Month: May 2001

What do “F(a,kow,tL)S-/A-DBG,” the House on the Rock, and “Usonian” have in common?

I’m a little behind. There are a couple things in my head I’ve been meaning to put here but I just haven’t had the time. One such thing is this:

Woo-hoo! I won the F(a,kow,tL)S-/A-DBG! I was sent a free book in the mail last week. Completely, genuinely free. How? Easy — I won a contest held by weblogger Mark Anderson (no relation, I assume, to the Mark Anderson I know in Madison), simply by being the first one to ask about it. Thanks, Mark; I appreciate it.

Mark has experience sending books through the mail, but he usually gets them back. His weblog is unique (as far as I know, which isn’t particularly far) in that he operates a personal “lending library.” It’s a clever and generous touch.

* * *

Like Mark, I too have been captivated by the Kaycee Nicole hoax saga of the last two weeks. There are starting points here and here if you’re not familiar with it.

Having been unfamiliar with her story or site until Zeldman linked to her site (and again) after her “death,” I was only distantly affected emotionally. It doesn’t really change anything for me in the way I relate to people in person and on the Internet — I’ve almost exclusively had good experiences. [I consider myself smart and lucky, in about equal proportions.]

It is an extremely intriguing story, to me, because of 1. the depth, breadth, and length of the pathological deception, 2. the way the story seems to have garnered the attention of quite a few web people, resulting in the (unfortunate) knocking out of some sites with its bandwidth-sucking capacities, and 3. the amazing nature of the Google detective work that some curious souls used to out the hoaxer. I think people will be better for it overall, with the possible exception of the victimized 19-year-old girl whose face the hoaxer stole and attached to a false name. That’s the worst part of the whole thing, in my opinion.

* * *

My life — real as far as I can tell: Amber and I took a mini-road trip Sunday and Monday of this past (beautiful) long weekend. We had been planning since last winter to visit The House on the Rock (in Spring Green, WI) and the Forevertron (just south of Baraboo, WI), and this weekend afforded a perfect opportunity.

What a study in contrasts, though. The Land of Evermor, created by “Dr. Evermor” (aka Tom Every), is a whimsical outdoor sculpture garden constructed of scrap mechanical bits, largely from the Badger Army Ammunition Plant just across U.S. Highway 12. The centerpiece of the park is the majestic Forevertron, which you just have to see to understand. (Check the website.) We sat in a sheet-metal gazebo and leisurely drew in our sketchbooks, rolled around a field in people-sized metal “hamster wheels,” and generally had a great time. I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in that area. Admission is free, and the proprietors are friendly (we spoke with artist Eleanor Every, Dr. Evermor’s wife).

The House on the Rock is the product of another, creepier vision: that of a man named Andrew Jordan, 1914-1989. According to Mrs. Every, Dr. Evermor actually worked with Jordan on the House for 12 years, creating major components such as the “World’s Largest Carousel.” However, Dr. Evermor is not publicly credited with any of the work. If I were he, I’d be happy about that.

The House itself is essentially the physical embodiment of an epic, obsessive-compulsive, almost cliché nightmare. The tour is actually 2 1/2 meandering miles long. The first leg of the tour features the “Infinity Room,” a long, narrow, seemingly unsupported room which comes to a point, jutting out impressively over the lush, pastoral Wisconsin landscape, while swaying ominously. The tour continues relatively innocuously, if eccentrically: visitors wind through the opium-den-like living quarters, complete with blue translucent windows, shag-carpeted cushions on 8-foot long plush couches, stained glass, Eastern memorabilia, and the like. That area, dubbed “The Early Years,” is a curiosity and nothing more.

The second leg of the tour is where things get interesting. Jordan created a faux downtown street c. 1880. If you’ve ever seen “Streets of Old Milwaukee” at the Milwaukee Public Museum, it’s similar to that, but less genuine-seeming and more sinister. The entire house is filled with collections of dolls, guns, ivory, stuffed wildlife, models of ships, circus memorabilia, etc. Significant portions of the house consist of mechanical, musical oddities — orchestras of musical instruments clothed in machines that apparently play them automatically (for the price of 1-2 tokens, 25 cents each). Admission is $19.50. I can’t really recommend it in good faith, though I was impressed by Jordan’s ability to realize his ambition at such a grand scale, warped and disturbing as his vision was. There is more — a 2-story sculpture of a whale fighting an octopus, a pipe-organ room that is creepy as (and evocative of) hell, and worse — but I’ve already spent too much time writing about it.

If you must go there, (which, hell, why not, it’s more interesting than spending a day playing video games or watching TV), visit the first two parts of the three-part tour, look at the carousel, and then turn around and exit. Read the WWI- & WWII-era newspapers that paper the walls. There’s no need to go through the horned monkey’s mouth. Either way, if you go, many surprises are in store. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On the way home, both Amber and I wished we had gone to the House first and the Forevertron second. It would have been nice if the more pleasant memories had been the more recent. A stop at Perkins (um) perked us up, though; and, overall, it was a very nice weekend.

Incidentally, we stayed at a clean, nice, cheap place (recommended) called the Usonian Inn [Cripes, our whole weekend is on the web!], joking about what the name might mean on the way there (e.g. “I think ‘Usonian’ means ‘pay in blood'”). We asked the proprietor, and found out that “Usonian” describes the U.S.-only style of building houses (flat roof, low ceiling, recessed lighting) invented by Frank Lloyd Wright, who hails from the Spring Green area. Ah.

In today’s world, “Usonian” also seems to mean “has cable TV.”

And luckily, we missed the deer, which does not appear on the web.

A win for the little guy

Here’s good news. The Baltimore Ravens tried to steal a guy’s idea, and he didn’t let them — to the tune of $10,000,000. The man deserves to have his share of the benefits of his creativity, no matter what his education level or professional standing. Clearly, the NFL team thought otherwise.

“Backflip” was a proto-social bookmarking site

Reorg: Here’s what I have done to the site today. I’ve separated out the increasingly unwieldy anti-blog into palatable, bite-size, month-long chunks.

Sure makes it look like I haven’t done much. I’m also about to interweave the “news/newest” section entries into these entries. There’s no sense having two essentially identical sections.

In web news, uh… why was Stanley Ian Letovsky’s otherwise ordinary page the most popular link on Backflip today? Sure, he’s the director of Informatics at the Genome Database, but he wasn’t in the news or anything, as far as I can tell….

Yes, I just started using Backflip yesterday… I now have 7 browsers on 3 computers that I use regularly, so I figured a bookmarking solution was in order. [How does a site like that survive, by the way? Ad revenue alone? Come on.]

Now that I think about it, there is something vaguely sinister about a big database containing everyone’s genetic code — or everyone’s Internet bookmarks, for that matter. All that data in the wrong hands could lead to evil.

comics comment

Let’s build a bridge to, like, the year 2000 or something: Fresher and more human than Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World, it’s Lloyd Dangle’s Troubletown!

Seriously, both are great weekly comics that comment on today’s society, from a position with which I am largely sympathetic.


RIP, DNA: I had no plans to post today. However, this came as a hard punch to the gut: British author Douglas Adams has died at only 49, of a heart attack.

At the risk of admitting how deeply nerdy I am, Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [pick it up at your local independent bookseller] was the book that influenced me most during my pre-teen years. I remember the first time I attempted to read it, at just 8 years old: I was coming back from a picnic with my dad and a friend of his from work. His son was reading it, and I read it in the car on the way back. It was just outside the comprehension of that innocent young me, but it stuck with me until I found it in paperback in 6th or 7th grade. I have fond memories of listening to the tapes of the radio show with my best friend Will, I think on the way back from camping with his dad.

I hadn’t been keeping up with Adams’ recent work, but it’s a big loss nonetheless.

Apparently, in homage to the book — the Guide — the one with “Don’t Panic!” printed on it in large friendly letters, there is an online Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy….

[I hope the (unintended) dead celebrity theme stops now before it has a chance to snowball.]

Andre the Giant has a posse

OBEY: I had been curious about this. Andre the Giant (may he rest in peace) apparently has a posse. [Through BLK/MRKT from DiK again.]

happy birthday, Saul Bass

Quick one: Today is the anniversary of the birth of Saul Bass. He was a design deity, whose work on film titles was, to me, especially stunning.

consumer angst (or, “gohlkus the purist”)

I actually did something on April 21st that coincides with my mostly anti-corporate political views — I participated in the peaceful 2,000-strong anti-FTAA protest in St. Paul. It was a good experience and I’m glad I was there. I’m also glad there were others on the front lines, [found on DiK] and I salute them.

This is not to say there aren’t major inconsistencies in my life that I probably need to address at some point. Case in point: Last weekend, on April 28th, I saw the Brewers play at their brand new, largely publicly financed, corporate naming rights purchased Miller Park. [I’ve loved baseball as long as I can remember; I put a bit of distance between myself and the sport a couple years ago, but I still like it.]

The point is, while I was there enjoying Geoff Jenkins’ three home run game and Ben Sheets’ first major league win, controversy exploded on the web, apparently. A company called ThreeOh launched a corporate-sponsored site called Reboot that was supposed to be a big event in the “web community;” the idea was that participating sites would all redesign and “reboot” at the same time on May 1st. It was a pretty ambitious project, and by all indications, a large-scale disruption. So. Is ThreeOh a publicity-hungry corporate shill or a valuable resource that injected a little life into the web? Probably a bit of both. I mean, I found some nice sites with good ideas, but, well, cripes — it’s sponsored by a brand of gin. How nastily consumerist.

The consumer culture is one of the more troubling things to me about the rise of the corporation. It’s frightening how much power huge corporations have over media, culture, government, politics, and even education — increasingly people are ceasing to be citizens and becoming consumers.

Want to learn more? Read The Nation, and Z Magazine, magazines of great integrity.

flagging enthusiasm?

So why haven’t I updated this site in almost a month? [Later, this becomes high posting frequency. – JLG, 3-20-2020]

It’s not so much that my enthusiasm for keeping this site updated is flagging, though that is part of it.

I think it’s safe to say that it’s been easy to get burned out on this site. I spent a ton of time last month (really, it’s only been 3 weeks or so) putting together the portfolio. It’s harder than it looks, and I still have things to finish.

I have also been (as might be predicted) insanely busy. The redesign of the DNR site is in a critical stage that I seem to be not entirely able to reconcile with the large number of requests for updates and new projects from my co-workers. [But that’s my job, so I’d better do it.] I’m also attempting to do some freelance design, as I may have mentioned, and I’m a bit behind on that. Visiting family and old friends, as I did last weekend, involves a lot of strangely exhausting time behind the wheel. And there are other stresses as well.

With all that said, I have been keeping track of sites to note in this space — and the list begins here.

Here’s a mildly amusing thing — an April Fool’s joke — that I masterminded at work. We actually got good feedback from customers and good press (unfortunately only available in a paid archive), so I think it was worthwhile. (I didn’t write it, but I did doctor the photo [which is no longer there! I might have to try to find it…?!].)

These are people who do what I do much better than I do: Design is Kinky; linkdup; preloaded.

A good source for freeware fonts: Shy Fonts archive. Though it’s no longer active, there are links to current stuff.

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