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.