Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The Milwukee Witch's House
Early in the morning, the mists rising from Lake Michigan creep over its shorelines and extend their tendrils into the nearby yards and neighborhoods, giving a feeling as esoteric and eldritch as any New England setting from an H.P. Lovecraft story. If one takes a curving road along the lake shore in Fox Point, Wisconsin, one's headlights trickle over the foliage until the most pagan of sites emerges from the gloom. Concrete totems lurk behind a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. As many generations of Milwaukee-area residents know, this seemingly calm, semi-secluded area is the Witch's House. A guide, if present, will insist with as much vehemence as a raised whisper can allow that everyone roll up the windows and lock the car doors and will exhort the driver not to stop.

Some whisper that a woman lived in the home with her husband and young son. One day, the husband and son took the family boat out onto the Great Lake and capsized just offshore. Her family drowned within sight of the woman, and she was powerless to help them. The woman thought that the spirits of the water would come to take her to join her husband and son, so she began to make warding statues to keep the water spirits at bay. Another story claimed that she killed her husband and child herself and hid them among the statues.

The real story of the Milwaukee Witch's House is more benign. Artist Mary Nohl, born in 1914 and a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, inherited the family land and cottage in the 1960s. She began to create an art environment, crafting sculptures in such media as concrete, tree branches, sand, and other items that washed ashore on her property. Given her influences and preferred subject matter of whimsical and mythic figures and the fact that she remained single fueled the spooky rumors that drove young spectre seekers to her neighborhood late at night. By all accounts, Ms. Nohl did not mind the underground attention she received, as she didn't prosecute trespassers and once remarked, as a group of young people viewed her work from outside the fence, that they had good taste.

Although Mary Nohl died in 2001, the house remains an art environment to this day. Mary Nohl donated the land and millions of dollars to the Kohler Foundation, and the foundation would like to open the house as a museum so visitors can enjoy the works of Mary Nohl without the mystery and foreboding. However, other residents of the Fox Point neighborhood are taking steps to prevent the land from becoming a museum, undoubtedly tired of decades of nocturnal visitors of the teenaged sort.

For at least a short time, restless wayfarers can drive by the site at the witching hour with unwitting companions and continue to embellish the tale of the Witch's House and to view the works in the traditional method, with all of with the mystery and foreboding young imaginations can ferment.

Other reading:
Kohler Foundation description of the Mary Nohl Site:

Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation, 10 Most Endangered Properties list including Nohl House

Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places Entry for Mary Nohl Art Environment:

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl column "Pilgrimage to 'witch's house' was a rite of passage":

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel news item "Artist's legacy lingers: Some residents fight preservation of woman's quirky lakefront home":

Sound like a piece you would find on Damn Interesting? Well, yeah, it was one of my sample pieces. It was not accepted, and it wasn't doing anything on my hard drive, so there you go.

Cardinals Provide Hangover For World Series Win
Last night, while watching the postgame celebrations, the Fox commentator stuck a microphone in the face of Bill DeWitt, business frontmn for the St. Louis Cardinals. After he finished his planned platitudes, I quipped in a mocking voice, "And can we have $100 million dollars?"

Well, like so much humor, this was unfortunately on the money, so to speak:
    The Cardinals owners, their developer partner and city officials capitalized on the World Series euphoria Friday as they unveiled a model of the Ballpark Village project they hope will change the face of downtown.
Fortunately, elected officials remain resolute, unaffected by trying to latch on to the ephemeral success of a professional sporting event by determining public policy to support a freakin' pastime run by a for-profit entity:
    "It is much bigger and better than what was originally talked about," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said at a news conference Friday afternoon. The $387 million development would rely on more than $100 million in public funds to finance the project.
Oh, well, maybe not.

Friday, October 27, 2006
The Midwestern Way
In a story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (sorry, no link) entitled "'Honey, I'm Thinking of Having an Affair': Therapists Advise Confessing Temptation", we get a sidebar advising how to "Affair-Proofing A Marriage":
    To guard against damage from affairs, experts suggest couples:

    • Acknowledge the risk of an affair occurring

    • Discuss circumstances that might pose a risk

    • Agree to talk about temptations before acting

    • Disclose any affairs promptly

    • Agree not to counterattack if a spouse strays

    • Learn to ask, give and receive forgiveness
These sentiments and the bolding itself might embolden Manhattanites to stray and to talk about it with their therapists and therapist-talking, possibly cheating spouses. However, here in the Midwest, in circumstances where loving your spouse or remaining faithful out of moral obligation don't hold enough power, the following single tip can help to affair proof the marriage without the mumbo-jumbo:
    Remember, your spouse knows where your family keeps the guns, knives, hammers, baseball bats, and other Improvised Blunt Traumatizers (IBTs), and you have to sleep sometime.

Book Report: Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker (2006)
This is the new Spenser novel, released this week. I read it. Atypically for me, I read it over the course of two nights. Normally, it only takes one, but I completed The Night Crew, so I didn't get a good run at it.

This book is another one featuring April Kyle, also of Ceremony and Taming a Seahorse. Like the Paul Giacomin cycle, these are trilogies of sorts. This time, April Kyle is back in Boston and is running a franchise brothel for Patricia Utley. When some men come along and want to take the business away from her, she turns to Spenser.

He has to investigate to find out who the men are and why they're after April's business. He finds that everyone's lying to him, including April, and has to hang in there to find out the real story.

It's a pretty good book, I guess, but after 20 years, it's very familiar; the Sandford book was different in that I didn't know what to expect. With this one, I knew pretty much how it would go and realized the storyline pretty early. Still, I shall always be loyal and serve Robert B. Parker as my master.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Night Crew by John Sandford (1997)
As you know, I have discovered that I like John Sandford's novels; I've reviewed a couple of Kidd novels and a couple of the Lucas Davenport novels. Last week, I assembled a couple more book cases so I could spread out my to-read shelves (now comprising more thn three complete bookshelves), and this book emerged.

Within, a freelance news crew in LA works at night to find and film news. After one excursion in which they film an animal rights raid on a university lab and a jumper, someone starts shooting members of the crew. Someone seems obsessed with Anna, the leader of the group, and is killing the potential rivals in his sick pursuit of her.

Wow, you can sum books up pretty simply if you just tell the plot. Fortunately, this book has more to it; the main character has depth, the auxilliary characters have depth and individual agenda. I was interested in it and the book flowed nicely. It probably could even have done without the "eye of the mad criminal" inserts that Sandford threw in like eveyone does these days.

However, the climax was kinda tacked on and didn't build any sort of excitement that made it worthwhile. A climactic shootout at a farmhouse. Ho hum. I actually put the book down in the middle of the drama and picked it up the next night. So the payoff could have been improved, but the denouement satisfied me.

So Sandford continues to prove worthy of the bucks I spend on his books. If I ever catch up with him, I might have to buy his books new, and that's the best compliment I can give an author.

Books mentioned in this review:

Claire McCaskill Would Never Kill Superman

(Link seen on The Anchoress.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006
True Urban Legend
In Octobers when the St. Louis Cardinals go deep into the playoffs, not only does the sales of Cardinals apparel spike in the Midwest, but sales of white clothing and underwear also spike as hundreds of thousands of Midwesterners wash their new apparel without bleeding it first.

It's on the Internet, and you can take it to the bank.

Monday, October 23, 2006
I don't have anything to say, so here's a picture of an apparently floating cat head:

Ajax in the doorway

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."