Saturday, November 30, 2013

One Hundred Years Ago Today in the Zenith City

Behind the Oldenburg House in Carlton
"Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory." ~American Historical Association

One reason I can't totally disparage television is because The History Channel is there, single-handedly redeeming the medium. History is something that seems to fascinate everyone in one way or another. Learning about history somehow gives meaning to our lives as we see our connectedness to everything that went before. I myself have derived much inspiration from my own history, having dug back into my genealogical roots two to three centuries and more.

Going back in time to see how life was lived in other periods gives us a great appreciation for the advances of technology and innovation that have made our lives easier in many levels. We no longer fear polio, scarlet fever and many other maladies that once tore our families' hearts. Plumbing, heating and reliable electricity are things most Americans take for granted, but this has not always been the case.

Every discipline has its history, often bleeding across into other disciplines. The history of philosophy, the history of art, the history of literature, of cities, of countries, of cultures, of psychology, of religion, of ethics and morals, of law, of entertainment... and of man's inhumanity to man. It's all been documented, can be explored and examined.

Since people for much of history were illiterate, the books and stories about the past have often been written from the point of view of the wealthy and important. In more recent times the stories of common people have been getting additional attention as efforts to unearth the extra-ordinariness of the ordinary. A visit to Ellis Island is a moving experience because of the incredibly diverse stories of immigrant peoples who arrived on our shores, stories which have been preserved for us there.

The Kitchi Gammi Club is a story.
Every city has a story as well. And just as there seems to be one or two people in most families who has dug in to preserve the family traditions, we find that the hard work of a few helps to bring benefit to the many, which seems to be one of the functions of museums and historical societies everywhere, our Northland being no exception.

Yesterday I came across a story about the opening in Morgan Park of a new blast furnace that was opened one hundred years ago in Morgan Park, a community in the western part of Duluth. This simple story ties to so much other history here, the expansion of the Iron Range, the manner in which the Twin Ports became the largest inland port in the world, how the steel mills provided jobs and the city grew to over 126,000 people during the boom that followed.

One hundred years ago today, prohibitionist William E. "Pussyfoot" Johnson arrived in the Northland to help clean up some of the saloons in Chisholm and Hibbing. I know this because I am reading it on Tony Dierckens' Remembering Our (Duluth) History website at Zenith City Online. It's both an entertaining and informative resource. Even though we have a relatively brief time frame (two hundred years ago there were only the local native cultures and a few fur trappers) the region is rich with tales and lore.

It's interesting to think about how everything that is was at one time not. That is, everything has a starting point before which it did not exist, including human history, and our personal histories, and the communities we live in.

Make the most of your day. Maybe one hundred years from now someone will read about it on the next iteration of the Internet. On Mars.

There is always more to discover, tho' not everything has been preserved.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Paint It Black

'Tis the season. Black Friday they call it.

Reports of violence seem to be pouring in from all corners. I'm starting to wonder if the mania for Black Friday shopping is chiefly driven by the adrenaline rush. In Las Vegas a shopper who got a deal on a flat panel TV was shot as he tried to take his treasure home. In Romeoville (you gotta love that name) a shoplifting scheme resulted in the death of at least one man shot by a police officer. And at a Wal-Mart in Rialto, California, a melee broke out when the store manager decided to open the doors early. There were injuries. These stories and more will be making news throughout the day, I suspect. Isn't shopping fun?

If you like pictorials, here is a slide show of attention getting Black Friday happenings of recent years.

In honor of what seems to now have become a national holiday, I have composed some new lyrics to the tune Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones.

Paint It Black
(to the tune of Paint It Black)

I see a red store and I want it painted black
No colors anymore I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by to purchase winter clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they're all painted black
All seeking special deals as if they won't  come back

I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Another fight broke out and I was in the way

I see full parking lots, it's making me feel blue
I could not foresee this thing happ'ning in Duluth.

I see my credit card debt and wish it were in the black
I s'pose my reputation never will come back

Why are we standing here beneath the midnight skies?
When the morning alarm goes off it'll be so hard to rise.

I see a red store and I want it painted black....

Oh well. It is what it is.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Art Happens ~ Highlighting a Handful of Upcoming Events for Your Viewing Pleasure

Scott Murphy's U118 at the DAI
Art seems to be happening everywhere these day. And I like it.

Here are some of the Northland events that caught my attention. There's plenty more when you include the music and theater scenes. As for the visual arts...

Friday Anne Labovitz will be at Security Jewelers in downtown Duluth from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in conjunction with her new limited edition, hand-crafted sterling silver heart pendant. Yes, it's a Black Friday special event. The pendant is a collaboration with Security Jewlers, Ms. Labovitz putting her heart out there for everyone to wear. Hearts are not trademarked, though her paintings of hearts certainly ought to be. (You may see some at Lizzard's Gallery a few blocks East.)

Saturday. For the serious art fan, I can recommend several stops for you.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. you can shake a leg on down to the home studio of Barb and Jim Collette where the works of several local artists will be featured in an event aptly titled Art in the Neighborhood. Many of you probably know 4419 London Road as by the name Stained Glass by Collette. In addition to the Collette's stained glass work you will find pottery by John Lawler, fiber art by Karen Zeisler, jewelry by Sally Cavallaro, and other visual art by Terri Wingness and Byron Johnson.

This latter artist does intricate fine line drawing using only horizontal and vertical lines. He used this method to reconstruct / draw each block in Duluth that has a little free library on it. According to my source, he doesn't show often, so this is an excellent opportunity to meet him and see his work

From 2 - 8 p.m. Skatradioh is openings its doors at 215 East 1st Street for a Printsgiving Poster Sale. Anyone who has been in the Twin Ports for even a short period of time has likely seen some of David Moreira's screen printed poster art. Here's a chance to grab something for yourself, or as a present for someone who is cool.

For the record it should be noted that Saturday is also the last day to submit work for the next issue of PRØOF Magazine. If you are a writer or artist, be sure to check out the submission guidelines. Special thanks to Kathleen Roberts for this contribution to the local scene, and the broader lierary/arts scene to which it is connected.

Local Art Seen
Monday, December 2, there is an opening from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Zuccone Atrium in the Zeitgeist Arts Building at 222 E. Superior Street featuring Esther Piszczek's z e n t a n g l e®-inspired art  and Mike Nordin's digital nature photography. Wine and cheese has been promised to add a little color to this wholly black and white show. Piszczek is a recent addition to the local arts scene, and a welcome one injecting new energy and enthusiasm into the local scene. She also has work on display at St. Luke's now through February.

Tuesday evening at the Tweed is the third installment of their new monthly event called Tweevenings. The topic for discussion is titled Dean Meeker: A Dialogue Between Prints and Sculpture. Dr. Robert Leff will present the visual comparison of the artist's process between sculpture and works-on-paper. Several of Meeker's prints and sculptures will be on display, providing a rich background for the comparison and discussion on how the artist's choice of medium helps portray his themes.

Thursday, December 5, is an opening from 5 - 7 p.m. at the Duluth Art Institute that you won't want to miss. I've been greatly looking forward to seeing the new work Scott Murphy has been working on and I can tell you that you won't be disappointed. His new show is titled Broken Thread. Lost Causes. The opening also features Matt Kania's plein air style paintings in the corridor gallery and Kip Praslowicz's Portraits show, photography with a large format camera, in the Steffl Gallery.

We have a lot to be grateful for today. I'm thankful to belong to a community with so many talented people and the encouragement they provide to one another as they spread their wings.

In the meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it and enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Law of Unintended Consequences Revisited

I heard a news story the other day that somewhat surprised me, though I've reached an age at which nothing should surprise me when it involved government. Nevertheless it did take me back a step as it once more illustrated one of my favorite laws, the law of unintended consequences.

For those not familiar with it, the encyclopedia defines it like this:

“The Law of unintended consequences holds that almost all human actions have at least one unintended consequence. Unintended consequences are a common phenomenon, due to the complexity of the world and human over-confidence.”

Exanples of this law in action are legion, especially in situations where modifying behavior is attempted. Prohibition is one well-known example. Small-time suppliers of booze were put out of business, but the demand was such that organized crime (gangsters) owned the market.

Charlie Wilson's War illustrates another example. We armed the Mujaheddin to help them fight the Russians, but in the end the weapons we supplied them with were later used for other purposes, not to our liking. The same happened in Latin America when we armed General Noriega. And at one time we chose to supply Saddam Hussein in Iraq to fight Iran whom we decided were bad guys.

Well, the news story that captured my attention this past week had to do with wind farms. By wind farm we mean large collections of giant wind turbines designed to generate power by means of the wind. The idea of clean, renewable energy is a wonderful concept that does seem to have benefits, but I've long noticed a some issues with it, three in particular.

1) Location, location, location
The first issue with wind farms is that the best locations are often on bodies of water where sea meets land and (aha!) there is a lot of wind. The problem is, most waterfronts have become populated because not only does wind like the waterfront, people like it, too, and build homes there. Wealthy people especially like the view a waterfront affords. Putting wind farms here will very possibly decrease their property values. (I am guessing based on an article I read in Harper's long ago about the importance of a view in the Catskills for a certain rich and famous newscaster.

2) Not in my back yard
Similar to the first but different. Currently we have power lines criss-crossing the landscape in every part of the country. We have a gazillion electrical appliances and devices and certainly need the power. But if we want our electricity delivered by wind power, we'll need to add still more electical power lines, because the locations where wind is most powerful are different from the locations of our current power generators.

3) It's not for the birds
Finally, and this one leads into the story i wanted to share, wind farms are not really very friendly to birds. Hundreds of thousands are being killed annually as they fly into those big propellers.

For years the push has been on for renewable energy, much of it subsidized by our taxes, and most with good intentions. Our government has also spent years going to great lengths to protect endangered species. And when the two collide -- wind energy industry and endangered species -- the government has to make a decision as to what's really important.

Last week a decision was, in fact, made. The government fined Duke Energy Corporation one million dollars for killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at one of its Wyoming wind farms. The company said they "deeply regret" having killed the eagles.

In a study of turbines used since 2008, there have been 67 bald eagles killed. According to the news story cited here, no company has ever been fined for killing birds. Until now.

It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

For more numerous other examples of Unintended Consequences visit Google Answers.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Local Art Seen: Zenith City Lines and a Gingerbread City

Three showings of the much anticipated Zenith City Lines (ZNL) took place this weekend at The Underground. I went to the very well-attended Saturday show, arriving a little early and watching a congenial crowd slowly form. Some of Minnesota's top photographers were in attendance, among other local art followers

ZNL was a collaboration involving the music and photography of John Heino, four dancers from Phoenix Productions (Jesse Davis, Sze Leung, Nicole Sippola, and Lindsey Wittkop) and the choreography of Megan Abel Schmidt.

The show was two years in the making, and not without difficulties to overcome, including a computer crash two weeks beforehand in which it must have momentarily felt like all was lost. Makes for good drama in a film, and is almost cliche, but in real life it's the kind of thing that can make you age five years over a weekend.

All the music in the program was written and performed (pre-recorded) by Heino, probably sometime long in advance so that Megan Abel Schmidt could develop the choreography that the performers executed. The pieces varied in length as well as mood.

To say the centerpiece of the show was the photography -- being projected on a large screen.extendin up into the room as the dancers interacted below -- would be a mistake. The show braided the interplay of performers with images of the interplay that took place in front of Heino's lens these past two years, amongst some of the Zenith City's most memorable and wonderful settings. Objects of beauty interacting with visual wonders.

There were places where the imagery went into unusual spaces, and one would expect that if you follow the arc of Heino's work. For the most part, restraint was what I saw at play... including the dancers, who demonstrated great poise and precision, allowing every picture to tell its story.

Gingerbread World
Hey everyone, there is a Gingerbread City up at Duluth's Nordic Center and Norway Hall. As nearly everyone knows, the Northland was settled by many a Scandinavian, and their homeland connections are still intact. For Norwegians, it's the time of year for  Pepperkakebyen, which means Gingerbread City. On Fridays and Saturdays through December 14 you can visit the Nordic Center located at street level on Lake Avenue in the Sons of Norway Building. (Just above the alley across the the tech village parking lot.)

In addition to a myriad collection of gingerbread wonders, there is also art and activities for youngsters. Alison Aune and friends will welcome you with warm cider and show you the myriad creations from all the versions of gingerbread contributed from area schools, churches, businesses and community clubs.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

J.K. Rowling Proves She's Equal to the Masters with The Cuckoo's Calling

When it comes to cuisine, the Brits haven't really given us much worth chewing on compared to France and Italy. But when it comes to the mystery/crime genre in literature, the former great empire is second to none, offering up endless thrillers from the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, household names whose books have sold more than a billion copies worldwide. Should it be her aim, J.K. Rowling has demonstrated with a master's hand that she has what it takes to own the crime fiction throne in the 21st century should she desire it.

Rowling (pronounced "rolling") already proved she knows how to tell a story that keeps readers turning pages. Her Harry Potter books have already sold 400 million copies. Under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith she released a completely different kind of story. That is, different from the books that established her name and made her a small fortune.

The title of the book comes from "A Dirge" by Christina Rosetti. The poem, a lament, sets the tone well for everything that follows. What's more, it signals to readers (or at least those who already know this is Rowling) that her Harry Potter books are part of the past and something more serious lay ahead.

A prologue follows, a quote from quote from Telephus by Lucius Accius, a Roman tragic poet of the second century B.C.: "Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous."

I read these words and thought of the author's fame and her proximity to the lifestyles of the famous. It was the perfect preparatory remark as we waded into the story.

The book's hero/detective is Cormoran Strike, a name that immediately strikes you as a character that will be memorable. Expectations for a good read are stoked from the moment he bursts onto the scene.

They say that one way to get readers to like and root for a character is to hurt him and Rowling hurts him quite a bit before it's over. Before the story even begins Rowling has hurt him. He was wounded in Afghanistan, lost part of his leg, and must where a prosthetic limb. Back in England his detective business is pretty much washed, and the woman he'd given his heart to has left him high and dry.

Into this mix comes Robin, an efficient and helpful secretary from a temp agency, whom Strike can't afford but, as it turns out, can't afford to lose as she's present when that most important client arrives. She's a character we suspect will be coming along in the sequels, should they follow, a 21st century Watson to assist our 21st century Holmes.

The story features a suicide by someone rich and famous, a beautiful supermodel who apparently leapt to her death from her top floor balcony one wintry night. The building is one designed for the exceedingly wealthy, with security guards, a private pool and the other embellishments that wealth affords. The occupants are few, one on each floor. A hard-boiled movie producer and his cokehead wife occupy the second, a superfame hip hop artist Deebie Macc will be moving into the next level, and Lula Landry the upper story. (This is no high-rise.)

The police have already settled the case, proving it had to have been a suicide. Her brother thinks otherwise and presents Strike with a handsome advance to get to the bottom of it.

For the past couple weeks this books served as my evening nightcap, a little reward to look forward to at the end of the day. Fortunately, despite protestations from within, I had the discipline to put it down and get my needed rest. To be honest, it was exceedingly difficult the last few days. I could have easily stayed up all night to finish in one fell swoop, as I had with Mario Puzo's The Godfather when I was young.

Not all the reviews at are five star but I tend to agree with this one: It's hard to put your finger on exactly what it is that makes The Cuckoo's Calling such a terrific new Private Investigator crime fiction debut. On the surface it seems straightforward, unexceptional and unambitious, everything fits the established conventions, there's nothing immediately new that stands out, and yet it's an utterly compelling read with strong characters that wraps you up completely and thrillingly into the investigation.

The pacing was good throughout, and despite the intricate complexities with regard to characters and details, Rowling's Cormoran Strike is a good note taker and processor of information, which he is continually sifting so that the reader has all the clues in hand as he or she goes along.

This whodunnit is not formulaic. All the characters are superbly drawn, and a whole bunch of 'em had motive.

I suspect there will be a film deal on this. I recommend the book.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Reflection on the Sixties

I wrote this short essay in 1993 to be included in a book about the Sixties. Theoretically any profits from the enterprise would be shared, and I signed some kind of paperwork indicating that my submission here was my own and that they had the right to use it. Twenty years have passed and as I read the many comments on Facebook and in the media yesterday my essay came to mind as something that should also be posted to mark the anniversary of that black day.

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me."

These are the words with which C.S. Lewis opens A Grief Observed, his personal reflections on the loss of his wife Joy Davidson. Can it be that our nation itself received this same concussive blow on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963?

Greg Kinnear as JFK
I find it interesting that C. S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley and John F. Kennedy all died on the same day in 1963. The deaths of Lewis and Huxley, whose personal lives were more remote from most of us, were eclipsed by the dramatic assasination of our president... and the subsequent events surrounding his passing.

There have been few more powerful events in our personal histories. Television brought this president into our homes like none before him. His PR-created persona made him out to be more than a man. He was a mythological god. He rode a white horse. He was a knight in shining armor. With the vitality of Youth, he provided a euphoric hope that seemed necessary after two world wars, a major depression and the brooding tensions of the Cold War.

I was in sixth grade that day, Stafford School, Maple Heights, Ohio. There was an announcement over the loudspeaker that we were all to go to the auditorium for an assembly. This was the same room where we assembled to see men from NASA demonstrate how a rocket would within the next ten years carry men to the moon.

As we shuffled along toward the nearly filled assembly room, I was distracted by a janitor who was stepping in from outside. I remember the grey November sky. And the janitor's tears, the janitor standing there, cap in hand, tears streaming down his wrinkled cheeks, looking back toward the flag he had just lowered to half mast.

I don't remember the assembly, or much of anything else. Only the image of that janitor weeping.

Few people knew it then, but that day was a portent of difficult times ahead for America. Medger Evers, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Kent State, My Lai -- the decade, stained with blood, left a generation of parents concussed and children confused.

Wrote Lewis in A Grief Observed, "I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in."

And when Nielsson sang: "Everybody's talkin' at me, I can't hear a word they're saying"... did we not find a resonance in our hearts because we, too, were grieving? What was it we had lost? What is it we were looking for? What was Joe Buck looking for? What did Joe Buck find?

I believe it was Gurdjieff who compared life experiences to the food we take into our stomachs. Eventually the food is digested, but it takes time, and some foods longer than others. Likewise, our experiences take time to digest before they are assimilated to nourish or poison us.

Even though more than 25 years have passed, sometimes we still don't know what to say about what we saw and heard and felt. We are still processing our experiences. While some of the experiences were uniquely ours, many were shared. For this reason it is my conviction that when we have gained a measure of understanding, we have a responsibility to share the light we have received. In this way, our pain becomes redemptive, a healing influence in an otherwise broken world.

copyright 1993 ed newman

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty-One Years of Hard Rain

During Dylan Days last year I was asked what the greatest Dylan song of all time was, an almost impossible question as there are so many. The first thought would have to be, by what measure? I thought about how hard it would be just to pick one song from each decade of his career. Then I was asked what my favorite Dylan song was. Naturally this is equally impossible for there are many, but if I were to narrow down the pool to five I would most assuredly include A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. It’s my personal opinion that this is one of the five greatest songs of all history, so it would have to be included in my top five Dylan picks.

The song was first performed live Sept. 20, 1962 at the home of Eve and Mac McKenzie and it’s been performed nearly 450 times since, most recently November 8 in Padova, Italy, earlier this month.

According to various sources it was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962. He was just 21 years old at the time. Unlike many of his songs which talk explicitly about their subject matter (Oxford Town, Only A Pawn In Their Game, The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll) this song gives no real clue as to its impetus. The historical event may have been the driver but the song expresses a far greater overarching theme: imminent apocalypse.

Like many artists, and impressionable young people, the events weighed in on him and had to be processed. As others again have noted, every line in this densely packed song could be expanded on to be a story of its own. I’ve considered assembling a picture book of illustrations, one for each orally painted image (e.g. “I met a young child beside a dead pony“), and since I have the rest of my life I may yet consider it someday.

What’s noteworthy are the various ways in which the song has been recorded during the span of these 51 years since its inception. In the beginning it was an aching folk ballad. One of the earliest versions has only recently been released, on Bootleg Series Volume 9: Witmark Demos. Like all the versions it begins…

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Except for the little skip in the recording of the fifth verse it carries the same pacing and intonation as the version recorded and ultimately released on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The Freewheelin’ version is a very clean recording featuring a restrained emotion-packed delivery aptly corresponding with the message of the song, sung like one who has been a long time on the road, a weary traveler like the blue-eyed son. Dylan’s acoustic accompaniment keeps the rhythm rolling while fueling the building momentum toward its climax.

Each verse of the song is in dialogue form, beginning with a mother's inquiry, according to John Hinchey in his book Like a Complete Unknown, and a returning son's tales of the road. “Where have you been my blue-eyed son? Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?” Cat Steven’s uses a similar dialogue format in his Father and Son nearly a decade later.

Another early recording of Hard Rain is found in the Martin Scorcese Dylan bio No Direction Home, the soundtrack forming Volume 7 in the Bootleg Series. In this live performance the young troubadour announces his song by declaring, “Hard rain’s gonna fall means somethin’s gonna happen.” It's a slower-paced acoustic piece again, sung with lengthened high notes on “It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall,”  stretching out the “ra-a-a-a-in” on successive choruses.

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

For a total departure from this folk ballad style you’ll want to get a copy of Bob Dylan Live 1975 (Bootleg Series Number 5). The mid-Seventies saw Dylan take to the road again with the Rolling Thunder Revue, a high energy circus of sound and celebration featuring a variety of musicians and singers, most notably Scarlet Rivera among others and even Eric Clapton for a portion. The tracks here were recorded at various stations along the way.

The third cut is an impassioned, hard-charging version of Hard Rain like you’d never have expected to hear. Yet it’s one of my favorites as the band blows the rafters off. Dylan sings with clipped, punchy phrasing, almost hollering.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley…

Backup vocalists harmonize and accentuate the chorus.

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Guitar riffing like a firefight after each verse gives this version heat.

For yet another iteration of this now-classic anthem we visit the performance in Nara, Japan 1993, Dylan and band performing with a full orchestra. It’s the fifth year or so of what has become known as the never Ending Tour. This version is a favorite of John Bushey’s, host of Highway 61 Revisited on KUMD here in the Twin Ports and worldwide via streaming audio. It starts gingerly enough, conveyed along by means of the ebb and flow of a supporting string section. The pace and the power begin to build, creating a sense in which the music itself is breathing. As you watch and listen, Dylan becomes immersed in the swell and produces a rich, wondrous version of the song, possibly unmatched and (fortunately) preserved in this recording.

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

One of the Dylan’s hallmarks is the manner in which he continuously redesigns his songs, sometimes completely changing the words (as he frequently does in sections of A Simple Twist of Fate or Tangled Up In Blue.) With Hard Rain he seems to almost always remain faithful to the lyrics first recorded.

Recently I acquired a copy of his Manchester England concert recorded on November 16, eight years ago. Once again he’s created a new vocal configuration, which he apparently likes as it has been maintained right up through our July 2013 concert in Bayfront Park this summer in Duluth.

In Manchest he opened the show with it… “Where have you been my blue-eyed son” With an electric guitar, drummer, backing band, the music eased out slowly, sung melodic with vocal inflections in his inimitable modulated manner, low and high notes jumping from middle C to high C… “It’s a hard….. it’s a hard ….”

Occasionally he would stretch out a word for emphasis, “I heard one person st-ar-ve…” crooning and groaning with perfect eloquence… He placed an emphatic guitar solo between verses four and five, followed by emotional enunciations and vocal embellishments on last chorus….

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

It’s a powerful song to begin with but when delivered as Dylan does, the construction of it enables the final thrust of it to pierce the receptive heart.

“Where have you been” (with “been” the high note) Dylan declared in Duluth. Guitar strumming and instrumentation quietly carried the tune along allowing the words and Dylan to be central. He’s abandoned his guitar, but not his feeling. His piano playing is likewise simple plinking and weaving it along until the last verse where his voice begins to punch it up like hammer blows

“Well I’ll know – my -- song -- well – before -- I start – singing.”

“It’s a hard,” (gravel voiced but still right there)
“It’s a hard… HARD…. It’s hard… It’s a hard rain gonna fall.”

All Dylan paintings and pictures here by Ennyman.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Blog Post about the Future of Publishing

When I attended the Fourth Annual Robert Wright Writers Conference at Mankato State University in 1985 one of the speakers skewered us with straight talk about the challenge of getting published. He pointed out that there were 50,000 new books being published a year and of these only 2,000 were fiction, and most from this latter category would be sold as “remainders” after they failed. Pretty grim stats, but nothing like today. The last I heard there were one million books published in the most recent year where stats were available, and if you think it was tough getting noticed then, well… don’t choke on it.

How does an unknown entrepreneurial writer hope to even find an audience in this complicated, overcrowded marketplace? And what will the world of publishing look like ten years from now? Here are a few of my thoughts on this matter near thirty years later.

Ellen Sandbeck, a writer from Duluth, successfully caught the attention of a New York publishing house the old-fashioned way: sell enough books to show that your product has a market even without a “big New York marketing budget” and prove you’ve got still more material in the well. This is what Irma Rombauer did in the 1930's when she produced The Joy of Cooking, selling copies of her novel (at the time) approach to recipe writing out of her apartment. Ellen’s first book, Slug Bread and Beheaded Thistles, was not only original, it had a captivating title as well. She sold 10,000 copies in three years before Bobbs-Merrill sought her out and recruited her to their stable. (She later moved to Scribner.)

A Book Is a Product
Books come in all shapes, sizes and formats on an improbably wide range of themes, many of them defying easy categorization. Once we decide to bring our book to the markatplace, however, the one common denominator of all is this: in one way or another the book is a product that must offer value.

For the consumer, all books cost something. Publishers are businesses that need to make money to survive, but money isn’t the only thing readers sacrifice. They also must give up a measure of time, which has varying degrees of value depending on one's situation. Retired people may be looking for ways to fill their time. Many others must make sacrifices in order to find the time to read and for these time is a precious commodity, sometimes even more important than money.

In any event, writers must understand the value proposition, whether it be entertainment, information, diversion, comfort, personal fulfillment, wisdom or status – a book must serve a purpose.

The Future of Publishing
Imagining the future has been a stimulating endeavor for centuries. Da Vinci imagined a time when men would fly. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells mixed fact and fantasy to imagine remarkable futures. A whole assortment of books and magazines thrive on making predictions about what tomorrow might bring.

Thirty years ago I was reading an article in The Futurist magazine (a publication decidedly optimistic about Tomorrow) that declared that in the 21st century every person would have a personal robot to serve them. I was at a Minneapolis apartment complex at the time and looked up to see a dumpster diver near the alley. “I don’t think that fellow will have a personal robot any time soon,” I thought to myself. In other words, the future may not match what our imaginations are capable of conceiving.

So what will the future of publishing look like, really, in ten years. Ray Bradbury had no clue that many people would be reading eBooks when he wrote Fahrenheit 451. (Anyone know the melting point of a Kindle, by the way?)

Profits from eBooks have certainly grown in recent years. I read recently that 40% of all books being read in Great Britain are now digital and 20% here in the States. The market is growing, but who’s making the money?

One thing I have observed... Things change.

In 1990 there was no World Wide Web. Five years later I was able to place nearly two dozen of my short stories on the Internet to be shared anywhere and everywhere around the globe. Three were translated into foreign languages (Croatian, Russian and French) and two of my twelve-year-old daughter's stories found publication in California and New Zealand. One of my stories, Episode on South Street, was produced as a short film.

You might say this was all made possible by the new digital world of cyberspace, but it was more than that. I had been an early adopter. My stories were much easier to find in 1996 than on today's crowded cyber space today, now comprised of more than 1.55 billion pages according to one estimate.*

In 2000 there was no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter and though America Online in 1990 created full-fledged virtual communities, the sea change of the past ten years has been the phenomenon known as social media. And how quickly it shifts and shakes and quivers with each rumbling new wave of technical advance. How can we even begin to imagine what ten years will bring when what’s hot is so temporary?

Here are some clues as to what we can anticipate. First, the big money players make their bread and butter by creating mass media celebrities whom they market as brands. Television is still the driver because it requires no real mental engagement, unlike reading. Second, you do not have to be The Beatles to profit from the game. For every Elton John there are thousands of music groups making money playing bars, casinos and even weddings.

The same holds true for writers. You can reach a lot of people without being a nationally known household name. Steve Martin, in his autobiography Born Standing Up, said he had been on The Tonight Show seventeen times before a single strangers said, “Say, aren’t you the guy…”

The future of publishing will continue to evolve as technology evolves, that’s a given. But whether digital or print, the medium is nothing more than that. The supreme task for writers is to produce noteworthy copy that has value to readers and potential readers. To paraphrase a Zen notion about students and teachers, “When the writer is ready, the publisher will appear.”

Featured eBook of the Week: The Red Scorpion

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

John Heino Part II: On Zenith City Lines

EN: What is Zenith City Lines about? What will people experience from this show?

JH: Zenith City Lines is our take on Ballerina Projects done in cities around the world. The idea is to photograph dancers in the city's iconic locations. We took it a step further, creating a dance performance that incorporates the photographs.

The dance performance and photo exhibition blend the lines of the city and the lines of the dancers (hence the title). Our audience will get a multi-faceted look at the visual delights of our area. With this iconic beauty as a backdrop, choreographer Megan Abel Schmitt and our dancers, Nicole Sippola, Lindsey Wittkop, Jesse Davis and Sze Leung created stunning poses and dance numbers that highlight the human form. When that all works together, it's pretty powerful.

EN: Zenith City Lines was two years in development. Where did the idea originate?

JH: I had done a photo exhibition in collaboration with Megan's "Radiance" show at the Playground. I really enjoyed that experience it jacked my appetite to do more with dancers. Megan and Nicole introduced me to the Ballerina Projects and I immediately saw the potential for a similar take on Duluth. Really, who has a more scenic venue that we do? It was frighteningly easy to talk each other into this mega project.

EN: What have been some of the challenges of sticking with it and seeing it through?

JH: Speaking for myself, I totally underestimated the time commitment--shooting, processing, editing, writing and recording music and putting it all together. Don't get me wrong, I love this project, but I also have an innate drive to get out and shoot--often. I've been spending way more time at the computer than I normally would, so I'm looking forward to reclaiming some shooting time.

For all of us, it was gut-check time when we were turned down for grants--twice. We adjusted by cutting back on some planned costs, self-funding the rest and hoping we sell enough tickets to at least cover our out-of-pocket investment. I don't know if that will happen, but I'm proud of the tenacity of my comrades and excited to see it all come together November 22.

Also, midway through the project, Megan moved to Florida. So that required some ingenuity, video technology and social media. I've been fascinated by the way Megan and Nicole have used video segments to put the show together with the dancers.

What follows here is the press release announcing this weekend's event:

Duluth, MN—From a frigid March morning at Canal Park to the autumn glow of Enger Park, the intrepid dancers of Phoenix Productions and photographer John Heino conducted photo shoots across Duluth over two years. The fruits of their labor will be presented November 22-24 at the Underground in a dance and photography show blending lines of the city and the dancers.

"Zenith City Lines is our take on ballerina projects done in cities around the world,” says Heino. "The idea is to photograph dancers in the city's iconic locations. We took it a step further, creating a dance performance that incorporates the photographs."

Duluth dancers Nicole Sippola, Lindsey Wittkop, Jesse Davis and Sze Leung are featured in the dance performance and the photo exhibition.

"Some shoots were extremely challenging," said Sippola. "We would get so cold. We'd pose until our bodies couldn't take it anymore, then rush back to our snow pants and winter jackets, ripping off our pointe shoes in exchange for winter boots and wool socks. We'd each take our turn in front of the camera, then undo our layers and go at it again."

Midway through the collaboration, choreographer Megan Abel Schmitt moved to Florida, requiring some ingenuity, video technology and social media.

"Being sent the music and then choreographing while imagining the dancers and performance space was probably my biggest challenge ever," says Schmitt. "I've never been more excited to unveil a project. I hope the audience enjoys experiencing it as much as we enjoyed creating it."

In addition to the photography, Heino wrote and recorded twelve songs for the show and edited the images in music videos that will be projected on a large screen behind the dancers.

The photo exhibition and reception start at 6:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, with the dance performance starting at 7:30 p.m. For Sunday's matinee performance, the photo exhibition and reception begin at 2 p.m. and the dance performance at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Advance tickets are available through the Duluth Playhouse, (218) 733-7555.

Here's a link to a foretaste of this week's performance.

And a few more images through the lens of John Heino....

Monday, November 18, 2013

Talking Photography with John Heino

Business executive by day, energetic keyboardist with Centerville All Stars for decades, John Heino has never been afraid to tackle new challenges, adapting fluently into his current role as piano man with the Maxi Childs Trio on Thursday’s at Blackwater Lounge. Artistic expression vibrates through the core of his being, a passion that in recent years has resulted in vivid photographic work and startling collaborations, his latest being Zenith City Lines which will be performed at The Underground on November 22, 23 and 24.

Ed Newman: After leaving your position as president of Como Oil & Propane you chose not to seek another job in the corporate sector and focused on your passion for photography. How did you first become so smitten by this desire to do photography?

John Heino: I was an aspiring artist before I was a photographer. As a freshman art student at UMD, I discovered fine arts photography and was immediately hooked. I'm a walking advertisement for the horizon-expanding value of the "Introduction to Art" course.

EN: Photography is usually perceived as a solo avocation, yet many of the projects you have become involved with (such as 3N6D, Red Interactive and your upcoming Zenith City Lines) are collaborations. Where does this collaborative spirit come from?

JH: In college, I developed a zeal for performance art and the unpredictable power and glory of creative minds rubbing against each other in some sort of aesthetic framework. With Zenith City Lines it was much more pragmatic. I can't dance. And, even if I could, it would be almost impossible to get a leap shot with a timer.

EN: Your nature photography work is riveting. Can you share a few secrets here as regards what you do? It is obviously more than just having a good camera.

JH: The two critical aspects are mindset and enough photographic expertise to be an orchestra conductor of light.

The mindset I recommend is receptivity and anticipation to capture whatever comes your way. Some shooters are very intentional and walk around with a picture in their mind's eye of exactly what they want to photograph. That's never worked for me. If I'm fixated on some ideal, I tend to miss the gifts all around me. I like to get to a location a good 45 minutes before sunrise and spend a few minutes relaxing and noticing what the universe is showing me before I ever click the shutter. When you attain that sort of Zen state of mindfulness, the images tend to rush at you from every direction. You just need to capture the ones that really move you. Most of the time, they will move others, too, because human wiring is pretty consistent when it comes to beauty.

Anyone with a cell phone camera can wander down a trail and get lucky. But to consistently get great images, you have to get as many things working in your favor as possible. The best light for landscapes is going to be the 1/2 hour or so on either side of dawn and dusk. For wildlife--especially to freeze flight or other motion--the best light is usually going to be mid-morning to mid-afternoon. And you'll need some open sky, not bulletproof clouds.

You don't need an expensive camera, but you have to understand how it works to maximize available light. For example, if I had my choice, I would always shoot at ISO 100 or lower because the image is virtually grain-free even in low light. But when motion is involved, like a bird in flight, you have to boost ISO high enough to get a shutter speed fast enough to freeze action.

I could write a book on the technical aspects of light and digital photography, but hundreds of others have already done that. I'm not a technical fanatic, but I advise any aspiring photographer to learn enough about your camera's capabilities and photographic techniques to get comfortable using light to your advantage. Eventually, the technical side becomes almost automatic and that frees you to pay more attention to composition and the finer points of capturing whatever delights your eye.

Tomorrow we'll share Part II of this interview and delve into John's current project, Zenith City Lines. Here are a few more shots that demonstrate why John Heino's work is capturing our attention.