“Not so much costumes as a bit of plumbing and general automobile engineering”

So said John Mollo in his acceptance speech at the Oscars after winning the Academy Award for Costume Design in 1978 for his work on Star Wars.

What reminded me of this marvelous quote was a vehicle I walked past in the parking garage at work. Doesn’t its aggressive-looking front end remind you just a little of a stormtrooper’s helmet in the Star Wars movies?

And speaking of Star Wars stormtroopers, here is one of my all-time fave film moments.

Don’t you wish all exchanges with law enforcement and other authorities could be managed so smoothly? 🙂

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Bicycle with Shadow Sharrow

Today I learned the official name for a certain ubiquitous graphic painted on the bike lanes of city streets: “sharrow.”

A “sharrow”— in case you also didn’t know what to call this thing you’ve surely seen many times—is the “signage” designating bike lanes on city streets, which technically are “shared” lanes (with cars and other vehicles). Sharrows usually take the form of a white bicycle symbol topped by a directional arrow, which in Milwaukee always seems to be a double chevron like the one in the photo below.

“Sharrow Grand Street (Manhattan”) – Photo by Jim Henderson (Jim.henderson) via Wikipedia (public domain)

“Shared” plus “arrow” equals “sharrow.”

The photo I took this morning isn’t really a sharrow symbol at all, of course. But because the bike parked on the sidewalk was casting its shadow/outline into the street, it reminded me of those painted signs I see everywhere. Then when I wanted to refer to it in this blog post’s title, I realized I didn’t know what it was called and had to go looking. Now I know. And so do you 🙂

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Abstract optical games

I took this photo two weeks ago because the reflected light was so striking.

And then I promptly forgot all about it until the other night when I was at Boswell Books to see Austin Kleon. As the event began, I took a photo of him. Later, while waiting in line to get my copies of his books signed, I scrolled through my camera roll and noticed this picture again. Briefly considered putting it up on my blog but decided against it because, really: another picture of office building windows?

Today I took a closer look, though. Maybe that photo wasn’t completely hopeless after all. What if I could manipulate it to focus more on the thing that had caught my eye in the first place?

So I cropped it to cut out the tree and the ugly ventilation grates up at the top. Which gave it a whole new personality! Suddenly it was less “office building” than a slightly absract collection of lines along a varying brightness spectrum that was kind of fun to look at.

If I stare at it long enough, for example, the dark gray lines start to look much wider on the left and narrower on the right. Plus they start to diverge, as though they’re rays coming from a point far to the lower right and then opening outward in shallow but ever-expanding angles as they move to the left and up. Kind of like the rays in the Japanese “Rising Sun Flag.”

Via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

All of which makes sense, I suppose, since I took the picture from a sideways angle. Perspective and all. Still, I don’t see that effect at first glance, only after I stop thinking and let my eyes relax.

Several years ago I posted a photo that similarly created some cool movement; you can see it here. It’s the first photo in the post, and you have to scroll up and down really fast to see it, but when you do, it looks like the building is breathing. The lower floors seem to expand and contract.

When I was a kid I realized that if I stared at geometrically-patterned wallpaper or floor tiles, crossed my eyes, and then slowly and carefully uncrossed them, I could pull that pattern closer to me almost as if I were looking through binoculars. It was like a new plane of existence had been created several inches to a few feet closer to me than the original wall or floor it was duplicating. If I reached out to touch it, the image vanished as soon as my eyes were forced to focus on the real physical object (my hand) that had invaded that temporary, illusory space. It fascinated me that I could create this completely false but very real-seeming image that floated in front of me like a photograph on glass.

I can still do this. Which statement reveals, obviously, that I still do do this.

Yeah, I’m pretty easily amused 🙂

If you enjoy optical illusions as much as I do, you should check out this site sponsored by The Optical Society of America. (Aside: They call themselves “The Optical Society” now, apparently not wanting to restrict themselves to America? But their acronym and logo still include the “A.” Kind of a metaphorical-allusion illusion right there, when you think about it 🙂 )

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A nice midweek break

Last night after work I met my friend, Karen, for dinner on the east side, followed by an author event at Boswell Books, featuring a talk and booksigning by Austin Kleon.

Kleon has written three books about how to build and maintiain a successful creative practice. I’ve read his first two already (How to Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work) and look forward to reading his third, Keep Going, which I bought last night (and Kleon signed all three books for me, which is fun).

In the Q+A session at the end of Kleon’s talk, someone asked how he is able to be so productive. Kleon said he has three things he prioritizes every day: 1) getting his 10,000 steps in, 2) writing in his diary (which, when he’s on a book tour includes writing a letter to his wife, which he takes a picture of and sends her, while the original letter stays in his diary as an entry), and 3) writing a blog post.

“Also,” he added, almost as an afterthought, “I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done.”

OMG, so am I! I discovered and bought the Getting Things Done book a couple years ago after reading in another book about Drew Carey’s account of how David Allen and his book saved his career. I found that other book (Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength) in Google Books, and I think this link will take you right to that section so you can read it yourself. Drew’s story is super inspiring (gee, even successful people struggle with organization!) and a super-strong testimonial to David Allen’s list-and-folder time-management technique. I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve finally internalized Allen’s methods and feel far more in control of my life since I began trying to use the flowchart in his book.

So it was a good evening, a nice midweek break. I got to see my friend, eat a nice dinner, get inspired about creativity, meet an author whose books I emjoy, and get my books signed by said author.

Below is a photo I took on the way home, facing west at the intersection of Van Buren and Juneau.

The horizontal strip of green neon crossing Juneau in the distance is the skywalk connecting the parking garage to Fiserv Forum, the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena. The red neon strip beyond that is the old Pabst Brewery sign, also stretching across Juneau at the western edge of downtown Milwaukee. Just immediately beyond the new “Deer District,” which is what they’re calling the area around the new arena now, the old Pabst brewing complex has been renovated and repurposed as apartment buildings, hotels, restaurants, bars, and UW-Milwaukee’s School of Public Health campus.

No real reason for including this photo in today’s post. It just struck me as I was sitting at the traffic light that those two neon strips represented an intriguing combination of old and new Milwaukee.


Posted in Art, Books and reading, Creativity, Milwaukee | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Do you recognize this font?

Driving home from work yesterday, I got stopped at the traffic light at Sixth and Juneau. Looked to my left and immediately started puzzling over the font above the Johnson Controls Entrance. Anyone know what it is?

Posted in architecture, Art, Milwaukee | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Visiting Sim – Part One

This past Saturday I went to a lecture/tour at the Milwaukee Public Library marking 90 years since Simba the lion came to live at the Milwaukee Public Museum, which then shared half of the building with the Central Library downtown. What an interesting afternoon it was!

There’s too much material for one post, so I’m splitting it up over a couple of days. Today just some random items.

First, a little background. Simba (called “Sim” by the Museum/Library staff) was an orphaned cub purchased in Africa by a group of Public Museum staff on a specimen-collecting “safari” in 1929. “Simba” is the Swahili word for “lion.”

By the way, one of the Public Museum taxidermists on that safari was famed wildlife artist Owen Gromme! As a non-native Milwaukeean, I hadn’t known that Gromme worked for the Milwaukee Public Museum for almost his entire career until his retirement in 1965.

Sim was brought back to Milwaukee, arriving on April 13, 1929, where he was briefly placed on public display at the Museum. He was supposed to be available to the public for four days, but apparently he was TOO available to them. People were allowed to get close enough to touch him, and they ended up pulling his tail and otherwise handling him so roughly that Museum staff pulled him off public view after only three days. (Note the front-page headlines; Milwaukeeans LOVE their animals!)

After that Sim lived his life out of the public eye, mostly in the taxidermy offices on the fourth floor of the Museum (which shared half the building with the Central Library) and on the building’s roof. His favorite toy was a wooden bowling ball. Museum staff used to throw it down the long 4th-floor hallway, nicknamed the “bowling alley,” and Sim would chase after it.

After the lecture/slideshow in the rare books room ended, the attendees split into three small groups for librarian-led tours of the old Public Museum spaces. When we went up to the fourth floor, Dan Lee, the librarian leading our tour, brought out a replica bowling ball that several librarians chipped in to buy several years ago and suggested that one of us on the tour throw it down the hall. Someone did . . . and it really did look and sound just like a bowling alley, with the granite baseboards acting like bumpers.  Here are some photos I took of that hallway up on the fourth floor, currently used for storage but originally home to the Museum’s taxidermy and geology departments as well as the super-cool, 19th-century-looking office of the director. Doesn’t that hallway look like a bowling alley with that thin-planked hardwood floor?

Those doors on the right led to the taxidermy and geology rooms. Simba roamed loose on this floor but spent most of his time hanging out in the taxidermy room with his human buddies.

The taxidermy room is now used to store old card-catalog files.

But there are remnants of the old taxidermy room. There’s a boarded-up opening in the ceiling where winches were once used to raise/lower larger specimens (like elephants) into the room or out to the roof. And there’s the stone slab inset in the floor, where specimens were gutted (easier to clean than the hardwood floors).

Simba loved his humans and his bowling ball.

Sadly, he broke a tooth on that bowling ball and it became infected. He was transferred to the Washington Park Zoo for dental care, where he ended up staying for the rest of his life. And where he got along very well with his human keepers, far better than with the other animals, in which he apparently had no interest at all.

When he died, Sim was returned to his former home on the Central Library’s fourth floor, where, in Room 405, he underwent the transformation that allowed him to become a permanent resident of the Milwaukee Public Museum.

And where, as our librarians noted, he also became the only animal ever to be publicly displayed both dead and alive (his first three days in town) in the Central Library building.

Posted in Books and reading, History, Milwaukee, Nature, Popular culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Misinformation Reigns

Misinformation Reigns

Misinformation Reigns
— Read on justthis.video.blog/2019/04/17/misinformation-reigns/

Another excellent post on the fire at Notre Dame.

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