Saturday, April 28, 2007

Condos after Dark: Frodo's Place

Even the hobbit condos are dark these days. This was the scene by the light of the silvery moon on Edgewood Drive in Madison on a recent evening. The lights were out at this woodsy, upscale hobbit condo, and the owner seems to have moved on. For whereabouts contact J.R.R. Tolkien.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Photoshop Blogging

Tree bark has wonderful texture but usually isn't all that colorful. But what if it were the color of old, faded postage stamps? Let's find out. Set up a 12" x 9" grid and fill it with identical boxes ranging in size from 1 sq. inch to 25 sq. inches. 29 layers in all. Then start adjusting the Color Balance of individual layers. Now you've got a stamp collection. (Click on photo to enlarge in Flickr.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lawn ornaments or automotive outsider art?

Another shot from our Easter visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, when we found some of the most interesting art on the streets of the city. David Jones and Tony Balistreri cut up these cars and planted them in their front yard at 2659 N. Humboldt Blvd. I may have captured it with my camera, but they created this "art installation." More here at

(Still trying to figure out best way to combine Blogger and Flickr, including what to call the combined activity -- blickering? Click on photo for larger version at my Flickr photostream.)

Condos after Dark: Nolen Shore

On a recent stormy night there were lights in some of the windows on the lake side of Nolen Shore on West Wilson Street overlooking Lake Monona. Since just about all the units on the lake side of this successful development are sold, other residents were presumably enjoying the downtown offerings developer Todd McGrath mentioned in a Madison Magazine interview before construction started, though the Nolen Shore website indicates that some lower level cityside units are still available.
The atmosphere for downtown living has obviously changed. Oh, definitely. The people that are interested in downtown living, it's really driven by a lifestyle. We have Overture, and look at the amenities here, look at the amenities that you could walk to. So I think that people are quietly yearning. This market hasn't been driven by high-profile, downtown people. A lot of these prospects are people who have visited these events - Concerts on the Square and the restaurants. And suddenly this is the theme, creating more choices that don't exist in the marketplace. I think what explained the success of Capitol Point, Union Transfer, Metropolitan Place - ten years ago there weren't choices, and when buyers came from Boston, wanted to find a loft or downtown housing, a lot of Realtors would say, "Well, no, there are not many grown-up people that live down there."
Nolen Shore was designed by Milwaukee firm Eppstein Uhen Architects, and based on the buzz surrounding the project, they opened a Madison office, their first outside Milwaukee. The firm also designed the Monroe Commons development, which has become known as the site of the Madison Trader Joe's.
The firm, which first broke into the Madison market by landing pricey, high-profile projects such as Nolen Shore Condominiums and Monroe Commons, continues to gain new clients on a diverse range of projects.

"We know how to combine bricks and mortar into designs people like," Holzhauer says. "And when people (developers) are making money on the projects, they're happy, too."

Specifically, developers pick the firm because of its depth of experience and detailed, cutting-edge construction plans. Those who live in the Eppstein Uhen-designed condos sound like paid salesmen.

"They created a simple, modern design, but not a cold design," says Debra Stack, a part-time Madison resident who in September moved into her third-floor condo in Nolen Shore. "I find it very appealing. There is absolutely no comparison."
Nolen Shore looms over the Doty School Condominiums next door, but from Wilson Street the feeling of towering size is mitigated by eight townhouse units facing the street that blend in with the surrounding residential neighborhood and provide a substantial setback for the 11-story "mid-rise tower," easing the sense of blank claustrophobia that a large building rising straight up can create at street level.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Trying to avoid the onset of curmudgeonhood

From Charles McGrath's article "The Amis Inheritance" in the Sunday NYT Magazine about the complex relationship between the two members of the famous Amis writing duo, Martin Amis on the way his father Kingsley's became increasingly pessimistic as he aged:
A topic that comes up sometimes in conversation with Martin is where Kingsley went wrong, and Martin says he thinks it’s that with age he became a dogmatist of pessimism. “You have to distinguish between what is universal for your age group — that feeling that everything is going to hell, ubi sunt, and the rest — and what is reality,” he said last winter. “Kingsley never even tried to distinguish between that feeling in himself and how things really were. I try to test myself on that score because I believe that a writer has a solemn duty to be cheerful and to guard against the failures of tolerance which characterize age. Kingsley was an absolutist in that how he saw it was how it was. I’m very on guard against that. I don’t want it.”

He added: “I don’t want this to get out of control or I’ll be drowning in schmaltz, but it all starts to look very beautiful now that I know I’m not going to be around indefinitely. You know, the way that to a prisoner condemned to death, water tastes delicious, the air tastes sweet, a bread-and-butter sandwich makes tears spring to the eye.”
It takes more than botox to ward off "the failures of tolerance which characterize age." Is it even possible to remain hopeful as you face your own inevitable decline? The jury is still out on the boomers, for all their determined pursuit of youthfulness.

Driving up Park Street in the rain

In the rain that fell yesterday afternoon, the welcoming colors and lights of Taqueria Morelos provided a cheerful note that offset the soggy gloom.

The red lights at Park and Fish Hatchery did their thing, and so did the cars.

The Octopus Car Wash octopus was washed by the rain.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Growth Pushes Up Through the Charred Stubble of Spring Prairie Burn

An old trick we learned from the Native Americans, whose garden this once was. Photographed at Owen Conservation Park on Earth Day, 2007. Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day in 1970, recalled it this way years later:
At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called "teach-ins," had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me - why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.
Nearly four decades later, we're at war again and the polar ice caps are melting at a frightening rate. Slow learners, we humans.

(Click on photo to enlarge or check it out at my Flickr photostream.)

Sports concussions -- "a ticking time bomb"

Sports agent Leigh Steinberg gave the keynote address at the National Concussion Summit in Marina Del Rey the other day. He was trying to get the audience's attention, and he succeeded. He told of visiting his star client Troy Aikman in the hospital after he was knocked out of the 1994 NFC championship game.
Aikman: “Did we play a football game today?’’
Steinberg: “Yes.’’
Aikman: “How did we do?’’
Steinberg: “You did well.’’
Aikman: “What does that mean?’’
Steinberg: “You’re going to the Super Bowl.’’

Five minutes later, Aikman had a few more questions.
“Did we play a football game today?’’
“How did we do?’’
“What does that mean?’’

Five minutes later, Aikman repeated the same questions yet again. It was clear the concussion, which published reports described as "mild," had at least temporarily robbed Aikman of his memory. The moment shook Steinberg. It also spurred him to act. A crusade began.
Steinberg's campaign has gained momentum over the last decade, and medical science now knows far more than it used to about the long-term impact of sports concussions. As Steinberg says, they're "a ticking time bomb." The impact is cumulative and may not really show up until decades after the initial injury -- and then the impact can be devastating, as the San Francisco Chronicle notes.
"What are the stakes?" Steinberg said. "It's one thing to go out and play football and understand that when you turn 40, you can bend over to pick up your child and have aches and pains. It's another thing to bend down and not be able to identify that child."
Steinberg is referring to the increase in the incidence of early-onset Alzheimer's among athletes who have suffered multiple concussions. There's more information at both links. Check them out. A bump on the head will never seem the same.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stenciled fish grafitti across Wingra Creek

From yesterday's bike ride. This stretch of Wingra Creek, near Olin Park just before it flows into Lake Monona, attracts the occasional fisherman. Maybe it was one of them, or perhaps just a tagger with a sense of irony, who spray painted the stenciled fish images all across the old railroad trestle. (Click on photos to enlarge or check out my Flickr photostream.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

This is not an Andreas Gursky. That's why it won't go for more than $1 million at auction.

Toys 'R' Us Madison Guy photo on Flickr

This is not the famous Toys 'R' Us by Andreas Gursky. That huge photograph hangs -- 7 feet tall, 11 feet wide -- in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Gursky is a German photographer who works large, as in billboard-size. He holds the record for the most money ever paid for a photo by a living photographer (99 Cent II Diptychon, $3.3 million). Toys 'R' Us -- one of an edition of six, another of which is the print at the MOMA -- is expected to fetch as much as $1.8 million at auction in New York this Tuesday, April 24. I Photo Central says this about the photo in its story about the auction:
Andreas Gursky's "Toys 'R' Us, 1999" ($1,200,000-1,800,000), which is a poignant, precise and subtle satire on the homogeneity and disassociation of consumer culture, showing two similar warehouses like bunkers, each sporting corporate names, side by side, one reading 'Toyota' and the other, 'Toys 'R' Us'.
If you're looking for more in-depth analysis of Gursky's work, ArtForum ran these pro and con essays by Katy Siegel and Alex Alberro a few years ago.

Still, $1.8 million is a lot of money for a grim, almost pedantic visual representation of the drab anonymity of life in a consumer culture that also functions as a critique of the tyrrany of the market in an era of globalization. If this would bust your budget, we should talk. I can save you a lot of money. This "Mad Town" equivalent of Toys 'R' Us, created with subject matter freely available right here in Madison, WI, is not only far less expensive, it's also more cheerful and provides a welcome shout-out to the American genius for fantasy in these sad times. It also answers the question, where ya gonna get that Toyota cleaned?

All inquiries will be treated with the utmost confidentiality (principals only). My prices are negotiable.