Monthly Archives: January 2013

Some Advice on Bullhorns and Drumsets

The "Uzi" model bullhorn, useful for certain musicians and Punk Archaeology un-conferences.

The “Uzi” model bullhorn, useful for certain musicians and Punk Archaeology un-conferences.

There has been light to medium-heavy banter about a bullhorn showing up at this Saturday’s Punk Archaeology formally unformal un-conference (Sidestreet Grille & Bar, Saturday at 7:17pm, downtown Fargo, North Dakota). So I thought I’d post a pic of the “Uzi” model bullhorn, perhaps one of the best bullhorns I’ve ever owned or appropriated for music and, now, an un-conference (I have been through 3 bullhorns thus far). I haven’t yet been able to test the full range of this particular bullhorn — I don’t mind using a bullhorn or drumset in my apartment, but my neighbors and landlord sure do. So we may have to experiment a bit with it this Saturday evening during the sound check.

And here is at least one tip for potential bullhorn owners: bullhorns are a lot like drumsets in that everyone should own at least one. But never leave a bullhorn or drumset out at get-togethers or soirées. The bullhorn is much like a drumset in that someone will always invite themselves to sit down behind it to show everyone what they are made of. The first 3 seconds are kind of fun: whispering through a full-throttle bullhorn for your friend to get another beverage from the fridge has a certain charm the first time. But after about 4-to-7 seconds it goes from being annoying to being intolerable. So hide the bullhorns and drumsets before the company arrives. Everyone will thank you, as will your apartment neighbors.

Winter Memories

Speaking of winter in My Ántonia (1918), Willa Cather noted that “man’s strongest antagonist is the cold.” As I type (on 01/31/2013, just before noon), the dry temp in Fargo, North Dakota registers right around -9 F, around -9 in Grand Forks, -17 in Jamestown and Dickinson, -18 in Towner, -13 in Valley City and Bismarck, -20 in Williston,  and, for international scope, -11 in Irkutsk, Russia (a Siberian city with a population of over 1/2 million).

On the walk to work today I was thinking back to some of my elementary school days in the context of cold winter weather. The phrase “blizzard warning” often triggered the following thought — with an anxious question mark at the end — of “school closings due to severe winter weather?” in my earlier elementary school mind. When superintendents and sometimes governors yielded to the winter and Boreas, and they finally decided to shut institutions (sometimes the entire state) down for a day or two, the next thought that went through my elementary school mind was, “With school canceled, now I’ll have time to try and convince my mom that it’s still not bad enough for us to get outside to go sledding, work on that winter fort…” and so on.

Winter driving on Interstate 94 in North Dakota, February 2013.

Winter driving on Interstate 94 in North Dakota, February 2013.

In a big way, winter is dealt with by getting out in it (bundle up, of course).

The large snow piles heaped in the middle or on the edge of parking lots also reminded me of first grade “King of the Hill” matches on playgrounds. For whatever reason, students who partook in these matches had recess privelidges revoked (at least for that recess), and they got a stern talking to. What never made sense to me, though, was how an elementary school student was supposed to look at a giant heap of snow piled high in the middle of the playground and not feel hard-wired to climb it. I don’t know how today’s elementary schools deal with snow removal and snow piles. But looking back at it, I suppose those early piles of snow taught me some rudimentary basics of Darwin, and the blowback of cultural and institutional regulations imposed by those watchful recess supervisors.

Being Punk Archaeology: A Voice from Cultural Resource Management

The following is a short essay reposted from e-mail correspondence between Barth HQ and archaeological colleague and comrade Jennifer Harty. It has been declassified and reposted with Harty’s permission.

In Harty’s words:

“Punk Archaeology… it’s happening… and I wish I was there”

by Jennifer Harty, punk archaeologist of the Americas and Northern Great Plains

Jennifer Harty, archaeologist of the Americas.

Jennifer Harty, punk archaeologist of the Americas.

What does it [punk archaeology] mean, though?  I think we are all probably asking ourselves that, and there probably isn’t even an answer. What I do know is that it’s people coming together to talk about archaeology and do what archaeologists do best- drink a beer and listen to great music.

Does that seem frivolous? Maybe to a university president in the ivory tower or even to those who tout themselves as business professionals who seem to have lost touch with what archaeology is all about.  Sure, you have to make money; sure, it’s studying the past through material culture, but isn’t it more than that? Isn’t it really discovering who we are and why we are? Isn’t it about asking questions about the past in order to make today more relevant? And to that point, aren’t the best paradigms the ones that come from a relaxed atmosphere and friends bullshitting with friends about what they’re thinking?  Then again, isn’t PUNK about being different and going against the stereotype? How can punk archaeology be punk if it’s about sitting in a bar drinking with friends and listening to great music if that’s the stereotype?

Here’s how – punk is really about being yourself and doing what you want to do. It’s not about being punk, it’s about being you. It’s about interpreting things the way you see it, not the way you’re told to see it. It’s about putting that off the wall spin on your work that draws groans from your peers but that you know is important to include. It’s about not trying to impress everyone else. It’s about writing a rambling, barely cohesive piece to be read at a bar where a bunch of people are getting together and being punk archaeology.

Mezzotint at Valley City State University

Copper mezzotint plates of Linda Whitney's.

Copper mezzotint plates of Linda Whitney’s.

Early this morning I restructured my schedule to respect the snow that had melted and turned to ice overnight on Eisenhower’s Interstate System (the I-94 part). This meant that instead of driving up to the Chester Fritz Library at the University of North Dakota for research, I decided to stay put and spend the morning in Valley City. After inhaling an omelette with Molly at Vicky’s Viking Room, we drove over to Valley City State University to visit Linda Whitney, professor of art at said university. Linda is an accomplished artist, and she has been working with copper plates and creating mezzotints.

This evening, while revisiting the White Stripes “Get Behind Me Satan,” I set into a bit of research on the origins of mezzotint. The name Martin Schongauer (c 1448 to February 2, 1491) is bound to the history of the mezzotint, and he arguably is its principle founder.

The actual art of mezzotinting (now a verb) requires a sharp degree of skill, as artists often were charged with producing as exact a copy as possible of an original, painted work of art. Perhaps one of the greatest known mezzotint prints in America is that of Ben Franklin, a mezzotint created from a painting, thus popularizing the image. And this pushes an individual to consider how a standardized image could provide a large group of people with a common icon to rally around. We have mezzotint to thank for that.

So without going too far into the history of Schongauer (note: in 1491, he did die on the same day that Punk Archaeology in 2013 is happening — it will be awesome), here is a 2-minute audio-video from January 28, 2013, of Linda Whitney explaining the mezzotint process in her printing studio at Valley City State University.

A famous mezzotint of Franklin by Johann Will after a painting by Cochin.

A famous mezzotint of Franklin by Johann Will after a painting by Cochin.

Linda said the mezzotinting keeps her busy, and she often puts a year’s worth of master artist labor into each copper plate — one mezzotint rock after another, to get the precise etch into the plate, so the plate takes on the correct amount of ink, and transfers it to paper to make an intelligible image.

I pressed her with a question to get some kind of hourly grasp of what this type of labor meant. I asked her if she was putting in 40 hours/week on each mezzotint. She said it was more like 60-to-65 hours/week. I thought about that on the drive over from Valley City to Fargo today, and the rough equation went like this: if a large copper mezzotint plate takes about a year’s worth of work, that means 65 hours X 52 weeks = 3,380 hours. Now take 3,380 times the hourly amount of a master craftsman’s wage (ahem, or -woman, or craftsperson), and only then do we start to understand what these copper plates are worth, now and throughout time. To run an analogy between yesterday’s mezzotint and our ability today to digitize any image ever, the mezzotint was important back in the day because one singular image could be reprinted in the same way over and over again, on numerous sheets of paper. Thus, the same idea could be communicated to a large swath of individuals (this could be important for matters of theology like in Schongauer’s day, but also, for example, in matters of technology and crop rotation and philosophy and paper money and so on — stuff that made and makes societies run smoothly).

One more note: Linda is also one of my aunts.

Ernest Staples Osgood, “The Day of the Cattleman” (1929)

Central to Ernest Staples Osgood’s 1929 scholarship is how cattlemen in Wyoming and Montana ignored previous perceptions of the Great Plains as an uninhabitable desert, and instead recalibrated their perspective to make a life on the North American steppe. Once the cowboy got to the Great Plains, Osgood said,

The solitude of the desert passed, and men began to realize that this, our last frontier, was not a barrier between the river settlements and the mining communities in the mountains but an area valuable in itself, where men might live and prosper. (Osgood, 1929: 9)

The chapters that follow elaborate on how the nineteenth-century Euro-American pushed west of the Mississippi River to initially make their way across the Great Plains and into the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast. By the time enough overland wagon trains arrived to the mountain basin, though, frontier fur traders and trappers had come down out of the Rockies to form encampments, and these settlements became stopping points and places of trade. The fur trader and trapper sold supplies to the wagon trains, swapping out locally-grazed cattle with emaciated wagon train cattle, the latter worn out from walking the hundreds of miles west. Once traded, the emaciated livestock revived themselves on the lush grasslands of the Great Plains, and they would fatten themselves up to be traded, sold or slaughtered.

Osgood LivestockThe increased arrival of the railroad supplanted the need for overland wagon trains, but the railroad itself brought laborers hungry for beef and protein. By this time, rumors about frontiersmen J.R. (Jim Bridger), Captain Richard Grant, and the firm Russell, Majors and Wadell making $15,000-to-$75,000 as cattlemen had landed in the ears of investors back east. (Osgood, 1929: 12-16) The response was profound in the post-Civil War world of the Great Plains. Texas ranchers utilized the warmer climes of the southern Great Plains as a place to breed cattle. After growing the herd, they then drove the cattle north to the lush grasslands of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas. After fattening up the cattle, the cowboy would drive them to railroad loading points and ship the livestock to markets in Chicago and beyond. Osgood explains a local Wyoming example of this, as in 1873 approximately 286 railcars of cattle were shipped from Wyoming to eastern markets. By 1877, only four years later, the number of rail cars shipping cattle east had increased to 1,649. (Osgood, 1929: 51)

Between 1879 and 1885, the Federal government did not care to impose legislation to manage the chaos intrinsic to the ranching industry on the Great Plains. This gave rise to local cattle and stockmen associations that sought, at least in ideal, to preserve an individual’s ownership of the herd, protect the herd, and regulate public grazing to prevent overcrowding. (Osgood, 1929: 114-115) In this vein, Osgood’s scholarship sets a stage for later works that might consider what the industrialization of the Great Plains meant for a growing world population, and this also speaks to World and Public historians. Today, non-American restaurants can be seen advertising “American” beef, and ruins of yesterday’s mining towns — Bannack, Montana included — still dot the landscape.

The ruins of the mining town of Bannack, Montana. Photo by archaeological comrade Brian Herbel of Missoula, Montana.

The ruins of the mining town of Bannack, Montana. Photo by archaeological comrade Brian Herbel of Missoula, Montana.

The big idea in Osgood’s book is that the large-scale Euro-American perception of the Great Plains had altered, once thought of in the first decade of the nineteenth century as a desert and by mid-century as an oasis for cattle and cowboy. Published in 1929, this book also reflects the language of the times, as Chapter 4 is titled “The Indian Barrier.” Whether the Euro-American understood it or not, they appropriated the positive perception of the Great Plains that the Native American already had. This is something Osgood could have drawn out quite a bit more in his work, but 1929 is far enough removed from 2013 that it makes a bit more sense to understand this piece of scholarship as history as much as it is understood as central to Great Plains historiography.

The Killdeer Mountains: Living History and Sacredness

Individuals concerned about what happens to the Killdeer Mountains chat before the public hearing at the Bismarck capitol on January 24, 2013.

Individuals concerned about what happens to the Killdeer Mountains chat before the public hearing at the Bismarck capitol on January 24, 2013.

The Killdeer Mountains in Dunn County, western North Dakota have been getting a lot of attention lately, especially after the North Dakota Industrial Commission decided to, well, industrialize the area, and allow the Hess Corporation to follow through with signed leases and drill and frack for oil there. The Grand Forks Herald reported on it here, and The Bismarck Tribune here. The Industrial Commission is composed of three individuals, including Jack Dalrymple, Wayne Stenehjem, and Doug Goehring. They have scheduled meetings with the Department of Mineral Resources and Lynn Helms, the sitting Director. It is important to remember that this was a public hearing, and at public hearings the public ought not to be shy about attending. This experiment America has going, our Democratic-Republic, necessitates these local meetings that have global implications.

On January 24, 2013, at 1:00pm (CST) the public hearing for the Killdeer Mountains was held in the capitol of Bismarck, North Dakota. It was Industrial Commission Case Number 18618 concerning sections 25 & 36, T. 146 N., R. 97 W, this about 30-35 miles north of Dickinson, North Dakota. Originally the hearing was scheduled in the Governor’s meeting room, a rather closed-off and secluded place. Because of the public turn-out, though, the hearing was relocated to the larger Brynhild Haugland room in the western wing of the capitol. I drove over from Fargo to Bismarck to attend the meeting, and while there scribbled down some notes and took some audio-video as well. The high-points, I thought, were in capturing two Native voices from two disparate cultures.

The first is a video from Theodora Birdbear of Mandaree, North Dakota (Mandaree is Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara territory). The microphone on my Canon PowerShot SX260 HS captured the audio a bit, and just in case there are those of us hard-of-hearing, I provided transcript of Theodora’s testimony below.


…and he expressed the impact of oil and gas development, the industrialization of an area, which impacts the quality of that spiritual experience. I guess it’s kind of equivalent to having an oil well right beside your Catholic church or something. It’s parallel to that. So I wanted the commission to know that Fort Berthold does have a living connection to that area, and to consider that in your decision making. As people have said prior to this, technology is evolving, and to keep it [oil] in the ground is not wasting it. They are going to be after it in the future. What’s the rush? The rush is quick decisions, unplanned decisions, and unplanned impacts. So I just wanted to make a comment about our relationship with that area. It is still living today.

North Dakota Industrial Commissioners listen to Natives speak about the sacredness and history of the Killdeer Mountains.

North Dakota Industrial Commissioners listen to Natives speak about the sacredness and history of the Killdeer Mountains.

Theodora remarks on how the Killdeer Mountains are a sanctuary, as sacred and sacrosanct as a Catholic Church, and to carry the analogy further, as a Lutheran or protestant church, a Synagogue, a Mosque, a Buddhist monastery, a Hindu temple, a Confucian temple, and so on. These spaces are sacrosanct in the sense that when an individual goes to the area to pray, they are really interested in having it as quiet. A library could also be considered a sacred space by this definition (libraries carry on that monastic-academic tradition of the deliberate contemplation of texts — this is arguably the antithesis of our hyper-industrial, full-throttle, 21st century world).

The other Native voice captured came by way of Dakota Goodhouse, who originally hails from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in south-central North Dakota (he shares the namesake of the state, which in English means ally or friend). Dakota gives some backdrop about the history of Killdeer Mountains as it pertains to the US-Dakota Wars, specifically the punitive campaigns carried out by General Alfred Sully west of the Missouri River circa 1864.

For some video context, Dakota is speaking and Lynn Helms is seated at the right. In this video excerpt, Dakota is remarking on how the encampment and battle boundaries are much larger and broader than what is delineated now (as of 01/25/2013), and how they need to be re-considered.

Punk Archaeology Practice Notes

Todd Reisenauer and Troy Reisenauer of Les Dirty Frenchmen.

Todd Reisenauer and Troy Reisenauer of Les Dirty Frenchmen.

The other night, Troy Reisenauer and Todd Reisenauer invited me over to the Les Dirty Frenchmen practice space for the first of our get-together of practices, this for the February 2, 2013 Punk Archaeology un-conference at Sidestreet Grille and Pub in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Through the randomness inherent to the music world, this assembly happened — come to think of it, every band I’ve ever played in has never been planned. It was a process that came together over a matter of several conversations and days or weeks — the important thing, though, was each individual’s willingness and desire to play for the love of playing. Todd and Troy offered to bring their slaying punk guitars to back the songs and lyrics of Andrew Reinhard, and the keyboard of Michael Wittgraf. Andrew’s original punk archaeology tunes are available here, and free for download.

As Reisenauer, Reisenauer and I bounced around from one song to another, there certainly were tunes we favored. Todd rightly pointed out that we ought to stick with a theme, though, and that Reinhard’s tunes definitely have a garage punk sound. So this helped us narrow and focus our practice, as earlier we considered other classics such as Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law” and Velvet Underground, “Sweet Jane.” We decided to not play those. At least not this time.

Eventually, Team Reisenauer, Reisenauer & I decided on a short list of punk archaeology songs. Some classic go-tos include covering “Nervous Breakdown” by Black Flag, “Loser’s Club” by The Humpers, and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by Iggy Pop and The Stoogies. We also ran through two Reinhard originals, including “History,” and “Publish and Perish,” a segment of this latter song appropriating a punk-abilly sound that might be familiar to Social Distortion fans.

Punk Archaeology Handbills

Around the Fargo-Moorhead area, here is a glimpse of some of the first Punk Archaeology handbills to go up. This one is secured to the entrance of the Rhombus Guys Pizza joint on Main Avenue in downtown Fargo in Cass County, North Dakota. For more details, click here. On February 2, 2013 (a Saturday) at Sidestreet Grille and Bar in downtown Fargo, ND, music will kick off around 7:17pm, and the panel discussion just a bit later. And like any quality un-conference time, it may start just a little before, or a little after. Swing on down if you’re in town. It is happening. And it will be awesome.

Various handbills in the entrance of Rhombus Guys in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Punk Archaeology handbill lower right.

Various handbills in the entrance of Rhombus Guys in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Punk Archaeology handbill lower right.

Gandolf the White Blizzard

It is the evening of January 11, 2013, and I am on the second floor of The Arts Center in downtown Jamestown, North Dakota. In the past couple days the Weather Channel and regional meteorologists have been psychologically preparing the public for the first intense blizzard of the year. The Weather Channel has subsequently named this blizzard Gandolf — yes, I’m serious. Originally I intended on making the Eisenhower Interstate 94 drive from Fargo to Jamestown after an NDSU departmental meeting concluded in the late afternoon, but eureka rattled through my brain earlier in the morning and I thought it would be better to make the drive then and there. My hope was to beat the thermometer from Fargo to Jamestown, knowing that the light rain would turn to ice as the temps dropped below 32 F. And if I didn’t make it to Jamestown, how would I be able to attend the art gallery reception for Walter Piehl on Saturday evening with Molly at The Arts Center? Yes, I needed to act.

Ice forming on the windshield and radio antenna during the early stages of Gandolf the White Blizzard.

Ice forming on the windshield and radio antenna during the early stages of Gandolf the White Blizzard.

The drive turned into a white-knuckled affair, a ’93 Chevrolet S-10 rear-wheel drive pickup providing joyous stress. I found that by keeping the speedometer at no more than 40mph, the rear wheels would stay secure to the pavement. During the drive, I also thought about how author Chuck Klosterman killed off several main characters (spoiler alert!) with a blizzard in Downtown Owl, this piece of fiction set in a small town in rural North Dakota in 1984. Then I thought about the book, Children’s Blizzard. Then I tried to stop thinking such thoughts, and I continued driving.

Note: when driving in winter rainstorms that are turning to ice, there are two opposing thoughts that bash at each other in the brain. It goes something like this: after a driver is 30 miles into a 90 mile drive, and just after the rear wheels slip a little at 50mph (the pick up will jerk a bit), the driver considers two options: turn around and endure another 30 mile drive back, or press on and gain another 30 miles. In the long term, if the driver retreats and makes it back home, they will have logged 60 miles, which, essentially means one could have been 2/3s the way to the destination. So I pushed on. Would I end up sliding off the road and into the ditch? Stop thinking about these thoughts. I did, and I made it to my destination. My advice: don’t do this. Ever. Anyhow, the photo pictured above is what the windshield looked like in the early stages of Gandolf the Grey, this between 8:30AM-to-12PM in Cass, Barnes and Stutsman counties, North Dakota.

Walter Piehl and his art.

Walter Piehl and his art.

The below short video clip is an intensified Gandolf, when a winter rain storm receives more training to ultimately become Gandolf the White Blizzard. As I re-visit the video over and over from a historic building in downtown Jamestown, North Dakota, I can’t help but thinking how 100 years ago an individual in the building would have heard similar sounds from this very vantage. Note, for example, the subtle chug-chug-chug in the audio, this coming from a train just a block north. The large grain elevator (not visible) is located along the tracks. Yup, 100 years ago it was possible during a winter blizzard to hear the same blasts of shivering whispers blow through the small cracks in commercial brick construction, and also hear the thump-thump-thump of the iron horse on the Northern Pacific Railroad.  Historically, it is important to respect White Blizzards — lest they teach us mortality instead of just humility.

Two Artistic Notes

About a week ago a group of us dropped in on the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture at 111 South Grand Avenue in downtown Bozeman, Montana. The center has been re-adapted from its original progressive school function. Today, or as of January 2013, there are a variety of art pieces and galleries within, and two pieces of material culture caught my eye. They are machines that dispense art.

The first was a former pull-handle cigarette machine that had been converted into an art, music, writings and idea dispensing machine. Go to this website here for more details. This is what the former cig machine looked like.

Art Dispenser

The second was a paper towel dispenser that now serves as a poetry dispenser. This is what the poetry dispenser looks like:

Poetry Dispenser

I pulled a sheet of poetry from that dispenser, and here is the poem in full.

Bloodied and Humbled, by Alexis W.

Life will leave you,

If you’re lucky,

Bloodied and humbled

Now bloodied washes off

The wounds from which it came will

Mend over, scars will fade

A commentary on

The unimportance of the physical

But the humbled will stick

A commentary on

The strength of the mind

And if, for some reason, it doesn’t

If you’re lucky

Life will come to leave you

Bloodied and humbled