Friday, October 21, 2016

Chuck Berry at 90, Art Shows and Bucket Lists

"Is it rolling, Bob?" ~Nashville Skyline

This week I saw a news story about Chuck Berry releasing an album of new songs at age 90. Wowzer. Made me wonder what I will be doing for my 90th birthday. I immediately thought of former president George Bush's 90th birthday parachute jump. Then my mind meandered to the notion of bucket lists, parachute jumping in general (I made three jumps in college, before the tandem thing became preeminent) and what it was like to see Chuck Berry at Ohio U in 1973.

If it was indeed 43 years ago that I saw Chuck Berry, that means he wasn't even 50 yet. Back in those days Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane stated that no rock 'n roller should still be playing after age 50, that it was indecent (or something to that effect.) If I recall correctly her issue with old rock 'n rollers was that the songs were about protest against the establishment and the old people who ran it. So, has anyone seen her remarks about Coachella's Desert Trip?

To be frank, I would be interested in hearing what kind of songs Chuck Berry has been writing from the vantage point of a long life lived. As a result of an encounter with Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry signed with Chess Records in Chicago. Two Beatles covers were Chuck Berry hits from that time.

* * * *
Hanging the new show at Goin' Postal
So, what's it going to be? How's your Friday going? Here's a re-cap of three art events you might want to check out if you're here in the Twin Ports.

The Goin' Postal Fall Art Show is from 6-9 and will be at the usual location in Superior down by the tracks on Tower Ave, though the after party will move to the newly renovated Cedar Lounge. (FREE)

From 3-5 this afternoon there will be a We're Moving show at Art on the Plaza. Their new address will be 1413 Tower starting in November, but their closing celebration is at their Belknap Plaza location and you should try to be there, if nothing else than to hear Similar Dogs perform a couple songs with a guest harmonica player. (FREE)

Finally, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. the DAI Make Your Mark Fund Raiser is being conducted down at 1400 Railroad Street, between the Silos and Garfield. There will be local artists making live art as well as plenty more to see with many of the usual suspects on hand. ($50 per person) The attire is Lumberjack Chic, as there is no heat in the building. There will be lots of artists making art, however, generating a measure of warmth thereby. The turn is just before the tracks if you're coming from the direction of the AMSOIL Arena/Bayfront Park. Follow the signs till you get there.

* * * *
As for Bucket Lists, I first wrote about bucket lists in this 2009 blog post, and in re-reading it I can see that my somewhat short list is pretty much obsolete. Do you have a "Bucket List" and if so, how serious are you about it. I know some people swear by them as a means of staying motivated for living a life of purpose. What activity are you saving for your 90th birthday?

Well, if that seems a little beyond the scope of your imagination, then just make it your aim to visit with us at Goin' Postal tonight. There's a great batch of talent making art for the Duluth Art Institute, too. Live. For information on additional upcoming DAI exhibitions and events, here's a link to check out.

See you there.... or here, or wherever. It's a weekend. Why not start with art. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Biggest Barrier To Accomplishing Your Writing Dreams

"There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results." 
~ Ken Blanchard

I recently began reading a book about sobriety by Jack Canfield (co-author of the Chicken Soup series) and Dave Andrews. What's interesting about this book are the multitude of little thought-gems and practical insights that apply to things much larger than cutting back from drinking. The book is actually a 30-day project and the full title of the book is The 30-Day Sobriety Solution.

In chapter one the authors strive to pound home the idea that unless you are 100% committed you will fail. As I read this I couldn't help applying its message to many other aspects of life, including careers, and especially writing. Here's a section from the paragraph following the Ken Blanchard quote above:

This rule means that once you are 100% committed, there are no exceptions and no renegotiating. Not only does this rule make life easier and simpler, it frees you from inner conflict. Instead of debating over and over about whether you will or won't do something, like drinking, your decision is already made. The real power and value from this comes from all the energy you can now redirect to focus on what you actually want to create and accomplish in your life.

Over the course of a lifetime of writing I have met numerous people who told me, "I've been told my life should become a book." In most cases their stories really are remarkable and should be recorded and shared. These people know they are not writers, but have been led to believe they had a story to tell. And then there are the people who have told me they were planning to write The Great American Novel or some other important book they had inside them. One friend, who has never written a paragraph of fiction in his life, said he was going to quit his job, go to Florida and sit on a beach for four months to write his novel. Ha ha ha.

Writing is not the easiest occupation and it's far from the most lucrative. That doesn't mean you should not pursue a writing career. It may be that you want to simply improve one of the most important skills that apply to any career, the ability to translate jumbled or abstract ideas into concrete prose, into words that actually convey the nebulous notions in your head and heart. It ain't easy. Or I should say, it's not easy to do well.

The authors' next paragraph brings it home, though.

However, the moment your commitment drops to 99%, you open the door for the internal debate to begin, and when it comes... this is a debate that usually ends in a rationalization...

Right there, that's the problem, whether it's a relationship, a dream or an addiction of any kind, it's the rationalizing we do that brings us down.

Do you really want to be a writer? Or do you just tell yourself that and make excuses. Maybe it doesn't matter whether you write or not. Maybe you just like researching things. Or you like the feeling that is associated with saying you are going to be a writer.

I'm not saying you should not be a writer. What I am saying, however, is that i you have been talking about writing a book for five, ten, twenty or more years and have not done it, then you're just not committed. Total commitment is the only way to accomplish something hard. Either you're all in or you're out.

Yesterday I read a news item about Tuesday's passing of Phil Chess, co-founder of the influential Chess Records, and it reminded me of a story I read in Keith Richards' autobiography Life.  Richards stated that when he, Mick Jagger and another friend discovered the blues through Chess Records they didn't just listen to the music, they locked themselves up in an apartment until they learned how to play it. That is, they made a commitment. They were so committed, Richards states, that they didn't even allow one another to have girl friends. Their music was their life. Until they could play the music they loved, nothing else mattered.

If you're serious about writing the book you've been talking about all your life, it's time to prove it by making the 100% commitment necessary to move forward. It's a commitment that involves sacrifices, but it's worth the rewards.

Meantime, life goes on. Where do you see yourself five years from now? 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Making Marks @ 3 Local Art Events Friday

Quick note about the three shows this Friday.

The Goin' Postal Fall Art Show is from 6-9 and will be at the usual location in Superior down by the tracks on Tower Ave, though the after party will move to the new Cedar Lounge. (FREE)

From 3-5 that afternoon there will be a We're Moving art show at Art on the Plaza. Their new address will be 1413 Tower, but their closing celebration is at their Belknap Plaza location and you should try to be there, if nothing else than to hear Similar Dogs perform a couple songs with a guest harmonica player. (FREE)

Finally, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. the DAI Make Your Mark Fund Raiser is being conducted down at 1400 Railroad Street, between the Silos and Garfield. There will be local artists making live art as well as plenty more to see with many of the usual suspects on hand. ($50 per person)

* * * *
Last week local artists had a party to make art for Make Your Mark. What follows, with the exception of the last, are some of the marks I made.

Google Earth

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Karen McTavish: Pushing the Boundaries of Quilting

In August and September I followed, and participated some, in the Duluth Quantum Computing Project at 3 West on Superior Street. The project was the brainchild of Kathy McTavish, whose work I have written about on numerous occasions, who continually surprises me with the new territories her art and expressions explore. For two months the site became a collaborative workspace that attracted others in our local arts community, with a number of them leaving something there on display. One of these was a large multi-colored quilt by what turned out to be Kathy McTavish's sister Karen.

While visiting one afternoon I listened to a conversation between Kathy and another woman regarding this quilt. They were discussing how influential and original Karen's work had become, so much so that a quilting technique has been named after her called McTavishing.

Naturally I felt obligated to learn more and last week visited her studio on 8th Street, in part because of this discussion and in pat because of an upcoming art opening I'd been invited to, an unusual group show involving her and a number of other quilters called st1tch... red.

EN: How did you get into quilting and what were you doing previous to that?

Karen McTavish: By the time I was 32 years old I realized working in accounting was something that would never make me very happy. I was not very good with math and the office cubicle seemed to be a death sentence for me. To make a long story short, I got into quilting because I could be self-employed and not have a boss. I liked the idea of being creative, but had no idea how to quilt, so the road block was mountainous.

EN: What brought you to Duluth?

KM: I came to Duluth to live at the Washington Art Studios in 1997 from a 2 year stay in Los Angeles where I met my end in accounting. The goal was to make a living for my daughter and I while living in the studio, doing something I had never tried: quilting. I didn't know any quilters. I had never sewn anything and was faking every second. I literally came to Duluth to quilt. My first quilting machine arrived 4 days after I arrived with my U-Haul. I met my first quilter, named Cheryl Dennison, who lived in the studio doing modern abstract quilting. Ironically, we are still working together in my retail space after almost 20 years.

EN: What is it that makes quilting so fascinating?

KM: There is something about quilting that taps into the part of your mind that feels productive, therapeutic and creative. Like writing music or performing on stage. When I first moved to Duluth, I went to the local library to learn everything I could about quilting. This was well before you could "google" anything so I had to learn the old way -- by reading books. I became a junkie of traditional designs. I found comfort in the traditional methods of quilting -- mostly hand-quilting. I was not a hand-quilter, I was quilting by machine. In 1997 in Duluth, machine quilting was a four-letter word. I was told when I arrived that no one likes machine quilting. I was basically told that if I didn't create work that looked like the Amish, it was garbage. I started to develop my style of quilting based on extremely traditional design elements that found my comfort zone. There is so much useless information in my head about music and quilting. I am fascinated by music and it moves me more than anything else I have ever encountered. When I started machine quilting as a business, music became a companion to the art. I can't quilt with silence, I always have music playing in the studio. I play music so loud sometimes that people will walk into the studio and I have no idea they are there watching me quilt.

EN: There is a technique named after you. What makes the McTavishing style or method unique?

KM: Being isolated from the rest of the quilting world helped me develop a style that is my own. I kept fresh by not comparing my work with others. I felt I had to push the genre into the world of hand-quilters and, most of the time, created from a part of my gut that said my work didn't suck. It's a style of quilting which looks very free flowing, similar to moving water. I didn't name it, the internet did. I originally called it "Cartoon Wonder Woman Hair" but the internet changed it to "McTavishing." As a Duluthian, it about killed me to accept that my last name was now a quilting style. I never thought my legacy would be a quilting stitch or quilting in general.

EN: What prompted you to write your book, Mastering the Art of McTavishing?

KM: This was my second book. My first book was called Whitework Quilting. My publisher, OnWord Bound Books, Duluth MN, wanted to do a soft cover DVD style book with lots of high resolution photos of stitches. The book was one of the top most purchased craft books on the market for some time. My love for books goes back to when I wanted to know "how" to quilt and needed visual examples of quilting. I wanted a book completely dedicated to "stitches." My publisher was open to publish any ideas that I came up with and we have 7 books that went to print.

EN: Tell us about your upcoming show at the Red Herring.

KM: My first love is music. I am a vocalist for projects here and there in Duluth. I have a signature deep voice which is rare in female vocalists. I have a powerful scream, which I find lovely. There is quite a juxtaposition from my quilting career to my musical tastes.

The show at the Red Herring is called "st1tch : : : red" and the website for the show is The show will hang for one month. It's a collaborative effort from the misfits of quilting, including myself, Cheryl Dennison, Frank Palmer, Alexander Kain, Scott Lunt and Kathy McTavish.

The reception is set for 11/12/16 from 5 to 8pm with all the artists at the Red Herring. Starting at 9 pm the multi media begins with Kathy McTavish, Reflectivore, Ire Wolves, and a one time event for the opening night, a sewing related performance piece with myself, Frank Palmer and Scott Lunt lead by Kathy McTavish. We will only perform this piece on stage once. I like to think the evening will revolve around tension, stitches and machine. The entire evening is about music, our machines we use to create and why the need is so profound. The music of the evening is a huge part of fiber art. The creation of music and stitches seem so natural. This is why we took months to create the work just for this exhibit. The individual pieces would never be accepted in a normal quilt show. Our tribe is the music scene of Duluth. As a whole, the pieces can be seen without judgement as they are far from traditional boundaries of fiber art. We trust our music community and they want the show to be fearless examples of our passion.

EN: To learn more about your work, do you have a website?

KM: Yes!!! My gallery on my website is a detail of what I do and the public is welcome to walk into my retail space and see what we do at any time.

EdNote: The McTavish studio/retail space is located at 1831 East 8th Street adjacent to Benchmark Tattoo, kitty-corner from At Sara's Table. 

IF THIS TOPIC INTERESTS YOU, Karen McTavish's Mastering the Art of McTavishing is available here on Amazon.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Saturday Night @ The Rex: Honoring John Bushey and His KUMD Show Highway 61 Revisited

Bob's Nobel Prize selection Thursday could not have been better timed.
Many great memories were produced Saturday night. I've been asked to share pictures for those who live too far away to have made it. From 8 p.m. till midnight The Rex chose to one-up Paul McCartney and Neil Young's Desert Trip concert by celebrating 25 years of John Bushey's Dylan-themed radio program, Highway 61 Revisited. 160 of us were there for the experience. Music by Cowboy Angel Blue, The Boom Chucks, Paul Metsa and special guests formed the backdrop against which a mayoral proclamation was delivered (by councilman Joel Sipress on behalf of Emily Larson) and a multitude of friends and fans of the show showed their appreciation for its host. The evening struck a perfect balance of entertainment, Dylan-nostalgia and public recognition for John Bushey's sacrificial commitment to this labor of love.

The actual anniversary of the show would have been more suitably celebrated the week before but Cowboy Angel Blue, a favorite of John's, was unavailable last week. Dylan's recognition by the Nobel Prize committee delivered added sweetness to this weekend's celebration.

Here's a set of snapshots that capture the flavor of the evening.

Cowboy Angel Blue (James Paavala and Bill Maxwell) 
were joined by Columbia recording artist Bill Bulinski on bass.

Councilman Joel Sipress honors John Bushey with the mayoral proclamation.
Gene LaFond and Amy Grillo were joined by Pat Eliason on harp (left)
Michael Anderson, photographer
Michael Anderson has been a faithful documentarian of Armory and Dylan Fest events for many years. His work is greatly appreciated. (You can find more of Michael's work on display here.)

The Boom Chucks -- Brad Nelson drums, Jamie Ness lead (right) -- were 
joined by Alan Sparhawk and Bill Bulinski for a portion of their set.

Alan Sparhawk's rendition of One Too Many Mornings, which has been recorded with Gaelyn Lea on the Bringing It All Back Home to Duluth Does Dylan, proved to be one of many highlights of the evening. Paul Metsa's set, which included his song about the nefarious Jack Ruby, also sent electricity to the room.

John Bushey, at home in the KUMD studio
Special thanks should be extended to many who contributed to make this event memorable but two should especially be called out: our zealous M.C. Magic Marc Percansky and Zane Bail, worked tirelessly (as well when totally exhausted) to help set the table for this night.

The evening ended with a jam session featuring the Boom Chucks and Cowboy Angel Blue together, and a few harmonica accents from yours truly. There were writers and there were dancers, friends of the show and even magicians... all of it magical.

If the measure of a man is what he's done for others, John is a truly great man.

John: Thank you for keeping the music of Dylan alive and fresh, for your dedication to giving your audiences something more, something higher, something richer and more rewarding.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

First Folio Is More Than Just A Book. Shakespeare Exhibit at the Tweed Stirs Generations.

During the month of May the Tweed Museum of Art has played host to a traveling exhibit from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. called First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare. Numerous activities have been organized around this touring exhibit, including projects for youth, special speakers and more.

Yesterday afternoon the art gallery was abuzz with art projects related to Shakespeare. Alison Aune and crew had set up stations where kids could work on themed projects. One room featured materials for assembling miniature books. Another room featured materials for making theater masks. In a third area I saw young people making crowns All of it was designed to inspire to renewed interest in the life and work of William Shakespeare on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death.

The centerpiece of the traveling exhibit is a book, one of an estimated 750 copies of the first published collection of the works of William Shakespeare. There are an estimated 233 remain in existence, and though rare I am guessing that if this were the only one it would not be on the road as it has been. In point of fact the Folger Shakespeare Library owns 82 of these 233 copies of the folio, and what makes this book exciting to people is that many of Shakespeare's plays would have been lost in the abyss of history had this book not been published.

In addition to this First Folio exhibit you will discover a Costumes & Stagecraft For Shakespeare display in several halls of the gallery, on loan from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis displaying elements that reveal the world of theater that Shakespeare's plays fostered. You'll enjoy the elaborate costumes and miniature sets that were invented and constructed to help directors and characters envision the stories they would tell on the stage.

"All the world's a stage..."

Years ago I heard a five minute radio clip by Dan Rather of CBS in which he recited sayings and phrases that have become permanently embedded in our language today that originated with Mr. Shakespeare. "All's Well That Ends Well" is the title of a play. When we talk about a comedy of errors, this too was taken from the title of another play, "Comedy of Errors." There's something in the wind, we often say. The notion of killing with kindness can be found in another play of his. And the phrase "star-crossed lovers" was popularized in Romeo and Juliet. I'm just whetting your appetite here.

Elaborate costume from Midsummer Night's Dream.
His themes were the themes of life: love, longing, fear and death, expectation, greed, villainy and mercy. Just as Dylan mined the American folk and blues traditions, Shakespeare summoned inspiration from all the previous ages of literature while incorporating the latest discoveries of the emerging modern world.

This traveling exhibition will be folding up its curtains on October 26, so you have ten days to get up to the campus to take it in.

There are several other noteworthy exhibitions on display right now, as well. The balcony annex has a challenging showcase of the thought-provoking works of Juan Logan titled Whose Song Shall I Sing? It's relevance is inescapable in our current climate of racial discord and stereotyping.

A whimsical photo exhibition titled Head in the Clouds is also enjoyable and effective.

If you've not been to the Tweed before, you really must make the effort. This is a first class art museum, a real treasure for the community. You'll find it on the UMD campus.

"All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts." ~As You Like It

And if you can't remember your lines, well... just do the best you can. You only live once.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

25-Year Fan Shares How Dylan and Highway 61 Revisited Helped Her Through

This past month John Bushey, host of the KUMD radio program Highway 61 Revisited, began inviting people to the KUMD studios to interview for a series of shows promoting tonight's 25th Anniversary celebration of the show. As a regular listener and member of the Bob Dylan Way committee that puts on the annual Duluth Dylan Fest, I was invited to the UMD campus to tell my story and pick a song from the Dylan archives. While there I met Phoebe Smith and had a chance to hear her story. Upon hearing, I knew I wanted to share it.

There have been a lot of great stories told on the air these past few weeks. As a regular listener I found each one moving. Thank you John for these 25 years of sharing these 25 years of often rare versions of Dylan's music, and for sharing your listeners' stories this past month. And thank you Phoebe, for contributing your story here.

EN: How did you become a fan of Dylan's music?

Phoebe Smith: First I would like to preface this, Ed, by thanking you for promoting John Bushey's 25th radio show anniversary. I was in the 8th grade when John Bushey and my father Moses Smith were talking about his radio show. John and my dad met because they both worked in ISD 709 the Duluth school system. We were all on a yellow school bus every morning for an American Indian summer science camp. John is an educator and was married at the time to the woman running the camp. My father worked in the Indian Education department. I was there because I was a mentor for the Native American summer science (NASS) camp students.

John asked my dad if he ever listened to Bob Dylan and my father answered not really. There was one song my father identified with and that was Hurricane. Dad became fascinated with John's stories about this new radio show he'd just begun doing. I listened to them talking about other music as well.

I started listening to the show during card games in 1991. I listened to Highway 61 Revisited online when I lived out of state.

I've been to a number of concerts over the years. My eldest child has gone to a few shows with me, too. My youngest isn't old enough to go yet.

I love the music and seemed to get it at a young age. It's hard to explain adequately how as a younger person I understood the complexity of the emotions expressed and experienced in the songs. As with any music it's about how you relate with it.

I'm a radio dee-jay, for both commercial and public radio stations in two states, for over 20 years. Music has been instrumental in my everyday life as far back as I can remember. I experienced many genres of music from American Indian powwow music and a cross sector of modern mainstream music. Somewhere in the mix of melodic sounds coming from my home, car, and earbuds Bob Dylan's music rose to the top of my list.

EN: You told a story of how Dylan's music got you through a rough patch in your life. Can you elaborate on this?

PS: I suspect that everyone has bad times and good. My story isn't much different but like I've said my life has naturally had music incorporated into it. I will give an example; there was a time when I had gotten into a disagreement with an ex boyfriend and was left 30 miles out of town. I walked to my former home in Missoula, Montana where I had been living at the time. It took what seemed like forever to get there and I sang most of Dylan's musical catalog as I walked. It's funny to look back on it now but I suppose that is one fine example. The music helped me keep up the pace as I walked.

EN: Did you say you've been listening to John Bushey's show from the beginning? How did you discover the show and what is it that keeps you coming back for more

PS: I have been listening since 1991 and glad that I found it. I would listen online when I was homesick, living or traveling elsewhere in the United States before I boomeranged home to Duluth. I am very thankful to have met John Bushey. I continue to listen to the show for all of the live Bob Dylan music. I am happy and honored to have witnessed all 25 years of KUMD's Highway 61 Revisited with your host John Bushey.  

* * * * 

Tonight's party will be at The Rex, downstairs in the Fitgers complex. If you come, you'll meet a lot of interesting people, many who are here from out of town for this occasion. The music will be great, including Cowboy Angel Blue, the Freewheelers and some special guests including Magic Marc Percansky as Master of Ceremonies. John Bushey is being honored with a mayoral proclamation for his 25 years as a radio magician weaving together so many fabulous shows without remuneration. (Yes, it's a labor of love.) John "followed his bliss" and as a result enriched a multitude.

Oh, and yes, we will be honoring Mr. Dylan, too, for his latest achievement, the Nobel Prize for Literature. Will you join us?