Down to the Bone

MSOE’s Campus Center building, originally the Valentin Blatz Brewing Co. Bottle House, is getting some major restoration work done. Windows are being replaced, as is apparently much of the exterior facade.

Today I noticed that that the work seems to be going all the way down to the girders! So this is a seriously substantial “spruce up.”

By the way, those yellow bricks rounding the corner and apparently underlying the tan-colored tiles covering the rest of the building? They may be Cream City Brick, but the yellow seems just a little too saturated for Milwaukee’s famous homegrown building material. In fact, these bricks look strikingly similar to the glazed ones you can find inside the building—for example, in the women’s room just off the Todd Wehr Auditorium lobby and on an old section of wall on the mezzanine (near the V.P. of Academics’ office) that looks like it might have been the bottling plant’s original interior. The only difference seems to be that there’s no glaze on the part that wound up hidden away beneath the building’s exterior tiles.

If it turns out these bricks and the ones used for interior walls actually are the same material, it’s interesting that the same item should have been been employed both decoratively and functionally. I mean, why spend extra money on something no one will ever see (until 70 years later, during extensive maintenance 🙂 )? Unless maybe the original builder got a great price for buying in bulk!

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Milwaukee’s Water Street ladybugs and large veins at City Hall

Yesterday morning I walked over to a foundation’s office to hand-deliver a grant proposal for the daytime homeless sanctuary I volunteer with, Repairers of the Breach. (Website HERE; Facebook page HERE. Check them out if you’re interested in finding a very worthy cause to support via donation or volunteering 🙂 )

On the way back I paused on the second-floor landing of the Chase Tower to take a picture of the giant ladybugs crawling down the building across the street to text to my daughters. (Sorry about all the reflections; I was indoors and the lights behind me showed up pretty prominently on the glass of the window I took the photo through. You can even make out the guy sitting on the bench next to me who was talking on his phone. He’s right there behind/above/around the lowest ladybug.)

When my daughters were young and I’d pick them up from my brother and sister-in-law’s house in Bay View after work, it was a highlight of their evening, especially in the early darkness of winter months, to spot the red glow of these ladybugs as we drove up Water Street into downtown on our way home. Now that my brother and sister-in-law have moved, we never seem to drive that far south on Water Street at night. I thought my girls might get a kick out of seeing that their old touchstone is still here. You can find’ more background on this unique sculpture HERE in a WUWM story from March 2017.

Then, speaking of stone, as I was walking past City Hall, where they’re currently doing the latest installment of the never-ending construction/restoration this beautiful-but-high-maintenance building requires, I noticed what appeared to be repairs to cracks in the granite base. Oh no, I thought, now the building is starting to fracture. Took me a minute to realize, duh!, that these are natural veins in the rock itself.

I love rocks and took a year of geology in college. But I am so separated from “earth” during the ordinary course of my days that, sadly, I don’t always recognize what I’m seeing. As a result my “aha” moment there on the sidewalk was a bemused cross between chagrin and delight. But mostly delight 🙂


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Cool things for the kitchen

I just happened to notice these new products (I think they’re new, anyway) when I was at the grocery store this afternoon. I have to give Reynolds credit; they’ve solved some irritating problems that have annoyed me for years.

Have you even baked something on foil to keep your pan clean . . . and then had the food stick to the foil when you tried to lift it off? And then the foil ripped, leaving you with a mess on the pan anyway? And foil stuck to your food? Well, apparently that never needs to happen again.

And don’t you hate it when you’re trying to rip off a sheet of plastic wrap and the cutting edge doesn’t really work, so the plastic kind of rips raggedly and then folds in on itself? And then you have to peel it all apart and lay the clingy mess open so you have a usable sheet of plastic to wrap around your food or to cover the bowl? Never needs to happen again.

Finally, and this doesn’t really solve a big problem, but it’s still a pretty handy solution that can save time and at least a little bit of hassle.

Not to turn my blog into a commercial for these products or anything, but I was decently impressed so thought I’d share 🙂


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Casting a long shadow

The sculptures in this case are located in the “marble quarrying” section of the Grohmann Museum’s second floor. I’m not sure why this caught my eye today, because I walk past here all the time. Maybe it’s just a little quieter at the moment. Anyway, the extra long shadow seemed kind of compelling to me, and even a little dramatic.

And here’s a more balanced view. You can see that the shadow on the opposite side of the case isn’t nearly as impressive. Somehow seeing only the one, and looking at it from an angle that isolates it a bit, causes me to assign that shadow significance, making it appear far more important to the gallery space than it actually is. I know that’s silly, but I do notice shadows and how they sometimes seem even more interesting than the things that cast them. (Hmm, now I’m thinking about Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” This does not mean I’m an unenlightened prisoner, I hope!)

Also, today I noticed for the first time that the bronze sculptures in that case are set on bases of green marble. How appropriate 🙂

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An old friend I can rely upon

As you can see, my old umbrella is completely held together by safety pins and paper clips. Every single junction of stretcher and rib has broken at one time or another, which I’ve always managed to repair with whatever little doodad connectors I could lay my hands on quickly.

Although I’ve bought many other, much nicer umbrellas over the years, they’ve all broken in ways that couldn’t be so easily fixed. Which is why, twenty years later, I’m still carrying around this raggedy contraption. It’s usually the only one in working order when the forecast calls for rain.

It’s imperfect, but then again, “perfect” never seems to stick around for long.

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Wham! “Freedom” in China

I heard Wham!’s “Freedom” on the radio while driving yesterday. I’ve always liked this song, but what I’ve especially always remembered about it was its official video, which details the 1980s duo’s groundbreaking trip to China. Wham! was the first Western pop group ever to play a concert there.

As someone who teaches political science, I’ve always been intrigued by connections between pop culture and political change.

Consider this documentary film, for example, which essentially credits outlawed underground recordings of Beatles music with planting and nurturing the seeds of dissatisfaction with communism and yearning for freedom that eventually caused the Soviet Union to collapse. (This video appears to want to start around the 25-minute mark; you can manually start it from the beginning. Also, annoyingly, it has ads that seem to have transferred over when I embedded the clip. Sorry!)

One more video, in case you’re interested and/or just really love Wham! and the great ’80s hair/fashion of George Michael and that other guy (did anybody know his name?). Here is Wham! in China: Foreign Skies, the film that completely documents that historic Wham! concert and the group’s time in China. Enjoy 🙂

Posted in Art, Creativity, History, Life, Movies and film, Music, Photography, Political Analysis, Popular culture | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MGIC Plaza in Black and White

I don’t do black-and-white photography very often. But these sunny-day pictures of the MGIC Plaza down the street from my office seemed perfect for a more stark presentation than color could give them. What do you think?

(P.S. – As someone who sewed lots of my own clothes in high school, I would like to point out how perfectly I matched up the “plaids” of the windows at the “seam” where they meet their reflection in the center of the first picture. Even now I judge the quality of a garment with stripes or plaids by noting whether or not the patterns match up at the seams. I’m pretty sure quality measures for photography don’t work the same way, but still . . . 😄)

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