November 8th, 2004

Salon: What Next?

We had scheduled this topic well in advance. Figuring we'd spend the evening talking about the election results anyway, we'd decided that the topic would be, "What Do We Do Now?" Our viewpoints varied from hope to pessimism with various degrees of resignation in between. If consensus can be said to have been reached, it would be that in order to salvage anything and hopefully turn things around, what is needed is PLAIN SPEAKING--in other words, away with "nuance." We need to get out, firmly and plainly, things that should have been said before and need to be said again: the rich are looting the country, the war was based on lies, Jesus would NOT do this, etc. Organizations such as and were mentioned as models and resources. Most of us went away energised to join and support our choice of liberal, environmental, and charitable groups.

Celtic Christmas Boutique

On Saturday morning we made our way to the Celtic Christmas Boutique held at the Irish Fest Center in darkest Wauwautosa. Many of the best vendors from Irish Fest were crammed into the nooks and crannies of the former Masonic Temple, along with benefit tables for the Irish Chorus selling books, baked goods, and hand-painted ornaments. We got a bit of our Christmas shopping done, buying some of the ornaments for family members. Plus we bought books, mincemeat, and music CDs. This was a very nice event, and we'll have to keep it on our calendar for future years.

Coffee House, 11/06/04, Susan Urban and Karen Mooney

The Coffeehouse is a very informal venue operated in the lower level of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, at 19th and Wisconsin in downtown Milwaukee. Despite the name of the Church, The Coffee House is an almost agressively "hippie" ("Acoustic music and coffee since 1967.")with the prominently displayed "Earth" flag and peace signs. These days it is a smallish performance space furnished with a couple of rows of motley chairs, some couches, and the coffee and hot water pots in the hall. Susan Urban is a well-known Midwestern folk singer whose also been attending Ohio Valley Filk Fest since 1991, which gives her a venue to indulge her penchant for spooky and just plain wierd songs. She's also a Unitarian Universalist "circuit rider," which means her politics and spirituality are a good fit for the Coffie House and its audiences. Karen Mooney is a Chicago-based performer whose range of subjects complements Urban, and who, with Urban, makes up part of the "Strong Voices" ensemble. They follow the same format as a duet as the "Stong Voices" group does, which is that the singers alternate leading 'their' songs, while the other does backup. They put on a good show, with songs such as "Annie Oakley" and "Anne Marie St. Clair" being particular favorites.

Local filkers Dierde Murphy and Art Warnecke "opened" for the evening. Art and Deirde also put on a fun set, with a lot of eerie and unusual music. They continue to grow as performers and get more polished, and the home-town audience was appreciative.

Masterpieces of American Art, 1770-1920 10/07/04

On a rare free fall Sunday afternoon, we went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to take in this travelling show organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts. This was a very impressive exhibition, consisting of more than 90 paintings and several sculptures, covering the period well, and being representative of the vraious styles in vogue in America from time to time. Portraiture, landscape, historical and "genre painting" were all included. Notable pieces included a very fine portrait of George Washington, by Rembrandt Peale; "Cotopaxi", a landscape of an erupting volcano, by Frederic Church, and the "Young Girl," by Robert Henri, a portion of which has been used as the symbol of the exhibition. Although there were many fine portraits, and "Cotopaxi" is spectacular, the one we went back and looked at longest was the "Portrait of a Lady in Black," by William Merritt Chase, a rather poor reproduction of which can be found here:

She seems to have just risen from the chair behind her, her imperious expression and the cock of her head suggests she is not pleased. We found it a lot more dynamic and interesting than the Sargent painting of "Madame Paul Poirson" which is hung next to it. By comparison, the formal pose lacks interest, although the techincal style is superb. In defense of Sargent, that one is far from the best of his portraits, many of which are lively indeed, but it is a good example of his skill.

Perhaps my other favorite was the bronze sculpture of a broken-nosed steelworker standing on an I-beam, the pulley block of a hoist in his hand. It seemed very emblematic of the time and the country, and heroic, although in a workaday situation. Unfortunately, I can't remember the sculptor's name, and asusual with my favorites, isn't prominent enough to be mentioned in the available publicity.

Suffice to say, a very worthwhile exhibition. Admission is $12.00, and the show will be here until January 30.

We found this overall