Friday, November 2, 2007

Meet DeKooning!

Well, we got another cat. A kitten actually. His name is DeKooning and we adopted him from Pet Central Station, where we got our other cat, Mooney. He's an affectionate little bugger, running around like a crazy cat and always crying when we leave. He's got cute little white feet and tufts coming out of his ears. Before he came to live with us, he was a farm cat down in Kalona, Iowa. I'll try to post more pics when we get them, but in the meantime, what a happy little boy this is.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Register launching new site

Online entertainment editor Kyle Munson of the The Des Moines Register gave students at the University of Iowa last week a sneak peak at the beta site of the new Register Site. It's the next in a series of non-too-early changes the DMR is making to try to ensure their print product doesn't die and the paper has some kind of position in the emerging convergence media society. I'm not impressed ... yet. The content still seems the same. Worse yet, taking a cue from Facebook and other social networking sites, the DMR is asking visitors to the site to create their own content and upload it in various multimedia sections. I'm guessing this doesn't bode well for reporters.

Savannah Cats!

Adam and I spent the weekend in Chicago attending a cat show in the suburb Franklin Park. We met four show cat Savannahs and countless kittens, including one that boxed with a tassel toy for about fifteen minutes. Savannahs are the most dog-like of cats -- they play fetch, they go for walks, they like to play in the water. Most don't weigh much more than regular cats, but what they lack in girth they make up for in length. This cat, owned by Donna Lawver, didn't place in the competition but I liked it for its emerald eyes and fantastic posing style. I'll post the article if and when it gets published.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'd rather wear out than rust out!

Today I tagged along with Paul Ingram, the Midwest's most famous bookseller, to a reading by Mildred Armstrong Kalish of her memoir, Little Heathens. Millie's amazing. She's sharp as a tack, and has this great storytelling voice. She read to a group of about a dozen residents at Legacy Pointe, an assisted living facility in Iowa City. The room was filled to capacity -- mostly because of all the posh walkers everyone brought with them. Here's more about her book.

Monday, September 10, 2007

We make our own best parodies

I met this couple from St. Louis while working on a story about the American Gothic house in Eldon, IA for Iowa ArtScene. They had forgotten their camera and wanted to pose for a parody a la the Grant Wood classic, so I took some digital shots of them and sent them via email. Dorothy was so surprised that she sent me a thank you gift -- thank you cards (I think the irony might have been unintended). But the big surprise was yet to come. She and her husband, who is from Wales, ended up on the cover of the latest ArtScene. You can read the story by clicking on the cover.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Good Pig

Weeeeee! Who let this suburban, farm-deprived hipster hold me!

The Best State Fair in the State!

We held a baby pig. We pointed and guffawed at the world's largest boar. We cut in line to see the (underwhelming) butter cow. But most importantly, we shared our first deep-fried Snickers bar. Some say going to the Iowa State Fair is one of those experiences you just have to have. I agree. It is a beautiful celebration of life, this kind of strange old-timey carnival that is half harvest festival and half amusement park. We braved the heat and crowds last Sunday to see it, and although we didn't run into any presidential hopefuls, we did do a lot of people watching. At the end of the day, we took the skyline ride across the fair in an homage to my mom, whose favorite ride at Hershey Park was the one meant for perpetual observing. By the way, that pig I am holding hated me. He squealed so loud he had to be put back in the pen with the sow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Stuck on Sticks

In July I reported on a story about Sticks, a Des Moines-based fine craft furniture studio that employs over 150 artists. The piece just ran in the August issue of ArtScene. About five guys from the Sticks studio take a truck down to the river a couple times a week to pull out driftwood for use in the studio. Eventually, the design team sketches a theme on the wood items. The company works closely with galleries around the country to create the works, which all have the same folksy Sticks aesthetic and which reflect a certain pride of place (ie. the Vermont items have maple syrup and blueberries on them). In this image, the painting lead Ericca Davis exercising her discerning eye as she surveys the works in progress. Adam's friend Allison, an ISU alum, is the blond in the background.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Anamosa - Where gossip becomes myth

Talk to the locals in Anamosa, birthplace of Grant Wood, and you'll hear a lot of stories about the painter, some true, some lovingly extrapolated fables. As local tourism officials struggle to bring people to the town by playing up Wood's connection to it, they find themselves at the generational juncture where local gossip becomes myth. Most of the people who actually knew Wood are long gone and those remaining are retiring or retired. Still, there is a lot to see, most of it in Stone City, a quarry town four miles north of Anamosa where Wood ran an art colony in 1932, and a whole lot of stories to hear.

Volver Review

My friend Nick Bergus used a review I wrote to showcase his web design talents. Don't be fooled by the toolbar, this is the only content on the site, but he did a great job (except for the lame-o editorial additions and the text cuts which have left the review a mere vestige of my original. You can check at his work at his monstrously colorful webpage. Nick can steal content from me anytime.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gothic Me

Big day in the House of Diesburg. Adam passed his dental boards with flying colors (or with hues as varied as the dental community allows...) and I traveled to Eldon, Iowa, population roughly 950, to visit the American Gothic House. I didn't expect it to be big or thrilling or extraordinary in any way, but I had perhaps the most bizarre day of the entire summer there. The concrete circle set directly in front of the house -- the place where you stand to get your picture taken -- is actually larger than the house itself. The whole town is jumping on the Grant Wood gravy train, with locales such as Julia's American Gothic House Cafe, American Gothic gifts, and American Gothic Grub & coffee. I'm compiling my experiences touring the Grant Wood sites in the state for a cover article for ArtScene Iowa.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Birdhouses in their souls

Purple martins! My story on Amish barn builder and electrical engineer Evan Gingerich and his martin colony made page one above the fold of the Daily Iowan today. The picture was taken by one of my former students, Ben Roberts. I took Ben down to Evan's farm about a month ago and we cranked down Evan's purple martin house and pulled out a baby. Ben said: "He even looks like a "Martin!" People who have martin colonies call themselves 'landlords' and get pretty obsessive about their tenants.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Goodbye to All That

One man. One tiny, tiny house. You may have heard about Greg Johnson, the president of the Small House Society. I interviewed him in May for a story about authors who are limiting their ecological footprint and writing about the process. Greg's like a prophet. He's got this weird way of talking complete nonsense and getting you to believe it. I think it has something to do with his ecumenical worldview -- the guy goes to church, synagogue and mosque as part of his plan to change the world. Anyway, here is the Daily Iowan article in which Greg features prominently. To learn more about his project in small living, visit his website, Resources for Life.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why "A Local Row"


By Patrick Kavanagh

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man's land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffeys shouting "Damn your soul"
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel --
"Here is the march along these iron stones".
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.


I read Hick a few weeks back to prepare for an interview with the author, Andrea Portes. My mini-profile of her ran in the Daily Iowan about a week ago. Maybe because she's young, maybe because I liked her book, maybe because she is actually an interesting person and not just a good writer, the interview went well and the piece turned out great. Andrea's been traveling around Iowa this week doing readings. I've read my share of novels by first-time authors and she's one that deserves the praise. She stopped at Prairie Lights, the best little bookstore in the Midwest, in July.

Culture Clash in in the Heartland

Pow Pow Pow! The UI Museum of Art has an exhibition of Plains Indians Ledger Drawings on view through September. Months ago, I interviewed the owners of the drawings, who recently gifted them to the museum. They told me that very little was known about ledger drawings, which were a transitional medium Plains Indians used after the whites killed off all the Buffalo. Man, were they wrong. I ended up writing a cover story for Art Scene Iowa that ran in June. The file is a PDF, so the link goes to the archive page.

Lust Highway

This is the real field of dreams. In June, I wrote a story on Iowa Drive-In culture pegged to the opening of a new Drive-In in Grandview, Iowa, a fading town about 45 minutes southeast of Iowa City. Not sure what happened to my photos, but this is apparently an artist's rendering of the field. The road in cuts through rows of corn and soybeans and opens up onto a terraced diamond. By far my favorite story of the summer.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Waterloo, Iowa

Here's my first article for the Daily Iowan this summer -- a travel piece centered around Paco Rosic, a Bosnian-American graffiti artist who is almost single-handedly reshaping Waterloo from a "smokestacks and beer-belly city well past its prime," as my friend Steve would has put it, into a bit of a destination. The restaurant where he painted a replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling is still pretty kitschy, but thankfully, there are other things to recommend Waterloo. The picture is one I took of the Lost Island's newest ride, the Molokini Crater.

A Cure for What Ales You

That was the title of my story about beer brewers, which you can read here at the Daily Iowan site. I'm going to be posting all of my stories here so I can cease my occasional self-promotion emails. The image is one I took of Travis Savchenko in his man-playground in his basement. He's got a kegerator that holds four kegs and an old pop machine that dispenses Pepsi for a quarter. I would have liked to have written the whole piece about this guy. He was by far the most interesting person I talked to and had a really creative attitude towards brewing.

I'm going to be posting all of the other stories I've written this summer, but I'm still getting over the deer I hit while driving to A's grandparents' two days ago, so give me some time.