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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, December 11th, 2014
    6:24 pm
    “The Book of Life,”
    Tuesday the 9th, we went to see “The Book of Life,” the new animated movie by Guillermo del Toro (among others). This beautiful film is set in a mythic world where Mexico is the “center of the world,” and the town of San Angel, the center of Mexico. Three children, the vivacious Maria (Zoe Saldana), the soulful Manolo (Diego Luna), and the dashing Joaquin (Channing Tatum) become the subject of a wager between the Lords of the Dead. Ugly Xibalba (Ron Perlman) is tired of ruling the gray and despondent Land of the Forgotten, and wants to trade places with the beautiful La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) who rules the colorful and joyous Land of the Remembered. Their wager is on which of the two boys Maria will eventually marry, Xibalba choosing Joaquin, and La Muerte, Manolo. If Xibalba wins, he gets the Land of the Remembered. If he loses, he must cease meddling in the affairs of the living.

    The plot is mostly straightforward and satisfying, with a few twists to keep it fresh. The movie design is bold and unique. In a framing device, schoolchildren visiting a museum are told the story by a docent, using wooden toy figures to illustrate it. We then see the action played out, but the people still are made of wood, with visible, toylike joints. Even given that, many of the characters are extremely stylized, old men in particular tending to have long snoutlike noses, influenced by Basil Wolverton or Mad Magazine. The visions of the lands of the dead are of course based on the folk art prevalent at the Day of the Dead time, with decorated skulls a particular motif. The result is one of the most visually creative and exhilarating films seen in years.

    All the voice acting was quite good, with a few surprises (Placido Domingo!). The sound track was also enchantingly eclectic, ranging from mariachi and opera to pop ballads and original pieces.

    Most highly recommended and good for most ages. Some scenes may be too intense for the younger viewer.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/265793.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
    5:10 pm
    Big Hero 6
    Tuesday, we went to see Big Hero 6, and found it delightful.

    Set in “San Fransokyo”, an amalgam city of San Francisco and Tokyo, I was grabbed by the movie’s design sense in the first images, a pan including what I am calling “the Tori Gate Bridge.” This combination of American and Japanese elements, combined with fantasy elements such as tethered wind-turbine balloons, make a setting that is attractive and fascinating.

    The protagonist, Hiro (Ryan Potter), is a 13-year-old genius who has graduated high school, but dawdling over entering college that he doesn’t see the utility of. This changes when he visits his older brother Tadashi’s robotics lab, meets his self-described “nerd” friends, and becomes motivated to get admitted to college so he can do the kinds of work they are.

    Hiro’s amazing entrance project, swarming “microbots”, is lost in a fire and explosion which also kills Tadashi (Daniel Henney). When he discovers the microbots have actually been stolen, he becomes obsessed with bringing his brother’s killer to justice, and begins by upgrading Baymax, his brother’s invented health aide robot (voice by Scott Adsit).

    Baymax’s concern for Hiro’s “health” causes him to bring in friends Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred, (Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, and T.J. Miller) and Hiro uses his abilities to help build super tools reflective of each one’s specialty: speed and mobility for Go Go, lasers and plasma for Wasabi, and chemistry for Honey Lemon. Slacker Fred gets a monstrous super-suit gratifying his kaiju fantasies. Together they go after the kabuki-masked mystery man who has turned Hiro’s microbots into a devastating weapon.

    Although the plot is standard comic-book fare (I knew immediately who the villain had to be--), there were still some surprises. The manner in which the kids get in each other’s way when fighting the foe is both realistic and refreshing, and Fred’s ongoing comic-informed commentary on “origins” and “revenge plots” does a lot to subvert the tropes in an amusing fashion. The blended city background is gorgeous, and the character animation effective and pleasing. (I thought there was more than a little well-done Miyazaki homage, particularly in the ominously flowing black mass of microbots. Such visions are frequently seen in Studio Ghibli movies.) Good voice characterization by all the actors and I thought the cartoonish character designs were distinctive and worked well.

    Definitely the most enjoyable film we have seen this holiday season. Good for most ages, although as with most action movies, combat scenes may be too intense for younger children, and some images are scary.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/265620.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Sunday, November 30th, 2014
    2:59 pm
    A Spoileriffic Contrarian View of "Interstellar"
    Last night, November 29th, Georgie and I went to see "Interstellar." We both came away annoyed and disappointed. For Georgie, in part it was because she found being constantly manipulated by the emotional set-ups and the musical score wearing. For me, I found the "human" part of the plot (as distinct from the science problem part of the plot) turgid, melodramatic, and unbelievable. Also, despite the highly touted astrophysics in the film, it was painfully obvious that Professor Kip Thorne was not consulted about a lot of the BASIC physics, which were instead filled in by Hollywood cliches, which did a lot to ruin the movie for me.

    I suppose we should be thankful to Christopher Nolan for making a success of "Interstellar" because that increases the chances that more SF films will be greenlighted. Here's hoping that one of these days we will see one where there only laws of nature that are broken are those explicitly called for by the science-fiction element.

    Scroll down for my point-by-point objections, if you care to.










    Planets orbiting a black hole: OK, accepting that for a moment, no matter how unlikely, where's the star that's providing the Earth-like daylight all three planets enjoy? What's causing the enormous tidal waves on planet One (I'm referring to the planets as One, Two, and Three, since, other than Dr. Mann, I can't remember the names of the scientists sent to each one)? Probably that close to the black hole, planet One ought to be tidally locked and thus have no actual tides. If they are actual tide effects due to the black hole's gravity, then the planet has a rotational period of about two hours local time, which should have been obvious from space, since the time compression factor of 61000+ to one should have made the planet appear to be spinning at approximately 511 RPM--.

    I also tend to think that the region as close to the black hole as planet One would probably be uninhabitable due to hard radiation released as matter contained in the significant accretion disk crossed the event horizon, but I have no hard data on that.

    Fractured Faceplate: In his attempt to murder protagonist Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), Dr, Mann (Matt Damon) fractures the faceplate of Cooper's spacesuit, supposedly exposing him to the ammonaical atmosphere of planet Two. Cooper reacts by writhing around on the ground making gobbling noises until he's able to grab the radio Mann tore off his suit and call for help. Now, since the plant does have atmosphere, if the spacesuit faceplate is cracked, one of three conditions must apply: either the pressure inside the suit is greater than outside, in which case the suit has a slow leak, endangering, but not immediately disabling; second, pressure is approximately equal, which means the situation is the same; or, third, the pressure outside is higher, which means Cooper has an ammonia leak in front of his face, which seems to be what's happening, although there's no other indication the atmosphere is that thick. However, the air isn't THAT corrosive, since when Dr. Brand (Anne Hathaway) come to the rescue, she blithely flips Cooper's faceplate open and gives him a respirator. We don't see any red eyes or other trauma to Cooper's face moments later inside the landing craft. My point being that this planet is really cold, so a canny spaceman could have closed his eyes, held his breath, opened his faceplate, licked his finger and probably sealed the crack with frozen spit. That's assuming space helmet faceplates are that fragile anyway, which I doubt to begin with.

    Exploding spacecraft: In an attempt to highjack the "Endurance", the mad Dr. Mann steals the shuttle, "Ranger 1" but can't dock properly and so attempts to board by overriding the airlock safeties. Note that this is essentially the same maneuver successfully performed by astronaut Dave Bowman regaining entrance to the "Discovery" when locked out by HAL. In "Interstellar" however, this results in a massive explosion, that kills Mann, destroys Ranger 1, and does serious damage to Endurance, knocking it out of orbit. Totally unreasonable! The worst thing that should have happened would have been the two ships drifting apart, propelled by the puff of exhausted atmosphere. The drifting Ranger might have damaged the rotating Endurance somewhat, but that's about it. This is the film's major case of subjugating scientific sense for Hollywood cliche. I would have written it so that the decompression pushed both Dr. Mann and the untethered Ranger away from the main ship, both to fall and be destroyed on reentry. The heroes still have to catch, board and re-stabilize the damaged Endurance, which surely would have been dramatic enough.

    Then, in the movie, Cooper and one of the AIs manage to dock with the out-of-control Endurance, and use the landing craft's engines to stop the spin and lift the main space craft, many times the mass of the lander, out of the planet's gravity well, and out of orbit. Maybe not impossible, but highly unlikely in my opinion.

    Note also: The Ranger shuttles are shown as being capable of landing and taking off from a planetary surface unaided, even Planet One, which has 130% Earth's gravity. So, why do they initially need a two-stage booster to get it off Earth?


    Other quibbles: How could NASA have remained secret for years launching rockets from the middle of the continental United States? You'd think someone like Cooper, a former astronaut, would notice--.

    "Plan B" as described, which involves only stored human embryos, would surely fail. What would they eat? Planet Three is pretty barren. There would have to have been more to it than that.

    Dr. Brand's speech about relying on love when beyond the scientific data is out of character, even given her shock and upset at the death of Doyle. This is part of the unsatisfactory sentimentality of the script.

    Last and not least, I consider any plot resolution involving time travel where time travel isn't part of the initial problem (as in "Looper") a cop-out.

    So, a pity: serious science, a great cast, wonderful special effects, all fatally undermined by some short-sighted cliches. Rats.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/265421.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Monday, November 10th, 2014
    6:10 pm
    TeslaCon 5 “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
    Friday, November 7th, we made the trip to Middleton, Wisconsin, for TeslaCon 5.

    We started the program with the first afternoon round of panels, “Exploring Your Steampunk Story.” This story-telling-style presentation was lightly attended, but the people who did participate had some interesting and well-crafted backstories to share.

    Next, I did a presentation on “The Melodrama and the Music Hall: Victorian Middle-Class Entertainments.” I talked about the genesis of the melodrama, its rise and fall, and the various genres of play within the type. The talk was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation with pictures and some sound and video clips. The Music Hall portion was similar, giving origins and history of the Music Hall phenomenon, with numerous illustrations of halls and performers, and some music and video. The audience seemed to enjoy the presentation and find it interesting.

    At 4:00PM, we went to the “Owen Society” presentation, “Cryptomania: Cryptology, Cryptozoology, and Cryptobotany for Fun & Profit.” This was a performance rather than a factual presentation, giving purported preliminary findings about the world at the “Center of the Earth,” which was cleverly done and amusing.

    After dinner, we got in line for seating for the Opening Ceremonies. We were pleased that things started close to on time and we got good seats. Augmenting the usual broadly humorous acting of Eric Larsen as “Lord Bobbins,” William Dezoma as “Admiral Krieger,” and the rest of the crew, this year’s video presentation was, in a word, fantastic. From the moment the “Freya,” Lord Bobbins’ new combination armored dirigible/mechanical mole combination hove in site of the glowing polar hole leading down, until arriving at the Pellucidar-like “Center of the Earth,” the visualization of the journey was unlike any other I have seen. Totally unscientific, even by “hollow earth science” standards, but fascinating and beautiful to watch. The ultimate Center was the expected Verne/Burroughs homage with dinosaurs, mastodons, and, ultimately people. Much to the disgust of Lord Bobbins, the Earth’s Core also proved to harbor arch-foe Dr. Proctocus (Heath Howes), rescued by his minions from exile on the Moon and again plotting world domination.

    Filing out of the Ballroom, I was particularly struck by the magic Eric has his people work: while the opening ceremonies were going on, the signage had been changed to add “beware of dinosaurs” notices. There were also dinosaurs in the Hotel! “Dakota & Friends” (www.DinoParties.com), are a troupe that has some amazingly cool dinosaur “suits” (for lack of a better term) with “animatronic” effects, and were now on site.

    After the Opening Ceremonies, we attended this year’s fashion show, which featured Dr. Proctocus as M.C. After all, he said, “fashion is evil.” Actually, this year’s collection was very good.

    The first collection was by Steampunk Angel Couture and BEW Steampunk Design which featured outfits with very creative and fresh uses of brown and black, plus a very attractive metallic paisley greatcoat.

    Revive Gifts presented an attractive dress with multiple stripe patterns, one ornamented with gold tassels and bead fringe, a brown slinky number, and a harlequin skirt in pale blue and brown.

    The collection from Ugo Serrano had a “family theme” showing us a daughter, son, father and mother. Included were an iridescent blue skirt with plaid bodice, vest with multi-check patterned trim, and a brown bib-front waistcoat. We also saw a sophisticated skeleton bustle, armor (steel!) corselet, and a flowing net skirt decorated with garlands of ruching that gave the effect of flowers.

    Scoundrel’s Keep began with a lovely turquoise-patterned cutaway coat, followed by a bronze corset and pantalette outfit, a black and bronze ensemble with exposed crinoline hoops, and a white bolero jacket worn over coordinating corset and black floaty skirt.
    KMK Designs showed us an elegant cream-colored corset dress, a basic black lapelled waistcoat and rousers, a steel gray hourglass corset with black lace overlaid skirt, and a black tunic top with mermaid skirt.

    Silversark, who based her collection on the different colors and textures of obsidian, the volcanic glass, had one of the most spectacular collections, augmented by feather headpieces by Debra Olsen, and with jewelry by Muses’ Jewelry.

    The collection opened with a yellow lace cocktail-length skirt under an exposed crinoline cage, accented with a black feather collar.

    Next, was a black leather Empire waist tunic length dress with puffed sleeves; a black, off shoulder beaded number with elaborate feather headdress; and a largely sheer black negligee outfit, among others.

    Enchanted Designs ended the show with a very unusual and imaginative collection, including a man’s firefighter uniform, an ensemble with wrap bodice and skirt hitched up to the hips, a red satin lapelled waistcoat, and some outfits incorporating very natural looking leather waist cinchers tooled by lasers. The final out fit was “The Gatekeeper,” which had a male model wearing a corselet of steel bars, and made ominously tall by stilts crafted to look like brick gateposts.

    The designers took questions after the show, and talked briefly about the origins of each collection. After the formal show we were able to take close looks at the outfits and talk to the models about how it was to wear them.

    Saturday Morning, we stopped in on morning coffee with the Milwaukee Steampunk Society, and then went to the Tea Room for the Suffragette Tea and Conversation, hosted by Frau Krieger, (now “Baroness Munchausen”, since the Admiral’s inheritance of the family title--), which was very pleasant. Georgie read some bits from a suffragist text, Are Women People?, by Alice Duer Miller, which the attendees present professed to find very interesting.

    At 11:30AM, Georgie went to the presentation “vTech: Real Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian Technology” by Dr. Charles Tritt, which was very informative and covered a great deal of fascinating topics.

    I went to “The Use Of Metafiction In Steampunk, And Steampunk Literature”. This was not “Metafiction as commonly defined, such as “Metafiction is a literary device used to self-consciously and systematically draw attention to a work's status as an artifact.” Instead, the presenters, including featured guest Thomas Willeford, discussed “the use and adaptation of various Victorian and non-Victorian characters and genre into the steampunk aesthetic.” This included both use of pre-existing fictional and non-fictional characters in new work and how to avoid the pitfalls that may exist. This panel had some useful information, not only for authors, but designers and actors as well.

    Comic relief in the “Immersion” story was provided by “The Grink,” a troll-like puppet who enjoys singing, and whose idea of a good drink is a “grub smoothie.”

    At 1:00PM, we went to “Cause Of Death II: The Sequel - An examination of illness and accident in 1880s America, with an emphasis on the medical advances and social issues surrounding contagious disease,” presented by Julieann Hunter. In this second installment, Ms. Hunter gave facts regarding diseases borne by insects and other vectors. This was again a morbidly fascinating discussion.

    Our next presentation was “Our Lady Spies,” by Georgie Schnobrich. This program talked about Belle Boyd, Emma Edmonds a.ka. Frank Thompson, Elizabeth van Lew and Mary Jane Bowser, all of whom spied during the U.S. Civil War. A great deal of fascinating information was dispensed to a room packed with an appreciative audience.

    After the panel we madly dashed to change, having tickets for the “Bobbins Dinner.” We’ve attended these in the past and always found them great fun, as well as a good meal. It’s a pleasant challenge to stay in persona for a social event such as a dinner and we enjoy that. Also, it’s a good way to get some hints as to what’s coming up next year, as well as some entertainment in the form of the banter between Bobbins, Krieger, and their spouses and children.

    This year’s menu was particularly good: titled “A Feast for Otto Lindenbrock” (the protagonist of “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,”) the first course was “Otto’s Foraged Mushroom Bisque,” which was delicious, but I found the “en croute” cap over the soup to be a bit awkward to deal with. Axel’s Intermezzo, elderberry sorbet with St.Germain liquor and basil was unique, refreshing, and delightful.

    The main course, “Mastodon Tenderloin with Mushroom Mousse, Fingerling Potatoes, Asparagus, Lemon Oil, and Bordelaise Sauce” was marvelous. We got a tender and flavorful serving of (beef) tenderloin stuffed with the mushroom mousse, which we were quick to pronounce “the best mastodon we had ever had.”

    Dessert was “Anoplotherium Milk Cheesecake, The Professor’s Poached Pear, Marcona Almonds, and Micro Mint,” which was also delicious. The chef was roundly applauded by all.

    After dinner, there was time to digest before the Grand Ball. This year, the wonderful First Brigade Band played again, and they were better than ever, having added more dance music to their repertoire. What could be better than the TeslaCon Grand Ball? There is beautiful music, beautiful attire, charm and good cheer for all. This year there were even dancing dinosaurs: yes, one of the “Dakota” group got out on the dance floor and bobbed around to the music.

    Having danced our fill, we found some seats outside the ballroom, admired the passersby, and listened to the remainder of the music. We had wanted to stay for the start of the Steerage Ball, but it got too late waiting for them to set up, so we went to bed.
    On Sunday morning, visiting the Steampunk Science Fair is de rigeur, and we admired the creatively designed gadgets on display. Following that, Georgie gave another presentation, “Wild Women of the West, “ telling stories of Lola Montez, Carrie Nation, and “Poker Alice”. It is likely there will be a sequel.

    After both her presentations, Georgie got lots of good comments and feedback from her audiences. After “Wild Women of the West,” she was even asked if she would come and talk at a ladies’ tea!

    I had to see the Closing Ceremonies, which involved a lot more fantastic video. For my taste, the “magma layer” sequence went on a bit too long, but it was all hypnotically beautiful to look at. The stage acting included a very good swordfight between new character Beauregard Krieger (the Admiral’s guerrilla fighter son) and one of Proctocus’ deep cover agents. Proctocus was foiled again, and given into the custody of the indigenous people, with a significant chance of being fed to the dinosaurs. (But, he’s not dead yet, so you know he’ll be back.) I did like the bit showing that Bobbins and Krieger are proper Imperialists, having loaded up the “Freya’s” holds with valuable “thorium ore” from the Earth’s Core before setting off.

    Next year’s theme will be “The Wild West,” with Saturday evening having a “Night Circus” theme. We have our memberships--.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/265091.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
    6:51 pm
    American Player’s Theatre, “Alcestis.”
    Saturday afternoon, Nov. 1st, we went to APT’s Touchstone Theatre to see “Alcestis,” by Euripides, translation and additions by Ted Hughes.

    The play opens with a scene-setting monologue by Apollo (David Daniel). Alcestis (Melisa Pereyea) is within the house, dying. The Fates had decreed that her husband, King Admetos (Marcus Truschinski) must die young. Apollo, who had been sentenced by Zeus (“God” in this text) to serve Admetos for nine years, convinced Fate to accept the death of another in Admetos’ place, in order that the fortunate and beloved King should not die. However, the substitute must volunteer, and be someone from Admetos’ family. His wife, Alcestis, is the only volunteer, and this is the day of her death. Death (Brian Mani) enters, staking his claim to Alcestis and taunting Apollo.

    Alcestis expires, to the great grief of Admetos and his household. No sooner does Admetos decree the deepest mourning, when raucous horns are heard off stage, and Heracles bursts in. David Daniel is almost unrecognizable in this role, a dreadlocked biker/wild man, on the way to seize the horses of King Diomedes as one of his Twelve Labors. Heracles is Admetos’ dearest friend, and Admetos cannot bring himself to admit to Heracles that Alcestis is dead, which would cause Heracles to seek hospitality elsewhere. Instead, he tells Heracles that the funerary preparations are for a traveler who died and is being buried out of charity.

    At Admetos’ command, Heracles and his squire, Lichas (Tim Gittings) are settled into one wing of the palace, where he proceeds to disgust the servants with his drunkenness and carousing.

    Meanwhile, the funeral of Alcestis proceeds. Admetos’ father, Pheres (James Ridge) appears to make an offering, which sparks a bitter argument. This is the most powerful scene of the play as Admetos berates his father for cowardice and selfishness allowing Alcestis to die. Pheres, who had abdicated the throne in favor of Admetos, replies “I gave you your life; nothing requires me to give you mine as well.” The two part in anger, and the funeral procession departs.

    As the second act opens, the servants left behind to tend Heracles complain angrily about his gross behavior. Heracles enters, involving everyone in his bawdy story-telling of his adventures. These include his rescue of Prometheus (Brian Mani), which involves a scary/funny turn by Colleen Madden as The Vulture sent to devour Prometheus’ liver.

    At last, one of the serving women cracks, and she tells Heracles the truth. Sobered, he is angered that Admetos has lied to him, however well intentioned, and appalled that he has been lulled into behaving dishonorably in a house of mourning. He declares that in order to make amends, he will fight Death himself for the life of Alcestis. Preparing himself for wrestling, he departs.

    The funeral ended, Admetos returns home in deepest dejection. Shortly after, a battered Heracles returns, leading a veiled woman. Heracles tells Admetos he has won the woman in a wrestling match, and asks Admetos to care for her while Heracles is about his labors. Admetos wants no new woman in his house, and refuses. Apparently, one of the conditions of Alcestis’ return is that Admetos has to accept her, and Heracles can’t tell her who she is before he does. Anyway, Heracles has a frustrating time until he finally insists that Admetos take her hand and look into her eyes. He then recognizes Alcestis, whom Heracles has won back from Death. Husband and wife are joyfully reunited, and the friends reconciled.

    This is a very thought-provoking play, which deals deeply with life, love, and loss. All the Players were excellent in their roles, including Cristina Panfilio as the servant struck with grief at her mistress’ death, and Anne E. Thompson as the servant who is angry and bitter.

    The play was done in modern dress, which worked well. Apollo (as “Apollo Physician”) wore a white coat an stethoscope. Death wore a buttoned-up business suit. Prometheus wore a bloodied patient’s gown, and the Vulture surgical scrubs. The set was minimal and gave the impression of a palace still under construction, but worked well.

    This was a sometimes harrowing but always satisfying afternoon at the theater, and we were very glad to have attended.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/264767.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    6:49 pm
    Circle Sanctuary 40th Anniversary
    Circle Sanctuary celebrated its 40th anniversary the weekend of October 31st. We stopped in on Saturday morning the 1st to express our congratulations, visit with Selena Fox and Dennis Carpenter over lunch, and reconnect with the land, walking up to the ritual circle, visiting Brigid's Spring, and just general soaking up the late autumnal beauty, which was very restorative.

    Congratulations to Circle! Long may they continue.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/264618.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    3:24 pm
    Milwaukee Ballet, “Don Quixote”
    Friday night, October 31st, we went to see the Milwaukee Ballet’s performance of “Don Quixote.” The ballet was based substantially on the original choreography by Marius Petipa, with updating by Michael Pink, who added many of his trademark touches, such as the lively and humorous crowd scene details.

    There is just enough of Cervantes’ plot retained in the ballet to hang a lot of gorgeous dancing on. In most of the scenes, Quixote (Timothy O’Donnell) and Sancho (Marc Petocci) enter, set up the scene, and then watch as the villagers, gypsies, or festival goers dance. Then, there’s some action relative to the Quixote plot and the scene ends. . (Although Petocci, who is a wonderful comic dancer, did get entertaining licks in as Sancho Panza--.)

    Given that, it’s a great ballet just to lose yourself in the beauty of color and motion. Each of the major scenes had its own charms: Annia Hildalgo was excellent in the bravura role of Kitri in the first act. The swirling skirts of the gypsies in the second act were truly hypnotic, and the “white scene” of Don Quixote’s dream that follows was ethereally beautiful. As Georgie said, Davit Hovhannisyan and Luz San Miguel as the Lead Toreador and His Lady in the third act were “exquisite together.”

    Maestro Andrews Sill and the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra delivered the music by Ludwig Minkus and Philip Feeney wonderfully well.

    All together, a lovely evening of dance and music. We enjoyed it very much.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/264395.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Monday, November 3rd, 2014
    9:42 pm
    Trick or Treat Cast Photo 2014
    Drat! Don't know why insert image isn't working--will try again later.

    Top: Ras Al Ghul

    Third Row: Deathstroke, Mad Hatter, Two-Face, Assassin henchman, Joker

    Second Row:Penguin, Asylum Pharmacist, Inque, Asylum Matron, Catwoman, Killer Croc, Generic Henchman, Scarecrow

    Front Row:King Snake, Asylum Director, Asylum Nurse, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Asylum Orderly One, Asylum Orderly Two

    2014 Cast Picture

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/264172.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    9:40 pm
    Lytheria Trick or Treat, 2014
    This year the theme was “Arkham Asylum,” based on the “Batman” comic and TV series of the same name. This meant that most of the characters would be Batman villains of the crazier sort. I was prepared for this, having saved the “Two-Face” costume I had had made up years ago when we did the “Supervillains’ Club”. After some research, Georgie decided to do Jervis Tetch, a.k.a. “The Mad Hatter.” She had most of what was needed in her closet: we just ordered an appropriate hat, and she was ready to go.

    I used a new set of Ben Nye gel effects makeup to do Harvey Dent’s facial scarring. The clear and flesh colored gels worked well and were pretty convincing as burn scars. The red was disappointing: it was thinner than expected and came out a bright red rather than the scabby color shown on the examples, but I had to go with it. Overall, the effect was not bad.
    We had a very good “Joker”: he had an excellent costume and characterization. As a new member to the ensemble, he worked impressively hard to “host” the Asylum portion of the event for most of the afternoon.

    The set up was that the Asylum was open for tours. The Director, “Dr. Generic,” (Todd Voros) gave an instructional/safety lecture to the people waiting in line. However, once the people entered, they found Joker and other putative inmates in charge, and were required to choose which of three doors to open to release another. Various members of the cast took turns behind the doors, being menacing in their own ways when let loose, but always ending up with candy bars being handed out. (It was cute that some of the kids had to be persuaded to take them, having been warned outside not to accept anything from the inmates.)
    I started out working the sidewalk, flipping Two-Face’s two-headed coin to predict if people would get candy from the Joker or not. (Good face: “Eh, maybe so.” Bad face: “Doesn’t look good--.”)

    The second half of the afternoon, I changed places with “Killer Croc”, who went out to prowl the sidewalk and I lurked behind Door number Two or Three. When my door was opened, I would say, “Oooh, visitors! I wonder if I like them?” (Flip coin) Good face: “I like you! Have some candy!” (gives candy bars) Bad face: “I don’t like you! Here’s something BAD for you!” (candy bars--).

    The Trick Or Treaters seemed to have a good time, and so did we. The only “Batman” costumes that showed up were on really little kids, so we didn’t give them any extra hassle that we might have to a teen-age Batman. There was a large variety of costumes this year, with “Ninja Turtles” being popular. Given the popularity of “Elsa” costumes (from the movie “Frozen”) I was initially surprised how few came by, but then realized that the great majority of our visitors are African-American, and I can imagine that the pale blonde queen probably didn’t have great penetration in that market--.

    Over eight hundred candy bars were given out.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/263895.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    8:05 pm
    Florentine Opera, “The Flying Dutchman”
    On Friday night, October 24th, we heard a very fine performance of Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” (“Der Fliegender Hollander”) by the Florentine Opera.

    I say “heard” rather than “saw” since there wasn’t much to see, and what there was to look at was dull and confusing.

    Taking the good parts first, all the principal singers were excellent. Peter Volpe as Daland, Wayne Tigges as The Dutchman, and Alwyn Mellor as Senta all sang with great power and beauty. They were very well supported by David Danholt as Erik, Aaron Short and Jenni Bank as the Steersman and Mary, and the Florentine Opera Chorus. The orchestra, led by Maestro Joseph Rescigno, was flawless to my ear.

    Would that the visual elements had been as good. The set design, by Noele Stollmack, was dominated by two elements. The first was a gray wooden framework that resembled the inside of a barn much more than either a ship or a seaside town. The second was a huge video screen which distracted from the performance more than it enhanced it. The screen was frequently so bright it was hard to look at, even from the loge where we were.

    The stage direction, by the well-regarded Paula Suozzi, was dull where not confusing. One of the best moments at the climax, when Senta becomes a silhouette against the screen, portraying her plunge into the ocean, was immediately dissipated by having the chorus members pair up and casually amble off stage as though nothing of consequence had happened.

    Costumes, by Leslie Vaglica, were mostly period-appropriate for vaguely 19th Century Europe, but those given the two female principals did not match the female chorus, who had brightly colored “trachten” outfit with pinafore aprons and “character” shoes. By contrast, Ms. Mellor’s costume was an unadorned homely black dress with dark stockings and high-button boots. As “Mistress Mary,” Ms. Bank was given a jacket and highly unlikely tight breeches which made me wonder where she had left her riding crop.

    Oh, well. There’s nothing like live music in performance and we were glad we attended—we just could have been more glad.

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    Thursday, October 16th, 2014
    8:24 pm
    West Allis Players, “The Cupcake Killer”
    October 10th, we went to see “The Cupcake Killer,” West Allis Players’ fall production and a world premiere of a new play. This is the third play by Katherine Beeson, who also directed the play for the group, and was very good. (Ms. Beeson also took the role of the murder victim--.)

    Set in the ‘fictional Louisiana town of Salisbury,’ the plot deals with the mystery surrounding the death of Betsy Ross-Garrett, the domineering secretary of the local Baptist church, who has put more than a few noses out of joint. She also, it appears, has an estranged husband who has recently won a million dollar lottery prize.

    So, who slipped Betsy a poisoned cupcake at the church social? That’s the problem that confronts the sheriff (Bill Kaiser) and his deputy (Scott Fudali). In a nice change from the conventional plot, the officers frankly admit that they lack experience in major crime, and perhaps the visiting detective novel writer, Zoe Shepherd (Sara Pforr), might actually be able to help them out. That is, until it appears she might know a bit TOO much--.

    Very nice performances by the Players’ troupe, including Corey Klein as the troubled preacher, and Marilyn Daleiden as “Miss Ruby,” who stole scenes as the town’s diner proprietor. We found the characters to be quite true to life, including the coterie of church ladies, and the sheriff’s secretary with a big ear for gossip. When the murderer was finally revealed, I found the criminal’s motives quite believable.

    The play’s one flaw is that it is a very talky script and a bit overlong. I gather that Ms. Beeson acknowledges this, and future editions will undergo some editing. Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable play and a good evening at the theatre.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/263238.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    7:09 pm
    Milwaukee Film Festival: “Advanced Style”
    “Advanced Style” was our last movie of the Milwaukee Film Festival, which we saw Tuesday evening, October 7th, at the Fox Bay Cinema.

    “Advance Style” began as a photo-heavy blog of the same name, compiled by New Yorker Ari Cohen, who is fascinated by the panache and flamboyance of women who are both “advanced” in years, and “advanced” in stylistic sensibility. This project has become a book, and now a movie, which celebrates these women and their approach to life.

    The ladies presented run a gamut of style choices: retired editor and singer Joyce Carpati favors a style that is very much grande dame; style maven Zelda Kaplan had clothes custom-made out of her collection of fabric art; artist Ilona Smithkin creates many of her own pieces, including inch-long eyelashes to match her neon hair. Of course, there’s a lot of fabulous vintage wear on display—whole shops full of it, in the case of store owner Lynn Dell, but none of the ladies affect any strict period; they all mix and match as they choose to assemble a look that is unique to each.

    Ranging in age from 62 to 95, the thing they all seem to have in common is great attitude: seize the day, before it gets away. You can’t say whether having a great sense of style keeps one young, or having youthful energy inspires style, although I think it’s some of both. The ladies (mostly) stand straight, are (mostly) bright of eye, sharp of mind, and, being New Yorkers, stride confidently around the city on their own, stalking the elusive just-right accessory.

    In the movie, besides showing off their collections, the women talk about their lives, their pasts, and their choices, with candor and humor. This movie was inspiring, uplifting, frequently very funny, and sometimes sad. Above all, you are left with the impression that these are all great ladies you would like to know.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/263061.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Friday, October 10th, 2014
    5:53 pm
    Dinner at Sanford
    For our 30th Anniversary, we went out to dinner at Sanford Restaurant. This may seem a modest celebration for a thirtieth wedding anniversary, but the trip to Europe we took earlier this year was our present to each other--.

    Since it opened twenty-five years ago, we've gone to Sanford for many anniversaries and birthdays and always had a lovely meal. This time was no exception.

    Each dinner at Sanford begins with an amuse-bouche, a small pre-appetizer morsel intended to wake up the taste buds. This time it was pickled tuna with 'crispy capers.' This was a revelation. The vinegary pickled tuna was wonderfully fresh-tasting and good. Why has no one done this before? Milwaukee is the home of pickled fish, in the form of pickled herring, but it is a good question why no one seems to have tried other fish.

    For first course, we had Molasses Glazed Quail and Seared Foie Gras with Grilled Belgian Endive and Black Currant Elderflower Preserve. Both the quail and the foie gras were delicious and set off nicely by the endive and the preserve.

    For entrée, Georgie had "Citrus Seared Alaskan Halibut on Corn Risotto Cake, Pickled Purslane and Toasted Almonds, Purslane Nage". Halibut is a favorite of hers, and this was excellent. The corn risotto was very good also, and the purslane fascinating. Georgie compared the purslane to a more strongly flavored watercress.

    It had been a long time since I had swordfish, so I ordered the "Grilled Swordfish with Miso Noodles and Summer Vegetables, Toasted Sesame Dressing." I was amused that, while Georgie got a fish knife with her entrée, I got a steak knife, but then I knew that swordfish is a very "meaty" fish. The generous cut of fish was perfectly done, and the mellow miso and sesame were perfect complements. We accompanied the main course with a glass each of Riesling, which went down very well.

    For dessert, we had the Blueberry Black Currant Clafoutis with Lemon Ice Cream. A clafoutis is a baked dessert of fruit covered in a thick-flan like batter, dusted with powdered sugar, and served warm. The blueberry black currant clafoutis was a variation on one of Sanford's classics, tart cherry, and worked deliciously well. The cool tart lemon ice cream was a nice contrast with the warm flavors of the clafoutis.

    As ever, the service at Sanford was prompt, attentive, and friendly. Dinner at Sanford is always an event, and, especially considering prices at first-class restaurants in other large cities, excellent value as well.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/262784.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    1:34 pm
    Thirtieth Anniversary
    Thirty years ago October 6th, Georgie and I exchanged these vows.


    I, Gregory, promise to you, Georgie,
    Georgie, Gregory,


    --that I will love you always,


    --that I will honor and respect you,


    --that I will keep faith unto you,


    --that I will hold your needs as important as my own, and above all others,


    --that I will protect and cherish you,


    --that I will never knowingly betray your trust,


    --that I will not keep from you the true voice of my heart, and I will always take seriously that which your heart speaks unto me,


    --that I will never forsake you, as long as life endures.


    Will you, then, accept me as husband?
    Wife?


    (the other) I will.


    (change parts and repeat)

    (exchange rings)

    (both in unison)


    Be thou married unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving-kindness, in compassion and in faithfulness.
    We will be true unto each other.
    We will protect and support and will provide all that is necessary for our sustenance, even as it becomes all human beings to do.


    (October 6th, 1984, at Lake Delton, Wisconsin)


    Definitely the best thing I have ever done!

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/262489.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Thursday, October 9th, 2014
    8:25 pm
    Skylight Music Theater, “Cinderella,”
    On Sunday afternoon, October 6th, we went to the Broadway Theatre Center to see the Skylight’s production of “Cinderella,” (“La Cenerentola”), by Gioachino Rossini, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

    We’re often leery of “updated” productions, but the Skylight had good success with their “Mad Men” inspired version of “Cosi Fan Tutti,” so we were optimistic about this show, and not disappointed.

    During the overture, we see the stepsisters, Clorinda (Erin Sura) and Tisbe (Kristen DiNonno), stepping out for a night on the town. Then, “selfies” from their night out show them getting progressively drunker and more disheveled. When the curtain comes up, they are sprawled unconscious in their boudoir, which looks like the aftermath of a neon-colored closet explosion. (Clothing designer Cesar Gallindo created the costumes for the performance, which were very effective and beautiful, although the stepsisters, in particular, have awful taste--.)

    Cinderella (Sishel Claverie) enters to tidy up, which includes emptying the sisters’ noisome ashtrays. (We thought this was a clever way to preserve the “ash girl” motif.) Constant smoking is just one of Clorinda and Tisbe’s bad habits, which include foolishness, vanity, and selfishness. The English libretto by Amand Holden does a good job of showing that the sisters, who are quite attractive women, have their ugliness on the inside.

    When we meet their father, “Don Magnifico,” (Andy Papas), it’s apparent that the apples didn’t fall far from the tree. Papas is very funny portraying the paterfamilias as gross, lazy, and greedy.

    When Rossini agreed to adapt the story of Cinderella for the opera, he did so on the condition that there would be no supernatural elements, so there are no fairy godmothers, pumpkin coaches (or singing mice--). Instead, Cinderella’s benefactor is Prince Ramiro’s tutor, Alidoro (LaMarcus Miller).

    Alidoro acts as advance scout for the Prince’s wife-hunting expedition. Disguised as a beggar, he goes house to house, looking for young women who are good and kind as well as beautiful. He finds one in Cinderella, who gives him bread and coffee in spite of the sister’s orders. When Ramiro (Luke Grooms) arrives, also disguised, this time as his valet, Dandini (Dimitrie Lazich), the supposed real advance man for the Prince, he is irresistibly attracted by Cinderella’s eyes.

    Alidoro provides Cinderella a gown and gets her to the ball, where the Prince falls in love with her. Instead of the glass slipper, she gives him one of a pair of bracelets, which he can use as a clue to find her. The remainder of the story plays out in the familiar fashion, with much comic outrage on the part of Don Magnifico and his daughters when the Prince declares his intention to marry the girl they disown and claim is only a servant. Cinderella demonstrates her goodness for all by forbidding the Prince to punish them, and expressing her forgiveness.

    All the singers were in good voice, and both sang and acted well, and they and the chorus adeptly executed the often wonderfully funny stage directions by Jill Anna Ponasik. The “red carpet” scene arriving at the Prince’s palace was a tour de force for stage direction, costume design, and quick-changing chorus members. The orchestra, under the direction of Viswa Subbaraman rendered Rossini’s score faultlessly and in excellent support of the singers.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/262200.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    8:20 pm
    Milwaukee Scottish Pipe Band, Fall Highland Gathering
    Saturday evening, October 4th, we went to Klemmer's Banquet Center on Oklahoma Avenue in West Allis, for the Ceilidh portion of the day's program, hosted by the Milwaukee Scottish Pipe Band, which also included Scottish solo piping and drumming competitions, and a haggis dinner.

    We got to the hall about 6:30PM, with the Ceildh in progress. Two pipers were playing a duet that was quite beautiful and intricate. They were followed by Ceol Cairde, a local Celtic band. The evening alternated short sets by Ceol Cairde with pieces by various pipe groups, including the Milwaukee Scottish Pipe Band, Billy Mitchell Scottish Pipe Band, Chicago Celtic Pipe Band, and the Greater Midwest Pipe Band, with dances by the Caledonian Scottish Dancers. We found this was a very nice event, since it gave us a chance to hear the bands play music other than the usual marching pieces you hear at parades or festivals.

    The event was rather lightly attended, which is rather a pity. We must watch to see if it reoccurs next year and drum up (so to speak) some more friends to go.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/262028.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    8:19 pm
    Wauwatosa Historical Society 2014 Tour of Homes
    On Saturday morning, October 4th, we went to the Washington Highlands neighborhood of Wauwatosa for the Historical Society's annual Tour of Homes. This year's theme was "The Tudors of Washington Highlands," and six homes were open to be visited.

    Washington Highlands is a classy neighborhood, with many large and handsome houses, and we were very interested in this tour. The homes that we could visit were all very elegant and well maintained, and fascinating to see. The most splendid home on the tour was the one at 1651 Alta Vista Avenue, a six-bedroom house with many elegant details, and a lovely view from the Heights overlooking West Washington Boulevard.

    The organizers and docents did a good job managing the many attendees through the homes. Thanks to the people who shared their homes for this interesting tour!

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/261825.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
    3:38 pm
    Milwaukee Film Festival, Man With a Movie Camera
    Tuesday night, September 30th, we went to the Oriental Theatre for the Milwaukee Film Festival's showing of the 1929 Russian "documentary" Man With a Movie Camera (Человек с киноаппаратом) (Chelovek s kinoapparatom). In the a 2012 poll conducted by the British Film Institute magazine Sight and Sound, film critics voted Man with a Movie Camera the 8th best film ever made. In 2014 Sight and Sound also named the film the best documentary film of all time. Having now seen the movie, I can see why film professionals like it. However, (depending upon the competition) I would not have voted for it.

    I use quotations around "documentary" since the movie is really an art film using documentary footage-i.e., (mostly) unscripted photography of real life. However, the film's auteur, Dziga Vertof, had a distinct agenda to reshape film. The movie is innovative and thought-provoking in many ways. For example, I had never really given any thought to how a shot of an onrushing train that passes over the camera would have been shot in days when the only film cameras were hand-cranked and not operable remotely. Per Wikipedia "This film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invents, deploys or develops, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations and a self-reflexive style."

    In my opinion, that's actually one of the film's weak spots: the self-indulgent farrago of tricks becomes its own raison d'etre, and the images on the screen lose meaning independent of the manipulations.

    The movie's plan is to show twenty-four hours in the life of a Soviet city (a synthesis of Moscow, Kiev, Odessa, and Kharkov). It begins with a self-referential frame: a movie theatre, in which we see film being prepared for showing, the audience filing in, the carbon arc being struck in the projector, and the show starting.

    The show proper begins with what is almost a sequence of still pictures: quiet buildings, nearly empty streets, homeless people sleeping on benches. Then, the city comes to life, first, mechanical. Airplanes, trolleys, motor busses roll out of hangars and garages. A steam train rushes onscreen. Then, the life becomes industrial, as the people start work, showing us every task from barbering to coal mining.

    Through it all, we see the Man With A Movie Camera, most often a tall lean man in a cap, tripod carried over his shoulder, picking his way down the mine, standing between lanes of traffic, climbing a factory chimney, getting too close for comfort to a lava-like foundry pour. A first it is subtle, but gradually you realize that part of the film is documenting the man doing the documenting. In one of the longer sequences, we see a cameraman filming some ladies in a moving, horse drawn cart, while standing on the doorsills of a moving open auto paralleling them. There is nothing keeping him from falling to likely death in the street except his sense of balance and perhaps the hands of the other people in the car. Then, you realize, that there has to be another car accompanying, filming him filming them, with the second cameraman probably doing the same stunt.

    The film has a definite Industrial rhythm, the pace of which picks up relentlessly as the work day goes on. Then, there is a respite as work ends, and people go out for the afternoon. We see sports and games, but even here the pace again accelerates, to running, leaping, and racing.

    After dark, the view goes to taverns and dance halls. Here, the pace is frenetic almost immediately. At last, it is time for cinema, and the viewpoint goes back to the movie house where the film started, with the viewers watching sequences of the film we have just seen, but overlaid with more double exposures and special effects, and, of course, even greater speed. The film ends with a shot that has recurred through the film, the cameraman's eye seen though his lens.


    The film was a massive work, taking four years to shoot, and thousands of shots. Some of the nice bits that are both the "workaday world" and self-referential were the sequences of Elizaveta Svilova, Vertof's wife and film editor, reviewing and cataloging the thousands of clips used in making the film.


    So, my verdict is, "too cute by half." I certainly understand the impulse to experiment, to show off all your tricks, and to put in all the "cool stuff" you have, but some modicum of restraint is almost always called for.

    My enjoyment of the movie was also affected by the live music provided by Alloy Orchestra, a three-person ensemble that is well known for performing with silent films. Alloy Orchestra created a score for "Man With a Movie Camera" in 1995, which they performed on Tuesday night. The default setting for the score is percussive, loud, and fast. The music follows and overtakes the movie's persistent accelerando with excessive zeal, to the point that it is tiring to be exposed to. Even scenes that don't need a frantic underscore, such as men drinking beer around a table, have such a soundtrack. One could postulate a hot jazz band off camera, but the relaxed poses and casual chat we see the men engaged in belies that. (Other than opening credits and "End" at the end, the film has no title cards of any kind, so any speech we see has to be assumed from context--).

    So, an interesting film, that, in my opinion, was overdone. Mine is not the common view, and much contrary writing can be found on the Internet. The full movie (without soundtrack) is in public domain, can be viewed or downloaded at: https://archive.org/details/ChelovekskinoapparatomManWithAMovieCamera if you want to make up your own mind.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/261626.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
    4:40 pm
    Milwaukee Film Festival, “The Vanquishing of the Witch
    Sunday evening, the 28th, we went to the Downer Theater to see “The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga,” which is billed as “Part ethereal travelogue, part animated folktale, all mesmerizing ethnography, 'The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga' is a dream-like journey through Russian landscapes and Slavic folklore that explores the region’s collective memory and man’s tenuous relationship with the nature that surrounds him.”

    That may have been the intention of writer/producer/director/editor Jessica Oreck, but, in my view, it didn’t work. The documentary portions of the film are underlain with a portentous narration, which both begins and ends with “Culture imagines a superiority over the wild, and builds high walls to keep it out. But, in the end, there is a wildness within us, . . . all the more savage for being caged.” We are shown scenes of rural Russia (“Eastern Europe in the 21st century.) wherein lumbermen cut trees with a chainsaw, but drag the logs out of the woods with horses, men mow with scythes, people pile hay into stacks by hand, and gather firewood from the seemingly endless forests. Through most of the film it’s unclear whether it is supposed to be good that the people are living close to the land, or bad that, in the 21st century, people are living as they did in Czarist times.

    This becomes a little bit more clear when observing that any depictions of urban life or structure are tawdry, shabby, abandoned, or outright ruined, but one is still left grasping for the significance of the images. Some, like those of Chernobyl near the end, I recognized, but it wasn’t clear where others were or what their partial destruction meant.

    Threaded through the collection of images is the tale of Ivan and Ayoshka and their encounter with Baba Yaga, a simplified version of a typical Baba Yaga story. The two children flee into the forest from Revolutionary-era soldiers attacking their village, and seek shelter in the witch’s hut. Baba Yaga sets the children three challenges, the penalty for failure is to be eaten. The children, with the help of friendly animals, manage to succeed at each test. Baba Yaga gives the children a magical comb and lets them go. When they are again fleeing from hostile soldiers, the magic comb becomes a new forest that overwhelms the soldiers, and in which the children are reunited with their mother and live happily ever after.

    The connection between the Baba Yaga story and the documentary portion is tenuous at best. The children gather wood to heat Baba Yaga’s bath house, followed by a sequence that begins with a man gathering firewood. The children gather mushrooms to make Baba Yaga’s dinner, followed by a sequence about gathering mushrooms. The children lay the ghost that has been stealing from Baba Yaga, followed by a sequence that begins in an overgrown graveyard, shows us a burial, and then an Orthodox church service, followed by a secular wedding dance.

    Ms. Oreck was present and made herself available for a question-and-answer session after the showing, which we did not stay for. I considered asking her what it was all about, but decided to go home and meditate on what I had seen, with this result. I guess I feel that if I have to ask the author what it means, one of us has missed the mark.

    In Polish and Russian, with English subtitles.

    (Also, as a quibble, Baba Yaga is hardly “Vanquished”: the children win at her game, and she gives them the means to survive afterwards--.)

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/261237.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
    4:37 pm
    Milwaukee Film Festival, “AninA.”
    On Sunday morning, September 28th, we went to the Oriental Theater to see the Milwaukee Film Festival’s showing of “AninA,” a charming animated film from Uruguay. Although the animation is rudimentary by today’s standards, the design and artistry of the film makes up for it. The water-colory backgrounds of the town in a rainy winter are beautiful and effective.

    The protagonist of the story is Anina Yatay Salas, a grade-school aged girl who finds her palindromic name a burden. It’s an element of a schoolyard spat that escalates into a fight, which leaves Anina waiting to find out what punishment will be handed down by the her school’s formidable headmistress.

    The story hinges on a child’s anxieties and schoolyard dramas, which, while amusing to us, are of course of great moment to Anina and her peers. The sequences in which Anina dreams the baroque horrors that might befall her—products of a vivid imagination—are some of the best, and very creatively rendered.

    The voice casting was very good and got the emotional tenor just right. (The dialog is in Spanish, with English subtitles.) The film also has a beautiful soundtrack.

    This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/261075.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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