Fatted Calf Stringband cover

Fatted Calf Stringband cover

I finally went to TD’s today, on a get-up-and-stretch break from doing homework at Soma. I walked out with 5 CDs for about $30, a couple used, and a couple brand new. Happy day.

The one I couldn’t wait to pop in and listen to was Fatted Calf Stringband. I just heard of the band about a week ago, that they sometimes played squaredances. I am not a squaredancer, but I do like strings! So when I saw the CD, I took a look. The first thing I do when picking out music is look at the album art and track names, but this simple, embossed cardboard cover didn’t say anything but “Fatted Calf Stringband.” It was also the most expensive of all the CDs I had in my hand at that moment (but still only $10!). What made me buy it? Well… 1) it’s local music 2) it’s strings and 3) the minimalistic, uninformative cover had red stars on it. I’m a sailor. I like red stars. If it had had one red star on the left and one green star on the right (red for port, green for starboard), I would’ve paid more than $10 for it, but then I would have expected sea chanteys. So the two red stars are perfect. (Your homework: Look for green 5-point stars. They are extremely hard to find. Scrapbooking supplies, rubber stamps, iron-on patches… stars come in red, white, blue, gold, silver, and sometimes white. No green. What does the world have against starboard?)

Anyway, I bought the thing, carefully unwrapped it, and pulled out the single-sheet insert. I didn’t recognize any of the track names. The straight-to-the-point liner notes say: “Recorded in one day with one mic by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording, Bloomington, Indiana. The Fatted Calf Stringband is: Brad Baute fiddle/guitar Joel Lensch fiddle/guitar Alex Mann bass Chris Mattingly banjo.” Just “one day.” Not which day, which year, etc. Just “one day… in Bloomington, Indiana.” I like it.

So how does it sound? It sounds like a fantastic sampler of a band you really want to see live. This isn’t surprising, given the genre. This is music that is meant to be seen, heard, and experienced. It’s best with a little give and take, a little audience interaction. For now it’s a substitute for “the real thing,” great for a work day you just can’t escape or a drive in the car.
To discover more of Fatted Calf, including streaming audio, check out their Myspace page


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Where Have All the Papers Gone…

When I was a kid, there were these things called newspapers. They were actually made of paper.

My dad and I used to ride our bikes to the corner store every Sunday and pick up a copy of the Daily Press, and maybe a dozen donuts. When we got home, I would grab the Comics, the Opinion pages, and sometimes the Arts & Events pages, while Pop would read the A section, the Weather, and the Classifieds. The paper was so big, and I was so small, that I would lay on the floor and hold up the paper with both hands and both feet. I both loved and hated the way the newsprint felt on my fingertips.

Years later, when I wrote for the Jackrabbit Journal, our high school’s lofty monthly, I came to love the smell of the paper, and the slippery, black state of my hands after delivering the finished product around campus. The writing was mediocre and the editing was a little sloppy (one of my articles, which happened to be on the subject of teen suicide, accidentally got published in multiple issues and led to my having to endure multiple counseling sessions), but the Paper was the Paper. It was alive, and I loved it. Being able to see and feel and smell the publication I helped create was far more rewarding than simply seeing my little byline. It was ultimately more fulfilling than seeing my writing on a Google search page.

Two days ago the New York Times announced the impending closure of the 137-year-old Boston Globe, only one of many papers to recently succumb to the weak economy. Two months ago the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, one of my old favorites, became online-only, and it looks as though many great papers and journals, even a few glossies, are following suit. So, the writers are still around, the publication’s personality still evident, but will the Sunday Paper Experience ever be the same? Will our children grow up wondering why in the world news websites are called “papers?” We will always have the news, but who can help but miss the paper… the real, live, pulp-based, lignin-filled paper?

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Lake Michigan is Cold!

I got my first close-up of Lake Michigan yesterday afternoon, from the vantage point of the Indiana Dunes State Park.
Even with all this Springy warmth and sunshine, that water was cold . As a matter of fact, there were large chunks of ice buried in the sand.icybeach
Seeing an acorn next to a couple of crab claws was another first for me. Acorn and Claw
LakeviewStrange AngleA Bunch of Mussels Strung Together, and Driftwoodimage040image042Lonely Bench

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The "Outsider Art" of Peter Gullerud

I once took a touristy picture for a man in Seattle, and as he shook my hand, he introduced himself the Japanese Ambassador to the United States. It was a staggering moment. I have also seen Tom Cruise in the flesh, and once I received a note from Johnny Depp. These are all “storybook” people to me, and these were all story book interactions, with no real sense of connection.

Recently my favorite character stepped outside the story book, and when I heard his voice and his sweet, nervous giggle, I realized that he is just another inquisitive soul, wandering through life with eyes wide open, looking for ways to express what he sees and loves. His name is Peter Gullerud.

I spent a day in the fall of 2002 painting with my friend Julie, and she looked at my painting and said “It reminds me a little of Gullerud.” I said, “who?” I didn’t remember that name from ANY of my art classes, books, museums… And yet she seemed shocked and horrified at my ignorance. Later that day I Googled “Gullerud” and discovered everything I wanted my art to be: varied, intense, yet at ease; imaginative, soulful, vibrant, at times simple & understated, detailed, expressive… something that just flowed, without hesitation or doubt.

I started a small collection of whatever of his art I could afford. Small pieces: pen & ink drawings, Prismacolor, even some pencil drawings. I’ve gathered mostly things of a gestural and not finely finished nature. For the past seven years I have adored Peter Gullerud’s “Insider-Outsider” art, and have at times, I must admit, passed on that shocked, disdainful, “What do you mean you’ve never heard of him?” look that Julie gave me that day.

Discover Pete’s Art

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Does Bloomington Really Bloom?

Today is the first day of Spring in Bloomington, Indiana. Yes, I’m aware that there are officially two more weeks of winter, but when it’s 60 degrees at 10 am and people all over town are wearing flip-flops and capris, I’m going to call it Spring.

If that’s not enough to dispel your doubts, here’s the real clincher: today I saw the first Spring flowers in bloom: crocuses. I felt like the guy in the Norman Rockwell painting, pointing and shouting. Suddenly I realized that I’ve never seen a Bloomington Spring. My first taste of the town was in late August last year, and there were still some flowers around. We were even able to find hydrangeas for our late-September wedding. But I’ve heard rumors that this place really lives up to its name and does indeed become a “blooming town” when the season is right. I think this may be just what I need to recover from the bitter cold of my first midwest winter. It’s something to look forward to.

Crocuses peeking through the snow

Crocuses peeking through the snow

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"Each Guided by a Private Chart" Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority

Hawaiian Chieftain Under Sail, Photo by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport

Hawaiian Chieftain Under Sail, Photo by Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority

“We are magnets in an iron globe. We have keys to all doors. We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

What drove your interest in the Seaport? Why did you think it was something worth being a part of, something worth supporting? If you’re a sailor, what moved you to sail? What inspired you to sign in to Ship’s Articles? What nudged you into giving up two weeks or more of your “real life” to live as so many did before compulsory education and airlines and global e-trade?

For many of us, it was the crew. We came at first to see the boats but we returned to see the family. Before long we were part of that family. No matter how shy, no matter how boisterous, how weak or how strong, we each found our place.

But what is family, anyway? Isn’t it a place to learn and grow? A place to put down roots so that you can stretch up to the sky? No one stays on the boats forever (although for some of us it may seem like it), but where do we go? And what do we take with us? You’d be surprised…

Join the family

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Book Review: Scattershot: My Bipolar Family by David Lovelace

It’s difficult, to say the least, to describe the experience of a manic episode. How do you communicate insanity to another human being? How can they even begin to feel what you have felt, to see what you have seen, and not think that you must have been pretending? It’s like trying to describe the taste of a banana. No, it’s like that multuplied times 10,000.

Somehow, through some brilliance or determination (most likely a combination of the two), David Lovelace has done it. He has finally opened up the experience to anyone bold enough to expose themselves to his truth, to read his account and to really pay attention. In Lovelace’s case, it is not his story only; it is the story of his family members, only one of which escaped the disease called bipolar disorder.

Lovelace’s storytelling sucks the reader in, gets you rooting for him. At one point he has ventured away to Antigua, and he describes the point of deciding to just keep running: “I stood in the white stucco entrance with my pack slung down sideways and I fell for it all, for the never going back, just the endless south, its jungles and deserts and ruins. I saw the women around me all lovely and tattered, the ones who rode high on the roofs of ancient Bluebird school buses lumbering down through the hills. I fell for the happenstance jigsaw of traveling broke, the beautiful puzzle before lostness got found by e-mail and cell phone, before the global got positioned by satellite. I loved it more than the ocean.”

The most striking aspect of this book is that, beneath all the desperation, all the tidying and untidying, all the destroying and the obsessing and the lying and the medicating, there is hope. There is an aspect of normalcy in the chaos. Lovelace in effect says: “This is my family. This is what happens sometimes. And after things get worse, they get better.”

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