August 14th, 2003

The Legend of Suriyothai, 08-06-03

On Wednesday the 6th, we went to the Oriental Theatre to see "The Legend of Suriyothai," a beatiful epic film set in historical Thailand during a turbulent period about 1526AD into the 1530's. There is an interesting story behind the making of this film. Apparently, Chatrichalerm Yukol, the writer and director is a member of the sprawling Thai royal family (as is SF/Horror writer S.P. Somtow). The Thais have never been happy with films about Thailand, so much so that neither the Yul Brenner film "The King and I," or the more recent "Anna and the King" have ever been legally exhibited there. Yukol had made several well-respected "art" films. He was attending a family function when the Queen of Thailand asked him why he couldn't make a good film about Thai history. Taking this as a royal command, he spent three years researching and writing this story about a famous past queen. Evidently, going from directing small, intimate, modern films to a full-blown historical epic with thousands of extras, cannon, and elephants was quite a transition. However, the result is lovely.

The story commences as Suriyothai, a young princess, is betrothed to Prince Thienraja, who is virtuous but rather dull. She prefers her childhood friend, Lord Srithep, but agrees to "sacrifice" her own desires for the good of the Kingdom, which is the first of a series of difficult decisions she is called upon to make. We see Thailand as a country with a beautiful and sophisticated culture, every bit the equal of the Japan of the era, but under stress from rebellious provinces and foreign invaders. A series of royal deaths from disease, disaster, and assassination brings about a dynastic struggle in which Suriyothai organizes a rebellion agains a usurper that brings her husband to the throne. (As King Mahachakrepat--the way in which people take new names as they gain rank can be confusing.) She then has to don armor and mount an elephant to aid her husband in defending the country from the Burmese invaders seeking to exploit the general disorder.

The film was cut from a four-hour Thai original to 185 minutes for Western release, and is consequently somewhat choppy, but still easy to follow if you are attentive. I was facsinated by this bit of history in a region of the world where I had known nothing. English subtitles were easy to follow, because, unlike some French or Japanese films, we've seen lately, it takes longer to say the same things in Thai than English, so the titles stay on the screen long enough to follow. Cinematography and settings were beautiful, and gave opportunity for some unique battle scenes, including one between river galleys, and the climactic fight which involves jousting from elephant back.

I've seen criticisms from other viewers that essentially echoed critiques of films like "Gods and Generals,"--that it lacked plot. Get with it people--history doesn't need a plot, history IS the plot.

State Fair Part 2

On Friday evening the 8th, we ran out to hit a few parts of the State Fair that we didn't get to last time. Specifically, we are both particularly fond of the Belgian draft horses, whaich, along with the Percherons, are always in the second week of the fair (Clydesdales are in the first week, including the delightfully named Armageddon Farms horses--.) Getting into the fair grounds, dinner was our first goal, and we got burgers at the Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association booth, which, in my view, are some of the most delicious hamburgers on earth. On the way, we were delighted to note that Da Yoopers would be performing on the International stage, and we stopped back to catch the start of their set. If you are not familiar with Da Yoopers, they are a wonderfully vulgar comic band based in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (or U.P., hence the name), and have a lengthy repetoire of songs about life in the supposed howling wilderness, hunting, fishing, drinking, and the hazards thereof. Their best known song is probably "The Second Week of Deer Camp," the chorus of which goes like this:

"It's the second week of deer camp, and all the guys are here,
We drink, play cards, and shoot the bull, but never shoot no deer,
The only time we leave the camp is whan we go for beer,
The second week of deer camp is the best time of the year!"

There was to be Belgian cart judging at the Coliseum at 7:00PM,so we ambled over there to find that it is evidently a popular event, since the place was packed to the rafters. Instead of trying to shoehorn ourselves in, we walked up to the horsebarn and got a close look at the animals being readied for competition, and then stationed ourselves along the route the rigs would take from the barn to the show floor and admired them as they went by. On the way out of the fairgrounds we bought some chocolates and more Helmut's strudel--yum! Between the two visits we hit all the fair we care about, which made it a "fairly" good year for us.

Da Yoopers' Offical Real Live Web Page:

Madison Farmer's Market, 08-09-03

We took off early Saturday morning and headded out to the Madison Farmer's Market, which we do a couple of times a year. West Allis has a very good Farmer's Market also, but it is very different--the emphasis there is mainly fruit and vegetables, not nearly so much cheese or meat, and those were the things we were out for today. A gas station on our way out of town carries dry ice, so we got some for the cooler and we were off. It was a lovely day for the Market! A group of bagpipers played distantly and the political groups were out in full force. We bought cheese from Blue Mont dairy, lamb from the Carpenter's, grass-fed Highland beef (chewy, but very tasty), trout, some world-champion muenster cheese from another vendor, white Superior potatoes (Georgie was very happy to find them), and a bunch of summer flowers to brighten the table. We kept it a quick trip, but Wintersilks is RIGHT THERE--so Georgie found some nightgowns at $10.00 each, and I got a silk-wool sport coat for $13.00! Woo! Next time, we need to bring more cash so we can afford buffalo and ostrich, too--.