Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trilliums to Tweets

Here is the write-up of the outdoors seminar I participated in last weekend at the Chippewa Moraine Visitor Center last weekend. It went really well, considering I was the first presenter. A large group of young adult workers for Americorps earned an education hour (required for the program) under my tutelage, and were pretty cheerful participants too.

I will post my journal from that weekend tomorrow or Saturday!

Ice Age Trail Fair at Visitor Center May 22

Hikes, talks and demonstrations on ways to enjoy the Ice Age Trail will make up an all-day fair at the Chippewa Moraine Visitor Center near New Auburn on Saturday. Rebecca Hildebrandt, Ice Age Trail Alliance Development Director says the program named “Trilliums to Tweets” will show how the trail can be a canvas on which to paint many outdoor activities. Hot dogs grilled on a fire will be available free of charge for fair-goers around noon.

Family-friendly activities geared to youth are slated including a “rolling hike” led by Visitor Center staff member Rod Gont. Roy Gromme, son of Owen Gromme, often referred to as the “Dean of American Wildlife Artists”, will display some of his father’s most famous works and tell the story behind the paintings. Harvey Halversen, WDNR Wildlife Biologist and a member of the Blue Bird Society, will describe the interesting antics of owls and cavity nesting birds.

Greg Locascio, will give tips on journaling that he learned while thru- hiking the Applachian and Pacific Crest Trails. Nancy Frank, a certified Nordic Walking instructor, will tell about the unique benefits of Nordic Walking and show participants how to get started on this enjoyable form of exercise. Laura Sandstrom and Harold Lindemann, both from the Superior Lobe Chapter of the Ice Age Trail will respectively lead a bird walk and a flower stroll.

Event Schedule:

7:30 am “Early Bird” Bird Walk – Laura Sandstrom

9:00 am Journaling – Long Trail Memories –Greg Locascio

10:00 am Bluebirds and Other Cavity Birds – Harvey Halvorson

11:00 am Nordic Walking on the Ice Age Trail – Nancy Frank

12:00 pm Kids Rolling Hike and Youth Program – Rod Gont

1:00 pm Owen Gromme’s Birds of Wisconsin – Roy Gromme

2:00 pm Wild Flower and Interesting Plants – Harold Lindemann

3:00 pm A Picture Story of the Ice Age Trail

The Chippewa Moraine Visitor Center is 7 miles east of New Auburn and 1.9 miles east of State Highway 40 on County Highway “M”. For more information, contact Rebecca Hildebrandt, IATA Director of Development at 608-963-3896 or by e-mail at

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Song, "All the Same"

This is an old, old, old riff given new life and lyrics within the confines of my Fargo home studio. "All The Same" is all about the bass line, which has been a warm-up riff on the lower strings of the guitar since maybe the mid-90's. I came up with some cheesy ant-corporate lyrics, something about Mickey D and Wally M, but decided, in the interests of not being sued, to take a more literary bent with the lyrics.

A booby prize to whomever can name the poet and poems I have adapted for the lyrics of this song.

Also, my friend Todd Stanley lends a vocal assist on the chorus with what I call underwater antiphonal vocal. Gum Mwum mabaho, Todd.

"All The Same"

Paramours of courtesans
are well and satisfied, content

Afternoons forevermore
miracle fruits your heart adores


And it's all the same
wherever you turn
Feel the pain
and let it all burn

Owing to the peerless stars
All the suns I knew before

Honeysuckle, tiger lily, garlic mustard
growing by the side of the road


Wisconsin Death Trip

I recently saw the Bob Dylan biopic, I'm Not There, and watched the director's commentary by Todd Haynes. He says he based the Town of Riddle, as experienced by the Billy the Kidd character played by Richard Gere, and all its odd characters and dress, from the book, Wisconsin Death Trip, by Michael Lesy. What especially stood out in the "Goin' To Acapulco" song in the movie was the midget wearing a top hat and the dead girl propped up in a coffin. Both of these images are direct from Lesy's book.

Gere's role was intended to exemplify the late 60's basement tapes Dylan era, when the artist celebrated "weird, old America." Lesy's book, published in 1973, is as weird as it gets.

From a New York Times article by Greil Marcus, reviewing a DVD based on the book: "It is a progressively horrifying portrait of one small town, Black River Falls, Wis., crumbling --socially, morally, psychologically, physically --under the impact of the great depression of the 1890’s. The words “great depression” do not take capitals here, as with the Great Depression of the 1930’s; unlike that calamity, the depression of a century ago did not enter American folklore.

This collapse of the American economy was denied even as it happened: the 1893 Columbian Exposition, in Chicago, which introduced the Ferris wheel to the United States, was the denial as theme park. The depression hit farm states the hardest. There, where the weather had been understood as the greatest threat to an orderly life, all other foundations of predictability--the assumption that in domestic and working life one day would be much like the one before it--were destroyed."

Lesy used, and often altered for artistic purposes, the photographs of Black River Falls resident Charles Van Schaick. The photos include stoic farmers and their wives, along with those of funeral wreaths and dead babies and children in coffins. Lesy quotes from a handful of primary sources, including the Badger State Banner, records of the Mendota state insane asylum, local gossip and literary quotations, including Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology. Although the focus is on the weird and macabre, Lesy's gleaning gives an interesting insight into our nation's transfer from a frontier to an industrial mindset (the book chronicles excerpts by year, from 1885-1900). Wisconsin Death Trip gives glimpses of out of work mobs of men taking over a business in Beloit, lumberjacks without any trees to fell, land speculators selling sandy pine barrens as agricultural land, and oh-so-many people who, when faced with economic hardship, could not depend on their neighbors for help or support. In light of the hardship, disease, and isolation faced by rural and semi-rural people back then, it's a wonder more people didn't flip their lids.

For more about Wisconsin Death Trip, check out the following links:

This audio slide show includes an interview with Lesy and images from the book, in addition to other images of Victorian post-mortem photography.

Greil's complete article, one of the best I've found about the book, even though it was written about the 1999 documentary based on the book, which I can't wait to see.

This Flickr site contains most of Van Schaick's images that are in the book. There's also a link to the Wisconsin Historical Society that has even more Schaick images.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

"I Don't Mind" New song, old song

This is an oft-played song in my repertoire because it's so darn-tootin' easy to play. I like the new bass part and vibes the most. Next up will be something a little grungier and punky. We'll see what the muse inspires.

"I Don't Mind"

There's a star
outside my window
it's been there
a long, long while
but it'll burn
a supernova

And I don't mind
No, I don't mind

Water seeps
in secret canyons
sinking deep
beneath the soil
on a path
of least resistance

And I don't mind
No, I don't mind
I don't mind
No, I don't mind

If there's a god
up in the heavens
saving souls
to serve her will
She must wear
a dayglo jumpsuit

and I don't mind
No, I don't mind
It's out of mind
And I don't mind