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|Wednesday, December 4th, 2013|
|How The Grinch Evades Blame for Stealing Christmas--
Today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Taylor Palmisano, putative author of the Black Friday e-mail solicitation, has been fired from the Walker campaign, allegedly due to anti-Latino tweets issued by her in 2011. Coincidental? I have my doubts.
On the other hand, this is the second time in four months a Walker aide has been let go for racist comments:In August, Walker removed Steven Krieser as his assistant deputy secretary at the state Department of Transportation after the Journal Sentinel contacted his office about Krieser's Facebook posts likening illegal immigrants to Satan in an extended rant. (Note: The Journal-Sentinel also takes credit for bringing the Palmisano tweets to the attention of the Governor's office.)Walker has been successfully "Teflon" about these sorts of things so far. None of the criminal behavior of his County Executive office staff has been brought home to him, but shouldn't people be wondering about his judgement in hiring people to work for him, at least?This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/246945.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013|
|How The Grinch Stole Christmas: E-mail Edition
Not content with politically picking the pockets of the poor, the unwell, and the working class generally, nor satisfied with the mountains of filthy lucre shoveled into his election coffers by his corporate owners, Scott Walker now stoops to taking candy from babies, per an e-mail solicitation from "Friends of Scott Walker," which suggests that instead of buying Christmas gifts for your children, you should invest in their future by donating toward the Governor's re-election war chest. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/03/wisconsin-governor-scott-walker-encourages-parents-to-donate-to-his-campaign-instead-of-buying-children-christmas-presents/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=cheatsheet_morning&cid=newsletter%3Bemail%3Bcheatsheet_morning&utm_term=Cheat%20Sheet
Instead of venturing into the cold this Black Friday, stay in and give your children a gift that keeps on giving.
This year, we are celebrating the Holiday Season with a Black Friday special that is better than any deal found in stores. Donate $5, $10 or $25 to help Governor Walker get reelected and save your children from a future of double-digit tax increases and billion dollar budget deficits.
Instead of electronics or toys that will undoubtedly be outdated, broken or lost by the next Holiday Season, help give your children the gift of a Wisconsin that we can all be proud of. Governor Walker is helping Wisconsin move forward to a future where your children and grandchildren can experience:
-Freedom From Government Dependence
The Governor wants his sons to grow up in a Wisconsin as great as the one he grew up in. When asked why he never stopped fighting for Wisconsin during the Recall, Governor Walker says he has two reasons, his sons Matt and Alex.
With your help, Governor Walker is enacting reforms that are securing a strong state for the future of Wisconsin's children. This Black Friday, donate $5, $10 or $25 to help Governor Walker win reelection so he can continue to help Wisconsin move forward.
A strong Wisconsin is the best gift you can give.
Friends of Scott Walker"
There are so many things wrong with this that enumerating them would be longer than the message, which after all, speaks pretty clearly for itself. I pity Matt and Alex, since one of the worst things is that THEIR Christmas has probably been totally screwed up by this tone-deaf appeal. I'm sure some reporter is going to check up on what they get for Christmas. If they DON'T get a certificate in their stocking congratulating them on contributing to Dad's campaign fund, instead they get the "Daddy Is A Hypocrite" award, which I wouldn't wish on any child no matter how much the paterfamilias might deserve it. If they DO, not only must they endure the sting of getting a mean, meaningless excuse for a "present", they also get to be made objects of pity or derision, which makes getting new underwear seem like a handsome gift.
One hopes that this "Ghost of Christmas Past" will come back to haunt Grinch-nor Walker in the coming campaign.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/246720.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Sunday, November 17th, 2013|
|Milwaukee Art Museum, “Thomas Sully, Painted Performance.”
On Friday, November 15th, we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to the exhibit, “Thomas Sully, Painted Performance.”
Sully was one of 19th Century America’s most prolific artists, painting over twenty-three hundred works during his career, including portraits of the Marquis de Lafayette, Queen Victoria, presidents, socialites, and actors. If you have seen a US twenty-dollar bill, you are familiar with one piece of Sully’s work, since the engraving is based on one of Sully’s portraits of Andrew Jackson, which is included in this show.
Sully was born into a theatrical family. Though he preferred to paint, his connections with the theatre brought him commissions from actors and theatre managers. This got him established as a portraitist and he painted many of America’s most famous actors of the first half of the 19th century. Living in Philadelphia, he became a popular painter for socially prominent families. Names such as Biddle and Siddons occur frequently in the catalog of his works. These connections allowed him to paint young Queen Victoria when he went to England to study.
Besides commissions, he was a constant worker, and painted many “fancy” (or imaginative) paintings on “spec” for gallery exhibition and hopeful sale. These works were popular with publishers, and were often purchased for use as illustrations in books or magazines. This work kept Sully and his family in funds when economic upheavals made the commission portrait business scarce. Examples in the show include paintings depicting “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella,” and studies for a series of illustrations for “Robinson Crusoe.”
The exhibition consists of over eighty paintings, beginning with his theatrical portraits, his society portraits, and his fancy paintings. We found his work to be very impressive. He was a remarkable portraitist, with a great eye for detail and color, and a very advanced style for his day. He was particularly effective at painting eyes, which lend a wonderful life to his portraits. This could, however, be a bit of a drawback with some of his “fancy” work. His sentimental paintings are prone to portray idealized and somewhat stylized chubby children. Seeing the very lifelike eyes looking out from the unreal faces is a bit of an “uncanny valley” moment.
This really was a fascinating exhibit. We don’t really see much depiction of the period between 1800 and the Civil War, and this was the period of Sully’s greatest activity. We were glad to be able to familiarize ourselves with the work of this great painter. The exhibition continues through January 5th.
Prior to going to the Museum, we treated ourselves to lunch at “Le Reve,” a French Bistro-style restaurant located on Harwood Avenue in “The Village” of Wauwatosa. Georgie ordered the salmon sandwich, which was very good. The delicious cut of salmon was dressed with sun-dried tomatoes, bacon, and a rosemary aioli on a flavorful soft bun. I ordered the Coquilles Saint Jacques crepes, which were filled with lovely pieces of scallop, braised leeks, cheese, and citrus brown butter. It came with a nice side salad dressed with what tasted to me like a Parmesan vinaigrette. I accompanied it with a glass of a very nice Reisling. The only part of the meal that was the slightest bit disappointing were the “pommes frites” which came with the sandwich. They were fine, but not exceptional, and no different than the French fries one could get elsewhere.
Since we were full from the meal, we got two of Le Reve’s desserts to take home. Fancy pastries are a specialty, and their display case a positive danger. We got a slice of Opera Torte (“Thin layers of coffee soaked almond bisquit, chocolate ganache, and coffee butter cream.”) and a Chocolate Caramel Tart (“Chocolate almond tart shell filled with homemade caramel sauce and Valhrona chocolate ganache.”) We’re not big fans of coffee, but the Opera Torte looked good, and when we ate them, both desserts proved delicious.
Service at Le Reve was cheerful and good. The restaurant was on the noisy side at lunchtime, but not oppressively so. We will be going back, since the dinner menu, in particular, promises further delights.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/246390.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|OZ Cast Photo
Some of you may still care to see the cast picture from the Lytheria Wizard of Oz production:
Rear: Emerald Citizens 1 & 2, Lord Mayor of the Emerald City
Row Six: Emerald Citizens 3, 4, 5, 6
Row Five: Emerald Citizen 7, Wizard, Flying Monkey, Patchwork Girl
Row Four: Gatekeeper, Emerald Citizen 8
Row Three: Wicked Witch, Emerald Citizen 9
Row Two: Glinda, Scarecrow
Front: Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, TotoThis entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/246145.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Saturday, November 16th, 2013|
On Monday evening, November 11th, we went to see “Ender’s Game,” the movie adaptation of the 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card. In my opinion, this was an excellent movie, some of the best science-fiction in cinema in years, and an excellent adaptation of the novel.
Asa Butterfield, as Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, puts in an Oscar-worthy performance as the driven protagonist, who’s known since birth that he was only brought into this world in order to fight the alien enemy. From the focus of a budding exceptional genius, he periodically crashes into the emotional fragility and dependence typical of any adolescent boy.
His focus is polished by the abrasive and haggard-looking Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), the training officer, whose utterly single-minded goal is to craft the best possible weapon to use against the alien enemy, with no mind to the cost in lives, minds, or souls.
Ben Kingsley, as Mazer Rackham, the man who became the great hero of the last war as much through luck as skill, and who tries to be the inscrutable master teacher, but does not entirely succeed at it.
The movie is set fifty years after the initial and devastating invasion of Earth by the Formics, insectoid aliens. After Rackham’s victory, they were driven off, and the forces of a united Earth have followed them into space, harrying them back to their homeworld. However, the mysterious aliens remain a formidable foe, and the Battle School training program, to which Ender aspires, exists to find the brightest and most flexible tactical minds among Earth’s youth, and prepare them to fight the next battles.
Contemporary CGI and other techniques combine to make the zero-G training room sequences—critical to the novel, a bit less so to the movie—believable and understandable. This is definitely one area where a three-dimensional visualization is an improvement over text alone. New imaginings of computer interfacings make the scenes of combat in space dynamic and dramatic, as well.
I found the emotional climax of the film for Ender to be satisfactory, for Graff, less so, although I believe that’s true of the novel also. I tend to have more sympathy for Graff, who’s lived with the war and fought a faceless and unhuman foe all his life, and who would understandably do anything to end it and make Earth safe.
As I said, fine, fine acting by Butterfield and by a talented and diverse cast of young people, plus the veterans. Good script adaptation, believable tech and effects and a generally good-looking film combine to make a very satisfying science fiction picture show.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/245992.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Florentine Opera, “La Traviata”
On Sunday, November 10th, we went to the Marcus Center for the Florentine Opera’s production of Giuseppi Verdi’s “La Traviata.”
We were very pleased by this production, which was solidly in the classic mold. The party scenes, Act One, and Act Two Scene Two, were attractively set and beautifully costumed. Act Two Scene One and Act Three were more minimalist, but this did not detract from the relative emotional intimacy of those scenes.
As the first act began, I was reminded how wonderfully tuneful this opera is, with the first act being particularly dense with beautiful music: the opening chorus, Alfredo’s drinking song, Libiamo ne' lieti calici, the love duet, Un dì, felice, eterea, and Violetta’s rebuttal, Sempre libera – "Always free".
We had very strong singing in all the principal roles, notably Elizabeth Caballero as Violetta, Rolando Sanz as Alfredo Germont, and Mark Walters as Georgio Germont, Alfredo’s father.
Caballero as the doomed Violetta sang wonderfully, but also acted well and with courage. In the third act, with her hair apparently sweat-bedraggled by fever, she looked and acted as ill as any Violetta I have ever seen. It’s hard to like Alfredo—the character is a self-absorbed fathead—but Sanz comes as close as anyone I recall. The typical curse of any “Traviata” production is to have an Alfredo who is weedy and whiny. Sanz, stocky, vigorous, and bearded, stands apart from the pack, projecting enough personality that it’s possible to accept Violetta falling in love with him.
Mark Walters was solidly good as the old Germont, although not the most impressive I have seen. However, his stage acting was excellent. The new set of supertitles for this production, in the libretto, make it clear that Georgio knows exactly the kind of sacrifice he is asking from Violetta—an ultimate lonely death—and Walters’ voice and action underscore his uncompromising requirement.
The supporting cast, chorus, and dancers all performed flawlessly. The orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Joseph Mechavich, got a bit loud in the first act, but soon settled down and gave an otherwise excellent reading of Verdi’s score.
All up, a very satisfying, beautiful, and enjoyable afternoon at the opera.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/245509.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|American Players Theater, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”
On Saturday, November 9th, we drove over to Spring Green to see APT’s production of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” adapted for the stage by award-winner Christopher Hampton from the scandalous 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. The novel was outrageous in its time, not only for its sexual content, but for its savage indictment of the lifestyles of France’s idle rich. Some critics credited it for adding fuel to the gathering fires that would break out into revolution.
We are both fans of the film, “Dangerous Liaisons,” adapted from Hampton’s play, and wanted to see what APT would do with it. (Georgie has plowed through the translation of the dense novel. I have not.) We were not disappointed.
The characterizations rendered by Tracy Michelle Arnold, as the Marquis de Merteuil, and James DeVita, as the Vicomte de Valmont, are quite different than the film characters as portrayed by Glenn Close and John Malkovich, but no less compelling. As the Marquise, Arnold makes good use of her expressive face, silently commenting on the action and letting us know that she is not only in on the jokes, but (she thinks) is in full command of the situation. DeVita’s Valmont is warmer and more naturally charming, but also more vulnerable. The combination is emotionally searing when they strike sparks from one another.
They are well supported by Melisa Pereya as Cécile Volange, the innocent Mertuil sics Valmont onto, and Luara Rook as Madame de Tourvel, the object of Valmont’s obscure desire. It is a measure of the depravity of high society at the time of the play that, when describing his plans toward her, the acts of an utter cad, Valmont says of seducing a woman “famous for her strict morals, religious fervor and the happiness of her marriage”—“What could be more prestigious?”
Sarah Day, who would have made a formidable Marquise when younger, plays Valmont’s loving but clear-eyed aunt with feeling that makes her well-meant but pessimistic advice to de Tourvel all the more bitter; “Do you still think men love the way we do? No... men enjoy the happiness they feel. We can only enjoy the happiness we give. They are not capable of devoting themselves exclusively to one person. So to hope to be made happy by love is a certain cause of grief.”
The play was beautifully but simply set, with a glistening marble-patterned floor that threw back the colors of the lights, a few pieces of period furniture, rearranged for different scenes, and handsome costumes by Rachel Anne Healy. Mertuil and Valmont are clothe in shades of gray, hers an ominous steely shade, his lighter. The Marquise’s bodice has a textured pattern that suggests an armor breastplate. Cécile wears a light petal pink, and Madame de Tourvel, although she is a married woman, is in virginal white.
The play’s ending is rather different than that of the film, but equally powerful in different ways. We were extremely glad to have seen this outstanding production, and would recommend it highly. The play continues through November 24th at APT’s Touchstone Theatre (the indoor facility—very nice and intimate--), with tickets available for upcoming shows.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/245492.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Wednesday, November 13th, 2013|
|TeslaCon 4, Sunday
Sunday morning, we arose, dressed, and packed our car. The breakfast today included cute little single-egg omelets with a cheese filling, which were kind of nice.
We got back to the con in time for "Dropped Once, Never Fired," which was the lead item in Zebulon Vitruvius Pike's "TED Talk" set, which covered the probabilities of being wounded in a mass battle and other interesting topics.
After that, Mr. Pike was again the presenter for "Victorian Spacecraft," which covered how spacecraft in Victorian literature would actually fare given what we now know about the realities of spaceflight. I'd always expected that the occupants of Verne's space projectile in "From the Earth to the Moon" would have been crushed by the acceleration. Turns out, it's far worse than that-so titanic are the G-Forces caused by sudden acceleration to the speed required by Verne, that both crew and craft would essentially be vaporized. Wells' Cavorite sphere in "First Men in the Moon" has a different set of issues, mainly related to steering: when the craft's only thrust is directly away from something (Earth) how do you get it to take you toward something (the Moon)? Pike also covered the sheer entertaining improbability of whimsical constructions such as Edward Everett Hale's "Brick Moon," and others.
Next, we went to study the exhibits at the Promethean Society (mad) Science Fair, which were very interesting. Exhibits were divided into non-functional props, and those that actually (sort of) did what they claimed to do. Among the latter were a functioning Wimshurst machine (static electricity generator), and a truly awesome shoulder-fired cannon, which used the detonation of a propane-air mixture to propel a two inch diameter wooden bolt. This, according to the exhibitor, was capable of penetrating a car door at some hundreds of yards. It should be needless to say, no live demonstrations were given--. Among the prop devices were a very clever time-machine repair kit, and a wonderfully impractical (not to mention uncomfortable) looking device that was supposed to convert the sound and odor of flatulence to more pleasant phenomena.
After the obligatory last pass through the dealers, we decided we were ready to roll out, and so headed home, having enjoyed a very good convention. We are signed up for next year, and are already making some plans--.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/245087.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Tuesday, November 12th, 2013|
|TeslaCon, Saturday, part 2 “If there won't be dancing, I won't come to your revolution."
After the Bobbins dinner, we went to the “Grand Ball.” We were somewhat pleased to hear that the first set, the “classic” section, would be recorded music, mostly by the First Brigade Band. Much as we love the First Brigade Band, it must be admitted that they are more of a concert band than a dance band, and picking out danceable pieces from their repertoire can be a job. So this proved. The first waltz played was a concert piece with a wandering tempo that proved very difficult to dance to. There were a couple of schottisches—nothing intrinsically wrong with the schottische, we just don’t care for it--, and it turns out people can schottische to a march melody as well.
We were able to get in a waltz, to “The Blue Danube,” and a polka, to “Feuerfest,” but once the set works through two long group dances, “The Bobbins Bob” and “Excursion Train” a.k.a. “The Choo Choo Dance”, there isn’t much of the set left.
Now, the website blurb for the ball said: “The Ball will happen in three (3) sections. Each section will have between 7-10 songs. Waltz’s, Polka’s and Reels will be prominent. Instructions to these dances will also be available before Saturday night.” (sic). After the first section, the Ball was given over to live performers, whom I believe were (and here I’m relying on memory so this may not be definitive), Lord Monty, “unique ‘steampunk funk’/Victorian rap”; Frenchy and the Punk, “Imagine Django Reinhardt, Johnny Ramone, Siouxsie Sioux and Edith Piaf jamming together at an event hosted by Tim Burton and Nikola Tesla”; and, I think, Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings, who, from the somewhat turgid prose description, appears to be rather a folk singer type. I’m sure they are all fine musicians, and it’s great of TeslaCon to furnish Steampunk performers with a venue, but, as one critic later said, “What parts of ‘grand’ and ‘ball’ did they not get?”
Now, Georgie and I are satisfied if we can have a waltz and a polka, and so, when the music switched to a modern beat, we retired and found some chairs overlooking the atrium where we held court and chatted with friends, intending to drop in on the Steerage Ball when it started at 10:30. Thus, we were in a good position to observe the breakout of what I have to call the “Dance, Dance Revolution.”
There was a flurry of activity near the atrium stairs, and we were somewhat bemused to see a small woman in a green Empire dress and matching hat climb onto a chair and harangue the people around her, declaring a “revolution,” and that the atrium floor was about to be liberated in the name of dancing, as what was going on in the Grand Ball was not the promised waltzes, polkas, or reels. Her escort, a slim man with a gray goatee and military coat, declared that he had a First Brigade Band CD in his car and went out to get it. A CD player which had been set up near the front doors playing ambient music (mostly the “Downton Abbey” theme) was requisitioned and relocated to the impromptu dance floor.
We watched this with considerable interest, not only for the amusement factor, but because there appeared simultaneously to be some kind of flap on involving hotel or con security or both, with serious-looking men rushing about checking doors and inside the nearby function rooms. However, to the credit of both the con and the hotel, no one attempted to interfere with this impromptu event. By the time the music was going, there were a hundred people in the area, some just to see, but others eager to dance. The recording started off with a waltz (“Beautiful Dreamer,”) which was restarted and Georgie and I joined in for this slow dance. Then, “Reel! Reel!” young people, who had perhaps learned the Virginia Reel that day but not had a chance to dance it at the Ball, called. The Reel was started, then over again, the organizers having declared they would play through that CD as many times as people cared to dance.
Now, it must be admitted, that, as a fraction of the people attending the con and the Ball, these people were in a distinct minority, but I think it was a minority that had right on their side, and whose opinion should be respected. Some took time out of their convention to learn to dance, and others just wanted what was promised—waltzes (plural), polkas (plural), and reels.
By this time it was after 10:30PM. We had by this time seen signs indicating that the Steerage Ball was being moved to the Grand Ballroom. However, inspection proved that the Grand Ball musicians were still holding forth, which told me, given how long it takes a band to set up and tune, that there wouldn’t be any Steerage Ball music until more like 11:30PM, so we called it a night.
I have no idea what logistical issues caused the relocation of the Steerage Ball, but I have to consider the circumstances unfortunate.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/244776.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|TeslaCon 4, Saturday, part 1
We had another decent night's sleep at the Comfort Suites. The one drawback we found there was that closet space is lacking, although there are numerous bureau drawers to use. Consequently, we had clothing and gear strewn around on every available surface, but the hotel staff was good about honoring our "Do Not Disturb", so things worked out well enough. Breakfast entrees were genuine scrambled eggs, a bit over-scrambled so falling into small bits, but still tasty; and pork sausage patties.
For Saturday day, Georgie wore her new ensemble, consisting of the pale gold gown we bought from Pendragon Costumes at Bristol Ren Faire in September, and the new hat from Ravenworks we bought Friday. The effect was splendid, and she got many complements on the outfit.
The first panel we went to "Journalism in Steampunk," featuring "Steampunk Chronicle" Editor Emilie Bush. Instead of being about how journalism is depicted in Steampunk, this presentation was about journalism covering Steampunk and how it is portrayed on sites such as the Chronicle, blogs, magazines, etc., and the application of journalistic standards and ethics (or the lack thereof) to such reportage. As a trained and experienced professional journalist, she (justly) views with alarm the overwhelming of real journalism by shallow sensationalism, ignorant credulity, and amateurish self-regard. These things may be particularly endemic in ego-driven areas such as fandoms, but, in my opinion, the critique could be well applied to the Internet as a whole. Ms. Bush gave a good talk on basic journalism, which seemed well received by the audience.
At 1:00PM, we went to "Lord Bobbins" speech on "Defining Steampunk." Although no one can doubt Eric's sincerity in wanting to keep Steampunk fandom as a "big tent" and to spread the word, the text, "Steampunk is what you make of it," was hardly profound. Nevertheless, since he was preaching to the converted, the speech was generally well received. I'm not as sure about the "Bobbins Initiative," to recruit more fans for Steampunk is going to make people run out and drag in new folks. I think that the plateau in fan convention attendance is a fact for the foreseeable future. For a number of reasons I won't go into here, I tend to believe that fannish sorts generally are marginalized in employment and economically, and have been disproportionally affected by the Great Recession and the slow recovery. Unless and until there's a genuine economic upturn-which I, frankly, don't see happening-time and dollars for hobbies are going to continue to be scarce resources.
At 2:30, we went to "But He Said He Was a Scientist!", which was an entertaining survey of pseudo-sciences current before and during the Steampunk Era, including such ideas as "phlogiston," "caloric," "N-rays," and "electro-gravitics".
Then, it was time to change for the Bobbins dinner. Georgie changed into an elegant black gown that she had made Steampunk by adding chains and medallions to a very good effect, and accessorized with her gold shawl and a lovely fan. I wore my white tie and tails with "Dr. Duquesne's" decorations. The doors of the dinner room did not open on time then, either, but queuing up gave us an opportunity to chat with the other elegantly turned out guests, and I also had the pleasure of meeting the "Chancellor" of Romania, who was actually in the wrong line and destined for the villains' dinner.
The Chancellor is a "Lycanbrom" (sp?), one of a tribe of descendants of Romanian peasants modified by the infamous Dr. Moreau before he moved to his island. (When I first heard the name, I heard "lichen brow," and so was looking for people with mossy foreheads--.) In the aftermath of the Ether War, they have taken over Romania or a large part thereof, and established a pariah state that is a haven for SWARM and its terrorist allies. The lycanbrom are rather swarthy, sharp-toothed people who affect wolfish furs as part of their clothing, and have a familiar, boorish manner. The effect is rather like half-orcs or Klingons in a Steampunk setting, with a dash of "Jagermonster" from the "Girl Genius" comic.
(I later learned from our friend, Kelly Lowrey, who had been following the convention's murder mystery plot, that the scientist who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances and was presumed dead, had supposedly discovered a way to decouple the lycanbrom's "wolf parts" from the human parts, this being part of the ongoing intrigue.)
The Bobbins dinner was, frankly, delicious. The menu was:
§ Pumpkin soup with sage crème and toasted peppitos.
§ Riesling poached pear stuffed with goat cheese. Black walnut candied and Vinaigrette.
§ Elderberry inter-miso.
§ Monkfish with two sauces. Smoked tomato and popcorn butter. Truffle spaghetti squash.
§ Drunken beef, potato dauphenoise, bacon sauce, port wine reduction and brussels sprouts.
§ Apple Gallette for dessert.
Everything was excellent, with the only criticism being that the crust on the apple gallette was on the tough side.
Dinner was also an amusing experience. The blurb for the dinner had indicated that "challenges would be sent back and forth," something I was looking forward to. It turned out the challenging mostly came our way. We had a visit from the tree-demon thing, who snarled and menaced us, to notably little effect. We were also addressed by a motley group apparently representing the SWARM factions, who lamely read off insults swiped from Shakespeare and Month Python. I think I surprised them by replying with what I fancied was an appropriate Southerner's "brag", which I hoped the others present found amusing.
Most of the people seem to be there to see what will happen rather than interacting, which puts quite a burden on William Dezoma, who plays "Kapitan Krieger," Lord Bobbins' chief henchman and poor relation. He's an experienced actor and good at improvisation but maintaining a monolog over an hour-plus dinner is quite a job. Thus, he doesn't seem to mind when I or Georgie occasionally pick up the conversational ball. I suppose it's gauche to recount one's on bon mots, but I was really pleased with myself when, after getting the Kapitan, who was giving hints about next year's scenario, to admit that the "Freya," the craft for the "journey to the center of the earth," would be able to bore through solid rock, I replied, "Aha! Only Lord Bobbins could build such an exciting boring machine!"
After a moment's 'take', Dezoma frankly broke out laughing. Lord Bobbins, who had been making conversation with the lady next to him, seemed quite nonplussed when it was repeated to him. Oh, well, I thought it added to the fun.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/244566.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|TeslaCon 4, Friday
We rose at a good hour on Friday morning, having slept decently well at the Comfort Suites. The rooms there include breakfast, which on the whole was quite edible. On Friday, this included a curious sort of scrambled egg patty, rather like something you would find on an Egg McMuffin, but a uniform yellow color and light texture. It was reasonably tasty, as was the meat on offer, a kind of chopped ham sausage. There was an adequate array of breads, juices, fruits, and cereal, so we were quite satisfied with it.
The first panel we went to was "Where Has Innovation Gone?" which dealt with the dichotomy between business' expressed desire for personnel capable of exhibiting creativity and imagination, and the inability to deal with it when they actually have it. This was a lively discussion, with audience members representing a number of disciplines taking part. Issues presented included the fact that "creation" tends to be an inherently wasteful process, and so is anathema to bean-counting managers; and that creative and capable people frequently don't have the paper credentials required to navigate the increasingly hide-bound and exclusionary hiring processes. Hope was found in the confluence of the Internet, the DIY/Maker movement, and crowdfunding operations such as Kickstarter, which allow creative individuals and small groups to develop projects in a way they might be noticed.
The next presentation we went to was "The Literary Steampunk: Where, Why, What Was, and What Now?" This panel was made up of guests of honor Karina Cooper (author), Austin Sirkin (fan), Kevin Steil (archivist), plus writer Joe Alfano. After the panelists' rather lengthy self-introductions, the group gave a good general overview of the genre in novels and stories. I made note of some newer authors to look up.
Next up was "Steampunk as Super-Culture: A Symbiosis Between Various Fandoms and Subcultures", which interested us in part because we had met the moderator, Veronique Chevalier, at the Masquerade Thursday night. Through no fault of hers, about half the panel ended up being much the same as the previous panel, since Ms. Cooper and Messers. Sirkin and Steil were all on the panel and had much the same things to say. (Including the canned introductions, which we also heard in a somewhat abbreviated form at the Opening Ceremony. While I suppose it's reasonable to suppose that not everyone in the room has already heard it, one could change up one's game a bit--.)
After that, we attended "Cause of Death" a historical survey of Victorian-era statistics on deaths due to accident and illness. Given by Julianne Hunter, who has a degree in public health, and Phil Jurasinski, Registered Nurse. Although the subject matter was rather grisly at times, the presentation was handled with a light touch that made it both informative and entertaining.
From 4:00 to 5:30PM, we went to "Junkology 101," an inspiring panel on scrounging and repurposing the parts you might have to make new Steampunk gadgets. I picked up a number of good tips from "Professor Waldo" (Walter LeTendre, Jr.), Juliet Pagel, Christopher Pagel, and audience members.
Then, we went out to dinner with friends Tracy Benton and Bill Bodden, to a nearby Indian restaurant, Swagat. The food there was very good, and service courteous, but it seemed to take a long time to get our meals, and we missed the beginning of Opening Ceremonies as a result.
We missed whatever passed for the Entry of Flags, so I suppose it's just as well we weren't able to sign up for it. We came in just as SWARM's new "demonic" ally was making its departure. This creature, supposedly an "Eldritch Horror" summoned up by the anarchists, was an interesting construction, rather insectile in form, but apparently composed of something like living wood, as its integument was covered with "bark" and leaves grew from its head. (I never did catch the name of the creature.) We did get to see the second set of dancing by the Stoughton High School Norwegian Dancers, who were quite breathtaking. Besides lighting speed, there were some impressive feats of strength in the dances requiring lifts, and a lot of clever humor, as in a dance where the men mime fighting, and another that lampoons men's addiction to snuff and women's disgust with it.
After the Opening Ceremonies, we queued up for seating at the Fashion Show. (We spent quite a bit of time standing in line at this TeslaCon. On the one hand, we tend to be neurotically early for events when possible. On the other hand, it was my impression that none of the major events started on time, either. Whether this was a hotel staff issue or a convention planning issue, or both, I cannot say.)
Despite being well back in line, we got great seats for the Fashion Show, which was fascinating. Many kudos are due to the designers, models, dressers and backstage staff, who, once the event got started, pulled it off in a brisk and highly professional manner.
First up was Silversark, whose dresses were mainly "Lolita" styles (by which I mean short skirts with crinolines, and frequently short sleeves) done in a collection of interesting graphic printed fabrics.
Fashions by Aritifixer were heavy on the "pirate queen" look, with corsets, leather pants, and boots. These were accessorized with masks, and frequently with a copper chiffon "hoodie" under the corset.
KMK Designs showcased a number of corset-and-chemise outfits, but also including one striped polonaise, or bodice/overskirt combination that was particularly nice.
RFD by Rachel Frank was a very "Goth" collection, with leather harnesses accessorizing corsets, short skirts, and exposed garters. All the models had "Baron Samedi"-inspired skull-face makeups.
Samantha Rei alternated between Empire waisted gowns and rompers.
At this point my crabbed handwriting runs out of legibility. I have the next designer down as "Uncanny H??????? C?????". Searching the Internet suggests this might be something like "Uncle Uncanny's by Chuk"? Apologies to the responsible people, and if anyone reading this knows the proper name, I will be glad to edit it in--. Anyway, this collection included 18th Century inspired styles, including an interesting saque-backed gown, plus some corsetry for males. (Amendment: A comment by Siversark Clothier tells me that this designer was "Uncanney House of Canney, by Anthony Canney." Thanks!)
Ending the show was Redfield, which had a line of fashions that were part Heidi, part Lolita, and interspersed with uniform-derived styles.
After the Fashion Show, we hung around and chatted while the room was reset for "Forbidden Images III: The Presented," which was a presentation on the often hidden aspects of Victorian and Edwardian-era sex life, (rated X--), this time focusing on some very notorious brothels in Paris and Chicago, illustrated with a variety of period erotic images. Karen Dezoma, William Dezoma and Robert Schug made this very entertaining and just naughty enough. We enjoyed it, although the night caught up with us and we leaked out before it ended.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/244444.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Wednesday, November 6th, 2013|
|TeslaCon 4, Thursday, Oct. 31st
On Thursday the 31st, we packed our garb and gear and headed over to Madison for TeslaCon 4, "The Congress of Steam." Driving was good, and we got there with no problems. We stopped in downtown Madison for lunch and a bit of shopping, but got to the con in plenty of time for the first events. Check in at the Comfort Suites (a bit down the road from the Marriott) and for TeslaCon went smoothly.
We had some time before the first event we wanted to see, so naturally wandered into the dealer's rooms, which were as usual, dangerous to the pocketbook. Georgie had been going to look for hat decorations to go with the new outfit she had bought from Pendragon Costumes in September, and instead found THE perfect new hat at Ravenworks. While that was being negotiated, I discovered that my watch had stopped, and so bought a new one from Lily's Steampunk Emporium, which served me well during the con, and, besides, came with a number of cool chain decorations. So, we spent the better part of our discretionary funds within the first hour of getting there--. No regrets, though.
The first panel we went to was "Haunted Victorians: The Occult Sciences." This was a generally entertaining and informative presentation, with a few issues. They opened with a skit portraying a "gypsy" fortune-teller being exposed as a fraudulent spirit medium. I found this a bit inaccurate, conflating fortune telling with mediumship, and tending to reinforce the stereotype of Romany people as swindlers. To the group's credit, they received this criticism with good grace and acknowledged the point. In a general survey of people who might be considered as being in the "Spiritualist" scene in the 19th Century, there was not a clear transition made between charlatans such as the Fox Sisters and believers such as Wovoka, the Native American leader responsible for the Great Ghost Dance, which unintentionally implied they all belonged in the same "bucket". The panelists also agreed that this could be improved for future iterations of the presentation.
After the panel, we went back to our room to change for the Halloween Masquerade. Georgie was going as "La Fee Verte," or the "Absinthe Fairy." For this, she had an absinthe-colored evening gown stylishly distressed at the hems, elaborate black butterfly wings, a somewhat disheveled wig, and matching green eye shadow. The outfit was accessorized with an actual glass of absinthe and absinthe spoon. I revived (so to speak) my Dracula persona from years past. As time's gone by, I look more like the Count as described by Stoker-the long white mustache mentioned in his first appearance needs no artifice-with my white tie and tails paired with an appropriate sash and medallion, with the deathly pale make-up, and I'm good to go.
When we got into the Great Hall, we were dismayed to find it dark, lit mostly by the changing colored lights from the DJ's stage. What's the good of a Masquerade if you can't see the costumes? It also hadn't occurred to us that the music would be contemporary-most of it not at all obnoxious, but of course loud, and with today's thumping bass line that guarantees any attempts at conversation have to be done at a scream level. Not our thing, although it must be admitted we were in an evident minority and most people seemed to have no problem with it. After a look round, we retreated into the hallway and ensconced ourselves in chairs at one of the information tables in order to scrutinize the costumes as they came past. This worked well for us, as we were able to hail our acquaintances as they came past, made some new ones, and got to get good looks at the most delightful costumes, as the hallway became an impromptu photo gallery. People who wanted to chat came out to the hall, also, so it was a pretty "happening" place and we did not in the least feel like wallflowers.
We got quite a number of favorable comments on our costumes, and a surprising number of people wanted to take even my picture, which surprised me since there were many more spectacular costumes to see.
We retired about 10:30PM. This was not exactly the Masquerade we had imagined, but we had a good time nevertheless.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/244198.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Tuesday, November 5th, 2013|
For us, effectively Halloween weekend was the 26th and 27th, and started off as it frequently has, with MilwAPA collation at our place. The collation started off slow, but ended up with a good turnout and as a very cheerful gathering.
After the APAns left, we prepared for the Lytheria Halloween party. Georgie had hit on the idea of going as the "Green Fairy," a.k.a. the Absinthe fairy, and had assembled an elaborate costume including a "distressed" light green tulle dress, a matching green wig, and fairy wings. Accessories included a proper absinthe glass and a swizzle stick to use as a wand. I was a bit less ambitious, deciding to go as "Doktor Mirakle," the deadly doctor from "Tales of Hoffman." This consisted of a black suit, accessorized with my skull-pattern cravat, matching pin, and other ominous signs and symbols. I used my doctor's bag to transport Georgie's absinthe paraphernalia.
It was a very pleasant, if low-keyed party. Most of those attending were old-timers, and it was good to chat with them. We had a good time, but went home fairly early in order to prepare for the morrow.
The year's trick-or-treat theme was "The Wizard of Oz," in honor of the 75th anniversary of the MGM film. The main set was the Wizard's "throne room," built as usual on the Lytheria porch. It had a formidable door with Judas window, and a large green-painted space with emerald curtains at either end. The curtains covering the exit were used as a projection screen. At the other end, the last few feet of porch were screened off to create the Wizard's control area. Along with non-functioning levers and wheels, the area included a sound system, infra-red video camera, microphone, video monitor, and video projection system.
I was playing the part of the Wizard, and, with this set up, I could be hidden in the dark behind the curtain, with my face projected hugely on the far curtain. The sound system allowed me to do the big voice with reverb, and the monitor allowed me to see what was happening on the other side of the curtain.
So, the kids would knock on the big door. Todd Voros, acting as the doorkeeper, would open the Judas window, snarl, "No one gets in, no way, no how!" and slam the window. At a second knock, he'd open up again and ask, "Do you know the password?" If the answer was "No!", he'd say, "That's it! The password is 'No'," and let them in. Other variations worked, such as, "We're here to see the Wizard!"
Chuck Tritt and Jennifer "Stormsinger" Levin, dressed as citizens of the Emerald City, herded the kids in, and Stormsinger got them settled, while my image watched from the curtain screen. Then I started off with the line, "I am OZ, the great and powerful!" If we weren't too backed up, I might ask, "Who dares disturb my magnificent cogitations?" and see what answers we got. Then we got to the "What do you want?" question, to which of course the reply was "candy!" I pretended to be offended at such a simple request, but allowed that if they could find me where I really was, I would give them candy. Usually the first guess was behind the screen curtain, which was wrong. Eventually, someone would indicate the back curtain, and Chuck would pull it aside revealing me and the Wizard's control center. There was usually a good laugh and exclamations at this "reveal." Then Julie Ann Hunter and I would hand out candy and certificates that I had made up. These said:
THIS IS TO CERTIFY that the BEARER of this document has been determined to possess a great sufficiency of BRAINS, HEART and COURAGE, enough to deal with all the vicissitudes of Life of whatever Nature.
GIVEN UNDER MY HAND this 27th day of October, 2013, at the Emerald City, Kingdom of Oz. Signed,
Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs
And, yes, that's the Wizard's canonical name!
Out on the sidewalk, Georgie, as the Wicked Witch of the West, lurked and menaced with great glee, and was very effective. Mike Davis, as the Scarecrow, was set up on the corner of Park and Shepherd, and was a prime picture subject. Steve Hanchar, as the Cowardly Lion, prompted people when to knock at the door, and Lee Schneider, as the Lord Mayor of Oz, and other Emerald City-zens worked the crowd and kept things under control.
Counting the numbers of certificates left out of the thousand I had made, we processed over nine hundred trick-or-treaters and escorts that afternoon. It's a lot of work, but fun was had by all.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/243828.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Wednesday, October 30th, 2013|
On Saturday, October 19th, we went to the Astor Hotel on Milwaukee's east side to attend the wedding of Katherine (Katy) Arkenberg and Dwayne Bochnak. Katy is our friend and a member of the Burrahobbits reading group we belong to. We hope that Dwayne will become a friend as well, as he seems like a nice guy. And, besides, Katy met him through "Star Wars" fandom--.
The Astor Hotel is a nice venue, and the ballroom used very pretty. It was also adjacent to the hotel's capacious bar, which served as a place to hang out both before the ceremony, and while the room was being reset for the reception.
The bride looked beautiful in a classic, simply shaped white satin dress, decorated with lace appliques. The other women of the wedding party wore individually styled long dresses of a lovely royal blue. All the gentlemen were elegant in tasteful black suits with white boutonnieres.
Court Commissioner Mary Howard Johnstone officiated. The ceremony was not elaborate, but effective, with vows written by Katy and Duane.
Following the ceremony, the guests adjourned to the barroom, where open bar and snacks, some of them quite creative, kept people busy until the reception dinner was set up.
The reception was quite fun with many 'fannish' elements. We were bemused to see that we were at Table 111, until discovering that it was numbered for Bilbo's age at the beginning of "The Lord of the Rings" (properly, "eleventy-one"). Other tables had numbers referential to "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Doctor Who," "Firefly," and engineering and science. The bride and groom entered under an arch of illuminated light sabers.
The meal was one of the best wedding dinners we have had. Georgie and I had opted for the chicken, which was juicy, not at all overdone, and served with a very tasty sauce. The people who ordered the beef appeared to have sizable portions of actual fillet mignon, which looked very good also.
A disc jockey was laid on for after, but we didn't stay for dancing. I was impressed that the DJ came around to the tables and asked for particular requests. Altogether a totally successful and very enjoyable wedding. We wish Katy and Dwayne all the best, and look forward to getting to know Dwayne better.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/243615.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Thursday, October 17th, 2013|
|Romeo & Juliet (the movie, 2013)
Ok, the Shakespeare spate isn’t quite over. Georgie and I had to go see the new “Romeo & Juliet” film, with screenplay by Julian Fellows (of “Downton Abbey” fame).
“Romeo & Juliet” is well worth seeing for the gorgeous settings, beautiful costumes (1490-1520 era), handsome actors, and brutal, brawling swordfights (none of your fancy-nancy “fencing”, here--). Listening to, well, not so much.
Cramming the play’s action into 118 minutes requires ruthless cutting of the script, especially to accommodate the action scenes. This has certainly been done, with the script cut to the bone in every scene and speech. The only scenes that survived mostly intact were the balcony scene, and Romeo and Juliet’s bedroom scene. I had been alerted to the likelihood of further issues by the BBC article, which quoted Mr. Fellows as saying: "When people say we should have filmed the original, I don't attack them for that point of view, but to see the original in its absolutely unchanged form, you require a kind of Shakespearian scholarship and you need to understand the language and analyse it and so on.
"I can do that because I had a very expensive education, I went to Cambridge. Not everyone did that and there are plenty of perfectly intelligent people out there who have not been trained in Shakespeare's language choices."
Now, I’ll admit that I have studied Shakespeare at a college level, seen all the plays I possibly could, and acted in four of them, but I think this is just plain wrong. Shakespeare had to write, not just for the lords, but for the commoners as well. Of course, there’s action for the groundlings, but they had to understand the speech to follow along as well. And no one then could have been expected to understand Shakespeare’s speech without thought: he made up new words*, coined phrases, punned, and took wholesale poetic license with usage and word order. There are plenty of people today who go to Shakespeare performances with no special training, who understand and enjoy the original language. One expects to have to pay attention, but that allows one to understand meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases from context.
Besides surgically dissecting the skeleton of the play out of the text, Fellows also changed words, with some replacements sounding clunky coming from the period-looking characters, and some changes just apparently pointless. For example, when Capulet says to Paris, “Let two more summers wither in their pride, ere we may think her ripe to be a bride,” Fellows changes it to ““Let two more summers wither in their pride, ere we may think her ripe to be a WIFE.” Surely Fellows isn’t suggesting modern audiences don’t understand the word “bride.” Instead, he is killing the rhyme that occurs in in this speech, which is part of a concerted effort to modernize the script by cutting the music out of the text.
The Times review characterized the principals' performance as lacking passion, and I am inclined to agree. Romeo and Juliet get lots of kissing in, which apparently director Carlo Carlei thinks is indicative of passion. However, the frequently tepid reading of the lines doesn’t give the kissing enough foundation to make up the difference. In addition, in the first half of the film, Hailee Steinfeld (Juliet), rushes murmurously through her lines, which makes most of them seem thrown away. It’s only in the second half, when she has things to cry and shout about, that her enunciation acquires some bite. Also, while girlishly cute, she's just not beautiful. Rosaline (Nathalie Rapti Gomez), who actually gets some screen time and lines in this adaptation, is closer to actual beauty in my opinion.
Douglas Booth is an adequate but low-keyed Romeo. The pair are well supported by Christian Cooke as Mercutio, in the film, a Montague cousin; and Ed Westwick as a suitably glowering and growling Tybalt. Kodi-Smit McPhee is a curious choice to play Benvolio, who is the Montague’s voice of reason and usually older than Romeo. McPhee is a boy compared to the other men, and, although he does his best, just lacks the gravitas for the part.
Veteran actors fill in the older characters. Lesley Manville was good as the Nurse, although most of the character’s best bits were cut. Paul Giamatti puts a lot into Friar Lawrence, building up a good rapport with Romeo and Juliet. Damian Lewis as Lord Capulet was the one player singled out by the New York Times as “outstanding”: “Mr. Lewis persuasively plays the fool when need be, only to rise up in a foaming rage. . ..” In our opinion there was too much fool, and too little rage.
So, in sum, if you are a Shakespeare fan, see it for the eye candy, but don’t expect either a full reading of the play, or an exciting one.
*If I recall correctly, Shakespeare still holds the Oxford English Dictionary record for most new words appearing in his writings.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/243273.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Monday, October 14th, 2013|
|Rescuing Romeo: Can this marriage be saved?
Having recently seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, I had a rather heightened awareness of what actors (who know they are actors) actually do when not on stage. Their activities include:
Reminiscing about shows they have been in and swapping “war stories”.
Planning future auditions and speculating about future shows they might want to be in. Comparing roles they would like to play sometime, whether practical or not.
Yes, playing games does actually occur, although with this group we were strict on allowing it only before curtain, while killing time after costume and makeup, and during intermission, so that cues were not missed during the performance. Someone brought in cards from the game “Mindtrap” which is a collection of brain-teaser puzzles. (I impressed the others with how good I was at those--.)
Restlessly lurking around backstage from time to time a la the Phantom of the Opera is something most of us do, too, but you have to be careful to stay out of the way of people who may be hurrying to make an entrance.
One of the other things we do is critique the play we are in. There’s nothing like a month of memorization and rehearsal to give you an appreciation of a play’s flaws. And, make no mistake, “Romeo and Juliet” is flawed. It is FULL of plot holes.
Assuming that everything goes as scripted up to the point where Friar Lawrence marries the pair, why don’t they just elope then? At least there’s a partial answer to that one. Romeo can’t just show up with Juliet at Villa Montague with Juliet in tow as new bride, since because they married without parental consent, the marriage could yet be annulled if it was valid at all. So, they need to consummate the marriage somewhere/sometime. Although Friar Lawrence is willing to use his study to provide sanctuary to a wanted felon (Romeo, somewhat later), he seems unwilling to allow it to be used as a marital bower, and let the plan be for the two to get together later.
For the same reason, when confronted by Tybalt, Romeo can’t let the cat out of the bag yet, although he drops hints. Once Tybalt has killed Mercutio, why doesn’t Romeo let the Prince take care of it? The Prince, as is mentioned in that scene, has decreed death for dueling. All Romeo has to do is let justice take its course. The answer there, of course, it that Romeo, like all the men in the play, is a hothead, and honor demands that he tackle Tybalt and hang the consequences.
From here on, it gets weird. Instead of Romeo going to Juliet’s chamber for the night, why doesn’t she sneak out and they fly together? Or, after having spent the night, why doesn’t Romeo take Juliet with him to Mantua? The nurse-provided ladder is right there, so no problem getting Juliet and a bag over the wall.
When Juliet comes to Friar Lawrence with news of the wedding plans for her and Paris, why doesn’t the Friar hide her “among a sisterhood of holy nuns” right then, or otherwise hide her until she can be smuggled out to Romeo? Why doesn’t he “man up” and admit to the Capulets what he’s done? After all, in no way would it be consistent with his vows to remain silent and assist in Juliet entering into a bigamous marriage. (We envision the wedding scene: Friar: If any man here knows any reason why this man and this woman should not be joined in holy matrimony, let him speak now, or forever hold his peace. Oh, that would be me!--)
Well, the reasoning here is that the Friar is a coward, probably justly afraid of Capulet’s vengeance and the discipline of the Church, and proposes the faked death scheme to Juliet as much to hide his own misdeeds as to help her.
Why does Juliet go along with the plan? She’s ready to kill herself, but not to run off to share Romeo’s exile?
Well, the ultimate answer to all these quibbles is that it wouldn’t be good theater. Juliet is the Drama Queen and Romeo the Drama King, and they have to do what will make their subjects (the audience) happy. After all, “Romeo and Juliet” may not make good sense, but it is great theater.
OK, enough with the Shakespeare spate. I’ve been marinating in it for a month, but I think I have it all out of my system now--.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/243072.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|“Romeo and Juliet,” Critiquing the Hundsness abridgement
Followers of this journal will recall that, when I was cast, I was not pleased to find out that we were using an abridged script. While I’ve gotten accustomed to it, rehearsing the show and hearing the other parts just made me more aware of its deficiencies.
Notes to the adapted script say: “Edited and adapted by David Hundsness, 2008…. This adaptation retains Shakespeare’s original language. It has been shortened to under two hours, cutting scenes that are typically slow to modern audiences. Dated references are minimized so the story may be set anytime and anywhere. A Wedding Ceremony and Juliet's Funeral are created from cut-and-pasted lines, and some scenes are altered for dramatic impact (all from the original script, of course). To see all lines that were cut, see the unabridged version at www.hundsness.com/plays.”
Mr. Hundsness has also posted one comment, by “Austin Live Theater,” “This is no Reader's Digest edition. The adapter did a scrupulous, ethical job of fileting the original text, preserving the story line and the essentials of the characters. Almost all of the most memorable lines of verse were retained. Purists would certainly object to his reducing the text by 30 to 40 percent, adroitly stitching together scenes while adhering to original texts and crafting both a brief marriage scene in Friar Laurence's chambers and a funeral for Juliet. But none of this diminishes a whit the power of Shakespeare's language or plot. The adaptation is directly in the centuries-old tradition of moving the bard to the audience."
Well, I beg to differ. I admit that I am one of the purists referred to, and that cutting any play, let alone Shakespeare, is problematical. I much prefer to start with the uncut text, and then prune where you find you can’t make it work, rather than, as we did, starting with someone else’s idea of what a good abridgement is, and adding bits back in.
Admittedly also, that’s a big job and not everyone may be up for it.
Some of Mr. Hundsness’ cuts I didn’t have a problem with. The sections where Capulet’s servants are sent to invite friends to the ball doesn’t advance the plot too much, nor does Capulet’s dialogue with his uncle at the party, and I didn’t mind not having to add that to my role. On the other hand, the adaptation entirely cut Paris visit to the Capulet tomb, his duel with Romeo and death, and Friar Laurence’s dialog with Juliet before he flees the scene. All these we added back in. On the other hand, Friar Lawrence’s confession to the Prince doesn’t add anything the audience didn’t know, so I don’t so much mind that being cut. However, Hundsness then goes on to cut out the text of Capulet and Montague’s reconciliation, which I think is vital. The street scene with Romeo, Murcutio, and the Nurse, wherein the wedding plans are made, is vital and went back in. We also added back in the short scene wherein Juliet convinces her father she has repented and will marry Paris, which I think was good to have in, although perhaps not as crucial. Other cuts were also restored.
Perhaps worse than the cutting of entire scenes is the picking out of words and phrases from individual speeches, with the result that what remains makes little sense. Here’s the unabridged version of Capulet inviting Paris to his party:
“This night I hold an old accustomed feast,
Whereto I have invited many a guest
such as I love; and you among the store,
if you be not of the house of Montagues,
One more, most welcome, makes my number more.
At my poor house look to behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light.
Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
When well-appareled April on the heel
Of limping winter treads, even such delight
Among fresh femalel buds shall you this night
Inherit at my house. Hear all, all see,
And like her most whose merit most shall be;
Which, on more view of many, mine, being one,
May stand in number, though in reck'ning none.
Come, go with me.”
And here’s what I was left with:
“This night I hold an old accustomed feast,
whereto I have invited many a guest
Such as I love, not of the house of Montagues,
And you, most welcome. Look to behold this night
Earth-treading stars that make dark heaven light.
Such comfort as do lusty young men feel
Among fresh female buds. Hear all, all see,
And like her most. Come, go with me.”
I had the biggest problem with the lines “such comfort as do lusty young men feel among fresh female buds.” Say what? This isn’t even a complete sentence. I added back in the words, “thou shalt inherit,” so it at least had a verb and made some sense.
Mercutio suffers badly under this regime. Not only does Hundsness hack away at the “Queen Mab” speech, probably the most famous in the play after the balcony scene, he also makes pointless changes to poor Mercutio’s death scene. Instead of:
Courage, man, the hurt cannot be much.
No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a
church door, but 'tis enough, 'twill serve. Ask for me
tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”
“No, 'tis not so deep, nor so wide,
but 'tis enough, 'twill serve. Ask for me
tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”
Not so deep nor so wide as what? The logic of the cut puzzles me. Even in the name of removing dated references, I would think a modern audience could be relied upon to understand that a well is typically deep, and a church door typically wide.
So, in sum, I find Mr. Hundsness’ abridgement objectionable, not alone because it is an abridgement, but because, in my opinion, it is a badly done abridgment.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/242740.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|West Allis Players “Romeo and Juliet”
Now the run of West Allis Players’ production of “Romeo and Juliet” is over. Although a “succes d’estime” with everyone who saw it, unfortunately it was not a success at the box office, with the average house of the five performances being forty people.
Those who didn’t go missed a good show. The modern dress costuming worked well enough, with the sword fights translated into believable knife fights by Fight Choreographer Christopher Elst. Director Mary Beth Toph and Costumer Patricia Kies had a very clever idea to do the Capulets’ ball scene as a genuine costume ball, which added color. The particularly good idea was to have both the Capulets and Romeo affect Renaissance garb for the party, so, for this scene and the ones that logically followed, such as the “balcony scene”, Romeo and Juliet were in “traditional” costumes. Other modern touches, such as the crime scene tape put around the bodies of Tybalt and Mercutio, were well received by the audience. Some involved with the production thought that the background of rustic stonework didn’t go with the updating, but, as I think we will find from the Julian Ffellows movie just released, lots of modern-day Verona probably still looks like that--.
I thought the cast was very strong. Michael Haubner as Romeo and Gabriella Smurawa as Juliet carried off the critical roles very well. The only criticism I heard was that Romeo might have shown a bit more passion in the scene where Benvolio tells him of Juliet’s supposed death, but overall I have nothing but praise for their performances.
Important supporting roles were also well cast, with great work by Nick Haubner as Tybalt, Jake Andrejat as Mercutio, Jerry Krajewski as Benvolio, Eric Madsen as Friar Lawrence, and “Goo” as Juliet’s Nurse. Michelle White was very effective and striking in the role of Lady Capulet, and Jennifer Gaul had a nice double turn in the roles of Lady Montague and a slightly stoned Apothecary.
In a lot of ways, this production was a particular pleasure for me, since I got to work with some old comrades, Bill Kaiser (Montague), whom I shared the stage with years ago in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “South Pacific,” and Joseph Weber (Prince), who was Tranio when I played Gremio in “The Taming of the Shrew.” It was good to work with the impressively talented young actors mentioned above, and to help pave the way for a yet younger generation, Lia Krystowiak and Bria Sullivan (Chorus) and James Sullivan (John the messenger) who showed great promise of things to come.
As with every production I’ve been in, I was glad to begin it, glad to see it to fruition, and now, glad that’s over so that I can go back to the rest of my life with a good memory of it.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/242567.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
In the West Allis Players’ production of “Romeo and Juliet,” I have the role of Capulet, Juliet’s father, best remembered for his tyrannical insistence that Juliet marry Count Paris two days after her (unbeknownst to him) secret wedding to Romeo. In a rehearsal session discussing motivation for this sudden switch on the part of Capulet, who had previously suggested Paris wait two years before a wedding, I jokingly suggested that, following the deaths of Tybalt and Mercutio, perhaps Capulet had decided that eligible young men were becoming thin on the ground, and he should secure Paris as a son-in-law before something else happened. This set me thinking more deeply about the character.
I consider that both Capulet and his rival, Montague, although “dignified” are commoners, and probably of the merchant class.
Shakespeare seems to have had the opinion that Italian merchants were hard men. We see pretty “cutthroat” business practices in “The Merchant of Venice. In “The Taming of the Shrew,” the merchant Gremio has already mused on killing his rival for the hand of Bianca (“And may not young men die as well as old?”), and, when that rival suggests his father might retire and give him control of the family business, replies, “Your father were a fool to give thee all, and in his waning age, set foot under thy table. … An old Italian fox is not so kind, my boy.” When the said father, Vincentio, appears, he proves to have a violent temper and small sense of humor. Capulet is of this type.
It is my theory that he’s had a lot of grief in his life to help harden him. He is a survivor of the generational feud, and seems to have buried a number of children (“The earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she.”), and probably at least one prior wife. Lady Capulet says, “I was thy mother much upon these years that thou are now a maid,” i.e., fourteen, which means that Juliet was her eldest child. The age difference between her, who would be twenty-eight at the time of the play, and her husband, referred to as “Old” Capulet, makes it very probable that she’s a second wife and that Capulet had lost an entire first family to the accidents of life, childbirth (Paris: “Younger than she are happy mothers made.” Capulet: “And too soon marred are those so early made.”) and the deadly feud.
As head of household, Capulet is used to ruling the roost and confident he can master any situation. When Lady Capulet expresses doubts about the sudden wedding plans, he blows them off: “Tush, all things shall be well, I warrant thee.” In the party scene, he quells the headstrong Tybalt with a few phrases. He’s definitely not used to being thwarted. When Juliet refuses to marry Paris, he threatens to disown her in a terrifying rage that leaves Juliet, her nurse, and her mother emotionally wrecked.
For all that, Capulet does care for his daughter. Paris is a brilliant match: young, handsome, valiant, wealthy in his own right, a nobleman and cousin to the Prince of the city; yet Capulet is initially willing to make Paris wait two years to wed her. For lack of a better, we must accept that his motivation for moving up the wedding is due to his concern over what he sees as Juliet’s intemperate grief over the death of Tybalt. (Capulet takes Tybalt’s death quite philosophically. Even Lady Capulet, whose blood kin he was, chides Juliet for trying to “wash him out of his grave with tears.”) When Juliet, following Friar Lawrence’s crack-brained plan, seems to capitulate and beg his pardon, he’s more than ready to give it without suspicion.
Of course, any actor wants his character to be perceived by the audience as something more than just a walking plot device, but I hope that some of this groundwork came through in our production. Judging by the positive feedback I have received from friends who saw it, I think it may have.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/242359.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Wauwatosa Historical Society 2013 Tour of Homes
One of the other groups in our area that does an annual house tour is the Wauwatosa Historical Society, and we were very interested by their tour this year. The featured neighborhood, the “Wellauer” subdivision, includes a number of very fine and fascinating homes we have frequently admired when passing by. We started the tour on Saturday, October 5th, after Georgie got off work at 1 PM.
The skies grew gradually more threatening as the afternoon drew on, and it began to rain as we went between the 4th and 5th houses we had selected to see (there were seven on the full tour). By the time we came out of number 5, it was pouring, and we beat a retreat, not wanting to take our wet selves into someone else’s house. (The area got 2.4 inches of rain in about half an hour--.)
Among the interesting houses we did see was 7105 Grand Parkway, which is one of twenty-six masonry homes in the Milwaukee area that were designed by architect Earnest Flagg. These were intended to be economically built homes, using poured concrete walls sheathed with stone, and an unusual interior layout without corridors or hallways. Despite the somewhat unusual layout, we found this to be a charming and comfortable looking house.
7010 Wellauer Drive is a very handsome Mediterranean Revival home, which has been very well preserved since its 1925 construction date. This was one of a number of homes in the area that were built for members of the Wellauer family that ran the realty company responsible for laying out the subdivision and building many of the homes.
We were also particularly taken with 6927 Wellauer Drive, a handsome French Provincial style home, and 6819 Wellauer Drive, a Tudor Revival with a very nifty tower housing the main staircase.
The last house we got to see, 532 Crescent Court, was one of the most interesting, exhibiting nice examples of both renovation and preservation. The third-floor maid’s bedroom and unfinished attic space had been converted into a very nice office and library, whereas the basement recreation room, with its terrazzo floor and elaborate German-style bar, was in its original state.
This was a very nice tour and worth getting rained on (although making our way home around flooded intersections was a bit of unlooked for excitement--.)This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/241932.html. Please comment there using OpenID.