Fuzzy Wuzzy, “Vintage” Soap

I have no idea why this product from my childhood randomly popped into my thoughts this morning.

I vaguely recall being allowed to get Fuzzy Wuzzy soap at least once.  All my friends were fascinated by it.  Does anyone know the science behind a soap that grows fur?  It’s hard to believe something this innovative is no longer available in stores :)

But look!  Collector alert!  Someone is selling Fuzzy Wuzzy on eBay, five animal-shaped soaps in their original boxes with the store display for $399.  Truly, the world is an amazing place, is it not?



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The Northern Soul Project – Sociology of an Underground Music Culture (post #3)

I found another BBC documentary about Northern Soul.  This one aired September 25, 2013, on BBC2 in the United Kingdom. It is titled “Northern Soul: Keeping the Faith” and appears to have been part of a series called “The Culture Show.”

This documentary seems related to “Living for the Weekend,” the July 2014 documentary airing on BBC4 that I posted about in my last installment, which you can read here.  (Who knew there were all these separate BBC channels?  I always thought BBC was just plain old BBC, period.)  Some of the archival footage in today’s BBC2 documentary also ran in the BBC4 film.  Plus I recognize some of the club dancers who are reminiscing about their youth and reconnecting with their decades-old dance moves.  However, while the BBC4 documentary focused on the clubs, music, and DJs, the BBC2 documentary is more about the “people” aspect and sociological phenomenon of Northern Soul as an “underground” music culture. –

So again, like last time, a few thoughts in reaction to this documentary.

1. Northern Soul was/is a drug scene.  First and foremost came the dancing.  But people featured in the two documentaries I watched are candid about the drug use.  The fact that some of the early Northern Soul clubs didn’t have liquor licenses may account for one reason people bought and sold amphetamines outside the dance halls.  Beyond that, though, people didn’t want to be mellowed out by alcohol.  Amphetamines gave them the “up” feeling they sought in dancing.  They might not have had the stamina for the all-night dance clubs without the drugs.  Yet “speed kills,” as the saying goes.  The veteran dancers regretfully acknowledge friends who were lost to drugs.

2. Northern Soul was/is about community.  People of all ages, young and old.  One of the veteran dancers profiled in this documentary is a woman named Fran Franklin.  Growing up in 1970s northern England with a black father and a white mother, Fran says she always felt like an outsider until she went to her first Northern Soul dance.  There she discovered that her skin color didn’t matter, and she was welcomed into the family of dancers.  She describes the experience as finding her home.

Club-goers came from all over England to the weekly all-night dance events.  When they said their goodbyes Sunday morning as they returned to their normal lives, they always said, “See you next week,” to each other—because they would.  You saw the same people weekend after weekend, becoming very close to one another as a result.  Dancers were part of a close-knit network made up of people from many different cities, many walks of life.

The nearest thing I can think of to approximate this kind of community in America might be Harley-Davidson riders.  Maybe that’s because I live in Milwaukee, home of Harley-Davidson and the scene of H-D rallies and periodic “reunions” every summer.  Riders make the pilgrimage from all over the world and come from all walks of life.  What they have in common is their passion for their bikes and the riding lifestyle.

3. Northern Soul was/is about the vinyl.  Vendors and collectors even today apparently set up shop outside the dance halls to buy and sell rare Northern Soul records.  Posters I’ve seen online for dance events often advertise the fact that “vinyl” will available for purchase.

4. Northern Soul dance attire had/has a specific “look.”  Wide, flared pants and suspenders for the men, sort of mid-1970s disco era.  Circle skirts for the women, very similar to the “poodle” skirts American girls wore in the 1950s (but minus the poodle appliqué).  For both men and women, form seems to follow function.  Men’s dancing is very athletic, basically what Americans usually think of as “breakdancing,” with James-Brown-style spins and fancy footwork on the floor reminiscent of pommel-horse moves in men’s gymnastics.  Women’s dancing incorporates lots of spins, as well.  Here, the circle skirts add greatly to the spinning effect, flaring completely outward.  If she spins in opposite directions, a dancer’s skirt flies out, furls tight around her legs when she stops, then opens again like a blooming flower as she spins the other way.

5. Northern Soul is stuck in the musical past.  Except not.  This is the greatest paradox I’ve found so far.  Northern Soul seems to be deeply rooted in those rare Tamla Motown and similar old blues/soul/pop 45 rpm records.  Disco has a similar 4/4 beat, but, Northern Soul dancers disdainfully rejected it back in the late 1970s.   Purists seem to want nothing but the real stuff.

Yet, at the same time, there’s apparently some openness to new music.  I kept running into the strangest pairing in my Internet wanderings: Northern Soul and . . . Pharrell Williams.  I’m not sure what the connection is yet.  Is “Happy” actually an old tune from the 1960s?  Or does it just have the same upbeat Tamla Motown sound.

In either case, I think you’ll enjoy watching these two videos.  The first is Pharrell Williams closing out the Brit Awards television show this past February with “Happy.”  Note the circle skirts/wide pants and Northern Soul dance moves.

The second video is “Northern Soul Girl” Levanna dancing to “Happy.”  I don’t know who Levanna is, but she’s got a few Northern Soul dance videos up on YouTube.  She seems so happy dancing that just watching her makes me happy.  Look for the older gentleman around 1:39; he reminds me of the veteran dancers in the BBC documentaries.  That’s one of the coolest things I’m discovering about Northern Soul.  Young or old, from whatever walk of life, there’s room for everyone in this community of people who love the music and live to dance.



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Shadow and architecture, Grohmann Museum

Grohmann Museum

I couldn’t resist snapping this photo with my iPhone just before 5:00 p.m. this afternoon in the Grohmann Museum on the campus of Milwaukee School of Engineering.  As I approached the atrium’s spiral staircase on the way from my office to copy machine, I was struck by the patterns of shadow and light, glass and steel.

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Sunday Driving

We opted to avoid I-94 on our trip west from Milwaukee to Delafield on an errand this afternoon. Instead we drove county highways and frontage roads, one of which took us past Crites Field, the Waukesha County airport.  And just look what we got to see along the way!

stunt plane with trail

This plane is not in trouble, which was my initial (horrified) thought.  My husband and I had stumbled across the Wings Over Waukesha Airshow by accident.  Scores of people were gathered in parking lots and fields around the airport to view the aerobatics.  If only we had known about this event in advance: attendees had an opportunity to ride in a World War II B-17 bomber.

Oh, well.  Discovering it as we did was still a delightful surprise.

Then home again in time to take the younger daughter shopping for school supplies.  When I finally finished up my errands with a trip to the grocery store, I was treated to this striking sunset.  All in all, quite a fine day, I think.  So now, good night :)

Sunset across parking lot

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Ghost Moon (photo)

IMG_0089[1]Seen on my way to the Starbucks at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee this morning, looking west on State Street.

And below is the cropped image I was sort of aiming for.  I don’t know if the photo will stick here in the blog post, though.  I’ve been fiddling with it off and on all day; don’t know if it’s me or WordPress to blame.  So if all you find below is an empty box with a red “x,” well, at least you know that I tried my best :)

Ghost Moon (cropped)


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Sustainability As Flourishing

Katherine Wikoff:

Excellent, thoughtful review that has convinced me to add this book to my reading list.

Originally posted on The Purpose of Work:

FlourishingThis is a remarkable book, and fascinating from a Bahá’í perspective.  Remarkable in that it’s a radical critique of sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility programmes – and, more widely, of 21st century capitalism – co-authored by two US business school professors and published by Stanford University.

The book is a set of interviews around eight papers by John Ehrenfeld, former Director of the MIT Program on Technology, Business and Environment and still, in retirement, a Senior Research Scholar at Yale. The interviewer is Andrew Hoffmann, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.

Dr Ehrenfeld believes that our current understanding of sustainability, and its promise of a sustainable future, is a delusion:

“Hybrid cars, LED light bulbs, wind farms and green buildings, these are all just the trappings that convince us that we are doing something when in fact we are fooling ourselves, and making things worse….Reducing unsustainability, although critical, will not create…

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Report: Children in Appalachia worse off

Katherine Wikoff:

Although scenes of Appalachian poverty were familiar in the 1960s, for years now the rural poor seem to have been forgotten by politicians and mainstream media.

Originally posted on WKBN.com:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A new report from a child welfare organization shows that children in Ohio’s Appalachian counties are worse off than kids in inner-city neighborhoods.

The report from the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio says children in Ohio’s eastern and southern counties are increasingly at a disadvantage. They are more likely to suffer from hunger, obesity and a lack of health care than kids in the rest of the state.

The report shows that just over 28 percent of children in Ohio’s 32-county Appalachian region live in poverty, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Statewide, child poverty rates increased 39 percent from 2002 to 2012. Youth poverty increased 136 percent in Appalachian counties, compared with 50 percent in the state’s other counties.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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