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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Simple pleasures


The Fourth of July is almost upon us. So I thought I'd share a family (and friends) favorite dessert. We make it year round, usually with frozen raspberries, but it's even more magical on a hot summer day. If we get another one of those, and I'm pretty sure we will.

Frozen Raspberry (or Strawberry) Meringue Torte


1c gingersnap crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c melted butter
1/2 c chopped pecans

Combine ingredients. Press into bottom of 10 inch spring form pan. Bake 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool.


3 cups raspberries or strawberries or combination, fresh or frozen
1 c sugar
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
1 c whipping cream

Slice strawberries (raspberries are fine as they are). Combine with sugar, egg whites, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt in large bowl of electric mixer. Beat on low speed to blend, then high speed until peaks form when beaters are removed--about 15 minutes (I think a little less if you are using frozen fruit). In another bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form, then fold into berry meringue. Pour into cooled crust. Cover and freeze until very firm (12 hours).

If desired, pass bowl of more fruit to spoon over slices. Blueberries would be festive for the Fourth!

A quiet Fourth

Fourth of July

One of the bright spots of an economic down-turn is the return to smaller town values and celebrations. Instead of driving long miles and facing the tense ride home, we stayed in town, along with many others.

Liz and I enjoyed the Wauwatosa parade for the first time since the twins were a lot younger. We parked in the almost-abandonded Hoyt Park lot and walked a few blocks to Alterra, where Liz snagged an iced coffee. The parade had started: it seemed as good a spot as any for watching, so we stayed.

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Trying stuff


The farmer's market on Locust Street mid-day Sundays has the cheapest prices around. For $1 each, I picked up bunches of basil, chard, a box of sugar snap peas, and something called "Chinese spinach" the seller assured me I would love.

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Eating Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

When it comes to Michael Jackson, we won’t stop ‘til we get enough. And it seems we can never get enough, especially now that he’s dead and we don’t have his troubled life to choke us as we gorge on the myth.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve followed the Michael Jackson death coverage so closely. I’m not the biggest fan of his music, though I can’t help but join in the dance when I hear it. I don’t follow celebrities, though you couldn’t take your eyes off this one, whether his image was moving through space in the freedom of dance or in a wheel chair immobilized by some great pain of the body or spirit.

His talent was enormous. But that doesn’t explain the fascination.

James Baldwin wrote an essay, Here Be Dragons, about Jackson in 1985.
The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success. He will not swiftly be forgiven for having turned so many tables, for he damn sure grabbed the brass ring, and the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo has nothing on Michael.

All that noise is about America, as the dishonest custodian of black life and wealth; the blacks, especially males, in America; and the burning, buried American guilt; and sex and sexual roles and sexual panic; money, success and despair–to all of which may now be added the bitter need to find a head on which to place the crown of Miss America.

Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated–in the main, abominably–because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.

I’m hardly the first to wish that Jackson had avoided the man-eating jaws of the money-and-fame machine. But to do that, he’d have to have stepped aside from those who fed on him. He couldn’t seem to do that.

I wonder what it would be like to see Michael Jackson as he was, matching his terrors and desires to our own. But we won’t. Instead, we’ll remember the pretty parts, the MTV triumphs, that Billy Jean bass line. We'll say sanctimonious things about cousins and aunts and uncles as his children are sent into the cauldron that burned him, the household of his father.

It would be well to remember where we really stood with Jackson before his death absolved us. As blogger Jeff Chang wrote:

But as an audience, we were insatiable and ruthless. Years later, after the satisfaction and ease of his 20s, after he had been broken by self-mutilation and bizarre scandal in his 30s, Michael Jackson would reveal a tragic, bathetic emptiness, pleading, “Have you seen my childhood?” By then, many of us had either turned away or turned on him. The transaction was done.

In the end, he lost even his voice, autotuned first by lawyers and other keepers of his dissipating wealth, consumed by Mickey Mouse-sounding paid-TV defenses and overproduced songs, before finally going silent forever. Time will restore the greatness of Michael Jackson’s artistry. May it also cause us some revulsion at our complicity in his fall as well.

Many of us are called to recreate ourselves in a time where there seems to be less of the stuff of invention. Like Michael, we’ve lived half a century, and it seems unfair to ask us to dance like our younger angels.

Still, with nothing eating me but time, I take some strength and comfort from these words of Jackson’s:

The awareness is expressed through creation.
This world we live in is a dance of the creator.
The dancers appear and disappear
at a glance
but the dance is still living.

So it has always been, and so it will be. The dance continues, onstage or off.

Right in your own backyard

Our dishwasher has been broken for a long, long time. Which means that someone in our house spends a lot of time sloshing sudsy water while gazing out the window over the sink.

This evening, sloshing and staring, I noticed a dark spot next to the pile of brush, old buckthorn I'd cut last time I wanted to let off steam. The steam goes fast: I never seem to have enough left to haul the damage away and convert the chaos to tidy roadside bundles suitable for pick-up.

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Wordshifting: the meaning of "work"

Politics, language, Sarah Palin

When people lament the decline of language—and of the thinking behind it—I am like, all so right there with them. You know?

One of the words undergoing transformation is “work.” Since I’m out of it (work, that is), I have to admit to a conflict of interest in the word and what it means, especially as jobs vanish and work becomes disengaged from formal employment as we've known it.

According to the Urban Dictionary, "work" means two things. One is  “A place where people have to go everyday to get paid. Also known as ‘hell’."

The other is “a supply of contraband to be sold for profit.” This can be low quality “product” or cocaine.

Most of us recognize the first definition, even if we don’t agree with it. And there’s a certain logic to the second one. Our labor (work) is the product most of us have to sell. Personally, mine isn't low quality, but apparently it's not addictive to the buyer, either.

But when it comes to how Republicans use the word, well, I can only quote the great semanticist, philosopher, and actor-former-hunk Sean Connery:

You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, "My God, you're right! I never would've thought of that!"

The Republicans—you know: the party that sells the bumper stickers “We work hard so you don’t have to”--tell us, through lame duck ex-governor and spokesmodel Sarah Palin:

Productive, fulfilled people determine where to put their efforts, choosing to wisely utilize precious time... to BUILD UP. . .

How to do that work? Quit, of course.

According to the Urban Dictionary, "Quitting when the going gets tough; abandoning the responsibility entrusted to you by your neighbors for book advances and to make money on the lecture circuit” is "pullin' a Palin." Nice work if you can get it.

Still struggling to comprehend this bit of Newspeak?

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Tosa Council considers rules to prevent pigs from flying

Wauwatosa, Common Council

Go to school, keep a clean nose. . .those used to be the rules in these parts. If you followed them, you could be fairly certain of being able to have a decent, ordinary life.

But about a year ago, the rulebook got thrown out. It was probably thrown out before that, but we were too busy buying houses and sending our kids to school to notice.

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"A deplorable mess:" Economic development in Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa, Common Council, Community Development

Hard times or not, economic development's going on in Menomonee Falls, West Allis, West Milwaukee, even Milwaukee. But here in Wauwatosa. . . not so much. Not so at all.

"It's a deplorable mess," said alder Linda Nikcevich at the July 14 Community Development Committee meeting.

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Love where you live


The bases were loaded, with a dad on third. The one girl in the group was up: she hit a solid grounder, and despite some pretty accomplished fielding, the dad and the kid on second made it home.

It was one of those cool overcast mornings we've been having, and the dog and I were cutting through Underwood School's wonderful fields. I thought I was seeing something I hadn't seen in a long time: a pick-up game. After all, there were no uniforms, no parents with coolers and lawn chairs, and while there were enough people for two teams, they weren't full teams.

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A beer with the Prez

Obama, Gates, and Crowley

Some think that George W. Bush became president because most Americans could imagine themselves sharing a beer with him.

That was before we all knew that he wasn't drinking any these days. But he is certainly the kind of friendly, engaging guy you wouldn't mind meeting at a neighborhood pig roast.

Barack Obama, not so much. Maybe it's the beer that throws us off. He's more a chardonnay kinda guy. It's hard to imagine him wearing shorts and a polo shirt. The conversation might get serious fast. But watch out if the party migrates to the basketball hoop in the driveway.

Still, I would love to be one of those flies on the wall (or the unprotected potato salad) when Obama shares a really good American microbrew with police officer James Crowley and professor Henry Gates. Both men have accepted his invitation to talk about what happened in Cambridge, race and the police in general, and how people look at things through the glass of their own experience.

I've been engaged in some lively arguments about what happened and who was at fault when the police questioned Gates about what looked like breaking into what turned out to be his own house. My best guess, until today, was that both men over-reacted, and my stronger sympathies were with Gates. I've known people who were mishandled and lied about by arrogant police.

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Biting the hand that feeds me

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

July 28th is another smallish post-debacle day for Milwaukee job holders.  Monday was the deadline for the latest batch of Journal Sentinel staffers to turn in their buyout offers. Unless enough take the bait, layoffs are likely to follow.

Whether we’ll hear anything substantial about that is not clear, but read your paper this morning to make sure your favorite reporter is still around.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I have “real” journalist friends. So I'm biased. Not only have I seen them suffer as the newspaper contracts and as the paper’s management and direction have gotten weaker. I have another more selfish concern: every time I apply for a public relations job, I'm competing with fine journalists who'd rather be writing for newspapers.

And a selfish concern for all of us: losing the best journalists (and you can argue that the experienced ones—the Joanne Weintraubs and the Stu Carlsons-- are often the best ones) makes the paper dull reading. And sometimes, unreliable: green writers need careful watering and pruning to grow.

Newspapers are committing slow suicide by starvation. When revenue from employment ads dropped, newspapers might have found ways to enhance advertising value. Instead, the Journal Sentinel decided to bury the three thin pages of jobs behind the ads for Frogs Snakes Scorpions Lizards Turtles Spiders at SEWERfest. . .

One bright spot in the anorexic paper has been a stronger showing for investigative reporting. Daniel Bice’s No Quarter column now appears on the front page. Though it’s a mystery beyond my ken why he prefers covering the theft of Doug LaFollette’s good web name by porn pirates to the deeply juicy story of betrayal unfolding in the Skylight Opera Theatre.

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Boats, business, and breakfast

Wauwatosa, Mayor Didier

There may have been more city staffers and elected officials at this morning's 7:30 am mayoral meet 'n greet at the FlatTop Grill. But the result was a chance for Mayor Didier to engage in a more relaxed conversation than usual.

The topic was the budget. Perhaps the small turnout was an indicator that people are aware Tosa's in a better situation than many communities.

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