Category Archives: Education

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!


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.


Blogs, Censorship and Conflict

This little post is inspired by the comment by Mr. Mentzer and also by the little brouhaha over at Citizen Wausau.

First let me say that there is no animosity, or really, feelings of any kind about the start up of Citizen Wausau. I have said many, many times that there is always room for more voices about anything and everything and another take on Wausau is a good thing. So, rock on guys and have fun with it.

I will go even a step further and say that everyone should have a blog or something like it. Writing is a tremendously valuable skill and one that is simply not exercised enough by most people. For years I have seen all the wonderful things that the library puts out encouraging reading (Readers are Leaders and so on) and have always thought, “Reading is great, but you need to be able to DO stuff too.” And one thing everyone should DO is write.

Back when Ken Burns’s first big war pic came out (about the oxymoronic Civil War — how can any war be civil?) I, like many people were amazed at the poetic beauty of the letters and diary entries that he found — written by ordinary people. Even allowing for the fact that over time only the best of such things survived and the he had the liberty to edit the heck out of them, the use of the language by ordinary people was quite striking. They obviously spent a lot of time both reading and writing. We don’t — but we should.

I am reminded of one of my favorite snarks, although I forget now who said it. At the time of the quote the various TV networks had various promos to encourage reading. I believe CBS had a thing after many programs telling people how they could “read more about it.” Which lead to this acid response: “Having a TV network combatting illiteracy is like a chocolate eclair manufacturer fighting obesity.” But I digress.

So, everyone should have a blog. Expressing yourself in writing often organizes your thoughts and gives you a very nice mental work out. I am not talking about spreading information here, though that might be useful — just expressing your thoughts on “paper.” It is a good thing for everyone.

Beyond that, more discussion of our town is good and more information is good. Citizen Wausau is a good thing. And so will whatever the next blog about Wausau be. I have always said, and certainly stand by the idea — “the more the merrier.”

I will say, however, that I sit here with a bit of bemusement at the brouhaha over at Citizen Wausau. Perhaps it was not intended, but there were some comments in the CP when the Wausaublog was going black (not permanently, apparently) that this new blog would be more wide open than this blog had been. I was perplexed by the comment at the time, hoping that perhaps it was a misquote or something.

Over the year or so that the Wausaublog limped along, there was exactly one post that I sort of declined to run. The author said it was satire, but it just sounded like an attack to me. I sat on it a long time and finally said, “Sorry, I am not going ‘print’ that.” The person apparently got their feelings hurt and never contributed again. Which is OK. There was one other time when I was sent a contribution and I asked the author whether they really wanted it out there in the form in which they sent it to me. I pointed out that maybe they might not get nice comments on it, and the author said not to run it.

And speaking of comments, I had one instance where I felt forced to cut off comments on an article. Some group from Texas found the blog because of a post that mentioned a band that used the Confederate battle flag as their symbol — and these guys from Texas wanted to post dissertation length comments on how the aforementioned oxymoronic Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. I just wasn’t in the mood for a flame war over a 4 month old post, so I closed the comments for a while. It was the only time I deleted comments.

I did also get into a bit of hot water when I tried to moderate a comment thread that had gotten a bit out of hand. One of the contributors felt that in doing so, I was taking sides and eventually declined to participate as a contributor any longer. Which is also fine.

But all that being said, I do feel for the guys over at CW. No matter what you are doing on a public blog that represents something (even if it only yourself) such as your city, your business or whatever, it is probably impossible, especially on the internet, to have completely free speech. If you did, your blog would be covered in spam comments leading to porn sites.

And, as I have said before, editors have value. Not posting something because it is not good enough or is way off topic or vile or whatever, is fair game for the owner of a blog. That is what an editor is for. The Herald (for example) is under no obligation to publish anything and everything that comes over the transom, and the same is true of CW and the Wausaublog.

So, here is where I can tie things together. If you want every word you write to be “published,” get your own blog. You can get a free one here on in about five minutes. I encourage you to do that. Writing is good for you. Everyone should do it.

The last thing I wil say is that to be a blogger of any kind on the net requires a bit of both thickness of skin and skull. Anyone in the world can post anonymous comments on your thoughts and opinions. Registration doesn’t stop that, only makes people more creative. So, you can’t take yourself too seriously and for the most part you can’t take the comments from others all that seriously, either. Unless it involves a spellchecker. I know from first hand experience that a copy editor is even more important than an editor.

Hunted Like Animals at UWMC

It is not often that a re-run is an important event, but this is one of those occaisions.

UWMC is showing again the film, “Hunted Like Animals” which is a documentary by Rebecca Sommers about the genocide of the Hmong people in Laos.  The film will be shown on October 10 at 7 pm in the college theater, and as usual, you can’t beat the price, it free.

Click for Larger ImageCheng Lee, Director at the Multicultural Resource Center at the college has arranged for Rebecca Sommers to be available by phone after the screening to discuss the film and answer any questions.  Lee said that last year when the film was show there was a panel discussion with a number of local Hmong Elders discussing the film.  That must have been fascinating, and I am very sorry to have missed that.

Most of us in Wausau are aware of the sad recent history of the Hmong people.  To make a long story short, the Hmong people sided with the US during the Vietnam War, and after US troops left Southeast Asia, the Hmong were persecuted by the governments of Laos and Vietnam.  Many Hmong people became refugees settling in Thailand, the US and other places.  But Hmong people still remain in Southeast Asia.  Their plight is still horrific according to Sommers.  Here is a quote from the press release for the film:

Over thirty years and a generation later the Hmong-in-hiding are attacked, chased, raped and killed by Laotian soldiers.  Those who surrender face an uncertain fate. “Hunted like Animals”demonstrates that the Hmong-in-hiding in the Laotian military training areas are going through.   They endure genocide, the reason why many escape to Thailand, and become refugees.  This story of human rights violations on the Hmong-in-hiding must be told. 

And for a story to be fully told, it must be listened to.  I hope that folks will make an effort to come out and see this film so that we can better understand the situation in Laos, and by extension our Hmong neighbors here.  The shared experience and the discussion period are an important part of building our community.

If you would like some previews of the film, Sommer’s site has a number of clips, which you can find here.

See you at UWMC at 7 pm in the theater.

Speaking of area history…

The Marathon County Historical Museum’s new exhibits “A Time Of Change: Marathon County 1900 – 1910” and “Special Edition: 100 Years Of The Daily Herald” is opening June 30th with a big open house. Activities will feature live music, a drawing for 2 teddy bears (in celebration of the birth of Teddy Bears during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency) and film clips showing the technology of the era. The exhibit curators, Linda Forbess and Kathy Jansen, will be there to answer questions about the exhibit.

The early 1900’s was a dynamic period in Marathon County’s history. It was when the lumber industry was in obvious decline, giving way to the businesses of savvy entrepeneurs (including the Wausau Group). The history books, newspaper articles and even City Directories of the time show a wide array of businesses. The 1901 – 02 City Directory shows a bustling city with 10 cigar makers, 15 confectioners, 75 dressmakers, 30 general stores, 16 hotels, 13 lawyer firms and 9 meat markets.

This is also the era of the introduction of new technology such as automobiles and planes. Residents could take the trolley from Wausau down to the Rothschild Pavilion for a day of fun. Electrical lighting and telephones were becoming more common. And don’t forget the Sear’s Catalog- the best friend of rural shoppers!

The second exhibit shows the headlines from and the history of Wausau Daily Herald in the past 100 years. There will be front pages from major events in the past century (I stopped and read several while they were being gathered- the ads are pretty cool, too). There will also be newspapers from around the county from the past 150 years (There were alot of them! I was amazed by the number of different publications there were!)

Be sure to stop in Saturday, June 30th from 1:00 – 4:30 for the big opening. The exhibits will be on display from June 23, 2007 – May 2008. The museum is open Tuesday -Thursday 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM and Saturday -Sunday 1:00 – 4:30 PM. The exhibit is free and open to all.

More Buildings Down

Click for Larger ImageUnfortunately, I was not prepared with a pad and pen when I ran into a delightful young lady who was watching the demolition of the buildings at 6th St. and Bridge. Well, I use the word “young” advisedly as she is the wife of Gordy, and she and Gordy were the previous owners of the Pine Bar, which was housed in the block which was demolished.

And I don’t mean the most recent owners, either. She and Gordy bought the Pine Bar in 1946. It was a true saloon before that, with sawdust floors and spitoons. For almost 20 years it was just a bar, but in 1962 there was a fire, and in rebuilding after the fire, a restaurant was added. I was told that the most interesting feature of the bar (and the saloon before it) was that a creek ran right under the building, and that there was a removable concrete cover that allowed access to the creek from inside the building.

And in an indication that maybe the good old days weren’t always so good, I was told that the arrangement with the creek down below made the back room of the bar an convenient place to slaughter a cow every now and then, with the waste products being sent downstream. Slaughtering next to the kitchen? Offal in the creek? Thank goodness for the health department.

Click for Larger ImageIn the pictures you can see some advertising posters that were revealed when the brick facade on Bridge Street was pulled down. I was told that the lower level of that building was first a meat market and later a Dairyland store. The Dairyland store might have been the first “supermarket” in Wausau — for the first time you could get your own groceries right off the shelf. Now that was progress.

The buildings coming down might be older than you first think. Not only was Gordy, the bar owner born in one of the houses on that block, but his 97 year old sister was born there as well. So, the house on Bridge street was over 100 years old.

Click for Larger ImageMost people will not lament the taking down of the buildings on that block as they had been blighted considerably, especially in the last few years, but even here there was history. Ironically, I was told that the business at the bar and restaurant started to go down when the roads were widened and traffic increased. Not everything goes as planned, I guess.

Whose Side Am I On Anyway?

John H. FischerBy Dr. Rent

As indicated last week, I have been busy so I first now got the chance to read last week’s City Pages.  And there I was, what a surprise!

Normally I know if I am going to be in the City Pages or the Daily Herald or on TV because they called to ask questions.  But not this time.

It was on a small article where a landlord was taken to court for withholding a tenant’s deposit, and the tenant won.  I was mentioned in the article pretty much on the side of the tenant.  So, why I am out there making life more difficult for landlords?  After all, I am the former president of the local apartment association.

I get calls every week from people who heard from a friend of a friend that I give free advice.  Some of the calls are from landlords, some are from tenants, and every now and then a get a call from a lawyer.  (That’s when I knew I made the big time, lawyers asking me for advice!)

When I get these calls, whose side am I on?  Well, I am on the side of what ever is right in terms of the laws, and what is fair if the laws don’t seem to apply.  Sometimes that means I am on the side of the tenant, sometimes on the side of the landlord, and every now and then I think they are both wrong and I just advise them get a lawyer because this is going to be a mess.

Once I was on both people’s sides.  A tenant called who had lived somewhere for a very long time and had questions about the deposit that was withheld.  I told them that damages could be billed, but not “normal wear and tear” and every person defines “normal wear and tear” differently.  The only opinion that really matters though, is the judge’s.  And, the judge will take into consideration how long someone lived there as to what is normal.  For example, the walls needing to be painted because of cigarette smoke after someone was only there for 6 months will probably be okay to take out of a deposit, however if they have been there for 6 years, most judges feel that the unit will need new paint anyway, so normal wear.

After explaining this, she was so glad that I agreed with her and asked if she could give the landlord my number so I could explain this to them.  I agreed and not 5 minutes later they called.  I gave them almost the same “spiel” about what is normal wear and tear and what is not.  She thanked me for agreeing with them.


Sure enough, a few minutes later the tenant called back and asked what I told the landlord because they are more convinced than ever that THEY are right.  I assured her I told both parties the same thing.  This took up about 6 phone calls over 2 days.  I told both of them, if you think you are right, go to court.  One of you will be disappointed and without seeing the “damage” (and I didn’t want to), I did not know who would be the disappointed one.

Why will I sometimes take the sides of the tenants?  Because, bad landlords make all of us look bad.  I don’t want to put those guys out of business, I just want them to play by the same set of rules that the rest of us play by.  As you saw from last week’s post, this isn’t an easy profession.

As an example, I am having problems in one of my units where I need to get the tenants out, they are making life miserable not only for the other tenants in their building, but for the entire neighborhood.  However, they are doing it in such a way that the law is actually on their side.  How I am handling it… next week.

Dr. Rent