Friday, October 9, 2015

Baseball, Pitchers and Stuff

It's that time of year when even the most latent baseball fans begin to awaken to resume interest in what was once our national pasttime. The playoffs are here, and our enthusiasm for the game rises to the surface once more. Newspaper stories bring us up to date on what went down in Major League Baseball during the regular season, all especially useful for the irregular follower like myself.

Last Sunday's New York Times had several stories designed to warm up our appetite for the post-season. It's only natural that the sports section would provide an overview of the season's top pitchers and players. But the fun story of the week appeared as an item on the front page, an entertaining riff on the way baseball commentators use that most elastic of words, "stuff."

The article by John Branch begins:

It was the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, a pivotal moment for baseball’s pennant races. Pitching was scrutinized. Analysis was deep.

“His stuff was really good,” Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said of one pitcher, adding of another, “I’ve never seen anything like this — a combination of pure stuff and results.”

It's the kind of baseball lingo we've heard all our lives so that we pretty much take it for granted. John Branch, however, decides to drill down. Whereas jargon like "set the table" and "shoestring catch" and "sitting on a pitch" are perfectly discernible when used in context, the word "stuff" has an altogether different character. It's a wonderful catch-all term that seems to mean everything and nothing. And Branch has a blast pointing this out.

"He's got great stuff" has become a descriptor as common as a Minnesota loon. Or, "he's lost his stuff." Or, he just didn't have his stuff tonight.

* * * *

The article reminded me of a story someone once told us about a woman from France who came to visit them for a while. After about a week she got a perplexed look on her face and asked, "What does this word stuff mean? You say, 'put your stuff over there,' and 'I have stuff to do.' I can't figure out what it means."

Our friend explained that it was one of those words you can insert just about anywhere when you don't have a better word. "It can mean anything really."

The visitor from France pondered this, and finally broke into a grin, eyes sparkling. "Ah... Stuff! I really like this word."

For a good read check out "The Mysteries of Pitching, and All That Stuff." Then sit back and enjoy the Playoffs. Unless you've got other stuff to do. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Seven Years Ago Today and Famous Monsters of Filmland


The Great Chicago Fire started in 1871. 

In 1934 Bruno Hauptman was indicted for the murder of Charles Lindberg's baby.

In 1956 Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitched the first and only prefect game in World Series history.

In 2004 Martha Stewart began her prison sentence at Alderson Federal Prison Camp.

And in 2008 the following blog posted was shared here at Ennyman's Territory:

"If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

When I was a boy growing up in Maple Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, I used to get an allowance each week of twenty-five cents. I knew precisely the value of a quarter back then. One quarter could buy a Mad magazine. Four quarters would get me a Revell plastic boat model. To get that boat model I'd have to save for four weeks and then go to the Southgate mall. By the time we left Ohio for New Jersey in 1964, I had a whole shelf of boat models including a very cool German U-boat, battleships and destroyers.

But fifty cents... that was pretty much the coolest purchase of them all. That's what it cost to buy a copy of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Holding on to that first quarter till you got the second was a lesson in deferred gratification, an invaluable principle with a lifetime of applications.

My brother Ron and I loved those old monster movies, and we especially looked forward to Friday nights because that was when the Ghoulardi show would come on. According to Wikipedia it was called Shock Theater, but we called it the Ghoulardi show. Ghoulardi was Cleveland's late night horror film host, airing B-grade monster movies every week with his unique and totally engaging style.

The guy was incredibly inventive and hilariously over the top. His beatnik look and jabber were just the beginning of it. "You're a k-nif" he would say, meaning "Fink" spelled backward.

During the movies he would insert humorous clips of an old Irish man gurning, and other silly cut ins. In a film about a giant Brontosaurus smashing a city, with people screaming in terror in the streets, he cut in a few seconds of himself holding a giant brontosaurus foot up, trying not to be crushed while holding his own nose because the monster's feet smell.

Ultimately it was the movies themselves that we lived for. The Creeper, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Mummy, Phantom of the Opera, The Invisible Man, Caltiki the Immortal Monster, The Blob.... every week we had something to look forward to.

But that mag, Famous Monsters of Filmland... what a treasure! My convictions about the power of print advertising in enthusiast magazines can be partially attributed to this early passion. The television show was here today, gone tomorrow. But the magazine could be carried with you everywhere you went. Every page captured your eye. The images and stories could be revisited as often as you liked.

The mag was also a great source for background dope on all your heroes, the roots of all their stories. For example, one of the great actors of the monster film genre was Lon Chaney, nicknamed "The Man with a Thousand Faces" due to his remarkable range of portrayals. Famous Monsters told the inside stories of how he contorted his body to appear one-legged, deformed, etc.

Dracula was another favorite. My brother Ron and I liked the Bela Lugosi version of Dracula at that time. I think it was the alluring quality of his accent. Once I read a Dracula story from the magazine to Ronnie (he was about eight at the time) and he woke with nightmares for a week straight. My mom forbid any further readings.

But the greatest of them all was Boris Karloff, especially in his role as Frankenstein.

I still remember an incident on a family vacation in Florida when we first saw the film Bride of Frankenstein. Our family was at a motel on Miami Beach, but my parents had gone out for the evening. We were fairly young and with a TV in the room we decided to see what was on, a memorable event for sure.

Last year, near five decades later, I asked my mom about that night. It seemed they were gone a long time. She said it was the one major fight my parents had in their fifty-plus years of marriage. They'd gone off somewhere to work things out away from us kids. Alas, every picture tells a story. The Bride of Frankenstein memory revealed this one from my mom.

My personal favorite was Son of Frankenstein, probably only because I'd scene it the most often. For many of us, Karloff was synonymous with the monster.

I don't really keep up on the monster movie scene these days, but if you are interested, here's a link to the Famous Monsters of Filmland website. (Turn your sound down if you're in the office.)

As for Ghoulardi, he was a dude ahead of his time... or travelling outside of time, I'm not sure which. You can find more about Ernie"Ghoulardi" Anderson and his influence in this 2013 article titled 50 Years Later TV's Ghoulardi Lives -- In Punk Rock.

Make the most of your day. Tomorrow it will likely be gone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bob Dylan and IBM's Watson Star In New TV Spot: The Limits of Creativity

Last night during Monday Night Football, IBM began a new campaign for its powerful new Watson. Tonight during the Yankees/Astros playoff game (Yes, the Astros are an American League team now) Dylan made another appearance, and it looks like he's here to stay.

Watson: Bob Dylan. To improve my language skills I've read all your lyrics.
Bob Dylan: (smirking) You've read all of my lyrics.
Watson: I can read 800 million pages per second.
Dylan: (serious expression) That's fast.
Watson: My analysis shows that your themes are that times passes, and love fades,
Dylan: (suppressing a smile) That sounds about right.
Watson: I have never known love.
Dylan: Maybe we should write a song together.
Watson: I can sing.
Dylan: You can sing. (doubting expression)
Watson: (singing, rather flat) Do-be-bop, do-be-dooby-do..etc.

As Watson sings, Bob picks up his guitar and walks away.
Message at the close: IBM Watson thinks with us to outthink the limits of creativity.

Interesting idea. Dylan is presented as a symbol of "the limits of creativity." I really don't know how one would measure what those limits are, but every Dylan fan knows that Dylan certainly expanded the dimensions of creativity... in a major way.

Here's the commercial. I can't help but believe that whether you're a Dyla fan or no, this would be fun. Or maybe I've just had too much of the Kool-Ad.

Outsider and Self-Taught Artists Get Their Due

Yesterday's Art Daily featured a story about a gallery in Germany with a new exhibition spotlighting works by artists who did not emerge through the academic process, but were self-taught. The article got me thinking about "status" in the arts and whether there's an upper class and lower class in the art scene.

The title of the story is, "For the first time, Museum Folkwang displays works by self-taught, non-academic artists." It struck me strange to see the opening phrase "For the first time" because it comes across as elitist. I've never been to an art opening where I wondered, "Was this person trained in school? What schools did they attend?"

The announcement begins...

ESSEN.- Works by self-taught, non-academic artists are usually referred to as “naïve” or “outsider art” and are conventionally viewed as a distinct category, separate from modern art. But in terms of their power and intensity, these works often rival the great modernist masterpieces. 

The show is titled The Shadow of the Avant Garde and features artists like Rousseau along with some of modern art's superstars. (Read full account here.)

In truth it s very likely that a prestige factor exists in the art scene as it does in real life where it seems to matter which side of the tracks you grew up on, even though this is supposedly un-American.

This 2013 article from The Atlantic talks about "outsider art" as well, but in a different light. The article is by Sarah Boxer, who may or may not have been academically trained. The Rise of Self-Taught Artists opens by stating its premise: "Outsider artists—visionary, schizophrenic, primitive, psychotic, obsessive, compulsive, untutored, vernacular, self-taught, naive, brut, rough, raw, call them what you will—are insiders now."

Upon reading these words I thought of some of the shows I saw at the Ochre Ghost and have seen at the PROVE here in Duluth. Both galleries in Duluth shared work that came from the fringes, some of it quite remarkable.

But I also thought about another distinction at play. There was a time when the line that separated insiders and outsiders was geographic. If you were not from New York you were an outsider.

Or maybe the dichotomy at play is significant and insignificant. Your work is either important or unimportant. i.e. irrelevant. Can this fear of being cast out as an irrelevant become a driver that pushes people to leave home and try to make it in the Big City? Or in our local scene are the artists who get their week into the Tweed collection more important than those who are overlooked? Is an artist considered "more serious" when she draws on expensive Strathmore paper rather than newsprint?

I wish there were places where an article like this could be discussed at greater length, but alas, the days of dorm room bull sessions get subsumed in the rush of our face-paced frenetic lives. If you're a local artist I'd be interested in your thoughts on this article.

Meantime, art goes on, whether we buy it or not. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mark Your Calenders for the Following Dynamic October Twin Ports Arts Events

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for."
~ Georgia O'Keeffe

What a rich month September was here in the Twin Ports, and it appears that October is shaping up to be an equally exceptional month of activities for patrons of the Northland arts scene. Here's a listing of events that I am currently aware of.

Thursday, October 1 
There was an opening reception for Sue Rauschenfels at the Red Mug in Superior. I felt bad missing it but was determined to cover the Design Duluth event that same time frame and will get a chance later in the month to grab a lunch there and check out her new work.

Friday, October 2 
Zeitgeist Atrium: Sprout
The opening is past but the exhibit runs October 1-8 and features collaborative artwork from members of UDAC's Art Junction program. UDAC is a day program for people with disabilities in Duluth. I've been informed that this is "a must-see exhibit."

Tuesday, October 6
2:00 - 3:00 pm
Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison
Talk on Collaboration
Shana, who studied painting, dance history and metalsmithing, and Robert, a photographer, have collaborated for over 18 years. The couple will join us in the Tezla Library at Tweed to deliver a talk on collaboration and engage in an informal Q&A session on the topic. This event is open to all students and the public. (Too bad if you've got a day job.

Tweevening with Jim Klueg
The European and Bauhaus Influence in Studio Ceramics
6:30 - 7:30 pm
The Tweed's Tweevenings series has been rewarding for those who attend, and if you don't make it to the Tweed for other enough other events it's a good excuse to catch up. Jim Klueg is a ceramist and head of the Department of Art & Design at UMD. He will be delivering a lecture about the European and Bauhaus Influence in studio ceramics as it relates to the current ceramics exhibition: Resurfaced and Reformed: Evolution in Studio Ceramics.

Thursday, October 8
Adam McCauley has a new exhibit opening at the Kruk Gallery at UWS. McCauley will be sharing the space with work by Natalie Salminen. The opening is October 8 from 5-7 p.m. Details here.

Sprout Film Festival, 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
People with disabilities either star in or direct each of the films. Anthony DeSalvo, who created the SPROUT film festival in New York, will be speaking at both showings. Art Junction will have art available for sale at the event.
Tickets: $7 for 1 showing; $10 for both showings

Lyric Opera of the North presents The Barber of Seville by Rossini, October 8 & 10, 7:30 p.m., Superior High School Performing Arts Center, 2600 Catlin Ave., Superior, WI. Buy Tickets Online or call 1-218-464-0922

Friday, October 9
A suggested route for your Second Friday Art Crawl should include the following:

Pierce & Piszczek Fine Pianos, 6-8:30 p.m.
405 E. Superior Street

Red Herring, Adam Swanson, painter, 7-9 p.m.
208 E. 1st Street

Pizza Luce, Laura Richardson (no reception)
11 East Superior Street

Zeitgeist, 222 E. Superior Street
Café: Group Exhibit - The Lake Superior Show - Featuring over 20 area artists. On display until end-October.

Spooky Art Gallery, group show opening at Studio 15, 7 p.m.
This latter includes a few pieces of my work. Details here.
15 N. 3rd Avenue West

If you're looking make a longer night of it, take your after-party to the Reef Bar on London Road to catch Revolution Jones, an energetic reconfiguration of Uprising with John Heino on keyboards.

Sunday, October 11
A Mary Plaster character.
Duluth Children's Museum, 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
115 S 29th Ave West, Duluth, Minnesota 55806
Duluth Children’s Museum
This event is free for members and anyone paying admission for the day.

In honor of their Grand Opening Weekend for their new fall exhibit "Puppets on Parade," they will be hosting 2 professional puppet shows presented by master puppeteers Gustavo and Julie Boada of Minneapolis. "Skeletons in the Closet" is a colorful and touching story celebrating love and the cycle of life. The show is a bilingual, Spanish and English, story of children who are remembering their grandparents who have passed away. As the children follow their curiosity, they discover the meaning of Dia de los Muertos, a.k.a the Day of the Dead, and that the connection they have with their grandparents continues beyond death.

If the event sounds like it has Mary Plaster's fingerprints on it, you are correctamento. The event is brought to you in part by Mary Plaster, artist-in-residence, along with the fall exhibit "CHANGES: Puppets on Parade".

This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, thanks to appropriations from the Minnesota State Legislature’s general and arts and cultural heritage funds

Monday, October 12
Stephanie Johnson and Angie Arden, WolfFlow - 3rd installment in the series) 7-9 p.m.
This exhibit runs Oct. 8-Nov. 7 in the Atrium.

Thursday, October 15
Another October highlight is the upcoming show at the Duluth Art Institute featuring portraits by Sarah Brokke in a show titled, PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST & (SELF)PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST

The exhibition will be on display from October 15, 2015 – January 21, 2016 in the George Morrison & John Steffl Galleries. Opening Reception: October 15, 5 - 7 PM
Full story here.

Friday, October 16
The following night after Sarah Brokke's opening reception at the DAI, the PRØVE Gallery is hosting a tandem event called Ripple Effect in which artists share work that reflects other influences. Word on the street is that they have collected a strong body of work from our local artists and it should be a very worthwhile event.

Friday, October 23
Goin' Postal Fall Art Show
This is the 9th group show at Goin' Postal over the past five years. Art, music and the feel of a Happening. I will have a number of new pieces in this show that I look forward to sharing.

Art Fairs 
Saturday, October 10, 9-3 p.m.
Get to the Point Art and Gift Fair
Lafayette Square, Park Point, 3026 Minnesota Ave, Duluth

Note: Today is the last day of the Crossing Borders Studio Tour.
What a beautiful weekend for touring the North Shore. If you plan to go, follow this link and print a map.

More Zentangle Happenings

Zentangle (R) and Wine, Wednesday, October 14, 6-8:30 p.m.
Master Framing Gallery, 1431 London Road, $35 (flyer attached) 2 seats left!
Author Note: Artwork featured in attached ZT&Wine Flyer: Krista Carson.

Zentangle (R) Pattern Drawing: Black Tiles
Mondays, Oct 26-Nov 9, 5:30-8:00 p.m. at Ordean East Middle School; This class is open to anyone who has ever taken a class with me before.

Cost: $30; Supply Fee: $12 Register here!

Special thanks to Esther Piszczek for her assistance in pulling this list together. For events I've missed, follow Twin Ports Arts Align on Facebook, and #duluthart on Twitter, as well as the Thursday A&E section of the Trib, the Transistor and the arts section of the Reader.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Local Arts: Mayor Ness and Duluth Designers Share Their Passions

Thursday evening the Duluth Art Institute kicked off a new series of events called Design Duluth with an outstanding, well-attended program hosted by Cirrus Design. Over the next several months six topics will be discussed featuring various aspects of design in Duluth. If the first event is any indication, Design Duluth promises to shed new light on a facet of life many people take for granted, from the shape of our homes to the packaging on the libations we consume.

More than 100 people indicated by RSVP that they intended to be there. It's likely that the presence of Mayor Don Ness as the opening speaker contributed to the strong turnout. Or maybe folks were drawn by the opportunity to be on the Cirrus premises and get a closer look at all those cool planes. In either case, the two hours was well worth the time investment.

DAI Director Annie Dugan
Annie Dugan opened the meeting by thanking the five presenters, and then launched into a brief summation of Dieter Rams' 10 Principles of Good Design:
Makes products Understandable
Thought through to the last detail
Environmentally Friendly
and involves as little design as possible.
(i.e. Less is More)

Annie then introduced the theme the presenters would chew on: How can we Measure up?: Defeating Duluth’s Inferiority Complex.

Mayor Ness, who had to trot off to a book signing at Fitgers, addressed the topic first. He began by stating that every community has its narrative. We are not only consumers of narrative but have the capacity to design our narratives as well. The mayor proceeded to outline Duluth's story, from being one of the most distressed cities of its size in the country (1980) to the revitalized community it is today, embracing its natural beauty and other assets. Though many people have envied Fargo's economic growth there's plenty going on here, and reasons why a company like Maurice's would invest in building a headquarters here. The energy behind Homegrown Music Fest, mountain bike trails, an entrepreneurial spirit, creativity expressed in the arts and craft breweries, and the vitality created simply by being in the presence of this Great Lake... all are evidences of a renewed positive momentum here.

The next speakers were David Shumate and Alex Alequin of Cirrus Design. Shumate began by providing an overview of the company. In addition to the headquarters here Cirrus has five facilities and 900 employees. They've produced over 6000 aircraft since the Klappmeier's inauspicious beginning as a kit plane builder in 1984. At this he introduced Mr. Alequin, whose personal narrative went like this.

Alequin studied industrial design and went to Detroit to design cars. He became especially passionate about interiors, and the transition to designing interiors was not that great of a leap. But when he got here it something became immediately apparent. Showing a slide of a small fleet of early Cirrus planes, it was noted that they were all identical and they were all white.

Henry Ford produced cars in the same manner when he first started. You could have any color you wanted, as long as it was black. The reason for this color was black paint dried faster, so he could assemble more cars more quickly.

Bringing the automobile aesthetic to Cirrus resulted in a whole new realm of possibilities with regard to extreme customer service. The designers would begin a dialogue with the plane buyer to find out where their passions lie. "What's your story?" The results were personal and incredible. It's my hope to share a few of these stories here at a future time. Essentially, every story leads to design possibilities for tomorrow.

Dave Shumate came to Duluth to work on the new jet Cirrus has designed. Shumate showed photos of the process of designing, from concept drawings to full scale 3-D clay model to CAD renderings. The process was insightful, and looked like fun.

A Alequin, Mayor Ness, D Shumate, D Salmela, A Dugan and M Laverdure  
Michael Laverdure spoke next. Laverdure is one of less than 100 Native America architects in this country. He is with the firm dsgw, an architectural firm specializing in health care, casino and commercial architecture. The team has a history of working with First Nations, and as a Native American he has developed an approach that involves earning trust through listening. Mr. Laverdure outlined the process they use when working with tribes and clients. This process involves hearing their story so that the building is a reflection of who they are.

The echoes in each story were quite apparent. Successes were achieved by listening to the customer's story and using the firms design skills to implement a vision that came from within the customer, not imposed on the customer.

David Salmela made the final presentation. Mr. Salmela is an award-winning, internationally renowned architect who 25 years ago chose Duluth as his home. Being Scandinavian he humorously described one of the traits that permeates the Scandinavian/Finnish ethic: Outperform everyone but don't tell anyone.

He went on to share that real success is neither about the architect nor the client, but both working together. It is a cooperative experience that often involves city planners as well as the craftspersons and others who do the actual work.

Like Michael Laverdure and the gentlemen from Cirrus, he shared many of the projects he's completed over the course of his career. A prolonged question and answer period followed, and it became apparent that the presentations deeply stimulated this audience.

* * * *
What is Duluth's identity? For a list of upcoming Design Duluth meetings, check out the latter part of Thursday's blog. The second installment will be November 19 at HTK Marketing with the theme being Iconoclast: Breaking the Lift Bridge Icon-Hold.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Ad Blocking -- Can Consumers Finally Get What They Want?

"Everyone is spending all their time talking about ad blocking right now. Everyone should be spending all of their time talking about why consumers feel the need to block ads."
~Tim Armstrong

There have been some very interesting court cases playing out in various places this year, and in April one of them came to a conclusion in Germany when a Hamburg court ruled that ad blocking software was legal. As in all court cases there are winners and losers. The first tier winners are the companies making software to block unwanted ads on consumers' mobile devices. Consumers themselves would appear to be instant winners as well, since these very same ads have been an enormously annoying intrusion on their user experiences.

Content publishers cried foul because the way they pay for what they do, and how they generate the revenue that keeps them in business, is through selling the very selfsame ads these smartphone owners are wanting to block.

According to Business Insider there are over 200 million users of ad blocking software globally. But the real reason this topic is creating so much buzz is that Apple is not only embracing ad blocking they are using it as a selling point. Why? Because certain kinds of ads are simply so annoying.

I myself have made my living as an ad man, but every ad guy is also a consumer and here's my take on advertising.

First, direct mail targeted to what interests me does not bother me. If I buy suits or ties at Mainstream and I get a post card telling me about a 50% off sale, well hey, I like that. I don't look at ads in the paper and seldom watch television, so it works. They are communicating a message to a former customer. They are not mass mailing these things to every citizen in the Northland.

Magazine advertising is another ad form that I enjoy as a consumer. When the Internet was just starting out, I found Wired magazine to be an utterly thrilling read in part because the first twenty pages of advertising were so cutting edge, and superbly targeted. The publisher did not allow schlocky advertising in their book. The publication as a whole was an art form, visually aesthetic with cutting edge design and fluidly informative.

In the automotive enthusiast niche, print publishers strive to connect relevant content and relevant advertising to the readership they serve. Many readers actually look for the advertising.

For whatever reason, this has not been most peoples' experience when it comes to online, and especially with mobile devices. Most advertisers have the good sense to make it easy to find the little X where you close those blasted pop-ups.  Unfortunately there are some bad apples out there. And that's why Apple's move is so appealing.

Hopefully a balance will be found in all these things. Someone has to pay to produce all that content people seem hungry for. But then again, since its inception one motto of this new cyberworld we seem to live in has been, "The Internet wants to be free."Vamos a ver.

The quote at the time of the page came from this special report at