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Book Review
by Rick Brown

The Dogs of Bedlam Farm:
An Adventure with Sixteen Sheep,
Three Dogs, Two Donkeys and Me

By Jon Katz
* * * *

In the prologue of Jon Katz’s latest “dog book” he promises that in The Dogs of Bedlam Farm no dogs will die. Since Mr. Katz seems to be a man of integrity I took him at his word. And no dogs die in the entire text. However, that doesn’t mean the book is void of heartbreak. Quite the contrary.

I have read several of Katz’s books and can honestly report liking them all… particularly A Dog Year and Running To the Mountain. The Dogs of Bedlam Farm might be described as an amalgamation of those two previous publications. Having sold his remote cabin to which he ran to, Katz buys a small farm and takes up residence with his three border collies, a flock of sheep, and two donkeys. For those of us with little knowledge of how farms work it’s easy to assume this might be a light-hearted tale about man’s best friend. But once the author gets settled into his new digs the urgency of trying to get a farm ready for a cold winter in upstate New York is manifest.

Jon Katz is not a particularly religious man. Yet he yearns for epiphanies almost daily. He metaphorically “baptizes” his farm and it’s inhabitants by gathering all Bedlam’s creatures at the top of a hill and reads from St. Augustine’s City of God. This is the biggest reason I enjoy this man’s writing. Mr. Katz is vehement about people’s relationships with dogs being an honest love between an owner and pet. He discourages pets… and dogs in particular… from being treated as “little people” or a replacement for human relationships. Yet Katz celebrates a spiritual connection with his border collies. And despite being advised by seasoned farm folk that farm animals are quite different from pets he invariably finds himself connecting with the sheep he is midwifing in the dead of winter…the donkeys that bray “hello” when he enters their realm…in a very powerful way.

This is Jon Katz’s most emotional book. By that I mean he wears his feelings on his sleeve… not an easy thing to do for most men. Before the author even moves to Bedlam he is scolded during a herding exercise by friend and herding expert Carolyn Wilki, “Face it: if you want to have a better dog, you will just have to be a better goddamned human being.” So The Dogs of Bedlam Farm is as much about Jon Katz’s personal struggle for self-authentication (as theologian Paul Tillich would have stated it) as it is a story of surviving a horribly harsh winter in a new and mysterious environment. Mr. Katz may want his dogs to learn the age old task of herding but he himself wants his dogs, sheep, donkeys… all God’s creatures really… to show him the way to be a better man.

There is a charm to the stories included in the diary like approach to this writing… of course. Locals are confused and amused by a middle-aged man who knows virtually nothing about living on a working farm, insisting on the best veterinary treatment for his sheep and his determination of getting things done the right way. And they learn to love the man for his honesty and self-depreciation, as I’m sure will most readers. Jon Katz is playfully dubbed “the dog guy” and although he is an outsider… a “flatlander”… the emerging community at Bedlam Farm between owner and animals is merely a microcosm of the evolving larger community of human beings… neighbors… and finally… friends. Without this community the author might not have survived to become the better man he so intensely longs to be.

No dogs die in The Dogs of Bedlam Farm. But the drama of the eventual demise of a sheep Mr. Katz previously saved from freezing to death, or the panic of almost losing a new puppy in the woods at night, is just as heart wrenching. This story is about life… and life includes death. All of us… at least those who care to notice… learn this over and over and over. And no one is better than Jon Katz at writing about it. Yet he takes no credit for this. At one point he reconciles with a long, lost sister he hasn’t seen in a decade… and he credits this wonderful event to dogs. The author’s friend is right about better humans having better dogs. I’m sure the same is true with children. Because as Jon Katz tells us… dogs are not replacements for other humans. But that doesn’t mean they can’t teach us about life or love or loyalty.

I’m certain The Dogs of Bedlam Farm is not his last work about our four legged friends. The man is incredibly hard on himself and I’m sure he feels his journey is far from complete. Jon Katz really… really… wants to be a “better goddamned human being.” I look forward to his future works. In the meantime I might re-read this book… with my dog sleeping in my lap of course.

Click here
to see this and other books by Jon Katz.

John Shields
Twisted Tales, 2Co’s Cabaret

Fleetwood Mac, Bozeman, MT

(click links to read the reviews)
Divided We Stand (Still)
by Ted Kane

I'm just old enough to have some first hand sense of what America was like at the end of the Vietnam War. Though I was much too young to be able to understand exactly what was going on, I got definite impressions of things that were happening around me. I was born six months before some National Guardsmen flipped out at a school I would later attend and killed four people, and have memories (however vague) of some of the last of the anti-war demonstrations. Even though I was viewing these events mediated through the evening news and my family's dinnertime discussions, I knew pretty early on...I'm talking like age four or five...that I was with 'the hippies.' Their music was great, for one, and they appeared to me to have a better and more sensible vision than the politicians did. For example, as far as I could tell from the hearings my mom watched everyday one impressionable summer, the President was a crook; since he was the guy who ran the country, it followed in my mind that the whole thing had to be a fix. My impressions may have been naive and childlike, but I nevertheless think I'm on the right side of history on this one.

by David Hochman

Four years ago, the Republicans kept repeating how similar they and the Democrats had become. Humane conservatives (a most wonderful oxymoron) and all that; a wonderful fairy tale that, incredibly, so many swallowed hook, line and sinker. All around me at the time, I remember people saying, why vote, they are so similar, Gore and Bush. Makes no difference whom you vote for.

Are we, as Americans, really so easily brainwashed? I sincerely hope not. At least, not twice. However, four years later, incredulously, I am hearing the same things again. And I can hardly believe my ears.

Property of the Government of the United States of America
CLASSIFIED Doc# 329915873662 – EYES ONLY

America: A Gathering Threat
by Patrick O'Malley

Mr. President,

As we know, gathering threats across the globe (and potentially across the universe – the new CIA is looking into this) continue to terrorize our way of life and hate our freedoms. Iraq, after years of gathering it’s threatyness, has finally been fully neutralized, liberated, and democratized (other longer-term programs are additionally underway to baptize, globalize, and freedomize the AmerIraqi people).

With the terror of Iraq’s gathering threatfulness having been cleanly and neatly destroyed with infallible American military might, the post-September 11th mentality begs the question; What is next? After the “election” (don’t you just love that they still call it that?), we have a number of freedom-spreading covert and overt actions mapped out for you to watch us follow through on. As you well know most, if not all countries hate our freedom and therefore want to terrorize us with evil-doings. The most terrorous countries that must be dealt with include, but are not limited to: Canada, France, Germany, Spain and, to a much lesser extent, North Korea, Iran, and other countries you may not be familiar with. There is, however, one country which must above all else be dealt with immediately and most severely, the United States of America.

Blank Sight
by John Bennett

Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH
Photos By Cory Tressler

East Coast Barnstorm!!!!!!!
by Rick Brown


Okay…it’s not technically Cleveland but Olmsted Falls…my hometown. It’s the place I spent the first 18 years of my life. It’s the town I wanted to get the hell away from as soon as I graduated from high school. A charming little town turned suburb by development, it’s where my brother and his wife reside. Yvonne and I begin most of our travels here because our pooch Henri stays with his “cousin” Rigley. Henri always enjoys his dog vacations.


Having spent a week in early summer on the West Coast…and the fact that airfare was outrageous for Europe…the two of us decided to continue our celebration of our 30th anniversary by seeing some old friends. First up college buddy Burt Ray in the delightful city of Baltimore. We’ve kept in touch with Burt even though we hadn’t visited him in almost 20 years. No way in hell will he come to Columbus, Ohio and I guess I can understand why a trip to Buckeyeland might not be high on most people’s vacation destinations.

(click Image to Read)

Returning Early
(To the Glorious Silence)
by Rick Brown

Rarely can I remember being so relaxed in a particular environment that I want to return to it as soon as possible. What’s turning out to be the big exception to that unspoken rule is Summit Haven Retreat in Ohio’s beautiful Hocking Hills area. For the past couple years Yvonne, Henri (they allow dogs…even French dogs!!) and I have visited this wonderful place in the early spring. This year we decided to return in the fall for a second time. As usual, we were not disappointed.

I always pack a few CDs. Okay…anyone who knows me realizes I probably have over 300 CDs in my collection. And narrowing them down to 10 I want to carry along to the woods usually takes a lot of hand wringing, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Invariably, when I get to Twin Oaks (the cabin we always choose) I am so overwhelmed by the quiet and serenity I maybe end up listening to perhaps two CDs…if any.

Summit Have Retreat now has three cabins. But two of them sleep just two and Twin Oaks is the farthest from civilization. Friends stopped in and stayed an evening with us. The four of us (well…five counting Henri) visited nearby Old Man’s Cave as well as Ash Cave. But the most enjoyable activity here is to do virtually nothing. Read…nap…stare into the woods (or a fire in the real stone fireplace)…veg out in the hot tub. I’m always amazed at my own contentment. I’m sure our friends would agree…any time of year is worth a visit to Summit Haven Retreat. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
More Travel Adventures..

The fishermen, Freire and Their Shared Hope

by Amelia Hapsari

From April 2004 until July 2004, I had the privilege to make a participatory video with a small fishing community in Balobaloang, Indonesia. To reach Balobaloang, a tiny island with 700 inhabitants, one needs to travel almost a 20-hour journey with a cargo ship or a fishing boat from one of Indonesia’s main island, Sulawesi. The journey to the island itself is worth another pages of story, but the journey after my first encounter with the community has not ended even until weeks after my departure from Balobaloang.

In the United States, with some experiences of video productions, some grasp of communication theories, and some research on participatory video, I planned a video project that would involve the fishing community of Balobaloang in a video production about their life and their problems. I was informed by Gene Ammarell, an American anthropologist who has conducted several researches there in the past 10 years, that the traditional fishing community has faced a tremendous challenge to sustain their lives because their neighboring fishery has constantly damaged the coral reef in the area.

Based on Marxist assumption that the society is consciously structured by the ruling class that dominates the economy; and based on Freire’s proposition that dialog with the oppressed about the cause of their oppression would generate discussions about liberation from their perspectives; I went to Balobaloang to make a participatory video. In this video, the fishermen in Balobaloang would be the producers of their own video. According to founders of participatory video methods, including Shirley White, participatory video offered the unique opportunity for the underrepresented to structure and to decide their own story. It would give them the opportunity to map the source of their oppression and the opportunities that they could possibly have; a process that according to Freire would give them the opportunity to imagine their own future.

I went there with the belief that people who whose subsistence has been threatened would do anything to stop the source of the threat. My goal was very utopian; to provide them a tool to create their own story so through the process and the message they produced they would find ways to resolve their problems. I knew there would be challenges, but I would not give up. If I would not give up, opportunities would not stop coming. continued...



by Rod Cline

Concerts are like anything else; it’s hard to remove yourself from the experience to get an unbiased view. I’ve never been a big fan of F-Mac and this was the first time I’d seen them live. Coming almost thirty years after ‘this bands’ first release, I’d say my expectations were not particularly high.

I had just graduated from high school when the self titled album Fleetwood Mac hit #1 in the charts ( Sept. 1976), with “Rhiannon”, “Landslide”, “World Turning” and “Over my Head”, Rumours was released five months later, and became the fifth greatest selling album of all time. The polished California sound that was their trademark, was a bit too clean for this mid-west rock ‘n roller, the lyrics a bit too soft.

About now you are asking ‘why did this guy go to the show if he never liked them and figured them to be a bunch of old farts’? Indeed a good question! Prior to moving to this sleepy college town in Montana, I had worked for Rock ‘n Roll bands, and seen over a thousand shows. And in my fifteen years in Bozeman there have been less than three concerts of this caliber. So I decided I really should go to this show. But the $85.tickets that went on sale four months prior to the show sufficiently chilled by nominal interest.

Last Christmas, I went on a ski trip to Canada with a friend who had a copy of Say You Will, released in 2003. I really didn’t know or care that F-Mac was still releasing music, but it caught my attention on our long road trip. And I distinctly remember her saying; “I sure hope I see this band before they are past their prime”. I thought to myself, “She’s only about 25 years too late”.

I had forgotten about the upcoming show, when I saw a help-wanted ad for stage -hands. Even though I’m in my mid-forties and it has been over twenty years since I’ve done that kind of work, I thought ‘yes’ here is my chance to see the concert for free and make a little change on the side. I signed on with the local stage-hands crew, comprised mostly of college kids who were a lot like myself at the age; dumb as a box of rocks.

As soon as we started unloading the seven semi trucks at 9AM, I felt like I was in a familiar groove. It was hard work, and I’d lost about 25 lbs of muscle in the past 25 years, but I was definitely holding my own with the college kids. Besides almost the entire road crew was made up of guys older than me with gray and thinning hair. A few of them said ‘you really know what you’re doing, don’t you’.

After all the sound and light equipment was in-house, Steve, the drum tech grabbed me and said, “You’re working with me the rest of the day”. We organized all the stage equipment on the field house floor, and started setting up three drum risers. Mick Fleetwood had a huge kit, gold platted hardware, a four-foot gong, along with some small electronic drums that he wore during the encore. A second riser was filled with hand drums and other items for a percussionist, who played on 90% of the songs. The third riser was for Steve’s kit. I can’t remember seeing a drum tech ever playing before, but Steve’s kit was set up behind Mick’s, and Steve played on a half dozen rockers that benefited from his added punch. He played with the reckless abandon that I’ve always admired, and although no one but the few of us at side stage could see him, he added a driving energy that could be felt.

We were set up by 1:00, and three local crews were picked to continue working until sound-check. One of the bennies was a free lunch, catered by a fine local establishment and very tasty. I talked with a few guys on the road crew, and found out that Mac had been on tour for almost a year; including three North American tours, interrupted only by tours in Asia, Europe and Australia.

Final touches were being put in place as the band arrived for a brief sound check. I said hello to Mick and John, and as I held the curtain open for Lindsey Buckingham, he put his hands in prayer position and bowed slightly, saying “Thank you”. I was a bit stunned, and happy to see his lightness, humility and humor. At this point the bands security manager, a man twice my size, excused us from the premises. I’d heard the sound check was closed to all, and as my two compadres headed for the doors, I headed to the back of the auditorium to hide under some bleachers and listen. The sound check was very forgettable, and I expect the strict security was simply because Stevie’s hair was not done, or maybe she had a pair of sweats on!?!

After sound check I dined on poached salmon and asparagus with the road crew, and awaited the show. It was a full house, which at Montana State University is about 8000. F-Mac opened up with ‘The Chain” from Rumours. It didn’t take long to play an offering from ‘Say You Will’. Their third song of the night was ‘Peacemaker’, one of the best songs from this release. In all they would mix in a half dozen songs from the latest release, along with their biggest hits: Sarah”,
“Landslide”, “Rhiannon”, “World Turning”, “Don’t Stop”, and “Never Goin’ Back”.

My favorites were a couple rockers penned by Lindsey, including one from the new release titled Come. Although the entire show revolved around Lindsey, his guitar playing on this song left an indelible mark. I’ve seen a few good guitarists in my day including Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh, Pete Townsend, David Gilmore, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck… and to my great surprise Lindsey Buckingham held his own with any of these guys. His unique fingerpicking style, his transcendental focus and intense energy soared, providing the highlight of the night.

In comparison the rest of the band were present, at best. Not to criticize them musically, the sound and performance were better than expected. But energetically there was not a lot in the tank. Stevie did not look healthy and put out significantly less energy than the Energizer Bunny. John stayed awake through the entire show and Mick only needed two assistants. On the side were a keyboardist, guitarist, percussionist and two back-up singers.

If you get a chance, check out Say You Will. There are 18 songs, 9 penned by Stevie, 9 by Lindsey. It’s a good piece of work. Lindsey’s playing is outstanding, the song writing and phrasing strong, and Stevie and Lindsey are fluid in blending their vocals.

This foursome currently known as Fleetwood Mac are all in their late 50’s. As a band, they did not come close to putting on the show that Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band did recently, but they had their moments. It was heart warming to see that Lindsey had overcome his addictions and was moving forward in many ways. Stevie’s biggest contribution was her significant song-writing talents, and we can certainly tip our hats (if not take them off) to the balding rhythm section that has been together for almost 40 years. I expect this was the last Fleetwood Mac tour, and although they may be past their prime, I was very happy to see them!

Having the opportunity to see a few of my favorite musicians recently, including: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen, I’ve appreciated their continued endeavors of artistic expression. Joni’s voice is lost to cigs, Bob’s to age, and Bruce has lost a bit of power too. But they are a lesson to us all. For we all lose a step as we age, and to simply stop moving because we can’t do what we once did is cowardly. My admiration goes out to these musicians and Fleetwood Mac, for doing what they do; continuing to write, play, and be creative, and for continuing to inspire us.

Twisted Tales
2Co’s Cabaret
Short North
Columbus, Ohio
* * * *
by Rick Brown

Bingo and Rose Marie
Joseph J. Lorenzo and Lydia Tew )

I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween. I think adults abducted the holiday…if that is in fact what it is…decades ago. It should be about trick or treat and little children in costumes getting candy. But now it’s a wild overblown adult macabre-fest that I truly do not understand. I know a woman who thinks so much of Halloween that she got married on it. I always wonder if she hands out candy in her wedding dress. And is her nuptial gown black and orange? So I tend to approach anything with a Halloween theme skeptically.

Fortunately for me and anyone else lucky enough to wander into 2Co’s Cabaret’s Twisted Tales, this show is wonderfully ambivalent about Halloween. The diversity of the skits, monologues and music makes it a very entertaining production that’s…well…a little twisted.

This show hits the ground running with Don Nigor’s Lurker, a riveting yet indirect exchange between a man who lurks and a woman who entices. Played out dynamically by 2Co’s veterans Tom Cardinal and Carrie Lynn McDonald the paralleling monologues are woven into a surprising and delightfully creepy conclusion. Having been prefaced by John Croke’s imaginative mugging of Peter Gabriel’s “Barry Williams Show”, house band Downtown DFN’s table setting made it flow ever so smoothly.

Another welcomed surprise was the return of actor Chris Chambers whose take on Charles Bukowski’s “Melancholia” was more than engaging. Mr. Chambers has a distinct ability to make a monologue seem uniquely his own. And Tom Cardinal returns later in the show to display his versatility in Rusty Russel’s , “Superman in the Nursing Home”. Just days later I thought of Cardinal’s silly yet poignantly respectful characterization of Superman’s humanity…lost on most souls…upon hearing of the death of Christopher Reeves. I found the juxtaposition sadly ironic indeed.

The music is simply a pleasure in Twisted Tales. I continue to be amazed by how Downtown DFN keeps reinventing itself. Constant personnel changes don’t seem to faze mainstays Chris “The Rev” Ciampa (who recruited his wife Sam for keyboards on this evening) and Ernie Cordy who juggle the lineup…exchange instruments…do whatever it takes to play a well crafted cover song all the while laying down a Downtown DFN interpretation. Joseph J. Lorenzo’s rambunctious “Nicotine and Gravy” (Beck) was incredible…as was Tom Cardinal (with superb backing vocal by Ms McDonald and Noelle Grandison) fronting the band for The Police’s “Spirits in the Material World”. Sheanneen Shelby’s turn on “Knock Me Out” made me whisper to myself “She just keeps getting better!”. But for me the crowning moment musically was when Noelle Grandison (with soulful assistance from Mr. Cardinal, Ms. McDonald and Ms. Shelby) grabbed Lloyd Price’s classic standard “Stagger Lee” by the throat and never let go.

Closing Twisted Tales is David Lavine’s Bingo and Rose Marie performed respectively by Joseph J. Lorenzo and Lydia Tew. The story of a circus clown who has lost his groove and is seeking help in group therapy with other circus performers could easily been played strictly for laughs. But the depth of Lorenzo and Tew’s characterizations made the audience feel connected…sympathetic…almost intimately familiar with a clown in full regalia and a shrink who once was the fat lady…his fat lady. Both actors are tragic…broken…yet by play’s end willing to invest their energies in hope.

I’m glad 2Co’s Cabaret didn’t do a strict Halloween theme for Twisted Tales. In doing so the show is more interesting…more relevant.

Twisted Tales runs through November 13th. For more information go to www.shadowboxcabaret.com


Our Top 5 Picksby Ted Kaneby John Bennettby Cory Tressler by Patrick O'Malley by David HochmanTravel SectionRecipes and MoreLinks Worth a LookBack Issues

© 2001-2004 NakedSunfish, All Rights Reserved

Issue 1 - January 2002