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

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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The Northern Soul Project – Some Background (post #2)

To recap: I stumbled across the term “Northern Soul” a week ago while trying to see if the Dusty Springfield part of the Pet Shop Boys’ “What Have I Done to Deserve This,” was actually one of her old songs.  In case you’re not familiar with this song, I found both the official music video and the one below, which I prefer, recorded at the 1988 BRIT Awards, on YouTube.

As I wrote in my last post (read it here), I suddenly had a vague, instinctive hunch that “Northern Soul” might be related to the sound I’ve always liked so much in early-to-mid-Sixties and 1980s British music.  Realizing this was a subject I wanted to learn more about, I also recognized an opportunity to sustain a series of posts about “lifelong learning,” a topic I’ve always intended to blog about in more depth than I have.

Suppose I embarked on a self-education project of my own?  I could start from the very beginning of my introduction to the topic but at the same time, and in parallel with my real-time acquisition of knowledge, talk about my own learning process.

That might be interesting.

To me, anyway.  And maybe to someone else?  At least the Northern Soul part :)

So after encountering the term and looking it up on Wikipedia, I decided to see if there was a hashtag for “Northern Soul” on Twitter.  (I actually poked around a little first and found a cool song on YouTube to listen to.  More on that in another post.  For today, let’s pretend I went straight to Twitter :) )  I’m no Twitter expert, but I have at least figured out that hashtag conversations can be a good place to troll along to catch interesting bits of info that surface.

I found some good things on #NorthernSoul right away.  Most important as a starting point for my self-education project, I found multiple references to a BBC4 documentary that had aired recently, like at the end of July, titled “Northern Soul: Living for the Weekend.”  The Face: Mod Radio (@TheFaceRadioBK) posted a video link to the hour-long film, which I watched last night.

Some immediate thoughts, connections, reactions:

1. Rock/pop/soul /blues/ jazz music was once very hard to find in Great Britain.  According to the documentary, the only place to hear American rock/soul/jazz songs in the early 1960s was on “pirate” radio stations that operated literally from boats off the coast of England.

This piece of info reminded me of reading Keith Richards’ memoir, Life, a few years ago.  Richards’ mother was “a master twiddler of the [radio] knobs” and expert at locating good music all over the dial, not only Mozart and Bach but especially also Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, etc.  “My ears would have gone there anyway,” says Richards in his book, “but my mum trained them to go to the black side of town without her even knowing it.”  As a teen Richards would listen to Radio Luxembourg, the only place he could find the music he wanted to hear.

[The song] that really turned me on, like an explosion one night, listening to Radio Luxembourg on my little radio when I was supposed to be in bed and asleep, was “Heartbreak Hotel.”  That was the stunner.  I’d never heard it before, or anything like it.  I’d never heard of Elvis before.  It was almost as if I’d been waiting for it to happen.  When I woke up the next day I was a different guy.  Suddenly I was getting overwhelmed: Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Fats.  Radio Luxembourg was notoriously difficult to keep on station.  I had a little aerial and walked round the room, holding the radio up to my ear and twisting the aerial.  Trying to keep it down because I’d wake Mum and Dad up.  If I could get the signal right, I could take the radio under the blankets on the bed and keep the aerial outside and twist it there.

The BBC4 documentary also mentions Chess Records as a source of music that the Mods and later Northern Soul listeners prized.  Returning to my reading of Keith Richards’ Life, I recalled that the first time Richards met Mick Jagger (they’d been in primary school together but hadn’t really known each other) was at the Dartford train station in December 1961.  Richards was a huge fan of Chuck Berry, thought he was the “the only fan for miles.”  He was holding a Chuck Berry record there at the station, in fact, when Jagger approached him.  Turned out Jagger and his friends had “every record Chuck Berry ever made” and were all rhythm and blues fans, “real R&B I mean (not this Dinah Shore, Brook Benton crap) Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Chuck, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker all the Chicago bluesmen real lowdown stuff, marvelous.”

Did we hit it off?  You get in a carriage with a guy that’s got Rockin’ at the Hops by Chuck Berry on Chess Records, and The Best of Muddy Waters also under his arm, you are gonna hit it off.  He’s got Henry Morgan’s treasure.  It’s the real shit.  I had no idea how to get hold of that. . . .

“Where the hell did you get this?” . . .

And he said, “Well I got this address.”  He was already writing off to Chicago, and funnily enough to Marshall Chess, who had a summer job with his dad in the mail room there, and who later became the president of Rolling Stones Records.  It was a mail-order thing, like Sears, Roebuck.  He’d seen this catalogue, which I had never seen. . . .

Mick and I must have spent a year, while the Stones were coming together and before, record hunting.  There were others like us, trawling far and wide, and meeting one another in record shops.  If you didn’t have money you would just hang and talk.  But Mick had these blues contacts.  There were a few record collectors, guys that somehow had a channel through to America before anybody else.

2. Northern Soul was (is) more about audience experience than musicians’ creative expression.  That is, Northern Soul is really a genre created by the listeners/dancers themselves, not the performing artists whose music characterizes the genre.

During London’s Mod era in the early-to-mid 1960s, the American R&B / Motown sound ruled.  It was great dance music, with a fast 4/4 (four quarter-note beats to the bar) time signature and often a rich, loud “Wall of Sound” production.  This was the period during which Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were collecting rare blues records.

Time moved on.  In the United States, changes in the political scene led to changes in American black music.  James Brown and the slower, more free-form yet deliberate musical style known as “funk” were replacing Motown’s tight harmonies and snare-drumbeat synchrony.

You may recall “good beat, easy to dance to” as the generic high praise for new records on the old American Bandstand television show.  That pretty much sums up Northern Soul’s appeal: a fast, loud Motown-style beat that was easy to dance to.  Club dancers liked what they liked; and they resisted being dragged along the new trails blazed by contemporary R&B artists.

If you have seen the film Saturday Night Fever, then you understand the basic concept underlying Northern Soul.  The industrial north of England had lots of young people working dead-end factory jobs who lived for the weekends and dancing at clubs.  A huge favorite was a club called The Twisted Wheel in Manchester, which operated from 1963 till 1971.  It held all-night dance parties lasting from 11:00 p.m. Saturday till 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning.   Young people came to Manchester weekly from all over England, mostly by train, for the dance music that had become nearly extinct outside the Twisted Wheel and a handful of similar clubs.

In fact, the very term “Northern Soul” was coined in 1968 by Dave Godin, a London record dealer and music columnist, who had noticed that people coming into his Soul City shop from Northern cities didn’t want the new soul records but always asked for older music.  From the Wikipedia entry on Northern Soul:

I had started to notice that northern football [soccer] fans who were in London to follow their team were coming into the store to buy records, but they weren’t interested in the latest developments in the black American chart.  I devised the name as a shorthand sales term.  It was just to say “If you’ve got customers from the north, don’t waste time playing them records currently in the U.S. black chart, just play them what they like—’Northern Soul.'”

Frozen in time and isolated within this specific culture, the 1960s Motown sound grew into a genre uniquely suited to the young people who adopted it as their own.

3. Northern Soul survived and developed its distinctive identity primarily due to the actions of a few passionate individuals.  I’ll talk about this more in a future post.  The Twisted Wheel was shut down in 1971 through political machinations of Manchester politicians targeting the mainstay of Northern Soul, the “all-nighter” dance clubs.  That closing might have marked an end to the nascent music genre . . . except for two enterprising individuals who scooped up the fallen banner and carried it forward (to use an overly dramatic metaphor :) )

A DJ named Russ Winstanley and Mike Walker, manager of Wigan Casino, a property situated in Wigan, part of the metropolitan Manchester area, saw potential for all-nighters in their club.  Their venue had a huge ballroom, and (if my impressions from the BBC4 documentary are correct) a balcony/mezzanine overlook so that people who weren’t dancing could observe the theatrical performances of others below.  Additionally, Wigan Casino was even easier to reach by train than the Twisted Wheel had been, and Manchester’s central location in England’s North made it easy for people to travel to and from the all-night dances by train.

Although the Wigan Casino, like the Twisted Wheel before it, had some live performances by soul performers like Jackie Wilson and Junior Walker, by the mid-1970s musicians like them were no longer on the current tour circuit.  The key to the dance clubs’ success was the classic Motown-type single 45 rpm record, or as they seem to call it England, the 7″ vinyl (and probably, given the age of some of these recordings, even some “shellac,” which is the material the older, more brittle 78s and 45s were made of).

Because “Northern Soul”purists” prized that classic Motown sound and wanted nothing to do with new music, club DJs went to extraordinary lengths to find old records.  The BBC4 documentary tells of one young DJ who visited Miami, Florida, with his parents on vacation and instead of spending time on the beaches scoured Goodwill for old 45s.   His find of 4,000 obscure 45rpm recordings secured his DJ career and earned him a spot in the Northern Soul pantheon.  You see, DJ’s owned their record collections.  If a DJ had rare and desirable recordings that nobody else did, then the club that hired this DJ would be the club everyone wanted to dance at.  Which meant DJs were the true rock stars of Northern Soul, as it were.

Well, my WordPress counter tells me I’m nearing 1700 words in this post.  That’s quite enough for one day, so I’ll stop here and pick up the thread again soon.  Meanwhile, I hope you have a chance to view the BBC documentary.  Truly fascinating!

Posted in Art and music, Creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, History, Learning, Life, Movies and film, WPLongform (posts of 1000 words or longer) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Northern Soul Project

One of the terms in my blog’s subtitle is “Lifelong Learning.”  When I started writing here a couple of years ago, I thought I’d be talking much more about that topic than I’ve turned out to, as it’s a huge interest of mine.  The thing is, I suppose, “lifelong learning” really has more to do with my professional life, and this blog has turned into . . .

Well, I’m not exactly sure what it has turned into.  I seem to post on whatever I feel like writing about.  Which is cool.

But guess what?  I finally have something to post about lifelong learning, after all: Northern soul.  First, let me backtrack a little.

The term “lifelong learning” apparently has vastly different meanings depending on who you talk to.  I have a Google alert for the term, so I’ve gotten a weekly digest of articles and blog posts on the topic for several years.  Mostly what gets written about?  Enrichment classes for senior citizens.  The other subject is professional certification.

Neither of those is what I mean by the term.  And the only people who talk about “lifelong learning” in the way I define it seem to be members of the British Commonwealth and Malaysia.  Oops, just checked: Malaysia is a British Commonwealth country, so there you go.  I don’t know why they all have the same perspective on lifelong learning as me, but I’ve found that whenever I read something that resonates, it will turn out to be a research paper from Great Britain or a newspaper article from Australia or Malaysia, etc.

Here is how I define lifelong learning—or, more accurately, “transformative” (aka “transformational”) learning (to distinguish it from senior-citizen activities and professional certification)—in my LinkedIn profile:

This is a form of lifelong learning characteristic of adult learners and usually occurring outside a formal classroom setting. Transformative learning is a largely self-directed process involving self-awareness, reflection, and critical thinking that leads not only to professional development but also to social connection, creative insight, and personal growth.

Transformative learning is really exciting for me.  I love reading stories about/from people like Peter Drucker or Steve Jobs who learned this way.  Formal education, as institutionalized in a school setting, often takes away the imagination and creativity of self-directed, curiosity-driven, informal learning . . . to the point where people may not trust their own instincts to forge an individualized path to knowledge and wisdom.  I’ll do a separate post in a few days to expand on this a bit.

Meanwhile, back to Northern soul.  Earlier this week I was listening to the radio in my car and heard an old ’80s song I recognized, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” by the Pet Shop Boys.  Because I have satellite radio, which displays the name of the song and artist, I saw for the first time ever that Dusty Springfield also sings on this recording.  Dusty Springfield was way before my time as a radio listener.  But I’ve always known who she was, partly because of her striking “mod” style (heavy black eyeliner, blonde bouffant hair) during London’s 1960s pop-scene heyday.

Here’s the kind of embarrassing way I discovered her music.  When I was a teen, I liked this horrifyingly cheesy band from Scotland called the Bay City Rollers (don’t judge me :) ).  With their spiky haircuts and cropped, tartan-cuffed pants, they were a teenybopper sensation.

Thing is, I really liked their music.  They had one truly monster breakout hit, “Saturday Night” (S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y pause NIGHT!), but most of their songs were actually covers from the 1960s—a fact I didn’t realize until the day I was surprised to hear one of my particular Bay City Roller favorites, “I Only Want to Be With You,” sung on the radio by a woman with a warm, husky voice.  Dusty Springfield.

As soon as I made the Pet Shop Boys–Dusty Springfield connection in the car this week, my mind started to race.  It was sort of a “eureka” moment for me.  One section of “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” particularly caught my attention, the bridge where Dusty sings solo.  To me it sounded like one of her old songs, but I couldn’t quite place it.  So I went digging around the Internet, couldn’t find it—although I did find a video on YouTube where a singer appears to have possibly ripped off the lyrics and melody as an internal section of her own song (which I’ll refrain from identifying, out of the goodwill presumption that she did the right thing and obtained permission from the original songwriters, the Pet Shop Boys and Allee Willis).

In the course of my Internet search, I came across a term I’d never seen before: Northern soul.  Here’s how Wikipedia begins its entry on the term:

Northern soul is a music and dance movement that emerged independently in Northern England, the English Midlands, Scotland and Wales[1] in the late 1960s from the British mod scene. Northern soul mainly consists of a particular style of black American soul music based on the heavy beat and fast tempo of the mid-1960s Tamla Motown sound.

As I read the entire entry, suddenly my mind started making connections, almost on its own.  There’s a certain sound I love in ’80s music.  I’ve never been able to really characterize it, other than to say there seems to be an ironic link between its upbeat production and its use of minor key in the melody line.  But as I continued linking, in the serendipitous way that the Internet makes so very easy, I kept finding an incredible correlation between this “Northern soul” geography and many of the groups with that sound I liked so well.

The Pet Shop Boys, both originally from northern England.  The Bay City Rollers, Edinburgh, Scotland.  Duran Duran, Birmingham.  The Eurythmics, Aberdeen, Scotland (Annie Lennox) and Sunderland (Dave Stewart).  Soft Cell (“Tainted Love”), Leeds.  One-hit-wonder Kajagoogoo (“Too Shy”), Bedfordshire (immediately adjacent to the English Midlands).  The Beatles, Liverpool.

So this is my new learning project: to find out as much as I can about Northern soul.  My intention is to post regularly on my “journey” (to use a word that’s been, sadly, way too corrupted by reality TV).  In the process maybe you can learn something about Northern soul, too (if you’re interested :) ).

And I can also share my own definition of “lifelong” learning by demonstrating how it works for me.

Posted in Creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, History, Learning, Life, Music, Popular culture, Teaching, WPLongform (posts of 1000 words or longer) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Collectivo Lakefront Café

What a beautiful afternoon in Milwaukee today!  Perfect weather for coffee at Collectivo’s Lakefront Café with two of my favorite MSOE colleagues, Jim and Jan.  These colorful chairs and rain barrel were right next to our outdoor table.


After hearing Jim talk about all the cool photographs he took at a creativity conference last month, I was inspired to snap a cool photo of my own :)

I’d never been to the Collectivo at Milwaukee’s lakefront before today.  But for years I’ve admired the building, which houses the “works” of a 126-year-old engineering marvel.  Built in 1888, the Milwaukee River Flushing Station pumped water from Lake Michigan down a mile-long tunnel to the North Avenue Dam, where it poured into the Milwaukee River.  The fresh lake water literally “flushed” human waste downstream through the river’s downtown Milwaukee channel and then discharged itself back out into the lake.

(A much better solution in my opinion than Chicago’s Sanitary and Ship Canal, known historically as the “Drainage Canal,” which famously reversed the flow of the Chicago River and diverted Lake Michigan water to the Mississippi River.  Drainage, indeed!)

The Milwaukee River Flushing Station was designated a National Historic Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1992.   According to an article in the Milwaukee Sentinel that reported on this recognition, the Milwaukee River had become “a cesspool” by 1888, and “the station was the only equipment that cleaned the river until the sewage system was built in the 1920s.”

Once the Jones Island wastewater treatment plant was built in 1925, the Milwaukee River Flushing Station became unnecessary in terms of its original purpose.  However, the pump is still activated occasionally to retain its functionality and to provide additional water flow during periods of hot, dry weather.

Despite the fact that the building was never truly abandoned, it always looked that way to me.  Enter Alterra Coffee, now renamed Collectivo, which converted the Flushing Station to a restaurant a few years ago.

Kudos to the popular Milwaukee coffee chain for restoring and maintaining this historic building!  Not only has Collectivo rescued a decrepit public utility, but the Café has added greatly to the life of Milwaukee’s lakefront.  It’s a fun place to grab a cup of coffee while running, skating, biking, or walking, but it’s also an attractive destination in itself.

The photo above is from Collectivo’s website.  The Lakefront Café has great food and coffee, with indoor seating on its multi-level lofts and outdoor tables with a view of Lake Michigan’s sapphire-blue water.  One reason I’d avoided the Lakefront Café before today is that I figured parking would be impossible.  Fortunately that really isn’t an issue.  Although parking available behind the building is limited, there’s a large surface lot (with plenty of free parking) at the marina just across the street.



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