Tuesday, April 28, 2009



(Did anyone ever figure out what the drum was for?)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Updike's "Lone Ranger" Memory Piece

[From Rabbit Redux, page 22.]

They channel-hop, trying to find something to hold them, but there is nothing, it all slides past until nine, on Carol Burnett, she and Gomer Pyle do an actually pretty funny skit about the Lone Ranger. It takes Rabbit back to when he used to sit in the radio-listening armchair back on Jackson Road, its arms darkened with greasespots from the peanut butter crackers he used to stack there to listen with. Mom used to have a fit. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night it came on at seven-thirty, and if it was a summer you'd come in from kick-the-can or three-stops-or-a-catch and the neighborhood would grow quiet all across the backyards and then at eight the doors would slam and the games begin again, those generous summer days, just enough dark to fit sleep into, a war being fought across oceans just so he could spin out his days in such happiness, in such quiet growing. Eating Wheaties.

I caught the very end of the so-called radio days, listening to The Lone Ranger during its last summer of broadcast....1954 in Great Falls Montana....in the kitchen of the house shown below.

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112 8th Street North. The Old Parsonage.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bus Ride Entertainment

[Sorta like Real Life Funnies only I can't draw.]

I spent the first 15 minutes of my bus ride to campus yesterday listening to the travails of Blabby Abby, a woman in her early 20s who spoke as though she just blew into town from Harlan County, Kentucky. She called one friend after another on her cell phone – an older-looking model, it appeared from my seat ten feet away. None of the conversations lasted more than a minute. The volume of her voice was more appropriate for carrying on a conversation across a canyon.

“I worra skirt today,” she serially told all her friends, not to mention the dozen or so other passengers on the bus. Ad nauseum.

She treated this declaration as though it were the major world news event of the day. She then mentioned that Lonnie (relationship unspecified) told her “you look guud!”

Turning to less personal matters, she went on to comment on the weather. She used the word “purty” more often than not.

After she pocketed her phone, she put up her feet on the sideways seat in front of her and demurely covered her legs with the jacket she’d been wearing. Maybe Lonnie’s the jealous type.

A few stops later, a Goth-looking, high-school-aged girl took a seat across the aisle from Blabby Abby, who attempted to engage her in a conversation by pointing out a thread hanging off one of her black garments. The girl smiled at her, glanced downward, and then studiously turned her head away to gaze out the window. Blabby, eager to continue talking, tried to re-establish eye contact – even flashing the girl several smiles. To no avail.

Then an incoming phone call really got her started.

“Alex told Mike to stay away from me and Miranda. She’s nothing but a liar,” she announced, in a rapid patter usually heard only from play-by-play announcers of hockey games.

Alex, I assume, is short for Alexandra. And, unfortunately, I don’t know where Miranda and Mike fit in.

From there it was an increasingly wearying harangue about being harassed, threatening to call the police, and imagined scenes of confrontation. All involving the aforementioned, and obviously detested, Alex.

As the world turns!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some Folks Had More Pressing Needs

Headlines from today's Wausau Daily Herald.

NTC job fair draws 2,000

About 1,000 protest government spending at 'Tea Party'

"About". I wonder if the Wausau group used the same crowd-counting techniques as Madison.

The organizers at the Madison rally estimated the crowd size at 5,000. That would be correct if you counted every one, including the curiosity seekers and lunchtime walkers, on the Square and the staff members and visitors inside the Capitol. Plus the desk staff at the Inn on the Park. Drop a zero and you're more likely to have an accurate count.

(I was there and took pictures. I made a point of stopping by during a midday bike ride.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Revisiting the Past

Ten days after I checked it out of the library, I finally inserted disc 1 of Rabbit Redux into the Matrix's CD player. Guess I'll have to listen to the book while cleaning windows and doing other household chores if I expect to finish it in 2 1/2 weeks.

Didn't take me long to be dazzled again. On the first page, Updike distills 10 years of urban renewal in 55 words.

The city, attempting to revive its dying downtown, has torn away blocks of buildings to create parking lots, so that a desolate openness, weedy and rubbled, spills through the once-packed streets, exposing church facades never seen from a distance and generating new perspectives of rear entryways and half-alleys and intensifying the cruel breadth of the light.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

The table is set.
The rolls are out of the oven.
Lamb to follow.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The "Pick-Up-Sticks" Tree

Those of you with a silver maple in your yard -- 4, in our case -- know first-hand what a messy tree it is. But here's one that's worth all the debris we have to pick up. Summertime guests never ceased to be amazed by its size and girth.

What's this all about?!

The Crocuses are Blooming

Be Thankful

That you don't have to stick your butt in the air to get a meal.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The UW-Madison Brutalist Walking Tour

First of all, a little background -- or what I learned by Googling.

Brutalism is a style of architecture of the 1950s and 1960s (The Free Dictionary by Farlex). Or is it one that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s (Wikipedia)?

In 1954, Alison and Peter Smithson, English architects, coined the term from the French b├ęton brut, or "raw concrete" (Wikipedia). Or is it French for "rough concrete"? (New York Architecture Images)

The UW-Madison campus has two imposing examples of the style standing side-by-side: the George L. Mosse Humanities Building (1968) and Vilas Hall (1969). They're even connected by a pedestrian bridge over University Avenue. Both buildings are typically blocky, geometric designs of poured concrete that are not particularly pleasing to the eye, especially from afar. But once I explored the interior open spaces, I gradually experienced a sense of awe. I'm still not a fan of the style, though.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cookie Dough'nt

I recently tried this recipe from our daily cookie calendar.

Perhaps the 3 sticks of butter was the first sign that this recipe was not for me.

And then there was the manual chopping of figs.

And mixing.

And more mixing.

The dough that didn't.

From the calendar picture, they look like slightly oversized pecan dainties (or Russian tea cakes, in Nelson family lingo), but in real life they ended up looking like little pancakes.
Still, my disappointment with the visual result was more than compensated for by the taste.

I’m beginning to think, though, that the people responsible for this cookie calendar didn’t bother to test any of the recipes. As soon as I felt the too-moist texture of the dough, I figured I wasn’t going to replicate the results as shown in the artfully taken photograph. As a result, I decided to refrigerate the dough for an hour, a step not specified in the recipe, before rolling it into little balls.

In addition, the 12-15 minute cooking time didn’t appear to be enough. The first batch came out looking underdone. Then it became a guessing game. Another minute? Another 2? And even after letting them cool on the pan, the cookies looked precariously crumbly. In fact, one fell off the spatula and immediately disintegrated when it hit the rack.

I think I’ll go back to Googling cookie recipes when I’m in to the mood to try something new.

The Church of the Revolving Pulpit

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Guiding Light, 1932-2009

Mom's still a big fan of "As the World Turns".

The funereal organ music brings back memories of after-school dial-twisting on a RCA black-and-white console TV in the late 1950s and early 1960s. After American Bandstand, of course.

And as long as we're in the mood, here's a link to some classic TV commercials, including Duz.