Friday, January 31, 2014

Dear Children, Do You Know Where Your Parents Are? Beatlemania Then and Now

They were called the Fab Four. Fifty years ago they suddenly appeared on America's shores and set the stage for the British Invasion. How American youth responded is difficult to explain but the pictures say it all.

I remember it well. Our family moved to New Jersey from Cleveland on January 20 that year. Twenty days later, the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. In the days of early television a lot of what aired was a carryover from the days of vaudeville and travelling circuses. King of TV's variety shows was Ed Sullivan. In Cleveland we had the Gene Carroll Show, which was originally the Giant Tiger Variety Hour. Theme song of the Variety Hour was that New Orleans favorite, "Hold That Tiger." The song still reverberates inside me as my dad must have watched it every week when we were growing up.

Ed Sullivan didn't really take this kind of entertainment to a new level, he simply brought it to a bigger stage. If you're my age you remember the guy who would spin plates atop vertical dowels, trying to get ten going at a time. The show was a hodgepodge of homespun entertainment. There was usually a music act in the mix. And on February 9 it was The Beatles.

I turned 12 that year, along with a gazillion others who didn't know at the time that they were going to be called the Baby Boomer generation. Little did these innocents know that one day all of the world's excesses and all the world's problems today would be laid at their feet.

On January 2, Dylan's third album, The Times They Are A-Changin' was released, with its songs protesting racism and other injustices, a song about the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, a song about the senseless, brutal beating of Hattie Carroll. It was an album of songs in stark contrast with She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand.

For the next ten years we're likely to be seeing magazines and TV shows depicting the events of fifty years ago. And all throughout there will be contrasting themes, for in addition to celebrations there were also riots in the streets. For many this nostalgic reflection will be passionately consumed and the media-makers will profit from it as we drift into our memories.

In many respects it was a time of innocence. 73 million people tuned in to see that mania live. Those of us who saw it remember it well. It was electric. It was crazy. And the earth moved. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wisconsin Arts Board Stretches Arms Toward Superior -- Update on Tuesday Visit

I continue to be impressed by the arts activity taking place in Superior, bringing together disparate groups for the betterment of the community. Tuesday morning Karen Goeschko and George Tzougros of the Wisconsin Arts Board and Travel Wisconsin's Drew Nissbaum drove to Superior on the coldest of days to meet with 21 local leaders in the Superior arts community. At 9:00 a.m. the temp was -16. Big shout out to textile artist and Phantom Galleries Superior director (who is stepping down) Erika Mock for the meeting notes which I share here. Here's what came out of the meeting:

1) Calling all advocates! The State Legislature is now considering a bill establishing a grant program to support Wisconsin’s creative industries, job creation and economic development throughout the state. Click this link to ask your legislators to support this important initiative.

It's important you act before Friday Jan 31 deadline. (EdNote: Tomorrow) The proposed amount is $500K. When/if this passes the Wisconsin Arts Board (WAB) will be developing the program. Special thank you to Representative Nick Milroy for already signing on to support this bill.

 2) Creative Community Grant Applications are now open. Phase 1 deadline is Feb 7.

3) The WI Arts Board is looking for community input on their draft strategic plan (2014-2017) Here is a draft of the plan and email address where you can send feedback.

4) WI Arts Day is March 12 in Madison.

5) America's Creative Economy report is out and can be found here.

6) How does the Department of Tourism intersect the arts?  The WAB is an agency within the Department of Tourism. Drew Nussbaum, Regional Tourism Specialist, outlined that the tourism budget for Wisconsin is $13 million but they work diligently to stretch the money as well as its impact. As a result they receive $63 million in earned media -- stories at no cost that reach national and international audiences. Tourism was up by 5% in 2013.

What does a Tourism specialist offer to arts groups? Business consulting, marketing. How do they connect to the right people? The Arts Board develops. Tourism markets... to communities and beyond.

7) Douglas County Historical Society now connects to the Humanities Council. The Arts 'do it'..... the Humanities Council 'talks about it.' There is grant and partnership opportunity for our region.

8) Twin Ports Stage launched their fundraiser campaign this week to raise the funds necessary to create a theater and community art space in downtown Superior. The John D. Munsell Theatre will help transform and revitalize the downtown by giving the arts a place to "play." If you would like to help, here's a place where you can find more information about this project: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/be2n6

9) Susan at Habitat for Humanity sent this today, asking to spread the word: See the attachments for Twin Ports Habitat's Re-Store Art-Tastic Social. They are looking for artists to come find something in the Re-Store to repurpose and then auction off at their fundraiser Feb 28. Fun!

Special thanks to Erika Mock once more for giving time to assembling the above notes. Of this last item more will be shared in an upcoming blog post. 

A few closing notes about the vastness of our Net universe. The stats come from an infographic I found at Domo.com....

Every Minute of Every Day:
~Apple receives about 47,000 App downloads
~Brands and Organizations on Facebook receive 34,722 Likes
~Consumers spend $272,070 on Web Shopping
~Instagram users Share 3,600 new photos
~Twitter users send over 100,000 Tweets
~YouTube users upload 48 hours of new video
~Facebook Users share 684,478 pieces of content

Kinda makes your head spins.

After this blog entry gets posted I Tweet it, which automatically posts it to my Facebook page. Feel free to share it.

What a world we live in. Let's stay in touch.
To follow on Twitter: @ennyman3

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Whoever watches the wind will not plant... and two upcoming events.

"Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." ~Ecclesiastes 11:4

New Living Translation puts it this way: Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

This Old Testament verse doesn't say to ignore the weather. It simply says that one can get so hung up on waiting for perfect conditions that they never do anything.

Whereas it's true that you have to sensitive to external conditions, all too often we use those conditions as an excuse for why we didn't do something in the first place. As Shakespeare wrote, "The fault is not in the stars but in ourselves."

What is it you're looking for? Don't wait till conditions are perfect to begin your quest. Start your preparations. Take action. Don't sit back and let life pass you by.

Last weekend we went to a movie and dinner downtown here in Duluth and noticed that our town was hopping. Weather that shuts down other parts of the country made little impact here. The only challenge is probably parking because sooner or later experience teaches you to beware of parking horizontally on the hills in the winter. In short, unless the event is outright cancelled, the locals here venture forth.

Tomorrow evening at Glensheen Mansion, in conjunction with the UMD Office of Civic Engagement and the Duluth News Tribune, is hosting another CHESTER CHAT, a Ted Talk-styled event designed to foster critical thinking. The topic is Regional Art. The speakers slated include local artist: Sarah Brokke Duluth Art Institute curator: Anne Dugan and UMD art historian: Dr. Jennifer Webb

Dr. Webb will talk about the many works of art housed in the historic Glensheen. Doors open to historic Glensheen’s Winter Garden at 7:00 p.m. for a happy half-hour with the guest speakers. The program starts promptly at 7:30 p.m., each talking for approximately 10 minutes.

I first heard about this through KUMD who will be rebroadcasting the talk as a regular monthly feature. In the event that you were unaware, Glensheen is a unit of the School of Fine Arts within the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The next TWEEVENINGS at UMD is Tuesday, February 4 at 6:30 p.m. It should be another good one with artist and critic Ann Klefstad sharing how art traditions both within and beyond the Western influence link daily life, spiritual life, and natural sciences. She'll be speaking about works by several artists: mathematician and artist Dennis White's finger-woven sash, a traditional Anishinaabe work; John Sims' African-inspired Mathematical Art Brain, a drawing and inkjet print; a Frank Big Bear colored drawing; and a duck-headed carved spoon from the Rawlings Nelson's Collection of American Indian Art. Image of the drawing by: Frank Big Bear, Spirit of Things, 1986

In short, here are two rich opportunities to go deeper in your understanding of the arts, especially as it intersects our life and times here and now.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Five Minutes with Local Painter Adam Swanson

For a relatively small city Duluth has an active arts community. And it’s wonderful discovering the number of spaces where one can show one's work, or see the work of emerging and established artists. Once you start poking around you’ll quickly see who's actively putting their work out in the public. One of these is painter Adam Swanson whose paintings have been on display during the month of January at Pizza Luce in Duluth’s Tech Village.

EN: Where did your show’s title come from?

Adam Swanson: The title for the show "My Wicked Secret" came about while I was thinking about the variety of times friends have asked me about the specific meaning behind a painting. I prefer my paintings to remain open to interpretation, though I often find myself wondering what other artists were thinking when they made their work. The paintings in this show were created with a specific meaning of my own, though those ideas are personal. No single interpretation of my work is wrong and I hope those interested can come up with their own story around each piece. Their own secret story.

EN: Can you define your new direction for us?

AS: I've been experimenting with new symbols. Also, playing around with new technical ideas, such as laying the panel down flat while painting, and some diverse color mixing.

EN: How has being a father changed your work or helped you grow as an artist?

AS: I could probably write an essay about this one. Being a father has certainly changed me as an artist. When I had my first son, I realized quickly that I was going to have to zero in on the few things that were really important to me in order to preserve their presence in my life. Parenthood forced me to focus in a way that I never had before and it helped me structure artwork into my existence in a more sustainable way. Having a kid made me take stock of what I really wanted in life and led me to evaluate all of the possible ways to grow in a fulfilling direction. The experience of being a father has also made me feel very lucky and I feel that I owe the universe something to pay back this good fortune.


EN: When did you first become aware that you had a desire to paint? 

AS: I have been making art since I was a child and began to take it more seriously during my undergraduate degree in studio art at UMD. I paint now because it's the best way I can think of to make imagery that grabs people and expresses some of my ideas. I like to paint because it is a meditation that I have on an idea. Painting is something I am working on getting better at, so that I can communicate more clearly. But I really love all art forms and would love to get into something else someday. Sculpture or film perhaps.

EN: You arrived here in the Twin Ports about five years ago. Tell us about your life before coming to Duluth?

AS: After living for 3 years in Ithaca, NY working as a rare book and manuscript conservator (and painting) I moved to Antarctica for a nine month contract position fixing and working on boats used for science. The contract left me in South America where I spent a few months traveling. I eventually landed in Duluth in January 2009, looking to set up shop somewhere to work on my art. I began at a cabin on the North Shore of Lake Superior and finally found a spot in Duluth to work on art full time.

EN: Why the decision to paint on masonite panels rather than canvas?

AS: I like the texture of masonite. The texture of canvas has always been something I struggled to get rid of. And I never roll it up, so having a painting on a board is roughly the same weight and shape as having it on stretched canvas. Masonite is cheap and sturdy, and usually made of recycled, steamed wood pulp with no additives. And I gesso it up pretty good before painting so I think my paintings are fairly archival. I take photos of all my paintings, because the end image is really important to me.

This interview originally appeared in The Reader.

Monday, January 27, 2014

200 Pounds of Clay and the North Pole Bar on Raleigh Street

47 years experience.*
Inasmuch as we practically live in the North Pole as it is, I decided to check in at the North Pole Bar on Saturday to see how their Beer for Bowls event was shaping up. I can't recall a winter with so many school closing due to cold. In fact, I can't recall ever hearing of school closings due to cold. Dangerous road conditions? Sure. But not cold.

Inside the North Pole Bar the atmosphere was swimmingly upbeat and warm. I came early in the day and found the pottery wheels active, and a growing number of participants on hand, prepping the raw clay for throwing bowls.

Tonya Borgeson of Snoodle Ceramic Studio seems to be a master of making events like this happen, inviting participation from rookie to pro. This coming Saturday, February 1, is the sequel to this bowl-throwing fest, the Glaze-A-Thon at the Lake Superior College Art Building, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The setup went like this. There were three pottery wheels early in the day and 200 pounds of clay. Those who arrived to make pots would take turns in fifteen minute increments. 75 cents got you a chance to make pottery AND get a free beer.

Borgeson (L) with North Pole owner Barb Stevens
When I arrived two of the wheels were occupied by women involved with art therapy in different capacities, Andrea Boyadjis and Sarah Riley. Both attended UWS and have applied their creative skills to the professions aimed toward healing, by means of the arts. Stated Riley, "I realized that art was always for me."

Other potters on hand early in the day included the experienced Viki Day, Theresa Hoffmann, Matt Larson and Kitty Sabelman of Dragonfire Ceramics. Even the North Pole's new owner Barb Stevens rolled up her sleeves to make bowls when it came her turn.

Seeing the Northland's potters getting bowls ready for April's Second Harvest Fund Raiser truly is one of the early signs of spring. With so much action underway, one can't help but be hopeful that a thaw will eventually be near. I thinik I'll just ignore that 30 below thermometer reading this morning and think warm.

Early signs of spring at the North Pole Bar.

*Top right: Viki McFall (L) with Tonya Borgeson. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis Didn’t Do It For Me

The people and places of that early 60’s Greenwich Village scene are legends now. Bleecker Street, Café Wah?, the Kettle of Fish, Gerde’s Folk City, and at its epicenter, The Gaslight Café on McDougal Street. Sean Wilentz, in his book Bob Dylan In America, notes that The Gaslight wasn’t all music. Stand up comics like Bill Cosby and Woody Allen cut their teeth there. Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton and Noel Paul Stookey were there. And it’s been fairly well established that Dylan was “found” there... and briefly passes through here as well, perhaps the highlight of the film.

With meticulous care the Coen Brothers tackled the ambitious aim of telling a story that would re-create this time and place. The much talked about film is Inside Llewyn Davis, which currently has a 7.9 rating at imdb.com, a rating that I consider generous. And to demonstrate how wrong I am, the critics at RottenTomatoes average an 8.6 out of ten.

My first difficulty here is that I heard just a little too much hype going into it so that unrealistic expectations were raised. The soundtrack was supposed to be every bit as fabulous as O Brother Where Art Thou, which I still listen to now and then, but I dunno. I have the real music of the time and that resonates well enough for me. And then that second stumbling stone: the main character at the center of the story itself is no hero. He’s a self-centered jerk.

From an aesthetic point of view the film has fabulous cinematography. Every shot, especially in the first section of the movie, is a work of art. The casting was good, too, though many of the negative reviewers on imdb.com dissed John Goodman’s slot in the film.

The fictitious Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a Greenwich Village folk singer trying to make ends meet while attempting to maintain a foothold on the bottom rung of that ladder that leads upward to the brass ring. Davis has already had a recording, but his partner took his life afterward, leaping from the George Washington Bridge. Now Llewen Davis wants to go it alone. The obstacles are many, the biggest one being himself.

At one point in his odyssey, Llewyn Davis is in a restroom stall reading the graffiti and his eye fastens on the words, “What are you doing?” This may have been intended as cheap bathroom humor, but I imagined it might foreshadow a turning point in Llewen’s life. Sadly, I was mistaken. The arc of the story goes from flat to flatter. I mean, why are there no signs of introspection? Why is this character apparently so clueless regarding the manner in which his own decisions have created his own predicament? And this is essentially the heart of the film’s problem. His bad behavior keeps him from winning our sympathy.

The film is ambiguous on another score. Is this a work of art in which we’re supposed to draw our own unmanipulated conclusions? The irony here is that we do not really see much of what is going on inside Llewyn Davis. And what's with the reviewers calling this a comedy? Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph called it "a perfectly pitched melancholic comedy" and Wikipedia calls it "an American comedy-drama."

The Free Dictionary defines comedy as "A dramatic work that is light and often humorous or satirical in tone and that usually contains a happy resolution of the thematic conflict." It didn't.

Dictionary.com offers this definition: "a play, movie, etc., of light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion." It wasn't and it didn't.

Seeing the period recreated was a delight for sure, especially when you’ve been in those neighborhoods. In one scene there’s a Packard, a fifties car that was built by my grandfather from Warren, Ohio.

I had one other complaint regarding this film so full of guitar scenes. I have never known a guitar player who didn’t first tune his instrument. Guitars aren’t pianos, yet not once in this film do we see Llewyn pull out his six-string and first strum a note to see if it’s in tune. Did anyone else have a problem with this?

Though the film failed to inspire me, I’m not sorry I went. There were takeaways. The music was good. And it was nice to see those streets again.    Five stars out of ten.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's Music That Keeps Us Truckin'

I recently watched a very special film titled The Music Never Stopped. It's based on a case study by Oliver Sacks that he called The Last Hippie. It is the story of a father-son relationship, actually, but centers on the great lengths the father must go to re-connect after their estrangement. The problem is that Gabriel, his son who he has never seen in years, has a brain tumor and is unable to form new memories. He can remember his life growing up but can't remember the last two minutes of a conversation. The task for his father Henry (J K Simmons who you may recall as the CIA Director in Burn After Reading) seems impossible at the beginning of the film. The son's memories are of his dad thwarting him as he came under the influence of the hippie culture of the 60's, which ultimately resulted in his leaving home and never coming back.

The arc of the story goes from the initial hopelessness of the reality of the situation to the discovery that music can waken the damaged brain. They try different kinds of music and discover a certain piece of music especially connects, but the adults fail to connect this fragment of classical music to a Beatles tune. Once that threshold is crossed they discover that the young man (perhaps in his mid-to-late thirties) is awakened by the Beatles, Dylan and the especially the Grateful Dead.

You may recall another superb film based on a book by neurologist Oliver Sacks: Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. I once owned a copy of his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. But it his research into the healing power of music that is especially salutory.

For me the film awakened a new interest in the Grateful Dead. I had a friend in college whose two passions were Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and the music of the Grateful Dead. For some reason, however, I never owned a record by the Dead until this month when I purchased a copy of The Very Best of the Dead. (Note: I do have a great bluegrass album with Jerry Garcia on it called Old and In the Way.)

After many a-listen I believe I understand how it was that I never collected their music. I was into the heavier rock that came out of the East coast and England. The Dead were playing a sweeter music, and I fully appreciate how special they were now that I have internalized songs like Uncle John's Band and Touch of Grey, which I find endlessly satisfying. Their recordings focused on harmonies and a musical interplay of musicians who gathered simply to enjoy the experience of making music.

Here are the lyrics of their classic, Truckin'... Storytelling in song, at its finest.

Truckin'

Truckin' got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin', like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin' on.

Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on Main Street.
Chicago, New York, Detroit and it's all on the same street.
Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.

Dallas, got a soft machine; Houston, too close to New Orleans;
New York's got the ways and means; but just won't let you be, oh no.

Most of the cast that you meet on the streets speak of true love,
Most of the time they're sittin' and cryin' at home.
One of these days they know they better get goin'
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone.

Truckin', like the do-dah man. Once told me "You've got to play your hand"
Sometimes your cards ain't worth a dime, if you don't lay'em down,

Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me What a long, strange trip it's been.

What in the world ever became of sweet Jane?
She lost her sparkle, you know she isn't the same
Livin' on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine,
All a friend can say is "Ain't it a shame?"

Truckin', up to Buffalo. Been thinkin', you got to mellow slow
Takes time, you pick a place to go, and just keep truckin' on.

Sittin' and starin' out of the hotel window.
Got a tip they're gonna kick the door in again
I'd like to get some sleep before I travel,
But if you got a warrant, I guess you're gonna come in.

Busted, down on Bourbon Street, Set up, like a bowlin' pin.
Knocked down, it get's to wearin' thin. They just won't let you be, oh no.

You're sick of hangin' around and you'd like to travel;
Get tired of travelin' and you want to settle down.
I guess they can't revoke your soul for tryin',
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurres to me What a long, strange trip it's been.

Truckin', I'm a goin' home. Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin' on.
Hey now get back truckin' home.

Stay warm. Let the music take you away....

Friday, January 24, 2014

Is The Prestige the Greatest Movie About Magic and Magicians?

I recently stumbled across a list of the Top Ten Movies about Magic and Magicians. At the top of the list were these two: The Illusionist and The Prestige. Interestingly, both films came out in theaters at roughly the same time, emulating to some extent the rivalry between the two magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) in The Prestige.

Teller, in his intro to Harry Houdini’s The Right Way to Do Wrong, notes that magicians in the old vaudeville era were not protected from having the tricks stolen and there were intense rivalries between them. Our modern world has copyright protections for writers and ASCAP for musicians. If someone else performs their songs, today’s songwriters get royalties.

In the book itself Houdini devotes one chapter to his encounter with an escape artist named Kleppini who claimed to have bested the great Houdini. Houdini goes into detail telling how he outwitted the fraud Kleppini and defended his reputation as the greatest. Essentially he allowed Kleppini to believe he knew the secret to a pair of French Letter Cuffs which are opened by dialing in the correct word. Kleppini was in ecstasy at the idea of proving his prowess because he knew the secret word. But as Houdini affixed the cuffs he changed the secret word, and humiliated the fellow who hours later gave up in despair. The secret word was F-R-A-U-D.

In other words, the rivalry between Robert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) mirrors the competitive nature of those showmen of old.

At the beginning of the film Angier and Borden are friends who work as assistants to a great magician. Angier’s wife is the beautiful distraction who adds spice to the performance. An accident occurs and his wife drowns onstage resulting in a deep bitterness taking root in Angier as he believes the loss of his wife was Borden’s fault. The two break apart, pursue separate careers as rival magicians.

The cast features other stars including Michael Caine an Angier’s manager, Scarlet Johansson, Rebecca Hall and a superbly fascinating casting of David Bowie as Tesla. The reproduction of that historical period is flawless and all the technical gadgetry involved in turning a man into a magician is insightful.

The story is dark, however, and the first time I saw it I was put off by it. The sweep of the story is complex and the intensity of the rivalry keeps it from being a “fun” movie to watch. Nevertheless, it is rich with an insider’s glimpse to the kinds of things that really happened back in the day.

Jim Steinmeyer begins The Last Greatest Magician, about the life of Howard Thurston, with a story of Houdini himself being called from the audience to go up on stage to see a levitating woman. Thurston trusted Houdini with an inside angle on this amazing trick knowing that his respected peer and somewhat rival would not steal or reveal it. In The Prestige, similar events occur, but the more bitter nature of the rivalry has different consequences.

There is a section of the story in which Michael Caine dissuades Angier from doing tricks using guns, warning that something can go wrong. For example, if you try to catch a bullet with your teeth using a blank instead of a bullet, an audience member can stick a button in the barrel and put it through your head. Alfred Borden likes gun tricks and says he can catch a bullet out of the air when it is fired. He would, of course, have palmed the bullet when the shooter from the audience takes aim. Unfortunately, his rival Angier does exactly this and blows off two of his fingers.

Houdini, in his book The Right Way To Do Wrong tells stories about the various feats and failures of contemporaries. One is a man who had a bulletproof jacket that he would don and invite a volunteer from the audience to shoot him in the chest. Unfortunately, a marksman from the audience decided to shoot just below the jacket, nailing him in the groin. He died shortly after from the wound. This incident and the film's rearranging the details all serve to affirm that the story is rooted in more truth than most audiences might suppose.  

Greatest film about magicians? Its only rival is probably The Illusionist, which I aim to see again soon, a film that I found more satisfying in the end. Nevertheless, this is a superb film, and worthy of seeing yet again.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Looks Like I Have To Buy Another Dylan CD Set

Many of my blog readers know I am a long, longtime listener to KUMD’s Highway 61 Revisited program hosted by John Bushey. Two features of Bushey’s Saturday evening program make it especially worthwhile. First, he has such a vast collection of live and rare recordings of live Dylan concerts and studio outtakes that never went public. And second, he frequently intersperses Dylan’s takes with variations performed or recorded by other artists.

One of the most frequent sources of such recordings is the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration that Neil Young called BobFest just before weighing in on his own interpretation of All Along The Watchtower. (For anyone to tackle Watchtower after Hendrix slammed it out of the park is a gutsy move that says much about Neil Young.) The event brought together an incredible collection of hall of fame caliber artist/superstars including including Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Lou Reed, The Clancy Brothers, Richie Havens, Johnny Winter, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Ron Wood, Chrissie Hynde, The O'Jays, Eddie Vedder, Sinead O'Connor, Tracy Chapman, George Harrison and more.

I mention all this because yesterday my inbox included an email from BobDylan.com noting that on March 4, a new deluxe 2-CD set capturing this special evening of music and affirmation is being released. If you prefer, you can purchase a more comprehensive Blu-Ray version that includes 40 minutes of previously unreleased material from that event including backstage rehearsals, the concert’s sound check, Sinead O’Connor singing "I Believe In You" and Eric Clapton's interpretation of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."

Here's the full lineup...

Disc 1
1. Like a Rolling Stone - John Mellencamp
2. Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat - John Mellencamp
3. Introduction by Kris Kristofferson
4. Blowin' in the Wind - Stevie Wonder
5. Foot of Pride - Lou Reed
6. Masters of War - Eddie Vedder & Mike McCready
7. The Times They Are a-Changin' - Tracy Chapman
8. Introduction by Kris Kristofferson
9. It Ain't Me Babe - June Carter Cash & Johnny Cash
10. What Was It You Wanted - Willie Nelson
11. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Kris Kristofferson
12. Highway 61 Revisited - Johnny Winter
13. Seven Days - Ron Wood
14. Just Like a Woman - Richie Havens
15. When the Ship Comes In - The Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell with special guest Tommy Makem
16. Introduction by Johnny Cash
17. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Rosanne Cash & Shawn Colvin
18. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (Rehearsal - October 15, 1992) - Eric Clapton

Disc: 2
1. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Neil Young
2. All Along the Watchtower - Neil Young
3. I Shall Be Released - Chrissie Hynde
4. Don't Think Twice, It s All Right - Eric Clapton
5. Emotionally Yours - The O'Jays
6. When I Paint My Masterpiece - The Band
7. Absolutely Sweet Marie - George Harrison
8. License to Kill - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
9. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
10. Mr. Tambourine Man - Roger McGuinn
11. It's Alright, Ma (I m Only Bleeding) - Bob Dylan
12. My Back Pages - Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton & George Harrison
13. Knockin' on Heaven s Door - Everyone 14. Girl from the North Country - Bob Dylan
15. I Believe in You (Afternoon Rehearsal - October 16, 1992) - Sinead O Connor

February has 28 days this year, so... by my count we're 40 days away. "Time passes slowly..."

On the Home Front, don't forget tonight's opening for the Duluth Art Institute Membership Show at the Depot, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.  

Featured Ed Newman Book-of-the-Week: Unremembered Histories.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Greatest Magician of All?

“The function of the magician has characteristics in common with those of the criminal, of the actor and of the priest… and he enjoys certain special advantages impossible for these professions. Unlike the criminal, he has nothing to fear from the police; unlike the actor, he can always have the stage to himself; unlike the priest, he need not trouble about questions of faith in connection with the mysteries at which he presides.” ~ Edmund Wilson

I've been reading a lot about magic again. I say "again" because there was a time in my life when I really loved reading books about magic, especially how to do magic tricks, and especially books about Harry Houdini.

When I visited magician John Bushey to see his handcuff collection in late December, I did not expect to also see such an enormous collection of books about Houdini as well. One of these nearly jumped off the shelf beceause it was the first book I myself had read about Houdini when I was young.

Books about Houdini point to books about other magicians, most famously Howard Thurston and Harry Kellar. Having recently watched The Prestige, a film about two magicians vying for that recognition that comes with being known as the best (I will write a critique of this film at another time) I've been thinking again about what made the early 20th century such a whirl of circuses, magic and vaudeville shows.


One of the books I've been reading is Jim Steinmeyer's The Last Greatest Magician. Thurston lived from 1869 to 1936. More than 60 million people paid admission to his show. He was a master showman, but also a masterful entrepreneur as well as a psychologist. Steinmeyer writes, “Everything he did, every gesture, every intonation of his voice, every lifting of an eyebrow, had been carefully rehearsed in advance.”

Thurston was a pop star as famous as Houdini, and according to some even more famous in those days. In the latter part of his career it took eight railroad cars to haul his show from town to town. He was a legendary road show in and of himself. The Great Depression killed the travelling circus and likewise brought an end to Thurston's show, but during this man's life if could be argued that he was the greatest of the magicians.

There was a critical difference between himself and Houdini, however. It was this: Thurston’s publicity was designed to fill the theaters. Houdini’s aim was to make himself a legend. This is why with the passing of time, Houdini has increased in fame and Thurston has been forgotten.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wilmer A. Wagner, R.I.P.

This past Thursday evening an uncommon man passed from this world.

He was born in Mid-June 1919, four score and fourteen years ago.  The world’s eyes were on Versailles, France where the world’s leaders were gathered to craft and sign a treaty bringing an end to The Great War, also known as the War to End All Wars. The decisions these idealistic and supposedly wise leaders made resulted in harsh terms that led directly to a conflict even more global and destructive, known as the Second World War.

Wilmer A. "Bud" Wagner, like many Minnesota boys born that year, would enlist or be drafted to serve in this subsequent war.

It's interesting that the first airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean took place that June 1919 as well. Years later, Bud would be aboard the first convoy to cross the Atlantic, heading for the war's European Theater. He kept a diary throughout the war, which would later form the basis of a book published with editorial assistance from his son in the year 2000 titled And There Shall Be Wars.

To pass the time he did a lot of reading and occasionally wrote poetry. This is the beginning of a much longer poem he wrote aboard that convoy.

Anticipation
Tonight I'm going to try my ability at rhyme,
Because right now I have a lot of time.
We've been floating all day,
But where we are going no one will say.

In June 1919 Carl Sandburg was awarded the Pullitzer Prize for his volume of poems titled Corn Huskers. Though Wagner never received the national acclaim a Pullitzer brings, the book he wrote did gain the attention of important people who acknowledged his memoir And There Shall Be Wars as being a significant contribution to the study of military history.

Retired General John W. Vessey, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote, "Dear Bud, ... Thanks not only for the copy of the book, but also for putting those wartime notes into a permanent record. It is an important addition to all the "stuff" historians record. I couldn't put the book down once I got into it. It brought back a lot of memories reading about times, places, and people from 55+ years ago." General Vessey appears several times in the book, receiving his first promotion, to Captain, in Bud's jeep.

Toward the end of his life he had the privilege of participating in Honor Flight, a program designed to fly veterans to Washington D.C. to see the World War Two Memorial there. He had to be at the airport by 5:30 a.m. so I went to pick my father-in-law up at 5:00. He had been sitting in his car since midnight. As in the war, at all hours he was ready for the call.

His obituary in this weekend's Duluth News Tribune paints a picture of his life, a man worthy of honor.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Handful of Cool Art Events Worth Attending This Week

One of the many great activities of the DAI
Thursday is the Duluth Art Institute Membership Show in the Depot's Great Hall. Historically this has been one of the best attended events of the year and as always you can expect to see some really interesting work. One of the requirements is that members only submit work that is newly created over the past year. Hence, the show offers art-watchers a fairly clean snapshot of the kinds of activity taking place in our region behind closed doors. The reception runs from 5 - 7 p.m. with music by local favorite Mary Bue.

Upstairs the Emerging Photographers exhibit will also be opening, featuring work from the UMD Photography Department, sponsored by Jen Dietrich and Lew Connor. And last that I looked, (as in yesterday) the Scott Murphy exhibit was still installed, in case you missed it. A rich, visual experience.

Beer for Bowls
Saturday the 25th the North Pole Bar on Raleigh Street will be hosting a fundraising event called Beer for Bowls. Owner Barb Stevens, in conjunction with Tonya Borgeson of Snoodle Ceramic Studio, are devoting the day to making clay bowls that will be donated to the 21st Annual Empty Bowl Event in April as a fund raiser for Second Harvest northern Lakes Food Bank.

The Polar Bar is one more place to be next Saturday.
Stevens and Borgeson conceived the idea "to create a community activity for the neighborhood in the close proximity of each other’s businesses, including the fun, light-hearted atmosphere of the bar.'

"Why not use our resources,” said Borgeson. “Look for bowls at Empty Bowl with a polar bar image impressed into the clay, the stamps are in process in the studio right now.

The first bowl you make, the North Pole will give you a free beer. Any clay bowl after that entitles you to purchase a beer for 75 cents.

Taking measurements, DAI setup
Borgeson's Snoodle will be bringing the pottery wheels, tools and clay since most bars are not thus equipped. Stevens is excited to host this first-time event and feels it will invigorate the latent passion for art, community and neighborhood here. Bowl making will be accompanied by live music. And Borgeson insists that it is not necessary to have any experience in pottery making. She is an able instructor with 15 years of teaching under her belt.

Even if you don't want to make a bowl, consider yourself invited to stop by and see the pottery wheels in action. For more information contact Tonya Borgeson, (218) 310-8903.

UWS Student/Alumni Show
Also Saturday, there will be an opening reception fot the UWS Student/Alumni Show at the North End Arts Gallery (in the Historic Board of Trade Building on the corner of Hammond and Broadway.) A lot of familiar names on the list of those who will be showing their work. Time; 1-3 p.m.

Instinct Art Gallery
If you're out of town, as in Minneapolis, next weekend, you can catch an art opening titled Still the Sky. And number of local artists will be going to this progressive gallery on Nicollet Mall downtown. Detail here.

There's plenty more to see and hear and do, naturally. I'm just wanting to make sure you're aware of a few tings in the outside chance they're not yet on your calendar.

Be well. Do good work. And keep on keepin' on.

This painting of Adeline by Alison Aune caught my eye.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Local Opportunities + A Cool Way To Learn More About Other Artists

Characters by Mary Plaster 
Here's a tip on how to become familiar with a famous or not-so-famous artist's work. We all know how to Google. Google the artist's name and then hit the "Images" button. Suddenly you have hundreds of images and get a fairly quick sense of the artist's style, genre, etc. We're all fairly familiar with names like Dali, Warhol and Picasso, but as your move outside realm of artist's who cross into popular culture, many folks are not so well versed.

For example, we may know him as the man who painted American Gothic, but what else has Grant Wood done? It's apparent American Gothic is his most memorable piece, but there are other pieces of his handiwork here as well.

Hans Hoffman obviously painted abstract color. Robert Motherwell was a painter of abstracts as well.

Here are some other artists from our time that the average person may not know but whose work has resonated with other artists of my generation.
David Hockney
Robert Rauschenberg
Lucian Freud
Donald Judd

Not quite familiar with which Old Masters painted what? Google is a wonderful guide for that, too.
Jan Van Eyck
Edgar Degas
Or Dali's "O.M. Idol" Jan Verneer

It works with contemporary artists as well. Let's try some locals like...
Anne Labovitz
Ann Klefstad
Patricia Canelake

You get the picture.

Local Art News

PHANTOM GALLERIES SUPERIOR
Erika Mock has stepped down from spearheading the Phantom Galleries Superior. Erika's efforts enriched both the community and the artists who worked with her. She was a truly dedicated person whose energy was infectious. As a result the Superior Business Improvement District (BID) in Partnership with SPAC2ES is accepting applications for the contracted position: Coordinator of Phantom Galleries Superior This person will oversee the Phantom Galleries Superior program, with emphasis on support of project artists, coordinating between artists and property/business owners, exhibit curation/installation, marketing planning, and engagement with the community. This is a paid position for which you can obtain more information by contacting. Though the pay is real it is also modest. Your love for enriching the community of Superior will be your real reward.

For more information contact Erika Mock, erikamock [@] aol [dot] com with PGS Position in the subject line. Applications should be submitted to Karen Monson-Thompson, SPAC2ES chair: kmtweaver [at] aol [dot] com. Again, be sure to put: PGS Position in the subject line.

KEYPORT GROWLER ART
I just learned this week that Keyport Liquor is inviting local artists to submit art for a series of 32 oz. growlers. The goal with their “Artist Series Growlers” is to capture the work of local Twin Ports artists and put it the hands of our craft beer community. They would also like to know what makes you local to the Twin Ports area and a brief history of your artwork.

The art should be 5" wide by 4" high, two color max. The submitted work can be digital or scannable tangible work. You may submit multiple submissions. I most likely will see what I can do.

For more information contact Nick Casper, Keyportliquor [at] gmail [dot] com or Jeredt Runions.

DULUTH ART INSTITUTE MEMBER MEETING
Wednesday, January 15 the DAI held its annual Members Meeting with the Board of Directors at the Lincon Studios Building in West Duluth. The big news of the evening was that Kat Eldred is stepping down as director after 20 months service. Kat will be remembered as one who established stability at a time when the DAI was experiencing turbulence. 2013 proved to be a stellar year as Eldred focused on the DAI's strengths. Her vision of rebuilding foundations instead of trying to grow for growth sake resulted in real achievements. There were 17 gallery shows, all the classes have been full and summer camps full as well. "We have to be healthy ourselves in order to do more." Eldred's legacy in the Twin Ports arts scene will be well remembered as she not only founded the now thriving Red Mug in Superior, she also was a leader at the Zeitgeist and contributed significantly to the Art Works coalition.

The meeting included recognition of Sheila Staubus as "Volunteer of the Year." As the board seeks a new director, Curator Anne Dugan will move into Kat's shoes as Curator/Interim Director.

The meeting adjourned with a reminder that Thursday is the opening reception for the DAI Annual Membership Show, 5-7 in the Great Hall at the Depot.

Kat Eldred bids farewell to DAI Board with a heart full of memories.

Meantime... art goes on all around you. Engage it!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Introduction to Crossover: How Artists Build Careers Across Commercial, Non-Profit and Community Work

Ann Markusen is a Professor/Director at the Hubert H Humphrey School of Public Affairs. When your read the about the projects she has been involved with as a researcher, you quickly recognize that she has had a lifelong interest in the arts. Examples include "California's Arts and Cultural Ecology", "Native Artists: Livelihoods, Resources, Space, Gifts", "Creative Placemaking", which dives into the melding of the arts into communities, and an off-shoot of this idea, 'Artistic Dividend: The Arts' Hidden Contributions to Regional Development'

This morning I wanted to draw attentiono to some idea from Crossover: How Artists Build Careers across Commercial Nonprofit and Community Work, a study she wrote with Sam Gilmore, Amanda Johnson, Titus Levi and Andrea Martinez.

Whenever I hear a speaker or read new ideas being presented, there is an inward listener holding a tuning fork that resonates or fails to resonate with what I read or hear. I believe all of us do this, either consciously or unconsciously. It's where the expression "that doesn't ring true to me." My inner tuning fork believes it's off key.

All that to say that when I began reading Crossover: How Artists Build Careers, it so thoroughly rang true with my experience of the arts community that I felt a need to draw to this work and encourage others to read it or re-visit it.

In order to write about artists and their careers, one must define the term, since we all have most likely dabbled in making art to some degree. This study defines an artist as any one who:
■ self-defines as an artist;
■ works as a writer, musician, visual or performing artist;
■ spends ten hours or more a week on his/her artwork whether or not for income, and;
■ shares his/her artwork beyond family and close friends.

This is one of the most concise definitions I've seen anywhere. They see themselves this way, and behave in a manner consistent with their self understanding. They demonstrate commitment and bring it out of the closet to the broader community.

What was interesting to me, and what the 2006 study demonstrated, was that artists' lives are usually split between three sectors; making art, participating in the commercial realm, and giving themselves to the community. The study shows how pervasive this is. Large numbers of artists split their time among all three sectors. 39% spend most of their time in commercial work and 69% spend at least some artwork time in the community sector.

As I listen to the discussions taking place at meetings of the Twin Ports Arts Align and other groups in our locale, recurring themes include concern for affordable housing, concern for people on the fringe. Perhaps this is do in part because most artists' lives intersect with the fringes more often than other occupations.

Much of the paper revolves around how artists get funded. Crossover notes that most artists would like to do even more for the community than they already are, but must hold down jobs in order to buy the time to commit to the work, which is more than just a passion. One artist i know had a deep commitment to helping the homeless here in Duluth but had to maintain three jobs to make ends meet herself, time she would have preferred devoting to the needy and to her photography.

The paper notes how artists frequently give back by donating their art for fund-raisers. Whether for autism research, cancer research or fund raising to alleviate the weight of excessive hospital debt, artists are among the first to rally round, donating their work in silent auctions, or for entertainment. When times are tough, the artists remain giving. Case in point, the annual Empty Bowl fund raiser at the Depot, helping to keep food shelves stocked here in the Northland.

Visit this site to learn more about the research and writings of Ann Markusen.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Detective Dave Davecki Takes A Lambeau Leap (Book Review)

Detective Alphonse "Dave" Davecki is back. He's one of the most likable fiction characters in the Twin Ports (I would say "most likable" but I don't want to offend any other Twin Ports characters whom I may be unaware of) and Lambeau Leap is the fifth detective mystery novel by Mike Savage featuring this Superior detective who always gets his... (I will let you finish the book first lest I spoil the ending.)

Mike Savage of Savage Press has the Rocky thing going. He never quits. He never gives up. And he's always entertaining. Like his previous stories, Lambeau Leap follows a pattern: use current headline news to springboard into an imaginary murder mystery (or, in this case, another kind of crime.)

His first Dave Davecki novel, Something in the Water, dealt with those storied headlines about the 55-gallon drums that Honeywell had dropped into Lake Superior half a century ago. It was big news when I first moved to Duluth in the 80's, a first degree unsolved mystery that created quite a flap. Detective Davecki was called in to solve a murder that was interlinked with this real life mystery. In the end he found the body of Jimmy Hoffa. (Just kidding. I can't tell you the real ending.)

Davecki was immediately likeable, and it was relatively easy to ride along with him through subsequent novels like Burn Baby Burn, Lake Effect and Lord of the Rinks.

At this point I'll throw in my Graham Greene comparison. Somewhere along the road of life Greene became one of my favorite authors. His books fell into two categories. First, there's the serious fiction like A Quiet American or The Third Man, both of which became Hollywood films featuring powerful performances by Michael Caine and Orson Welles . The second category Greene called "entertainments." These were not written to win prizes for their literary value. They were written for a reader's enjoyment. And this is what Savage is up to.

Mike Savage
The story this time around involves Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have one of the most illustrious histories in the NFL with famously fanatical blue collar fans. The Cleveland Browns have their "Dawg Pound" where fans in the cheap seats bring dog biscuits to pelt their rivals. At Lambeau its the Green & Gold on display, a somewhat psychotic revelry takes hold when the Packers play in this illustrious arena. How crazy does it get? Thanks to television we have all seen a smattering, but when Davecki is invited to work the stands serving brats, we get the up-too-close-and-personal perspective that you won't find anywhere else.

Packers fans have had plenty to cheer about with the advent of Aaron Rodgers. No doubt this inspired the tag-along resuscitation of the now retired detective. But Davceki can't seem to take his detective lenses off, and is compelled to pay attention to details that others have missed in the midst of this Packer pandemonium.

One of the fun pieces in the story was having Alex Wizbicki show up in the book. I briefly got to know Mr. Wizbicki a few years back and learned that this skinny old Superior man played pro football with the Green Bay Packers in 1950. That was back when helmets had no face masks. Those were some tough fellows back then. I asked him to show me his 3-point stance and this 80+ year old noodle of a man locks down in position ready to lunge on the snap.

A few final comments about the book itself. Lambeau Leap is shorter than Mike Savage's other books. And the manner in which he refers to the two teams was a stumble for me. When we discussed it, he said that he needed to back off inasmuch as the NFL and teams are brands and he did not want to deal with trademark lawyers, or something to that effect. (I wasn't taking notes so this is a loose paraphrase.) Since the game is being played in Lambeau, and the other team is wearing purple, I doubt you'll need to be much of a detective to figure it out.

Enjoy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

More Local Art Seen: Sterling Rathsack and Adam Swanson

Two local venues that offer good food accompanied by good art on the walls are the Red Mug in Superior and Pizza Luce in Duluth's Tech Village. Friday during my lunch hour I took a peek to see what's on the walls this month at Red Mug where this month's featured artist is painter and sculptor Sterling Rathsack.

I'd been impressed by a show of his paintings a few years back in the SCFTA gallery upstairs in the same building here at the corner of Hammond and Broadway.

From his Parian Series, Sterling Rathsack. 

Adam Swanson's paintings at Pizza Luce are as colorful as ever. Next time you're downtown, be sure to take a few minutes to sip your favorite libation and engage the art. Actually, if you've not ever done it, they have a great brunch menu on weekends that we have frequently enjoyed.


Next time you go out to eat, notice your surroundings. When you ask for a blessing on the food, give thanks for the artists who helped create the environment you're enjoying it in.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Local Art Seen: Second Friday Art Crawl, January 10

Renan Cruz
Friday evening was the first Second Friday Art Crawl in Duluth, and it was another special night. I began at the Washington Galleries, then visited with friends at the DuSu Film Festival Supporter Appreciation event, finishing up at Polarize, the expressive opening at the PRØVE. I saw a range of new work by new artists and old. The creative juices are flowing as we begin a new year.

Washington Galleries featured work by E.J. Arnold, Jamie Uselman, Faith King and Renan Cruz. I saw Cruz's "Elephant in the Room" last year at a PRØVE Gallery show. Here it was accompanied by three other pieces, each of them thought provoking.

I found Arnold's Pinto Bean People Series to be the highlight of the exhibit. Arnold, who was born in Tennessee, lived in Georgia before coming to Duluth four years ago. He said inspiration for the Pinto Bean People was derived from his Mexican heritage. The pieces were pen and ink featuring a pointillist stipple technique. I found the clusters of pinto beans in assortments about the gallery to be amusing.

E.J. Arnold, who makes a living as a tattoo artist, has developed a definite style. The technical evocation rises to the level of complexity in his pieces, which carry titles like Conjoined Pinto Bean Twins. The idea behind the series reminded me of a professor at Ohio University named Aethelred Eldridge who was best known for his black and white art accompanied by esoteric writings inspired by William Blake. I recall a show of his featuring Human Beans...


I had no idea what to expect at the PRØVE, and was happily surprised at yet another fun show with inventive, high caliber work. Polarize was the theme for this show.

Several pieces by Ryan LaMahieu were on the left as you entered the gallery space and I became aware of how distance enables us to see art in different ways, thereby making different connections. My first exposure to LaMahieu was at Double Dutch last year. The space is small and you view the works up close. His are detailed and thus this close proximity feels normal. To experience the pieces in a more intimate degree you want to be close. But when I saw the picture from a greater distance I was struck by how much they reminded me of some of Jackson Pollock's work. Pollock created a field of energy and color, evenly distributed, with no focal point or point of reference. LaMahiue in a similar vein creates a field of energy and color, evenly distributed across the surface of the work, except as you draw nearer you realize these are drawing and not splashings.

The other artists in the show had work that was equally compelling and engaging. Emma Rustan, Brian Ring, Cody Paulson, Tommy Kronquist and Jay Whitcomb represented themselves well, each in a surprisingly original and different manner from one another as they responded to the show's theme. If you were unable to attend but still want to see the art from this show, go to the PRØVE Collective Facebook Page and message them for hours when staff is on hand later this week.

Thanks to all who contributed to make these events successful and rewarding.

"Last Night I Dreamed of Paul Bunyan" by Brian Ring.
"Bull" by Jay Whitcomb.
Some of the finger food you missed.
Another surreal pinto bean inspiration by Arnold.
Detail, LaMahieu.