Nagasaki – Confucius Shrine

Not sure why I ended up at this Shrine, it’s not entirely popular but I’ve got pictures of it so I guess I went there for a reason. I guess?

Constructed in 1893 by Nagasaki’s Chinese residents the place has 72 statues of Confucius. It’s a reminder that Nagasaki was always the ancient gateway into Japan.

Note the differences in architecture from Japanese shrines from some of my previous posts.

Osaka – Shitennō-ji

I just didn’t take as many photos back then, I guess. Go to a temple, take only two shots? I’ve talked about how this can be a good thing. But when I don’t remember all that much about the visit, I guess it can also be a bad thing.

About an hour’s walk from Sumiyoshi-taisha is Shitennō-ji, another very old temple with a long history. It’s beyond my memory, but this is an excellent summary.

Shitennō-ji is said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan but sadly all the buildings date from a 1960’s rebuild. Still worth a short visit.

Ōsaka-jō – and why building expensive castles usually doesn’t work

So you want to build a castle. You’re a powerful man but you have a boss. And his castle is awesome. So you want to build one that’s even better than his. So your tower is taller, you throw some gold leaf on there, and you probably think you’ve done an awesome thing.

Problem is, your boss dies, and you’re left hanging with this big, huge, expensive castle while your enemy instead has a massive killing machine of a mobile field army. Oh, and sorry, fixed defenses are generally of only limited value during a long running military conflict. Just ask China how well the Great Wall was at keeping out those dastardly Mongols.

Ōsaka-jō was built from 1583-1597 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who wanted to mirror the digs of his boss (at the time, everybody’s boss) in Oda Nobunaga. But then Oda died. And soon the son in Toyotomi Hideyori gets Ōsaka-jō.

Then one day in 1600 this ordinary, average, nondescript guy named Tokugawa Ieyasu wins arguably one of the devastating and decisive battles in military history at Sekigahara. Toyotomi loses badly, but it takes Tokugawa until 1615 to acquire enough balance of power to finally settle the score. Tokugawa’s army of several hundred thousand men overpowers Ōsaka-jō, burns it to the ground, Toyotomi dies by his own hand, and Japan’s history is essentially written for the next two hundred years.

Tokugawa rebuilds the castle, because of course. In the subsequent centuries it does what a lot of wooden buildings do throughout history, it burns repeatedly. Gets rebuilt. Then burns again. Then the castle is rebuilt with public contributions. Then during the Boshin War it’s taken and burned again. Then it’s rebuilt, but this time as an arsenal. And so the the Americans carpet bomb the place into oblivion in August 1945.

Only in the late 1990’s is the castle itself restored. But in typical Japanese fashion, it’s done in concrete and not wood. Every time, it still gives me a lack of understanding chuckle at the lack of authenticity and reverence the Japanese have for historical sites and buildings. Nothing quite like the calm, religious experience of a glorious temple, when you can buy hello kitty right inside the door from one of my merchant stalls.

This was a neat visit, it’s cool to look at and the ground themselves are beautiful more as a garden or a park. The tower is interesting, but it feels stale and not real. Probably because it’s concrete and not real. It’s not one of my favorite Japan locations, by far, but it’s worth a short trip if you’re in town.

And also, if you have a Bond style villain demi-god level of power in your future somewhere, don’t build a castle or a god-like evil lair. Building expensive castles usually doesn’t work, see Ōsaka-jō. Or Bond will blow up your lair. Focus on mobile field armies or goons instead.

what’s within the ‘big void’?

Great news, everybody!  There’s a front page news story that doesn’t involve politics, sexual assault, destroyed human flesh, or politics.  It’s the question of what’s up with this supposed big empty space discovered inside of Khufu’s giant ode to human waste, aka the Pyramids.

For the uninitiated, the Pharaohs built the Pyramids as giant teleportation chambers that were intended to take their souls to eternity as gods.  The structures took decades to build and cost countless human lives.  But as I’ll always say, who the hell are we to say this was stupid and didn’t work?  For all we know Khufu is indeed seated upon his throne in Valhalla swilling barley wine from a highball glass shouting, “Foools!”

So basically a bunch of scientists have used new technology to look inside the rock of the Pyramid and have determined there are two empty voids inside the Pyramid, as shown in this diagram I ripped from the BBC:

the void.png

Oh my, what the fuck could those be?  Who knows.  But we’ll speculate here, because why not?  We’ve got nothing better to do.

1) These voids don’t actually exist, the technology is wrong, and instead these areas are just solid rock.  Human hope and adventure are destroyed in agony as we realize all the breadth and scope of the human spirit still can’t develop technology capable of scanning a five-thousand year old piece of stone.

2) The bigger void is actually the Valhalla Purgatory Sexual Assault Branch Clinic.  It was established by Pharaoh Apophis II after his demise in 2867 BC at the hands of an aggrieved female attendant.  Weinstein, Spacey, Trump, and Clinton are all bound to do time there.  They all get there down the road, and they find Louis XIV is seated in a wicker chair at the entrance.  Louis pulls on his cigarette, and wryly states, “Welcome Gentlemen, pull up a chair, you’re going to be here for a while.”  [pulls on cigarette]

3) The rock in the voids has crumbled for some reason due to the Pyramid settling, or natural erosion, or through mistakes by the original builders.  In ancient times these weren’t voids but solid stone, but now they’ve emerged over the thousands of years since construction.

4) The voids were created in 2008 in secret by Jeff Bezos.  It houses the “Arcane Division” of Amazon Web Services.  Held on the bank of servers within is the hopes, dreams, fears, and buying habits of every man, woman, and child on Earth, to include whether the most destitute man alive wants to buy a comb or not.  Bezos figured the Pyramid was the safest place to build this as, “No matter how crooked I am, how many politicians I bribe, or how hated I am, they can’t possibly blow up the Pyramids, right?” [lights cigar with Ben Franklin; puffs on cigar]

5) Khufu had a handball court built in there, just because he could.  3K slaves died to make it happen.  It was sealed inside the rock.  He never played on it once.  This amused him every time he thought about it.

6) It’s where the aliens hid the bomb.

7) The Pharaoh’s builders made the voids to account for star fluctuation based upon their astronomical measurements (yes, they did this) and mathematical calculations.  The intent to was to mass accelerate the Pharaoh’s divine journey into oblivion.

8) Beer repository for the afterlife.  Khufu had 9K years of beer stored in there so he could swill in Valhalla with glorious abandon.  What happens after the beer runs out in 4K years?  Khufu hasn’t thought that far ahead, it makes him sad when he does.  And in any case, all things being equal, Khufu never thought humanity would last this long anyways without blowing ourselves up.

9) Khufu had the chamber built just to mess with people’s brains.  They’re entirely empty.  They serve no purpose.

10) The chambers were hand carved from the bare rock by one time Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, closet Bayern Munich fan, amateur bridge player, and perverse sexual deviant Zahi Hawass.  Within the confines of the void he toils on a daily basis to supplement his meager millions of previous income with his own line of Indiana Jones custom hats, archeology lectures, commentary upon the Jewish race, boom mike operator temp assignment business for the National Geographic, Discovery, and History Channels, and his own independent line of male perfume “Pharaoh’s Shaft”.  None of this is a lie, just ask the great man himself!  @ZahiHawass “TUTANKHAMUN – HIS TOMB & HIS TREASURES is in Sweden! Come to my lecture on Jan 31st at the Oscarsteatern, Stockholm”  [Editor’s Note: the ALL CAPS is ALL ZAHI! ALL THE TIME!]



Milwaukee – Pabst Mansion

My Grandfather was so into Pabst beer that he named his dog after it.  This supposedly scruffy little mutt had a sharp personality.  So he fit well with his originally rough Milwaukee based namesake brew.  I think this also explains much of my obsession with all things beer, much to my detriment at times.

I suppose both my Grandfather and his dog would be rather troubled to see what’s become of Pabst now.  For you see, the tale of Pabst beer and of Frederick Pabst himself is a winding journey.  I think it emphasizes some of the best, worst, and weirdness of modern America.  I don’t know why all this fascinates me but please bear with my degenerate mind for this post is going to be a long one.

The man

Pabst was born in 1836 Prussian Germany to a poor local farm couple.  When he was 12 they immigrated to the American Midwest during a time where nobody was checking papers at the border.  This was still a time where America was a harsh, dangerous, and backward place.  Within a year Pabst’s mother died of cholera.  Pabst spent his teenage years working menial odd jobs just to survive and eat.  Somehow, he ends up with a lucky gig onboard a Great Lakes vessel.  Without an education or connections, he works his way up the maritime ladder and by 21 he’s a steamship captain with a name people know.  If you want yet another example to understand how American economic mobility is different nowadays, imagine what it would take for a 16 year old high school dropout waiter to become a ship captain within five years.

Pabst remained close to his roots and the German émigré community.  He spoke German at home his entire life.  He thus meets a fellow German in Phillip Best, marries his daughter, and ultimately uses his equity in the steamship trade to buy half of Best’s brewery.  From then on, Pabst is a brewer, though he maintains the title “Captain” Pabst for the rest of his life.  Thus proving once again that it’s awesome to be a captain, just ask Patrick Stewart’s ghost.  By the end of the Nineteenth Century the brewery is one of the planet’s most successful.  Pabst is Milwaukee’s leading citizen, he owns properties, resorts, banks, a theater, and on and on.  Though he came from nothing, he’s literally at the peak of American society.  He checks out to the next realm in 1904 as one of the more respected men on the planet.

The beer

By 1874 thanks largely to Pabst’s genius the brewery was the largest in America.  You could likely make the argument that by volume this meant they were the largest in the world.  Though I’m sure this is not provable given the dearth of statistics at the time.  I’m positive some dude in Bavaria was brewing ten times that amount in his basement closet alone.  In the traditional American style Pabst maintained their signature lager which ultimately became known worldwide as Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR).  Of note, they never won a blue ribbon or anything.  Pabst being the businessman he was just put a blue ribbon on the beer bottle as a marketing gimmick to indicate quality.  This gimmick has survived over a century and a half so I guess it worked.  It is also for this reason that if your local mayor or councilor tells you they’re solving a problem via a “blue ribbon” committee that you should immediately impeach them.

The PBR name and style survived prohibition as well as the post war era.  As the light American lager that it was, you can count on all the goods and bads that come with that designation: reliability, consistency, quality, safety (which was a big deal back then), but ultimately a relative lack of taste and variety.  In our new modern beer era folks tend to hammer this style of beer.  I don’t go that far.  It’s good for what it is.  It’s my preference for drinking on weeknights.  And it’s important to remember in our over-hopped, lunatic beer world of today, that once upon a simpler time folks were just happy to have decent, quality beer before they had to wake up in the morning and clock in at a tire factory.

Eventually though, things began to fall apart for this legendary company.  In a timeline of horrors not uncommon to other Midwestern businesses, in 1985 Pabst is bought in a hostile takeover by another self-made man turned beer baron Paul Kalmanovitz.  One can imagine that Kalmanovitz would have run the brewery well, but instead he died two years after the sale and it appears his trust made a true hash of it afterwards.  Sales plummeted and by 1996 in a nightmare haze Pabst brewing enters the contract brewing stage and the original Milwaukee brewery is closed.

For those unfamiliar with contract brewing, this is where the brand doesn’t actually own the brewery and hires some guy outside their company to actually make their beer (usually under the supervision of the brand’s brewmasters).  Lots of companies do contract brewing well, such as Sam Adams or various Japanese brands for their American sales.  But it can also be a true descent into frat boy style poor quality.  For example, at the recreational football league I play in somebody brought a 30 pack of Kirkland Light Beer (read Costco) as their contribution.  This was made for Costco by a contract brewer in Wisconsin and was awful.  Though beer being beer, and football being football, we did drink it.

Many will be well familiar with Pabst’s recent return to prominence via the hipster rage of going back to do things which were once cool.  This bizarre trend has enabled PBR to become somehow high quality whereas say Budweiser is perceived as not.  I don’t entirely understand this way of thinking but acknowledge that it does exist and has a somewhat legitimate feel to it.  After all, if my Grandfather loved this beer and named his dog after it, why not me too?  But it’s important to remember that Pabst basically isn’t in touch with the roots that the hipsters worship.  PBR circa 1968 is not PBR today.  What Pabst exists as today is its own independent LLC, headquartered in Los Angeles, financed by a private equity firm, and still only a contract brewer.  One wonders what Captain Pabst would think about this arrangement?  Where it has essentially no ties to Milwaukee, no basis in the self-made path he walked, and only a facade of the identity it once had.  And yet, still immensely popular.

Pabst Entry.JPG

Pabst Mansion Entry.

The house

In 1892 at the pinnacle of his life Pabst decided to build his retirement home.  After two years of construction he moved into Pabst Mansion still located at 2000 West Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee.  In Pabst’s day, Wisconsin Avenue was called Grand Avenue and was home to the dozens of mansions that housed Milwaukee’s elite.  The other mansions are gone now and most of this stretch is home to Marquette University.  The Pabst Mansion remains intact largely due to its purchase by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee which bought it from Pabst’s children in 1908 and occupied it through 1975.  Following that, a bunch of truly dedicated and scrappy historical preservationists put their time, money, and reputation on the line to preserve the mansion.  These same people are mostly at it today.

The house itself is not fully renovated and in many ways isn’t quite the pristine piece of history that one wants when visiting such a place.  But they do a mostly great job of making it happen given their limited financial resources and the actual state of the house.  The Catholic Archbishops made extensive changes during their time including the painting of all walls, bathrooms upgrades, repurposing of rooms, and so on.  In order to acquire cash to progressively reconstruct the house back to its original condition, they’re forced to do some weird things like host weddings and receptions on the second floor in the old master bedroom area.

Photography isn’t permitted inside the house.  If you want to see what it looks like, the Internets offer you a variety of clean images.  I’ll roughly paraphrase here.

The tour begins on the ground floor reception hall with its adjoining parlor and music rooms.  There’s also the kitchen (tiny by today’s standards), dining room, and Pabst’s own office.  They advertise the mansion as 20K square feet of space.  I don’t think this is an accurate number unless you include all the closets, basement, and attic.  I think the true amount of livable space is less than half that.  My first impression was how relatively small the place is.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a massive house, but the dining room would barely seat a dozen folks in tight quarters.  The parlor about the same.  Pabst’s office is only slightly bigger than my cubicle.  I get the idea that this house reflects the style and temperament of Pabst and his family.  He came from nothing, so he wanted a tight, intimate existence.  Not the massive, airy, aloof nature of say a British country house of this era.  The wealth is instead displayed not in the house’s size but in the way it’s decorated.  The painting of the walls, the trim, the intricate wood carvings, the touches of silver or gold all give each room an immensely unique character.

The second floor houses the rooms of Pabst’s daughter and granddaughter, the family sitting room, and the Pabsts’ master bedroom.  Almost all of this second floor is renovated as well, though because of their renting requirements the master bedroom area is almost entirely empty.  In a shocker for the 1890’s, but what we’d mostly take for granted today, the house was unique in having a bathroom assigned to almost every bedroom.  Hot water and heating came via natural gas.  However air conditioning was a long future invention, the house is designed to funnel heat up and out an intricately designed trap door in the attic.  In a uniquely American touch that would appall the British counterparts of the day the servants quarters are toward the back of the house but on the same second floor where the Pabsts slept.  The third floor is populated by a series of bedrooms that were meant for the guests and for Pabst’s grown sons who would occasionally stay there.  Most of the third floor is not reconstructed and there’s just not much to see up there yet.  Though they have a vision for how it’s all going to look.  They said it’ll take years if not decades before the house is entirely reconstructed toward its original look.

Pabst Back.JPG

Pabst Mansion from the back.  The backyard (where the coach house once stood) is now a hotel parking lot with satellite dishes from the local ABC station.

The present

What are we to make of Pabst?  If a man’s primary purpose in life is to provide for his family’s future Pabst wins that unreservedly.  His children, grandchildren, and ancestors never had to struggle the way he and his parents did.  There’s not much to read on the current Pabst family.  Though if the tour guides were any indication they all seem fairly well off and help maintain the Pabst mansion with occasional support and the return of old artifacts.  Even if Pabst’s descendants aren’t at the pinnacle of society anymore, you can surely count it a success that the family rolls on.

The beer company is entirely different.  Its legacy is nothing along the lines of what he’d imagined except for the blue ribbon.  One of things that capitalism engenders is the idea that nothing is sacred.  Companies, brands, names live and die like it’s nothing.  It’s why the companies that have been around for centuries are so special and held with such awe.  But for the other 99% of brands or ideas, they’re all going to eventually die.  Pabst’s beer was a vessel for the success of his family, and then he and his family moved on, and now only its shell remains.  Not as a means to perpetuate the Pabst brand or ideas, but as a means for an LLC and private equity to make a ton of money off an identity somebody else created.  This is the reasoning that forced me to conclude that if I ever started a business of my own, that I had to have in mind to discard the sucker in a heartbeat without losing my mind.  Modern capitalism means you have to essentially not give a damn because you or your neat brand or cool idea will almost always eventually get bought out, you sell out, or it dies or fails.

I wonder, if because of this, a great amount is lost to the American ideal though.  The distance of modern capitalism to the ideas of Pabst’s day goes a long way to explain in my mind why we have such a disconnect between the elite and everybody else.  Pabst had a global brand, but was a Milwaukee man.  He had business and charitable interests throughout the city.  He helped improve the town and make it modern.  When he died and his brand left the city, a connection was lost.  I sincerely doubt the current Pabst LLC gives any damn whatsoever about Milwaukee from their LA headquarters.  Corporate tax methods, overseas profits, quarterly earnings, leveraged buy outs, faceless private equity firms & hedge funds, and whatever do not lend themselves to the type of community capitalism that Pabst practiced.

It’s one reason (among many, many) why so many of the Midwest’s businesses have failed in the last fifty years.  It explains why Pabst is no longer brewed in Milwaukee.  And, I dare say, it also explained (at least in some part) the black lives matter protest that was walking down the street as a exited the Pabst mansion tour.  I couldn’t help but think that if Pabst had been alive looking out his own window and seen that?  That his reaction would have been to tackle and battle the problems afflicting the city that he lived in, built, and loved.  That he would have had the temperament and clout to bring all the sides together, to forge a tough compromise, bang heads, to put his name and effort on the line to move the needle of society a little bit in a better direction.  We could do with some more of his kind today.  I think we desperately need it.

Pabst Front.JPG

Pabst Mansion from West Wisconsin Avenue (with the protest behind me).

This is Pabst’s letter to his children, read after his death.  It gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.  They hand these out on the tour.  Well worth it.

Pabst Letter.jpeg

Boston Harbor – sort of

I’ve developed this weird trend lately where I show up new to a place I’ve never been before, but somehow end up with a schedule that allows me only a few hours to initially see places before I’m on my way again.  It happened recently in Milwaukee and Detroit, and now Boston.  I’m not complaining mind you, because all it means is I have to go back.  Oh darn.

In any case, the family only had a few hours before a wedding west of Boston.  So we went down to Boston Harbor and walked around a pier or two and then toured Harpoon Brewery.  Incidentally, as much as I worship beer, this was my first brewery tour ever.  I’ll probably write about that later.  Maybe.

But whatever, here’s some random shots of Boston Fish Pier, right down the road from Harpoon.


Boston Fish Pier is still very much operating.  All the boats there are small craft, as in not the massive trawlers that are literally raping the oceans.  You can tell from the material condition of everything that they’re owners not necessarily swimming in gold.  It all felt very classic, except that the pier itself had been renovated from it’s original creation in the early 20th Century.





The Exchange Conference Center – Located at the head of the pier.  If you’ve heard me whine about the awfulness of modern architecture, here is an example of a new building I’d consider a great job of creating something that’s not a faceless glass enclosed wonder.



I have discovered the fattest seagulls I’ve ever seen in all my global travels are located in Massachusetts.



A lightweight anchor casually discarded on the pier.  If you look you can see why.



Detroit – because work said so

Someday somebody way smarter than me is going to write a book where Detroit is a metaphor for all of America. You can trace the tale from the earliest French settlers, to British rule, frontier America, transition from an agrarian to industrialized economy, full blown dominance (Detroit probably single handedly out produced Nazi Germany), followed by collapse & depopulation, followed, by what?

Well, one would hope rebirth. Rather than continued slow decline. Since 1950 Detroit has lost almost 2/3 of its people. A similar trend stalks Cleveland, Milwaukee, and countless other Midwestern cities. Literally, Detroit used to be the center of the world alongside New York and London. Will it ever return to its former glory? Is it even possible? I’m not sure. So much of what drove this greatness no longer exists. What America is and does is so very different than in 1950.

Maybe I’ll try and write about it later on. But for now I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Or at least to also offer that Detroit has some of the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced, which says a lot considering the parking lots I’ve driven in (Tokyo, Washington, New York, LA, etc). And also Detroit’s suburbs have some of the best Lebanese food on the planet, truly legit awesome stuff.

Work sent me to Detroit for all of three days. I only ended up snaking a few hours to drive around. Sadly I didn’t get to do anything reasonably fun. So I guess that means I’ll have to go on back on my own dime.

Woodward & Guardian

One Woodward Avenue (left) and the Guardian Building – One Woodward was completed in 1962, note its applicable stale awfulness.  Guardian Building dates to 1929 and is apparently beautiful inside.   Also note the weirdo sky bridge which linked the two since the 1970s.  In 2012, Rock Ventures LLC bought One Woodward.  Rock Ventures owns Quicken Loans, a bunch of sports teams and casinos, and about a 100 other companies.  I suppose it’s an example of the types of companies that Detroit has to attract in order to rebuild.


Ambassador Bridge.JPG

Ambassador Bridge & Downtown Detroit – The busiest border crossing in North America, the bridge carries 1/4 of all trade between America and Canada.  The separate Detroit River Tunnel carries rail traffic.  In a bit of weirdness the bridge is actually privately owned by a guy who appears to behave like an evil monopoly man cartoon caricature.  A second bridge is scheduled for completion by 2020.



Detroit River & Windsor, Canada


GM Building.JPG

GM Renaissance Center – appropriately enchained behind a fence for GM’s cheating death off the backs of the taxpayer


Packard Plant.JPG

Ruins of the Packard Automotive Plant – Completed in 1911, it built cars until 1958.  By 1966 Packard had evaporated as a car company.


The next three shots are of ruined houses just a few blocks away from the Packard Plant.  Once upon a time, an American farm worker could move to Detroit and get an entry job at the Packard Plant.  Thirty years later he could retire as a supervisor with a decent pension, and go buy himself one of these beautiful houses to live out his days as a grandfather.  Now it’s all gone, the Plant, the house, and this very concept of employment as part of the American Dream.  I wonder if they could have ever imagined how bad it would get?  Understanding why this all came about, and where to go from here, is central to Detroit’s future.  And perhaps America’s as well.






House 3.jpg

Milwaukee – for just a few hours

I’ve pretty much gotten to the stage where I’m beyond planning anything for travel not dictated by those who employ me.  This is just about the exact opposite from a decade ago where I had a tour book, ledger, and a timeline.

I wish I could say this was part of some kind of mystical theoretical journey where I’ve cast off the toolbox shackles of a younger age, but truly it’s just because I don’t have enough energy to care.  It’s the mentality of, eh, it’s just for fun, whatever.  Show up, and see what happens.  I like this, it takes less effort.

For those of you unfortunate enough to be a regular reader of this degenerate blog, I now end up traveling to Chicago regularly now.  But I usually fly into Milwaukee for this is cheaper to the bottom line.

A hint perhaps, for those of you looking to head to Chicago.  If you fly into Milwaukee both in terms of flight cost and rental car, you’ll save at least $100.  And your trade is about $8 in interstate tolls and an extra hour’s drive.  You decide if this is worth the tradeoff.

Anyways, I usually have zero time, and so turn south from Mitchell Airport bound for Chicago.  This last week though I had a few hours since I got there very early in the morning.  So instead I turned north and decided to spend a few hours in Milwaukee.

With zero upfront planning I ended up in downtown, parked, and just walked around for a few hours.  This was a good idea.  However, it didn’t help that I felt terrible that entire day, but there was nothing I could do about that.  So I decided to carry on.

First I walked around like a lunatic until I could find breakfast, I ended up at a local Greek diner:

Mykonos Gyro & Cafe

1014 North Van Buren Street


This was a wise, fortunate, rendezvous.  They do two things I’ve never seen before, they put gyro meat in an omelet, and you get tzatziki in a squeeze bottle.  Both of these are wise decisions.  But be warned, for about $8 you’ll get enough food that you feel compelled to walk it off for hours.  So in other words, this was a huge win.

Then it was few blocks east down to the Lake.


Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan from the bluffs of Juneau Park.  As is typical for Eastern or Mid-Western cities, those damn highways are in the way of water views.  If you didn’t know, this was a deliberate decision of city designers in the early car era.  Highways, or parkways, were put along the water to give casual driver’s a good view.  This is the lunacy of getting fully dressed up and going on a drive in the 1930’s, because that was considered recreation.  My Granddad used to chuckle about that, you would go on a drive for fun.  So back then, having the road along the water was an advantage, now they just kill our view.


Soloman Juneau

Soloman Juneau.  First mayor of Milwaukee, and it seems an all around decent guy.  An explorer, trader, and trailblazer of the American West who seems to possess a rarity in that he has little or no blood on his hands.


Bad Day

At the base of Juneau’s statue.  At first I was like, “is this some type of weird local offering to Juneau’s ghost?”  But in reality, I came to the conclusion that this was somebody’s really, really bad day.


Then it was  a short walk to the East Side of downtown, separated from the West Side by the Milwaukee River.

Milwaukee Federal Building

Milwaukee Federal Courthouse.  Once a regular federal office building, is now a place where dreams are destroyed.  A classic piece of late 19th, early 20th century city building architecture.  I hate new office building designs, all glass, all stale awfulness.  At least back then they built things they looked like they actually cared.


The Pfister

The Pfister, one of the oldest hotels in Milwaukee.  A broader American hotel icon, and recent setting in Space Cop.  An interesting note is the property on the right-side street corner is for sale.  Their pitch in the window is it hasn’t been available for purchase since, “The Dow was at 500 points.”  I don’t know what year that was, but that’s a pretty awesome sales pitch.


Milwaukee River

Milwaukee River.  It wasn’t as cold as it looks, but it usually is, apparently.


Milwaukee Public Market

Milwaukee Public Market, in the historic Third Ward.  An awesome place.


At this point, that I felt horrible, and that stole the rest of the journey out of me.  So I briefly had lunch at this place, another win:

The Wicked Hop

345 North Broadway


And then I had to basically get out of there, drive south, and find a way to get to bed early.  It helped because I felt better in the morning for work.  But it’s only left me wanting to go back to Milwaukee again soon, and get more in depth, to a city that has a lot of offer, but who’s surface I’ve just barely scratched.

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto, and that one great shot

If you want to discover what really matters to a cubicle goon of the modern era, gaze kindly upon whatever framed pictures they possess inside their hovels.  This impact is magnified where I work, for we have no windows.  It could be 70, sunny, with a bird, squirrel, and komodo dragon frolicking playfully together outside in the grass.  But inside for us, it’s the same stale air, harsh light, and incessant office sounds.

A lot of people put pictures of their family there.  I’m a weirdo who lives alone with his dogs, but I suppose I could put pictures of them in there, or of my Parents, Brothers, and Sisters.  But I guess I’m too much of a closed book for that kind of public display.  So instead I’ve got two pictures in there, the first a few folks may have seen me post a while back, which is essentially my Parents’ backyard.

The second photo is of Kiyomizu-dera.




I breathe every part of this photo: the forest, the winter haze, the isolation, the distant pagoda (Koyasu Pagoda).  This is Kyoto in February.  This is Japan.

The dirty little secret of this shot is that to my left, right, and behind me is a sea of humanity.  My Parents had come out to visit me for my birthday that year.  And I took them to Kyoto and Nara, because it had to be done.  I haven’t gotten into it at all on this blog, but I lived in Japan for three years.  I guess it’s just too close to the heart to write about much, or something strange like that.

Anyways, I’d been to Kyoto before and so we visited some of my favorites, but Kiyomizu-dera was new for all three of us.  We’d visited Chion-in that morning, for that was the one place in all of Japan I wanted to show my Dad (more on that later, eh, maybe).  Then we cabbed it south to Kiyomizu-dera probably after just randomly picking it off a map.  The place was mobbed, almost subway style.



Looking back west toward Kyoto


Started in 778, the main temple buildings date from the early Edo period, about 1630.  Elaborate temples and a return to emphasis on traditional Japanese religion were among the Shogunate’s many methods to get out of the business of perpetual civil war.  It’s awfully hard to be in the sword killing trade when Shogun needs that seven year temple building project completed in three years.  And you don’t want to disappoint Shogun, do you?

Translated as “Pure Water Temple” it sits atop of mountain waterfall that you can still drink from in various attempts to cheat the Gods / Nature out of the path they’ve set for you.  What do those dudes know anyways?  All they do is make all the rules of the universe.  And rules are meant to be broken, right?  [shakes fist at sky]

My memory is truly horrible (photographs help save me), so I’m not sure where we went next.  But given the time of day, we probably went back downtown for dinner.  Which knowing Kyoto, it was undoubtedly unspeakably awesome.



Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall; this was taken after the crowds had begun to thin out




looking east up the mountain you really get a good idea of how perched the temple is upon the heights



looking up from the base of the Main Hail through the branches of a random unrelated species of Japanese tree; these pillars stand as is despite the fact that they didn’t use a single nail in the construction

I know what’s in Tut’s new tomb rooms

I don’t know what’s in Tut’s new tomb rooms.  Nobody does.  But hey, you never know where life’s going to take you.  There are all kinds of things that could be in there, including nothing.  So why not gamble away recklessly in the hopes we can guess it right?  After all, my Guests possess the most unbridled surveillance resources imaginable, so certainly I can figure this out.  Except that they’re usually too drunk to use them; and I also happen to be an idiot.

– Tut’s genuine Mommy in Nefertiti is in there and it’s the archeological discovery of the century

– Tut’s new tomb rooms don’t exist

– Tut’s 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI with the 2.0L 4-cylinder diesel is parked in there pending investigations by the Egyptian Ministry of Transportation

– They break it open but instead of Nefertiti or Tut, it’s just Khufu sitting there in a lawn chair downing a highball glass of barley wine, and he’s like, “Fools!  I’ve stolen all of Nefertiti’s treasure and added to my stash.  You were only four-thousand years behind the power curve.  You’re fucked!  Ahahahahahahahaha!”  And then he re-ascends to Valhalla in the blink of an eye; and all they get is the lawn chair

– Tut added six-thousand amphora filled with booze in there to ensure he could get ripped in the afterlife with abandon; but then he ran out in 1134 AD and he’s been sad ever since.  The archeologists could try adding more booze filled amphorae to the stash to hook Tut up, but I don’t think it works that way

– They find completely empty rooms because they buried Tut in a hurry, after the murder and all

– Zahi Hawass shows up wielding a pair of old Yugoslavian machine pistols and holds everybody hostage, shouting at the top of his lungs to the Geraldo cameras, “Sign up for my newsletter to be first to here about my upcoming lectures and books!”  Poor, poor Zahi, dude you supported the wrong dictator, you should try and get in good with Sisi to get back in the game; you were a hoot to watch

king tut

give up your secrets ya bastard