Herman Miller At the Woodson

Exceptional exhibit at the Woodson Art Museum relating to the Herman Miller company.  Now, whenever I hear the name, “Herman Miller,” which I do all the time on NPR, I can’t help but think there is a guy by the name of “Herman Miller” who does nothing but design furniture all day, especially since this company is well known for their wonderful designs.

But turns out that Herman Miller (the man) never really designed anything, he was a fellow with deep pockets whose money kept a struggling furniture  company from going under in the Great Depression.  The company was renamed in his honor, and what an honor it has turned out to be.  You can read all about this on the Hazel Home blog.

In the mean time, save me a spot on the Marshmallow Sofa and I’ll see you at the Woodson!

Things Are Moving Around

Apparently a few of you have noticed the new project in town.  Although a little more limited in scope than what the Wausaublog was, it has a much bigger purpose.

One of my goals in writing the Wausaublog was always to promote our town in hopes of making us tourists in our own town.  I don’t know about you, but when I travel somewhere I make a point of going to the little main street shops, the out of the way scenic spot and the mom and pop diner.  You don’t drive halfway across the state to shop at Wally-World after all.

But we forget to do that in our own home towns, and it is just as interesting here, if not more so, given that we have the time to really explore such places, returning again and again.

Not only is exploring locally more fun, it is better for our economy.  Shop at a big box and a big chunk of change goes out of town to executive salaries and such.  Shop locally and it all stays here — and keeps moving around here.  So, it is totally win-win.

So buy local and check out our new site: Buy Local Central Wisconsin.

Rhythm and Bows

I am a bit late with this post, but forgive me, I am new at this sort of thing.🙂

I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Stevens Point Jazz Fest over Labor Day weekend and was pretty much blown away. But I will save that part for last, even though it was not last in chronological order.

There were a few groups of local stars, even if they were playing with people from out of town, with our own John Greiner sitting in with several bands. All very, very good playing jazz standards. A wonderful way to pass a beautiful almost fall afternoon.

The final set of the festival was performed by Madisalsa which put on an incredible high energy show that featured a multi-player rhythm section and an amazing horn section. It is no wonder they were named Madison’s “Favorite Dance Band” for three years running. People certainly did get up and dance. The show was amazing. But it was not the best of the weekend.

The guy who rocked the house down to the ground plays the violin. I am not making this up.

Randy Sabien came prepared for musical battle as it were. Including him there were three violins fronting his “Fiddlehead” band and behind him were not one, but two drum kits. And on one of those drum kits was Randy’s secret weapon: The Funky Drummer.

Clyde Stubblefield who once laid down tracks with James Brown, and may be the most sampled musician ever, can still lay down an awesome beat, even though he is eligible for Social Security. Every punk band in the state wishes they had someone who could hit the drumhead as hard and as accurately as Mr. Stubblefield. And on this night he had a shadow!

The effect was quite overwhelming. If you want to get some idea of what it sounded like, head on over to Randy’s MySpace page and check out the tracks, he played all four that night. Of course you have to scale it up about 1000 percent and play it outdoors on a perfect night for the full effect.

A couple of notes about the songs. “Clyde O Scope” is a tribute to Mr. Stubblefield, the world as seen through Clyde’s eyes, according to Randy. And the “Cliffs of Dover” was originally written as a guitar hero piece, but personally, I like Randy’s version a million times better, it is less egotistical and more of a happy party than the original.

If you get any chance to see Randy Sabien live, by all means get out there and see the amazing show.

ETS and the FOA

Unfortunately, “Edward T. Schoenberger” is not a well known name around town, or at least not as well known as it should be.   There are no streets named in his honor, no schools or really anything as far as I can see.  His two largest works, if not entirely forgotten are no longer in their original locations, other works by Mr. Schoenberger are gone forever, like the man himself.

Ed Schoenberger was first and foremost an artist, working in a wide range of mediums.  One common thread to his work is that he had a knack for creating larger than life works of public art.

He started on that path in his native New Orleans during the Great Depression, painting a mural on the history of printing for the New Orleans Public Library as part of the Works Project Administration.  When World War II came along, Ed  found himself in the Army Air  Corps, but even in a time of war, Ed’s talent could not be denied and he again created larger than life murals, this time for US military bases.

After the war he headed for the East Coast where he worked as a designer for several companies.  With his cosmopolitian background: art schools, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, it might seem strange that he would up spending most of his life in Wausau.  But he did.

Succumbing to the pleadings of an old army buddy, John Stoutenburgh, Ed took a position as assistant director of the Marathon County Historical Society in 1957.  I wish that Ed were still alive so I could find out what exactly Stoutenburgh might have said to entice Ed to drop his East Coast life and come to Wausau.  Must have been powerful stuff.  Schoenberger spent 50 years in Wausau, until his passing in October of last year at the age of 92.

Schoenberger might have had a job title that indicated he was some kind of historian, but no matter what the title, he was first and foremost an artist.

His art projects and murals filled the Yawkey House with educational backdrops for the exhibits.  A totem pole he carved for the museum was later moved to Camp Phillips.   After filling the Historical Museum with his work, he branched out all over town, painting murals and creating sculptures in banks and schools all over town.  And he also created two of this town’s most famous unknown pieces of public art.

In 1976 Schoenberger created “Wenebojo” for the plaza of what is now the First American Center.  This towering copper sculpture is no longer there, but it can still easily be seen.  It was moved (I don’t know when or why) to NorthCentral Technical College, where it sits in their inner courtyard.  Unfortunately, there is no marker or plaque on the sculpture, so it is likely that most, if not all of the students at the Tech have no idea who made the piece or where it came from.  I hope to be able to answer some of those questions and post the answers here.

Schoenberger’s next creation of public art, in 1979 for the City of Wausau is also no longer in place.  Rumor has it that the pieces of the sculpture are still in storage in a large garage somewhere, but it has been years since it was removed.  “The Pinery” featured a number of  utilitiy poles  at odd angles at Stewart  Park on the banks of the river.  Apparently it was quite controversial at the time, which is a good thing in art, but is now mostly forgotten, which is a bad thing.

For all the large works of public art that Schoenberger worked on in this area, his most lasting legacy is actually a chimera,  a seemingly insubstantial work that arises suddenly and just as suddenly is gone for another year.

Ed Schoenberger conceived of and helped organize the first Wausau Festival of Arts.

Wanting to bring together the artists of the community like he had seen in larger cities, Schoenberger brought together the first Festival of the Arts on the grounds of the Yawkey house in 1965.  In many ways, his vision continues to shape the festival to this day.

That first festival not only featured artists displaying and selling their work, but also entertainment, children’s art actvities and food sales for charities.  It may have been small (42 artists who sold $600 in art, according to Schoenberger’s notes) but the elements were all in place.  By the 5th annual show in 1969, the Festival had grown to the proportions it continues to enjoy today with 120 artists displaying their work and 10,000 people attending.

So, when you come downtown in a few weeks, remember to thank Ed for awakening the artistic soul of our town.

Time to Eat Your Car?

So, by now you have certainly noticed the price of gasoline continuing to climb. And you may have even noticed that a few things are a bit more expensive in the grocery store. Well you are not the only one to have noticed that things are about to get out of hand.

In a nutshell, what the World Bank (and others) are noticing is that the price of oil has a wee little something to do with the price of food, in on way that is obvious to most people and one that might not be so obvious.

The obvious reason (that might not at first be so obvious) is that nothing you eat is grown or made here. See any banana trees outside your windows? Your tomato plants all nice and healthy after the snow squalls yesterday? Turns out that the average morsel of food on your plate has traveled some 1500 miles to get there. And that is the overall average for the whole country, so I am going to guess that us northerners may have it a bit worse. So, transportation costs alone will add a bit, perhaps quite a bit to your food bill. But that is not the biggest impact that transporation will have on your food budget.

Your car also is very hungry and has to be fed.

In searching for renewable energy sources we hit upon the idea of using ethanol in the place of gasoline. Which sounds fantastic. Ethanol comes from plants and plants are solar energy, right? Also, ethanol was sold to us as a boon for the farmers of America. “Fill-er-up” and save the family farm. Or something like that. Turns out that almost none of that is exactly true.

It is true that ethanol is usually made from corn and that in a sense corn is a renewable resource. Unfortunately, the way most corn is grown, it uses up tons of non-renewable resources. Those conflakes of yours are soaked in oil — not corn oil, the crude kind.

Turns out that the high price of oil is squeezing the price of food on two fronts.

First, modern agriculture requires literally tons and tons of oil. From making fertilizers to running water pumps to trucking the stuff all over the globe, agriculture consumes huge quantities of fossil fuels. The higher the price of oil, the higher the price of food. But wait there’s more!

Now as more corn is diverted from the food chain into the ethanol plants, the price of food goes higher still! Land that could have been used to say, grow broccoli (OK, more likely wheat) is given over to corn — corn which no one will ever eat. Did you just hear the price of eggs going up again? Less corn on the market means more expensive chicken feed. More expensive eggs that cost more to ship than ever. Thank goodness ethanol is such a good deal and is saving the family farm!

Sorry, wrong on both counts.

Ethanol is not a good deal by most calculations. In fact it is a terrible deal.

The most optimistic number I have seen says that for each barrel of oil needed to make and transport ethanol we get about 1.3 barrels of energy (to compare apples to apples). For crude oil currently each barrel invested in finding, extracting and transporting yields something like 20 to 200 barrels of energy. So, ethanol has a long way to go, or oil has a long way to fall.

And ethanol does not really save any family farms. As you may have already figured, ethanol favors the kind of huge, monocropped factory farm that degrades the land and generates huge profits (and subsidies) for companies like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland.

The only way out of the coming food crisis is to use less fossil fuels, both in agriculture and transporation. But fortunately there is a way to start doing that. Which we will talk about next time.

Senator Clinton Comes to Wausau

I will have much more to say later, but I thought that at least I should get the pictures up that I took today. I pulled rank and identified myself as belonging to the press at the rally today, but only got the good pictures when I went up to the seats where I probably would have been sitting anyway.

I’ll put one picture here and the rest on the Flickr site. Tomorrow, hopefully after a good night’s sleep I will post some commentary on the visit.

Hilary takes a question

Podcast Part 2

Here is the second half of the interview with Wendell Minor, which I did last weekend at the MCPL. If you haven’t already, go one post down and listen to the first part.

For much more about Wendell Minor you can go to his website.