Firestreak

This is actually a reflection, on slightly crumpled aluminum foil, of the red light on my stove indicating that a burner is turned on. My daughter had placed a foil-covered tray on a lower oven shelf last night in case the casserole she was baking for dinner bubbled over. It didn’t, and this morning she pulled the tray out and set it atop the stove, intending to remove the foil and do a quick wash of the sheet pan. But I was standing right there making oatmeal and noticed this reflection, so then of course I needed to take a picture. The jagged, twisted red lines remind me of a fire-breathing dragon somehow, even though that’s a very rough association and any resemblance to such a mythical beast most likely exists solely in the eye of the beholder (i.e., yours truly). Still, I think I like this photo as an abstraction, regardless.

Posted in Photography | Tagged | 4 Comments

For want of a nail . . .

I was doing research on something else (always the way it works for me 🙂 ) when I came across this October 2020 Hollywood Reporter article on Shonda Rhimes and got sucked in by the title (Shonda Rhimes Is Ready to “Own Her S***”) and started reading.

This article covers a lot of ground, and its main point is that Shonda Rhimes is super happy at Netflix because of the creative freedom she has:

The reason I came to Netflix is because I wanted to be able to make television without anybody bothering me. . . .  And as long as I get to keep making television without anybody bothering me, I’m happy.

However, the section of the article that most captured my attention was the story of the actual catalyst for Rhimes’s departure from the ABC television network. Yes, there had been battles over budget and content for the multiple series she’d produced for them. Yes, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos had been courting her. But the real straw that broke the camel’s back came in the form of something that should never have been an issue at all: disrespect and a lack of flexibility over a perk that was literally small change in comparison with the huge amount of revenue Rhimes was generating.

From the article:

As part of her ABC relationship, Rhimes had been given an all-inclusive pass to Disneyland — and without a partner, she’d negotiated a second for her nanny. But on this day, she needed one for her sister, too, as she’d be taking Rhimes’ teenage daughter while the nanny chaperoned her younger two. If the passes had been interchangeable, Rhimes would have been happy to give up hers — when would she have time to go to Disneyland anyway?

After some unwanted back-and-forth — “We never do this,” she was told more than once — Rhimes was issued an additional pass. But when her daughters arrived in Anaheim, only one of the passes worked. Rhimes lobbed a call to a high-ranking executive at the company. Surely, he would get this sorted.

Instead, the exec allegedly replied, “Don’t you have enough?”

Rhimes was beside herself. She thanked him for his time, then hung up and called her lawyer: Figure out a way to get her over to Netflix, or she’d find new representatives.

Boom, done. Just like that.

Isn’t it funny how we can agonize over decisions, making pro–con lists, feeling a restless need to change our circumstances but trapped inside our “gilded cage” by our “golden handcuffs,” etc.? And then something happens that would ordinarily be quite trivial in the usual course of events—and suddenly we see in a blinding flash of intuition what all of our lists and logical reasoning previously failed to make clear.

Maybe that high-ranking executive was having a bad day. Perhaps Shonda Rhimes and her Disneyland pass was an irritant he just didn’t have time for. Possibly he was annoyed that she was bothering him with something so not-his-job. Given his response to her, it also sounds like he may have been pushing back against her specific Disneyland-pass request within the larger context of those ongoing negotiations regarding her compensation package.

But this was an emergency, and it involved Rhimes’s family. Not just her family, but her family standing at the gate to the Magic Kingdom with a pass that didn’t work.

This ABC executive failed to connect with Rhimes on a human level. He failed to see that this was his chance to be a hero to her and (even better) to help her be a hero to her family. He failed to understand how deeply disrespectful both his lack of help and (even worse) his comment were. Of course, Rhimes could have afforded a ticket to Disneyland. That’s not the point. ABC had given her the passes. They were legitimately hers. Rhimes wasn’t looking for an extra pass. She needed an alternate pass because hers was not interchangeable and could not be used by the sister who was standing in for her (while Rhimes herself was working to earn ABC more revenue).

I assume what happened next was that the sister had to pay to get into Disneyland, had to pay for meals and whatever else is included in an all-inclusive pass. I also assume that Rhimes had to call her sister back and break that news to her.

Imagine how different that story would have gone if that executive had personally called the gate with instructions to honor the pass or hand out a new one. How much harder it would have been for Rhimes to leave ABC, her longtime home where she worked hard, under difficult constraints, but could count on people to have her back and come through when help was needed.

Instead, Rhimes was immediately on the phone to her attorneys telling them to figure out how to get her over to Netflix.

This whole situation reminds me of that old proverb:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Substitute “all-inclusive Disneyland pass” for “nail” and you’ve got a pretty clear picture of the what ABC has potentially lost. According to a June 17 TVLine article, viewers now spend more time watching streaming services than traditional broadcast television. And Rhimes’s smash hit “Bridgerton” has become the most-watched series on Netflix, with news recently that it has been renewed for three more seasons. And “Bridgerton” is only the beginning. According to the October 2020 Hollywood Reporter article, Rhimes has at least 13 other projects in the works.

Maybe Walt Disney Television (which includes ABC) is too big to worry about Shonda Rhimes right now. But if that Disneyland pass was the “nail,” and Shonda Rhimes is the “rider,” will we eventually also see the lost “message,” “battle,” and finally “kingdom”?

Posted in Creativity, Life, Popular culture, Television | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Some Fiserv Forum photos (under construction and beyond) from my daily commute

In honor of the Milwaukee Bucks game tonight at Fiserv Forum, I thought I’d do a post with some photos of the arena that I’ve taken taken over the past several years. My drive to work at Milwaukee School of Engineering takes me right past Fiserv Forum every day, so I’ve been fortunate to witness the building’s entire life, from the hole-in-the-ground stage through today.

This is the first photo I took of Fiserv Forum, dated January 30, 2017.

I took this picture about a week later. It was on a fog-shrouded February morning (February 7, to be exact), and I thought the building looked especially skeletal, even spectral, in the mist that day.

A week later, I took another picture because I liked the way the sun was shining through.

Now that I’d started taking pictures, I began noticing progress and documenting it whenever something seemed interesting. These photos were taken in mid March 2017, following a snowstorm. We’re actually looking at the Bucks training facility here, which is kitty-corner across the street from Fiserv Forum. Construction in Wisconsin sometimes requires snow blowing  the girders.

I can see that I’ll never get this entry posted at the rate I’m going if I keep trying to talk about these photos. At the end of this blog post are some of my more recent (relatively speaking, as they are from summer and fall 2019, pre-pandemic) photos with a little explanatory accompanying text.

But here in the middle, just to get this post up before I have to head out the door for dinner with my friend Karen (who is definitely NOT a “Karen”!), I’m just going to create a string of photos, somewhat in chronological order but not guaranteed as such, to show the construction of the Bucks’ arena. These aren’t fancy. I mostly took them to show my family. These also aren’t all the photos I ever took of Fiserv Forum under construction. Had I but known that someday I’d want to have them all organized to share en masse, I’d have created an album in my phone long ago.

And now here are some of my “recents.”

The panorama below was taken in April 2019 as I walked across town back to my office from a conference that had been held in the Wisconsin Center. As I hit the intersection of State Street and (I believe) Fourth Street, I realized that I could see all three current and former homes of the Milwaukee Bucks: MECCA on the far left, the Bradley Center (being torn down) in the center, and Fiserv Forum at right. With the Bradley Center gone now, that huge, empty space is part of the outdoor viewing plaza for the Bucks–Suns NBA championship games. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

The picture below was taken on my way home from work on September 13, 2018. There must have been road construction somewhere around Fiserv Forum, maybe associated with tearing down the old Bradley Center? Anyway, I’m coming at Fiserv from a different direction, facing north on Sixth Street, in the left-hand turn lane getting ready to go west on Highland. The reason I snapped this one is that the two trees had recently been planted, and I liked the way their shadows fit so neatly into the “frames” on the side wall of what I assume is a loading dock area (I’ve seen trucks and other vehicles going in and out via doors on the south end).

I uploaded this next photo to my blog April 23, 2019, in a post asking if anyone recognized the font. No one did, so I’ll ask again. Do you know what this is? To me this looks vaguely Soviet, vaguely 1970s computer printout-y. So, kind of 1970s “high tech” but in a 1930s socialist-realism propaganda poster sort of way.


This one is from June 3, 2019. My phone is not camera enough to capture what I experienced. This is on the sidewalk to the north of the building, facing east. The curved walls of Fiserv Forum seem really overwhelming from this vantage point, like they’re swooping out and up and dwarfing you in the process. If you visit Fiserv, try standing here, looking up at the wall and tapping into an almost breathtaking feeling of being at the bottom of a canyon.

Here is Fiserv Forum’s skywalk, taken on my way home from work in August 2019. I was stopped at the traffic light on Juneau in a spot farther back than usual, and it just struck me that I’d never seen the skywalk from exactly this perspective.

The Deer District has lots of “branding.” They’ve even branded the fire hydrants. The top of this one is a basketball. Not only is it a basketball, it’s a specific brand of basketball. This was a nighttime photo, which I took in early September 2019 when I noticed the Bucks logo the first time. I took a closer look one day during daylight hours and discovered that the orange basketball is a “Spalding” basketball. I wonder if they got some extra money from Spalding to include that 🙂

Finally, here is one of the most recent photos I’ve taken of Fiserv Forum. I just checked the date and found that it was November 6, 2019, on my way home from work. Thanks to the pandemic, I guess I just haven’t been out in the actual, physical world as much as I used to be.

And that is it for today! I’m off to drive through the rain to meet Karen for dinner. Tip-off is in about four hours. I hope the storm passes over town before then. Thunder and lightening would put quite a damper on the outdoor viewing party in the plaza outside Fiserv Forum.

(Go Bucks! ❤ )

Posted in architecture, History, Milwaukee, Photography | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

“Mod Geometric Flower” (and the end of my pandemic lifestyle)

Just a quick roundup of my life lately here in Milwaukee. Topics for today:

  • a parking lot photo
  • my car troubles
  • the Milwaukee Bucks and clean streets
  • ending my pandemic lifestyle

So first, the photo. I’m calling this “Mod Geometric Flower,” even though it’s obviously an outdoor light fixture.

I took this picture with my phone Saturday evening as I walked out of our grocery store. Pretty striking, hey? I love the black lines around the diamond brilliance of the lights. That light fixture is normally very ordinary looking, but I think what caught my eye on Saturday was the variegated, watercolor gray of the sky against the black metal and the startling white light and reflectors.

After pausing to take this photo, I loaded groceries into the car and was ready to head home. However, when I turned the key in the ignition and shifted into drive, my car died almost immediately. I tried again and this time got about ten feet farther before the car died again. So my husband and older daughter came to pick me up (along with the groceries, which included some frozen items), and then my husband and I went back to the parking lot of the now-closed store to wait for a tow truck to take our car several blocks away to our local mechanic. Just a little aggravation and several hundred dollars later, our car is back in business.

While my main car was in the shop, I drove our almost-25-year-old “kids’ car” to my eye doctor’s appointment yesterday morning. Which was good because we try to drive that car regularly enough for it to remain in good running condition. This was the car I drove to work for many years before we upgraded to a larger vehicle that could accommodate the carpool thing when our kids were younger and involved in school activities. When we got the minivan, we decided to keep our older car (which we owned free and clear, after all) as a backup. That decision has paid off for us many times in terms of peace of mind when we’ve run into trouble with our other vehicles.

On my return home (in my 25-year-old car) from the eye doctor on the East Side, the drive west on Juneau took me past both Water Street (Milwaukee’s “party” strip of bars and clubs) and Fiserv Forum. As you probably know, the Milwaukee Bucks won the game (pretty convincingly, too, imo! 🙂 ) Sunday night. There was a huge crowd of people watching the game on large screens in the big plaza right outside the arena in addition to everyone inside watching the game in person. After the victory, all those people were stoked and no doubt stayed downtown awhile longer to celebrate.

And yet, as I drove past Water Street and Fiserv Forum yesterday morning, everything was neat and clean. You’d never know anything out of the ordinary had happened just hours earlier. No litter, no disarray whatsoever. In the “Deer District” the barricade fencing and large TV screens were set up on the arena grounds, and the entire plaza area was definitely prepped for continued crowds in advance of tomorrow night’s game, which is also here in Milwaukee. There was at least one large electronic street sign displaying a message that only game ticket holders could pass, meaning that the street was closed off to traffic Sunday, but even that sign had been rolled out of the way into the parking lane yesterday. Juneau was completely open to through traffic.

I was impressed. Especially by how clean everything was. The socialists who ran Milwaukee for much of the 20th century’s first half were known as the “Sewer Socialists.” (See the Wikipedia article on sewer socialism HERE and the Wisconsin Historical Society’s article on the same topic HERE.) They kept the city clean and smoothly functioning. When I first moved here in the early 1980s, the first thing I noticed was how CLEAN the city was. (The second was how friendly everyone was 🙂 ) I’ve just gotten used to that over the years and only recall how very striking it was originally when I hear someone else new to Milwaukee remarking on the city’s cleanliness. But I have to say, I couldn’t believe that on the morning after that victory and the downtown celebrations that followed, those two key areas (Water Street and the Deer District) were so clean and orderly. Well done, City of Milwaukee workers!

After I got home from the eye doctor—who told me that I have the eyes of a jet fighter pilot and that my 20/20 eyesight has even improved since last year, to which I can only say YAY!!! for that great news after spending way too much time staring at my computer screen since the pandemic began and everything for work went virtual—I had to get right back to grading. I taught a summer political science class that started immediately after spring classes ended in May. As has been the case since March 2020, all my summer class meetings were virtual and all student work was submitted and graded online in a learning management system platform. Grades for the summer class were due yesterday by 4:30 p.m. I made the deadline with about twenty minutes to spare.

And that was . . . THE END!

I found my husband and told him that the moment I turned in those summer grades and shut down my computer, my horrible pandemic lifestyle was also over. Although I still have plenty of work to do this summer, I’m through with online teaching! MSOE plans to be back to holding in-person classes come fall. God willing, I will never teach another course completely online.

I did learn new technology and skills associated with online teaching/learning. And there were some good things about teaching online I hope to bring into my classes this fall. It will also be nice during winter emergencies that my classes can easily pivot to an online environment on days with lots of snow or terribly cold temperatures. Maybe I can even develop hybrid structures for all my courses that combine in-person and online class meetings and possibly even incorporate asynchronous elements for greater flexibility.

But let’s not go too far down that road just yet. My feelings about online teaching and learning are a mixed bag, complicated by the tremendous physical toll virtual learning has taken on me.

I never truly realized the meaning of “sedentary” until I had to sit and work on my computer practically 24/7 for 16 months. Sometimes literally on the 24/7 thing. A few times I had to stay up all night to get necessary work completed. I’m too old for shenanigans like that. I gained 15 pounds during the peak pandemic months, even though my eating habits didn’t really change. That’s what no exercise does to you. Once things opened up, I did start going to campus to work from my office about half the time, so at least then I got the exercise associated with walking from my parking garage to my office (not to mention occasional walks to Starbucks 🙂 ). I’ve dropped seven of those 15 pounds, so maybe by the time school starts up again in fall, I’ll be back to normal. That would be nice.

For now, though, I’m just happy to have survived the past 16 months, just to be here, alive and fairly healthy. When you think about what the world has been through since March 11, 2020, that is no small thing!

 

Posted in Milwaukee, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

How I write blog posts in “Classic Editor”

It has been about a year now since WordPress introduced the new Gutenberg “block editor.” Although my impression is that the block editor is nice for building websites, it is not very user friendly for someone who just wants to put up a blog post.

I’ve seen some articles and WordPress support posts online about how you can disable the Gutenberg Editor (aka block editor) in order to use the classic editor “plugin.” However, I have a “premium” plan, and I know lots of bloggers who use the “personal” or even the free plans. When I look at the plugins area of my WordPress dashboard, I see that you have to have the more expensive “business” plan, which is three times more expensive than my “premium” plan, to be able to use plugins. Maybe the problem is also because my blog is hosted by WordPress instead of another website host? All I know is, I don’t see a place to disable Gutenberg in my settings and I can’t install the “Classic Editor” plugin, either. Hence the background for today’s problem-solving post.

Now, maybe everyone else already knows how to access the “Classic Editor” in WordPress, making my post both unnecessary and possibly a little pathetic. But until I stumbled upon it while editing an earlier post, I didn’t know I still could use the classic editor. So just in case you’re suffering through with the block editor, here is my own workaround to bypass the block editor and write all my blog posts using the “Classic Editor.”

You can click on the images below to enlarge them. I screenshot the whole screen to provide the overall context, but then the details are too small to see well.

First, there appears to be no way around starting your post with the block editor. If you know how to start out your posts from the get-go with the classic editor, I’d love to know your secret! In the meantime, I start with the block editor default, write my title, and then save my draft.

 

 

Then, I open a new tab in my internet browser and type in my WordPress blog’s URL plus “/wp-admin/edit.php.” Or to make that a little more clear, to get to my old-school dashboard I type in:

katherinewikoff.wordpress.com/wp-admin/edit.php

Once in the old dashboard, you’ll see a list of your published and draft posts. If you hover your cursor arrow just under your current draft post, you’ll see a “Classic Editor” option appear under your post’s title.

Click on “Classic Editor” and  . . . HELLO, OLD FRIEND! ❤

From here you can write your blog post as if the WordPress block editor never happened!

It would be so nice if WordPress could put a “Classic Editor” button right on the main interface to make it easier for bloggers who just want to put up a simple blog post and don’t care about all the bells and whistles (and aggravations) of the block editor.

But at least for now WordPress has kept the Classic Editor as an option if you’re willing to do the extra work of finding it.

Posted in Writing, blogging | 9 Comments

Chasing Light II – MSOE’s Campus Center “Bridge”

Leaving work last night after teaching my summer class, I noticed how striking the sunlight was on the pillar and doorway of the “bridge” over the “tree lounge” to the backstage area of the Todd Wehr Theater in Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Campus Center.

(Backstory on the “tree lounge”: It was long the lobby of a bank that rented out part of MSOE’s Campus Center. When the bank departed, the former lobby was turned into a student lounge, instantly nicknamed the “tree lounge” for the ficus trees that remained and were once ubiquitous in bank lobbies across the nation. Two years ago that lounge was taken over by a new program on campus, the CREATE Institute. In came new furniture; out went the trees. Someone with a sense of humor and access to signage-making equipment created a little plaque with an image of a hatchet designating the area as the “Deforestation Lounge.” Sadly now both trees and sign are gone. I kind of liked the trees 😦 )

Several years ago (almost 9 now!!!!) I managed to get a photo of a light-infused autumn-leafed tree just outside my office building as I was leaving work, and moments later the light and magic were gone (which I got a photo of, too). I titled that post “Chasing light – afternoon sun in the city.” So I guess it makes sense to title this one “Chasing Light II.”

So here’s the first image I grabbed with my phone at 8:07 p.m. last night. I was on my way to the back-hall elevator and noticed that the doors to the mezzanine bridge across the tree lounge (which it will remain named forever in my mind) were open, which they aren’t always. The bright rectangles of sunlight really stood out, so I left my rolling briefcase where it was and moved closer to the doors with my phone.

But the first photo didn’t capture the warmth that I was seeing, so I applied a filter and tried again.

Not quite right, either. Then I thought maybe I’d try adjusting the brightness.

Ugh, no. But then I realized that maybe the real problem was that the light was already fading. And sure enough . . .

. . . by the time I took my last photo, time-stamped 8:08 p.m., just moments later, the light was gone.

There’s a term in rhetoric, my academic home field, called kairos. It’s an ancient Greek word meaning “the right, critical, or opportune moment.” (See the Wikipedia article on “kairosHERE.) Basically the point of kairos is that if you want to persuade others to see things your way or take an action you’d like them to, you have to be alert to the ever-changing contexts surrounding your topic/issue and when the time is right, when all the planets are suddenly (and usually unexpectedly) aligned, etc., you need to recognize and seize that moment to speak and do whatever else is necessary to capitalize on your opportunity and accomplish your goal. Carpe diem, strike while the iron is hot, etc., etc.

I’ve always thought about photography in terms of kairos. Not that you walk around thinking about taking pictures all the time, but just sort of having that mindset underlying everything so that when you recognize a good photo, you’re prepared to drop everything and capture the image.

Really, when you think about it, kairos may be the key to most things, right? Staying alert and open to opportunities in the midst of everything else going on in your life. Recognizing those fleeting opportunities for what they are. And then being prepared enough to act on them before they slip past by ensuring in advance that you’ll always have both quick access to the tools you need and a default response mode that enables you to react without even having to think about it in the moment.

Posted in Creativity, Life, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

My favorite Chicago song

I was actually singing an Eagles song the other night as I carried laundry up from the basement, but my daughter thought it sounded like a Chicago song.

Really? I couldn’t imagine a Chicago song sounding like “Take It to the Limit” but she hummed the part that reminded her of “that old Chicago song” I apparently used to play a lot when she was little, and I realized that indeed the repeated notes of “coming back, you’re running back, you’re coming back for more” sound a little like notes in the latter part of “Feeling Stronger Every Day.”

So then we had to listen to both songs, which I do really like.

But then I said, “Do you want to hear my favorite Chicago song?” and she was game.

Right before I entered ninth grade, my family moved to a new town. At my previous school system, there were separate tracks for orchestra, concert band, and marching band. Orchestra was perceived as where the best players chose to be, and that was where I had always intended to wind up. However, my new town’s school had no orchestra and only one band. You played in the marching band during football season and switched over to concert band the rest of the year. I was very unhappy about not only the lack of an orchestra but especially the requirement that concert band members participate in marching band.

Yet, as is often the case with disappointments like these, marching band turned out to be the most fun I had in high school.

Because I was new and hadn’t been to summer band camp, I wasn’t able to participate in marching band my first year. My family lived up on a hill above town, and at home every afternoon after school that fall, I could hear faint sounds of the marching band rehearsing on the practice field behind the football stadium.

We had a new band director, freshly graduated from Ohio State and a member of TBDBITL, who was putting together shows with fabulous formations similar to but less high-tech than 21st-century astonishments like the  Michael Jackson moonwalk formation (see my post about it HERE) and SO different from the pinwheels that most marching bands relied upon at the time. Even better, the new band director was writing his own arrangements of contemporary rock/pop music for the band to perform instead of the traditional John Philips Sousa type marches that other bands played.

Anyway, I can still remember being at home up on the hill that fall, everything bathed in golden autumn sunlight, while listening to the marching band’s faraway strains of strangely syncopated brass in this song that I’d never heard before. It immediately became, and still remains, my favorite song by the band Chicago, namely “Free,” written by Robert Lamm, one of the group’s founding members (and who I believe still plays with the band).

I love that early ’70s jazzy, progressive rock sound! So did my daughter when I played it for her. She’s very into all types of music, and this song nicely captures that era.

By the way, a few years ago Chicago played Summerfest here in Milwaukee and stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel (now Saint Kate’s) kitty-corner (Milwaukee-speak for “catty-corner” or “cater-cornered,” meaning opposite, on the diagonal) from the Red Arrow Starbucks where I go for coffee on weekdays. The baristas told me that members of Chicago came across the street to Starbucks for coffee and were really nice.

Makes me glad 🙂

Posted in Life, Music, Popular culture | Tagged | 7 Comments

Must We Bare a Burden of Guilt for the Sins of Our Fathers?

Must We Bare a Burden of Guilt for the Sins of Our Fathers?

http://paulrwaibel.com/2021/05/20/must-we-bare-a-burden-of-guilt-for-the-sins-of-our-fathers/
— Read on paulrwaibel.com/2021/05/20/must-we-bare-a-burden-of-guilt-for-the-sins-of-our-fathers/

I just read this very thoughtful reflection essay/review about how descendants of evil people, especially WWII Nazi war criminals, have personally dealt with their heritage. Very interesting, also, to see the caring acceptance that the daughter of one of the very worst death camp killers found from her Jewish employers after she moved to the US.

The intrinsic worth that each of us has as an individual with a soul versus the idea that we may already be tainted with evil at birth by blood ties or similar associations–there is no simple answer to that conundrum.

So I do admire the decisions of Hitler’s relatives and other war criminals’ children not to have children themselves and thus to “end” the bloodlines associated with their aberrant family member. Who knows if their forbearance prevented future evil or not? Was their sacrifice worth it, or was it an empty gesture more symbolic than anything else?

The nature-versus-nurture debate will never cease because each side’s contributions to an individual’s identity and agency are so undeniable.

But after reading the blog post I’m sharing today, I find myself feeling sympathy for the innocent “victims” who are family members (children, parents, siblings) related those people who have committed heinous deeds. It seems so unjust that they should be burdened with guilt by association. I admire the courage it takes to keep living in a world that hates you and holds you responsible for things you had no control over. And I think I admire even more the Jewish couple who answered evil with love.

After the paroxysm of violent civil war and ethnic atrocities that occurred in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, I remember reading that the pope told the many, many women who had been raped by Serbs (as a war strategy furthering racist nationalism and aggression against a different ethnic group) something like “Have your babies. Love your children.” I’ve always wondered if they were able to do that.

And if so, how?

How can humanity be so very evil and at the same time also manage to respond to and transcend that evil with love? That is a mystery completely beyond my ken.

Posted in Books and reading, History, Life | Tagged | 2 Comments

When you’re a Jet!

One of the many things I love about my husband is that he gets my jokes and thinks they’re funny.

So recently I started folding my car key closed before putting it in my coat pocket because the pointy metal part of the actual physical key had begun poking a hole through the seam, and I do NOT need that hole to open up big enough for my keys to fall through and disappear. I’ve already resewn that seam once and will do so again as soon as school ends and I have time.

Meanwhile, though, I noticed while walking to my car after work one recent evening that the way my key pops out is kind of similar to the way a switchblade knife springs open. (P.S. – This video of me opening my key is from my brand new YouTube channel. I realized that sometimes people couldn’t play video I uploaded to my blog straight from my phone, so I “published” this on YouTube first and then embedded it in my post.)

Hmm, side note: I just checked Google, and apparently switchblades are now called “automatic knives.” Sounds much less threatening. When I was in junior high, there was a paperback book making the rounds (i.e., we all loaned it from person to person to person, till no one really knew who the book’s actual owner was anymore) called The Cross and the Switchblade. I just looked it up and found that a movie version came out shortly before I entered junior high, so maybe that’s why the book was so popular at my school like ten years after it was first published. Anyway, that title always captured my imagination. It sounded really scary. I can hardly imagine it achieving any kind of sales numbers or a movie adaptation with a title like The Cross and the Automatic Knife 🙂

So back to my sweetheart of a husband who always thinks my jokes are funny. When I got home, I told him about how I’d noticed that my key looked like a switchblade and said, “I felt like a Jet walking to my car. Or maybe a Shark.” And bless his heart, he laughed and I felt really clever and funny. Which . . . probably I really was not. But on a day to day basis, don’t we all want to be married to someone who gets us and makes us feel good?

Anyway, then we started talking about West Side Story and realized that the movie came out SIXTY YEARS AGO!!!! It  won ten Academy Awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture. Here’s the amazing opening dance sequence just because I love it and felt like watching it again. (Now you can watch it, too!)

When I went to look up the movie to verify that it was indeed sixty years old, I was surprised to learn that a new version of the film, directed by Steven Spielberg, no less, will be released in early December. Apparently it was supposed to have come out this past December but then was postponed till this year because of the pandemic. Which actually very nicely coincides with the sixtieth anniversary of the original West Side Story. And speaking of coinciding with the original film, Rita Moreno (who won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1961 film) has a part in the new movie, too.

So that’s all for today. Just a blog post following along on a random chain of thoughts generated by my somewhat idle observation that my car key flipped open like a switchblade.

Posted in Life, Movies and film, Popular culture | Tagged , | 12 Comments

The Tosa Turkeys

I took this photo a few days ago in my local grocery store’s parking lot, where three wild turkeys stood guard near the entrance.

For a couple years now, a flock of wild turkeys has been strutting around the city where I live. The “sewer socialists” who ran Milwaukee a century ago set up an amazing system of public parks, filling the entire urban area with pockets of green space and also providing corridors for wildlife along river parkways that are lined with green space and connect many of the separate parks to each other.

These green-to-green connections have led wild animals to some highly unlikely places. Decades ago there was a deer downtown on State Street (basically the area now known as the “Deer District” surrounding the Milwaukee Bucks’ Fiserv Forum, in fact), and around fifteen years ago there was a bear up a tree right next to the freeway around Burleigh in Wauwatosa. (Public service for non-natives: BUR-lye, rhymes with “sky,” and WAH-wuh-TOE-suh, “toe” like the ones on your foot 🙂 ) We regularly see deer along the parkway near us. We’ve had foxes and coyotes in our neighborhood, and we’ve occasionally spotted lone wild turkeys in parking lots on Mayfair Road that back up to some railroad tracks that cross paths with one of the parkways.

But only in the last few years has this flock of turkeys appeared to settle in and put down some roots. The number of birds at any given time varies from two to seven, depending I suppose on what attractions may have pulled members away temporarily. But they do seem to be a cohesive group that slowly works its way around different neighborhoods in the area. 

The turkeys roam through people’s yards and cross streets with impunity. A group of seven held up rush-hour traffic at a busy intersection about two months ago, taking their sweet time almost as though they knew (and were reveling in!) the mayhem they were causing. Everyone was incredibly patient, though. No horns honking or motorists trying to squeeze around somehow. Even people far down the hill, who probably had no idea what was going on to hold up traffic, refrained from angrily honking their horns. Then again, maybe they knew what was up because it wasn’t the first time they’ve been stopped by a turkey crossing on the drive home from work.

My daughter looked out our kitchen window one morning this spring to see a single turkey strolling through our side yard. We live in a hilly, terraced neighborhood, and our yard is fenced. As my daughter watched, the turkey tired of our yard and flew up and over our fence into our neighbor’s yard. So even though I have never seen these birds fly, they clearly can when they feel like it. I was grateful our dog wasn’t outside at the time. Turkeys have some wicked-looking claws, and although I hope this one would have chosen “flight” over “fight,” I guess you never know what a wild animal is going to do.

Yet as far as I know, the turkeys have managed to coexist peacefully with everyone else. No injuries or property damage that I’ve heard of. People in my neighborhood seem bemused by and even fond of the turkeys. If you do an internet search for “Tosa Turkeys” you’ll find plenty of social-media photos and even some official news articles and video coverage.

At first it was just so amazing to encounter wild turkeys where you didn’t expect something like that to be. And now the feeling seems to be amused acceptance of . . . and possibly even respect for . . . the way these critters have so matter-of-factly established themselves as residents.

Posted in Life, Milwaukee, Nature, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments