Tuesday, December 30, 2008
As Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger sang: You gotta walk, don’t look back. The year will end and a new one begins. In 2008, Barack Obama is elected — change has come to America, global stock markets plunge, Iraq and Afghanistan, Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe continues terrorizing, chemist Albert Hofmann who discovered LSD dies at 102, Beijing summer Olympics, pirates off Somalia’s coast, America cuts 533,000 jobs in November — the biggest loss in 34 years, Israelis and Palestinians. Good bye 2008… we gotta walk, don’t look back.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Making a List, Checking It Twice
By John Bennett
Yesterday I wrote down dreams. The day before I made a shopping list. The day before that a wish list. I took the wish list into a bank and slid it across to the teller. I had a woman's nylon stocking over my head.
The teller smiled the way tellers smile at old people. "Oh, Mr. Whitman," she said, using my real name, much to my alarm. "You silly," she said, sliding the list back at me and craning her neck to look over my shoulder. "Next," she said.
I stood outside the bank in the whale gray light. People brushed by me in the swirling snow. I struggled to get the nylon stocking off my head. Once it was off I folded it neatly and put it in my coat pocket, where I discovered the shopping list from the day before. I transfered the shopping list to the opposite coat pocket where I'd put the wish list after the teller shoved it back at me.
I kept my hands in my coat pockets as I walked. I didn't have gloves. Gloves were on my shopping list. They were on my wish list, too, along with a request for love and understanding and all the money in the till. I didn't want to leave fingerprints, that's why I needed the gloves.
I took my left hand out of the pocket where the nylon stocking was. The nylon's soft warmth was arousing me. People hadn't paid any attention to the nylon when it was over my head, but you can bet I would have raised a few eyebrows if I'd gotten fully aroused. I stuck the hand in my pants pocket. It was a bitter cold day.
My fingers began examining the coins in my pocket. Was there enough for coffee? It wouldn't do to sit at the counter at Ranchero's drinking coffee without enough money to pay. The week before I went through six refills and couldn't pay. The waitress looked at me like waitresses look at men they wouldn't go to bed with to save their lives, even if they were drunk. She whisked the cup, napkin and spoon into the tray under the counter and wiped the counter top in front of me with a damp white towel the way a sexually frustrated mother wipes at a smudge on a small child's face.
I couldn't chance coming up short. I took the coins from my pocket and sat down on a public bench that was bolted into the concrete. I lined the coins up in numerical order on the frayed wool of my trouser leg, quarters up high, pennies down around the knee. There was a hole in the knee, and a nub of shiny white flesh showed through. I had 97 cents.
I looked up from the coins. Across the street a Salvation Army man was ringing a tiny bell over a red bucket hanging from a hook on a pole stuck in a large circular metal base. I stood up abruptly, and the coins fell from my leg, puncturing the snow like bullets and disappearing.
I sat down again and stared at the holes my coins had made in the snow. I took both lists from my coat pocket and smoothed them out. I put the shopping list on my left leg and the wish list on my right. I needed a pen. Or a pencil. Something to write with. Something to circle some items and cross others out. Something with which to make asterisks for cross references. At one time 97 cents would have bought a cup of coffee and a hamburger with change left over.
It began to get dark. The streetlights came on. I pulled my feet up on the bench and hugged my knees, like someone I loved dearly and hadn't seen in a long time.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Hi there. I'm in a cool coffee shop in Milwaukee listening to your album Black Coffee. You'd like it here. You may remember me from when you came to Milwaukee and played at a dive called Humpin' Hannah's. I think it was 1971 or '72 and you played two nights in a row. Remember? I was one of the guys sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of you. The first night I was there with my girlfriend who had long brown hair. The second night I was alone because she said, We've already seen him. He'll probably play the same songs again. What's the point? She was a bit of a nihilist, so there was no point in arguing -- no point at all. The reason I was alone the second night -- just so you know -- is my friends were all stupid. I'd say, Al Kooper is in town, do you want to go see him with me? And they'd say, Oh Alice Cooper, that might be weird. And I'd have to say, No, Al Kooper, you know...Super Session. And then they'd say, Oh yeah, that dumb album you keep playing over and over. Yep, I stand Alone, too. Well, as you remember, I was alone the second night because, as I said, my friends were all stupid at the time. So, anyway, I'm just writing to say "hi" and hoping all is well with you. Hey, if you're ever in Milwaukee, let me know and we can meet for a cup of coffee. For now, I'll listen to your album on my iPod and enjoy this cup of black coffee in your honor.
All the best,
Friday, November 28, 2008
First, before you read further, you need to understand that I am biased. This is an opinion piece. My opinion. Got it? I hate Wal-Mart. I hate their old TV commercials with the plain, but pleasant-looking woman with her faux-Southern accent saying in double-length syllables, “Welcome to Wal-Mart!” I want to say, “Shut up you bitch – quit trying to replicate the feel of walking into some rural general store that’s been serving the community for more decades than your sorry ass has been around." I hate the bouncing yellow smile face and the stupid $16.23 lowest prices on their new commercials. No one ever liked the original yellow smiley face buttons, coffee mugs and t-shirts from the early 1970’s and no one likes it animated and bouncing around. And the odd-number pricing is just stupid. I hate the greeters. Quit raiding the retirement homes and dressing these old coots up in company uniforms like their clowns and telling them they’re the last defense against shoplifting. Let them enjoy life as respected retirees. I hate that Wal-Mart plops its stores into rural communities and destroys the struggling small, independent shopkeepers. I hate their sophisticated data collection and predictive purchasing capabilities. I hate that they know people buy more Pop Tarts before-after-and-during hurricanes. I hate that they probably know what my next purchase will be, based on the three times in my life I’ve shopped there. I really hate that they can whip people up into such a buying frenzy for holiday bargains that they’ll break down the door five minutes before opening time and trample to death Jdimytai Damour, a temporary worker at the Green Acres Mall Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y. at 4:55am on November 28, 2008. You are at fault Wal-Mart. You killed Mr. Damour.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Japanese engineering has spawned another robot. This time it is a robotic koi. Every koi pond needs one since the robo-koi has a camera built into its head – I guess to document the neighbor you suspect has been….ah….errr…..relieving himself in your pond. Plus, the smart carp has sensors for analyzing water quality (you’ll really be able to nail the bastard). The 31-inch, 26-pound fish was developed by Ryomei Engineering (a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries), in cooperation with two other Hiroshima-area engineering companies and will likely be used for more serious scientific and commercial purposes.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Two big death fears among my friends are that their brains will suddenly implode or they will spontaneously combust. No one has actually admitted these fears to me, so I might be projecting a bit.
Unfortunately, the medical literature doesn’t address imploding brains. Too bad. However, there is good news with respect to spontaneous combustion. According to John Heymer in his book, The Entrancing Flame, victims of spontaneous human combustion apparently remain motionless while on fire, show no awareness of burning, and die peacefully. A nice way to go.
Friday, October 3, 2008
I suspect your brimming with excitement knowing the National Parking Association has released its first annual Parking in America survey of parking rates in the U.S. and Canada.
The report provides rates for stashing your jalopy in 131 markets across the United States and Canada, representing nearly 7,400 facilities with over 2.1 million parking spaces.
First-hour central business district parking rates vary from $4 (Milwaukee, Wis., Tulsa, Okla., Springfield, Mo., Salt Lake City, Bellevue, Wash., and Arlington, Va) to $16 (Century City, Calif.). Brooklyn, N.Y., at $15 and Boston at $14.25 follow Century City as having the most expensive first-hour parking rates.
New York, N.Y. leads the pack for highest monthly parking rate of $478.75.
The report is interesting to scan if only to toss out a random quip from time to time, such as “Betcha don’t know what five bucks can get ya in Austin? Well it won’t be an hour of parking. That’ll set you back $8.”
Monday, September 29, 2008
The tongue is the promise-maker, the taster, and pleasure giver. It can get us in trouble and out of trouble. Praise it, revere it, respect it. The tongue.
Slip of the tongue, tip of the tongue, tongue twister, tongue tied, tongue and groove, Rolling Stones tongue, cat got your tongue, popsicle tongue, dog tongue, tongue of the shoe, mother-in-law’s tongue plant, lizard tongue, Einstein’s tongue, bite your tongue. curl your tongue, tongue piercing, tongue splitting, tongue drums, tongue thrashing, eating tongue, native tongue, tongue hockey, electronic tongue, flick the tongue, acid tongue, tongue in cheek …
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Dear (fill in your name):
I’ve decided that I want people to refer to me as a maverick. As an opinion leader in your field, I’m hoping that you’ll take a leadership role in my image remake. Despite the fact that I’m living a traditional boring 8-to-5 life, I want to add zest to my reputation. I also like that being called a maverick can explain away any faults, errors in judgment and screw-ups. If there is the opportunity to talk about me to anyone — say for example the clerk where you pick up your dry cleaning, you might say: “Did I ever tell you about this guy I know, Jeff Winke? (soft chuckle) Well, he’s such a maverick!” You have to include the soft chuckle because that really seals the deal. It has to be the right kind of soft chuckle though. It has to be more of a boys-will-be-boys type of chuckle — not a sneering chuckle or a lecherous chuckle or a what-an-idiot chuckle.
Do you think you can do that for me? I appreciate your help.
Jeff “The Maverick” Winke
Monday, September 8, 2008
In 2007, New York photographer Bill Wadman completed a fascinating project: 365 portraits. Shooting a portrait a day – some studio shots and the rest in either the subject’s home turf or out on the streets. The studio shots are gorgeous. The personal environ photos are voyeuristically fun. And the pics taken out on the street are gritty cool. Wadman includes the person’s name and in most cases what they do for a living. Unfortunately, in far too many cases there’s a description such as “creative individualist” or ‘libertine” or “ice cream optimist” – which is just lame. Yeah, I know what you do for a living doesn’t define who you are, but it does provide some insights as to how you spend a good chunk of time. And I would have loved to see more shots of regular people – shop owners, waitresses, city workers, stockbrokers, taxi drivers, hairdressers, and even an occasional, wild-eyed street person. Probably a bit more challenging and dangerous, but the results would have added needed texture. Still, the project is commendable, cool and creative.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Hooray! The painting of a favorite Milwaukee artist, Max Estes, is on the cover of the September 4, 2008 edition of the New York Times. His work illustrates an article about Faythe Levine a biggie in the indie craft movement and co-owner of Paper Boat Boutique & Gallery in Milwaukee and author of Handmade Nation: The Rise of D.I.Y. Art, Craft, and Design.
This is a brilliant, multifunctional idea I stumbled across. It makes creative use of dead space. The staircase drawer pictured was created by Australia’s Unicraft Joinery located in Hamilton, Victoria, and was featured in the Autumn/Winter 2007 issue of Vogue Living Australia.
Other versions of the staircase drawer can be found in Michael Freeman’s book Space: Japanese Design Solutions and in a how-to-do-it article by Mark Wright in the online DIY magazine, Canadian HomeWorkshop.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The U.S. Census Bureau just released its report “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007” where the data reveals continued inequality and concentration of wealth in the United States. The top 20 percent of households receive over 50% of the nation's income, while the lowest 20% get just a little over 3% of the wealth pie.
The nation’s official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5%, which means 37.3 million people are in poverty. You read that right – thirty-seven point three million poor.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Finely handcrafted and reasonably priced hardwood kitchen and home accessories are available from Longshadow Woodworks of Duluth, Minn. These exquisite pieces are created from “reclaimed waste woods." The Longshadow Woodworks piece we own hangs on our kitchen wall as the piece of art that it truly is.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
It’s hard to stand out when you’re a Celtic music band playing at a festival that draws the best from Ireland, Scotland, Nova Scotia and elsewhere, but the Scotish band, Peatbog Faeries, did just that at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, the world’s largest celebration of Irish music and culture. A fusion of Celtic, rock and intelligent electronica, this eight-member band blew everyone away. Bagpipes, electric guitar, sax, trumpet, fiddle, drums, electric bass and synthesizer. They sound like trad-Celtic music meets Moby and Pink Floyd. Or it’s like eating haggis prepared Szechwan style by a crazed, but brilliant Zen-leaning, Latin American habanero-loving chef. You hear it and can’t quite believe that all these disparate sounds can blend together so beautifully… and so powerfully. Their high octane, unpredictable, driving beat got everyone standing with fists punching the sky and heads bobbing atop gyrating bodies. Peatbog Faeries, direct from the Isle of Skye, are splendidly unique.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
A scrub-clean young couple -- cultural anthropologists -- writing their dissertations that intend to lift the veil on the innocence of the state fair find themselves in one fine pickle. They ride their Segway Personal Transporters right into the middle of a war between psychic, mutant vegetarians who wish to close the fair down, because of the cruel practices toward animals, and the meat-loving rednecks. The story becomes further complicated as animals are given magical powers to break free from their captors. The story unfolds in a gorgeous-looking, 20-page, b/w comic book smoothly written by “Doc” Spector of Miami and superbly illustrated by Charles Christman of Milwaukee. Volume 1 of an anticipated six volume series, that will culminate into a graphic novel, is available from GallonsOfGore.com or email charliechristman (at) yahoo.com
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Velvet. That’s what Terence Blanchard and his band sounds like. I saw him at the 10th Annual Summer Sizzle Jazz Festival in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. The exquisite mocha latte sound enveloped the couple hundred of us sitting in the leafy park -- a several block stretch of converted warehouses as the backdrop. Blanchard made us feel like we were in an intimate club. On this warm breezy night, as my friend said, “We experienced the closest thing to seeing Miles perform ”Bitches’ Brew.”
Last week I met a guy who killed a bear. For fun. I asked: So, what did you do with it? Eat it?
The meat doesn’t taste good, so it will be mounted – probably full height with massive 6-inch paws spread in slash pose. It’ll join the four other bears and assorted wild boars and other big game, according to the man’s wife.
I don’t get it. To me, killing for fun… for sport should be outlawed, with one exception: bare hands. If you can run down a goose, gazelle or a cheetah and strangle them with your bare hands, then you've earned the bragging rights. Sure, we’d loose a few who’d be mauled to death by an 8-foot, 1,500-pound grizzly, but the losses may actually help the gene pool.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Alternate dimensions exist. At least for me they do. A favorite is Rio de Janeiro. My alternate Rio is sultry, historic and simmering with excitement. It is a dreamy state induced by beautiful women with samba hips. It is blasting through winding stone-paved narrow streets on a beat-to-hell Riga moped and then lounging at a humid, mid-day streetside café with an ice-filled tumbler of the clear sugarcane alcohol, cachaça, and lime slices. There is a seductive softness with blurred edges to this existence. Everyone is beautiful, time stalls and life is savored. My alternate dimension Rio is best captured in the photos of Lala Mårtin. She lives in Rio de Janeiro and doesn’t know it yet, but I’ve named her the official photographer of my alternate dimension Rio.
Monday, July 7, 2008
French photographer Cedric Bosquet has developed a series of photos of smoke that look like Rorschach ink blots. The photos are very interesting and appear in a JPG Magazine photo essay.
Hermann Rorschach created the Rorschach inkblot test in 1921 as method of psychological evaluation to examine the personality characteristics and emotional functioning of his patients. The test of ten inkblots is still used today, although its validity as a reliable, predictive instrument is questioned.
A fun interpretation of Rorschach inkblots is also available as wallpaper for your home. Have a room you can’t quite figure out what to do with? The answer is a click away.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
They aren’t endangered; but they are at high risk.
The olm, or blind cave salamander, inhabit subterranean lakes and rivers in limestone caves in Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. Adapted to living in total darkness, with no eyesight and pale, unpigmented skin that looks pink, the olm’s limbs are thin, three toes on the forelimbs and two toes on the hind limbs. The average size of adults is approximately 10 in (25.4 cm).
Olms are gregarious except during the breeding season, when males are territorial. Generally, they are secretive and rarely seen. These may be urban myths but supposedly olms can live to be 100 years old and can go without food for six to 10 years.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Aesthetic balance is always delightful to encounter in the world. Even if I tried, I doubt that I could have done a better job arranging this everyday still life I recently photographed in Shanxi Province China. Exquisite balance found in the random.
Bruce B. Janz, an associate prof of Humanities at the University of Central Florida has assembled an excellent online collection of resources pertaining to Aesthetics and Visual Culture. His website is definitely worth visiting.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Spent 10 days in China. Flew from Beijing to Changzhi, a city in southeastern Shanxi Province. From Changzhi, drove about three hours to Jincheng City right in the heart of coal-bed methane gas production, where a client's new drilling rig is located. Here's some of what I observed or learned:
• Tricycle-wheel hauling trucks are everywhere.
• Uniforms are for: hotel and restaurant staff, intersection-crossing ladies, and drill rig roughnecks.
• Driving rules: there are no rules.
• Two-lane roads are really three lanes as far as drivers are concerned.
• Eel, although bony, tastes good.
• Bicycles come in all shapes, except 10-, 5- or 3-speed.
• Sunny means the gray sky glows.
• Chinese food is for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
• Beijing has a 24-hour McDonalds.
• 99.999% of the men are clean shaven, don’t wear earrings, or have tattoos.
• 8 is a lucky number, 88 and 888 are even better, although there are questions, since 2008 has had tragedy after tragedy so far this year.
• The weight of two young Chinese women equals that of an average American male.
• Motorcycles never have rear-view mirrors; riders never wear helmets.
• When the center of the universe is discovered, it will likely be a Chinese baby.
• Random English words make great t-shirts and store names.
• Toothpicks are made available after every meal.
• It’s a given that on any narrow rural road there will be a broken-down truck blocking traffic.
• Whoever supplies the red-paint to China is very, very wealthy.
• Blogger and other websites, where free expression dominate, are blocked.
• 600 herbs are stocked in a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) pharmacy.
• For every earthquake orphan, there are three families in Beijing alone willing to take them.
• The I [heart] CHINA movement is a grassroots reaction to the international media’s trashing the Chinese government re: pollution, Tibet, etc., not as the WSJ reports--entrepreneurs trying to make money.
• One WTF moment after the other.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I like Indie music. But I don't like all the pretensions that can surround it. To me, there's a sense of in-groupness -- you're in or you're out. I'm definitely out. Laugh as you may, but I just learned that Joan as a Policewoman is a group. There is a new digital magazine called Blurt, which covers the Indie music scene. There are two things noteworthy about Blurt: (1) it is defining what a digital magazine should be and (2) it includes a massive number of CD reviews. As a digital magazine, Blurt does it right. In addition to Features, there is a News section which it appears will be updated between issues. There is a Video section which I presume will collect engaging clips and interviews in a YouTube-ish format. Currently, there's an interview with a couple of members of the Black Keys about their experience recording at the Beatles' Abbey Road Studios. The interview effectively demonstrates the stupidity of the musicians being interviewed -- although I suspect avid Black Keys fans will take umbrage (assuming they know what umbrage means). But the video section could be very cool. The potential is there. The Reviews are great for those of us not cool enough to know what's cool. The rating system used in the reviews is pointless, since ratings reflect the reviewer. The Blurt Out Loud forum helps define what a digital magazine can do better than print. And the Shop section -- once it's up and running -- will be where I presume I'm supposed to buy my Blurt t-shirt and coffee mug. If they're smart -- and I'm guessing they are -- it will have links to the Indie labels where we can buy CDs and downloads directly from them.
Monday, June 9, 2008
It's a fantasy of mine. The notion of having a small hideaway house tucked in a corner of the world where most do not go. It could be on the back corner of a broken-down industrial area of town or just off a thickly-wooded stretch of rural road connecting two nowhere towns in the middle of nowhere. An undistinguished, forgettable locale is best. My tiny house will have a desk, comfortable reading chair, a little kitchen, and a toilet. It will be aesthetically pleasing, because a craftsman will have built it for me with care and panache. You will never know where it is and will never be invited there. It will be my secret.
To see some cool tiny houses, go to AJ Sutherland's site.
Friday, June 6, 2008
I saw this bumper sticker on a car that weaved past me and disappeared into the city. A rare, kindred soul has captured the essence of life on the bumper of their car. With Google-investigation skills, I learned that the bumper sticker is available from instantattitudes.com. It's item BS314.
I spotted Jennifer Sandquist's amazing paintings on Etsy.com. Her portraits are flirty, sensuous and captivating. They kept drawing me back to her site and tickling my imagination with the idea of somehow incorporating my sensuous haiku with her paintings . . . maybe collaborating on a joint show where pictures and words can play off each other. Haven't quite figured out how this might work, but in the meantime I convinced Jen to bring a hefty collection of her paintings from Minneapolis to the Historic Third Ward Starbucks where they now hang. Her show is there through the month of June. I selfishly have the opportunity to see Jen's work off the computer screen and hopefully she'll sell a handful or more of her wonderful pieces. Jennifer describes herself as a self-taught acrylics artist who views her paintings as "permanent reminders of stolen moments."
Thursday, June 5, 2008
It's been within the past year that I've been working hard to amass a respectable number of carefully crafted haibun. I define haibun as being short prose that includes a haiku that either relates directly to the prose or echoes the tone. My criticism of a lot of contemporary haibun is that the prose reads flat or merely functions as the preface to the haiku -- there's little sparkle, vim or flare to the prose. I try to avoid that with my prose which tends toward the dark and edgy OR the surreal and ironic. In my haibun endeavor, I have been fortunate to befriend Jeffrey Woodward, who publishes Haibun Today. Jeffrey's mentoring comments have been helping me define my haibun voice. If you click through to the Haibun Today website and scroll down the right-hand side until you reach my name and then click it, you'll be able to read a number of my haibun. Here's a recently published piece:
Bulging Red D-Ring Binders
Wearing bright-green Wellington-like water-proof boots and keeping a wandering steel-blue eye on the pleasing, designer-jean cheeks of the flouncy-haired blonde stepping assuredly in front of him, the esteemed balding field-science researcher clutches a soft, carmel-brown leather messenger bag with three, bulging red D-ring binders and strides confidently up the expanded jetway into the brilliant light of the arriving gate fresh from a meticulously-documented examination of the fractal-star crop circle on Silbury Hill located within a shillings throw of Wiltshire, England -- home to the Blind Bore Pub where a perfect-poured pint still waits for him in the dark-wood, dim-lit snug opposite the 18th-century massive stone fireplace.
a distant siren
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Currently, my three favorite artists in the entire universe live right here in Milwaukee. Creative, quirky, and exceptionally talented, they are Matt Cipov (see one of his pieces to the left), Max Estes, and Tom Stack. I could try to describe each of their styles.....but to what end? Visit their sites and buy their art. They deserve all the support we can muster.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Nursing a Jameson hangover this morning. I love Milwaukee. Left last night with $60; came home with $40 (that's after three whiskeys and tips for my favorite bartender, Scotty). Went to Caroline's Jazz Club (401 S. 2nd St., Milwaukee) and saw The Paul Spencer Band with special guest Manty Ellis, the jazz guitar legend and epitome of "one cool cat." An incredible jazz vocalist, who had been sitting next to me at the bar, dropped in for a couple of songs. In addition to Paul on drums, three regular band members were there: Sam Kidd, bass; Jim Sodke, keyboards; and the incredible young kid, Andy Spadafora on baritone sax. They played for over two hours before taking a break. The crowd thinned to a handful of us who in the wee hours were treated to the most incredible solo trade off between the accomplished Manty, who has played with the best jazz musicians in the past 40+ years, and the recently-named best saxophone player in the state, Andy. The cool old master and the wailing young buck. Incredible.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The Electric Daybook is my way of sharing the remarkable creativity I encounter in the world. Writings, art, photography, architecture and music are all of special interest. Feel free to alert me to projects you're involved in or are aware of so that I can help spread the word. Contact me at jeff_winke @yahoo.com