Aug 22

Enjoy this blog reading experience

Let’s look at some buildings. This one was cool. Plus the evening sun was shining on it. This is back in Milwaukee, by the way. And according to a hasty search — Google Maps, Google Street View, Google and Wikipedia — I can tell you that this is the Associated Bank River Center.

Such a sexy, historical name. The Associated Bank River Center was completed in 1988 and, for a time, was the second tallest building in Milwaukee. (Now it is the fifth largest, after which people stop counting, I’m sure, because, really … )

The red and green are meant to pay homage to the city hall building, which you just see to the right there. (For just under two years, the Milwaukee City Hall was the tallest habitable building in the world. Oh, to be in Milwaukee in 1895, I guess.)

Anyway, back to the foreground. The Associated Bank River Center is undergoing some renovation. It is used for offices, but also for parking, making it that most convenient 20th century design, mixed-use!

A marketing subcommittee wrote this:

Associated Bank River Center brings together the best of Milwaukee. A living intersection of the arts, finance, business, tourism and dining inspiring the City, Associated Bank River Center perfectly encapsulates Milwaukee’s historic roots and points to its transcending future. Renovations to be completed in various phases over the next several years.

But, most importantly, that view, and the brown Milwaukee River.

And, also 28 stories and 820 underground parking spaces, a large conference setup, a tech lounge, whatever that is, food market, bar and health club compliment the “completely renovated lobby experience.”

Which is how you know a marketing subcommittee wrote that. No one has ever, in the history of lobbies, had a lobby experience.

Nearby, the 12-story Hotel Wisconsin was a $2 million luxury hotel. It drew a huge crowd wen it opened in 1913. Over the years, Eleanor Roosevelt stayed there, and so did Laurel & Hardy. The hotel also had a lot of retail and locally prominent restaurants inside over the years, as well. By the 1970s or ’80s it was really showing its age, and the hotel closed in 2003. It was renamed The Grand Wisconsin – which just sounds cool and you probably can’t say that about adding the word ‘grand’ to every state name – and was renovated to create more than 100 apartments.

We didn’t go inside, but now I regret it. The second-floor ballroom was, in 1913, modeled in the style of Louis XIV and some of the ornamentation and the ceiling has been restored. The lobby’s ceiling features American flag shields, badger imagery, terra cotta State of Wisconsin shields and leaded glass panes bearing the state shield, too are on display. The lobby sounds like an impressive .. experience.

This is yesterday’s glimpse of the destruction of Poplars, at IU.

We just had so much to get to yesterday, you understand.

But, so that you can chart the progress, here is today’s glimpse.

Another week, for sure, perhaps two, before this feature grows even less interesting.

And, since we were full of content yesterday, here’s the briefly delayed and long-awaited photo experience that is the most popular feature on the site, the weekly check in with the kitties.

Phoebe looks like she is about to give a speech to her adoring public.

I’ll let you decide the tone and tenor of this speech. You can be assured her audience will be rapturous with delight, either way.

And, last Thursday, Poseidon tried his hardest to make sure we accidentally took him with us.

We did not. There was no room in that suitcase for stowaways.

Aug 22

Let’s listen to old music

I did this some time back as a change of pace, and figured it might be time to do it again. But this time, these four years later, I figured I would write a little something about some of it. Who knows how this will work out, where it lead, how extensive we’ll get or even when I’ll just forget about this on one end or the other. The general idea is that I am working through all of my CDs in chronological order.

Yes, I know the order in which I bought all of these things. Somehow that impresses people. I know it, more or less, anyway. There’s a brief period of time where it’s just a guess, but none of that matters. Not that any of this matters. The collection crosses genres and periods in a haphazard way and there’s no real large theme. There’s too much from the popular catalog for that anyway. It’s not an evolution or path of discovery, it is whimsy.

So let’s be whimsical and listen to old music.

The first CD I bought — and this one is obviously important because it was really considered … not just another record, but an entire format change, and I had a lot of important-to-me cassettes to replace! — was late to the format. And it meant adding hardware. So I bought one of those tape-to-CD chunks of plastic. Plug the tape into my car stereo, run the little cable out of the tape converter to the little lap player. Even then these were growing more scarce.

This was the spring of 1996. It was Tracy Chapman’s newest record, which came out in November of 1995. I bought it that next spring, because the person I was dating owned it and I heard the whole thing and I liked it, and I liked her, and I had always enjoyed Chapman’s music, and so the decision was made.

Chapman won a Grammy, her fourth, off this, an award given for Best Rock Song to “Give Me One Reason,” an incredible popular blues song. She, and that record, were nominated for four other Grammy Awards (her 13th nomination). All told, she shipped north of five million copies domestically, a few more globally, and who knows how many digital plays she’s counted. “New Beginning” was a great record.

None of this is a review, and we won’t be spending a lot of time unpacking philosophy or chord changes, but you should go buy this, if you somehow don’t have it already.

Here’s the title track, number two if you’re playing along. I didn’t know until just now that she plays the didgeridoo here, and that this was controversial for some. The use of a didgeridoo by women, Wikipedia tells me, is taboo in many aboriginal nations. To me, in this song, it just wrapped all of us together for the message. And it really accentuated the rhythm section.

The third track is “Smoke and Ashes,” and it is still one of my favorite Chapman songs, and still feels so sonically perfect. I concentrate on the backing vocals of Adam Levy, Andy Stoller, Glenys Rogers and Rock Deadrick. All these years and spins later, the shift through to the bridge is so gentle and severe and evocative I can’t help but marvel at it. “Only smoke and ashes babe, baby” kills me every time.

The fifth track lays it out, right from the title, “At This Point In My Life.” Chapman was 31 when she produced this. I wonder how it feels to her now.

On “The Promise” the strings almost get lost in the lyrics. Or the lyrics get supplanted by the strings. I can never say. It is such a character-driven song, and it’s gift is that it lets you put the particulars of the character in place yourself.

Here’s the big hit from the record. Again, the vocal work that Chapman can bring are so rich, and so perfectly complemented here. Also, there’s one little moment that always sends me back to the Gulf Coast and a little circular dance of the hand that I re-enact each time I hear this song. It’s a delight of memory and the blues.

“I’m Ready,” is the last named track on the record. Plenty of songs are laments. I’m not sure how many of them are better than this. It gets more potent with each play.

And most crucially to me, the hidden track. Plenty of writers can wax on about music and anyone that knows more about music than I do can do it at great length, with greatly envied success. That’s not what any of this simple exercise, here on my personal site is about. All of this is to just enjoy some of the things I enjoy, and share them with people who might also enjoy them, and to tell you this remains one of the most powerful 100 seconds of audio ever produced.

You get the sense Tracy Chapman just wanted to be a singer-songwriter, maybe in a cafe or whatever, and then that famous Nelson Mandela show that launched her into the stratosphere happened, and then she had some monstrous hits, and maybe, hopefully, she’s just enjoying the regular day-to-day life. She released eight studio records, her last in 2008, and released a greatest hits collection in 2015. She toured through the oughts, at least. She’s been involved in a variety of causes* important to her for probably her whole life, and generally, you would think, just values her privacy.

I don’t think she’s online much, so she’ll never see this. But if she does, or we ever have seats next to one another on a plane, I promise to not make a deal about it. I would absolutely pull out a notebook and ask her for advice on a line or two. It is a big treat to say this verb was suggested by someone whose work you admire.

*My first job was working for one of my teachers. The teacher was moonlighting in the summer doing some landscaping. I was the extra pair of hands. One day she was telling me at great length about how Chapman’s first record, the eponymously named debut album, the one with “Fast Car” on it. Everyone listening to a radio or watching a television in 1988 knew “Fast Car” and “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution” and “Baby Can I Hold You.” And something in there, she said inspired her and her friends to join the Peace Corps. But we’ll get to all of that, and that duet with Luciano Pavarotti, eventually. We have a lot of other records to get through first. Up next, something you’ve never heard of — unless you live, or go to a lot of live shows, in Georgia.

Jul 22

Reading stuff

Not much today, but I did want to share one little passage from this book. Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres wrote an important book. The blurb on the cover, “We’ve needed this book for a long time.” from the journalist and LBJ press secretary and journalist Bill Moyers seems apt. And if we needed the book when it was published in 2011 there’s no less of a need for it today.

The text has a few small problems — every book does if you pick at it long enough, and this is late night, few-pages-at-a-time reading for me — but there are so many lessons to learn.

So I was reading a bit about Jose Martí, a pioneer of social justice journalism — think Ida B. Wells. You have to agree with Gonzalez and Torres, his “dispatches should long ago have accorded him a special place among America’s nineteenth-century newsmen.”

The problem, as Gonzalez and Torres see it, is that Martí’s work was in Spanish so he often gets overlooked by English readers and historians. But, almost everything he wrote seems evocative. He was also a revolutionary in his native Cuba, but I think of him as a writer. And, based on a conversation with a colleague, I learned there are at least six books of his works that are translated into English.

So I guess I’ll have to buy some of those.

Why not? Nine other books I purchased just arrived this weekend — free shipping! — after all.

It might be a problem.

(But it isn’t a problem. I can not read whenever I want.)

Jul 22

The turf and surf menagerie

Last evening, during a walk, we saw a deer.

We saw two deer, in fact. Who knows how many more were just out of sight, watching us.

We also spotted three rabbits and two squirrels.

The highlight was surely the stray cat that came into our back yard. Poseidon noticed it, and was most emphatic that the interloper be removed. After a time The Yankee went out to check on the cat, and decided it looked like one posted on the local Next Door community. She called the number. We kept the kitty — spooked but healthy and hungry — in our yard until they arrived.

They were nice people. The woman is desperate to find their pet. Last weekend they drove 80 miles one-way to see if a cat was theirs. It was not their cat, but they adopted it anyway. So they are nice and passionate people, and perhaps cat thieves. Who can tell with these things?

And then they … wouldn’t leave. So they were nice, passionate, perhaps cat thieves who did not pick up on the social cues. Who can tell with these things? But they’d come over from a few miles away and it was a break from yard work or research or whatever they were doing. They also offered to take this other cat.

So definitely cat thieves, then.

Somewhere during all of this our neighbors came out to visit and we found ourselves having a party in the side yard.

None of this sounds like much, but they stayed on the porch for a good long while, and it was otherwise a evening, so take this elderberry and be happy with it.

If that’s not enough, congratulate me on completing the Cozumel diving social media project. Since March, I have been uploading daily clips of our diving to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Tens of people, perhaps, have seen them. But if you missed all of that somehow, just click the Twitter link and you can see them all threaded together.

Or revisit with me those videos in the longer form on YouTube, where dozens of people have watched. I edited them each day of the dives.

I am very popular on the world wide web.

Jul 22

Two points

I photo my thumb accidentally took while idly fiddling with my phone and watching the news and waiting for The Next Thing of the Day.

Two points if you can figure that out. I know what it is, but I’ll be impressed if anyone here can take two points off of my hands.

The Next Thing of the Day proved easy and uneventful. Started on time, ended on time, everything in the middle was assuredly a smash hit. A Tuesday to be remembered! If you could make the normal Tuesday stand out somehow or another.

Two points if you can figure that out, too.

In my idle chatter I mentioned I had a tube going on my bike. I took it off and found just the tiniest little hole seeping air. I was tempted to slap some super glue on it and experiment, but, in another sign of my own maturity and wisdom, decided this was not a profitable experiment.

You can wrap a tube in a dollar bill to finish a ride in a pinch. (Two points if you get it right on the first try!) But I was already at the house, and not in that pinch. If you’re lucky, though, the currency can hold up for weeks. I can also buy another inner tube and just be done with it. We have a small stack for just such an occasion. I went to the room where we keep stacks of things and found that we have one spare inner tube.

This does not a stack make.

Opened the little box, pulled out the tube, prepared it for installation and …

So I had to put my spare on my back wheel. The spare is the one you carry with you, not the one from the room where we keep stacks of things. That means I don’t have a spare to carry on the bike. So tomorrow’s ride will feature a new back tire, and one with a tiny pinhole on the wall. I should throw a dollar bill in there, too. Juuuust in case.

I always carry a few bucks on the bike. (Two points to me for being prepared.) You never know when a ride goes farther, or takes longer, and you want to stop at a store for water or extra fuel. And, also, for emergency tire patching.

One last point. They’re in the Alps in the Tour.

Click through that mini-thread and you get four little photos that the world feed used as cutaway shots.

The Alps get more intriguing all of the time.