Sunday, December 31, 2017

13 Pictures and Paintings of Women & a Happy New Year Fireworks Display from Sydney

"Rag Doll" (acrylic on panel, 24"x 36")
"Ae" (NFS), acrylic on illustration board
"Aunt Crow" -- acrylic on illustration board
"The Student" -- acrylic on illustration board
"Visions of Johanna" -- acrylic on panel, 24"x 36"
"Watching, And Waiting" -- Acrylic on illustration board, 18"x 14"
"Lady Day" (acrylic on canvas paper, 16"x 22")
"Aethel Red" -- acrylic on panel left out in the rain, 12"x 24"
"Queen of de Nile"
"Club Silencio" -- acrylic on butcher paper
"Amy" -- Mixed Media (NFS))
"Mulholland Drive" -- acrylic, latex, light -- 36"x 24"
"Miss Honeychurch" -- photoshop

* * * *

Bonus Track: 40 select paintings and drawings of Dylan

Tonight we turn the page on a new year. If you're out and about, drive safe. 

Happy New Year.

All art on this page by Ed Newman, except the YouTube video.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Karen Sunderman Is Making It Up North

Earlier this year Karen Sunderman notified me that The Playlist would be coming to an end, but that something else was in the wind. Sunderman had been introduced to Northland television viewers via documentaries she produced for the WDSE show Venture North. In 2010 her arts-focused show The Playlist took off for a seven year run. For 2018 she will be at the helm of a new show placing a spotlight on the creativity that is swirling through the Northland. The show is called Making It.

EN: Where did the idea for your new show come from and what's it going to be about?

Karen Sunderman: Many, many conversations. WDSE serves a broad and creative audience. The idea was to expand on our success in featuring the arts & music scene and bring in the talents of artisans and entrepreneurs. Along with that, we recognized that creative problem-solving works across disciplines, interests and industries. Many artists are small businesses. The time was right to explore new ways of organizing stories to inspire more understanding and support for the creative economy.

EN: How long was The Playlist on the air and how is Making It different?

Karen when she was at The Playlist.
KS: The PlayList started in 2010 with Trampled by Turtles, our first on-location shoot. Over 7 years and 179 episodes we met and featured more than 1,900 artists and musicians creating all across the Arrowhead. That material is an amazing online archive and has been broadcast statewide. Making It expands on that base, adding artisans and entrepreneurs to the mix—chefs, coffee roasters, brewers, etc. Each episode is built around a theme with a key interview woven throughout. It’s a different approach for us with some familiar elements. I’m sure it will evolve as we go along. Community feedback, input and ideas are critical to this effort and very much welcome. Please offer your suggestions by email (info@makingitupnorth), through the form on our website or the suggestion box at the launch party.

EN: Who's invited to your Launch Party at Blacklist Beer and what will we find there?

On the rocks, filming an episode in 2014.
KS: EVERYONE is invited to the launch party! Its an invitation for creative folks to come together, mix it up and be appreciated for sharing their stories with us and the WDSE community. The Making It and The PlayList audiences have a lot in common. It’ll be fun to see conversations sparked and relationships renewed at the event. We’ll have live music from Christopher David Hanson (Babbit), Jerree Small & Coyote (Duluth) and Jillian Rae (MSP, originally from Eveleth). There’s a coffee experience at Duluth Coffee Company, and treats by Martha’s Daughter catering/restaurant. Blacklist & Fannie Rose Candy are working out a popcorn and beer pairing for us. We’ll also pause to watch the first broadcast at 5:30! The party runs 3-7 p.m. January 7 at Blacklist, 120 E. Superior St. (More Launch Party details here.)

EN: What time or times will your new show air?

KS: Making It premieres Sunday, January 7th at 5:30 on WDSE and rebroadcasts on Thursday nights at 8 PM. The initial run of six goes through mid-February. There will be another six in April/May.

EN: What gets you most jazzed about the local art scene?

KS: The creative community in our region inspired openness, collaboration, and a willingness to try new things. The tide of creative problem-solving within the region is really inspiring. “We all do better when we all do better” feels real here. If you are going to take a risk, there are people who will offer to help and support you.

* * * *

You can learn more about Karen Sunderman -- her international travels and what makes her tick -- here in our 2014 interview.

Will we see you at the Launch Party?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Year In Review: Dylan Themes Continue to Top the Top 10 Blog Posts for 2017

Well something's lost, but something's gained 
 In living every day. 
-- Joni Mitchell

The year 2017 is winding down and as in years past I've decided to see what topics have most connected with my readers. The most recurring theme, writing about our vibrant local arts scene, has the most regular volume. Occasionally various subjects hit a nerve, but in years past the numbers always jumped when I wrote about Dylan, and this year was no different. Since Dylan is one of many interests for me, and because so many people have produced more in depth coverage of his music and career, I am not really interested in having to sacrifice all my other interests simply to convert this to a Bob Dylan blog.

Alas, my interest in Dylan has not abated, and I continue to feel enriched by his work, his words, and the words of others who attempt to interpret the meaning of what he has produced.

All that being said, here were my top ten blog posts of 2017 in terms of visitors....

Marketing the Dylan Machine and Leveraging His Latest Achievement
Having spent half a lifetime in marketing, it's hard not to look at anything (from ideas to politics to holidays) without it being filtered through the marketing filter. Dylan and his team are masters.

Joe Cocker's Dylan Covers Continue To Reward Listeners
Like Dylan, Joe Cocker inhales a song and breathes it out as his own. Here are a number of Dylan covers that I especially liked.

An Inquiry Regarding Bob Dylan's Guitar Collection
A magazine editor asked me what I knew about Bob Dylan's guitar collection. I had to admit, "Not much." So I did a little digging and found something worth sharing.

Origins of Bob Dylan's Never Ending Tour
I did some speculating about how early in his career Dylan imagined a never ending tour.

Trepanier Hall Being Renamed to Honor Dr. Robert Powless at AICHO Fifth Anniversary
The American Indian CommunityHousing Organization (AICHO) in Downtown Duluth has become a vital center for a lot of culturally rich experiences.

Shooting Star: Bookend on Dylan's Monumental Oh Mercy
Reflections on a great song from a great album.

Scott Warmuth Weighs In On Dylan's Latest Appropriations
Some have accused him of plagiarism. Others call his intertextual wordplay genius, an approach to songwriting that borrows from tradition and interacts with it in new ways. Dylan's Nobel Speech seemed to raise the another rhubarb.

Dylan and Mavis Makin' Their Way Home. Tom Petty Tribute Is A Knockout.
The NET Fall Tour passed through Bob's home state of Minnesota again this year. Shortly after Tom Petty's passing Dylan tipped the hat to his friend with a rendition of "Learning To Fly."

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue: From Whence Comes the Power of This Song?
In March I took a reflected on one of Dylan's classics.

Photos and a Note from Glasgow as Dylan's Never Ending Tour Leaves Fans Warmed in the British Isles
In May, as we were preparing for this year's Duluth Dylan Fest, fans in the British Isles were relishing the last leg of Bob's Spring European Tour. Some fans who had been with us in 2016 sent photos from Glasgow.

* * * *

Word on the street is that a theme is taking shape for the 2018 Duluth Dylan Fest in May. The event will run from Saturday May 20 (Armory Concert) thru to the Zeitgeist Farewell Brunch with Jim Hall on Sunday May 27, with music galore as well as art, music and memory-making. In 2016 Dylan's 75th birthday took center stage. This past spring the Nobel Prize added a measure of electricity. In 2018 Bob will be 77, so the theme of Twins is being nurtured. Dylan is a Gemini (The Twins) with a nod to the pair of Sevens for his age. Learn more. Visit

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Learning How To Write About Art

"Having an opinion is part of your social contract with readers."
--Gilda Williams

* * * *

Kathy McTavish, Quantum experience
Early this month the Ambient Intelligence Arts Writing Cohort held its third meeting in the DAI boardroom, with panelists for December being Tim White, Jennifer Webb and Ann Markusen. Homework included reading another chapter from Gilda Williams' How To Write About Contemporary Art.

With Christmas in the air, and the assorted activities that accompany the season, it was a challenge carving out a time to meet that didn't compete with other commitments. We began the meeting with another writing exercise in the gallery, this time scratching out notes related to the current show in the Morrison Gallery featuring paintings by Paul LaJeunesse & sculptures by the Lake Superior Wood Turners. We were asked to make notes related to the following: Who are you writing for? What do people want to know? And what more do they want to know?

What follows are miscellaneous notes from my observations in the gallery and the discussions that followed.

MY NOTES from the Gallery
Surprising variety of objects
Polished, raw, functional, beautiful, delicate, practical
Cream colored walls
Woodwork that enhances the natural beauty of the "created"
Human imprint upon the Natural

How is it achieved (these various effects)
What is its purpose?
Where do the pieces go when they leave here?
How did they arrive here? 
What tools were used?

* * * *
Karen Nease, from her As Above, So Below series.
The discussion which followed showed that in nearly every case observations were seldom identical. Our various life experiences and backgrounds result in varying approaches and different sets of questions. Judy Budreau's notes were made as if writing a letter to her granddaughter. She mentioned that we were in the Depot and the weather outside was cold. Karen Nease wrote about the exhibition as a whole, giving it a different kind of context. Interim DAI director Christina Woods observed from an Anishinaabi framework, citing fractals, connections and divides. Anne Moore was curious about how the artists themselves felt about the manner in which the show was curated?

* * * *
Frank Holmes, oil on canvas
The next topic on the table circled around interviewing artists. Ann Markusen, a social scientist who acknowledges that she has no background in making art, shared a few insights about interviewing artists. She stated that she uses a template as the foundation of the interview and builds from there by taking time. She spoke of the creator/audience divide and has observed that people see art but most don't meet the artists themselves. She also noted that most artists don't understand the consequences of what happens after their work is sold.

The subsequent dialogue included these observations:
Tim White: "I've always thought closings more valuable than openings."
Jennifer Webb: ...made the intriguing comment that "Art museums (are) associated with rich white people."
TW: Stated that in writing about art he "aims to give readers an entry point" into the work.
Ann M: Who are the gatekeepers? (They are) often looking out for the interests of the rich. Who decides what is great?

ASIDE, or rather, inside my head: At this point my mind went back to a Brown Bag Lunch discussion about the role of art in society, led by John Heino during our Red Interactive show as part of the Phantom Galleries -- Superior in 2001. Who decides what is and is not art?

TW: Here's what I saw. Is that relevant?
JW: "I don't like talking about art by itself and don't like museums." She said that she was "interested in the historical moment. Context and Intention."

ASIDE, or rather, inside my head: Stop the presses. This is yet another statement worth a deeper dive. More exploration. But it passes and we move into more territories.

CW: Writing for Native Report Christina Woods writes about Anishinaabi artists. "Know your audience. Get as much time as possible with the audience. Humanize the person being interviewed."
JW: Artspeak turns people off.
Kathy made a comment about "radical event makers."
Another divide is between what happens in the institutions and what's happening street level.

* * * *

Ed Newman, "Don's Girl -- Glowing, eXtruded"
IN THE AFTERMATH of the meeting I felt a measure of "out-of-sorts-ness" with regard to the discussion that had taken place. I wondered if we tried to hard to keep to an agenda instead of allowing the discussion topics raised lead us deeper. The dialogue felt unfocused while simultaneously remaining one inch deep and excessively wide.

Or maybe the problem was generated by my unmanaged expectations. Being surrounded by so many smart people, most smarter than I on these matters, I looked forward to asking questions, debating issues, exploring territories and topics that there's seldom real opportunity for at the workplace water cooler.

In the end the experience brought to mind Parkinson's rule about the "coefficient of inefficiency" in groups where the number of members is too large.

In expressing my frustration with another member of the group I received this reply:
"Your blog may not have a center because there really wasn’t one. So what if you wrote a conversation between the two points of view and see what happens?" Intriguing. Maybe someday.

This thought led to a question as regards which two points of view on which topic? There were so many raised with two or more points of view. Personally, I love art museums. It would have been great to have a pause button so that one topic alone could be explored in more detail. I'm planning to visit the Tweed this afternoon and am hard-pressed to understand what the downside of such museums might be.

Maybe we'll have to save that one for another space in time.

BONUS TRACK: Read Tim White's Selective Focus at PerfectDuluthDay.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

New Evidence That the Fix Is In: Vikings to Win Super Bowl LII

According to newly released documents from WikiLeaks, the Minnesota Vikings will not only be participating in the Super Bowl, they are slated to pull off the largest upset win in Super Bowl history, directly in front of their hometown fans in Super Bowl LII. *

A series of emails between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners debating how to respond to Brian Tuohy's accusations in The Fix Is In has now come to light. In one revealing memo Goodell declares he's "dazed and confused" by the accusations, while simultaneously he's unsure how to deep six a voice recording that's been floating around the Internet that has him laughing at the fortune he and his cronies will rake in when the Vikings run the table.

In another stolen email, Vikings chairman and owner Zygi Wilf has alleged that Goodell "promised" a Vikings victory, saying that "the NFL owes it to Vikings" after so many years of heartbreak. Wilf sent an email to 90-year-old former head coach Bud Grant requesting his presence at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4. Grant replied that when the Vikings win he will strip to the waist and march around the stadium carrying the trophy "even if it kills me." (It was not clear from the email whether Grant mean he would walk around inside the stadium with the trophy or outside around the perimeter.)

IN OTHER NEWS the Minnesota Handoff Video has been released, with at least two shots from Duluth. WooHoo! Governor Dayton, the Bob Dylan Mural, Sid Hartman, the Jolly Green Giant, Austin Spam Museum and Bud Grant all make appearances as well, along with a host of other characters and Minnesota landmarks.

* EdNote: The WikiLeaks story is Fake News... but a Vikings win would make a good story. And the Minnesota Handoff Video is real.
   EdNote 2: The Super Bowl trophy image, logo and all NFL branded images inside the video are sole property of the NFL.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

12 Powerful Novellas That Spoke To Me When I First Read Them

"To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him, and travel in his company." --Andre Gide

"We read to know we're not alone." --William Nicholson

* * * *

“But at sunset the clouds gathered again, bringing an earlier night, and the snow began to fall straight and steadily from a sky without wind, in a soft universal diffusion more confusing than the gusts and eddies of the morning. It seemed to be a part of the thickening darkness, to be the winter night itself descending on us layer by layer.” --Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome

* * * *

As they say, too many books, too little time.

For Christmas yesterday one of the three books I received was Ron Chernow's much ballyhooed Grant, an imposing volume of more than a thousand pages that I've been looking forward to since I learned of its appearance. If you're looking for something shorter before you tackle your next massive volume, here are a dozen suggestions from my personal shelves with which you may temporarily divert yourself...

A Dozen Favorite Novellas

1. The Tenth Man, by Graham Greene

“When you reach a certain age you don't care about the future: it is success enough to be alive: every morning you wake with triumph.”

2. Of Mice and Men, by Steinbeck

“At about 10 o'clock in the morning the sun threw a bright dust-laden bar through one of the side windows and in and out of the beam flies shot like rushing stars.”

Par Lagerkvist
3. Barabbas, by Par Lagerkvist

Swedish winner of the 1951 Nobel Prize whose work was introduced to the larger world by French literary giant Andre Gide. Barabbas, the story of a believer without faith, was his first international success.

4. Theseus, by Andre Gide

I became captivated by Gide's journals after discovering him in the early 90's. 1947 Nobel Prize Winner and author of 80 books, Gide stood at the center of the French literary scene from the turn of the century till his death in 1951.

5. A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean

I probably read this book five times (including audio version) and have enjoyed the film based on this story another four or five times. "Eventually, all things merge into one and a river runs through it."

6. Isabelle, by Andre Gide

“Everything's already been said, but since nobody was listening, we have to start again.” Gide is one reason for the expression belles letrtes, the crafting and transformation of words into fine art.

7. Seize the Day, by Saul Bellow

“A person can become tired of looking himself over and trying to fix himself up. You can spend the entire second half of your life recovering from the mistakes of the first half.”

1929 Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann
8. Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann

“Nothing is stranger or more ticklish than a relationship between people who know each other only by sight, who meet and observe each other daily - no hourly - and are nevertheless compelled to keep up the pose of an indifferent stranger, neither greeting nor addressing each other, whether out of etiquette or their own whim.”

9. The Sibyl, by Par Lagerkvist

“Nothing is more foreign than the world of one's childhood when one has truly left it.” The Sibyl is a strange parable of sorts that speaks to the tragic sense of life.

10. The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

A response to the moral relativism in Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Lewis takes readers on a tour of the Afterlife by means of a bus that leaves England on a dreary afternoon. A rich, insightful read.

11. Mr. Majestyk, by Elmore Leonard

“It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to sound like it does.” I was introduced to Elmore Leonard by Joe Soucheray at a 1985 writer's conference. Joe was trying to write his first novel and lamented at how impressive Leonard was and his own efforts so inferior. This may not be his greatest book, but I found it an enjoyable and memorable read.

12. Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton

“He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of it's frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface; but there was nothing nothing unfriendly in his silence. I simply felt that he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight, tragic as I guessed that to be, but had in it, as Harmon Gow had hinted, the profound accumulated cold of many Starkfield winters.”

* * * *

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Quote for Today on This Gift Called Life

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, 
which is why we call it the present." — Bil Keane*

*Bil Keane was is the cartoonist creator of The Family Circus

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Curiosity and a Canary: How Ordinary Events Become Extraordinary

The introduction to a book on Andre Gide and Curiosity begins like this: "In the autobiography of Andre Gide, the 15-year-old Andre is walking down a Paris street when he sees a canary flying toward him like the Holy Spirit. It lands on his head, designating him, he believes, as a writer."

The author describes how the young Andre is both curious regarding the canary, and simultaneously an object of the canary's curiosity. This statement from the book's description especially stood out for me: "Curiosity was a credo for Gide. By observing the world and then manifesting in writing these observations, he stimulates the curiosity of readers, conceived as virtual conduits of a curiosity once his own."

Reading these few lines brought several moments from my own life back into view, the first being that specific moment in time when I myself felt called to be a writer.

Other memories also came to mind of encounters with nature, or experiences in which I witnessed something unusual that seemed to have special significance for me. Like Gide's encounter with the canary, one of these involved an encounter with a fawn. The incident occurred in the fall of my junior year at Ohio University, 1973. I'd gone for a walk with my sketchbook as sunset approached, seeking a place to sit and draw. I found a quiet open space that overlooked a vast expanse to the west, hemmed on both sides forest, delightfully peaceful. I still remember the vivid colors of that red and gold sky, the swoop of the valley's architecture, the silhouettes of the trees as darkness approached.

Drawing, like any creative endeavor, becomes timeless when you've lost yourself in it, and on this occasion I must have been in the zone as it were, quietly absorbed in the moment. Suddenly I became aware of a young fawn that had evidently been creeping along the path, curious about this strange person sitting in her way. Her head bent forward below her shoulders, she kept approaching me, tentative and uncertain. Our eyes locked as I studied her face, each of us expectant, though she was no doubt more wary than relaxed.

Suddenly, two rifle shots echoed in the distance and my curious friend became alert but she didn't run. Eventually she sauntered back to the woods in the direction from which she came.

* * * *
I've been re-affirmed by the presence of a dove.
The incident must have made an impression on me because a couple years later I woke one morning with the first stanza of a poem tumbling and swirling in my head, along with the other images from this experience. The poem that I crafted became As A Young Fawn, I, a retelling of this incident from the point of view of the fawn.

During the night as I lay thinking about these things I was also reminded of the story of the Magi from the East written about in the Gospel according to Matthew in chapter 2. These priest sages who had been students of the heavens recognized a star of major significance and connected it with the birth of the anticipated Messiah spoken of by Jewish prophets. The Bible never says there were three, as the song "We Three Kings" suggests. It does, however, acknowledge a connection between nature and our human story, both individually and collectively. There are moments when something breaks through from Beyond that our modern scientific minds tend to dismiss, disregard, ignore.

Bringing this all full circle, the Magi were men whose mystical inclinations made them curious about the greater meaning of things. How they learned about this miraculous birth isn't explained in this passage, its historically documented that Israel's Northern Kingdom had been overthrown by Assyria circa 720 B.C. and the remaining Jews of the Southern Kingdom taken captive by the Babylonians circa 587 B.C. The Magi were undoubtedly familiar with, and curious about, the sacred texts of these peoples. Their arrival in search of the newborn child was no coincidence. 

Psalm 19 begins, "The heavens declare the glory of God." Open your mind. Sometimes a canary, or a dove, is more than just a bird.

Merry Christmas.

Northern Lights courtesy John Heino Photography.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Thursday evening and Friday I was the recipient of some lovely parting gifts as I rode my old palomino into the sunset of a career in advertising. More than a few of my friends know about my Dylan preoccupations and a few have the talent to actually produce parodies of the images their imaginations envision. The above was created by Kirk Witte, an AMSOIL designer, incorporating a photo by Andrew Perfetti. Thank you, Kirk. The "Tangled" 45 RPM parody came courtesy CPL Imaging. Thank you Jeff & Kelly.

Playlist on the album: 
Ain't Wearing No Tie No More • Jingle Bell Rock • When You're Smiling • The Times They Are A-Changin' • I Shall Be Released • Sketchin' In The Wind • Ad Man Ain't Talkin' To Management No More • Knockin' On Heaven's Door

And so it goes...
Let's turn the page and start a new chapter together.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Few Quotes and Thoughts About Retirement

As the saying goes, when one chapter ends another begins.

"The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off."
--Abe Lemons

"Sooner or later I'm going to die, but I'm not going to retire."
--Margaret Mead

"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams."
--John Barrymore

"Retirement is not in my vocabulary. They aren't going to get rid of me that way."
--Betty White

From my youth till a couple years ago I never gave much thought to retirement. Yes, I had been setting money aside, paying down our house and all that, but the notion of actually retiring was a concept not in my vocabulary. Hence, this cake was so apt. A new chapter is beginning. Today will be the end of something, and tomorrow... a new story will begin.

I don't know about you, but there is usually a soundtrack playing in my head. I wonder if that is a phenomenon of growing up watching movies. Did people in the Middle Ages have soundtracks playing in their heads? (If they did, they certainly had a different name for it.) This week's soundtrack is courtesy the Grateful Dead: "What a long strange trip it's been."

* * * *

So, what next? People keep asking, and as for now it's uncertain. I have a long list of things I want to write, articles on various themes, stories I want to tell. As of tomorrow my "day job" will no longer occupy the bulk of my waking hours. Before I write the next chapter I'll need to take a short break to work on the Preface and Intro.

Here's one more quote related to retirement that I excluded from the above: "Gods retirement plan is out of this world." Hopefully I won't be learning the details on that plan any time soon. I still have more to accomplish here first.

What will you accomplish in 2018? Have a very special Christmas, and a majorly meaningful new year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Holiday's Can Be Stressful, But...

Nearly every year around this time I post my brother's article about holiday stress and things you can do to alleviate it. The feedback I get has been evidence that the season isn't always jolly with ho-ho-hoes while we're decking the halls and splitting logs for the yule-tide fire. If you need a little encouragement in this regard, and a handful of practical wise words, read Dr. Ron Newman's Holiday Ups and Downs.

On the other hand, a few words in defense of holiday stress might be in order.

Stress, or the pressure that comes from responsibilities, isn't all bad. I'm not going to say it's fun. But it can be rewarding. Here are some examples.

We have made it annual tradition to write a Christmas letter that we send to friends and family. It updates them on what our children are doing and what we've been up to. There's a sense in which it keeps us connected to the people we care about, something which is healthy in a post-modern world where so many connections have been broken.

Even if you don't write a letter, just sending pictures or even a card requires addressing envelopes, staying organized, keeping current with addresses of people in your life. It takes time and could be perceived as a burden of sorts, but doing it has hidden benefits. One is that we're elevating this season in some way, marking the passing of a year by not letting it pass unmarked, unnoticed, just another season.

There are other things most of us do that we don't have to. We put up trees and lights, we go to parties. Some spend an evening or afternoon visiting shut-ins and singing carols. And there's always the shopping that needs to be taken care of. If you're not in the right frame of mind, those lines can be stressful.

What I've found, though, is that years later the memories created by family traditions can comfort us like a warm blanket and hot cocoa. Here's an excerpt from an email I received from my daughter when she was living in China a few years ago. It reflects the variety of traditions that were built into our family Decembers.

I really miss singing Christmas carols!!! ... I was just thinking of when we'd sing Christmas songs on the way to get the tree, and we'd sing Frosty the Snowman and we'd always get mixed up on the words. haha. Getting the Christmas tree and decorating it I think is my favorite Christmas tradition, the one I have most memories of... it was so special to all be together, singing, and being excited for Christmas... Christmas eve was always almost more exciting than Christmas, too, with the suspense of everything. watching A Christmas Carol as a family, reading together and putting out the cookies for Santa...

I share all this because even when the feelings aren't there -- you're tired or burned out or going through a hard time -- next year will probably be different. We don't scrap traditions because we're not in the mood. These traditions have hidden rewards and give continuity to ourselves and our families.

Please note: I do understand the emotions of those for whom the excessive commercializing of Christmas has become odious. The "reason for the season" was the birth of an infant born into a poor family in a stable, in a country oppressed by a foreign power. It's an almost crazy setting for the birth of a king. And how that event turned into long lines at the mall I'm not quite sure.

All this to say that traditions have value. Each family benefits by shaping its traditions for another generation. It's a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Local Makers, Artists and Artisans Doing Cool Stuff In Duluth

A Handy Husby Piece at Karin Kraemer's ne gallery space in Lincoln Park Craft District.
Saturday there were 30+ vendors in the Duluth Folk School space 
across the street from Karin Kraemer's pottery/art gallery.
With music, treats and sweets of all kinds, the Handmade Holiday Mart
was teeming with life this second-last weekend before Christmas.

After posting fotos on Facebook I was asked where this was all happening.
If you've not been paying attention, there's a lot of renewed energy here in 
what used to be called the West End, circa 21st Avenue West. 
Several new businesses have staked a claim to this part of town, and 
Duluth Grill has opened a sister restaurant called OCM, with the same 
caliber of original menu items supported by local growers.

The best part of all this activity is knowing there's still more to come.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tech Tuesday: Two AI Specialists Place Wagers on the Economic Impact of AI

There was a time when ice was "harvested" from lakes and glaciers up in the Rockies (or in Ancient Rome, mined from the Alps), stored in warehouses and distributed through retail channels. Naturally everything changed with the advent of electricity. Ice boxes became obsolete, replaced by refrigerators.

Likewise there was a time when buggy whip manufacturers made decent money, and the horse trade was strong.

Alas, as the cartoon above makes apparent, nothing stays as it was forever.

This weekend I received an email from Calum Chace with the following message:

Robert Atkinson and I have made the 749th Long Bet shown below (and online here). Robert is the founder of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based think tank.

Robert’s Claim
With the rise of AI and robotics many now claim that these technologies will improve exponentially and in so doing destroy tens of millions of jobs, leading to mass unemployment and the need for Universal Basic Income. I argue that these technologies are no different than past technology waves and to the extent they boost productivity that will create offsetting spending and investment, leading to offsetting job creation, with no appreciable increase in joblessness.

Calum's Response
AI and robotics are different to past technology waves. Past rounds of automation have mostly been mechanisation; now we will see cognitive automation. Machines can already drive cars better than humans, and their story is just beginning: they will increasingly do many of the tasks we do in our jobs cheaper, better and faster than we can. Unlike us, they are improving at an exponential rate, so that in ten years they will be 128 times more powerful, in 20 years 8,000 times, and in 30 years (if the exponential growth holds that long) a million times. We are unlikely to see the full impact of technological unemployment by 2035, but it should be appreciable. Our job now, of course, is to make sure that an economy which is post-jobs for many or most people is a great economy, and that everyone thrives. The way to do that may well be the Star Trek economy.

Note from Calum: I would like to be able to credit the person who created the excellent image (at the top of this page.) If you know who it is (or if it is you!) please do let me know.

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Here is the "billboard" that came with the email.  The link takes you to an official site where predictions of all sorts are being documented, along with wagers.

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This public documentation of predictions is quite fascinating, especially for futurists. Predictions include how the market will perform to when a computer will pass the "reality imitation game." I doubt anyone can really bet on the prediction about when humans will take over the galaxy, but many of the predictions do look serious.

I'm assuming Chace and Atkinson plan to be here in 2035, when one will have to make good on the bet. At stake, in the bet, is $400, which with inflation may be worth significantly less.

The bet reminds me of another famous bet. Anton Chekov wrote a story called The Bet in which there is a 15 year time frame. With two million dollars at stake there's much more on the line. It's one of my favorite short stories, which I shared here on my blog in 2009.

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What's your take on the economic impact of AI? The U.S. economy is currently robust, having purportedly added 15 million jobs in 2017. What are the changes high tech will bring as we step forward in time? Who do you believe will win this bet between Mr. Chace and Mr. Atkinson.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Local Art Seen: Art On Tap @ Fitgers

Organized by Sally Cavallaro
Saturday afternoon I had an opportunity to see three mid-December arts and crafts events here in Duluth. Two were in the Lincoln Park Craft District and the the third was this one at the Fitgers complex called Art On Tap. The Lincoln Park events were at Karin Kraemer's new studio space and across the street at the Duluth Folk School.

I can't say enough about the energy I felt as I passed through each of these spaces. What impressed me most was the vibrancy of the entrepreneurial spirit that seemed more apparent than I'd expected. The abundance of Millennials who have embraced a hybrid creativity and business sense was striking. This page has a few of the "booths" where creativity has been brewing. Perhaps it is a reaction against traditional employment where you are handcuffed to a desk and the arbitrary rules of your employer. Here, you are your own boss. You make the rules, you run your show. It's an adventure. And if you fail? You're still young. It's a diploma in the school of hard knocks. 

I saw some of the typical things you'd expect to see, but most everything had a unique twist, flavored with imagination.
White Spruce Market, for example, specializes in curated gift boxes for all occasions, along with seasonal gifts, limited edition boxes, and quarterly charity partnerships. It was an intriguing play off a more standardized mass market gig. It felt human, personal.

Below are a handful of photos with links to their various web pages. Check 'em out. You may still have time to have it delivered before Christmas.

Esther Piszczcek Designs 
Jamey Penney-Ritter --
Lydia "Nibs" Noble --
The ubiquitous Jes Durfee, Glass Artist
Hand Screenprinted Designs -- Karley Rose --

In addition to being inspired by all the creativity, I was likewise inspired by the optimism and "go for it" spirit I saw everywhere. "Follow your bliss" was being enacted right before our eyes.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it. 
(And this Christmas: Buy Local.)