Let’s try this again

This is just stupid! I can remember so excited about starting this blog, that I was having trouble sleeping at night. It knew it was going to be this amazing adventure that would spark all kinds of exciting conversations about the things we keep close. I would write personal essays about the tings that touched the deepest part of me and invite others to do the same.

It started out just fine. There were a few things that sucked but there are things that blossomed and even surprised me. Like the WUWM segments that air twice a month. I’m now about to produce # 35 I think, and I’m still SHOCKED that I was able to pull that together. I’m stunned that  anybody thinks little segments about objects is something worth funding. The conversations are  about how do we sustain and grow the project rather than a kill date. Soon, the segments will air on WORT Community Radio, the place where I got my start and that’s nothing but all good.

So, if it’s all good…why did I stop posting?

It’s hard to tell by looking at this sentence but it’s been an HOUR since I typed the one above. I think that in order to get to the answer; I have to back up a bit. I got my first real job at the age of 15 and I’ve been working ever since. At the age of 47 ish…I left my last full-time job. Let’s do the math. That’s 32 years of working. That’s 32 years of having a boss or bosses who told me what I needed to do to earn a living.

Here’s the scary part. I didn’t realize how accustomed I’d become to being somebody’s employee until I started working for myself. I had no concept of what it was like to truly be in charge of myself. Oh, don’t get it twisted! I wasn’t a punk. I bucked, kicked, and railed against authority as more than I needed to. I hate taking orders and I question authority all the time. But, there was a part of me that needed someone to create some kind of structure…even when I hated it.

As a radio producer, there are very strict rules to follow. The story is always about the guest, event, crisis, or whatever and never about self. In fact whatever I was producing had to have absolutely nothing to do with me or what I thought or who I was when I turned off my recorder. I was an instrument. My job was to record the information and relay it to the listening audience. Ok, it was more than that but I don’t feel like writing all of it and believe me…you wouldn’t want to read any of it.


Now I find myself self-employed and free to write what I want when I want. That’s the problem. What are the rules? What should I write about? Should it be about the projects I’m working on for school?  Maybe I should focus on Material Culture. Should I interview a bunch of professors and historians? Maybe I should write about what happens after the interviews over and the recorder is switched off. Maybe I should get all personal diary with it and write about my adventures in art history and material culture. But, how much of myself do I share? Do I have to tell the truth or a can I tell good stories? I mean really, a good story is maybe 90% true and the rest breathes life into the tale.

It this was a perfect thing; I would be able to answer all of those questions in a tight little paragraph and keep stepping. But, perfect is far from anything I know or have ever experienced. So, I will trudge along. I’ll make mistakes. I will write stupid things, take bad photos. Write grammatically incorrect incomplete sentences. I will share what I’m working on, what I’m blowing off and shit that just ain’t working.

All that said, summer will soon be here and I’ve got a lot on my plate. Somehow, I’ll get through it and hopefully a few people will join me for the ride. It’s not going to be pretty or graceful but it will be what it’s supposed to be. What that “it” is at this moment…beats the shit out of me.

OMG! It’s been over a year since I posted!

It’s because I’ve been busy producing short features for WUWM‘S Lake Effect. It’s a morning magazine show and my segments run alternated weekends. I’m not lying. Here’s a link:



I PROMISE I’ll start posting again this summer.


Peace out home skillets!


You say octopuses…I say octopodes and the stuff you won’t hear on the radio


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Who knew Octopodes could open jars? Cathy Lybarger…that’s who. She is the proprietor of  Aardvark Art Glass in Madison and the subject of this weeks it’s a material world. Cathy says that making beads is like cooking with a microwave oven. You gotta build them from the inside out. She also says that Octopodes like to open jars which contain a variety of things like whiskey, pickles, old brains, and Hitlers Nuts. So, while the real segment aired on  WUWM’S  Lake Effect . Here’s a taste of the stuff you won’t hear on the radio. There’s more…a lot more.

Walter the Time Traveling Octopus by Don Vasa

Pissed Christ and testicles

Bead sex

the key…stuff you won’t hear on the radio


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Ok, so…the thing about producing segments for radio is challenging myself to turn sixty minutes of audio into a five to six-minute piece. Sometimes it’s easy. The guest is fabulous and I’m on point. Other times, I’m a mess and my guest is crazy. More often than not, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

You’ll hear me asking stupid questions, never actually asking a question, making rookie mistakes, losing my train of thought and freaking out because I’m completely lost. You’ll hear guests rambling on, dropping F-Bombs, telling blue jokes, and avoiding answering my questions like the plague.

The real KEY segment is scheduled to air on 89.7 WUWM – Milwaukee Public Radio’s Lake Effect, a Morning Magazine Show, Thursday March 8th between 10 – 11am.

Here’s the link to the sho-nuff for real segment as heard on WUWM. The KEY YO!


This is NOT the drunk guy.

Can’t sign shit

What a deal

She who has the most keys

Was he a republican

Fill This Pot…The Dave Project…

What is it about refrigerators that compels us to stick stuff on its surface. I’ve got photos of my “So Long STINK-TOWN,” good-bye party. There are remnants of a vegetable and fruit magnet set, where the strawberries are as big as a bunch of bananas and one potato equals a bunch of grapes. Magnetic word sets, spontaneously  erupt in sentences during dinner parties and proclaim, “Food is the world of love. Summer showers on a crack morning. Dance, Dance and Dance.” My fridge is a stainless steel wonder with more compartments than I know what to do with. I purposely put vegetables in the fruit bin and vice versa.  As you listen to this piece The Dave Project , funded by The Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, think about  what  you post on your fridge says about you.

a taste of what’s to come.


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Howdy All,

I just want to drop you a quick line to let you know that  WORT – Community Radio 89.9FM will an excerpt from an upcoming feature about the key as an object. The audio was recorded during the protests at the State Capitol earlier this year.  It’s airing tonight during Our Own Backyard between 6:15 – 7pm. If you are not in the listening area, you can listen online at – http://wort-fm.org/listen.php. It’s a pledge drive so I’ll be chatting you for cash during the show. Tune in and if you are so moved…make a pledge to support WORT – Community radio.


Here’s the audio. the key WORT short


Ok…so this is what really happened…

Photo by Dennis Wise

Believe me, I wish I could say that I did a bunch of research and found the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center garage sale after reading about it online, in the paper or on some community announcement board. But that would be a total lie. The truth is that I found it much like I find every thing else. I got lost. My friend Dennis Wise lives in Chicago. He was on his way to Dodgeville WI. to participate in a Contra Dancing event. You may ask..what is contra dancing? Well, according to Dennis, it’s like Square Dancing and Line Dancing without the square and line part. It’s basically a bunch of happy people dancing around in circles holding hands. But I digress.

Anyway…he stopped for a visit  and we decided to go to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants which is about a mile and a half from where I live. Madison is on the small-ish side so, I tend to either walk or bike to my destinations. The restaurant is a straight shot off the bike path and about a 20 minute walk from my house. I pass it at least twice a day on my way to where ever I happen to be going. But, put me in a car and it’s easily a thirty minute, sweat inducing, profanity laced trip from hell.  So, I think it was somewhere around the fifth wrong turn that we stumbled-upon the Garage sale. So, we took a much-needed break from the road and Dennis snapped a few photos while I chatted up the sales folk. Sam Miller and Mark Kenas are dear friends and business partners. For them, this garage sale is an annual event and they give 15% of their sales to the Wil-Mar Center. Click here – Wil-Mar Garage Sale – to give it a listen.

But wait…there’s more.

I was interviewed by WUWM – 89.7 Milwaukee Public Radio’s Stephanie Lecci  for her  morning magazine show Lake Effect. You can here it online and about 20 additional minutes of tape. Just click on the link above. I think that pretty much covers it.

Be well,




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Thanks for the photo Dennis!

Howdy Y’all,

Well, after months of proposal writing, story hunting, writing papers, and studying a whole lot, It’s a Material World is officially on the air in just a few minutes. I’m going to do the total Oscar thanks, for fear of forgetting someone and say thank you…to all of you. If you are within earshot of WUWM – 89.7 Milwaukee Public Radio, tune into the Lake Effect their morning magazine show which airs from 10am -11am weekdays…now-ish. If you don’t live in the Milwaukee area, you can listen online: http://www.wuwm.com/programs/lake_effect/index.php.

Be well,


Old Spaces, New Faces

Rice c. 1913

When one is accepted to Rice University, he is randomly assigned to one of eleven residential colleges. They are, in essence, self-sustaining autonomous communities with drastically different histories, cultures, traditions, governance, and ways of doing things, complete with their own crests and colors and mascots. I was elated then to be placed in Hanszen College, one of the four original residential colleges. I myself have always resided in Old Section; built in the early part of the twentieth-century in a collegiate Gothic/Neo-byzantian hybrid, it is one of the most historic buildings on campus and one of the most influential colleges culturally.

It is this pride and yearning to honor the tradition from which we contemporary Hanszenites descend that I wanted to produce a space not too dissimilar from the class of 1912. During one’s time in university, it is standard to move in and out of one’s place of residence four times, enough times so that the smart end up with less things their senior year than they brought with them their freshman year. In this purging of excess (usually items brought from home that one thinks they might need but never really do), the senior room can become more revealing than the freshman room. Most items one surrounds themselves with in their first year of university are brought from home with the intention of making a foreign space familiar once again, coupled with doubles and triples of everything out of parental concern that the comforts of home are at one’s disposal away from it. Certainly one acclimates himself to his newfound environment: this, along with his inevitable intellectual growth, will surely influence the evolution of his living quarters so that a natural organizational process occurs and what is left is what he deems his necessities (from knowing the ins and outs of university life) and a reflection of his time as an undergraduate; indeed, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi posits in his book, The Meaning of Things, that a house reflects where one is in his life.

My room

From the beginning, great thought was put towards my room. I am most fortunate to share with the space with a friend of mine; towards the end of last year, we scoured the real estate – two rooms had wood floors and a balcony – and after surviving our residential college’s Survivor-esque ritual of allotting rooms, it was ours. While the details or ascertaining our room is quite boring, I do recall never quite grasping the intricacies of the system leaving my roommate to the politics of it all and being most concerned that we were not going to get our choice room (silly concerns in retrospect that define my university and Hanszen years). While the reader may be more interested in the various curios as many who visit my room for the first time are, I myself am uninterested in them: the room speaks for itself, not deviating far from traditional. Instead, what I find worth more are the experiences had in this room. This is only a very recent epiphany, for admittedly, it is seemingly contradictory – much time and energy was put into curating my room.

Chalk it up to the realization that this is my last year at Rice and Hanszen and suddenly what goes on in the room means more to me. Having only inhabited it for one day, already we have hosted so many friends and their visits are mental snapshots which mean a great deal. Dismissible surely as youthful mawkish babble about university and friends which every generation repeats, it is very difficult for me to divorce these memories from the physical things which make up the space for arguably the decor allowed such times to occur in it in the first place. Material cultures and built environments is cyclical in nature – why do we create the things we do and how they affect us is the driving force behind this field of study. Theory is, I believe, integral to the creation of things and places and buildings, which, in a nutshell, is what this niche area of academia investigates. And so perhaps I am not far off in saying that when the architect designed this space over a century ago and the founders of Rice University wanted to institute a residential college system that this is exactly what they had hoped for. Maybe this feeling is a testament to its success. That such a system of organizing and drawing people together still continues to do so while the same poster of Albert Einstein has come into this room over again with each passing Hanszenite and the way music is listened to has shifted from gramophones to being streamed in from satellites in space is quite an achievement. It is easy to passively buy and live in the ways in which we are demanded to in the various lifestyle magazines and retail catalogues; as such, consider this just a cursory study of what goes on in a particular sort of space, an angle easily overlooked when we begin to think about our habitat.

Owl Bank

At a garage sale whose products were dominated by multiples of cheap, un-used Christmas decorations, her muted earth tones held a measure of warmth that seemed lost to the sea of Santa snow globes, tinsel boas, and questionably functioning colored lights. Her eyes popped out at me even in the dismal, fluorescent garage lighting. Besides, anything vintage kitsch will have my heart in a second.

For one dollar she was a bargain, even more so once I saw the slit in the back of her head and realized she was a piggy bank. Her symmetrically rounded forms were pleasing in my hand, and I liked the mottled two-tone color scheme, only strayed from with her metalic gold eyes.  The faux-rustic texturing, dripping glaze and slightly off color application disguised her machine made origin in the regularity, and symmetry of her forms.

Through some quick googling, I now know that piggy banks gained their name from a common type of red clay called pygg. During the Middle Ages Pygg was used to make house wares, and housewives would drop their extra coins into a jar, eventually gaining these jars the name pygg bank. In the 19th century someone heard pygg and thought pig, and from there the piggy bank was born.

Unlike the functional origin of the piggy bank, I don’t envision actually using my little owl as a bank, but rather as a desk ornament. As an overly meticulous child I was perplexed by the concept of having to break the bank in order to get the money out (I was the child that never played with her dolls, just took them out of their boxes, changes their outfits, made sure their hair was still perfect, and put them back in). In reality having to break this bank isn’t an issue, as my owl bank has a hole in the bottom from which you can retrieve the money, but it gets at the fact that when I was younger, I felt like by using something I loved a lot, I would destroy it. In many ways this is the case, by using something, you often wear it out beyond future use.

It is use that gives something character, and gives it meaning. While it may take away from its shiny newness, it adds something in its place. What made my owl bank stand out amongst the Christmas decorations was that she didn’t seem so shiny and new, she seemed like she might have had a history. Her warm brown and beige colors didn’t shout like the cheap plastic red and green, and echoed a different era when those colors were in fashion, when she was used by a thrifty spinster saving up for bingo tokens. Finally though, she was now part of my story. I could now remember the partly cloudy, lazy Sunday morning I spent in one of my favorite activities, perusing garage sales.


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