Monday, July 6, 2015

Hank Haney's The Big Miss Has Lessons for Golfers, Teachers and Life -- and Deep Insights About Tiger Woords

While I was growing up my dad and Mr. Brown next door were big fans of the PGA, their heroes being Arnold Palmer (dad) and Jack Nicklaus. I myself liked the South African Gary Player, probably because he always wore black. Grandpa had been a fan of Sam Snead and upon retirement went and played golf about four times a week, loving the challenges of the game and the green expanse beneath open skies.

Today's fans of the game may know Hank Haney, but you don't need more than a marginal relationship to golf to know who Tiger Woods is. Woods has been to golf what Michael Jordan was to basketball, Babe Ruth to baseball and Picasso to art: a transcendant, bigger-than-life public figure.

To get a sense of Tiger Woods' abilities you can begin by reading through this list of his achievements. For an even more incredible glimpse Google >Tiger Woods Ten Greatest Shots<.

The author Hank Haney, who was Tiger Woods' golf coach for six years, is considered by some to ge the world's best golf teacher. It was no accident Tiger invited him to be his coach. They had been crossing paths for years anyways, but there was a mutual respect here and the young superstar believed the veteran teacher could improve his already stellar swing.

The book then becomes the story of their relationship against the backdrop of the PGA. The stories reveal a complex superstar who has the weight of his fame to contend with as well as the challenges of trying to determine who he is and who he wants to me.

He has always been the greatest golfer at every level he ever played at. But what happens when all this fame starts to bore you? What if you have other interests? Tiger did have other interests. He loved war games and ultimately took steps toward being a Navy SEAL. And then there were his extramarital scandals.

In one story Haney shares how the National Enquirer acquired a compromising photo of the star, but rather than expose him "persuaded" him to do a cover story for one of its sister publications. Tiger was an exceedingly private person and would never have said yes to such a thing had he been requested to do so under normal circumstances. Haney was more than a little surprised when Tiger showed up on the cover of this publication.

The stories reveal as much about Haney as they do about Tiger. He shares his journey from player to pro to coach, how teaching eventually became his life.

One can't help the book was written in part to explain his side of the story why Tiger hasn't lived up to the greatness expected of him. If you return to the link above at the beginning of this blog post you'll see that Tiger hasn't won a major tournament since 2008. This is a significant lapse because up till then everyone who follows the game fully expected him to surpass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 wins in major tournaments. The longer Tiger continues without such a notch the less likely he will ever achieve this feat.

The book may not be for everyone as it goes into acute detail regarding the mechanics of golf and the game. I myself listened to the audio version and have also been a hack golfer for fifty years (a couple rounds a year for most years and a little more than that as a teen) so I connected with the story and the painstaking details about the game.

Whether books like this should be written is another question. How public should we be about others' private lives? In some ways, however, I got the impression that Haney wrote the book as a man still trying to guide his pupil so that the champion could achieve the impossible mountaintop that lay ahead, and perhaps also as a love letter to someone he cared about immensely.

It's all part of the game.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Miscellaneous Quotes and Notes found during a weak attempt to clean my desktop

My desk has been a mess lately. My list of things to do or to distract me keeps me from this tedious task of organizing my space in a more suitable way. Piles of scribbled notes and business cards like good intentions lay strewn all about, piling ever higher. 

This weekend I made some time to sift these various scraps and finding a few quotes and notes of interest felt inclined to share them here. 

In the middle of life it happens that death comes
to take a man's measurements.
The visit is forgotten and life goes on.
But the suit is sewn on the quiet.
~ Tomas Transtromer

When I was born I had no head
My eye was single and my body was filled with light
And the light that I was, was the light that I saw by
And the light that I saw by, was the light that I was
~ Mike Heron, Douglas Traherne Harding

The sounds of life... so summer, so day,
So endless, so varied, so vivid.

The significance of the new cannot be determined by the now of its emergence. Just because it’s novel doesn’t mean it’s important.

Those who give their best deserve the best. It's nice to see good things happen to one who is so deserving.

Change is a commitment.

"'Tis better to have loved and lost
than never to have loved at all."
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

"The Love Song of T.S. Elliot Turns 100"

So runs my dream, but what am I?
An infant crying in the night
An infant crying for the light
And with no language but a cry.
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson
(Tennyson spent 17 years working on this poem, In Memoriam A.H.H.)

McCartney, Lennon and me.

Find camera.

If I get air...

“His desk was a gesture of gregariousness”
Hawk Ridge

"My life has been a series of near misses..."

Fulcanelli, Mystery of the Cathedrals

Maurice Cotterell

The customer knows what he wants, but doesn’t always know what’s possible.

John 10:10

* * * *

At the end of it all there are still too many scraps, with email addresses and phone numbers and To Do lists. What does your desktop look like? 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Local Art Seen: Adam Swanson at Pizza Luce

His work is not yet ubiquitous but it's getting there. This past month Adam Swanson's paintings were displayed at The Aquarium and a documentary about the immense mural he created for Spirit Mountain was shown during the DuSu Film Festival. This month you can see Swanson's work at Pizza Luce till the end of July.

Thursday Pizza Luce hosted an opening reception for the artist and his new show there. Swanson, wearing a grey Mary Bue t-shirt, was the quiet center of attention for the many friends and fans who sifted in and out throughout the evening.

Recurring themes in Swanson's paintings include wind turbines, penguins and plenty of color. There's usually a sense of playfulness in the imagery, which has become especially pronounced since his boys were born.

Here are some photos of a few of the paintings that will hang there through the end of July. Be sure to check it out. The food is always good, too.

If you can't make it for lunch or a libation, just do a walk-through. There are literally dozens of paintings and many that will keep you engaged if you so choose. What you see here is simply the flavor of the month.

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

Duquesne Whistle: Dylan's Upbeat Opener from Tempest Is Sheer Fun

What Dylan track has been running through your head recently? For some reason the tune "Duquesne Whistle" has been the recurring, ongoing accompaniment for me these past two weeks as my runaway train barrels down the track through the scenes of my life. It's upbeat and chipper, giving a bouyant boost that lifts my spirits when the string of railcars my little engine is towing begins to feel burdensome. In short, the song is fun and lightens my load.

You can tell Dylan enjoys it, too, as he's performed it 163 times in concert, beginning in June 2013, and it's still being played as of last night at the Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy. (Mario, were you there at the concert?)

"Duquense Whistle" is the opening cut on Tempest, Dylan's 35th studio album which was released on September 10, 2012. The song achieves it's intended aim, letting you know Dylan's still on top of his game while drawing you in to another stellar album. The album reached #3 on the Billboard Top 200, a pretty good feat for a guy in his seventies.

The lyrics themselves aren't really that memorable per se. This is not Hard Rain or Blowin' in the Wind. Whistle strikes me as pure whimsy, much like the opening scenes in the video produced to feature this tune. In contrast, the video veers unpredictably into a startling place with a scene that echoes Reservoir Dogs' most frightening moments. Actually, Tempest itself veers into vividly dark images of horror, blood and death in a number of songs, the title song being an immense description of the sinking of the Titanic and all that entailed there.

"Duquesne Whistle" was co-written with Robert Hunter, who collaborated with Dylan on a couple cuts from Down in the Groove, and extensively on Together Through Life.

Here's the video, followed by lyrics and then a link to the initial Rolling Stone review from when Tempest came out. Enjoy.

Duquesne Whistle
Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it's gonna sweep my world away
I'm gonna stop at Carmangale and keep on going
That Duquesne train gon' rock me night and day

You say I'm a gambler, you say I'm a pimp
But I ain't neither one

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Sound like it's on a final run

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she never blowed before
Little light blinking, red light glowing
Blowing like she's at my chamber door

You smiling through the fence at me
Just like you've always smiled before

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she ain't gon' blow no more

Can't you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing like the sky's gonna blow apart
You're the only thing alive that keeps me going
You're like a time bomb in my heart

I can hear a sweet voice steadily calling
Must be the mother of our Lord

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like my woman's on board

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it's gon' blow my blues away
You're a rascal, I know exactly where you're going
I'll lead you there myself at the break of day

I wake up every morning with that woman in my bed
Everybody telling me she's gone to my head

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like it's gon' kill me dead

Can't you hear that Duquesne whistle blowing?
Blowing through another no good town

The lights on my native land are glowing
I wonder if they'll know me next time 'round
I wonder if that old oak tree's still standing
That old oak tree, the one we used to climb

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she's blowing right on time

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Balzac: A Passionate Life -- An Insight Into One Quality of Greatness

The current audio book I have been "reading" during my daily commute is The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney. In the annals of golf history Tiger Woods is one of the great ones, if not the greatest. While reading this book, which I am about a third of the way through, Haney repeatedly underscores one of the key attributes of Tiger's greatness: his ability to focus. But he also stated that there was another quality that contributed to his success: his ability to keep a mental edge.

What he's saying is that lesser athletes get caught up in celebrating their victories and accomplishments so much that they eventually lose their edge, that need to win, to perform at the top of their game. Haney cited one golfer who won two majors one year, the first and second of his career, and he was done. He never won a major tournament again. He proved he could do it and that was enough.

But Tiger is something different.

And the reason this leaped out at me was that it's the same thing I've heard sportswriters and sportscaster say about Tom Brady. They marveled at his ability to perform year in and year out as if he had never won a championship before. He always played like those players who are hungry, with a longing to win the big one.

And so, as I watch this movie about Balzac, I see once again what separates the great ones from the herd. He had a vision for something major, and made sacrifices to nurture it, feed it, fan its flames... was even willing to be misunderstood for it, as revealed in this exchange...

Laure d'Abrantès: Whom do you love, besides yourself?
Balzac: I don't love myself. It's the work I carry within me that I love.

As I watch, I find it interesting how much my fictional interview with Balzac last summer seems so perfectly reflected in this portrayal by Gérard Depardieu.

Balzac: A Passionate Life is first and foremost a story about a writer. If you're a writer you will likely find a measure of inspiration in this telling of his story. It's been my experience, at least, that writers are drawn to other stories by writers about writers (eg. Martin Eden by Jack London, Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham), especially when it's a story well told.

The film was originally a min-series made for French television. Now it is a very long (200 minutes) film, best enjoyed episodically. Depardieu's portrayal of Balzac shows him as passionate, idealistic and eccentric, pursuing many women simultaneously and in constant battle with creditors. For sure the real Balzac's lifestyle was eccentric. He wrote all night and slept from six a.m. till just after noon each day. And, as the film shows, coffee was a staple of his life, no doubt for the caffein rush that provided his energy.

The version of the film that I've been watching is dubbed over in English, and it is probably the worst over-dubbing that I have ever seen, comparable to Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily? Nevertheless, I have been enjoying the story because of its reminders about what it takes to achieve truly great things: a passionate flame in the breast that will not die, a commitment to work hard, a willingness to take risks and be misunderstood.

His was not a particularly happy life, but his own sorrows were not the theme of his work. In one scene a woman asks why he doesn't write about his own pain. He replies, "That doesn't make for good literature. A writer deserving of his name paints the suffering of others, not those which he sees in his own mirror."

While working on my lecture "Picasso, Storytelling and The Unknown Masterpiece" I was impressed by the motivations and qualities that drove such men as Picasso and Balzac. I later wrote a blog post on this theme titled Five Qualities Shared by Balzac, Picasso and Dylan.

To all my friends who are writers: write on!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tony Dierckens Talks About His New Book Featuring Rare Photos of Historic Glensheen

Duluth's Glensheen Mansion is a highlight for many tourists to this region. The estate is historic on several levels, and for many reasons it's become an emblem of Duluth's history and legacy.

On June 1 Duluth’s Zenith City Press released a new book unveiling rare photos from the early years of its construction and development, titled Historic Glensheen 1905–1930. The book is essentially a photo gallery of the estate, filled with images captured from the time construction began in 1905 until 1930, when the grounds had become lush and full. Many of the photographs (there are 115 in all) were captured in 1909, the year the Congdons first moved in; they show the house newly decorated and the estate landscaped just as Chester Congdon had envisioned, a mix of formal gardens and rustic trail systems. Later photos, taken after Chester’s death, show how Clara Congdon allowed the grounds to grow wild because, it was said, she enjoyed the privacy provided by the natural cover.

The book takes readers on a trip through time and a tour of the house beginning with photographs of the mansion and other buildings under construction between 1905 and 1908. Once inside you will find images of more than half of the mansion’s 39 rooms, including showplace spaces such as the library, living room, and breakfast room as well as the bedroom of every family member. The book then goes outside with images of the boathouse and pier, gardener’s cottage, and carriage house, as well as four greenhouses that have been lost to time. It also tours the estate’s grounds, following Tischer Creek upstream through the estate and into Congdon Park, built on land donated by the Congdons.

I first met Tony Dierckens at the beginning of 2013 and interviewed him here at that time. He's has spent a career in publishing, initially capturing national attention with his Duct Tape book. He has since made a name for himself as a Northland historian, helping to documet and preserve our history and all that it teaches us.

EN: What prompted you to assemble a book featuring photos of the Glensheen?

Tony Dierckens: I have been working with Glensheen for well over a year on another project, a full-color “coffee table” tour of the house and grounds and history of the family accompanied by some historic photos. Last December we decided to hold that project while we have many of the photos reshot. But that left a hole in our publishing schedule, so I asked Glensheen’s director Dan Hartman if they had any more historic images. He and Creative Director Scottie Gordonio went looking, and discovered several caches of photos, most never before seen by the public, from the time construction started until 1930. We knew we had a unique opportunity to show Glensheen in its glory as a family home.

EN: What is the significance of this early Congdon story?

TD: This book is not the history of the Congdon family, but is essentially an extended photo essay showing the home and grounds from the time construction began in 1905 until 1930, 15 years after Chester’s death.

EN: Who will be interested in reading/owning this book?

TD: Those with an interest in Glensheen, the Congdon family, historic architecture, interior design, the Arts & Crafts and Beaux Arts movements, landscape design, Duluth history, etc.

EN: It would seem there are many similar stories (I think here of Fairlawn Mansion) in which we get a glimpse of how the other half lived. Do you see a relationship between the Congdon family history and today’s Occupy Wall Street protests?

TD: Not in the least. It was a complete different time, with completely different issues driving economics. Also, Fairlawn and Glensheen, like the Pattison and Congdon families, actually share very few similarities.

* * * *

The book’s text, written by Duluth author Tony Dierckins, is sparse. “These photos really tell the story of what the Congdons first envisioned for their home and how it changed during its first 20 years,” Dierckins said. “My job was to get out of the way and let the photos do the talking.”

Glensheen will host a book release with author presentation and signing at the estate on June 9, 2015, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Title: Historic Glensheen 1905–1930
Subtitle: Photographs of the Congdon Estate’s First 25 years
Retail Price: $16.95 Publication Date: June 1, 2015

The book is available locally at the Bookstore@Fitgers as well as Barnes & Noble, and online at Amazon

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shootout at the O.K. Corral

The other day while looking up information about Arizona I came across a link to the shootout at the O.K. Corral. With the weekend's headline announcing the shooting of Richard Matt and yesterday's capture of David Sweat, the two fugitives who escaped from a Federal prison on June 6, I thought it would be an interesting topic today.

The Wikipedia account of the shootout begins like this:
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a 30-second gunfight between outlaw Cowboys and lawmen that is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Wild West. The gunfight took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. It was the result of a long-simmering feud between Cowboys Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury, and opposing lawmen: town Marshal Virgil Earp, Assistant Town Marshal Morgan Earp, and temporary deputy marshals Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

In this case the lawmen won. Three of the cowboys were killed and two ran away. And yet it wasn't till 50 years later the incident reached the broader public, due to a largely fictional story about the life of Wyatt Earp. In the mid-1950s the legend grew even larger through a television show that aired for six years with a catchy lead-in ditty, "Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold." (Here's the song in full, as manly as the man. Not hard to imagine a Monty Python spoof on this one.)

While European writers were wrestling with issues of existence and meaning, 1950's Americans were taken up with B&W television heroes in a world where good and evil was highly defined in black and white.

What gave us such an insatiable thirst for Hollywood Westerns? When I Googled the question as to why Westerns were so popular in the 50's I came across this discussion thread with many insights. First, Westerns weren't just a staple of the Fifties. Hollywood had been making such features since the early silent movie days. Second, as more than one person noted, "They were simple morality plays that could translate to any audience and had slightly believable violence.... Also they were inexpensive to make."

When the film version of the O.K. Corral incident came out it featured Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. How real the story gets told is anyone's guess, but Hollywood's aim at that point was financial.

There's at least one similarity between the O.K. Corral and the New York prison fugitives. Once bullets were fired the encounters with authorities were over pretty quick.

There's a difference between the two stories as well. Fifty years after the shootout in Tombstone a book was written about it and 80 years later a movie and television series. I can't help but imagine this most recent drama will be long forgotten in fifty years, if not fifty weeks by most of us. But then again, who knows? Maybe someone will write a book and sell the rights to Hollywood...

For the Wikipedia account: click this link.