People to meet

March 18, 2011

In some circles, Aldo Leopold is famous. In others, not so much. He was born toward the end of the 19th century and his most well-known book, “A Sand County Almanac,” wasn’t published until 1949, a year after his death. Sixty years later and the book is gaining in popularity, translated and published all over the world. Wisconsinites proudly claims him as one of our own and there are markers attesting to the success and genius of his work all over the state. But don’t feel bad if you are one of the many out there who is not yet familiar with him. The new film , “Greenfire: Aldo Leopold and A Land Ethic for Our Time”, is a wonderful introduction.

The documentary premiered on March 1 in Baraboo, near where Leopold and his family owned and restored a piece of land and near the home of the Aldo Leopold Foundation headquarters. In the film, a rancher and conservationist in New Mexico named Sid Goodloe says about his experience reading Leopold, “Boy, if I’d just read this thirty years ago I could have saved a lot of time and effort because he already knew all the things I was learning.”

It’s not easy to sum up all that Leopold is, but I agree with Goodloe in thinking that we can count ourselves lucky if we’ve had the chance to get  to know some of his ideas before getting too far along in life. For those who are already chummy with the guy, this film is a wonderful celebration of his legacy in land stewardship, soil conservation, forestry, and ethics. I found it very inspiring. Find a screening, or better yet, get a copy of the DVD and host one yourself. You’re friends will appreciate the introduction.

Another film that promises to both inspire and introduce us to important fellow Wisconsinites premiers in Madison on April 19. Produced by the Midwest Environmental Advocates, “Crossing the Line” illustrates a people’s history of legal battles that have been fought to protect all of our rights to clean air, land and water.  I understand very little about American law but I know it takes guts and tenacity to stand up to the powerful forces that are used to getting their way, even when that way hurts lots of us regular people. The film presents five stories about people who have managed to win, despite the odds. I’m sure I have a lot to gain from getting to hear these voices. Thanks to the good folks at MEA for taking on these cases, and then for sharing some much needed good news. It’s never a bad moment to be inspired.

By Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs. Both films received grants from the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

Odd Wisconsin Attractions: Clinton’s Truck in the Tree

March 15, 2011


Truck in The Tree: By Brian D'Ambrosio

By Brian D’Ambrosio

Driving along Interstate 43 in southern Wisconsin near Clinton, the shiny, classic Chevy truck in the sky rises above the concrete and asphalt horizon like an absurd vision. You look once at the Chevy wedged between two tall trees. You look a second time. You gawk at it a third and fourth time. You still cannot comprehend what you are seeing. It’s a spectacle unlike any other: a truck in a tree.

The Truck in the Tree began as an ordinary request to a father from his son for a tree house. A creation of the “Mad Man of Wisconsin”, a play on Clinton resident Mark Madson’s last name, the turquoise and white 1959 half-ton Chevy Fleetside pickup truck has been wedged between two basswood trees since 1994, It stands as a sentinel to Madson’s maniacal, motley collection of reworked vehicles, statues, and sculptures made of old scraps, parts and components.

Madson has long been an ardent thinker, recreating new from old and looking at things from a uniquely keen perspective; in fact, he describes himself an “upside-down and backwards guru.”

One of Madson’s more recent vehicular-based creations is the Packer Mobile, a 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz that he debuted in 2008 when the Pack was headed toward a 13-3 season. He drove nearly 400 miles roundtrip to Green Bay to watch his beloved Packers annihilate the lowly Lions. Four hundred miles isn’t too demanding of a pilgrimage. Except for when it is late December, and you are driving the northern section of Wisconsin in an exposed convertible, top down, with the wind whipping front to back, and sideways. During the drive, it was a bitter 13 degrees, with a wind chill dynamic of about 40 below. The Packer Mobile featured a six-foot flagpole bearing the Packers flag, as well as an 11-foot flame-painted surfboard, a blue shark fin, and bullhorns. The Packer Mobile is in fact Madson’s sixth conversion of this Cadillac-turned-convertible, the last of which was dedicated to the saucily insolent Jimmy Buffett.

The Truck in the Tree stands testament to one Wisconsinite’s bold attempt to change or enhance the state’s built landscape. In fact, Madson’s experience and imagination has garnered him appearances on television shows such as Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Junkyard Wars, and the Discovery Channel’s Monster Nation. On Monster Nation, he morphed a car into a small package – the ultimate act of inventive recycling and mashing.

Brian D’Ambrosio is the author of Madison For Dads: 101 Dad-Related Adventures.

Art is Money

March 8, 2011

Charlesetta Thompson

By Evelyn Patricia Terry. (All photos of poets courtesy of Shogo Chida.)

My favorite three goals for 2011 are: 1) to be healthy no matter my age, 2) to amass art as money to pass to my progeny, and 3) to enjoy more. I’ve found a dependable formula for good health–including eating raw green things, staying physically active, taking supplements, and listening to “healthy thought” information. I am an art machine and money comes when I concentrate on who can benefit from my art and services. But enjoying more, in Wisconsin winters, is alien to my brain and definitely necessitates a new thought process.

Sally Tolan

The day before the 2011 Woodland Pattern 17th Annual Poetry Marathon Benefit, I was invited to make a donation by poet Charlesetta Thompson. Along with presenting, poets were responsible for gathering contributions for this annual fundraiser. On the spur of the moment, I decided to attend. Many of the presenters thanked founders Anne Kingsbury and Karl Gartung for Milwaukee’s gem, Woodland Pattern, as “specialist in small press poetry” and for the well organized showcase opportunity.

Eric Disambwa

After sitting down, I was smitten. From the very beginning, the presenters’ words, emotions, and delivery unexpectedly hooked me. I wanted to experience it all. As a visual artist, attracted to great communication and people watching, I found in this marathon a haven for straightforward, thoughtful, emotional, sexual, biological, biblical, geographical, psychological, sociological, political, and unapologetic existential “yearning for something more.” I felt a strong connection to the event. My artwork, although visual, is driven by its narrative nature, just as poetry appears to be driven by its visual nature.

As the marathon went on, toward the evening while desiring to lock into the intensity of the readings, I began to note in the white spaces of my brochure, the following secession of spoken words that evoked a range of images and emotions:

Harvey Taylor

Shiny city lights, diamonds, Juneteenth Day, dope, insects, cricket, Devils, God, Jesus, Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, ancestor, brother’s keeper, old, young, bully, hospital, bacteria, disease, parasitic, swine flu, pray, hallelujah, anti-matters, tropical storms, family, incarcerated, gold, aluminum, cops, crime, allegations, sorrow, death, hunger, vegetarian, vegan, bifocals, Mother Africa, prose, foxhole, doom, mutants, cinnamon, jasmine, advice, ear lobes, heart, throat, lungs, muscle, tongue, douche bag, wine, elevator buttons, nervous breakdown, subway sandwich, black, sapsuckers, tiny red shoes, Mexican, sarcastic incantations, republican, Steve Harvey, Al Sharpton, JZ, finger, route, June, heaven, flatbeds, music, Mozart, guitar, violins, flutes, batman, accommodating, January, July, environments, America, humankind, belongings, sense of place, intimacy, despair, gratitude, writing sound, color, feelings, thoughts, post traumatic stress syndrome, tree stands, concealed weapons, war, crown, delusions, mulch, bed, mirrors, corners, ceiling, covers, windows, kill deer, weasel, possum woodchucks, bulls, horse, geese, horse, cat, dogs, wolf, chicken, sisters, twins, dreams, showdowns, tarot cards, bikes, cookbooks, roads, streets, mountains, beaches, Grand Canyon, parks, ocean waves, pandemics, no-thing, something, Google, Facebook, presenters from Chicago, racism, Cubism, Abstraction, Madison, and love letters.

Ryan Hurley

With the poet’s permission, I’m sharing this very short piece “Critique” from LOVELY, RASPBERRY: POEMS by Aaron Belz. It made me laugh out loud.

That’s not very good.
Try doing that differently.
That’s not very good either.
You’re not very good at this.

After missing only a couple of hours in the middle, I experienced great food, the event supported “art is money” and I accomplished approximately ten hours of pure enjoyment that cold winter day. Despite the tough political climate of our state, I am keeping my thoughts on what I want to multiply and give power to. I can honestly say, my year is on track.