April 26th, 2010

OddCon X

We spent most of Friday, April 16, through April 18 at Madison, WI for the tenth annual Odyssey Con, and had a very good time. We got right into action with Georgie’s first panel at 3PM Friday, “Can Fandom Survive?” The panel , consisting of Victor Raymond , Nix, and Richard Russell along with Georgie, discussed the future of fandom with a lively and engaged audience. We brought up online fandom, blogs, and “meet-ups” as to how these might affect APAs, zines, and traditional conventions.
Immediately thereafter, Georgie had “Tradition and Travesty”, with Richard Chwedyk, Lori Devoti, and Michael Thomas, which kicked around the long-standing tradition of “cross-overs” in light of the current crop of classic/horror semi-spoofs such as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” History of the cross-over in SF and F was explored, and the future projected, with panelists and audience members vying to come up with the most unlikely combinations.
After that, we adjourned across the street to China Buffet for dinner with Victor Raymond and some members of his local gaming group. China Buffet was fast, food was good, and service attentive, so we were happy.
OddCon opening ceremonies was it’s usual odd self, with a typically loosely plotted sketch combining time travel and alternate history with “appearances” by alternate world versions of the Guests of Honor and other notables, including Philip K. Dick and Hedy Lamarr. This was followed by a “gaming gang” confrontation between the “Crits” and the “Bloods” which ended with a musical number “Roll It!” sung to the tune of “Beat It!” by con co-chair Janet Lewis.
Then we hung out for a while until “Midnight Horror Panel: Monsters for the Next 90 Years,” which Georgie was on along with Chris Welch and Nicholas Ozment. This was a “lively” (so to speak) debate on whether or not vampires, werewolves, and zombies had “jumped the shark” or not, and if so, what would come after them? General conclusions were that vampires had definitely entered the “ironic” phase and needed a rest before becoming mythically monstrous again; that werewolves were going that way, but were somewhat redeemed by del Toro’s movie, and that zombies were definitely entering into the ironic phase of use. Suggestions toward the future included more inhuman humans, such as Hannibal Lecter or “Jigsaw”, or the “mutant menace” represented by uncontrolled genetic tinkering.
Next morning, (Saturday) Georgie, I, and Richard West were on the panel “Return to Classical Mythology” and spoke to a packed room in “Mooshenko’s” about the Percy Jackson books (good), the movie (disappointing), the recent “Clash of the Titans” movie (very disappointing) and the very great potential that exists in reimaging Western and non-Western mythology for the current age.
We hung out in the dealer’s room and snagged some snacks at the con suite for lunch, and then it was on to my panel on “Alternate History,” where I had the privilege to moderate GoH Harry Turtledove, Steve Silver, and Richard West in a wide ranging panel that reviewed the genre of Alternate History and the pitfalls and pleasures of writing it. Turtledove seemed to have fun, so I was pleased.
The reason we spent “most” of the weekend at OddCon was because we had tickets for a concert Saturday night back in Milwaukee that we wanted to see (and could have gone to another), so we ducked out of the con with a brief detour by the National Mustard Museum (formerly the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum) on the way out of town. So, after the concert, we went home, slept in our own beds, and were up and on the road early back to OddCon for Sunday panels.
At 10AM, Georgie had her turn as moderator on a GoH panel, which had Turtledove, Tobias Buckell, and Jim Frenkel on the topic of Pirates in S and SF. A good time was had reminiscing about fun pirates, scary pirates, space pirates, and pirates of every description.
Next, I had “Stupid military tactics and technology in SF movies and TV”, along with Lee Schneider, Richard Russell, and Alan Pollard, which gave me a chance to air my rant on why “Starship Troopers” is probably the worse excuse for a “military” SF movie in history, which I enjoyed giving, and the audience seemed to enjoy. Other topics included the continuing presence of the two-dimensional naval warfare paradigm in 3-D space warfare (“Battlestar Galactica”, the Original Series, and “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” among others); small-unit tactics vs. “mission creep” in “Aliens”; selective avionics failure in “Avatar”; and an appreciation of vector physics as used in the “Honor Harrington” series.
After that, we were tired, so made a last pass at the dealers’ room, said farewells, and drove back to Milwaukee for dinner and early bed. OddCon was a good con as usual and we will be looking forward to next year.

Red Priest, “Pirates of the Baroque”

The concert we attended Saturday the 17th was in Early Music Now’s series, featuring “Red Priest”, a group consisting of leader and recorder virtuoso Piers Adams, cellist Angela East, harpsichordist Howard Beach, and violinist David Greenberg. Red Priest (named in honor of read-haired Antonio Vivaldi) is known for their ‘thematic’ concerts, and this evening’s theme was “Pirates of the Baroque” which loosely brought together an entertaining list of music loosely associated with piracy, ranging from theft of tunes, possible identity theft, and pieces such as Vivaldi’s own “Tempesta di Mare” (Storm at Sea) concerto.

The members of Red Priest are sometimes criticized for what might be termed “antics”, such as dressing like, well, pirates; giving out with the occasional “Arr!” at an appropriate spot, or Adams using a recorder as a percussion instrument, or blowing sideways through another to simulate the sound of the sea. To our mind any “frivolity” (assuming frivolity to be a “bad” thing--) was more than offset by the player’s surpassing skill, beautiful sound, and the deep scholarship they showed. Cellist East related searching out the oldest extant copy of Bach’s “Prelude for Suite No. 1 for Cello” to find Anna Magdalena Bach’s markings for the bowing, which were not only different than the way the piece had been presented for decades, but also discernibly better. It was fascinating to hear two versions of “The Princess Royal Hornpipe” done, once in the Baroque style, and one in the traditional fiddling style of Cape Breton island, home of Greenberg.

The subtitle “Stolen masterworks and long-lost jewels of the Baroque era” was well borne out by the concert, which featured Bach, Telleman, Van Eyck, Tartini, Vivaldi, Corelli, and others, including tradional airs, such as “Come Ashore Jolly Tar With Your Trousers On.”
The audience at the Wisconsin Lutheran Auditorium filled the house and, by every evidence, shared our great pleasure at the performance. The group’s humorous exhortation to buy their CD’s so they (temporarily stranded in the US due to the volcanic cloud over Britain) wouldn’t have to hitchhike home with them, was scarcely needed, as the audience descended upon the sales table at the interval like the wolf on the fold.

Red Priest gave us a musically excellent, highly entertaining, and educational concert. What could be better? If they are in your area on a future tour and you care for Baroque music at all, get tickets early!