Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.

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  • Huge Charleston Mural Appears in a Month

    • Posted on Jul 08, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    July 8, 2014 

    Was walking Charleston on Monday, June 2 when I came up Queen Street, just a few feet off Meeting Street, and couldn't help but gape at this sketch on the wall of the Mira Winery building:  



    Hard to not gape, right?  The artist, David Boatwright, was sketching a painting-to-be of 14 figures, and was just beginning, either that day or possibly the week before.  I didn't actually measure it, but it's probably 15 by 15 feet and fills most of the wall.  Hard to miss, and right across a small parking lot from the well-known Poogan's Porch restaurant.  Everyone stops and stares.  

    So I began taking photos, this one just three days later: 



    That's Thursday of the first week.  Not bad for two guys working four days, I thought.  
    I did ask one of them how long it would take, and he said "weeks."  

    So I made it a point to walk by the wall every few days, and took these photos, in order: 


    Took this on Saturday, June 7, shocked at how much Boatwright had completed: 



    Then this, on Friday June 13:  

    Again, these guys work fast, I thought.  

    Then this, taken on June 19, just 17 days after that first sketch above:  


    And on June 23, a week before completion:  




    And here is the completed mural without scaffolding, taken Monday,  June 30:  



    So David Boatwright and his assistant completed that mural, sketch to full figures in living color, in one month to the day.  

    Here's a detail, just to show what you could see with good light walking up to it: 




    Now:  in case the mural looks familiar, you're right:  it's more or less a copy of Renoir's famous 1881 painting, "Luncheon of the Boating Party"--here: 



    The Mira Winery hired Boatwright to paint an homage to Renoir's painting, only with a difference:  each of the figures, instead of being Renoir's friends--that's who Renoir painted, after all, would be the faces of fourteen of Charleston's well-known restaurant owners or chefs.  

    Of course, foodies around Charleston will certainly recognize at least a few of the faces, just as Renoir's friends must have recognized themselves in his painting.  One difference would be size--Renoir's painting measured just 51 by 68 inches, whereas Boatwright's as mentioned, covers a large outdoor wall.  

    A few thoughts on this whole process: 
    ---an "homage" if done by a writer might be called "plagiarism." 
    --Renoir's is a work of art, worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Boatwright's is worth whatever the Mira winery paid him.  But it certainly adds 
    a dimension of interest to the Charleston food scene, not to mention making that wall a thousand times more interesting and attractive. 
    --how well will it hold up to the weather?  --high heat, sun, humidity, rains, hurricanes? Will be curious to photograph it again in a year and see if it has faded. 
    --was great fun watching it emerge, and a pleasant surprise that it took only a month. 

    A note of congratulations to the muralist, David Boatwright, his assistant, and the Mira winery for having the imagination and vision to create an engaging image that flatters and reveals some of the people that make Charleston's restaurant and food scene such a memorable part of contemporary Charleston.  
    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Travel
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • Arts
  • Patriotism, Groupthink, and PINOs

    • Posted on Jul 06, 2014 by Scott Cawelti

    This appeared in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier this morning, July 6.   

    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

    Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

    Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

    For 238 years we’ve been a union, minus five years for a terrible civil war to resolve slavery.  Since then we’re united by shared beliefs in freedom, individualism, rights, and equality before the law.  Oh yes, and we’re eternal optimists—Americans remain optimistic about nearly everything.   At its core, the American Dream involves hope for a brighter future, given hard work and a bit of good luck.   

    OFIRE, I used to remind American Civilization students:  Optimism, Freedom, Individuality, Rights, Equality—five pillars of American ideology.

    Thomas Paine wrote in late 1776, six months after the Declaration of Independence:   

    “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

    “Summer soldier” and “sunshine patriots” rings true still—those who love their country when it’s easy, when it requires little more than a pledge, a flag-wave or two, some fireworks and repeating talking points for your base choir.  Patriots in name only, or PINOs. 

    The real sacrifice today, however, doesn’t involve going to war against a tyrannical enemy.  Our age involves something that’s both more complex and almost as difficult:  Questioning your own party, its behavior and stance on major issues. 

    As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it last January, “The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.”

    The “wacko birds,” as John McCain calls them (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and others of their ilk) play well to their base but turn off most voters for being utterly out of touch.  

    Rabidly pro-gun and anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-government spending on anything except the military, anti-immigration, and certainly anti-compromise, they don’t reflect the rest of the world or most of the country.  

    Yet GOP Moderates other than McCain seem to tolerate and even kowtow to them, especially since Eric Cantor’s loss to another wacko bird.              

    It’s going to take heroic effort to oppose them, since the radical right owns talk radio and the Fox News propaganda machine.   

    WE’RE A COUNTRY IN DECLINE!  They cry from their Fox News rafters.   Their evidence?   Cherry-picked issues and manufactured crises, including a lawsuit from John Boehner over Obama’s use of executive orders—and our President has used far fewer than any modern president, (168 total so far) including their beloved Ronald Reagan, who issued 381.  Check Snopes.com for the facts on this one, facts which the radical right ignores.

    They’re grasping at straws, and it’s both mean-spirited and unpatriotic.  Put another way, the entire GOP has become victims of “groupthink,” a psychological phenomenon in which the desire for harmony or conformity in a well-defined group results in terrible decisions that group members won’t criticize or even analyze. 

    These PINOs are un-American because they’re total pessimists, group thinkers who’ve lost their individuality and freedom to question, who pay little attention to the issue of rights when it comes to sexual orientation, and for whom equality gets lumped in with political correctness, which they also despise.

    As Tom Paine would put it, those who stand up to them deserve the love and thanks of man and woman.

    Moderate Republicans: Endangered species and true patriots.  

               

               

     



    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

                Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

                Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

                Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

                Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Conservatives/Liberals
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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