Kitchi-manitou and Finding the Future in the Past

When I was a kid at summer camp, the counselors told us the story of Kitchi-manitou. It was an old Indian story, they said, about the creation of the world. I hated it because it made no sense. The beginning, for instance, saw Kitchi-manitou floating in an ocean talking to a turtle. “Wait,” I thought,…

Fear in a Small Town

My mother told me not to travel alone this week. “I read that 30 people have gone missing in Iowa in the last ten days,” she said, to which I stupidly replied: “Actually, the number the article gave was 48. Forty-eight missing in the last ten – I mean, that’s normal, though. That’s the normal…

Ode to a Hemorrhoid: What Happens When You Get One

This title is a bit misleading because it turns out we all have hemorrhoids all the time. You have one right now. Multiple, actually. They’re little nubs inside your bum that keep poo from flying out of your ass like a bird’s. What most of us call “a hemorrhoid” is an infection or inflammation of…

Breaking News: Angry White Man Murders Innocent Bystander

I’m reading this article about a guy who killed his own father and am alarmed to see so much of myself in him. I get where his rage comes from. What I don’t understand at all is how he chose to channel that rage. I don’t understand what he did with it. This guy –…

Meet the Woman of a Thousand Muses

Heather Kanzaki has been called “Living Art.” At least, that was the title of the spread in Downtown that covered her June exhibition, and if that’s not what they meant, then I’ll make it official now: Heather Kanzaki is living art. Heather’s not posing there. That’s how she usually looks: active and engaged. She laughs…

“Art Will Save Your Life”

That’s something Chuck Knudsen used to say, and this is what he meant: For the past few months, I’ve been laying low and making things. It turns out that when I’m in a really dark place, I can’t write. I mean, I can, but nothing that’s honest or meaningful. Even now, I can’t describe the Really Dark…

A Cemetery is an Art Museum

Head stones are art objects. We don’t usually think of them that way, but they do exactly what art does. Each stone reflects the culture of its day. It’s a momento mori more effective than the Danse Macabre (“Dance with Death”). A concentrated few make an outdoor local art and history museum. Mount Joy Cemetery…

Squatters and Supplementary Farming

People generally think of squatters as those who live in the basements of dilapidated urban buildings. Detroit and parts of Chicago come to mind. But Iowa has its share of squatters, and my guess is that number is about to rise drastically. After all, real estate is expensive, and the state’s economy is about to…

On Mental Health and Common Decency

Anthony Bourdain’s death last week garnered publicity not seen since the world lost Robin Williams almost four years ago. Posted quotes and photographs of a smiling Bourdain illustrate how meaningful his work was and how much of a personal impact he had on people. The outpouring is understandable. Most of us probably had a rough…

New Festival AlertSSSS. Plural.

…including benefits for local non-profits! I feel fortunate to have returned to the Quad City Area at a time when so many motivated, ambitious young people are building up and taking control of their community and culture. I already covered the brand new BirdFest over at Travel Iowa. This is a project from GoldBird Recordings,…

The Biggest Little Venue on Two Continents

Rio de Janeiro, London, Berlin, and Rock Island. All of these places have something in common: venues that consistently host international artists and cultural virtuosos. Rozz-Tox QC is the only intimate Midwestern venue (outside of a few spots in Chicago and Minneapolis) that consistently brings in acts from all over the world. Every continent is…

HortiCulture, Or: How to Grow Shit

I feel guilty. I set out to make a blog celebrating the art&culture(&pork) of Iowa, yet I’ve neglected a significant element of the Iowa experience. No, I’m not talking about farming. Those days are all but gone. Most farms are now operated like factories and owned by mega-corporations. It is rare to find a family…