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“Body Worlds” confusion

My 5-year-old son says he wants to see the “Body Worlds” exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Someone told him about it at school, I tried to explain it to him a little bit more, and he generally seems interested. I think I will take him to the show at some point, but when we went to the museum earlier this week, I told him we weren’t going to see “Body Worlds” on this particular visit. He said OK, and I thought that was the end of it.

However, whenever he saw a mannequin in one of the exhibits, he said, “Oh my gosh! Mom, is that a DEAD BODY?” Basically, he didn’t understand the concept of the “Body Worlds” show at all, and instead thought the entire museum was adorned with corpses -- including the little old lady, rocking on the porch in the Streets of Old Milwaukee. “Look at that dead grandma,” he said.

Sheesh.

Me 'n' my Caddy

I have never owned a car that reflects my personality. I drive around in vehicles that were either inherited, dirt cheap or practical. Until last week, I drove a red Jeep Cherokee -- you know, the one that you see coming and going on any given road. It was a good car. It easily accommodated my two kids and dog, and because it had a V8 engine, it could easily tow our Airstream camper.

Unfortunately, however, it started on fire while my husband was driving to Green Bay for the Packers game last Sunday, so we’re stranded in vehicle hell: getting quotes from mechanics and haggling with our insurance company.

In the mean time, my mother-in-law gave us a 1991 Cadillac Eldorado “Stars and Stripes” edition. Technically, it’s on its way to the Rawhide Boys Ranch, but for now, it’s making a pit stop in Riverwest. Personally, I would prefer something much smaller and cuter, but, in the Caddy’s defense, it’s definitely the dopest ride I’ve ever owned.

Being an adaptable person who has become a master of making things work, I have embraced "The Eldo," despite the fact it’s a two door, which makes getting my young sons in and out of the car very difficult. (I actually had a bad case of “plumber’s butt” in front of my son’s preschool last week while trying to get him clipped into his booster seat.) It’s also as much of a gas guzzler as my SUV was, and every time I use the turn signal, a bell bongs over and over again to remind me that my signal is on, which makes me think this car was designed for the over-65 set.

But, beggars can’t be choosers as mama used to say, so this is how we roll these days. And it really isn’t all bad. In fact, I’m starting to have fun with it. For one thing, it has heated leather seats. I’ve never had such a toasty-while-in-transit bum.

Plus,  big ol’ Eldo inspires me to wear my bright blue coat with the white fake fur trim as my primary wrap. I figure that if I’m gonna drive around in this…

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Five signs my kids are growing up

I signed up my youngest for kindergarten a couple of weeks ago, and I realized the baby years were officially behind us. Since then, a bunch of other things have really driven home the point that, yup, my sons -- now 4 and 5 -- are in the “big boy” category.

Here are five signs that my kids are no longer babies:

1. My oldest, Kai, made the announcement that he “no longer likes trains with faces.” Real locomotive footage is apparently fine, but Thomas and Percy can hit the road.

2. I finally threw away an entire grocery bag full of teeny, tiny, stripy socks. (That was kinda sad.)

3. Kai told me the difference between boys and girls are that girls’ penises are hiding.

4. Levi realized his name is on the booty of blue jeans. (He's filled with glee every time he sees a little red tag. And when he saw an entire display at Kohl's Department Store, complete with large "Levi's" signage, he was absolutely overjoyed. There was hand clapping and everything.)

5. Levi said he wanted to eat more “healthy food.” Unfortunately, he insists on dipping all of his healthy food -- raw broccoli, carrots, apples -- in ketchup. He might be a "big boy," but his taste buds still have a way to go in the maturity category.

Tasteful presentation, humor make "Body Worlds" easier to stomach

"Body Worlds" is an international show that millions of people have seen -- and gawked at -- since it first opened in Tokyo in 1995. Since it arrived at the Milwaukee Public Museum on Jan. 18 -- and even before that -- there’s been a lot of buzz about this exhibition of preserved bodies in publications and through word of mouth.

I saw "Body Worlds" on Monday, and found it engrossing (yes, with an emphasis on "gross"), educational, freaky and beautiful. For me, it lived up to the hype.

All controversies aside, "Body Worlds" forces us to molt our innate desire to dispel mortality. Like death, you cannot gloss over this show of human bodies -- called plastinates -- especially when one of them, for example, is a skinless man with exposed organs riding a massive horse while holding his brain in one hand and his horse’s brain in the other.

At the same time, the show is designed with such gentleness and care, that it seemed less gruesome than I expected. There’s a softness to the environment, in part due to billowy white sheets cascading from the ceiling, embossed with moving quotes about life and death. The eight-months-pregnant plastinate exposes an open uterus  -- and I secretly dreaded seeing this -- but because the reproductive section of the show is curtained off, respectfully in its own space with soft music playing, it’s easier to absorb.

Humor is an important ingredient in this show, too. I read that when "Body Worlds" first opened in Japan, the bodies were presented in simple, upright positions, but a lot of people found them scary. However, when the plastinates were contorted into lifelike positions -- such as the chess player and the basketball player -- people found the show less spooky. Hence, the smoker plastinate has graphite grey lungs pocked with black tar deposits, yet he holds a cigarette, and the muscles on “Wing Man” are splayed out, yet he wears a ridiculous Panama Jack-type hat.

Despite the larger-than-lif…

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