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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Gregory G. H. Rihn's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, July 21st, 2016
2:50 pm
What the Trump Plagiarism Issue Tells us About the Trump Campaign
It's not so much the fact that parts of Melania Trump's Republican Convention speech echoed (ironically) Michelle Obama's Democratic Convention speech of 2012, what's really revealing is the Trump campaign's response to the accusations of plagiarism.

The immediate responses were to deny that there was plagiarism, a response that Trump spokesmen kept repeating until the news broke that speechwriter Meredith McIver had admitted that it happened. This response was therefore proven to be a lie. Other counter-charges included that Hillary Clinton was somehow responsible, another obvious untruth, except, perhaps to those that believe Secretary Clinton is the root of all evil, including tooth decay. It was alleged that the plagiarism issue was, you should excuse the expression, "trumped up" by hostile media: only true if you believe that it's the duty of the press to ignore howlingly obvious stories.

And then there was the allegation that big, bad Hillary and Co. were picking on poor Melania, who wrote the speech all on her little own. This, of course, was also proven untrue, due to the admitted involvement of two professional speech writers.

In my opinion this is the kind of action we will expect routinely if there was to be a Trump presidency: any criticism will be replied to not with a measured response, not with checked facts, but with knee-jerk lying and bullying. It just makes the whole ugly picture even uglier.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/299101.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Wednesday, July 20th, 2016
7:44 pm
Madison Early Music Festival, Day 8

Saturday the 16th was the final day of the Madison Early Music Festival, and a day for two big concerts by the participants. That morning, we got breakfast at a restaurant called “Manna,” located in a small strip shopping center on Madison’s north east. Everything we had was excellent. My scrambled eggs were light, creamy textured, and very tasty. Georgie had the house specialty, oatmeal pancakes, which she pronounced delicious and filling. She also bought some samples of their other baked goods for later, which were very good also.

In the afternoon, we were treated to performances by the “Advanced Loud Band,” and the “Early Opera” workshop.

The phrase “Loud Band” refers to an ensemble containing wind instruments, specifically shawms (oboe/English horn ancestors); sackbuts (early trombones); and dulcians, which are a family of bassoon-like instruments.  “The London Waites,” as the group called itself, played an entertaining selection of music from Shakespearean England.

Early Opera Workshop, “The Fairy Queen,”

The Early Opera Workshop put on a condensed version of Henry Purcell’s masque, “The Fairy Queene.” This is always one of the more challenging sessions, since the participants, in addition to learning the music, have to stage the opera including blocking, and finding (referential) costuming, and minimal props. This was a very entertaining performance. All the singing was excellent, and dancing and acting enthusiastic and more than adequate.

We were keeping dining simple this weekend, and got dinner at Potbelly Deli on State Street. A very basic but pleasant hot sandwich shop that we again have found reliable. They use good ingredients and have a nice variety of drink options.

The evening’s Pre-concert lecture, was by Prof. Emeritus John Barker, and entitled “Elizabeth I as a Politician”. This was a very enlightening and entertaining talk, which brought out the fact that “Good Queen Bess” was not in fact popular with many of her subjects, and relied upon a variety of stratagems in order to keep her throne.

 

Saturday evening, was the All-Festival Concert, which was quite spectacular. The concert theme was “A Day in the Life of Shakespeare’s London,” and began with Holborne’s “The Night Watch,” and a choral piece by Orlando Gibbons called “The Cries of London,” which is based on the sales calls of the various merchants and mongers of the city in that time. This was quite a revelation, the piece was wonderfully complex, very modern in sound, and exciting to listen to.

The concert was very well put together, with some deep scholarship put into assembling the music and the readings, with some very obscure but appropriate readings chosen, such as a speech about the Queen at her prayers from Henry VIII, and Lorenzo wooing Jessica, from The Merchant of Venice.

Listening and watching this concert made me realize how amazingly much work had gotten done in eight days. Just putting together this concert, which consisted of twenty-four musical pieces and ten readings, in that time would have been a major work by itself. Then, when you consider that in addition, the Loud Band played twelve pieces in its concert, there were twenty-four numbers in The Fairy Queen, and twenty-nine pieces in the Participant’s concert, a huge amount of music was taught and learned. Out of all that, there were only three or four false starts, which I consider truly remarkable.

All praise to the Madison Early Music Festival staff, faculty, and participants. Well done, all around!

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7:43 pm
Madison Early Music Festival, Day 7, “Sonnets 400”

The Friday public program of the Madison Early Music Festival began with the “Participant Concert.”

The Festival is an intensive workshop for those interested in learning and performing early music, and the Participant Concert exhibits what has been learned in the week of the Festival, with more than twenty classes having prepared one or more pieces for the concert.

Memorable moments of the concert included the “Wake-up Bagpipes” playing Shepherd’s Hay, a Scottish air, and Ungaresca, a 16th century Italian tune.

“The Knot Untied,” a string group, played the “In Nomine,” by Pickforth, which was a unique piece of music. The lowest line, for violoncello, is played entirely in whole notes (four beats); the next higher (violas) are dotted half notes (three beats) and half notes (two beats); the violin lines are dotted quarter notes (beat and a half) and the “melody” line quarter notes. The overall effect was to be like the gearing of a clock, and the intricacies of its working were quite fascinating.

A trio of faculty members, Taya Konig-Tarasevich, Baroque flute; Charles Weaver, lute; Robert Eisenstein, bass viol, gave us two pieces, “Chaconne, Two in one upon a ground”, by Henry Purcell; and Sonata in G, by William Croft.

“Balanced, not Blended” presented some humorous rounds, again by Purcell. The audience particularly liked “T’is women makes us love/ T’is love that makes us sad/ T’is sadness makes us drink/ T’is drink that makes us mad!” (Each group chose its own name, some more creatively than others. This vocal group’s name reminds us that in music of this period, harmony was not common, but counterpoint was more common.)

Bard Notes presented songs referenced in Shakespeare. “Blacke Spirites and White,” was preceded by a reading of the famous witches “double, double, toil and trouble,” scene, complete with “cauldron,” a Weber barbecue grill overflowing with fumes of dry ice.

Gentle Ladies’ Ballad Society and Tea Club, gave us a gently bawdy song, “My Thing is My Own,” from the book “Wit and Mirth, or Pills to Purge Melancholy,” which was very funny, and ended the concert on a definite “up” note.

We drove out to our hotel to check in for the evening, and got dinner at Ella’s Deli on the way back. Ella’s is always reliable, although far from haute cuisine.  We’ve been going there on and off for more than thirty years and never had a bad thing. The Fairfield Inn, where we stayed last Saturday night as well, was clean, reasonably comfortable, and reasonably priced, especially compared with hotels downtown. Being out by the freeway past East Towne wasn’t terribly convenient, but not too bad.

 

The evening concert, “Sonnets 400,” was preceded by a lecture by Prof. Joshua Callahan, “Repackaging Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” which gave us an interesting piece of publishing history. The original 1609 edition of the Sonnets, published during Shakespeare’s lifetime, was a commercial flop and was quickly out of print.  However, in 1640, a London publisher, John Benson, “repackaged” the sonnets as part of a volume titled Shakespeare’s Poems. This combined most, but not all of the Sonnets along with others of the Bard’s poems, plus works by other authors blithely gathered in. Benson changed the order in which the sonnets appeared, removed the numbering, added titles, and grouped two or more into single units of verse.  Benson’s rough handling proved popular, however, and remained the definitive edition of the Sonnets until well into the 19th Century. Professor Callahan made the interesting argument that reuse of a resource, which he called “conservation,” can be as good for it in the long run as trying to maintain it in a pristine state (“preservation”).

The performance itself consisted of forty of the sonnets read by veteran actor Michael Herrold , with contemporary music between each set of three or four. The musical ensemble consisted of three members of the faculty, Grant Herreid, lute and cittern; Charles Weaver, lute and bandora; and Priscilla Herreid, recorder. They played dance music by Anthony Holborne, from Pavans, Galliards, Almains, and other short Aiers (1599), including such pieces as “Paridizio,” “Last Will and Testament,” “The Funerals,” and “The Fairie Round.”

Mr. Herrold read well, with good intonation, expression, and enunciation, but not overdramatizing. This was a very interesting and well-presented program which we enjoyed.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/298546.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
7:08 pm
Japanese Wood Block Prints, Chazen Art Museum
On Friday, July 15th, we drove back over to Madison for the seventh day of the Madison Early Music Festival. We made good time driving, and arrived early. With some time to spend, we spent it quite profitably viewing the exhibition of Japanese wood block prints currently on display.
Taking up two rooms of the museum’s first floor, the show included a great variety of styles of prints. Classical pieces such as examples from Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, or Fifty-Three Stations on the Tokaido Road were represented, but there were many others we had not seen the like of before.

One of the very striking exhibits was a set of six prints by Hiroshi Yoshida, The Seto Inland Sea. Each one showed the same basic image of a moored ship in harbor, with the colors changed in each one, so as to depict pre-dawn, then morning, afternoon, evening, and night, with the sixth scene enshrouded in fog. Notes to the pieces confirmed our thoughts, that the artist had been influenced by Monet, with his studies of shifting light on haystacks or cathedrals.

Another, a tryptich, depicted an amazingly antic scene of a battle taking place on a rooftop. Two noble samurai are dueling, while a squad of feudal police and other samurai are trying to apprehend them with apparently small success. Titled, “Scene of the Battle on the Rooftop of Hoyukaku Pavilion,” by artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, it is an episode from a “semi-historical” novel called Nanso Satomi hakkenden (“The Tale of the Eight Loyal Dogs of the House of Satomi”).

There was also a fascinating series by Yoshitoshi, often referred to as the last great master of wood block printing, Handsome Heroes of the Suikoden. This series is based upon the 14th Century Chinese novel, The Water Margin. Each depicts one of the characters fighting a ghost, demon, or other eldritch creature. Published as a bound volume, each vividly colored image is roughly the size of a comic book or pulp magazine cover. Since each one incorporates a block of calligraphy, there is a strong impression of seeing the covers of a Japanese version of Weird Tales.

It was interesting also to see the evolution of wood block printing into the modern age. Always a commercial medium, 1931 saw a series, Modern Styles of Makeup, by Kobayakawa Kiyoshi, a fashion-plate sort of work that presumably appeared in the pages of a newspaper or women’s magazine.

It’s a very worthwhile exhibit. The show continues through August 14th.

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Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
6:18 pm
MEMF, Day Two, Newberry Ensemble
The second evening of the Festival had something rather unique for Early Music: a movie showing. David Douglass, co-director of The Newberry Consort, has assembled a “score” of Elizabethan music to be presented with a silent film, Les Amours de la reine Elisabeth, a 1912 feature film starring the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt.

The showing was preceded by a talk by co-director Ellen Hargis, who spoke about the historical Elizabeth and Essex. Then, before the showing proper, Mr. Douglass gave a very entertaining introduction to the film, including its making, the cast, and its significant effect on the American film industry.

Before the film proper, Ms. Hargis was accompanied by the Consort in presenting vocal versions of the songs “What if a Day,” “If My Complaints Could Passions Move,” and “Can She Excuse My Wrongs,” which figured in the film score.

I can’t say that watching the film was easy: it has been digitized, but not restored or remastered: tops of heads are cut off in some scenes, and some are very washed out. For that, it was still interesting as showing examples of the demonstrative style of acting in use at the time, as presented by one of the premier acting troupes of the day. Of course, modern audiences find this humorous, but I found it very instructive to see.

The movie plot is very similar to the opera Roberto Devereaux, recently reviewed elsewhere in this journal, but with some changes that actually make the plot a bit more sensible. Elizabeth’s motivation for giving Essex the “get-out-of-jail-free” ring is shown as being due to a fortune-teller who utters the dire prophecies that Elizabeth (Ms. Bernhardt) shall die unhappy, and Devereaux (Lou Tellegen) die on the scaffold (i.e., be executed as a criminal). Besotted, the Queen gives him the ring which he is to send to her if ever he is in trouble.

Later, we see Essex romancing the Countess of Nottingham (Mlle. Romain), when they are discovered by her husband, the Earl (Max Maxudian). Rather than interrupting them, he decides to seek revenge by denouncing Essex as a traitor, with the help of Lord Bacon (Jean Chameroy).

Elizabeth at first refuses to credit the accusation until she, also, stumbles across the unlucky lovers. Believing that if Essex is false to her as a lover, he could be false to her as a liege man, she orders his arrest and execution.

Her anger cooling, she sends the Countess to the Tower to bring her the ring and justify her sparing Essex. However, the Earl of Nottingham intercepts her, seizes the ring, and throws it into the Thames. Grieving, Elizabeth allows the execution to proceed, accepting that Essex was too proud to appeal to her. But, when she later views Essex’ corpse, she sees that the ring is not on his hand. Having made the Countess tell her what really happened, Elizabeth takes to her bed, and soon dies. (Even I have to admit that Ms. Bernhardt’s “faceplant” into her featherbed as the dying Queen was funny--.)

Mr. Douglass did a marvelous job matching Shakespearean period music to the film action. Most of the pieces were new to me, and some I had heard of, but never heard played. One such was “Heartsease,” which is referred to in “Merry Wives of Windsor.” In the movie, the Queen and her court view a performance of “Merry Wives,” after which Essex presents Shakespeare to the Queen.
The Consort played the twenty-six pieces without discernible flaw, and in excellent synchrony with the music. Ms. Hargis sang again on Edward Johnson’s “Eliza is the Fairest Queen,” which was the “end title music.”
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Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
6:21 pm
Independence Day: Resurgence
On July 4th, we went to see “Independence Day: Resurgence.” Having read reviews saying it wasn’t as good as the original, largely because of the absence of Will Smith, we didn’t expect much, but found it better than expected. (While I like Will Smith well enough, I think he’s overrated. I had forgotten he was even in the first movie. The performances that stuck with me were Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman, both of whom are back for this entry.)

It is twenty years after the events of the first film. Humanity on earth is largely united by fear of the alien threat, and has supposedly* worked out a cooperative world government—or at least a unified world armed force. There has been no major war since 1996. (*I say supposedly, since the United States is still an autonomous country, as apparently is an African state ruled by warlord Deobia Oparei ( Dikembe Umbutu), which is the only country other than the USA that plays a major part in the events of the new movie.)

The reverse-engineered alien technology has given Earth an updated infrastructure, made the restoration of Washington D.C. and other cities possible, and lead to the deployment of a space defense force with a major base on the Moon. Of course, the twenty-year celebration of the alien’s defeat coincides with the aliens’ reappearance, as a bigger, badder threat.

This time, we get to find out what the aliens want, as, after destroying the Moon base (and part of the Moon), the Mother-of-All-Motherships settles over the Atlantic Ocean central rift, and begins boring toward Earth’s “molten core.” (Supposedly they want this for “fuel” and raw materials, which makes very little sense, but this movie doesn’t pretend to hard science. I admit I found the reference to “Cold Fusion” missile warheads amusing--.)

The battle for the planet is on, with expectable setbacks for the good guys initially. Ultimate victory requires both the young and valiant new warriors and the veterans of the last campaign to come together and employ their various talents to improvise a new plan. How it all works out is of course spectacular and, all in all, reasonably satisfying.





Spoileriffic Critiques:
The 3000 mile wide alien space craft is sufficiently massive to have its own significant gravity, as we are shown. Accepting that this film is a science-fantasy one remove from Star Wars, I suppose it was deemed that the disaster effects attendant on the ship’s landing were sufficient, and they didn’t really need to go into adding the tidal effects on the earth’s crust, or the perturbation of the planet’s rotation and possibly orbit by contract with such a massive object. After all, if the Earth is going to be destroyed in less than 24 hours, why worry about long-term effects? (And then there’s the little fact that a sizeable hunk of the Moon got sheared off by the incoming monstrosity--.)

On another front, apparently the laws on Presidential succession have been changed. When the entire National Command Authority gets wiped out by the aliens, General Adams (William Fichtner) is sworn in as President. Now, in the first place, in this situation, there’s no way both the President and the Vice-President would be at the same location, let alone the Speaker of the House, President Pro Tempore of the Senate and ALL the Cabinet Members. I can see not wanting to add another character to the already large cast, but the Secretary of Defense (Patrick St. Esprit) is already a speaking role, and he could easily have been the one Cabinet member to be at an “undisclosed location.”

And, frankly, Adams isn’t that good a general. Advised that a defense post in the orbit of Saturn has gone off line, he actually has to think about it before ordering red alert. Then, celebrating victory over the supposed alien probe, the Earth forces are taken flat footed when the real threat appears near the Moon. The alien heavy weapons adapted for Earth’s orbital defense have a power-up period similar to “Death Star” weapons, and the order to power up isn’t even given until the alien ship is already inside the Moon’s orbit, and the orbital defenses are in range of the aliens’ much larger weapon. Since the aliens are coming in hot, the defenses are destroyed before getting off a shot.

Tactically, the defense force aerial attack on the mothership was just embarrassing. Satellites are off-line or destroyed, OK, but no attempt at reconnaissance by aircraft was referred to. No electronic countermeasures were mentioned, nor were any of the bombers detailed to suppressing defenses, all tactics that evolved during the Vietnam War, and that are standard now. The low and slow formation flying used by the attack force would have been scorned by any World War II veteran of Schweinfurt or Ploesti, although the carnage inflicted by the defenses would have been all too familiar.

Where were the cruise missiles or combat drones? Plus, the mothership appeared to be totally defenseless from the underside, where an ocean salvage ship remained unmolested while reporting on the aliens’ actions. A submarine could have launched a full salvo into the ship’s underside with no apparent difficulty.

I understand that some of these things were affirmative decisions on the part of the writers to add tension and set the situation, but it’s depressingly sloppy and unoriginal. The same effects could have been achieved with tighter writing, some actual professional military advice, and some more creativity.

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2:53 pm
Madison Early Music Festival, Day One, New York Polyphony
This year, we decided to get a Festival Pass for the Madison Early Music festival, which gets us access to six concerts over four days. (We could have had seven, but the Baltimore Consort presentation on Tuesday is the same one I previously reviewed by Early Music Now, so we chose to give that one a pass.) The overall Festival theme is “Shakespeare 400,” with emphasis on English music from Shakespeare’s day.

The program for this Saturday night was New York Polyphony, making their Wisconsin debut and first appearance at MEMF. Their concert of English sacred music was preceded by the lecture “That the Congregation May Be Thereby Edified,” by Professor J. Michael Allsen, which set the context of the religious shifts that took place during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VII, Mary, and Elizabeth I. England had always had its own tradition of sacred music, most of which was lost in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and cleared the way for new works.

New York Polyphony is made up of four male singers: Geoffrey Williams, countertenor; Steven Caldicott Wilson, tenor; Christopher Dylan Herbert, baritone; and Craig Phillips, bass. They are currently one of the most highly regarded classical music vocal groups, and, having heard them, it’s easy to tell why. They have very pure tones, extremely precise elocution, and pitches that are spot-on.

Their concert, called “Tudor City,” after their 2010 album, included two masses. After “Ave Maria Mater Dei,” by Willam Cornysh, they began the Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd, which Professor Allsen called one of the most perfect examples of counterpoint extant. Inserted between the movements of the Mass were other pieces of sacred music from the Tudor and late Plantagenet period, by John Dunstable, Walter Lambe, and Thomas Tallis.

The second half of the program began with “Ave Verum Corpus,” by Byrd, and the Mass for Four Voices by Byrd’s predecessor and mentor, Thomas Tallis. Tallis’ Mass was a simpler and more austere setting, but in its way no less beautiful. Additional pieces came from John Pyamour, John Plummer, and the Worcester Fragments.

After a well-deserved standing ovation, the group favored us with an encore: a do-wop version of “Rosie the Riveter on the Assembly Line,” which showed that their mastery of more modern styles is just as great as that of the ancient music.

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Monday, July 11th, 2016
4:46 pm
“The BFG”

On Wednesday evening, July 6th, we went to see The BFG, the new movie adapted from the book by Roald Dahl. We enjoyed it very much.

Set in 1980’s Britain, orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), lives an insomniac existence at an unlikely Dickensian orphanage on a back street. When she breaks her own rules about noised in the night (“Don’t get out of bed, don’t go to the window, don’t look behind the curtain,”) she sees The BFG (Mark Rylance) going about his business of distributing dreams. He sees her seeing him, and steals her away with him so that she can’t tell what she has seen.

Initially outraged at her kidnapping, she attempts escape, but finds that BFG’s cave is in the middle of Giant Country, which is the home of nine other much less civilized giants, all of whom are man-eaters and at least three times BFG’s size.  Eventually, she learns that BFG (Big, Friendly Giant, as he wishes to be called) is tender-hearted, and, even on short acquaintance, cares for her more than the orphanage keepers. He shows her the marvelous Dream Country, where he gets the makings for the dreams that he puts out to those that need them.

When she has a close call with the other giants, who have names like Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) and Bloodbottler (Bill Hader), BFG decides that Sophie has to go back to the orphanage. However, this won’t do for Sophie, who has realized that the other giants are a deadly threat to other children. Together, they come up with an audacious plan that involves going to London to see the Queen.

We would disagree with the critics who say that The BFG is somehow lacking. Indeed, The BFG does not have the transgressive or satirical edge that shows up in adaptations of others of his works, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, or the explicitly anti-authoritarian Matilda. Instead, The BFG is a more pure children’s story, and is charming, sweet, and sentimental. It is also magical, beautiful, and tells a solid story of empowerment without doing harm.

It is also wonderfully funny, especially in the sequence of BFG’s visit to Buckingham Palace and breakfast with the Queen.  Penelope Wilton (“Isobel Crawley” from Downton Abbey) plays the Queen wonderfully. She’s open to new things, but never at a loss and always in control. Her place staff, lead by lady in waiting Mary (Rebecca Hall) and First Footman Mr. Tibbs (Rafe Spall), show us how the truly professional do it, when confronted with the requirement to provide breakfast for a thirty-foot tall unexpected guest. That the scene is also the set-up for perhaps the most elaborate “fart joke” in movie history is just lagniappe.

We became aware of distinguished actor Mark Rylance watching him play Henry the Eighth’s ‘fixer’ Thomas Cromwell in the television adaptation of Wolf Hall, and were most impressed by the subtlety and depth of his acting skills. His basic solemn expression is perfect for the giant, and his ability to portray wonder, awe, fear, and anger with fine nuance does everything that is needed to convey the Giant’s character, when combined with the marvelous voice characterization. Rylance’s skills provide an excellent setting for Ms. Barnhill’s Sophie, who is a very naturalistic yet forceful young girl. The BFG is a fine, fine piece of fantasy cinema, and should be seen by all who still have a sense of wonder.

 

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Thursday, June 30th, 2016
6:02 pm
American Players Theatre, “An Ideal Husband”
On Saturday, June 25th, we drove over to Spring Green to see the opening night of the production of Oscar Wilde’s play, “An Ideal Husband.” We cannot recommend this performance too highly.

Wilde’s play, about a poor young man who built a brilliant political career on a fortune made by a single act of misfeasance, is very timely today. Sir Robert Chiltern (David Daniel) has a reputation for strict morality and honesty, and a loving wife (Colleen Madden) who keeps him on her pedestal of idealism. Indeed, all he has done in public life so far has adhered to those standards. Therefore, when he is threatened with the exposure of his past, the fall before him is terrible.

This drama is embedded in the type of comedy of manners that Wilde does so well, with an ongoing dialog about the “triviality” of life, society, parties, marriage, and fidelity, which continues oblivious of the desperate choice facing Sir Robert.

His best friend, Lord Goring (Marcus Truschinski), is the person who connects the worlds of the trivial and the serious. While constantly working on his “trivial” image, Goring turns out to be a steadfast friend and the voice of reason. As Wilde’s voice in the play, Goring has some of the most acerbic and witty commentary on society’s foibles, but also shows great heart and compassion.

There was really marvelous acting by all the principals. Daniel as shows us the agony of his situation. Ms. Madden displays the shock and horror Mrs. Chiltern feels when she finds out about her husband’s indiscretion like getting a punch in the stomach. Tracy Michele Arnold as Mrs. Cheveley has an edgy delivery that reminds one of a younger Dowager Duchess of Grantham. Jade Payton (as Mabel Chiltern), Greta Oglesby (Lady Markby), Cristina Panfilio (Lady Basildon), and Jennifer Latimore (Mrs. Marchmont), as the women of society were devastatingly funny discoursing on their amusements and their discontents.

The costumes were frankly amazing. The women’s party and day outfits were particularly spectacular, but Lord Goring’s orchidaceous suits were close behind. (Tall, slim, and elegant, Mr. Truschinski cuts a figure that Wilde would have envied--.) And, there were nice subtleties, such as the relatively conservative colors and cuts worn by the puritanical Mrs. Chiltern.
The minimal set backdrop was handsome and worked well, augmented by the period furniture and elegant flower arrangements.

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5:54 pm
British Car Field Day, 2016
On Sunday, June 19th, we drove out to Sussex Village Park for the annual British Car Field Day.

This year’s field was a bit smaller than some past years, but we still had a good opportunity to take up-close looks at a lot of interesting cars. As usual, there were a goodly number of examples of the classic British two-seater sports car, as made by MG, MGB, Austin-Healey, Sunbeam, and others. This was the first time we saw an example of the Morris Minor, frequently referred to in British literature, but seldom seen these days. While there were fewer Jaguars than some years, there was a rare type on display (possibly a Mark VIII?) that I was very interested to see.

We were also interested to note that there are now replicas available for some of the classic marques. There were two examples of a Lotus Super 7 replica—the car famously seen in the opening sequence of “The Prisoner”—which were very attractive.

There was also a new production model of the Morgan Three-Wheeler, notable since it can be legally imported to the US due to being classed as a motorcycle. The vehicle is driven by a massive cycle-type engine which sits in the open air in front of the front axle where an ordinary car’s grill would be. The boat-shaped body has an open cockpit which theoretically seats two very friendly slim people, and a minimal windscreen. (I didn’t note if this model has any kind of luggage compartment or not.) It’s a very minimalist approach to motoring and looks like it would be fun to drive for fun, but highly impractical otherwise.

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5:52 pm
Historic Concordia Tour of Homes 2016
On Saturday, June 18th, we took the Historic Concordia Tour of Homes, on which a dozen private houses and other buildings were open to be visited.

We started by visiting the Elizabeth Pabst von Ernst house in the 3400 block of West Wells street. We had seen this house a few years ago, and were interested to see progress that had been made.
The Benzakein residence on North 33rd Street was a good example of a successful renovation. The former duplex has been converted into a single-family dwelling with eleven bedrooms and copious other living space, including a handsome deck atop the garage.

We were very interested to see the inside of the “Lion House” on West Highland Boulevard. This building, which looks like it should have been a bank building was in fact built as a residence by George J. Koch in 1897. Koch was a banker, so perhaps this seemed homelike to him? It has been office space since the 1980’s, and is presently used by the Forest County Potowatomi Foundation in what must be one of the city’s most distinguished offices
.
The Grosse residence in the 3100 block of West Highland is very much a work in progress. Mr. Grosse bought the 1917 Craftsman bungalow at a sheriff’s sale in 2015, and has begun what will be an extensive restoration of the neglected but basically sound property.

The Manegold mansion, also on West Highland, is a very fine example of a Queen Anne Victorian which survived use as a nursing home and as a priests’ residence with many of its original appointments intact. The present owners are restoring it and hope to make it a bed and breakfast.
The former Gezelschap home on West State Street is another work in progress, with the new owners intent on restoring the spacious Victorian, which also had been converted into a rooming house. The original owner dealt in lighting fixtures, so the home has remarkable eleven-foot ceilings, appropriate for displaying his wares.

We re-visited the Charles Krause home on West Kilbourn, which has been very nicely restored and furnished. We had a very nice chat with the lady owner there.
This year, we skipped the Schuster Mansion and the Tower House, as we had seen them recently, and weren’t interested in the Woodlands School building or St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, although these were all open. We did stop in at the Tripoli Shrine Temple, the tour headquarters, for pieces of pie from the bake sale before heading home.

Notes about the tour had encouraged people to dress “period”, so of course Georgie and I did, being two of the evident few who did. However, we were very well received, and got many smiles and waves, even from neighborhood residents who weren’t part of the tour.

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Monday, June 13th, 2016
8:15 pm
Midsummer Masquerade: “Dieselpunk USO”
Saturday evening, the 11th, we drove up to the American Legion Hall in Mequon for the second Milwaukee area Midsummer Masquerade. The Legion hall is a small but nice venue, and the organizers had laid on a decent snack buffet included with the ticket price. Open bar prices were very reasonable also, at two dollars for a soft drink, and only three for a cocktail.

Live entertainment was provided by The Rat Package Cabaret Troupe, who put on two sets of World War II/Korean War Era song and dance. The performers, lead by Rich Mach and Lori Minetti, put on a good show and engaged with the audience. They had a good repertoire of songs, including short Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe tributes.

There wasn’t a huge turnout, but the people that were there dressed for the occasion and had a good time. According to signs, another Midsummer Masquerade/Dieselpunk USO is planned for 2017. If it comes off, we will have to share the info around to get some more people there.

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8:14 pm
Made in Nerdwalkee
On Saturday afternoon, June 11th, we went to 42 Ale House for the “Made in Nerdwalkee” art and craft sale. This was a fascinating show, which has expanded from the function space to an outdoor tent (fortunately, not too hot when we were there). This was a really nifty show, that showed how technology has affected arts and crafts. Besides traditional jewelry, soaps, drawings, and fabric arts, there were also items made with Three-D printing, or computer-controlled laser cutting. We spent a good hour walking around the displays, chatting with the artists and admiring the goods and the many clever designs.

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8:13 pm
One Night for “One Drop”
On Tuesday evening, June 7, we went to the cinema to see the digital broadcast of Cirque de Soliel’s charity benefit performance, “One Night for ‘One Drop’: Quest for Water”. This is an annual event in which Cirque de Soliel performers and production staff donate their time and skills to benefit the One Drop Foundation, which works to provide access to clean water in regions across the world.

Staged at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, the show began with an African-themed dance sequence, depicting life in a village in an arid region. The show’s viewpoint character, a young African boy (nine year old actor and dancer Miles Brown), goes to the nearby well to fetch water, but falls in, initiating a “down the rabbit hole” sequence of adventures in the underworld. These include a “water ballet” sequence, an “Inferno” sequence, and eleven others making up the hour and a half program.

Since the show is being performed on a standard indoor stage, much of the show is an extended dance review, although each scene includes aerial performers of some type. The background is a full-stage sized video projection, which adds fantastic ambiance to the acts. This could be a bit overwhelming at times, notably in the “Inferno” performance, where the red and black flaming background made it hard to pick out the aerial performers. As with every Cirque de Soliel show I have seen, the performers push the envelope of what is humanly possible. There’s at least one moment in each show where I say, “People can’t do that!” In this performance there were several: a person not only dancing on their hands, but leaping and bounding as well; a man balancing on two cylinders, one 90 degrees from the other; another man who could move isolated parts of his body by the action of individual muscles I would swear most people don’t even have. There were also some truly amazing child performers, such as twin aerialists Valerya and Veronika Tomanmova.

The Cirque performers were joined by volunteers from other Las Vegas shows, and by Grammy-nominated “X Factor” winner singer Leona Lewis, who performed her songs “Bleeding Love, “ and “Thunder”, and was very fine. She is justly famous for her amazing voice.

Kudos definitely to director Hassan El Hajjami, who pulled it all together, including moving in, setting up, and prepping the show in the Smith Center in 24 hours (rehearsals had been conducted in another space). This was a really beautiful and amazing performance for an excellent cause, and we were very glad to have seen it.

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Monday, June 6th, 2016
8:43 pm
June 6th, 2016, the end of an era.
Today, Monday, June 6th, was officially Georgie’s last day employed by the West Allis Public Library as she begins what we hope will be a long, creative, productive, and happy retirement. She’s enjoyed working at the library for 31 and a half years, since October of 1984. However, particularly of late, her work has gotten to be more and more “desktop tech support” and less and less of the human contact reference work she really enjoyed. When we calculated that pension and Social Security would equal the income she was getting from her typical hours, she decided it was time to take time for herself. The library will doubtless miss her graphic arts support, in particular the popular colorful posters for Summer Reading program and similar events, but the more-or-less steady demand of those jobs and her irregular work hours kept her from being able to put sustained effort into creative projects of her own. She plans now to set herself a regular schedule to work on the backlog of projects she has on hand.

Georgie got very nice personal letters of congratulation both from the Library Director and the Mayor of West Allis. This afternoon, her co-workers brought in tea and snacks for a nice get-together. Georgie got a lovely card in which more than one person expressed the sentiment that the library would not be the same without her.

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8:42 pm
Skylight Opera Theater, “The Pirates of Penzance”
On Sunday afternoon, June 5th, we went to see the final production of this year’s Skylight season, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.” This was as manic and active a production of the famous operetta as we have seen. All of the action was intensely choreographed, and, with the exception of the few slow numbers, the stage was a continuous whirl of color and action. The “silly” meter was cranked up to high, to the point that the production verged on self-parody at times, but it was all good fun, and we enjoyed it very much.

Benjamin Robinson was a handsome and stalwart Frederic, and Julie Tabash Kelsheimer an attractive and forceful Mabel. Both had gorgeous voices and lead an excellent cast. Drew Brhel as Major-General Stanley and Diane Lane as Ruth were splendid in their important comic roles, and sang well as well.
As mentioned, a lot of the scenes were almost continuous dance and action: the intense choreography by Ryan Cappleman, and the stage business as directed by Shawna Lucy, were continuous and seamlessly integrated.

The set, with its postcard backgrounds, worked well with the action, and incorporated its own set of jokes. The women’s shirtwaist outfits for the first act were more 1900 style than 1879, but they were attractive and pretty and that was sufficient.

The orchestra, under the direction of noted Gilbert and Sullivan director Robert Linder, performed with out noticeable flaw, and supported the singers at just the right level.

A very enjoyable afternoon at the opera, with just as much energy as we could stand.

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8:41 pm
Villa Terrace, Garden Opening
Sunday, June 5th, we stopped in to the Villa Terrace Museum for the annual opening of its Renaissance garden. This amazing site stretches down the bluff from the Villa atop it down to the shores of Lake Michigan, incorporating handsome mature plantings, and a spectacular staircase fountain.

This year, the grounds included an installation art piece by local environmental artist Roy Staab. The piece, entitled “Shadow Dance” consists of huge overlapping hoops of bundled reeds, five circles and an ellipse, overlapping and suspended at different levels on a framework of saplings. The work is very impressive when viewed from above from the Villa, and when walking around it on the lawn. To examine it up close and see the uniformity and precision of the bundling and lacing is croggling, as is the perfect circumference of the circles, knowing that he does all this work by hand. The weather and the gardens were beautiful.

The Villa also has a photograph show of a selection of Mr. Staab’s other installations, called “Suspended in Time,” and a collection of art baskets curated by Staab, “Beyond Baskets,” all of which were very interesting.

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8:40 pm
A Bigger Splash
A Bigger Splash is the new indie movie featuring Tilda Swinton, whom we will generally go to see anytime. We went to see it at the Oriental Theatre Saturday evening, June 4th. In this film, Swinton plays Marianne, a famous rock singer, who has just had throat surgery in an attempt to save her failing voice. She and her lover, Paul, (Matthias Schoenaerts) are living in seclusion on the Italian island of Pantelleria, in hopes of a peaceful and quiet convalescence. This dream goes glimmering when they are descended upon by Harry (Ralph Feinnes), Marianne’s former producer and also former lover. He is accompanied by an attractive young woman (Dakota Johnson), who Marianne and Paul are surprised to find is Harry’s recently discovered daughter, Penelope.

Marianne is not supposed to be talking while recovering; Paul is a reticent fellow, and Penelope is sulky, so Harry (Feinnes) has as much dialog as the other three put together. Harry is a manic personality, seeming determined to be the life of the party even if no one else wants a party. He’s also an incessant manipulator, wheedler and grifter. When you notice that his blizzard of verbiage includes frequent digs at Paul, and references to the “good old days” when, coincidently, he and Marianne were together, that his purpose becomes clear. Marianne and Paul think they know Harry, and think they owe Harry, and so are inclined to tolerate his presence. We viewers, not burdened with that baggage, can quickly tell that Harry is using his verbal tools to try to drive wedges between Paul and Marianne so that he can get Marianne back. Further, he’s brought Penelope along in order to try to distract Paul while he does it.

The movie is a complex and multilayered story of seduction, misdirection, and desperation. Lushly photographed, the film contrasts the austere beauty of Pantelleria, with the sensuous bodies and lifestyles of the characters. All of the main characters have nude or semi-nude scenes, tastefully done and in context, though definitely adult. Again, the narcissistic Harry has the most and longest scenes, including the “full Monty”. (Fortunately, Mr. Feinnes has a pretty good body, especially for a 52-year old man--.)

The plot works out to a tragic climax, redeemed by an ironic and timely twist ending. Highly recommended for adult viewers with a taste for drama.

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8:39 pm
Lunching at “Le Reve”
June 4th, we went to Le Reve restaurant in the “Village” of Wauwatosa for luncheon. I had the Canard BLT, which was duck confit, bacon, arugula, tomato, and tarragon aioli on a toasted baguette. Georgie had the Pan Bagnat, which was chicken breast, watercress, tomato, basil tapenade, and roasted caper aioli on a soft bun. Both of these were delicious. We split an order of “pommes frites,” which were basically standard french fries, but nicely done and with a very tasty garlic aioli with them. Georgie had a nice green salad with her sandwich. Lunch time is a bit early for wine for us, so we accompanied the meals with a pleasant sparking lemonade.

Service was attentive and quick, as usual for Le Reve. We took home a Napoleon slice and a Valrhona chocolate tart from their bakery case for later, both of which were perfect and delicious. Le Reve continues to be one of our favorite restaurants, although we hear they are getting a new chef. We hope changes under the new regime will not be too radical.

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8:38 pm
Love & Friendship
Tuesday evening, May 31st, we went to the Downer Theater to see the new movie, Love and Friendship, adapted from Jane Austen’s unfinished work, “Lady Susan.” The adaptation was done by Whit Stillman who is also the film’s director.

Unusually for Austen, instead of being set in the 18-teens, the story takes place in the late 1770’s-early 1780’s, as the “American War” is recently over. Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) is recently widowed and left penniless. Her primary mission in life is to find an advantageous marriage for her talented but shy daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark), and secondarily for herself. She complicates matters for herself due to her due to her own desires, since, as the story opens, we see that she is being thrown out of the house of her friend, Lady Manwairing (Jenn Murray), who quite correctly believes that Lady Sarah has been too friendly with her husband.
She is able to take refuge with her late husband’s brother, Sir Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards) and his family, which she uses as a base of operations to continue trying to make a match between her daughter and the wealthy but intractably stupid Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett), while cultivating a relationship of her own with the young and handsome Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel).

The course of true love never did run smooth, and that of calculated matrimony even less so, as there are considerable complications before the plot works out.

Mr. Stillman is not quite up to Jane Austen’s level as a writer of dialog, and most of the wit and snark that we look for in adaptations of her novels is missing. This is mostly made up for by Lady Susan’s bottomless fount of invention. A master manipulator, she is never at a loss, even when nearly caught red-handed entertaining one man while keeping another on her string.

The plot works out in what we thought was the sensible fashion, although the denouement is brought about with some off-screen slight of hand, so a bit unsatisfying. On the other hand, the film is shot on location in Ireland, so both settings and costumes are fine to look at. Beckinsale gives a fascinating performance, and the cast of supporting characters, including Chloë Sevigny, Stephen Fry, and Jemma Redgrave, is just splendid, so it all adds up to a pleasant little movie.

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