell him what to write, I told him what I could sell." It reminded me a little of the message Jane Leavy conveyed in her book on Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy.

      The Wall Street Journal has a paywall, so you may or may not be able to read the article that inspired this blog post, "Who Wants to Hear Ralph Nader Praising CEOs? Not Publishers."

      * * * 

      I can't help but think here about Dylan being booed for going electric after making a name for himself as folk singer/songwriter. The Beatles did a little better with their transitions, I think. Clues to where they were headed were woven into their preceding recordings, a form of foreshadowing. 

      Trivia: One of the admired CEOs featured by Nader is Paul Hawken, who I heard give a talk here in Duluth about 25 years ago.  

      Friday, March 18, 2022

      The Role of One-Percenters

      The role of one-percenters from the point of view of many plebians is: "Wouldn't it be great to live like kings, to have your wishes be fulfilled and to be able to do whatever you want?"

      In other words, a lot of us envy them at times. For others, one-percenters are leeches to be hated and despised. 

      The roll of Powerball and other Mega-Millions lotteries: To soften the plebians' hatred of one-percenters, because, "If I'm lucky maybe I'll be a one-percenter some day." 

      * * * 

      A study was done about matters pertaining to the mood of people who experience sudden extreme events in their lives, such as becoming a quadriplegic or winning one hundred million dollars. What the researchers found is that nearly everyone reverted to their general disposition before the accident or the mind-blowing victory. That is, if you were melancholy or a puddleglum beforehand, afterwards you were likely to eventually revert to type. If you were a cheerful optimist beforehand, you would likely eventually be the same even after a serious accident. 

      In other words, your disposition is determined more by internal mechanisms rather than external circumstances.

      * * * 

      How many times have
      You heard someone say
      If I had his money
      I could do things my way

      But little they know
      That it's so hard to find
      One rich man in ten
      With a satisfied mind

      "Satisfied Mind" by Jack Rhodes and Red Hays is a classic that's been recorded by many greats including Johny Cash and Bob Dylan, who makes it the opening track on his album Saved.

      "Money can't buy happiness" is a familiar palliative when you ain't got none, but what does it really mean? For many, and this happens a lot to athletes, the responsibilities that accompany having money are a weight that distracts them from what they really love, which is playing baseball or basketball or whatever. When it comes to who can they trust to watch the nest egg, well... there have been plenty of sports stars who ended up bankrupt. 

      Psalm 73 is how I comfort myself when I think on these things. How do you view money?

      Monday, March 14, 2022

      Duty To Warn: Duluth Police Launch Catalytic Converter Initiative

      1996 Dodge Ram catalytic converter
      Last year my son-in-law's mom had her catalytic converter stolen. It was taken during the night while parked in her driveway in a quiet suburban neighborhood.

      The average motorist probably doesn't  know what a catalytic converter is or what it does, and would be hard-pressed to even locate where it was underneath their vehicle. 

      The purpose of catalytic converters is to reduce harmful by-products of combustion and thereby keep our air and the environment cleaner. That clue should tell you where it is located: somewhere between the engine and the tailpipe. 

      The reason they are being stolen is because criminals have learned that they contain small amounts of three precious metals: rhodium, platinum and palladium. These metals have catalytic properties. That is, they serve as catalysts that interact with the exhaust to make it 90% cleaner. 

      * * * 

      EARLIER THIS MONTH I went on a Citizen Ride-Along with the Duluth Police Department. It was interesting. I spent six hours in a patrol car, observing and experiencing what law enforcement officers do. I learned quite a bit that day, one of item being that there are a lot of catalytic converters being stolen in Duluth.

      This must have been going on for some time because last fall the city initiated a program to etch serial numbers and identification on you catalytic converter to deter theft. Evidently, if the device is marked, thieves will leave it alone because they can't re-sell them.

      How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter? Parts and labor can run between one and three thousand dollars. It's not only a hassle, it's a bite out of your wallet.

      For more information about Duluth's Catalytic Converter I.D. Program, check out this article from the DNT.

      * * *  

      Sunday, March 13, 2022

      Bob Dylan: Good As I Been To You Is Good

      For some reason I took a pass on Dylan's early 90s albums, Good As I Been to You and World Gone Wrong. At the time, there must have been a bad review or maybe I was led to believe these weren't an essential part of one's collection, perhaps dismissing them because he recorded covers instead of writing new masterpieces like "Desolation Row" or "All Along the Watchtower."

      So I decided to fill these two holes in my collection this past Christmas. 

      Tonight, as I listen to Good As I Been To You yet another time, I'm surprised that we ever listen to other people instead of deciding for ourselves. People have different tastes and some of my favorite albums are lower on the various lists of "Best Dylan Albums." Good As I Been to You is a truly rewarding contribution to the Dylan catalog.

      I'd bet that if you asked twenty fans what their favorite period was as far as his singing voice, not necessarily the songs, they'd likely identify a dozen different periods and agree on few. I, for one, have appreciated his voice at every stage of his career. I mean, his manner of delivering lyrics can vary, but he is continually distinctive and evocative. And that is part of what makes this album nice, his first acoustic solo album since, hmmm, must be Another Side of Bob Dylan.

      In my first listens to Good As I Been to You I was enjoying the guitar work. It's an enjoyable album of finger-pickin' acoustic accompaniment. There is no backing band. It's Bob and his guitar, and occasionally a little harmonica. Something akin to Jorma Kaukonen's performance at The West Theater last week. 

      This is Bob digging into a little music history. Classics like Blackjack Davy, Sittin' On Top of the World, and Hard Times are ever familiar. In this case Bob channels them with his own vibe, as is his custom. Others were uncovered from more obscure sources.

      The vocals convey the hard times, sorrows, hopes, betrayals, and other emotions associated with the approach of later life. Dylan had passed the half century mark when this album was recorded.

      If you're like me there are always a couple songs you connect with on the first listen. You connect enough to take a second listen and with familiarity other songs begin to speak to you. At some point you find that some of the songs you were unfamiliar with are now the ones that resonate most. You can miss that if you only listen once then toss it aside.

      Stephen Foster, 1826-1864
      For some reason I was unaware that "Hard Times" was a Stephen Foster song. It's definitely classic Americana. Ken Burns found it suitable for a few of his documentaries. Foster, one of the most famous songwriters of the 19th century, died in 1864 at age 37 (according to Wikipedia) after he fell in a Bowery hotel and cut his neck. He was found in a pool of blood and passed away at New York's Bellevue Hospital three days later. Most of us learned some of his songs when we were growing up... songs like "Camptown Races" and "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Beautiful Dreamer."  Years ago I remember the impression Paul Harvey's account made in his inimitable "Rest of the Story" radio tales, which you can listen to here.

      The song going through me this past few days has been Canadee-I-O. Maybe it corresponds with the mood of this strange moment in time, even if it an entirely different story. It's a beautiful song with a somewhat haunting tune. Hear it here on YouTubeYou can read the lyrics here.

      "Black Jack Davey" is another favorite, though very different from the exuberant version recorded by the Incredible String Band. How interesting that these two versions can be so different yet infectious, each in its own way.  

      Someone wrote that Dylan was "just going through the motions" on this album. I disagree. As I said in the beginning, it's much more intimate than putting on a show. We're sitting on the couch and he's sitting over here in that chair and a couple other friends are seated on a cushion leaning against the wall and we're just happy to be present. 

      Enjoyment has much to do with one's expectations. A lot of things in life are that way. Our expectations can easily get in the way of appreciating something special that is right there in front of us. 

      Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears While we all sup sorrow with the poor. There's a song that will linger forever in our ears, Oh, hard times, come again no more. --Stephen Foster 

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