Friday, September 22, 2017

An Idea for Creating Tricky But Memorable Dylan-Themed Passwords

Am I the only one who's concerned about how complicated life is starting to become? I could enumerate a whole batch of issues we must deal with today that were at one time fairly simple, but I won't/ I'm just going to address this one: Passwords.

First, there are the passwords at the office, which every three months my employer reminds us to change. And then there are all the warnings from various places -- online banks, the Social Security office, social media sites, online stores -- that insist that the new password you create be different from all your other ones. Just in case one site gets hacked and now all your other spaces are vulnerable. And how many of these are there? Dozens. And every couple years these sites tell you that for the sake of security you not only need a new password, it needs to be longer and strong than your old password.

Is it essential to have these muscular passwords? They say so, and I'm inclined to go with it. For the record, you're not the first and won't be the last to find passwords frustrating.

So, what I aim to share here are a handful of password tricks you can use, followed by my ultimate Passwords for Dylanophiles Tipsheet.

1. Padding
This is what I use at the office. What you do is use the same password forever, but change the set of add-on characters at the end. For example, your favorite car is a Jaguar. The first time you create the password you might have used the word Jaguar. But then they said it wasn't strong enough and you needed a numeral and a symbol, and an upper and lower case letter. By "padding" you add a two digit number and a hashtag or $ or @. Let's say you start with Jaguar22@. Then next time you change to Jaguar 23@. No more thinking. You are a Jaguar forever.

2. Padding Type B
You have the password Jaguar but pad it with <><><> little meaningless characters so that Jaguar22 becomes Jaguar22#<><><>

3. Spaces
I read somewhere that spaces make it harder for codebreakers to crack or hack your password. I don't know if that is true, but I do know that at least one site where I used a space my password was reject. That being said, it does make sense that a space would fool people. Jag uar 22#--><><>< might be tricky.

4. Password Managers
These are something you will have to investigate on your own. If you work for a company ask your IT department. Or you can ask Google or Siri or whomever and get the skinny on what is arguably the most secure password system. It seems complicated. That's why I invented the Passwords for Dylanophiles Tipsheet.

* * * *
A Passwords for Dylanophiles Tipsheet

A week or two ago I saw an article on Flipboard that suggested a unique way of coming up with what appears to be a random assembly of letters and numbers, but which is actually memorable. That is, the biggest problem with random character sets is that we can't remember them and have to write them down. But we're told NOT to write them down because they can be stolen. Your IRA, your 401K, your bank accounts, your credit union accounts, credit card information and more is suddenly fair game because the Tip Sheet is somewhere at hand because you need it every day.

Well, the article said that you can come up with a memorable but apparently random sequence of letters by taking the first line of a song, like "She'll Be Coming "Round the Mountain When She Comes" and converting it to SBCRtMWSC. Not a bad password, but made stronger if you add numerals and padding. For numerals, you could take your birth year and divide it by your favorite number, and use the first three digits and an asterisk.

That's the concept. And now you probably already see where this is going.


For the purposes of this illustration I will use The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan as my code maker and code breaker.

How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?

Well, if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair

Come you masters of war You that build all the guns

Well, I’m walkin’ down the highway With my suitcase in my hand

Well, the Lone Ranger and Tonto They are ridin’ down the line

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Owhybmbes     or, just for the heck of it you might keep the hyphen and add the e so it reads:
Owhybmb-es    which I sort of like.

Now here's the fun part. You don't have to write down any of your passwords anywhere. You only need to know in what order the password protected sites are listed, and which Dylan album is your answer key.

Example: -- WtLRaTTardtl

Checking Account -- Wiytitncf

Credit Union -- CymowYtbatg

Gmail -- WIwdthWmsimh

Facebook -- WtLRaTTardtl

Twitter -- Owhybmb-es

You no longer need to make a list of your passwords. Rather, you will know your favorite Dylan album by heart, or at least the first line, and will know what order the songs appear in. And you you don't remember them, there is no penalty because you can quickly open a tab and visit and find all the lyrics to every song right there.

As for numerals and special characters, you can always mix things up with the square root of your birthday, minus the decimal. Or whatever scheme you wish to apply to throw hackers off the scent.

What do you think? Too complicated? You can always just do what I do. Zimmy***. With a space or two here and there. And a numeral. No one has broken yet.

* * * *
Bob Dylan's Fall Tour Schedule has been released. If you're already a fan, you probably already know, he'll be doing a Coast-to-Coast series of shows from California to Boston. Full schedule here, along with links to tickets.

A nine volume set (8 CDs and one DVD) from his "Gospel Period" (1979-81) has been announced. It's called "Trouble No More." There's a 2-CD Bonus that is available only if you Pre-Order. All the other details are here, though again, you probably already knew that.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Doesn't make your head spin?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dr. Punnybone and Other Artsy Moves

If you're a regular reader you'll know that I've published a few posts sharing some of the paintings of Frank Holmes, one of my art instructors who in 1973 one the Prix de Rome. This summer we re-connected and it's been a pleasure getting a retrospective introduction to his career. Like many artists, he works in a variety of mediums. In addition, like many artists, writers, musicians, he produces serious work over which he labors obsessively and all that other stuff. I'm thinking here of British author Graham Greene (The Quiet American, The End of the Affair) who called a portion of his output nothing more than "entertainments." (This Gun For Hire.)

Well, one of Frank Holmes' line of "entertainments" has been producing a series of witty cartoons titled Dr. Punnybone. I thought it might be fun to share a few of these while passing along a several arts-related announcements as we head into the weekend.

Tomorrow is a major Double Opening Reception at the Tweed Museum of Art featuring two great exhibitions. A Thousand Words opened earlier this year but its official "Opening" will be tomorrow. It's a powerful collection of large format photography and, as the saying goes, "every picture tells a story." The newer exhibition is titled America's Industrial Landscape, a show featuring the work of the national Plein Air Painters. The event runs from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Learn more here.

This Sunday is a Wedding Showcase at the Oldenburg House from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. featuring wedding vendors, hospitality and more in a visually stunning setting on the edge of Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton.

All engaged couples, wedding vendors and those interested in seeing how Oldenburg House can be transformed into a wedding venue are invited. You'll have the opportunity to tour the grounds, chat with amazing vendors and to sample some delicious food. This event is completely free to attend, but you're being asked to RSVP through their event registration page.

Next week is another big week of music at Beaners, but tonight it's Third Thursday Spoken Word night at the coffeehouse. Poetry and other story telling, with this month's host being Gary Boelhower. Starts at 7:00 p.m.

* * * *

"James and Mary" -- 27"x 36.5"
And if you happen to be from out of town and live in the vicinity of Narrowsburg,  there will be an opening reception for a new exhibition titled, “Paintings, Now & Before: Figures, Flowers, Landscapes” featuring paintings by artist Jill Mackie. The show will run from October 6 – 28, 2017 with the opening reception from 7 – 9 p.m. on Friday, October 6. Alliance Gallery is located in the Delaware Arts Center, 37 Main St, Narrowsburg, NY.

* * * *

MUCH MORE can be said, but I have run out of time. I believe it's Michael Jackson Day at the Red Herring tomorrow, but there's always something happening there, even when it is not a special occasion. In fact, there are all kinds of music venues that will be hopping, and arts events to round out September. Can't seem to keep up? Just keep tryin'.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Stephanie Wilcox @ Beaners Central (Local Art Seen)

Stephanie Wilcox is an artist who paints and draws in Duluth, MN.

* * * * 

Beaners Central is a great venue to experience local art, local music, poetry and culture. 
Located directly across the parking lot from the newly opened Zenith Bookstore, it is a great place to start your day (java and a warm greeting from Jason) as well as a nourishing mid-day stop for lunch.
Evenings it is music and more, always something fresh and real. 
Follow on Facebook Here. It's almost as good as family. 

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How Real Life Settings Set the Stage for Readers of Fiction

Fundraisers come in all shapes and sizes, from Rotary Roses to all-night Zeitgeist parties. One of my favorite events is the Duluth Library Foundation's Libations at the Library. In addition to drinks, hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction, jewelry raffle, dessert and coffee, there were again options to attend eight different presentations, all of the interesting, from The Accidental Musher to discussions of interior design, genomes, and how to make whiskey. The event takes place inside the library, so if you love libraries you're right at home.

The presentation I was most interested in was titled Stride's Duluth. Author Brian Freeman took his audience on a tour of various settings around Duluth where murders have taken place -- not real murders but the fictional ones in his numerous books that have Duluth as their setting. For Brian Freeman is a writer of thrillers whose novels have won him many awards, found him readers in 47 countries and given him the opportunity to do what he loves, which is to be a creative story teller and get paid for it. The recognition and fame hasn't dimmed his enthusiasm either.

He set up his talk by sharing how important settings are. Good settings can increase the drama as the author drops the reader directly, and thoroughly, into the scene.

Every crime series seems to have its carefully crafted hero, whether he be Sherlock Holmes, MacDonald's Travis McGee or Mike Savage's Dave Davecki. For Brian Freeman, it's Jonathan Stride.

Death in the Afternoon, Evening and Night.
Freeman does Duluth.
Freeman's talk was about settings, but it touched on many features of crafting thrillers. Naming characters has to be fun. From the beginning of time people have been naming things, and the quest to discover new things to name is ever ongoing.

Freeman shared that most of his stories take place in Duluth, but he's working on a new series that has taken him to San Francisco. And since this talk was titled "Stride's Duluth" it seemed natural to focus on the places and spaces where deaths have occurred in his books. Throughout the talk he showed slides of these various landmarks.

Landmarks like the lift bridge set the stage, and he includes it in the first scene of Jonathan Stride's first book, just so we know where we are. "Stride and Duluth go hand-in-hand," he explained.

In his book The Cold Nowhere his character Kat Mates has been at a sleazy party in the William Irvin ore boat, which he's given the original name of Charles Frederick. (Outsiders: Chuck is editor of our Duluth News Tribune.) Mates barely escapes with her life after being chased through the bowels of the ship then finding her way to the top-deck from which she leaps into the water below.

The author said it's fun to explore these places and get details that one can only acquire through actually being there. The details are what make the setting so vivid in the reader's mind.

He described the access he gained to hidden parts of the Miller Hill Mall and other places where he's offed people in his numerous books. Someone asked, "When are you going to kill someone in my neighborhood?"

In addition to physical landmarks there are also experiential landmarks. That would include Grandma's Marathon, which he renames the Duluth Marathon in his book Marathon. The fun part is nosing out real places that fit the drama. Real houses. A green bench at the end of park point. (He shared that that bench is in a couple of his books, and yes, it is a real place.) He also spends a lot of time in cemeteries.

One section of his talk dealt with his approach to mapping a scene. He then outlined an incident that occurs in one of his books at a farmhouse on Lester River, and read a passage that left hearers almost breathless.

He's learned how to keep you turning pages.
He's evidently killed quite a few people in Duluth. Locations include Enger Tower, a beach on the Minnesota side of Park Point, inside one of the courtrooms of the St. County Courthouse, Fitgers Hotel, up at the antennae farm, out at Hartley Park, inside the DECC, atop the Blatnik Bridge and on some frozen lakes.

Wherever he turns he's got an eye out for creepy places where he can create another scene. The five creepiest, so far, which he's found include storage sheds, the Novitiate Building in Shawano, the William Irvin, the Graffiti Graveyard and the abandoned Clover Valley School.

I don't think this will be the end of the story. There are plenty of other places and spaces where Jonathan Stride will find crimework awaiting him.

The author is Brian Freeman. And maybe one day Hollywood will show up to do a Jonathan Stride thriller here, and the house where Stride resides will become a tourist attraction. The Visit Duluth website will have a map of Duluth points of interest like where Dylan was born and the house where Bob Dylan lived till he was six and Armory where young Robert Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly and the 94 settings where Brian Freeman had people killed in his Stride novels. Plus the green park bench out on the point where Stride reflected on all his adventures.

* * * *
For what it's worth, as a writer I, too, have loved researching settings. My young adult novel The Red Scorpion begins in Cuernavaca, one of my favorite places in Mexico, and then takes them to Tepotzlan, an even more fave place. The haunted house, a former bed and breakfast in Minnesota, is a hybrid patterned after a couple places out East with some interesting features. My short story Episode on South Street incorporated notes and observations from an evening on South Street in Philadelphia, which also had a Duluth connection when I found Sam Cook's first book in a used book store there. (A pair of film makers asked for permission to make a short film of the story, which is actually not too far off from the somewhat macabre storylines Brian Freeman has perpetrated on us. You can read the original story here and compare the two versions if you wish.

My favorite story setting that I went out of my way to investigated was for my story The Unfinished Stories of Richard Allen Garston. My narrator in this story strives to track down a character who was the last person alive to read the stories of a man purported to have been the greatest writer that ever lived, but his deal with the devil was that none of his stories would ever be published. The setting for this encounter was a Trappist monastery in Kentucky called Gethsemane. In researching the monastery I also saw the humble place where the remains of Thomas Merton have been laid. There is no better way to drop your reader into a setting than to actually experience the setting yourself, first hand.

This was the point Brian Freeman sought to impart to his hearers last Saturday night, many whom I suspect will be readers soon. As a writer myself I identified with every word.

Now, one suggestion for Mr. Freeman. Have you been inside the Armory? You mentioned "creepy places" where murders could be committed. I'm guessing that you can get some really great historical material there as well as some real drama. Opportunities for chase scenes. Hide and seek? Chills, spills and thrills? Just sayin'.


Monday, September 18, 2017

10 Things You May Not Know About the Oldenburg House in Carlton

At the end of July I attempted to convey some of the wonder I experienced during an evening at the Oldenburg House in Carlton. Since that time I've been doing a little research about the place and the people who have lived here. It's a pretty fascinating history. I serve this up today as the backstory for future events I hope to write about that will be taking place here. 

1. A Historic Home
In December 2006 the Henry C. Oldenburg House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1894 it was the home of Henry and Mary Oldenburg.

2. Built by an Early Conservationist 
Henry Oldenburg got his law degree in Madison. He first began writing about protecting our forests as early as 1876.

3. He Helped Create Jay Cooke State Park
Henry Oldenburg became a lawyer for the Weyerhaeuser lumber interests and a respected conservationist. When in 1915 the St. Louis Power Company, now MN Power, wanted to set aside 2,350 acres for the state to become a state park, the State insisted that $18,000 in back taxes be paid. It was here in the Oldenburg House that Henry Oldenburg gathered a group of businessmen to pay those back taxes on the property. Adjusted for inflation, that $18K would be $435,000 today. To honor him, the most fabulous vista in the park has been named after him, Oldenburg Point, and a boulder monument placed there to acknowledge his historic contribution. His other achievements include the installation of Carlton as the County Seat, and heading up rescue and recovery efforts after the 1918 fire.

4. His Wife Played a Significant Role in the Community
Mary Oldenburg was a person of significance in her own right. According to a 2007 Pine Journal story, she "hosted many social occasions at the home that were often related to her many civic and social engagements. Documents say she was a well-educated woman who was involved in the establishment of local and traveling libraries, and that she and their daughter, Margaret, may have helped inspire the work to create Jay Cooke State Park, among other projects." According to one second-hand source it is believed she was a suffragette, on the cutting edge of women's rights. 

5. Perfect Location for a Home 
The house, built in the Classical Revival style, sits on property that is adjacent to Jay Cooke State Park, the Willard Munger State Trail and walking distance from the National Kayak & Canoe Center, and the Thompson Reservoir.

6. Up to the Present Only Three Families Have Lived Here
Henry and Mary Oldenburg owned the home from 1894 to 1931. Alfred and Rosina Lee purchased the home in 1931. Lee was County Sheriff and owned a lumber yard in Carlton. Les and Helen Swanson bought the property in 1968. Leslie, a steel guitar player, began renovating the property to revive its original mystique, thus contributing to its becoming a national treasure in 2006. After Les' passing the B&B idea was birthed, with Glenn and Emily Swanson becoming the new owners, keeping it all in the family. This trio of Swansons -- Glenn, Emily and "Mama" (Helen) -- are the spices and seasoning that make visiting here so extra special.

7. Today, a Bed & Breakfast
Oldenburg House opened as a bed and breakfast in January 2013 after being certified in September 2012. Though there are at least six other B&Bs in Duluth, the Oldenburg House is the only one that sits on the edge of Eden. Several of the others are situated in East Duluth, impressive upscale homes from Duluth's early mining history. 

8. Perfect Setting for a Wedding
You cannot imagine a better place to hold your Wedding of a Lifetime. Next Sunday, September 24th from 2:00 - 5:00 pm Oldenburg House and the Swansons are hosting a Wedding Showcase featuring wedding professionals and vendors associated with making memorable wedding experiences. If you're an engaged couple who hasn't yet finalized the where and when, or related to friends and/or family who you think may one day be tying the knot, you might want to RSVP here and experience the magic first-hand.

9. Cookin' at the O in the New Carlton Room
The Carlton Room is billing itself as "a performance space with a nightclub atmosphere in a historic house and timeless setting." It's major league jazz/blues artistry and cuisine magic. Once a month "Cookin' at the O" will inspire you with certified satisfaction. There's chemistry here that has to be experienced to be believed. Yes, everything I am saying sounds a bit like hyperbole, but that's only because words are insufficient to describe what they aspire to. Next event is the weekend of September 29. There are still tickets available, here.

10. Find Your Nature
One of my favorite features of the Oldenburg story is the Motto or Slogan that Glenn and Emily have selected for the place: Find Your Nature. Like many things in life, it's what you make it. Life itself is a process of discovery. The more we learn about the world around us, the more we discover who we are. 

* * * *
Bonus Tracks
If you do happen to make is out here, Mama is a huge Minnesota Twins fan. Just letting you know.

Also, a couple years ago I came down and spent the day on one of the porches reworking one of my book manuscripts. This house is a perfect getaway for writers and artists. Again, just sayin'.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. If you need an escape, Oldenburg House is here waiting at Eden's edge.

Photos courtesy Kelly Rae Studio.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Every Grain of Sand: Dylan Finds a Basis for Hope in the Darkness of Despair

For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Psalm 40:12  Attributed to David

Paul Bond: And what is his (Dylan's) best song, lyrically?
Scott Marshall: "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" or "Every Grain of Sand" — it's too tough to pick merely one.
--The Hollywood Reporter

A Rolling Stone readers poll listed it as #3 on the 10 best Dylan songs of the 80's. It's always been a personal favorite, and since I've not yet tackled it as a theme today is as good a day as any, because we live in a world that often cuts us and bruises us and blinds us and seems determined to thwart our dreams.

* * * *
The song begins with a broken narrator, in the hour of his deepest need, his dark night of the soul as it were. There's a dying voice within -- being strangled? suffocated? -- reaching out, it knows not how, reaching out to connect to something, someone. He mentions danger, and it is indeed a dangerous game, and then he creates this interesting phrase: "the morals of despair."

What are the morals of despair? Despair is not only the loss of all hope, but also the loss of all meaning. It's that empty-soul vacuum where right and wrong feels meaningless.

He doesn't have the inclination to look back on his life's mistakes. The landscape is already too familiar. And then another great line: "Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break." This is another feature of despair. It is a paralysis of will. Instead of living, instead of choosing, we are folded up, passive. We watch life instead of choose life. Passivity goes hand in hand with hopelessness. It is a resignation to fate.

But the two quatrain verse ends with the miracle: "In the fury of the moment" he sees the Master's hand. Where? In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

* * * *
The second verse elaborates on the root of this despair, "the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear." Dylan here references Jesus' parable of the sower. Just as Socrates taught by asking questions, Jesus taught by sharing stories. Nietzsche once stated that Jesus and Socrates were the two greatest lights in human history. It is interesting that neither of them were writers, but that their followers recorded their words and deeds.

The parable tells about a sower who sows "good seed" but that it takes root or fails to take roots based on the condition of the soil where it lands, meaning the soil of the heart. Jesus explains the different kinds of soil -- stony, or on the footpath, etc.-- with the third example being the thorny soil. Dylan's line "the weeds of yesteryear, like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer." The seed is good, and even the soil is good, but there has been no weeding, and the seed is choked off.

Once again there is a reference to the passivity that has led to this condition, "the pain of idleness." In the Old Testament book of Proverbs the wise King Solomon writes, in chapter one, "the complacency of  fools destroys them."

The second half of this second stanza is striking because it parallels the reality of humankind. There are two voices calling. Again, see the first eight chapters of Proverbs. Wisdom calls out to us, but so does Folly. Each voice knows us by name.

But the wise man/woman who keeps walking on his/her journey toward the light comes to understand that "every hair is numbered like every grain of sand."

* * * *
This song is the last cut on what is considered to be Dylan's third album in his Gospel period, Shot of Love, released in August 1981. What's striking about the songs Dylan wrote at this time is how astutely he observed and creatively interpreted the spiritual activity he witnessed within and around him. The freshness of his imagery is what stands out all through his writing, with deliberate avoidance of the multifarious cliche-laden language that most people use because it is easy and we all tend to be lazy. Cliches like "the sky's the limit" may work in an office water-cooler conversation, but not for serious writers. Hence some of the people most floored by Dylan are writers who have been impressed by the inventive ways Dylan uses language in lines like "but for the sky there are no fences facing" in Mr. Tambourine Man, and "the ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face" in Visions of Johanna.

And yet, rules about the use of a hackneyed phrase or cliche, even those can be broken, and Dylan does so directly to open the third pair of stanzas: "I have gone from rags to riches..."

It's followed by a string of prepositional phrases of parallel construction:
"In the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream,
in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face..."

So here we see that money alone does not buy happiness. Simultaneous to his rags to riches experience he's seen sorrow, violence, chills, bitter loneliness and seen the "broken mirror of innocence."

The broken mirror, in pop culture, is a symbol of bad luck, or to be more specific seven years of bad luck, seven itself being a symbol of perfection or, more precisely, the perfect mount of time. And where do we see this broken mirror? We see it on the scarred hearts of youth. Over and over again we see and hear stories that show how humanity's sins result in suffering children, children whose innocence has been shaken, torn, scarred. The abusive alcoholic father, or the parents who abandon their young, the children carrying "guns and sharp swords" in war-torn Nigeria, the children of Sarajevo, and on and on, the children cited in "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall."

In the last stanza, Dylan hears again the ancient footsteps, like the motion of the sea, swelling and receding, and in this ambiguous encounter he realizes that he is "hanging in the balance of the reality of man." This is our human situation. We're "hanging in the balance." In what way? "Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand."

Dylan again references a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 10:29-31. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

Every Grain Of Sand

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand
Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music

* * * *

The album began with its title plea "I need a shot of love" while detailing all the reasons we can end up in this place. "I seen the kingdoms of this world and it's making me feel afraid." It ends with this song of consolation.

In need of further consolation? Try this passage from the Sermon on the Mount.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Flashback Friday: Start A Huge Foolish Project


In one of my files of notes and quotes I found this poem by Rumi and it spoke to me this morning. Its title is "These Spiritual Window Shoppers."

These spiritual window-shoppers,
who idly ask, 'How much is that?'
Oh, I'm just looking.
They handle a hundred items and put them down,
shadows with no capital.

What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping.
But these walk into a shop,
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment,
in that shop.

Where did you go? "Nowhere."
What did you have to eat? "Nothing much."

Even if you don't know what you want,
buy something, to be part of the exchanging flow.

Start a huge, foolish project,
like Noah.

It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.


I like the instruction here, "Start a huge, foolish project..." Why not? Why puddle around in the glum fog of nothingness when you have so much stirring inside of you that you don't know where to begin? Isn't it true that we concern ourselves too much with what others will think?

The poem makes me think of our Red Interactive project and the attempt by John Heino and myself to use an abstract concept, like the color red, to spark the imaginations of a whole world... engaging hearts and minds and cultures by spreading the red.

I think, too, of my effort to publish four books in two months. What a crazy notion when six months ago I had never published a one, though I did sell a book as part of a series that never was completed. Alas, this weekend my second book was published on as a Kindle edition. If all goes well, by mid-October -- and maybe next week! -- there will be a third, with the fourth to be available by November 11, two months after the launch of the first.

How about you? Where lies the dream that you are passionate about, but have been afraid to share for fear of what another will say. Treasure it. Nurture it. Feed it. And maybe one day your ark will save a world.

* * * *
15 September 2017
Booklovers: SATURDAY is the Zenith Bookstore Grand Opening in Spirit Valley on Central Avenue, West Duluth. Zenith carries my first volume of short stories, Unremembered Histories.
We dropped the price and there's no shipping expenses like when you buy from Amazon. The store is located across the parking lot from Beaners in the old Wild West. Any excuse is a good excuse to visit a bookstore. Grand Openings only make it that much sweeter.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Dream.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Interview with 1973 Prix de Rome Recipient Frank Holmes -- Part II

Artists Jill Mackie and Frank Holmes
I suspect that most art students draw inspiration from all their teachers. I certainly did. There was something in Frank Holmes' manner that especially resonated with me back then, and it is with special pleasure that I share more of his work and story with you today.

If you missed the first part, you'll want to begin here.

* * * *

EN: You were coming of age as a painter during the time of Warhol, Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein. What attracted you to realistic interiors?

FH: Yes, that was my time—or some of it—and I did care about them, and many other contemporary painters of different stripes. As regards realistic interiors, the boss in those days was John Koch. He was a fabulous painter. I was a giant fan of his. Ben Kamihira was another favorite and an influence. My friend Ron Schwerin, who had won the Prix de Rome, was, too. They were all excellent interiorists. And from a little earlier, Vuillard and Bonnard—not realists, but wonderful; I cared deeply for them. Also, Ingres—not an interiorist, but my hero for a long time.

EN: What is 3-point perspective? How does it differ from painting a cityscape?

FH: There is probably a technical definition of 3-point perspective, but I'm not sure what it is. To me it's perspective that includes convergence of verticals and horizontals—not just horizontals, as with 2-point perspective in which all verticals remain parallel with the side of the painting. In my 3-point paintings, the viewer is always above the depicted event and all vertical lines converge downward and meet at a point below the painting. I don't paint cityscapes so it's hard for me to say how what I do is different. It seems if you're painting a cityscape you may or may not want any convergence. If you do want it and you're standing on the ground, the lines that describe the buildings will converge above—if you're flying overhead, they'll converge below.

In 1969 I did a painting of a couple sitting on a sofa in a sort of living room-like space. It was a busy image, lots going on. I slanted all the verticals just slightly toward what would have been a third vanishing point. About the same time I came across a little book titled Modernized Pictorial Perspective by T. Heaton Cooper. In it was a section he called SKEW-VIEWS. My studio at the time was a former bedroom and had just enough space to plot the right and left vanishing points but not the low point which was several feet below the painting. I solved the problem by rotating the canvas on my wall easel and locating the low point. Whenever I needed to use it I turned the painting 90 degrees, drew the lines or whatever and then turned it back. It wasn't a perfect setup, obviously, but it worked. All three points were marked with nails in the wall. To each thread was tied. You can get the idea.

"Dusk Call" 68"x 57" Oil on Canvas, 1973-75
Later on, in early 1973 when I began "Dusk Call" I devised a way to draw lines accurately to the third point without rotating the canvas. I made sort of a T-square that I could slide back and forth above the painting, always aiming at the third vanishing point. It, and the surface it would slide on, would both be part of a circle whose center was the third vanishing point. I did a scale drawing that showed exactly how far away and where that point would be. It was about 21 feet below the top of the painting. A lightweight chain served as a compass which, when extended the correct distance, enabled me to draw curved line on a ten-inch wide board a little longer than the width of the painting. I then sawed the board in two along the line. I attached half to the painting's top and made what would be the T-square from the other half. When I'd attached a long straight edge to it and made sure it would stay securely on track above its mate, it would slide back and forth and always aim exactly at the lower—15-feet away—third vanishing point. Yes!

EN: What are you working on now while awaiting your next commission?

FH: I'm just packing up the sarcophagus painting I mentioned earlier and getting ready to ship it to the client. Also, my wife, painter Jill Mackie, is having a show in October, so I am her Guy-Friday at the moment. I think now and then about those 3-point perspective years and wonder if there's something there I need to re-kindle.

* * * *

"Andy's Picture"  40"x 50", Oil on canvas, 2004

"Studio Sunset"  62"x 60" Oil on Canvas, 1993
"August" 66"x 58", Oil on canvas, 1979
* * * * 
Frank Holmes continues to be active as a painter 
and is available for new assignments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Local Art Seen: Moira, Steveboyyi & Wendy Red Star

Moira Villiard's new direction.
Surrealistic impressions by Moira Villiard

Wendy Red Star and Sharon Louden were at the Duluth Art Institute Friday for the opening reception of Reservation Pop in the Morrison Gallery, followed by a lecture on The Artist as Cultural Producer. The ideas in the work were expanded in book form by Sharon Louden. The first images here are from that event. The following are several additional images from last night's show/fund raiser featuring work by Moira Villiard and Steveboyyi Makubuya of Uganda.

The DAI event included a Saturday workshop hosted by Louden.

Painting by Moira Villiard at The Red Mug.
For those unaware Steveboyyi, who was with us from Uganda this past winter, had sustained an eye injury when he was younger, which was recently re-damaged shortly after his return to Africa, resulting in an optic nerve atrophy. The young artist is now blind in one eye, which was a devastating blow. The fund raiser aims to help Steveboyyi get back on his feet as well as, if possible, to be able to get corrective surgery one day.

The paintings and cards based on his art are available for sale at Red Mug. If you would like to simply contribute cash for Steveboyyi, who not only has a passion for art but also for helping orphans in Uganda -- as he was raised in an orphanage --  contact Moira (rhymes with Theory) through Facebook or here in Duluth at the American Indian Community Housing Organization where she works.

Moira Villiard talks with artist/author Ellen Sandbeck.
Meantime, are goes on all around you. Think about it. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Local Art Scene: Moira and Steveboyyi Art Opening/Fundraiser @ The Red Mug

Tonight at 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. there's an art opening / fundraiser featuring paintings and drawings by Moira Villiard and Steveboyyi Makubuya at the Red Mug Coffeehouse on the corner of Hammond and Broadway in Superior.

Here is the announcement that was sent this weekend:


DULUTH, MN - On Tuesday, September 12 artist Moira Villiard will be hosting an art opening, birthday celebration and fundraiser at the Red Mug Coffeehouse in Superior, WI from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Her colorful portraits and surrealism will be displayed alongside artist Steven Boyyi's most recent body of incredible paintings that depict animals and daily living in his home country of Uganda. Prints and original smaller artworks will be available for purchase at the opening and refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the public, with 100% of sales of Steveboyyi’s work going towards his medical and living expenses following his denial of reentry into the USA.

Steveboyyi is currently back home in Uganda where he's facing a series of hardships related to his health. He was diagnosed with permanent blindness in one eye as a result of a traumatic injury, and suffers from multiple life-threatening conditions that surfaced in the months after returning from the USA. Despite these ongoing obstacles, his dream continues to be bringing art to children who grew up just like him through Dream of Duluth: A Global Street Outreach Initiative.

About the Artists:

Moira Villiard

Moira Villiard is a young, independent traditional artist, activist, muralist, writer, designer and filmmaker who, by some feat of pluralism, hopes better our community through these niches. She’s known for her live painting demonstrations at cafes, fledgling businesses, event openings, and in classrooms; a major part of her philosophy is making art accessible and interactive. Stylistically, her artwork ebbs and pulls between the realms of portraiture, illustration and surrealism.

She currently works as the Cultural Program Coordinator for AICHO Galleries in Duluth, MN, curating art shows, connecting with native artists, aiding in the development of community outreach strategies, and organizing culture, arts and language-based workshops for both housing residents and artists alike. An established visual artist herself, Villiard's career as a professional painter began with the help that AICHO provided at her first art exhibition 3 years years ago. Since then, she has been featured in over 100 gallery exhibitions, art workshops and demonstrations, and has worked as an event coordinator for a variety of different community institutions. She currently serves as a freelance editor and graphic designer, as well as the Vice Chair for the Executive Board of the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council and is a coordinator of the Twin Ports-based variety show, A Goody Night.

In 2014, Moira came down with a chronic pain condition that prevented her from painting with her dominant hand for the next year or so. Towards the end of 2015, she underwent surgery and continued in her recovery until she was able to finally (and carefully) paint again that summer. She is currently working on a series of surreal paintings exploring topics related to commodity fetishism, "infrastructure", data clouds, blackbox technology and other arbitrary systems and concepts that form the invisible backbone of society.

Steveboyyi Makubuya

Stevenboyyi is a young artist from the streets of Kampala, Uganda who dreamed one day he might come to the United States and share his talents with the world. Towards the end of 2016, through both hardship and miracles, he found his way to the U.S. with the help of a local church and on a foundation of his artistic talent.

Steveboyyi doesn't know when he was born (though he picked a birthday of October 12 for himself in his later years). Brought to a children's home at the age of around nine months, he grew up without the knowledge of his name, his parents, birthday, or even the presence of a family. When the orphanage closed its doors, Steven was 17 -- he continued his life back on the streets, relying on his creativity and courage to survive daily obstacles. He cites the rain as his enemy and the birds as his friend during this time.

Steveboyyi had been making art since the age of 13, when the orphanage was visited by a local man who taught the children the core techniques of ironing ginger cloth with wax and painting it with watercolors. He paid attention to the man’s work and tried it for himself, developing the style he uses to this day. At the age of 20, just a few years after the orphanage closed, Steveboyyi began gathering bits of trash from the streets and incorporating it as color in his artwork. Having lived on the peripheral edge of society and in spending so much time on his own, his art became a sort living, breathing, meta-cognitive portrait of everyday life in Kampala.

“I base the pictures on my life and the lives of most of the African children who grow up on street and have talents which can be helped to become better people in the world," says Steveboyyi. Little did he know, his artwork would become a catalyst for bringing people together and enabling healing to take place in their lives.

* * * * 

Learn more about Moira in this Perfect Duluth Day story.
Read my 2015 interview with Moira Villiard here and here
Learn more about the artist Steveboyyi of Uganda.
More about Steveboyyi can be gleaned from this DNT story

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Veteran Painter Frank Holmes Discusses His Prix de Rome and Life as an Artist

"Out Front" Oil on canvas. 68"x61" 1979 (click to enlarge)
"I think the idea that art is everywhere isn't true. Art is made. Beauty is everywhere." 
 --Frank Holmes    

I met Frank Holmes when I was an art student at Ohio University. He'd gotten his Bachelor's at Pratt Institute and just finished seven years of teaching when he came to Athens to work on his Masters degree. I remember the stir it created because somehow the word got around that he was an incredible painter and I made it an aim to get into one of his classes. At some point we saw his work, either in a show there in Siegfried Hall, or perhaps a visit to his home, and I was pretty much floored. His paintings of interiors were so intricate and detailed, and showed a complete mastery of the medium. They were also totally at odds stylistically with the abstract expressionism that was so in vogue.

During his time there while getting his degree he won the Prix de Rome, an elite prize in which only a few hand-picked artists receive the opportunity to spend an all-expenses-paid stint making art in Italy, studio space included, at The American Academy in Rome.

"Out Front" (detail, upper left corner)
The American Academy in Rome is a 120 year-old operation modeled after the French Academy. It was at one time independently funded with a three-year free ride. Now it's more all-inclusive for fewer years. Holmes had a friend at Pratt who won the grant in 1962 when it was still for three years. When Holmes won, it was down to two—still a fabulous grant, two years with no obligation other than to do your work.

Upon returning from Europe Holmes went to New York where he had lived before his years at Ohio U. I had a couple artist friends who were Ohio U. grads and one of them told me he had seen Frank while in New York. I asked for a report on how he was doing and I was told he was painting a piano, that he had a loft and had spent a whole year doing studies on this grand object. That was the last I heard.

Out of the blue this memory was recently triggered and I began wondering whatever became of this incredibly talented painter who had won a Prix de Rome and sought to make his mark in the Big Apple. A few minutes on Google directed me to a gallery that represented him and I made inquiry. I got lucky. Here are some notes from our first dialogue.

EN: Can you briefly summarize your career since I last saw you, when you won the Prix de Rome?

"Books with Tang Horse" 22"x 30" Oil on Canvas (1999)
Frank Holmes: That's a big order, Ed, almost 45 years have passed! What I can say is that life has been, more or less, very good. I've been blessed to be able to do what I wanted, which was, and is, to paint. Winning the Rome Prize was a high point, for sure, and I cherish my many memories of it, including the day I got word I'd won--March 19, 1973. I was ecstatic. I had long had the Prix de Rome on my mind and finally felt my work had a chance. It all seems like a dream when I think of it now. I was teaching as a one-year guest member of the faculty at O.U. and had applied to the Academy with very high hopes. When I won, I was especially happy to be heading to Rome with my Masters, rather than job-hunting with it.

My career has changed a lot in the last 25 years. I work on a commission basis pretty much only now. I had different galleries through the years and have sold most everything I showed. I didn't, however, save any money. My last gallery, a high-end Japanese gallery in New York, was forced to close in the early nineties when the Japanese economy collapsed. I had a contract with them. They paid me a stipend, which kept me alive and was great, but they owned outright everything I painted. When my last show with them closed, I had no paintings and, basically, no money. Lucky for me there were still people who wanted my work. They found me, I'm happy to say, and even though I had to tell them I didn't have anything available, I explained that I would do something specially for them if they wanted--enter commissions. It was an approach that worked. The interested party and I would discuss what of my work they'd been attracted to and I would propose to do a sort of "relative" of whatever it was for them--something similar but different. I'd make a sketch for their approval, we'd discuss size and cost and other particulars, sign an agreement, and I was off and running.

There were variations to this theme, of course, but it worked. This is how I've functioned for years--and I'm grateful. The problem is, as before, when the painting is gone, the money is gone. This means I can't cover the time it would take to produce enough work for another show. If there are commissions, all is well. If not, i don't know. That's where I am now. I'm just finishing a commission of a highly decorated Egyptian sarcophagus. The client is very happy with it, which I'm glad of, but I've always had a commission waiting in the wings. For the first time I don't.

EN: What were some of the emotions you felt as a painter in Italy?

FH: Italy was overwhelming, for sure. There's fabulous art and architecture and history everywhere you look. I'd been there once a couple years before, and been introduced to the highlights--Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples, etc., so I had some idea. The American Academy was a world unto itself. Being there with the many other prize winners--composers, architects, classicists, art historians, etc. made it a completely unique experience—some of them remain my dearest friends. The Academy building is a wonderful place—it was a big, beautiful dormitory. We were all taken care of and, for the most part, all of us flourished. Some wanted to integrate with Italian culture and some just wanted to do their work--I was one of those. I integrated well enough to fall in love with Italy, that's for sure--it was a pleasure from beginning to end.

When I arrived at the Academy, my studio was being painted and refurbished so I had to wait a couple weeks before I could get to work. This down time allowed me to take an in-depth look at Rome, which I did--on foot mainly. It was a great introduction to the many, many marvels that are everywhere. I soaked them in. If I'd been able to get right into my studio I would have missed this wonderful experience. The extra time also allowed me to focus on what my goals were and what I hoped to accomplish during my time at the Academy.

"Dusk Call" The enhanced immediacy of 3-point perspective. 
I brought a painting I'd begun in Ohio with me to Rome--rolled up in a tube. It was a large realist interior--it's the painting that ended up being titled "Dusk Call." By the time I got settled into my new studio I was ready to concentrate on it and work hard, which I did for the next couple of months. By Christmas, I slowed down and enjoyed the holidays. I was glad to relax a bit and in January took an inspirational trip to Paris—the Louvre and anything else I could cram in. When I got back I was increasingly aware of the freedom I had. knew I didn't have any obligations, but it was more than that and slowly it became an enormous cathartic force. It caused—or maybe allowed—me to do all sorts of things I never would have otherwise.

Amazingly, I felt compelled to change how I was painting and to stop work on the big interior I'd brought with me. I sought out parts of my creative self that I had put aside to do the work that had won me the Prix de Rome. It was bizarre. I wanted to see these parts of myself again. They weren't things buried deep inside, they were right near the surface. I became a different artist. Not a different person, but definitely a different artist.

I did abstract paintings--big and small, abstract paintings, abstract figurative collages, sculpture, wood cuts--all sorts of things that were way off my Prix de Rome path. Still, they all seemed totally right and natural to me--I didn't feel I was cheating or going astray. Even the director of the Academy loved my new work, which was very heartening. This "off road" wandering that I indulged in for the better part of my two years is really what made my Rome experience especially meaningful.

EN: So what came next? How were you changed?

"The Bath" Oil and acrylic on canvas. 46.5"x72.5" 1970-72 (click to enlarge)
FH: When it came time to plan for my return to the U.S. I started thinking about what I'd done and what a major departure it was. It had been right, certainly, but it definitely off the track I'd intended to follow when I arrived. I had come to Rome with the idea I would work hard for two years, produce good paintings (I hoped) related to what had got me there, and go home to New York and get a good gallery to represent me. I decided this was still possible. I felt if I finished the painting I'd stored away, which was related to the work that had won me the prize, I'd have a chance. I geared up for a push. It was like coming back through the looking glass. I put the big painting back on my easel and soon was into it again. It was an odd reversal of what had happened a year before.

"Rudy" Acrylic on canvas. 67"x 58" 1979 (click to enlarge)
My pre-Rome work, the paintings that could be said to have won me the grant, had taken several years to produce. Almost all of them showed single figures, sometimes two, in carefully delineated interiors. The figures were pretty much inactive, but somehow mysterious and compelling. One was a man soaking in a bath, his head back and his eyes closed; another was of a man draped on his back across a bed, pouring over the edge, arms outstretched above his head. It isn't angst exactly, but those figures, without my even intending it, are—at least seem to me to be—thinking about life and wondering what the hell to do about it. I didn't realize it at the time, but now I think that's really what was going on. They simply represent my questions about life's meaning. These two paintings, however, were about 3-point perspective as much as they were about any question.

When I had my first show in New York in 1979 at Monique Knowlton Gallery, a few 3-point perspective paintings (including those two) were in it. They were pretty dramatic and made the walls vibrate. Most everything sold and the show got very good reviews, many of which cited the unusual perspective. The New York Times' John Russell called it "space that seems to bend like a penknife." The non-3-point paintings were lauded, too, but the real hook, and unique aspect of the show definitely was 3-point perspective.

As soon as that show was over I started thinking, and worrying, about the next. Even though two years between exhibitions was the norm, I decided to wait only one. I wanted to capitalize on my success as soon as possible, and knew I couldn't repeat the 3-point "extravaganza" if I took two years, or even three. Fitting the pieces together all these years later is a little difficult and I can't quite get to the reason waiting only one year seemed best, but it did. I suppose wanting to keep the ball rolling was a big part of it. I knew I'd have to quit my teaching job to do it, and paint every waking minute. Without that income I'd have to borrow to make it through. My gallery lent me money against sales to come.

"Prone" 51"x 84" Oil on canvas, 1977  
I was confident I could make good paintings that weren't in 3-point perspective, and I wasn't all that driven to do another 3-point painting—not right then at least. What I was driven to do was to follow up on a painting that had been in the first show that was hardly any perspective at all. It was one of the more recently completed pieces and was distinctly different from everything else. It was titled "Prone," and showed a female nude lying on her stomach on a black velvet sofa. The view was low and straight into the sofa's front—I call it a "perpendicular view."

I'd had the idea of doing more paintings along these lines and this seemed the perfect time to do it. I felt I could do enough of them in ten months for a show which, amazingly, I did. There was less acclaim, though some. John Russell again wrote a nice review in which he referred to me as a "practiced enigmatist," which I've always been proud of.