Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas in a wired world: Playing with our food and online delights and diversions that will have you saying, "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

I don't know about your Christmas celebration, but this year ours was definitely altered by the World Wide Web -- and not because of online shopping.

When you have a house full of people with digital cameras, blogs, and MySpace and Facebook memberships; and when even the least plugged-in folks at the dinner table use e-mail to stay in touch with friends and relatives, it's unlikely you'll have time to sneak off to someone's home office and spend a little time blogging. It's also very unlikely you'll be bored because almost everyone who's not washing dishes plops in front of the television after dinner to watch something utterly banal and predictable.

No, you'll be too busy swapping tech tips and taking photos (and promising to download them a.s.a.p. and send copies via e-mail so people can post them on their blog or MySpace site).

And when (1) you have a professional chef in the family and (2) he's prepared a fabulous Christmas dinner, and (3) almost everyone present has a sophisticated palate and a digital camera, you may well discover, as we did, that after saying Grace, everyone seems to be playing with his or her food. But you'd be mistaken. Everyone was just styling their plate, arranging their food before the inevitable photo shoot. Photos of our Christmas dinner will probably be appearing soon in cyberspace.

So while I had a list of terrific suggestions about how to wile away some time on Christmas Day, I didn't have time to blog. Tonight, as I'm watching the 29th Annual Kennedy Center Honors awards ceremony on television, I'm catching up on my blogging -- and belatedly offering my list of too fun to miss goofy Christmas treats and mischief.

Sure you can buy an elf costume, but where are you going to wear it? To the office party? To your class reunion? I think not. Better to don it in cyberspace. Check out the Elf Yourself site. Make yourself a dancing elf -- or better yet, transform someone you love (or not) into a dancing elf. Then e-mail a link to your creation to someone (or everyone) in your address book. And unlike the somewhat pricey costume, Elfamorphosis is free!

After you elf yourself (and your boss, your kid sister, and Aunt Hettie), enjoy the video of kids opening Christmas presents and screaming with complete and utter joy at N64Kids.com and check out the Scared of Santa Gallery posted by the Sun Sentinel newspaper in South Florida.

Many thanks to the folks at PhotoJoJo for their Christmas morning e-mail offering these delights and diversions intended to help people "Chase away those XMAS Afternoon Doldrums with a Photograph and Telephone." We didn't have time to play with these cyber toys on Christmas Day, but we've certainly been having fun with them today!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Seriously: Merry Christmas!!

And yes, there is a "Central connection" here: one Tychoberahn editor and three future alumni.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas gift ideas with Madison Central connections of one sort or another

It's too late to order an enormous custom-designed wooden troll, crafted by Mike Feeney (Class of 1963) for your front lawn this year, but there are some other gifts with Central connections you may still be able to acquire in time for Christmas giving.

Mike still has some limited edition collectible trolls that will fit nicely under the Christmas tree and cost a lot less than the big guys. Check out the Gardener Troll, The Transfer and Storage Troll, or my favorite, The Chicken Thief Troll. If you put a troll under you'll tree, you'll also have something you probably can't find in your Tychoberahn: Mike's autograph. All the trolls are signed by the artist.

Or if you're looking something a bit more exotic (or just plain weird), consider a handbuilt ceramic nose, "hung with multi-colored rat tail." If you're too far away from the shops in Mount Horeb that sell Mike's work, just use this link to order directly from The Wooden Chicken.

All the items I wrote about last Christmas, including CDs by Tracy Nelson (Class of 1963) and Gerri DiMaggio (Class of 1965), as well a DVD of "The Right Stuff," featuring Mickey Crocker (a.k.a. Mickey Gartland, Class of 1965), and slew of books by Patrick McGilligan (Class of 1969) are still available. Click HERE for more details. For more details about the DVD of "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill," featuring a score by Chris Michie (Class of 1966), click HERE.

In the not too distant future, I hope you'll be buying books with my name on the spine to give to all your friends and relatives. Until then, I can suggest you treat yourself to a book that has my name inside (even if only once). They're all written by film critic and scholar Joseph McBride (who was once the roommate of Steve Wonn, a member of the Class of 1963) and they all merit your attention: "Searching for John Ford," "The Movie Book of Lists: An Offbeat, Provocative Collection of the Best and Worst of Everything in Movies," and "Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?" (twice!). Normally, I wouldn't be so audacious and self-referential, but hey! Time Magazine has declared me (and you) Person of the Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Things my father shared with me: a bit of Christmas magic on Madison's East Side

Most Christmas magic can't be captured on film or a computer chip, but sometimes an image can help to evoke a memory, or send someone else on a quest to experience the magic in person.

The above photo is of a house on the 2500 block of Upham Street on Madison's East Side. My father introduced me to this glowing work of art, so I know it's been a part of my Christmas celebration for more than a decade. The first time I saw this house, my father was my guide, the man behind the wheel who wanted to share his discovery. When he could no longer drive, I drove and we continued to enjoy this extravaganza together every year. After he died, driving past the house on Upham Street became an annual ritual, a way to remember my father, a way to be with him in spirit during the Christmas season.

Some years I've been able to introduce friends to the house on Upham Street, sharing a bit of one of my Christmas traditions with them. But even when everyone else was too busy to go for a ride, I've made a trip across town to make certain the Christmas lights were still aglow.

And as often as possible, I try to park a block or so away from the house on Upham Street, and take a walk to see what can't be shown in a single photo. What really makes the decorations on this house special is that the lights cover and illuminate the entire house: front, back, sides, and backyard. I've peeked around corners and craned my neck to catch a glimpse of as many lights as possible, but ever the obedient daughter, I follow my father's instructions and stay on the sidewalk: I don't go too close, I don't trespass, I don't ring the doorbell. I don't want to break the spell. I want the magic to endure year after year after year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Madison High School Class of 1907

I've posted a list of about half (surnames A-H) of the members of the Madison [Central] High School Class of 1907 on the Central history blog. Among the members of that class were Irving Brown, who became "the foremost authority on the American gyspy" and a professsor of romance languages at Columbia University; Timothy Brown, who was a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice from 1949-1964 (Chief Justice from 1962-1964); and Alfred Buser,who was captain of the undefeated 1912 University of Wisconsin football team.

Please do have a look at this list of alumni and if you have any additional information about any of them, please send me an e-mail or leave a comment. I'm beginning to believe it may not be unreasonable to believe I can compile a comprehensive data base of all Madison Central High School alumni, but I need lots of help to fill in the gaps in my information.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Reunions and reminiscences

So much to do, so little time to do it -- but I have finally posted photos from the 50th reunion of the Madison Central High School Class of 1956, as well as a poem written for the occasion by Cheryll Moling Thompson. Both are on the Central History blog.

I have a few photos from the 40th reunion of the Class of 1966 and I'll try to get those posted soon -- perhaps even by Christmas.

Until I have the time to write some more posts -- including a list of Christmas gifts with definite Central connections -- you may enjoying browsing this list of businesses on State Street in 1966, compiled for Isthmus by Dave Medaris (who went to Madison West High School). Very few of these businesses -- many of which had strong Central connections -- remain open today. Leave a comment about what you remember about some of these stores and restaurants of yesteryear. Or if you still haven't figured out how to leave comments, send me an e-mail and I'll post them for you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

End of the semester report

No matter what you do, when you live in Madison time seems to be measured in semesters.The current semester is over -- at least for me. I just e-mailed my final exam material to my Photoshop instructor (and posted it here, below). I had to create an original image using "images that represent who you are" and my initials (with three special effects). Maybe I can figure out how to use the design on a business card. Or not.

Now I can start to catch up on my sleep, work on my Christmas cards and cookies, enjoy a bit of the unseasonably warm weather we're experiencing -- and probably resume blogging tomorrow.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Remembering Otis Redding 39 years after his death in Madison's Lake Monona

When the plane carrying Otis Redding and his band crashed into Lake Monona, I was living in Boston. I was sharing a basement apartment on 1292 Commonwealth Avenue with a roommate named Jeannie who was was rarely there. She usually stayed with a boyfriend who attended one of the many colleges in the area. But on the morning of December 11, 1967 she awakened me screaming, "Otis fell into your lake last night!"

Even after I was fully awake, I really didn't understand the depth of her sorrow and anger because Otis Redding just wasn't a name I recognized. A few weeks later, I moved back to Madison in time to celebrate Christmas with my family. The moving van with my clothes didn't arrive until the middle of January.

Otis Redding and his music really didn't register with me until a few years later, when my friend Jonathan introduced me to the splendid Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which was performing at the Wisconsin Union Theater. I was spellbound. After that initial introduction, I went to see Ailey's company perform whenever I could. I saw them in Chicago and New York. I saw them when then returned to Madison. And somewhere along the way, Alvin Ailey introduced me to the music of Otis Redding via choreographer George Faison's "Suite Otis," which premiered in 1971, and which originally featured some of the company's all-time greatest dancers, including Ulysses Dove, Masazumi Chaya, and the sassy, unforgettable Marilyn Banks.

The six songs in "Suite Otis" are the ones I know best, the ones I play most often when I put my Otis Redding LP on the record player or a disk in my CD player. And of those six songs, the most familiar, the most often played is "Try a Little Tenderness." You can listen to a rendition of it from Otis Redding's 1967 Stax Tour of Europe on the You Tube video below:

The Friday after Thanksgiving, I went to the Monona Terrace Convention Center with plans to take a photograph of the Otis Redding Memorial on the William T. Evjue Rooftop Garden. But as I noted in an earlier post, the entire facility was closed.

This past Friday, I made a return trip to Monona Terrace. Although the building was open, there was no access to the Rooftop Garden. Sadly, you may not be able to visit the Otis Redding Memorial until next year.

I talked to one of the building managers and learned the Rooftop Garden is usually closed all winter. Large sections of the floor of the Rooftop Garden are covered with commemorative tiles (with the names of donors to the convention center) made from materials easily damaged by snow removal equipment. When the Rooftop Garden is covered with snow and ice that can't be removed because of concerns about damaging the tiles, it is kept closed to the public because of safety and liability concerns. Driving rain and high winds are also reasons for closing the Rooftop Garden.

Emulating my heroine, Brenda Starr, I managed to persuade a building manager to let me see (and photograph) the current condition of the Rooftop Garden. It was treacherous up there. It may not seem like it from the photos, but it's very icy -- and there's really little hope that recent slightly warmer weather will melt it all away any time soon. Here's what it looked like on Friday:

And since you might want to read the words on the stone that sits on the ground in front of the Otis Redding Memorial, here's a photo of that, too:

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of Redding's death and since the media seem to favor numbers divisible by ten (or sometimes five), you'll probably see and hear a lot more about Otis Redding in Madison in 2007. But if you want to pay your respects, you'll have to schedule a visit to the Otis Redding Memorial for a sunny day when snow is just a memory.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Two remarkable Madison Central High School teachers who retired before the Class of 1965 arrived on Wisconsin Avenue

I've added some more teacher obituaries this weekend. They're for two teachers members of the Madison Central High School Class of 1965 didn't have an opportunity meet: Benjamin Ashman and Florence Morris, both of whom taught at Central for almost 40 years.

In addition to the information I've already posted (use the links above to read more), I also have some inquiries out for additional information about these two remarkable teachers.

One thing I have learned is that Benjamin Ashman was apparently the uncle of Alicia Ashman, who was a member of the Madison Public Library Board, and for whom the branch library on Old Sauk Road is named. The source of this information is "The Controversies: You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato" section of Stories from the History of the Madison Public Library. If you use the link to go to this story and read it, you'll learn about the role Benjamin Ashman played in fighting censorship at the MPL The segment involving him is about a third of the way down the "Controversies" page and is titled "The Great Censorship Controversy of 1953: McCarthy, The Man, The Senator, The Ism."

Friday, December 01, 2006

A December snow storm and an alumnus who became a renowned phrenologist

Late last night, when I couldn't sleep, I decided to write a post about the snow storm that was on its way to Madison. However, after searching my digital photo archives, I realized I didn't have any good snow related-photos. So absent a photo, I went to back to bed and managed to catch a few hours of much-needed sleep.

Perhaps I should I have ventured out with my camera today and captured some winter wonderland images, but I really had too much work to do. Apparently Madison Guy (whoever he is) had to hit the road this morning, so if you want to see an image of today's snow-covered landscape taken by a fellow alumnus, you'll have to click HERE to see the photo he took on his way to work and read about his harrowing journey.

Work has kept me busy this week -- and that's great for the bottom line, but not conducive to lots of blogging. However, now that darkness has descended, I've taken a break to write some posts about William Windsor, a member of the Class of 1875 who became a renowned phrenologist after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School and spending many years as a practicing attorney. I hope you'll take the time to read more about Windsor by clicking HERE to go to the Central history blog. And if phrenologist isn't a term you bandy about after work, you'll find some links in the post to an excellent site about phrenology created by British scholar Dr. John van Whye.