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|Thursday, September 21st, 2017|
|Some Short Subjects
On Friday, August 25th, we went to “An Evening of Steampunk” at the Underground Collaborative, put on by A Company of Strangers theatre group. Although “an evening” might have been a generous description for an event lasting an hour and a half, this was a pleasant time. The occasion was to promote the group’s upcoming production of Oscar Wilde’s play, “An Ideal Husband,” which will evidently be done with a Steampunk aesthetic. The group provided free snacks and soft drinks, music, door prizes, a costume contest, and performed excerpts from the play. We met local Steampunk stalwarts Julie Ann Hunter, Charles Tritt, and Mary Prince there, and chatted with a number of other interested people.“Steampunk Junque”, ArtBar
The following Friday, September 1, we went to an art exhibition at ArtBar, a tavern and exhibition space in Milwaukee’s upper east side neighborhood. Organized by “The Martini Girls,” an artists’ group, the theme was “Steampunk Junque,” and featured paintings, constructions, and mixed media works on a generally Steampunk theme. There was a very interesting selection of works, with some creative approaches to the theme. Level of polish varied, with some very nicely wrapped up, and some, perhaps intentionally, less so. Again we met Mary Prince, Julie Ann Hunter (both of whom had pieces in the exhibit), and Charles Tritt. Patrons at ArtBar, including some of the other artists, were very enthusiastic about our Steampunk outfits, and one artist asked us to pose for a picture with his work.American Players Theatre, “Cyrano De Bergerac”
On Saturday, September 9th, we drove over to American Players Theater for this season’s production of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which starred James Ridge as Cyrano, Laura Rook as Roxane, and Danny Martinez as Christian. James De Vita directed the production as a rather spare and fast-paced (although handsomely costumed) performance. Ridge’s Cyrano was very fine, and perhaps the most realistic and believable portrayal I have seen. Perversely, this works partly against the unabashed sentimentality of the play. Cyrano’s final rant is less effective than others I have seen, because Ridge is more like a real man at death’s door, and less like a firework burning out in a blaze of glory. Although not my favorite translation (I think the one I like best is the Anthony Burgess one--), at least it preserved some poetry and rhyme. However, by not making prior reference to Cyrano’s “white plume” (which he didn’t have in this version) or his “panache”, Cyrano’s final words, “My panache,” drew a laugh for the first time I have ever heard. Admittedly, Rostand’s play is considered a comedy, but I don’t think it is supposed to end with a punch line.Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.
We’d never been up to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center before, so took advantage of the good day on the 16th to drive up to the northeastern corner of the county to see it. The area is mostly wooded, with oaks, maples and some beeches, and occasional stands of conifers. There is a sizable remnant prairie, some ponds and associated wetlands, and the bluffs and ravines leading down to the Lake Michigan shoreline, thus including most of the main ecologies of southern Wisconsin. The main structures on the plot are the visitor center, which is a large and handsome building containing classrooms and meeting rooms, and a lookout tower. We climbed the tower, which looks out over mostly treetops and the lake to the east; walked down to Lake Michigan, and back up around “Mystery Pond” which was a very nice walk, with the landscape beautiful at the cusp of autumn.Leap!
On Sunday, September 17th, we went to see this new animated movie, about a young orphan girl who wants to become a ballet dancer, and her friend who wants to be an inventor. It is set in France, approximately 1887, judging by the state of construction of the Eiffel Tower, where some of the action takes place. (However, time is rather fluid, as we also see the Statue of Liberty under construction, which was dedicated in New York in 1886.)
The film was created by an international consortium, and shares some elements, such as similarities of character design, with other animations handled by the Weinstein Group, such as How To Train Your Dragon. However, a strong French element is present as shown by the loving depictions of Paris, and particularly, the very accurate renderings of the Opera House, where much of the action takes place.
The story does start with a lot of clichés: the girl with native talent and heart but no training; the former dancer, career ended by an injury, who becomes her teacher; the martinet ballet master, but uses them with reasonable freshness. The orphanage masters are harsh, but not heartless. Character animations and voice characterizations are OK, but not really special. (We were, however, astonished to see that the supporting role of Luteau was voiced by Mel Brooks, aged 91!) It was a cute, diverting story with a few surprises, good entertainment for a matinee.Dining at Screaming Tuna.
I had been having a craving for sushi lately, so we decided to get dinner on Saturday the 16th at Screaming Tuna in the 3rd Ward, which came highly rated. I think the rating largely comes from its extensive and creative menu of maki (rolls), which I don’t really care about. I prefer the classic nigiri sushi, or sashimi. I ordered the Omakase platter, which came with nigiri sushi representing seared salmon, tuna, flounder, lightly seared squid, and shrimp. There was also salmon, albacore, and seared albacore sashimi. The light searing for sushi was new to me. The salmon and albacore could be seen to have a cooked layer about one-eighth-inch deep, which did somewhat change the flavor and texture of the fish. The squid was solid white rather than translucent all the way through, indicating a bit deeper cooking. This I considered an improvement over raw squid. I suppose there really isn’t all that much that can be done with raw fish—that being somewhat the point—but I have had better sushi I liked more. For main dish, Georgie had the salmon salad. The soy-glazed salmon was very nice on a bed of fresh greens.
For appetizers, we had tempura and gyoza. Both of those were good. The vegetables in the tempura included a piece of red bell pepper, which was unusual. For dessert, we had Purple Door Ginger ice cream, which was good, very gingery, and has lots of potential for experimentation. The Tempura Banana with whipped cream and caramel sauce was nicely excessive.
Service was good, and we had a table at the window wall which gave us a good view of the Milwaukee River traffic without having to be outdoors.
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|Wednesday, August 16th, 2017|
Sunday, August 12, we went to see Dunkirk, the World War II film by director Christopher Nolan. We thought it generally well done and interesting and very well worth seeing, although perhaps too dire at times to be entirely enjoyable. Yes, it’s a war movie, and there’s a lot of dying in it. However, a lot of the death, by drowning or burning, is too present.
The movie has an interesting structure, with three braided narratives that eventually meet. The first is titled “The Mole: One Week.” This follows the events on the Dunkirk beaches and nearby, focusing on a British soldier who isn’t necessarily an example of stoic discipline while trying to get off the beach and back to England. “The Sea: One Day” follows one of the British “small ships” answering the call to aid the evacuation, and its voyage to and from the zone of danger. “The Air: One Hour” deals with a sortie of three British Spitfire fighters whose mission is to protect the beaches and sea lanes, and drive away the Luftwaffe bombers. The film shift from narrative to narrative was of necessity not in overall chronological order, so it took me a bit to put things together, but, once I did, I was struck by admiration for the skill of the story telling. As the film nears its climax, the three stories come together in increasing tempo, and you see the same events from as many as three different viewpoints.
While the presence of masterful actors such as Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance enhance the picture, the compelling story is the main event, and the actions of the desperate soldier, the intrepid pilots, and the boys who go along to Dunkirk to “do something” predominate.
Military history buff that I am, of course there are a few quibbles. The beaches are attacked several times by Stuka (Junkers Ju. 87) dive-bombers. The Stuka, a pre-war design, at that time typically carried a single large bomb slung under the fuselage, and in a couple of scenes you can see one bomb separate from the attacking plane. However, on the ground, this results in a “stick” of eight explosions, as though the site was bombed by one of the larger multi-engine bomber types.
British shipping is also awfully fragile, at least for dramatic purposes. We see three British ships get sunk, one by a submarine, and two by bombing. All three capsized to the starboard side before sinking, which seems unlikely.
We always stay through the credits, and I got a substantial thrill seeing that twelve of the “small ships” that took part in the Dunkirk evacuation were used in the making of the movie.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/311711.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Milwaukee Masterpiece 2017
The “Milwaukee Masterpiece” car show moved to a different weekend this year, but at the same location in Veteran’s Park. We went to the Sunday Concours d’Elegance, and thought it a particularly good show.
This year’s theme was “Style and Speed,” and featured a particularly nice collection of classic Jaguars, a marque I am particularly fond of. There was also an “alternative” category, which had a good number of makes and models of steam and electric cars. There were some very handsome pre-war Packards (Georgie’s favorite), including a beautiful convertible Touring Car. There were also interesting examples of classic Rolls-Royce autos, one of which had a rarely seen Town Car body (the classic old-style “limousine” with the open driver’s compartment).
This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/311350.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Dining at Maison
On Saturday, August 5th, we went to dinner at the new French restaurant, Maison, on Vliet Street in Wauwatosa.
The building has been extensively remodeled since we were last in it, as a prior business, and the new look gives the feel of a French bistro as closely as any currently available restaurant in Milwaukee.
As usual for us, we dined early, so service was immediately available. We started, as we have made a practice of, with a plate of the house charcuterie. We found the selection du jour to be very good. We got good sized servings of pork pate maison, chicken liver pate, and duck prosciutto, garnished with cornichons, a couple of spears of pickled asparagus, and a beet-picked egg, accompanied by Dijon mustard and toasted bread. All of these were very good. The pate maison was had a mild but complex flavor, the chicken very smooth and surprisingly light, especially given that it was sealed with chicken fat. The duck prosciutto had nice flavor, but the meat had more the texture of “duck jerky”, and was the least successful of the meats.
For plats principeux, we chose a couple of bistro classics, coq au vin for Georgie, and I had the entrecote de boeuf (ribeye steak), or “steak frites”. I ordered the steak medium rare, and chose red wine sauce with it. (Other choices were wild mushroom reduction, or “hotel butter”.) I also had the choice of having the meat grilled or pan-seared, and chose grilled. The steak was perfectly done, and the sauce gave it a delicious flavor. I was a bit surprised that the ‘frites’ were what I would call ‘matchstick fries’ rather than the common French fries or wedges. I was also surprised that they weren’t overdone, but had excellent texture and flavor. The downcheck on this style of fries is that dipping them in the mild aioli is a bit of a job. On the other hand, they soaked up the wine sauce nicely and a forkful was very tasty.
The coq au vin came as two large pieces of chicken (essentially a half chicken), accompanied by roasted fingerling potatoes, all in the red wine sauce with black trumpet mushrooms and shallots. The chicken was tender and delicious and the potatoes excellent as well. The sauce was very flavorful, a bit onionier tasting than some, perhaps due to the presence of the shallots instead of the pearl onions we often see.
Maison has an all-French wine list, with some very good vintages available by the glass. I had Maison Roche de Bellene “Cuvee Terroir” Coteaux du Bourguignons, and Georgie a Gerard Bertrand Gris Blanc Pays D’OC Rosé, and we were very pleased with both of them.
For desserts, we ordered the Orange Blossom Sabayon, a very soft custardy dish, and the “Homage to Meritage” chocolate ganache cake (the name is a nod to the Meritage restaurant that formerly occupied the space). Both were excellent and not too heavy.
Service by Colin was quick, informative, and friendly. We will go back.
This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/311222.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Tuesday, August 8th, 2017|
|The Ancient Magus’ Bride
On Wednesday, July 26, we went to the South Shore Cinema for “Anime Movie Night,” which is apparently a monthly event put on by anime channel Crunchyroll (Which I keep thinking of as Crunchy Frog--). We had seen the very brief teaser for The Ancient Magus’ Bride, which looked interesting.
The presentation was not actually a feature film: instead, we saw three episodes of what is going to be a new series on Crunchyroll, beginning in October. It is based on an existing manga of the same name, written and illustrated by Kore Yamazaki.
The protagonist is fifteen year old Chise Hatori (voice by Atsumi Tanezaki); abandoned by her family and homeless, she contemplates suicide, when approached by a man who says, “If you don’t care if you live or die, why not give yourself to someone that wants you?” Chise (who would be of legal age in Japan), signs what is essentially a “slave contract” and is put on auction. She is purchased by Elias Ainsworth (Ryota Takeuchi), an inhuman appearing Mage, who tells her she will be his apprentice, and eventually his bride. This is a bit unsettling, since his head appears to be the skull of a wolf or something similar, with demonic red eyes, and surmounted with antelope horns.
Ainsworth takes her to his home outside London, where he has a picturesque cottage, a fairy housekeeper, and an uneasy relationship with the local Vicar. He explains to Chise that he is a Mage, who uses the power of fairies and other spirits to do magic, unlike Sorcerors, who do magic as a kind of science. He wants her because she is a “sleigh beggy” (sic), who is a kind of “queen bee” for fairies and elementals. She is particularly special because she can see and hear them—the “curse” that has ruined her life so far. (“Sleigh beggy” or “slay vega” comes from the Manx sleih beggey, which means one of the fairy folk. Her title in Japanese 夜の愛し仔（スレイ・ベガ, “Beloved Child of the Night,” is a bit more evocative--.) The spirits are attracted to her and want to do things for her, but lack human judgement, which can cause disaster if they are not controlled.
In typical fantasy magician fashion, Elias is very stingy with information, which of course means there will be adventures ahead.
In the first three episodes, Chise almost gets kidnapped by the fairies, visits a Crafter of magician’s tools, and visits a dragon preserve.
The story was interesting as far as it went, and was good to look at, with decent animation, and backgrounds that rival those of Studio Ghibli (although Georgie and I both find some of the anime/manga conventions a bit peculiar--).
We also got a half-hour segment of another new production. “Children of Ether,” unusual since it written by an American black man, LeSean Thomas, and features a woman of color as the main character. It is set in post-Apocalyptic world, where ominous forces are pursuing Rhonda, the protagonist, because of the mysterious power she possesses—which accidentally killed her beloved father. Rhonda is trying to find “The Goat”, a sage woman, to help her find some answers, while evading pursuit and the other hostile denizens typical to post-Apocalyptic scenarios. Character designs and backgrounds were very well done, but animation was spotty, with concentration on the fight scenes, but very clunky rendition of some basic things, like walking.
This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/310871.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017|
|“Lost in Paris”
On Saturday, July 22nd, we went to the Downer Theater to see the new French comic film, “Lost in Paris.”
The film was directed by, and starred in by, Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, and largely written by Abel, which may be an indication of why it sometimes (though seldom) seems a bit self-indulgent. Abel and Gordon are both skillful physical comedians, and if the plot plays to their strengths, it’s hard to argue with that.
Fiona (Ms. Gordon) plays a Canadian woman from a remote (and apparently, Arctic) village who is summoned to Paris by her aged aunt Marthe (Emanuelle Riva), who’s in danger of getting put into a nursing home against her will. By the time Fiona arrives, however, Marthe has disappeared. The mishap-prone Fiona manages to fall into the Seine while having her picture taken, and loses her backpack containing her ID, money and clothing. Dom (Mr. Abel), a homeless man, finds the pack and enjoys his good fortune until he and Fiona cross paths. Their fates then become entangled as Dom, in a bumbling but frequently effectively direct fashion, tries to assist the socially awkward Fiona as she alternately tries to disengage from him and to accept his help in finding her aunt in the strange city.
The result is a sweet, gently funny film that plays as though a low-keyed Carol Burnett were matched with a French-speaking Charlie Chaplin. It’s not outrageously funny, but it is charming and constantly interesting. We liked it a lot.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/310686.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Voices Found Repertory, “King John”
When we saw an item in the Shepherd Express that a new theatre group was performing Shakespeare’s “King John,” a history play few people have heard of, let alone actually seen, we had to go. (One of the items on my “bucket list” is to see every Shakespeare play performed at least once. This was one to check off.)
Voices Found Repertory performs at The Underground Collective, a surprisingly nice space in the basement of the Grand Avenue Plankinton Building, that includes a theater, recording studio, and other art spaces.
As the play opens, John (Brandon Judah) is King of England following the death of his brother Richard I (the Lionheart). His position is contested by Constance (Brittany Ann Meister), widow of John’s other elder brother, Geoffrey, who predeceased Richard but left a legitimate son, young Arthur (Graham Billings). Constance has leagued with King Phillip of France (Kira Renkas), promising him English-held lands in France if he helps win the English throne for Arthur.
Aided by his mother, the still-formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine (Claire Tidwell), John steals a march on the French, and meets them in arms at Angiers, a fortified town that is reluctant to let either force within its walls. (It’s interesting that Eleanor would seem to be so supportive of John, but this performance makes it clear that there is no love between Constance and Eleanor--. Eleanor shows more favor to a presumed bastard son of her beloved Richard, “Philip Faulconbridge” (Jeremy Labelle), whom she takes as a protégé, than for her grandson Arthur).
John and Eleanor broker a masterful deal, offering the Dauphin, Louis, (Brandon Haut), the hand of Blanche of Castile (Rachel Zembrowski) in marriage. (Historically, Blanche was the daughter of John’s sister, Eleanor of England, and Alfonso VIII, King of Castile). The marriage ceded some fiefdoms to Louis, and gave him a claim on the English throne after John. Arthur is thrown a bone in the form of being confirmed Duke of Brittany, his father’s title. Although Constance rages, she is stymied.
In the play (Shakespeare compresses considerable time), things fall apart upon the arrival of Cardinal Pandulph (Sarah Zapian), emissary of Pope Innocent III, who excommunicates John for having refused to recognize the Pope’s appointee to the Archbishopric of Canterbury, and requires the French to make war on him. Phillip is angered, but has to comply. (Historically, Phillip had felt the pain of being under Pope Innocent’s interdict over his attempt to set aside his marriage to Isambour of Denmark--.) The situation degenerates into a general battle, in which Arthur is captured by John’s forces.
John finds himself under pressure from both within and without, by the French and by English partisans of young Arthur. John gives orders to Hubert, Earl of Kent (Nick Hurtgen) to put Arthur to a particularly cruel death, which orders Hubert cannot bring himself to carry out. Nevertheless, rumors fly that John has killed Arthur, inspiring rebellion. Hubert returns to Rouen to produce Arthur, only to find that he has killed himself by leaping from the castle battlements. (Historically, no one knows what really became of Arthur after his incarceration at Rouen, and it is assumed John did away with him--.)
With Arthur’s death blamed on John, rebellious English join the Dauphin in an attempt to unseat John. John having perforce made his peace with the Pope, Pandulph attempts to decree peace, only to face the Dauphin’s vehement refusal.
In the battles that follow, John is demoralized by the death of his mother, and is roughly handled by the French and allies. In the heat of battle, he accepts a drink from a mysterious “monk”, which proves to have been poisoned. (John is actually thought to have died of dysentery contracted while on campaign, so a ‘poisoned drink’ may be not far from the truth—more so than the famous “surfeit of lampreys” story--.) John has a slow and agonizing death. Supporters of John’s son, Henry III, personified by Blanche, arrange for his succession.
This was a very enjoyable play. Done in modern dress, with little in the way of makeup or props, it relied on the considerable skill and energy of the cast to put the play across, which succeeded admirably. We particularly liked the convention of portraying the battle scenes as general brawls in which everyone, even Eleanor and Constance, took part. Although the production notes make explicit comparisons between the petty, spiteful, and cruel John and a certain American President, there’s little attempt to portray that in the performance (John doesn’t even wear a red tie--.). The director and cast wisely let us draw parallels where we may.
The major cast members have significant resumes in Shakespeare and other drama, and it shows. Brandon Judah had a fine range of expression as the sometimes charming, sometimes craven, and usually scheming King. Kira Renkas as King Philip effectively goes from smiling good humor when the wind is in France’s favor, to frustrated rage when the Church upsets plans. Actually, the play is full of good rants: John, Philip, Constance, Faulconbridge, and the Dauphin all have their unbridled scenes. In particular, Jeremy Labelle as Faulconbridge, a.k.a. Richard Plantagenet, a.k.a. “The Bastard” made the welkins ring, sometimes a bit too loudly, while taking pleasure in stirring up trouble.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/310517.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Royal Shakespeare Company: “Anthony and Cleopatra”
On Tuesday evening, July 18th, we went to the Downer Theater to see the hi-def broadcast of Shakespeare’s “Anthony and Cleopatra,” as performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, of Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Actually, we saw half the presentation, since it was a work night for me and we both got tired, and bailed out at the intermission. (The first act plus “prologue” is two hours by itself--). What we did see was very good and worthy of comment, though.
The title roles were played by Josette Simon as Cleopatra, and Antony Byrne as Marc Antony, both of whom were excellent. The RSC tends to cast this show with actors a bit more mature than usually pictured for the roles, which works well. Ms. Simon, like the historical Cleopatra, is striking rather than beautiful, and can be both commanding and beguiling. Her Cleopatra is mercurial both by nature and by design. Byrne’s Antony is a bluff soldier, weary of the years of warfare since the death of his mentor, Julius Caesar.
The play makes it clear why Antony finds Egypt so seductive. Cleopatra’s court is beautiful, sensual, playful: everything Rome is not. Rome represents duty and politics. The one celebration there we see, for the temporary treaty with Pompey the Younger, turns into a crude all-male drinking bout.
Very fine performances also by Ben Allen as the triumvir Octavius Caesar, who is more of a rival to Anthony than a villain, and by Lucy Phelps as his sister, Octavia, whom Octavian marries to Antony in an effort to cement an alliance. Octavia is loyal to Anthony, until Octavius reveals his double-dealing with enemies of Rome, Cleopatra’s allies.
It was a really fine production as far as we saw and I’d be glad to see the whole thing if it were reshown at a more convenient time, or on DVD.
This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/310106.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Wednesday, July 12th, 2017|
Tuesday afternoon, we went downtown to look at the collection of outdoor sculptures arranged along Wisconsin Avenue as part of the new Scupture Milwaukee event. Planned to be an annual thing, the exhibit has 22 sculptures from around the world installed along the city’s main street, from its east end (near the De Suvero “Sunrise” installation) west to N. 6th St.
We were fortunate to encounter some of the Downtown Guides who had just taken part in a kickoff event for the exhibition, who were able to give us a map and guide, as some of the pieces are set back from the street, and it’s possible to miss some of the smaller ones.
The pieces represent a wide variety of styles. Most are quite large, appropriate for outdoor settings.
Perhaps our favorite was one of the most spectacular pieces, “S2” by Santiago Calatrava, architect of the famous Milwaukee Art Museum wing. This dynamic piece is made up of interlocking metal sections, held together with tensioned cables. It reminds one of both a buzz-saw and a hurricane map, and looks striking and dangerous.
There’s also “Vortex” by Saint Clare Cemin, an inverted stainless steel tornado reaching for the sky; “Rose #2
(Icon Red)” by Will Ryman; “Immigrant Family,” by Tom Otterness, a charmingly cartoony grouping although ten feet tall in bronze; “Reina Mariana” by Manolo Valdes; and “Big Piney” by Deborah Butterfield, a very effective depiction of a horse as done in found branches (then also cast in bronze).
This was a very interesting exhibit, and gave us a good walk through our city on a lovely day. We hope this proves successful and indeed annual.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/309948.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Museum of Wisconsin Art
On Tuesday, July 11th, we drove to West Bend to see the Museum of Wisconsin Art. The Museum itself is a striking new wedge-shaped building near downtown, which incorporates studio and meeting spaces, as well as a modestly –sized gallery area.
We were drawn particularly by The Roddis Collection: American Style and Spirit. This exhibit consists of women’s clothing dating from the Civil war to the late 20th century, all of which belonged to one family and was preserved in the attic in a home in Marshfield, Wisconsin, in 1972. The garments include both Paris designer-bespoke fashions, and home-sewn designs, as well as items from exclusive American stores. The preservation, particularly of the oldest clothes, is amazing, and makes them truly museum-quality pieces.
Along with this, there is a display of contemporary clothing by Wisconsin designers, some of whom are “Project Runway” veterans. As might be expected, most of these are more art pieces than clothes (such as the bristly coat made out of zip ties, (“Breed Coat” by Alex Ulichny), but some of them Georgie would cheerfully worn to appropriate occasions, such as the elegant “Cotton Candy in the Rain,” by Peach Carr, and the “Kaleidoscope” dress by Lynne Dixon-Speller.
Continuing the clothing theme, there was also a room displaying vintage children’s clothes by Wisconsin based designer Florence Eiseman, which we found very interesting and showing a very handsome but practical aesthetic.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/309548.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Despicable Me 3
Early Sunday, we enjoyably killed some time by going to see Despicable Me 3.
In this outing, Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are both working for the Anti-Villain League, trying to take down ‘80’s themed supervillain Balthasar Bratt (Trey Parker). Bratt had a TV show in which he played “Evill Bratt” (yes, spelled that way) in the 1980’s which was canceled when he hit puberty and wasn’t cute any longer. Now he’s taking it out on society and general and Hollywood in particular by committing crimes base on his old show. Bratt continues to evade capture, although Gru has foiled his theft attempts. This isn’t good enough for the new AVL director Valerie da Vinci, who gives Gru and Lucy the sack.
Things are rather dark for Gru: with no job, he’s resisting the call of villainy, which causes the Minions to abandon him. Then, he finds that he has a long-lost twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Carell).
Dru is well-off, having inherited a pig-farming business from the father Gru had thought dead. Dear Old Dad, it turns out, was also a villain, and Dru wants Gru to teach him the ropes so he can carry on the family tradition.
This is of course a troubling prospect for Gru, although it does give him a chance to strike back at Bratt. Meanwhile, Lucy is working on being a Mom to the girls, with mixed results. How all this works out is of course very funny, and a visual delight with all the over-the-top gadgets. The 80’s references are fun to catch.
A must-see if you have been following the series.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/309307.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Madison Early Music Festival, Days One and Two
We drove over to Madison on Saturday, July 8th, for the beginning of this year’s Madison Early Music Festival. This year’s theme is “Quixotic Musical Treasures from the Golden Age of Spain” which in particular celebrates Miguel de Cervantes, and his novel Don Quixote, but also the other authors, poets, and musicians of that productive era.
The opening night concert was titled “The Musical World of Don Quixote.” Numerous pieces and types of music were referred to by Cervantes in his story, and the concert took us through events of the novel with examples of the types of music that might have been played, and that were thematically appropriate to the story.
Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, lead the concert, joined by members of the Rose Ensemble, Andrew Rader, Bradley King, Jordan Sramek, and Jake Endres; as well as soprano Nell Snaidas, and additional instrumentalists Erick Schmalz, Glen Velez, and Charles Weaver on sackbut, percussion, and vihuela and guitar, respectively. The Piffaro contingent consisted of Grant Herreid, Priscilla Herreid, Greg Ingles, Joan Kimball, Christa Patton, and Bob Weimken.
Various members of the Rose Ensemble embodied Don Quixote on vocals, depending upon the voice the piece was written for; Ms. Snaidas sang all the female parts, and put her operatic background to good use in expression and gesture.
This was a really fascinating concert, extremely well performed and very well put together. Mr. Herreid, who “conceived and curated” the program gave an interesting pre-concert lecture on how the various works performed were found and decided on.
The pre-concert lecture on Sunday night, by Peggy Murray, on historical reproduction of dance, was unfortunately cut short by technical difficulties. However, the concert, a solo performance by Xavier Diaz-Latorre, was mostly flawless. The stage lighting was on the dim side, and Mr. Diaz-Latorre’s voice did not carry well to the upper seats where we were. Nevertheless, the music was amazing. The vihuela is an instrument shaped like a small guitar, but strung and tuned like a lute. The first half of the program, played on the five-course vihuela, was mostly soft, sweet, and introspective, although the pieces played had an intricacy that called for and received intense focus.
The six-course vihuela, used in the second half, is a transitional instrument, which can be strummed as well as plucked—sometimes at the same time, as happened in the first piece, “Poema harmonico,” by Francisco Guerau. This set was faster and more fiery, which built to a conclusion lauded by a universal standing ovation, and two encores.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/309085.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Monday, June 12th, 2017|
|Downtown Dining Week, 2017
Every year, in the first week of June, numerous restaurants in downtown Milwaukee participate in “Downtown Dining Week,” in which they put on special priced menus in order to attract business downtown at the start of the summer season. This is an opportunity for us to visit new places, or revisit favorites at a break on price.
This year, we hit two. We went to Ward’s House of Prime for a lunch, which was very good. I had the house salad, which was nice, with good fresh greens, the prime rib French dip, also very good with lovely meat and nice French fries, and the apple tart with caramel drizzle for dessert. The tart had an unusual rather thick crust, but was tasty and had evidently been made with fresh apples. Georgie had the tenderloin tips with mushroom sherry sauce over egg noodles for main dish, and found that very good as well. At $12.50 per person, this was definitely a real deal. At noon on Friday, Ward’s was busy and loud, but service was fast and friendly.
For a dinner, we went to Pastiche at the Metro Hotel, our first time visiting this restaurant at the new location. For starters, I tried the country style pate, which I thought was very good and compared favorably with the house terrine we had had in France at places like Les Bacchantes. Georgie had the tomato bisque, which she pronounced delicious. (I am not a fan of tomato soup, but sampled it and had to agree it was the best I had had--.) For “plat” I had the “Steak Frites,” which in this case was a grilled New York Strip, accompanied by French Fries and garlic aioli. The steak had had a very effective flavor enhancing rub, was grilled to perfection, and topped with a blob of herbed butter. It was decadent and delicious. The “frites” were nicely spiced, and went down very well with the aioli. Georgie had the pan roasted chicken breast with lemon herb sauce, which was quite delicious, accompanied by some roasted fingerling potatoes, and very fresh and tender asparagus. (Georgie tried dipping the asparagus spears in my aioli, and pronounced it “the” way to eat asparagus.)
For dessert, Georgie sampled the chocolate mousse, which was a dollop of very dark, almost bitter, chocolate confection of a puddingy consistency, garnished with some fresh berries and whipped cream. I tried the strawberry shortcake, which was a square of rather coarse, yellow cake (the better to soak up juice and not turn to pulp--), set on a coating of strawberry coulis, drizzled with juice, and topped with vivid-tasting “marinated” strawberries and also whipped cream. I could have used a few more strawberries, but I have to say that, although on first glance, the dessert portion sizes appeared small, after the rest of the meal, they were quite adequate. We went away feeling very well fed.
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|National Theatre Live: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
On Tuesday evening, June 6th, we went to the Downer Theatre to see a really fine production of Tom Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which shows us the existential dilemma of two minor characters in a great play, and what they do, and do not do, between scenes. The play has a lot in common with Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot, but we like it better since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern engage in debate about the meaning of it all, whereas Vladimir and Estragon in Godot are just overwhelmed by the meaninglessness.
The play had an excellent cast, lead by Joshua McGuire (mainly known for British TV) as Guildenstern, Daniel Radcliffe as Rosencrantz, and David Haig as The Player. The little pre-show film mentioned that Stoppard himself had been involved in this production, and I do believe the script had been tweaked in comparison with earlier versions I had seen. It seemed to me that scenes with Hamlet, Polonious, Claudius, and Gertrude were cut or shortened, and The Player, who is Stoppard’s voice on stage, had a good bit more to say.
The play was set in a mostly timeless time, and a largely undefined space, which underscored the characters’ being adrift from reality. This didn’t really affect the performance much, but at least did not distract.
McGuire and Radcliffe in particular were very good, and handled Stoppard’s lightning-speed dialogs with alacrity. I was a bit surprised at first that the bigger name Radcliffe did not have the more intellectual role of Guildenstern, but found that he was wonderfully good as the frequently clueless Rosencrantz, being able to do an effective variety of blank, baffled, or just plain stupid expressions.
I’m not sure I would say that this was a definitive performance, but it was very, very good, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this play. (The 1990 film with Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Richard Dreyfuss is also very good, in my opinion.)
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On June 4th, we went to see Wonder Woman, the latest film in what is now being called the “DC Cinematic Universe,” and the first one we have seen since I declined to see Man of Steel. We were glad to see this one, and enjoyed it quite a bit.
I’m a bit bemused by the decision to set the story of Wonder Woman’s entry into the outside world in the final days of World War I. I liked it, and I can understand why WWI was chosen for purposes of plot, but I wonder if anyone has considered the profound changes this would make in the DC universe timeline. In the “standard model” Superman was the first superhero to come to public notice, either in the 1930’s (per the original comic books) or the 2010’s per the newest movies. However, now, Wonder Woman is first on the scene, by almost a hundred years? I expect that this will be glossed over for the future, but there would have probably been a very different approach to Superman’s advent, had Wonder Woman been around for a long time before that.
The opening sequences of the movie, portraying Diana’s youth and training on the island of Themiscyra are beautiful and wonderful. The island is fantastic, of course, but watching the Amazons train is fascinating, and in particular it’s great to see that not every Amazon has to be young and dewy-looking. Robin Wright as lead warrior Antiope, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, show us that a woman can have some lines in her face, or edgy collarbones, and still be fabulous and powerful.
Gal Gadot, as Diana, is just great. She looks wonderful in the role, and her background in the military and martial arts give her the bearing she needs to truly be a warrior princess. She’s well matched by Chris Pine, who is a smarter and edgier Steve Trevor than ever was in the comics or TV. The other “good guys” include Lucy Davis as Etta Candy. The character was originally part of Wonder Woman’s “comic relief” squad, the “Holiday Girls” in the 40’s comics. Here, she’s become a Brit, doing a WWI version of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” thing as a sort of Miss Moneypenny to Trevor’s Americanized James Bond. It’s a pity that we aren’t likely to see more of her. In order to foil the villains’ plot, Trevor puts together a particularly unlikely version of the classic “rag-bag team,” made up of Said Tagamouhi as a Moroccan actor turned con man, Ewan Bremner as a Scottish sniper with PTSD, and Eugene Brave Rock as a Native American smuggler, all of whom are interesting characters and have things to say about the world of 1918.
The chief villains are Dany Huston as General Erich Ludendorff, and Elena Anaya as Dr. Maru. Ludendorff, who really existed, is an interesting choice. The historical Ludendorff was Quartermaster General of the German Army until October 1918 (and so in position to make decisions about new weapons), when he resigned, a requirement of armistice negotiations. He went on to become a nationalist politician who promoted the theory that Germany was “stabbed in the back by Marxists and Jews,” took part in Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, and wrote a book called The Total War in 1935, arguing that peace was only an interval between wars. Although he did break with Hitler by 1933, I think we can fairly say that his portrayal in the film does not malign him too much, and Huston’s portrayal makes him believably megalomaniacal and dangerous.
Dr. Maru, alias “Dr. Poison”, played by Spanish actress Elena Anaya, is a recycling of a WW2 Wonder Woman villain, who was a Japanese chemist specializing in sabotage. The doctor as portrayed is rather generically European, unsettling with the creepy prosthetic covering her scarred face, and not so much a “mad” scientist as an obsessive one. Her new weapon, the so-called “hydrogen mustard” gas is truly horrific, though not much more so than weapons actually developed. (The arsenic compound Lewisite, not used in WW1, could penetrate clothing and thin rubber--.)
I wasn’t put off by Wonder Woman’s stated goal to destroy the war god Ares as I was by (spoiler in case you haven’t seen it) Superman’s killing of General Zod in Man of Steel. In the movie, Diana considers destroying Ares to be her major mission in life, so its rather a given, and it was established in the comic books years ago that Wonder Woman would in fact kill in defense of life if the need were great enough. (And I’d be pretty sure that not all the German soldiers she clobbered liberating a Belgian village probably survived, either, although, as in many of the comic-book movies, there’s little blood, and most death is off camera--.)
We liked the movie’s approach to combat. Wonder Woman fights with focus and with purpose, but never with malice, and revenge, a frequent “hero” motivation, plays little part.
Of course, I have some technical quibbles: The Fokker Eindekker Trevor steals is way obsolete by 1918 (although that could be the reason it was in Turkey, far from the active front--), whereas the giant bomber in the final sequence, which vaguely resembles one of the late-war Zeppelin-Staaken bombers, is somewhat futuristic. We can tell that Themiscyra must be within a relatively short air flight from the Turkish coast: so far, so good, it makes much more sense for it to be among the Greek islands than off the coast of North America, as in the early Wonder Woman comics. However, in our 1918, there were no Central Powers warships, let alone German, operating in the Mediterranean, to have pursued him there--. Oh, well, it’s not actually our world, after all. However, getting from the Eastern Med to London in the course of a sleep by sail, even with the aid of a tugboat, just isn’t possible--.
Seeing this film makes me much more optimistic about the forthcoming Justice League feature.
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|A Quiet Passion
We went to the Downer Theater to see A Quiet Passion, the film about American poet Emily Dickinson. Although now regarded as one of the most important poets of the 19th Century, her work was largely ignored during her lifetime, with only a dozen or so of more than 1800 poems written published during her lifetime, and those were usually significantly “edited” by the publishers.
Most of Dickinson’s correspondence was burned at her death by her wish, so I expect that director and screenwriter Terence Davies had to invent most of the dialog, if not incidents, but if, so, he does a very good job of evoking a very particular time and place. The Amherst we see is genteel, puritanical, and self-critical. Manners are everything. Emily’s father reproaches her, and she sincerely apologizes, for having spoken brusquely to the servants while suffering a kidney-stone attack (or something similar).
Things start off well enough. Emily has the support of her revered father, who uses influence with his friend, Samuel Bowles, to get her poems published in his newspaper. She has the friendship of her attractive sister, Lavinia (Vinnie), her adored brother Austin, and her vivacious friend, Susan Gilbert, with whom she can exchange “wicked” ideas. Her mother, whom she regarded as distant, nevertheless gently tolerated Emily’s growing eccentricities.
Frustration begins to build up as she sees even her publisher, Bowles, repeat the idea that only men have the spirit to be poets in an article in his paper. (Noted poets of the time all had names like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, and William Cullen Bryant--.) Her comfortable life slowly unravels as her father dies suddenly. Her mother is incapacitated by a stroke and eventually also dies. Susan Gilbert marries and moves away. Austin Dickinson falls off his pedestal by becoming estranged from his wife and engaging in an affair with a married woman, Mabel Loomis Todd. There was tension between Emily, who was shocked and horrified, and Vinnie, who was more forgiving. (Ironically, Mrs. Todd was one of the people who helped get Dickinson’s poems into publication after her death.)
She gradually became more reclusive, declining invitations to visit elsewhere, and only speaking to visitors who came to the house from the other side of a door, but all the while continuing to write poems and letters. She died in 1885, at the age of 55, of what was diagnosed as kidney disease.
Cynthia Nixon plays the adult Emily, and does a very fine job of what of necessity must be an understated role. She’s supported by a cast of very skillful and subtle actors, including Jennifer Ehle as Vinnie, Duncan Duff as Austin, Keith Carradine as her father, and Joanna Bacon as her mother.
The film looks beautiful, capturing the period well, as the people act out their austere and reserved lives against a background of Victorian elegance in homes and lush beauty in gardens.
We were very glad to have seen this interesting movie about this very interesting person. (Georgie’s one criticism was “too much hard dying, too long,” referring to both Emily’s and her mother’s death scenes--.)
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|Thursday, May 25th, 2017|
|Why It’s All Right to Grind the Poor
Why is it so easy for people, many of whom profess to be Christians, to espouse policies that harm the poor, despite being adjured by the Bible to do just the opposite?Jesus said: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Gospel according to Mark, Ch. 25: 31-46 (King James Version).That seems pretty unambiguous, doesn’t it? So, why are President Trump and his followers preparing to take food out of the mouths of children, to take away health care from those that need it, to refuse shelter to the strangers, to increase the population of the prisons? Not to mention a hundred other activities that expose particularly the poor to higher costs and greater income insecurity, for no corresponding benefits?Of course, the “pious” answer is that government shouldn’t be in the business of providing medical care, food, or shelter for those that can’t afford it, and those duties should be taken up by charities relying on free-will donations.Unfortunately, with the best will in the world, charity has never, ever, been sufficient to cover unmet needs. However, government can do so, and there are many good reasons why it should. Taking just public health as an example, making sure the population as a whole has access to vaccinations and early diagnosis makes disease outbreaks less likely and more controllable, to everyone’s benefit. Want to reduce health care costs? Health maintenance and preventive care reduces catastrophic care costs down the road, costs that we are already paying, since they are being factored into the health insurance premiums and medical bills we get.Instead, it’s alright to let the poor be sick, and let the poor die, because being poor is evidence of moral failing. That’s right, being poor is proof positive that you are a bad person and don’t deserve any better.This goes back to the Old Testament. If you were right with the Lord, your children flourished, your flocks multiplied, your harvests were abundant. If the Lord hated you, it was Book of Job time for you, with no guarantee of a happy ending.Despite Jesus saying that “sooner shall a camel pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter into Heaven,” there are Christian churches that have adopted so-called “prosperity theology” which holds that wealth and physical well-being are the will of God, and poverty and sickness are curses. Alabama’s Representative Mo Brooks said of the proposed “American Health Care Act” that, “[The plan] will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool. That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people—who’ve done things the right way—that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”
And, the not-so-subtext here is that “people who lead good lives” doesn’t just refer to those of us who exercise and eat right: it means you have to live a good
life—i.e., a virtuous one. This is because, as we all know, people who exercise and eat right still get sick. Long distance runners still have heart attacks, and even ministers can get caught in a car accident, or trip and fall downstairs.
And that’s where it gets really insidious. We’ve all known people who were never sick a day, but get diagnosed with cancer one day. Well, that’s God’s will, they deserve it.
If you can’t work because some fleeing carjacker hit your car, or you slipped on the ice and broke a hip, you had it coming, you must have done something wrong.
Is your loved one like to die, and you have no health insurance coverage because you were laid off? That’s because you are a sinner and God hates you!
No matter how far back you need to go in the chain of causation, everything bad that happens to you is ultimately your fault, because YOU don’t love God enough: which is obvious, because if God loved you, these things wouldn’t happen.
So, here’s the goats’ answer to Jesus, as it is practiced: “Starve, Jesus; freeze, Jesus; we don’t care about you. Die, Jesus, healing you costs too much. Rot in prison, Jesus, we’re afraid of you, and we hate you.”
Whether Jesus’ answer to the “goats” works out as promised above, remains to be seen.
|Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017|
|Odyssey Con 2017 Report
We got to the Madison Radisson about noon, Friday, and made a quick check around to be sure everything was getting in gear. With no problems found, we had a light lunch and greeted people as they arrived. Early arrivals tended to be past members, so there were many faces we were glad to see again.
Panels started at 2:30, with “Held Hostage by the Internet of Things.” With the three members of the panel being professionals in software, hardware, and systems administration, the presentation was very informative, and proposed both dire and humorous scenarios. (“For only $39.95, you, too, can spy on your neighbors!”)
At 4PM, we had “Not Your Saturday Morning Cartoons,” “World Building 101: Milieu,” and “Making Movies with No Budget—And Other Horror Stories.” The World Building panel was the first of three aimed at creating a collaborative story world, and arrived at post-environmental apocalypse setting that had plenty of potential “plot hooks.”
Media Guest Michael Butt proved to be an entertaining raconteur with adventures of making horror movies in the wilds of Northern Wisconsin, including the shooting day for his feature, YETIS!, when the temperature hit 37 degrees below zero. The frigidity gave the acting great verisimilitude, but the camera nearly froze up--.
Georgie and I took Michael to dinner at Tandoori House, along with our friend Todd Voros. Food was good, but the service was a little on the ramshackle side. Dinner conversation was entertaining.
“Opening Ceremonies” went smoothly with the usual announcements and introductions. For the first time, there was not a humorous skit as part of the program, a pity too, since Janet Lewis had had an idea for a pun-laden “Forbidden Planet” parody, but other pressures took precedence. The announcements were followed by the Speculative Poetry Slam and Open Mike, which had some very good entries.
Evening programming started with “Odysseus and the First Odyssey,” and “Can We Make Democracy Work?” “Odysseus” looked back at Homer’s great saga and the character of Odysseus, as portrayed in the Iliad
, the Odyssey
, follow-on works such as the Theogony
, and literature through history since, wherein Odysseus is perhaps the single most often portrayed character. The traditional OddCon Karaoke also broke out in room Oakbrook 3.
Formal programming ended the day with Richard Russell’s “SF Movies of 2017”, his usual encyclopediactic review of SF in media, and the beginning of the “Filksing Intime” at Mooshenko’s, hosted by Milwaukee filkers Art and Cynthia Warneke.
Saturday morning started off with bang and four very interesting panels: “Forbidden Planet,” “20 Years of Harry Potter,” Ray Bradbury’s Work in Comics,” and “Chinese SF, an Update.”
“Forbidden Planet” discussed the classic science fiction film, and its lasting impact on the film genre and SF in general. This panel was particularly well attended. “20 Years of Harry Potter” drew an enthusiastic audience reflecting on the remarkable persistence of the “Harry Potter” phenomenon, which continues to attract new readers. “Ray Bradbury’s Work in Comics” was a presentation by the nascent Ray Bradbury museum, and highlighted the author’s works as (sometimes unauthorisedly) adapted into the comic book form. In “Chinese SF, an Update,” Dr. Janice Bogstad gave an introduction to science fiction currently being produced in China, which has been garnering interest since Liu Cixin won the Hugo award for his novel (as translated) The Three-Body Problem.
At 11:30AM, we had “Being a Grownup, the Female Experience,” “World Building 201: Plots,” “Cosplay on a Budget,” and “Lounge L33ts Presents: MMO Worlds.”
This year’s “Being a Grownup” was a follow on to last year’s panel, which was very good but by coincidence ended up being all men. We thought it was worth pursuing the female viewpoint, and had a very interesting and far-ranging discussion of the changing expectations for and of “grown-up” females, and women’s issues generally. “World Building 201: Plots” took off where “World Building 101” left off, “Cosplay on a Budget” gave tips on how to create a good looking costume without breaking the bank, and “Lounge L33ts” was game writer Erin Burke’s annual roundup of new developments in online gaming.
At 1:00PM, we had “Fantasy Movies of 2017,” “Future Habitats,” “What Makes Overwatch
So Appealing?” and “Should Governments Be Run Like a Business?” This last panel resulted in a very lively discussion, commencing with the clarifying question, “Which parts of government, and which types of business?” Which lead on to provocative proposals, such as, “If the government’s going to be run like a business, why don’t they monetize the military?” and “There’s no demand for critical thinkers, so schools should discontinue that product.”
The 2:30 session featured the Guest of Honor Interview with Artist Brent Chumley, whose artwork can be seen in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition
, the Legend of the Five Rings
card game, Shadowrun
, and the forthcoming Dragonfire
deck building game from Wizards of the Coast, among others. Brent’s interview covered his formative years, schooling (running up against the “fine artists’” disdain for “illustration”), his breaking into professional game art work, and how he manages a full-time art career while living in a small Illinois town. Brent had a great deal to say, and all of it was both entertaining and informative.
Other events at that time included “Hybrid Publishing,” “Is Seeing Still Believing?” “Running A Successful Kickstarter,” and “Why We Love B-Movies.” Lead by hybrid publisher Brea Behn, “Hybrid Publishing” talked about the ins and outs of the expanding middle ground between traditional and self-publishing. “Is Seeing Still Believing?” considered the expanding ability to create alternative realities using visual editing and CGI software.
At 4PM, Media Guest Michael Butt was the interviewee, and spoke about how he decided he wanted to make movies rather than just act, his choice to work in the horror genre and his goals, and the unique challenges of making scary movies in a small Wisconsin town, such as: “It’s really hard to get a woman to go out in the woods with you and get covered in fake blood.” We also had “Storytelling Builds Our World,” wherein authors talk about the impact storytelling has had, and may have, on their own and others’ worlds; “SF in Translation”; and “Return of Tokoatsu,” the review of animation and special effects from Japan.
After the dinner break, we had Guest of Honor Speeches, the Costume Contest, and the Flash Fiction Contest winners. Brent Chumley and Michael Butt gave interesting and entertaining speeches. Brent had a PowerPoint show of his works, and the movie room showed Michael’s recent feature This Woods is Cursed
immediately after the speeches ended. The Costume Contest had half a dozen entries, all of which were very good.
This year, we were fortunate to have the winners of both the Adult and Youth Divisions of the Flash Fiction contest in attendance to read their winning works. David Talon read his story, “The Sea Breathes Salty,” in which a man is haunted by the embodiment of his past regrets, and Zoe Leonard read “A Farmer’s Guide to Growing Faceroot,” a zany and wonderful article about how to cultivate a mandrake-like vegetable. These, and the second and third place winning stories can be read at http://www.odysseycon.org/contest/contest.html
Evening programming started off with “What Makes Science Fiction an Exciting and Inspiring Genre?” “The Workings of the Crypto-Plutocracy (How the US Govt. Functions in Practice)” and the Big Damn Filksing in Oakbrook 3, which went on until 2AM.
Late night programs in the 11:00PM slot were “Sleep is Weird,” looking at what is still an unexplained phenomenon, and “It Came from the Internet,” a review of the new truly weird and wonderful content on the Web.
Checking out function spaces on the way to bed, we noted that table-top gaming was still going strong, people were enjoying programming in the movie and Amalor Anime rooms, and that the Mad Scientist’s Party was well attended.
Sunday morning started off with another strong selection of panels. “The Animals Talk, Why?” considered the continuing popularity of talking animal stories, ranging from the “beast fables” of antiquity, through Beatrix Potter and The Wind in the Willows
, through My Little Pony
, and Richard Chwedyk’s “Saur” stories. “20 Years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer” celebrated the long-running TV show. “Promotional Ideas for Books” gave tips for marketing your book, and “Portraying Accurate Military Units and People in Games and Fiction” took on some common myths about the military.
The 11:30 panel on “Heaven and Hell” was short a panelist due to sudden illness, but the survivors managed to entertain the audience by expounding on portrayals of the Underworld and the Heavens by Dante, Mark Twain, James Joyce, and others. “Get Lost” dealt with getting and being lost, in fiction and real life, and how to deal with it. “World Building 202: Characters” wrapped up the series.
At 1:00PM, “Wicked and Worse,” considered what makes a good villain, and what makes a believable villain, and why the two aren’t necessarily the same. In “Pets in Spaaace!” panel and audience speculated on the probability (or not) of your cat, dog, or other animal companion coming to the stars with you. “Movie Charades” was this year’s installment of the popular game.
Programming officially ended at 2:30PM with “Kill the Cow!”, which is the attendees’ chance to give direct feedback to the concom. After a slow start, a lot of good and useful suggestions were contributed and recorded for future planning.
Attendance was 180+, which was within range of some other recent OddCons, although down from last year. Events at-con went off with no significant hitches. There were some particularly good panel discussions, and Brent Chumley and Michael Butt were great guests. We ended the con on an optimistic note, and with several good ideas for the future.
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|Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble
On Friday evening, April 21st, we went to the Charles Allis Museum to hear a concert by the Madison-based Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble. The group this evening consisted of soprano Mimmi Fulmer; Brett Lipshutz, taverso (transverse flute); Nathan Giglierano, baroque violin; Eric Miller, viola da gamba and treble viol; Sigrun Paust, recorder; Anton TenWolde, baroque cello; and Max Yount, harpsichord.
The first part of the program consisted of the Quartet for two traversi, recorder, and basso continuo, TWV43:d1, by Georg Philipp Telemann; Pieces de violle, suite #3
, by “M. de Machy”; “Lasciatemi qui solo,” by Francesca Caccini; and Sonate en trio for two traversi and basso continuo, opus 13, #3
, by Jean-Baptist-Quentin. All these pieces were played and sung beautifully. All except the Telemann were new to us, and we were particularly interested by the solo suite for viol da gamba by de Machy, and the song by Francesa Caccini.
The second half included “Interrote Speranze,” by Johannes Hieronymous Kapsberger; Sonata a trio for recorder, violin, and basso continuo, by Johann Cristoph Pepusch; Telemann’s Nouveaux Quators, #6
in E-Minor; and “Odi, Euterpe,” by Giulio Romola Caccini. In this set, again, the pieces featuring the viol da gamba were particularly interesting, since the viol parts could almost be described as “sprightly,” which is unusual for this instrument. The final piece, which featured Ms. Fulmer accompanied by the complete ensemble, was quite beautiful.
This was a very interesting and enjoyable concert. We look forward to the company’s November concert.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/307540.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
|Thursday, March 30th, 2017|
|Dining at the Mason Street Grill
We noticed in the newspaper that Mason Street Grill was having a monthly special series based on movies, with the first one being “Julie and Julia,” the movie about the young woman who cooked her way through Julia Child’s “The Art of French Cooking.” We loved that movie, love the cookbook, and the special dishes looked really yummy, so we thought we’d give it a try.
The Mason Street Grill is a very nice place. If you are an old Milwaukeean, you might remember the space they are in as having been Grenadiers’ years ago. It has been entirely redecorated since then, of course, with a lot of dark wood and tasteful accents.
If you want the “movie menu”, you have to sit at “The Chef’s Corner,” which is a less-formal seating location at a marble-topped counter, with a good view of the open kitchen. Our server, Ryan, was very friendly and informative.
We ordered a starter of the charcuterie, which was good, but not special. The only home-made part was the chopped liver on toast. The sausage and ham were good, but probably not anything you couldn’t have gotten elsewhere (or at the grocery store). An amuse-bouche of a crostini with grilled tomatoes and cheese also comes with the movie menu (Georgie was able to brush the cheese off this--). That was tasty also. The breadbasket came with cottage cheese bread and a parmesan flatbread. I tasted both, but of course Georgie couldn’t eat either and it would have been nice to have had a non-cheese offering.
For main course, I ordered the Lobster Thermidor. This is bits of lobster, sautéed in cognac, in sauce, topped with bread crumbs, and broiled in half a lobster shell. I found it very tasty and good, and was glad to have had the opportunity to try this preparation.
Georgie ordered the Poulet au Porto, which was a lovely portion of roasted chicken, sauced with a port wine, cognac, cream and mushroom reduction, and accompanied by tiny fingerling potatoes. The Amish chicken was some of the best we had had, and the sauce was delicious.
For dessert, we had the Mouselline au Chocolate, which was a chocolate tart with whipped cream on top. The chocolate filling had a lovely texture, very rich and smooth. It was also flavored with espresso, which was a bit stronger than I liked, and pretty well overpowered the Grand Marnier element. The tart crust for some reason was unusually hard, (made from crushed ladyfingers) but was quite delicious in flavor. If you could manage a bite with crust, filling and whipped cream, it was a very mellow and luscious dessert.
All in all, a very pleasant and delicious dining experience. We would definitely eat there again. (But maybe not for the April movie theme, which is "The Big Night." Georgie has trouble finding any Italian dish that doesn't have cheese in it--.)This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/306061.html. Please comment there using OpenID.