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GinStrings from Minneapolis at the Gunflint Tavern

These guys killed it last night at Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais. 10.14.16 – Check these guys out the next time you have a chance. #minnesotaproud

The truth about Shakespeare in Duluth

2016 has been full of 400th anniversary observations of Shakespeare’s 1616 death. Having first read Shakespeare in Duluth, I was thrilled to return for my hometown’s own First Folio celebrations, from the exhibit at the Tweed Museum to an early music concert. It was an honor to speak at St. Scholastica, where I was once part of the crew for Cymbeline, with librarian Todd White as the baddie Iachimo. At the Marshall School, I did the lighting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring Maria Bamford (Titania) and Katie McGee (Puck) under the direction of Tim Blackburn. (Our Marshall librarian Louis Jenkins recently teamed up with Shakespearean actor Mark Rylance.)

ThineOwnSelfCaught up in the quatercentennial excitement, it’s easy to become fixated upon what Shakespeare supposedly thought, rather than how he thought — that is, what kind of education led him to think the way he did. I take as an example of this misguided fixation myself, 25 years ago. My 1991 yearbook profile includes the usual pimply portrait scribbled over by classmates’ farewells. For my motto, I selected a quotation from Hamlet: “To thine own self be true, and it shall follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

And I of course attributed those words to Shakespeare.

Unwittingly, I was doing what countless others had done before: quoting a dramatic passage out of its ironic context, and acting like Shakespeare said it himself, rather than a fictional character. Shakespeare’s words circulate far beyond their origins, whether in 17th century manuscripts, 18th century novels, 19th century poems, 20th century cinema, or 21st century politics.

Selective Focus: Ken Zakovich

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Ken has been working for many years as a designer for print, interactive and other projects that typically make their way through the ad agency where he works. Recently, he’s been applying his design skills to some innovative 3-d and other projects.

Call for Halloween Banners

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We want to see your Halloween photos at the top of this page as banners. Keep in mind the hauntingly horizontal format, it can be tricky to work with, but a treat when it works well.

Sorry, that was terrible.

Click here for complete submission guidelines, but the basics are: 1135 pixels wide by 197 pixels high, e-mail them to [email protected]. We’ll put them in rotation near the end of the month.

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Selective Focus: Bill Coit via Valerie Coit

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Earlier this year, my friend Val started posting photos her dad had taken to a Facebook album. They were obviously decades old, but they were pristine. These weren’t scans of tattered, faded, off-color prints found in a box in the basement, they were scanned from the slide film her dad shot. A couple years ago, my mother-in-law passed away, and my brother-in-law took on the job of scanning the best photos from a big chest of old pictures and sharing them with the family via Dropbox. All this makes me wonder what will happen as most or all of our family photos become electronic, not physical.

Entering the story, painting the dump gray, and the last chicken

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This is why I think you should go see the production of One River, happening at UMD’s Marshall Performing Arts Center each night this week until Friday. My experience relayed here might be a bit self-centered, especially the comparison to another touching moment when our dog died in my arms recently, but this is how I was affected by these remarkable young actors. Now I can see the power theater has to really touch the heart. Read more at Ed’s Big Adventure.

Dark in the Daytime

Saturday Essay - Dave SorensenHaving populated the northern reaches of this place, atop an oily veneer of civilization, we once more ride our tilting Earth into the shady side of its orbit, where things get slippery. For millennia natives traveled well in winter. Nowadays, however, snow-tires or no, wheels and ice don’t jibe. You probably noticed this the first time your car twirled like the Tea Cup ride at the fair, while sliding through a stop sign. Most types of winter recreation — snowshoes and sleds, skates and skis — not only start with the swishing of the letter “S,” they’re also atavistic. No fancy-schmancy wheels. Recreational snowmobilers are an evolutionary dead-end, though, as one once told my friend, “dinks gotta have fun, too.”

The Norwegians say there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. Then again, the Norwegians gave Henry Kissinger a Nobel Peace Prize. So take that with enough grains of salt to cure a barrel of cod.

Before the deep snow, or the deep cold, the darkness begins. Is it any wonder that people light up the Christmas season like some sort of Jesus-in-Vegas act? There are long shadows at lunch, and the afternoon light shines all day long. My friend Tim, who no longer orbits the sun, used to putter around his house in late December, muttering, “ dark … dark in the daytime.”

Selective Focus: Joe Polecheck

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Our area has provided plenty of stunning scenes for photographers, but Joe Polecheck’s photos go beyond typical landscapes as he has some fun with subjects, tricks and experiments.

J.P: I’ve always been involved in the arts, both painting and drawing ever since I was a child. I’ve always been able to identify things I liked or not when appreciating photography. About 2 years ago, I realized I’d better put up or shut up and try my hand at it. And as my wife has told me, “nothing can just be a hobby for you” which leads me here today!

Sixteen Years on the Superior Hiking Trail: Preparations

Paul Lundgren Saturday EssayAt some point in the 1990s, I started hearing about the Superior Hiking Trail, a new footpath designed for hikers to see the sexiest peaks and rivers in the wilderness along the North Shore of Lake Superior. It didn’t come up very often in conversation until the year 2000, which is when it began to annoy me that I had never hiked a speck of it — other than maybe wandering away from the waterfalls at Gooseberry and noticing markings that told me I was on the not-yet famous trail I’d been hearing about.

It was April 2000 when an upstart Duluth newspaper called the Ripsaw began publishing weekly and I stepped up to be its managing editor. The paper had a weekly “Adventure” article and I suddenly found myself around people who had taken on parts of the SHT and heard stories about a handful of souls who had through-hiked the whole thing, which at the time meant trekking from Two Harbors to the Canadian border.

There was a rumor going around that Dusty Olson ran the whole trail in two days, which I found almost but not quite believable. The notion that such a feat could be close to true at least led me to think I could do it in fewer than two weeks. Then I heard the first documented person to conquer the trail had a fused spine and partially paralyzed legs, and hiked with forearm crutches. That made it hard for me to make any excuse that I wasn’t physically up to the task.

Selective Focus: Hemlocks Leatherworks

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This week, a little bit of fashion in Selective Focus. We hear from Candace Lacosse who operates Hemlocks Leatherworks.

C.L.: I am primarily a shoemaker (which is a cordwainer, not a cobbler), but I love designing and making just about anything out of leather and waxed canvas: bags, purses, wallets, leather-bound journals, really just about anything.

Sixteen Years on the Superior Hiking Trail: Introduction

Paul Lundgren Saturday EssayThe yearning for adventure is a pretty common human trait, along with the practical good sense to not get into a situation you can’t handle. The old Scout Motto is “be prepared,” a creed intended to make one think practically and plan ahead for potential disaster. There’s a colorful expression for those who are not ready for life’s misfortunes; they find themselves “up Shit Creek without a paddle.”

Not wanting to drift helplessly in liquid feces, people often put off serious adventure and plan to check their dreams off a “Bucket List” at some point between the impractical now and the day before it becomes physically impossible. When a Bucket List goes as planned, it’s a beautiful thing. More often than not, of course, it ends up being a list of unfulfilled wishes. That’s generally preferable to premature death in pursuit of pretty scenery, so lament accordingly.

There are also those perfect people in the primes of their lives, dressing up in expensive wingsuits and gliding majestically down from the world’s most spectacular cliffs. Are they the sons and daughters of the obscenely wealthy or did they persuade a gear manufacturer to sponsor them? Maybe both. Don’t be jealous. You probably wouldn’t take that leap if you could. I know I wouldn’t.

Selective Focus: Shawna Gilmore

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Shawna Gilmore has had a busy year, with four shows in eight months, so chances are you’ve seen her sometimes surreal combinations of nature, kids and animals around town. This week in Selective Focus, she talks about her work and what she’ll do with a little bit of down time.

S.G.: I am a visual artist painting primarily in acrylics on wood panels. I occasionally use graphite and paper, my first artistic love. My style is ever-evolving. . . but my current illustrative style came about from a piece I did 3 or so years ago called “Beneath Her Feet” Everything about that piece made sense to me, from the starry sky and trees/roots, to the vintage woman and her farmhouse. It was really a lightbulb piece for me. I had been experimenting with people in my work, women’s faces mostly, but only the vintage characters rang true for me. Somehow their timelessness and history add the genuineness I need for my more narrative images to transcend current times. I also realized I was most interested in telling stories through surrealistic scenarios in my paintings.

International Indigenous Beadwork Gathering: A Cultural Exchange

Visiting artists Petrona Guaillas, Victoria Sarango and Paulina Gonzalez said that visiting with beadwork artists from the Northland was the highlight of their stay. Photo by Caitlin Nielson.

Visiting artists Petrona Guaillas, Victoria Sarango and Paulina Gonzalez said that visiting with beadwork artists from the area was the highlight of their stay. Photo by Caitlin Nielson.

September is shaping up to be a busy month at the American Indian Community Housing Organization. This past Thursday a trio of indigenous beadwork artists from Saraguro, Ecuador visited. They are members of the cooperative Las Mujeres de Teresa de Calcuta and widely known for their netted necklaces.

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Chris Godsey Saturday EssayResponses to a piece I posted here a while ago suggest at least a few Perfect Duluth Day Saturday Essay readers ride bicycles somewhat “seriously.” Makes sense, I suppose; long cycling sojourns, solo or with accomplices, can foster a deep contemplation similar to one spending time with prose can evoke. It’s also true that riding bikes and reading words can both be nothing more than hardcore reality avoidance posing as time spent admirably. We all have our drugs, don’t we? — mostly ones we tell ourselves aren’t drugs so we can believe we’re better human beings than folks who used to hang out in front of Last Place on Earth.

But whatever. That’s not what this essay is about.

I ride a lot, slowly and clumsily (like a middle-aged oaf whose formative fitness years were spent playing tight end and fearing exercise-induced pain), mostly alone, and with intentions driven by equal desires to sit with and avoid my general mental state. Since 2002 I’ve owned a lot of different mountain, road, and commuting bicycles. After thousands of hours spent poring over Sheldon Brown’s website and mtbr.com forums, tinkering in my back-yard shed, and pestering real mechanics — just mercilessly badgering them with, “How does this work?” and “How do I put this back together?” and “Hey, can I come down and interrupt what you’re working on, ask a bunch of dumb questions, borrow some tools, and inevitably force you to stop what you’re doing and help me?” — I know enough to credibly build and maintain my own bikes. Sometimes I fix friends’ bikes, if they have low expectations. I go through nerdy periods of constantly trying to figure out the “best” way to set up a certain bike for a certain purpose, which means I’ve researched, bought, installed, un-installed, broken, replaced, and perseverated on hundreds of components ranging from whole frames to single 5mm bolts.

But even that’s not what this essay is about.

The Rumpus Interview with Connie Wanek

Connie WanekIn an interview for The Rumpus, an online magazine focused on culture, Duluth poet Connie Wanek discusses her latest book, the challenge of looking back at older poems, and what prioritizing writing looks like.

Link: The Rumpus Interview with Connie Wanek

Connie Wanek said that she only started writing poetry seriously in her late thirties, but since then, she’s been published in Poetry and the Atlantic Monthly, has received a Witter Bynner Fellowship at the Library of Congress, and been named a George Morrison Artist of the Year, among her many other honors. Her fourth book, Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems, was released by the University of Nebraska Press this year, and makes the argument that she is one of contemporary America’s great poets.