Archive for the ‘Weird’ Category

Hong Kong Willie: of lobster buoys, worms, and burlap bags

the holiday tree of buoys

Pretend you’re on vacation in Florida, driving along a road that looks like any other. As you go around a bend in the road you see a helicopter, sitting in the side yard of a house that is covered with hundreds of colored lobster buoys. What would you do? Well, if you’re me, you turn around and find out what it’s all about. And that is how I discovered Hong Kong Willie. Parking nearby, we debated what to do (and by we, I mean my girlfriend). She comes from the Appalachian south, where you don’t just walk up to a strange house and say “Hi!” unless you want a shotgun stuck in your face. I don’t come from the south and, I prefer to trust my inner voice. The inner voice said, “If this person didn’t want visitors, they wouldn’t have decorated their house like this.” So I brazenly walked up to a house covered with lobster buoys, a 9-1-1 made from driftwood, a turtle shell bird fountain and a random chicken wandering around freely in the yard.

A sign on the door stated visiting hours, but the door was locked, so we carefully looked around, keeping in mind that while we were invited by the decor we hadn’t been, ya know, *invited*. After just a few minutes though, a gentleman emerged and introduced himself as Joe Brown. He explained that this was where local Tampa artist “Hong Kong Willie” displayed all his artwork. It wasn’t until much later into the conversation that I realized that Joe Brown and HKW were in fact one and the same and that he was speaking of himself in third person. Or more accurately there is no HKW, he ia representation of an idea, of reuse of recycling and conservation. Joe enjoyed talking about his art and seemed not at all surprised by our unexpected visit. People apparently stop by frequently for the same reason we did, out of nothing more than curiosity. “There has never been, in all the years of being here, some massive sign saying who we are and what we do,” Brown said. “Because when people finally decide out of inquisitiveness to slow down and stop, they’ve finally slowed down enough to hear the most important message of their life.”

Soon Joe was telling us about how he became a re-use artist. How does one become a re-use artist? For that matter, what is a re-use artist? Simply put, a re-use artist is one who repurposes items into art, often items that are found or scavenged. For example, you could take a glass Gerber baby food jar and melt it down, then with some additional materials you could make a beautiful paper weight. Something that would have been discarded after serving its original purpose, now has a new purpose and a new life. The idea is hardly original, but while many artists do this type of thing, not many can claim such an interesting history as Joe Brown.

Joe and his family lived on the Gunn Highway Landfill from 1958 to 1963. Nearly half of Tampa’s waste was brought in by the truckload every day until the landfill closed in 1962. “It was astounding how quick they could fill the 15 acres of enormous pits,” Brown said. As a child, he often would scavenge materials from the landfill and sell them for pocket money. One day, his mother took him to an art class taught by a native of Hong Kong where re-use of discarded materials was common. “It really made an impression on me,” he said. “It became very easy to think outside the box and know where I could find things from resources that were just abounding. I just feel so fortunate to be able to sit here and see assets that could be sitting in a big trench and there would be no energy coming from it,” he said. “And now a lot of it is finding homes in peoples’ houses and businesses and getting people to think about re-use.”

Brown started out life in the business world, not surprisingly, in the waste management field. Brown also told us that he worked for IBM and was involved with the development of bar code technology before finally deciding to leave the corporate world for something more personally satisfying: creating art and living an ecologically sustainable lifestyle.

In the Florida Keys there is an abudance of styrofoam buoys used by local fisherman. Styrofoam doesn’t biodegrade very well, but it does have a limited shelf life for its original purpose of being a buoy. Brown collected a large number of discarded buoys and eventually created the buoy tree which sits in his front yard. From a distance the individual buoys blend into one enormous shape which I originally took for a giant ice cream cone. Up close one can see lots and lots of individually painted buoys. “It is Styrofoam; we understand that it does not degrade, but to blame the fishermen for their livelihood wouldn’t be correct. Instead we find a usage for those,” Brown said. He hopes the novelty of the buoy tree will inspire and stimulate children to find new ways to reduce, re-use and recycle garbage.

Brown said art is viewed and appreciated differently by different people. “If it all came out the same, it would be like bland grits all the time,” Brown said. “I also try to stay away from imprinting a definite use for a definite item.” He explains, for example, that 2-liter bottles are not limited only to making bird feeders. The bottles can be used for many other art and craft projects. Not all the items he collects turn into art. Some are simply repurposed, like burlap bags from coffee and peanut producers which he sells to the U.S. National Forestry Service for the collection of pine seeds and to Sam Adams Brewing for hops production.

Brown said the larger message he wants to communicate is that the disposal of garbage today is creating a toxic environment.

Besides selling his art to private individuals, Hong Kong Willie has provided pieces to local business and helped with much of the decor at Gaspar’s Patio Bar and Grille in Temple Terrace. According to one article I found while researching the artist, Gaspar’s owner Jimmy Ciaccio said the artist’s inventory reflected his vision when he remodeled the restaurant. “Joe’s work inspires me,” Ciaccio said. “I always see something different every time I look at how he decorated the place.” In addition Brown has a side business selling compost, soil and worms. Brown and his family compost waste materials to feed their Florida red worms. He sells these worms by the pound to gardeners and by the cup to local fisherman. One local said they are great for catching blue gills, sand perch and other local favorites. He also added that he likes getting his worms from Brown “because his bait stays alive longer than any other baits I’ve used.”

If you want to visit Hong Kong Willie, the studio is located on Morris bridge Rd, Tampa right near the entrance to I-75, or just visit his blog HKW also sells Florida red worms thru a separate blog

Blogspot interview with Joe Brown

Youtube interview

another YT interview

Fox news interview

WEDU news story

Green website article about HKW

another article about HKW

dozens of dead deer dumped alongside 287 exit

Piles of dead deer line exit ramp off 287 near Montville. At least four piles of deer carcasses (totally 24+ dead bodies) have been found recently. They believe they were dumped there over a period of more then 6 months.

Noose at 287 overpass?

Got the following email from a fan:

Hi! My name is Judy and I’m searching for answers on this one. Maybe you would like to venture here to take a look at this yourself. Ok, here goes…..On Hamburg Turnpike in Bloomingdale/Riverdale border, there is an abandoned club named “Slaters Mill.” In the field area you can see a lot of graffitti on the cement pillars of the Route 287 North ramp. This is all on the same side of Hamburg Turnpike as Slaters Mill. My daughter and her friends like to walk around back there as it is a nice woodsy sorta place with a stream and all. There are railroad tracks that run through there. She noticed a NOOSE hanging from underneath the railroad tracks. She also noticed a pair of men’s camouflage-colored boots. She took pictures of the noose and got orbs in the photos.

I asked the Riverdale and Bloomingdale Police depts. about this and they know nothing of it and suggested I contact the State Police to see if they know of anyone who may have hung themselves there. VERY intriquing right?

A garbage Museum? in Conn?

I am so there

Another Montauk Monster has watched up on the beaches of long Island

Article

Ripley’s Believe it or not Museum

Ripley’s Believe or Not in Atlantic City is one of many located around the world. The building, whose front facade appears to have fallen from the structural supports, is located on the boardwalk next to New York Ave. The building, with its falling front, immediately reminded me of Wonderworks in Orlando, FL. The RBION self guided tour costs 8.95 and can take from 30 to 90 minutes depending on how much you want to linger over the various exhibits.

Robert Ripley was born in 1893 in California, and after his hopes of playing major league baseball were dashed, he became a cartoonist for the SF Chronicle. He drew a cartoon about unusual sports feats, such as the man who walked the fastest backwards, and the man who jumped rope the longest. The title was Champs & Chumps but the editor changed it to Believe It Or Not, and thus an industry was born.

Ripley was obsessed with travel and foreign culture and traveled in the 1920’s thru all seven continents, earning the nickname “the modern Marco Polo”. He ran a syndicated column with cartoons describing the things he saw and encountered. He made 100K a year and the column ran in 300 newspapers worldwide in 17 languages with an estimated readership of 80 million.

In the 1930’s and 40’s Ripley’s tales were told on the radio. the show ran for 14 years until 1948 when he moved to television. The show was a smash hit but the grind of a weekly TV show wore heavily on him and in episode 13 he had a heart attack on air, and died 3 days later. The first museum, called an odditorum was actually an exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. The fair featured replicas of strange people and things, bizarre art, shrunken heads from the Amazon, as well as live performers, such as a man who could place an entire baseball in his mouth. Ripley collected shrunken heads, more then 8,000 of them over his lifetime, and many were put on display.

The RBION Museums would eventually include exhibits of science, representations of strange rituals, illusions, videos, pieces from his exotic collection, as well as brain teasers. Every museum is unique, there is no duplication of items in any two RBION museums, but some items will seem familiar regardless. This particular museum is home to the world’s largest tire, a life sized statue of Robert Wadlow the world’s tallest man at 8 foot 11 and 490 lbs, and lots of examples of unusual art, such as a roulette wheel composed of jelly beans, a recreation of a famous bridge composed from toothpicks, as well as a piece of the Berlin Wall. All in all this was familiar territory for anyone who has visited other RBION museums or has watched the show. The tour is a good value for several reasons. 1: the tour is not overpriced, 2: the material is interesting. 3: every RBION museum has unique items.

In addition there are some things here relative to NJ. First is the Jersey Devil, the legendary 13th child of Mrs. Leeds who ran up the chimney and has stalked the people and animals of the Pine Barrens for the last 200 years. Constructed by Tom Jackson out of various animal bones, this represents what the jersey devil might look like. I always thought it would be much taller… Ripley’s also runs an annual weird face contest every November. Now when I say weird I don’t mean ugly or homely, I mean people who twist and contort their faces, or do something weird like bug their eyes really far out. Typically the event is judged by local celebrities & past winners. Registration is not needed, simply show up at the event, held the third Wednesday of each November. They typically get 20 contestants, competing for a top prize of $300, a picture on their wall of fame, as well as tickets to a local show. For details call 609 347-7021

penissheath

arrowbottle

devilsign

myhand

stretchycheeks

robertwadlow

frontripley

yes I am immature

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