Pianist Lynne Arriale returns to Milwaukee with an inspired new album, Being Human



Lynne Arriale Trio – CD Release – Friday Musicale

Lynne Arriale Trio will perform at Bar Centro, 808 E. Center St., Thursday, March 14 at 8 p.m., $25

Lynne Arriale continues to grapple with the world, and uplifts it, with her immense gifts and passion. The pianist-composer has proven herself among the most socially and politically engaged jazz musicians working today. On her new album Being Human, she stays true to her piano’s voice whereas previously employing a vocalists to sing an iconic Bob Dylan song to powerful effect. Now she returns to her hometown, Milwaukee, where she studied, and grew as an artist before striking out for larger pastures.

On Being Human she continues her practice of dedicating certain tunes to people of notable political import. Thus, we’re urged to contemplate such people as environmental activist Gret Thunberg, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, Khrystyna Lopatenko, chief nurse at Kharkiv Oblast Hospital, the Ukrainian people and, more broadly, humankind and “those of faith.”

Her liner notes specify how she sees such people as meaningful and worthy of our consideration. And yet her work allows us the freedom to respond in any way we want as per the stimulus of her trio’s work, which fills the auditory senses as much as a piano trio can. The piano trio is a specific art form honed to heights of mastery by The Bill Evans Trio and Arriale carries on from such lofty standards. She mines in an affirmative jazz without lyrics but so full of spirit and both refined and rough-hewn musical gemstones gritted with shards of life to appreciate and feel. For example, Courage (for the Ukraine people) delves into the weight needed to muster that emotion and strength with a big Tyner-ish piano bass beneath muscular yet lyrical trappings. The theme’s minor-ish mood delivers the emotion instilled in “courage.”

No social cause is more pressing today than that of Ukraine, “remaining unbowed while resisting a vastly more powerful enemy, they stand in solidarity with their military forces, even while enduring the horrors and hardships of war,” writes Arriale. “Persistence” is powered by Arriale’s meaty McCoy Tyner influence, thundering along, raining fourth intervals, clearly inspired by Yousafzai, the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, having survived The Taliban’s attempt to assassinate her.

One of the most intriguing tunes, “Curiosity,” defers from affirmation, bristles with tension and release, thick, piquant chords, and tight harmonies between her and bassist Alon Near, even atonal lines.

Though she is most typically a finely-crafting player with an innate sense of lyricism, a tune like “Soul” digs down into the muddy blues groove of a trio driving a layered and danceable pulse.

You can help but sense how far Arriale travels musically to discover the width and depth of human determination and courage in a world ever ready in defiance.


Two quintessential American salesmen and mirror opposites, Tim Arndt and Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman

And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing, he’s getting ready for the showHe’s going to the carnival tonight on Desolation Row.” — Bob Dylan, “Desolation Row”

Tim Arndt (1959-2024). All photos of Tim courtesy of Tim and Amy Arndt.

As I’m going in a sleepless gonzo-mode lately, I might not do justice to Cousin Tim Arndt or to spouse Amy Arndt’s power-packed obit of the extraordinary man who died of prostate cancer recently, at 64. It’s a revelation, the depth and myriad benevolence of Tim’s life. So, I hope this doesn’t seem too irreverent, as this is not an obit per se, and the ensuing analogy is meant to serve by contrast.

But as a culture vulture, I was struck by something in the sadness of Tim’s passing. In my house, we’re currently on a Better Call Saul-watching binge. Here’s the mirror reflection that caught my eye. It strikes me Tim’s life is the moral mirror-opposite of the title character. Tim started his professional career selling flip-style cellphones — close to the depicted the era when Jimmy “Saul Goodman” McGill starts re-inventing himself — selling “private” covert flip-style cell phones. And the TV series’ New Mexico setting ain’t far from Texas, so the cultural milieu isn’t too alien.

Jimmy McGill hustling private flip-style cell phones. The Georgia Straight

The big difference is how disgraced and disbarred lawyer Jimmy/Saul takes to selling cell-phones, for nefarious purposes. He has a born-salesman’s gift-for-gab, like Tim, but oh my, what Saul does with his gifts. Throughout the series he’s a salesman first and best, even when working as a lawyer.

What unfolds is a contemporary variation on the tragic American story of moral dissembling, through desperation, gravitating to the lure of free-market greed. He begins (with a lovely and upstanding blonde woman partner, like Tim), and he could’ve done so much good, and he knows it. We see this all grow like a cancer in him because Bob Odenkirk is a superb actor who reveals many shades of his character’s two-facedness. As Saul, he ends up exploiting his customers (initially retirees), and the system, as much as he can, eventually falling into the deadly cesspool of a Mexican drug cartel. He can’t help himself, his brilliant lawyer brother Chuck explains, dating from childhood, and consciously if compulsively continues to avoid the better angels of his nature.

Promotional image. Amazon.com

Activist Tim Arndt, by contrast, used the medium of Ma Bell for the sake of Mother Earth, as a springboard to profoundly protect and replenish the planet as a “climate change warrior,” and to help anyone who needed help. It seems that, like Saul, Tim couldn’t help himself, but to “do the right thing.” I shouldn’t make him out to be a saint but he seemed to be one of an empowering sort who “saw the potential in everyone and everything,” as his brother Steve commented. Saul sees the potential weakness in everyone.

Quoting Amy: “At Austin Energy, Tim was instrumental in the creation of the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) Ordinance. He took his passion for combatting climate change to 360 Energy Savers, where he leveraged rebates to help lower utility bills for residents of Austin.
Tim purchased 1st Choice Energy in 2021. There, he continued to fight climate change and helped make Austin’s low to moderate-income families more comfortable by providing energy efficiency upgrades as part of Austin Energy’s Weatherization Assistance program.”

Widow Amy also notes that Tim would stop to help anyone with car trouble. Jimmy McGill’s beat-up 1998 Suzuki Esteem – rusted-out yellow with one red car door, would’ve needed Tim’s help. In fact, Jimmy is in an accident in the series pilot when two skateboarders try to scam him by purposely running into Jimmy’s car. Jimmy’s nearly broke at the time (working at a Cinnabon shop) and the punks-on-little-wheels demand $500 compensation for the “accident.” Jimmy points to his car as “a steaming pile of crap” to show how hard-up he is and says, “The only way this car is worth $500 is if there’s a $300 hooker in it!”

If Tim Arndt had been cast in the show at that point, Jimmy might’ve seen the erring of his ways, though probably continuing down his slippery slope. That ethical task is up to Jimmy’s girlfriend, the sharp-lawyer Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), who loves her pro bono work, in an almost morally preening way. She loves Jimmy, too, as his sounding board yet is strangely vulnerable to his “aw shucks” charms and deceptive bloviations. It’s a variation on a Macbethian love story, with the man as the infecting partner.

As Amy’s obit recounts in admiring detail, Tim Arndt was “The Ultimate Good Samaritan.” Jimmy’s version of “Goodman” Samaritan is to teach the young skateboarders how to scam better.

Girlfriend Kim Wexler (Reah Seehorn) listens to another explanation/vow from Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). Although high-minded, she has a weakness for his powers of persuasion and evasion. global.ca/news

Over time it became known that Tim had helped everyone in the neighborhood. If Tim could have been satirized at all, it might’ve been as a too-good-to-be-true do-gooder and tree-hugger, who might rankle some, but only as if we don’t need more of those in America. His tendency to be a found-objects “hoarder” might seem comical too, but all his gatherings were stashed in his garage (nicknamed “Vietnam” because of its devastated-looking chaos) which, with his special brand of genius, became a myriadic fix-it and repurpose shop for anyone who needed the once-again right stuff.

Among the more remarkable things Tim did was “returning BB King’s famous guitar Lucille to its rightful owner when it ended up in his possession,” as Amy recounts. (Please read Amy’s obit on Tim following this article — originally posted on her Facebook page — on more of what made him an extraordinary man.)

Tim Arndt, proud family man with (L-R) daughter Emily, spouse Amy, Tim, daughter-in-law Taylor, son Matthew.

Tim Arndt and Jimmy McGill embodied two versions of a quintessential American. Tim might have come as close as anyone with limited resources to being the ideal American, living to pursue justice, equality, and a measure of happiness for his own (the proud father of three) and anyone, and to help save the only planet we have to survive on. Though I didn’t know him well (he was a life-long Texan, I a Wisconsinite), Tim now feels like the brother I never had. In our shared Lynch genes, we even resemble each other. But he was probably a better man than me, than most.

Jimmy the Saul-man, with his own peculiar resourcefulness, was the every-man-for-himself American, the transactional con-man first brilliantly characterized in Melville’s The Confidence Man: His Masquerade from 1857), and agonizingly relevant today. Jimmy/Saul was a winning glad-hander, even capable of a flawed love, ever despoiled by the neediness of his greediness.

As for the way Tim loved, as Amy sweetly notes: “Tim was born in Dallas, Texas on Valentine’s Day in 1959. His mother Eileen almost named him Val, but thankfully, she chose Timothy James instead. Still, being born on Valentine’s Day meant Tim Arndt was born to exemplify love.”

May the Tim Arndts of the world inspire us, and may we be ever vigilant of the Saul Goodmans.

Tim and Amy.


*Saul (Bob Odenkirk) may still be better known as the sleazy lawyer on Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul was a sort of prequel, telling the story of how Jimmy McGill came to be Saul Goodman. Odenkirk (only three years younger than dear Tim) has received six nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, marking his comic-tragic brilliance at embodying the conflicted yet chillingly mutating character.


Tim Arndt’s obituary – the hardest thing I’ve ever written. What a guy!
Timothy James Arndt, 64, died on January 22, 2024, after a 6-year battle with prostate cancer. Tim was the ultimate Good Samaritan, a climate change warrior, friend to many, and owner of the best laugh on the planet.
Tim was born in Dallas, Texas on Valentine’s Day in 1959. His mother Eileen almost named him Val, but thankfully, she chose Timothy James instead. Still,   being born on Valentine’s Day meant Tim Arndt was born to exemplify love.
Tim is survived by his wife Amy, the love of his life and pain in his ass, his son Matthew Arndt, daughter-in-law Taylor, daughter Stephanie Martinez-Arndt, and daughter Emily Rose Arndt. He is also survived by his brother Steve Arndt and wife Joy, brother TJ Arndt, and brother Mike Arndt. Other relatives include mother-in-law Judy Wilkins, father-in-law Glenn Underwood and wife Pam, sister-in-law Emily Montez and husband Rocky. Tim was predeceased by his mother, Dr. Eileen Lynch, and father Terry Arndt (unless you consult 23andMe, but that’s another story).
Tim attended W.T. White High School in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from Walden  Preparatory School in 1976. When Tim’s grades didn’t quite cut the mustard, he used his charm and gift of gab to gain admission to the McCombs Business School at the University of Texas.
Tim’s career was always focused on helping people. His sales career began at Cellular One in San Antonio, TX, where he sold the original “brick” cell phones and the original flip phone which sold for over $2,500. He later worked at the Travis County Medical Society’s Medical Exchange, where he sold pagers and communications services to physicians. He was responsible for developing the training of thousands of Central Texans at the Customized Training division of Austin Community College. At Austin Energy, Tim was instrumental in the creation of the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) Ordinance. He took his passion for combatting climate change to 360 Energy Savers, where he leveraged rebates to help lower utility bills for residents of Austin.
Tim purchased 1st Choice Energy in 2021. There, he continued to fight climate change and helped make Austin’s low to moderate-income families more comfortable by providing energy efficiency upgrades as part of Austin Energy’s Weatherization Assistance program.
Tim’s brother Steve wisely noted that Tim “saw potential in everyone and everything.” An altruistic hoarder, Tim’s garage was well known as “Vietnam,” because his collection of random objects looked more like a war zone than a garage full of dreams. We joked that if you needed something, Tim would ask, “What color?” because he likely had more than one of whatever it was you needed. He stopped to help anyone having car trouble. He refused to pass a lemonade stand without stopping to support a small business. One time Amy realized Tim had helped someone from every single home on their street. He considered people experiencing homelessness to be his neighbors, and he never judged a person for their circumstances. He simply helped them.
Tim’s laugh is almost as well-known as his good deeds. When the kids were little, if they got separated from Tim in a store, they never worried because they could find Tim by the sound of his bellowing laugh. Amy described Tim’s laugh as “a cross between a machine gun and Bert from Sesame Street.”
Tim could do so many things that we kept a list of “Things Tim Arndt Can Do.” The list included: taking almost anything apart and putting it back together, buying and fixing cars, building a treehouse out of recycled materials, and returning BB King’s guitar Lucille to its rightful owner when it ended up in his possession. He could dance the Jitterbug, cross-country ski, juggle, walk on stilts, safely hold bees in his mouth, and catch snakes and tarantulas. He could cook like nobody’s business, sew his firstborn son’s baby bedding (including bumpers), and create custom Halloween costumes, often at the very last minute. He could swim the length of a pool in one breath. He could even catch a fly with chopsticks.
Though Tim spent his life serving others, his family and friends were his greatest joy. He was often overheard telling someone on the phone, “I’m just lucky that I’m still madly in love with my wife.” He loved his Saturday morning ritual of talking to his brother Steve (and by way of speakerphone, Steve’s wife Joy). He was a caring role model for his little brother Mike. His Sunday morning breakfasts with his best friend Jon were his favorite start to the week. Nothing made him prouder than being a parent to Matthew, Stephanie, and Emily Rose. His legacy of love and good deeds lives on in his children, who all possess his best qualities.
Tim was a Yellow Dog Democrat to his core, working on numerous campaigns, block walking, phone banking, and helping register voters. One of his favorite things to tell people was, “The only part of my permanent record that I’m proud of is that I’ve never missed an election.” And it’s true; Tim voted religiously.
Speaking of religion, Tim was a cradle Catholic and lived the examples of a Christian life his entire life. However, when Tim’s cancer spread to his bones, he developed a skepticism about God and the afterlife. During this time Tim developed a friendship with Father Matt Boulter, the priest at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Austin. Tim concluded one of their last conversations by saying, “If you’re right, I’ll see you on the other side!” Then he laughed his giant laugh.
Tim’s family and friends believe that Tim’s work on earth gave him a VIP pass to the other side. While the world is a quieter place without Tim and his famous laugh, his memory will live on through his children, his countless good deeds, and the good deeds we can all do to honor him.
The family sends their unending appreciation and love to Tim’s medical team and caretakers. To the team at Texas Oncology: Dr Carlos Ruben de Celis, Colleen Adkins, PA-C, Dr. Louis Lux, Francesa Ciponi, LCSW, C-DBT, Vanessa Hohn, Senior Patient Services, and the many nurses and techs that Tim made laugh, thank you for your excellent care. Thank you to the team at Hospice Austin, especially Stephanie Beam, RN, and Cat Ross, CNA, whom Tim truly loved. Thank you to the incredible team at Christopher House, who cared for Tim so lovingly in his final days.
A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, March 23 at 2:30 at the Hancock Recreation Center in Austin. To honor Tim’s memory, please consider a donation to Hospice Austin, Christopher House, the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State (FACTS), or a climate change organization of your choice. If donations are cost-prohibitive, please consider doing a kind deed in Tim’s honor.
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At 80, Jerry Grillo sings a song his way, taking musical risks, and usually winning


Singer Jerry Grillo performs at his “Decades Tour” celebrating his 80th Birthday at Bar Centro on Feb. 10, with drummer Randy Maio, at right. Photos courtesy Jerry Grillo.

A notable recent performance by Milwaukee jazz singer Jerry Grillo got me thinking about his art form, partly due to technical difficulties with my blog delaying me from writing an intended review. Then today, while exercising, I listened to one of the most acclaimed male jazz singers today, Gregory Porter.

So, I hope I’m doing Grillo a service by partly comparing him to the highest standards of his craft. Grillo may be nearing the end of his performing career as he chose to do a sort of career and life retrospective on his  “Decades Tour,” celebrating his 80th birthday at Bar Centro in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. The joint was filled beyond capacity, suggesting a cultivated popularity, which leads to an implicit question. Doesn’t the art of male jazz singing remain too rare, both nationally and locally? General audiences seem more attracted to female singers, who might be more easily marketed as well, whether singing jazz, or classical, or even pop, now that male singers fronting male rock bands have now given way to superstar female pop singers, the biggest which need not be named.

Thus, it seems all more valuable to appreciate men willing to open themselves up to the emotional and artistic vulnerabilities of singing, more typically the province of women. To this point, this man’s songs at Bar Centro included several made famous by women, including Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Dinah Washington, and Morgana King.

So, I celebrate Grillo’s accomplishment by possibly holding him to high standards. His voice may not possess the pure resonant quality of a Gregory Porter, or of a Kurt Elling, or the textural richness or quite the capacious dynamic range of his “favorite singer,” Tony Bennett.

Yet Grillo has plenty to offer as a narrative and dramatic master of his material, a musical raconteur, and as an improvisational risk-taker in the tradition of real jazz, by contrast to a safer singer guided by jazz musicians. He demonstrated this by performing songs that he conceded weren’t typical jazz material; he mastered jazz singing only in his career’s latter portion, since the 1990s. But these songs were sung his way. His roots actually lie in musical theater as he demonstrated here. His choice of material is consistently witty and engaging. He also took liberty to introduce each song with its context in his own life, thus personalizing it as a storyteller.

The first, “Teach Me Tonight” served as a way to learn about him and, with its sly pivot toward boudoir instruction, as a rich metaphor for the man himself as a true artistic Romantic, and as a teacher, which he was for many years. This began his biographical commentary: we learned he was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, not coincidentally the birthplace of Bob Dylan. He’s hardly the poetic songwriter that Dylan is (who is, really?), but Grillo, akin to Dylan, accomplishes so much both with a less-than-perfect voice and the creative chutzpah to virtually reinvent his songs almost every time he sings them.

So no, Grillo’s singing may not be as purely pleasing as, say, Porter’s. But that celebrated Blue Note recording artist tends to lean heavily on the warm, glowing tones of his resonant baritone, in many medium-to-slow songs.

By contrast, Grillo not infrequently finds himself in precarious pivots of intonation – because he’s taking musical risks, trying to modulate his singing to the twists and turns of the story-song, without being calculated. Thus, he seems more authentic, honest, vulnerable, and quite appealing as a musical human. He can also render a tender ballad, like the hush of “A Quiet Thing,” made famous by Morgana King. This managed to fairly tame the rather boisterous chatterers at the bar, a sort of spell-casting.

Now, with his audience’s full attention, he rewarded with them shortly with his most acclaimed song, “My Hometown, Milwaukee,” which he wrote. As he explained, it celebrates his adopted hometown by avoiding clichés like cheese and beer, instead exulting in our extraordinary “museum with wings,” our somewhat unique public transit bus The Hop, and our pro sports teams: “The Bucks are the tops! And the Brewers will win the World Series…next year.” His pause, and pitch drop, were perfect comedian’s timing, deflating his own claim, and drawing laughter from a crowd that surely would relish the always-game Brewers finally winning it all.

“My Hometown” is a declamatory romp, which leads to a big-chested, strutting climax, akin to Sinatra singing “Chicago.” The song earned him a proclamation from Mayor Cavalier Johnson of “My Hometown, Milwaukee” Day, last May. It also won the 2023 WAMI award for “Most Unique Song.”

Jerry Grillo and Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson hold the Mayoral Proclamation of “My Hometown, Milwaukee” Day last May, honoring Grillo’s song, which also won a 2023 WAMI Award.

In the second set, Grillo wisely noted that jazz is essentially a “black art form,” by performing Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It’s hardly black protest or identity-assertion, but illustrates of how American black music grew by merging foot-tapping entertainment with insouciant, smart creativity.

He somewhat book-ended his program by honoring, early in the first set, his favorite singer Tony Bennett, with “I Wanna be Around” and, as the penultimate song, Bennett’s trademark “San Francisco.” Preceding that was one of the most poignant moments. Another pianist friend, Rose Fosco, had composed a tune she called “Lonely” which, he explained, was written for her late father, a delicately-crafted expression of her sense of loss. Grillo set it to lyrics, and it served also for him as an acknowledgment of mortality as did, in more affirmative terms, the program closer, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Sensitive accompaniment shadowed the singer throughout: pianist John Hefter, drummer Randy Maio and especially saxophonist Jeanne Marie Farinelli, who added a limpid flute solo to that final tune.

Saxophonist-flutist Jeanne Marie Farinelli performs with Grillo at Bar Centro.

This evening breathed in long waves of anecdote and songful ardor, it chuckled, digressed and grew increasingly palpable of a creative man’s love affair with a city. That added up to what felt like a precious gift from the vocalist to his audience. Grillo will continue his “Decades Tour” for an indefinite time. Then, perhaps he’ll saunter off into the sunset.

However his final performance chapter plays out, let us give thanks and always cherish Milwaukee’s preeminent hometown male jazz singer.


The Jazz Estate is now history, an historic loss.

An air of inevitability hovered over Milwaukee’s venerable Jazz Estate, after it ceased regular live music.– especially when owner John Dye stripped the word “jazz” from the night club’s name. “Rebranding” is the fashionable euphemism these days. There’s even a faint foul whiff in the last show — the popular “A Charlie Brown Christmas” — being performed by a band called the Commercialists. Now the doors of the reimagined high-end cocktail bar are shuttered, for good or worse, except for “special events.”
What of those once-beloved loyal neighbors, like jazz singer Jerry Grillo?
There’s some controversy about whether the jazz club’s demise was something the community failed, or the club itself.
For the record, the Commercialists include excellent players: keyboardist Anthony Deutsch, Bassist Clay Schaub and drummer Patrick Morrow.
For more on this story — as it unfolded — see my past coverage below:

The film “The Whale” washes ashore a story of quiet desperation


Brendan Fraser in “The Whale.” A24

After seeing the film The Whale, out newly on video (and various streaming services), it has lodged in my memory and psyche as powerfully as any recent film, including the much bigger and more commanding theater films like Oppenheimer and Killers of the Flower Moon, as excellent as those are.

This is the sort of small film that’s perfect for video viewing. It has to do with humanity on an intimate yet highly charged scale. And it deals with one of the least-acknowledged and discriminated-against minorities in our gradually and fitfully enlightened society.

That is, obese people, even morbidly obese, which is especially relevant in a state like Wisconsin, with its high percentage of overweight citizens. Beyond that, the central character is gay. I think you’ll understand, by the end, why Brendan Fraser won the best actor Oscar for 2022. Yes, he had to put on a lot of weight for the role, which can sometimes seem to beg to Academy Awards voters, and he’s courageously traveled 180 degrees from his early, ripped George of the Jungle image.

But it truly was the depths and the bubbling-right-on-the-surface humanity of his acting which made this performance special, courting greatness. He plays a huge man who never leaves his apartment and could likely never get down the flight of stairs to the parking lot. Fraser’s large blue eyes form welling pools of suffering; giving and yearning, deepened by the mass beneath them. As an obese Caucasian, he might suffer from a comparable discriminatory disdain by people who presume a person’s societal position is largely their fault, just as do so, most pointedly, many African-Americans.

So, Fraser, as Charlie, deals with his shame in various ways, including relying on a friend, Liz (Hong Chau, an Oscar nominee for the role), who is the sister of his deceased partner. She is an advisor, sounding board and enabler of his compulsive eating. You get a sense in this role of the complexity of her character, and in fact all four of the main characters in the story are richly layered.

Hong Chau as Liz in “The Whale”

Charlie teaches English online and blacks out his own video-chat window during lessons so his students can never see him. He’s significantly estranged from his teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) because he left his marriage for a lover, upon admitting his gayness, when she was eight years old. For all his fights against gravity, reaching her might be his most uphill and wrenching battle. The daughter shows up and is intensely passive-aggressive in challenging and probing her father.

Sadie Sink as Ellie in “The Whale.”

Like all-too-many-suffering minorities, Charlie struggles with low self-esteem, perhaps even strains of self-hatred. What is extraordinary about him is his capacity to see the value in others, even at the most elemental level. This makes him a wonderful teacher who is striving for the greatest possible honesty in his students, even valuing it more than conventional proprieties of English writing or exposition.

I didn’t expect Melville’s Moby-Dick to be a key motif in the story, given that I am a Melvillian of sorts. But it turns out that an essay that daughter Ellie wrote about Moby-Dick, when she was in eighth grade, is something Charlie hangs onto, for her sake as much as his own. As much as I’ve read and studied the great novel, I gained a fresh interpretive insight from Ellie’s intuition into the story, which actually befits the biography of Melville. And Charlie values the essay personally as a kind of symbolic reflection upon him, something he anguishes over and yet draws a somber sustenance from. That is partly because his daughter wrote it, and accordingly he seems to sense that each of his remote English students is a child of his. And just maybe those words will be a lifeline for Charlie from drowning in his own abyss of pathos.

A fourth key character is a quiet wildcard, Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a young man who visits Charlie and appears to be a door-to-door missionary who might (or might not) help the profoundly isolated man toward a spiritual path of redemption and self-worth. The superb Samantha Morton also plays Charlie’s ex-wife, in an intense yet briefer role.

I, for one, disagree with some critics who glibly dismiss the film as “a landmark exercise in trolling” or “misery porn” — and notice the use of the fashionable slang terms to posture the critics’ “hipness.” It now seems increasingly that every perceived experience now has a “porn” underbelly to it, often as a droll punchline. We need to accept now that film is an inherently voyeuristic art form.

Another critic “hates” the film which, she notes, received a six-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. Her big knockout zinger seems to be declaring unpersuasively that Charlie “peddles in toxic positivity,” a contrarian’s absurdly tortured phrase and notion. Rather, his “positivity” seems perhaps over the top, at times, but it is desperate, not unlike Ahab’s poor, nearly-drowned black cabin boy Pip, who at his direst moment, sees “God’s foot on the treadle of the loom.”

One promotional poster for “The Whale.” IMP Awards

At times, the film’s source as a play, by screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter, shows up in small, melodramatic staginess. But no, you won’t find a strong element of modernist irony in The Whale, yet I’m thankful for that. Let’s not forget Moby-Dick’s subtitle, or, The Whale. It shouldn’t be too hard to discern the elusive, great white whale as the richer signifier of this film’s title than an obvious pejorative insult. In fact, this is a courageous film in this era of both unfettered, cruel bigotry and sometimes-stifling political correctness, America’s sad polarities. Another title variation might’ve been Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but to revive that would be simply saccharine.

Brendan Fraser in a critical moment in “The Whale.”

As a title and a symbol, The Whale rides the waves of a difficult life much better, from its unfathomable depths to its improbable breach at the end, which perhaps breaches “suspension of disbelief” reality, but so be it. This is where the story was striving towards, rather than a “happy” temporal ending.


As a video bonus, all the lead actors, Hunter and director Darren Aronofsky, provide more-insightful-than-normal reflections, in a “making of” side feature.



Amy Arndt’s comic perspective on life reaches far beyond her “One Hairy Knee”

Editor’s note: Apologies to author Amy Arndt (Over two weeks ago, I informed her this review was written) and to blog readers for Culture Currents’ extended absence. The problem was with the limbo my Facebook page was in, which I won’t get into here. The FB page allows announcement links to a new blog post to interested individuals and FB groups. So I didn’t want this book review short-changed. The lack of traffic on my previous review of The Dave Bayles Trio’s live album reflects that platform problem (so apologies to Dave and bandmates, too).

Book Review: One Hairy Knee by Amy Arndt. Pigeon Girl Press 

As men rarely fret over their hirsute knees, it might seem beyond the razor’s edge for a man to review a book by a woman titled One Hairy Knee. The cover is pink and the image is a cartoon depiction of the author brandishing a razor over her knee while assumingly regarding a “male gaze.”

This might seem a topic reject from the Oprah show. But not so fast. Could not the title image be some primal symbol for life, or at least the workings of it? Something like, “It may, alas, be hairy (am I not human?), but look how splendidly the knee helps me get along. Admiring men even long to pet it like a fuzzy kitten, if they dare!”

Or is it a sort of absurdist, would-be MacGuffin (or plot pivot device, as Alfred Hitchcock used to say)? I place this book in the “common” (and unpretentious) segment of my blog coverage realm of “our common and uncommon culture,” even as author and blogger Amy Arndt displays uncommon talent for comic memoir.

Hairy has a high quotient of LOLs, snickers, snoot-toots, and knee-slappers (sorry), and enough points to reflect upon.

Indeed, since being published in 2019, the book has racked up 4.5 out of 5 stars from goodreads, though with a slight sample size, and its cover blurbs are meaty.

The book reflects the contemporary feminist-oriented woman’s life in Texas, a state which long ago seceded from the notion of feminism. Such politics is addressed with feints and jabs, and the author does enjoy a certain liberal cover by residing in the Alamo-ish lefty bastion of Austin. 1

Amy Arndt. Courtesy amyunderwoodarndt.contentedly.com

Full disclosure: Arndt is the spouse of my cousin Tim Arndt.

Given that, I am striving to grapple with the book as evenly and substantially as I can. In fact, what came to mind when I read it was a possible inspiration from fellow East Texan comic memoirist Mary Karr, widely acclaimed and best-known for The Liars Club. The comparison might seem unfair, given that Karr takes us on a treacherous heart-of-darkness trek from her very troubled childhood and thus readily traffics in shadowy psychological realms that Arndt might stretch too hard to match. Karr’s often-brilliant comedy, is much more darkly textured through a deeper biographical story, given also her book’s more substantial length.

By comparison, Arndt’s childhood seems almost charmed. Even though her parents divorced when she was eight, “it wasn’t particularly traumatic.” In adulthood, Arndt’s touching imaginary-film family transformation rises from the ashes of her father’s divorce and his rather magical meeting with Pam, the Mother Mary-type figure who will become dad’s new love and “make his heart whole again,” and bless the kids with her benign step-motherhood.

The depths of Arndt’s personal abyss seem to be The Incident of the Head Lice and, much earlier, failing to be a young teen boy magnet. She was (sigh) “one of those poor ostriches” at school dances.

But this big bird gets by without ever flying, becoming a master observer-ostrich of the here-and-now. So, Arndt wields a much lighter touch than Karr in general, though slyly: Before long she’s wading her way through a number of weighty issues, including a somewhat climactic mid-book saga of her C-section birth delivery, marriage and family, matters of aging commingling with sexuality (illicit and marital), religion, mental health, obesity, “diddling,” and, yep, Texas politics, among other things. Yet she’s a deft, if sometimes broad-sweeping, lance-wielder in pricking the emotional angst and dizzying highs and lows accompanying such situations.

For example, she must envision the horror of, at giving birth, being informed that ” ‘your vagina is gonna get THIS BIG!’ She held her arms up to the size of a manhole.”

She had envisioned lit candles, and “a string quartet gently playing Vivaldi to her contractions,” while she gave birth, to Emily Rose. Later, she suffers guilt (as a Catholic convert) after healing up from her surgical birth, of not enduring the mother-as-Christ agony of actual labor.

However, she’s free enough of Catholicism’s gothic grip to handle the topic of religion with panache. She sets her discourse in the context of her conversion to her husband’s religion in the chapter “Jesus was a Hipster,” which may shock thousands of Kool-Aid guzzling Evangelical Christians.

Then she giddy-ups her high liberal horse by taking on one of America’s worst vices: greed. Again, her light, if sometimes stinging, touch butterflies through the mentality of “piggy piggyness,”” which extends from simple gluttony to political corruption.

I’m prompted to an extended quote, of propulsive drama:

“But this is not about true hunger, it’s about the competition that’s born from greed. You could own three bottom drawers full of ugly printed T-shirts that are being used as car towels but go to a sports event where they start shooting T-shirts out of a T-shirt gun, and you will run over an elderly man with an oxygen tank to claim a free shirt you’ll never wear because it’s too small. And you want to know why that shirt is too small? Because you’re the same guy who shoves his way in front of others to eat the free guacamole and stale chip samples at the grocery store. It’s about winning.”

Touche to primal capitalist instincts and rationalizations! Ongoingly, we get mostly Amy’s first-person experience though we finally learn more about my cousin Tim, who is apparently a hoarder, yes, but the most “exalted” sort, if such adjective could ever apply. He collects stuff in their garage and back yard (not in the house!) that can be tinkered with, repurposed and given to others.

In fact, he’s hoisted on the rhetorical pedestal of “saint,” and repeatedly thus burnished on high. Yikes. Time for me to measure myself up? It’s a tad of a challenge for male readers with a conscience. Good soul exercising, for sure.

Arndt’s life shows how you can roll with life’s many punches and keep pressing ahead, with your swollen eye on your biggest dream:

“I’m a firm believer that if you dream hard enough and work just as hard, it will happen.”

Finally, there is a painfully poignant post-script that Amy never got to write in this book — at the time, a blessing. After her book was published, our dear Tim contracted prostate cancer which has metastasized into his bones. He battles the cancer gamely to this day, with powerful optimism, and his mate’s undying love and support.


1.Texas forces for reproductive rights are fighting back against the state’s draconian, medieval abortion laws, where a physician can get life in prison for providing an abortion, and the state now funds vigilante informers, among other radical measures. NPR reports:

“On Tuesday (Nov. 28), the Texas Supreme Court considered this question: Are the state’s abortion laws harming women when they face pregnancy complications?

The case, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, has grown to include 22 plaintiffs, including 20 patients and two physicians. They are suing Texas, arguing that the medical exceptions in the state’s abortion bans are too narrow to protect patients with complicated pregnancies.”

Here’s the link: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2023/11/28/1215463289/texas-abortion-lawsuit-texas-supreme-court#:~:text=The%20case%2C%20brought%20by%20the,protect%20patients%20with%20complicated%20pregnancies.

To order One Hairy Knee, visit this website: Books by Amy U. Arndt – Bookshop.org

Also, to help deal with Tim Arndt’s terminal condition, the Arndts have registered with this support-raising site, for those interested in helping out (As a free-lance writer, Amy doesn’t have much income, a situation I can attest to): https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/amyandtimarndt 

Site name: amyandtimarndt


Dave Bayles Trio reveals fruits of a long residency at the Uptowner Bar on new album

I am re-posting this review because at the time posted it received very minimal traffic for problematic reasons. So the album is still available

The Dave Bayles Trio will have a CD release party at The Uptowner Bar, 1032 E. Center St, from 7-11 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9.

This album is the fortuitous result of superb veteran musicians working together as a trio almost weekly for two years at the Uptowner Bar in Riverwest. You hear a superb sense of musical dialogue among the three players, though naturally the star is trumpeter Russ Johnson, along with bassist Clay Schaub and drummer-bandleader Dave Bayles. The recording underscores my feelings that Johnson is arguably the most resourceful and supple horn virtuoso in Wisconsin (He also leads a quartet on an excellent new recording, Reveal, on the same label).

There’s no loss in the comparative spareness of instrumentation. Schaub’s opener, “Fitzroy,” quickly engages with a lyrical, playful melody, an almost samba-like groove with Bayles riding the tricky tempo perfectly. Johnson’s trumpet sings and floats, frolicking like a bird in a warm, spiraling breeze. After a melodic bass solo, Bayles delivers a dancing Billy Higgins-like solo. “Third Birthday (this many)” is an affable Ornette Coleman-ish melody. Johnson is a joy to follow through the trickier changes over Bayles’s marvelously sensitive accompaniment.

The Dave Bayles Trio (L-R) — Clay Schaub, bass, Dave Bayles, drums; Russ Johnson, trumpet — perform at the Uptowner Bar. Photo by Kevin Lynch

“Sundogs” sounds like a slow waltz, another well-crafted melody with a deliberate walking bass vamp and more lyrical utterances from Johnson. By contrast, “The Illusionist’s Sister” is up-tempo with Johnson delivering swift but lucid ideas and a bravura closing restatement of the theme. Thelonious Monk’s “Shuffle Boil” is a quirky, staccato theme that fits this band’s aesthetics like a glove. And “Comanche” reveals Schaub’s imaginative composing. A languid, forlorn mood seems to evoke a Native American brave, alone out on a scouting mission, but half lost in his thoughts. Finally, “Waking Hour” captures the sunrise of consciousness from slumber, the pre-caffeine aura, the finally getting-to-it.


Stream or download Live at the Uptowner on Amazon here.

This review was originally published in The Shepherd Express, here: Live at the Uptowner by Dave Bayles Trio – Shepherd Express

Picasso’s “Guernica” speaks to our times with mortal cries


Pable Picasso, “Guernica,” 1937, 3.5 meters (11 feet tall), by 7.5 meters (25.6 feet wide)


There is a signpost up ahead…

No, it’s much bigger than a signpost. It’s Picasso and his “Guernica,” a cry to the heavens for the horror of inhumanity on earth. Back after the world war that his great mural painting signified, they had said “never again!”

Again, decades later, we face bloody war crimes, in Ukraine and perhaps in both Israel and Palestine. These troubled times call for cultural signifiers to spur enlightenment and activism that inflame power and passion towards righteousness. I recently posted a blog about the Door County Candle Company, which has manufactured countless candles with the Ukrainian colors, with all proceeds going toward humane support for Ukraine, administered by Razom for Ukraine, a Ukrainian 501 (c)(3) organization. It’s a way to concretely help the people survive, and to hold a flame of support. To date, the candles have raised over $1 million.

But this blog is about raising consciousness, in my humble way, whenever possible.

History is perpetually our guide; thus, we might best look back to the extraordinary imagery of Picasso’s mural painting “Guernica.” It remains a visual epic about the first time that civilians were ever mass-murdered by air warfare in 1937.

And oh, how our current times echo death cries across ravaged homes and cites, down the desolate hallways of history. For that, Russia’s Vladimir Putin stands facing the wind, and judgement’s coldest eye.

No work of modern art, and perhaps none in history, has conveyed such powerful war experience as has “Guernica,” though Goya’s war paintings come to mind. The current war prompted me to delve back into Picasso’s War: The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World by Russell Martin.  1 Aside from powerful descriptions of the making of “Guernica,” Martin’s book brilliantly encompasses the cold-blooded shamelessness of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, and the Nazi commanders who led the Luftwaffe air forces, and watched, from a safe distance, the destruction of the ancient Basque town.

The book delves into horrifying details of the ruthlessness of Nazi airplane pilots. As one survivor recalls “from the ground I saw a woman I knew, a neighbor, stand up and shout into the sky, ‘You bastards, there are innocent people down here!’ A plane dove toward her, and I could see the pilot, his face. And I’ll never forget his horrible goggles. Tat-tat-tat-tat! He killed her with his machine gun. I made it to the woods, where we waited three and a half hours.”

Later, “when I was brave enough to walk home…Our farm was destroyed. They had bombed our farm, our farm, and we were left with nothing.”

Lord knows, comparable stories have played out recently in Ukraine many times over.

As for the proper role of art, Picasso explored a vast array of visions, techniques and styles over his long, protean career. But when times called for it, he declared:

“What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes, if he is a painter?…

No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.”

Even more famously, he recounted to Newsweek magazine the day when a German army officer had recognized a sketch of “Guernica” pinned to the wall of his studio. The officer had asked him, “Did you do that?”

Picasso coldly had replied, “No, you did.”


1 Russell Martin, Picasso’s War: The Destruction of Guernica, and the Masterpiece that Changed the World, Dutton, 2002, 44

Richard Davis (1930-2023) laid the bass for countless great recordings and live performances over a long, storied career

Richard Davis presiding over a bass camp for young musicians.
As a bassist, Richard Davis was the essence of eloquence. Whether playing pizzicato or arco, few could match his way of choosing just the right notes, of leaving just enough space for a soloist to breathe in, or of pushing the edge of careening freedom with a dramatic sense of momentum, song, and swing.

Richard DAVIS (bass, electric bass) – USA.
Paris IV. Centre Georges Pompidou.

And so, the wide world of jazz, and of classical music, lost a great voice in his passing on September 6, at age 93.
He was an extraordinarily gracious man, yet he had a prodigious strength of backbone and character, which only grew more impressive in advancing years.
His vast experience and wisdom could play a leading role in advancing racial relations.
This doubtlessly drew from the great respect he possessed from musicians of all races.
Yet he knew how difficult and ongoing the struggle for racial equality and justice would be. Perhaps he was a type of shaman in the modern world, as what he was striving for was what he called “racial healing.” which he dedicated his later years to. He formed a Madison branch of the Institute for Racial Healing, a national grassroots organization that deals with race problems through workshops, group support and activism.

At a 2015 panel discussion, he said America needs to focus less on making reparations for racial injustices of the past and focus on atoning for the injustices of the present, in particular the criminal justice system, Rob Thomas reported for The Capital Times.

“Why not start with the new slaves — the prisoners?” Davis asked. “We are guilty of having the most of them. We are the most racist state in the country” in terms of percentage of African-American men who are incarcerated. “Don’t you want to cringe a little bit — that we are the most racist state in the country? On Wisconsin!”

He was an extremely popular professor known for richly anecdotal lectures on music and his experiences working with great jazz musicians, including Sarah Vaughan, Eric Dolphy, Miles Davis, John Lewis, and Andrew Hill, and classical legends like Leonard Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky.
I heard and cherished his playing on numerous jazz albums, but I must admit he really first caught my attention with his melodious improvising on Van Morrison’s extraordinarily daring and poetic album Astral Weeks, in 1968. That session, which Davis confirmed, provided no charts or musical direction from Morrison, forced the musicians to completely wing it. The session helped earn Davis position number 34 in Rolling Stone’s poll “50 Greatest Bassists of All Time” which, as you’d imagine, is dominated by rock bassists, many of whom can draw no comparison to an artist like Davis. It was about him “conjuring impossibly poignant phrases to complement Morrison’s poetry on tracks like ‘Beside You.’ ” “For me, it was Richard all the way,” Astral Weeks producer Lewis Merenstein said, reflecting on the record 40 years later. “Richard was the soul of the album.”
Bass virtuoso Richard Davis at mid-career. Rolling Stone
You can search out his vast library of recordings but an easier way to hear him is a set of special memorial broadcasts honoring the life of Richard Davis, from WKCR-FM radio. The broadcast will preempt all regularly-scheduled Out to Lunch shows. That’s 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Central time. The closing two episodes are Thursday October 26th and Friday the 27th. WCKR is the Columbia University radio station in New York but it is streamable here: https://www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/wkcr/story/richard-davis-memorial-broadcast-0#
Here’s a brief biography on Davis, courtesy of WKCR:
Davis played a pivotal role as a bassist on iconic Blue Note records with artists like Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, and Eric Dolphy. WKCR honors Davis by preempting all Out to Lunch slots this week, for his collaboration with Eric Dolphy that led to his groundbreaking 1964 album Out to Lunch!
Born in Chicago, Davis hailed from a family with musical roots. His early education in double bass took place during high school, guided by the music educator Walter Dyett. Under Dyett’s mentorship, Davis honed his abilities, traversing the realms of classical compositions and the burgeoning world of jazz improvisation that was taking shape in the late 1940s.
After completing his studies at Chicago’s VanderCook College, Davis set his sights on New York City. In 1954, in his early twenties, he made the pivotal move to the Big Apple, marking the next significant chapter in his musical journey.
During his time in New York, Davis established himself as a highly sought-after double bassist, showcasing his versatility and adaptability as he collaborated with a wide range of musicians and played at renowned jazz clubs across the city. His ability to seamlessly blend his classical training with the evolving improvisational styles of jazz earned him a reputation as a unique and versatile talent in the music world. As the 1950s transitioned into the 1960s, Davis’s contributions to the jazz community continued to evolve, setting the stage for a remarkable career that has left an indelible mark on the world of music.
Here’s a review I wrote for The Capital Times of a masterful later-period Richard Davis album, The Bassist: Homage to Diversity, from 2001.
I also had the honor and pleasure to visit Davis for an interview for The Milwaukee Journal‘s Sunday Wisconsin magazine in 1984. It is memorable, aside from the brilliance Davis brought to the interview, by the uncanny nature of the very day I visited him in his horse farm outside of Barneveld, Wisconsin.
After the interview, I drove through the small town of Barneveld and headed back east. Soon I was engulfed in a very powerful rainstorm and, before long, my tin-can of a car, a Ford Fiesta, broke down on the highway. By then, the storm had become quite violent, and I was lucky to get my car to a garage for repair.
I made it home and it wasn’t until the next morning when I arrived at The Journal newsroom that I saw the headline. A tremendous tornado had devastated the town of Barneveld the night before.
I was able to calculate that I missed the tornado by no more than 20 to 30 minutes. My article incorporates the experience of the tornado, so I will proceed no further. I hope you enjoy this very special moment in time for myself and Richard Davis.

Copper Falls State Park: power and beauty forge nature’s epic poetry

We witnessed The Master Sculptor’s supreme handiwork last week. One of her     masterpieces, Copper Falls State Park, has taken sublime form over centuries, through the heave-ho of groaning glacial motion and the incessant rush of sun-drenched waters, a dance of the elements fed by The Great Lakes. Within the sumptuous folds and rough-hewn caverns lie depths of timeless mystery.

Honestly speaking, Copper Falls is the most fascinating and glorious state park I have ever visited, in Wisconsin or elsewhere. There’s something about the power and unbridled majesty of river waters flying down waterfalls and cascading over rapids that reaches deep into my soul and fills it with wonder. And the forms they abide by give gritty artfulness new splendor.

Copper Falls in The Bad River. Photos by Ann Peterson and Kevin Lynch


A mountain of hot flapjacks and scrambled eggs provided the fuel required to embark on a quest for the hallowed ground of Copper Falls State Park.

One of the longest staircases we’ve ever encountered eventually led us to the base of the observation tower at Copper Fall. I got a sense that it’s one of the highest vantage points in Wisconsin. 

The staircase climb up to the tower got our hearts beating, and we paused only a moment, before climbing the tower. Elevation at the base of the tower is 1,198 feet. 

Here’s a shot of The Cascades, part of the sprawling splendor of Copper Falls, glistening and roaring.

Faithful gal pal Ann Peterson and your blogger took it all in gladly.

This is a northernly extension of the Bad River which runs from Lake Superior. The river actually flows into the Tyler Forks River from opposing directions. The two rivers merge into a lake outlet, not shown here. 

Here Bad River merges with Tyler Forks River and they empty to the right into an outlet.


These four shots of Brownstone Falls, the tallest of the state park’s waterfalls, convey the tremendous power the falls generate. Can you imagine a more water-logged tree than the poor trunk stuck in right in the deluge? (third photo)

Copper Falls State Park is located in northern Wisconsin near the town of Mellen, a short drive south from Ashland. The highlight of the park is a dramatic, two mile-long river gorge where the Tyler Forks River joins the Bad River in a deep and narrow, rocky gorge and plunges over several dramatic waterfalls. The main waterfalls are Copper Falls (29 feet) and Brownstone Falls (30 feet) along with a beautiful rapid called the Cascades.

Other scenic highlights include a large, conglomerate rock formation on the Bad River appropriately named “Devils Gate” and an observation tower with excellent views of the surrounding forest-covered hills and Lake Superior to the north.

Much of the development you see in the park today; wooden footbridges, log fences, and log buildings, were originally constructed in the early 1920’s by returning veterans from World War I. More work was done in the late 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today, the original log buildings, bridges, and fencing add a great deal of rustic charm and character to the park.

From: https://wisconsintrailguide.com/hiking/copper-falls.html


We didn’t see many animals as it was a high sunny mid-day when we visited, and the water drama captivated our interest. However, at lunch time at a picnic table, a little red squirrel came right up to say “hi,” as did a big, nosy blue-jay.

However, before we arrived, we saw an amusing sight along the highway: a naughty blackbird chasing a big bald eagle around. Ann says that blackbirds are known to have enough chutzpah to bully bigger creatures.


Animals most commonly seen in the park area include deer, fishers, black bears, raccoons, chipmunks, skunks and red squirrels. Gray squirrels, gray wolves and porcupines also live in the park and may be seen. Fishers have reduced the number of porcupines. Elk were recently reintroduced west of the park.



Birdlife is abundant, with perhaps as many as 200 species living in or passing through the park in a given year. You will often hear the coarse caw of the big northern raven, you may often see a great pileated woodpecker and you will sometimes be scolded by sassy chickadees. There are ruffed grouse, eagles, turkey vultures and loons in the park.


There are five species of snakes, none of them poisonous, wood turtles, many wood frogs and a few other amphibians. Pretty banded purple and tiger swallowtail butterflies are common in June and July.

From: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/copperfalls/nature


I thought it would be apt to close this post with a wise and witty extended quote from Aldo Leopold, the great pioneering Wisconsin conservationist, from his classic book A Sand County Almanac:   

Not intentionally, of course, but one can, to a degree, guess from weather reports when the snow up north will melt, and one can estimate how many days it takes for the flood to run the gauntlet of up-river cities. Thus, comes Sunday evening, one must go back to town and work, but one can’t. How sweetly the spreading waters murmur condolence for the wreckage they have inflicted on Monday morning dates! How deep and chesty the honkings of the geese as they cruise over cornfield after cornfield, each in process of becoming a lake. Every hundred yards some new goose flails the air as he struggles to lead the echelon in its morning survey of this new and watery world.

The enthusiasm of geese for high water is a subtle thing, and might be overlooked by those unfamiliar with goose-gossip, but the enthusiasm of carp is obvious and unmistakable. No sooner has the rising flood wedded the grassroots than here they come, rooting and a wallowing with the prodigious zest of pigs turned out to pasture, flashing red tails and yellow bellies, cruising the wagon tracks and cow paths, and shaking the reeds and bushes in their haste to explore what to them is an expanding universe.”