April 2004 Archives

Raised in Song

As I've mentioned before, the UW Choral Union concerts are this Saturday and Sunday night. I can't guarantee that you will like Voices, but Dona Nobis Pacem, which closes the evening, will give you chills. Especially the "Dirge for Two Veterans".

Dirge for Two Veterans,

By Walt Whitman

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they're flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd,
('Tis some mother's large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Soppy Confession

Last Friday, I was teaching 2nd grade, and was looking at the books in the classroom selection. I found a book that seemed to be a sequel to one of my childhood favorites, Ira Sleeps Over. It was Ira Says Goodbye. I picked it up and read it. By the time I finished reading it, I was in tears. Not just misty eyed, but actually holding back sobs. You see, Ira's best friend Reggie was moving away. All my life, Reggie lived next door to Ira. Now I discover the sad truth of their parting. I was amazed at how hard it hit me.

Fortunately, the kids were out at recess at the time, so I had a few minutes to get myself together, but it was tough.

Redder and redder

Ya know, I could really be ok with the not having or making much money if God would just agree to leave my teeth and car in working order. I can't really afford to be without either, but getting them fixed all the time is sendign me farther and farther into debt.

The teeth are just under observation right now, but the car is behaving ominously. Without my car, I can't work. You can't substitute teach without a vehicle.

I think I'm basically just fucked.

Give Us Peace

In case anyone if interested, this coming weekend, the University of Wisconsin Choral Union and the UW Symphony Orchestra will be performing Stephen Paulus' Voices and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem (give us peace). Perfromances are Saturday, May 1 at 8PM and Sunday, May 2 at 7:30 PM at the Mills Music Hall. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $6 for students and seniors.

It promises to be quite an exciting concert.

Sign from God?

So last night I came to my realization that I'd reached ducky saturation. Today, I look at Neil Gaiman's journal and saw this. That has to be a sign, but I can't figure out whether it means that yes, I definitely need to stop with the duckies because they will indeed take over my house, or a nudge to get just one more.

256MB, eh?


Ya know, the Subvervient Chicken, while funny, also freaks me way out. Definitely does not make me want to buy or eat a sadnwich, that's for sure.


To all the dear people in my life who may ever give me presents:

No more duckies, please. Now don't get me wrong. The ones I've gotten are great and I love them all dearly. However it has occured to me that with the four new ones I was bequeathed over Easter, my household has reached its ducky saturation point. Any more and I will start to become one of "those people".

Think of it. First I'll just be a little bit eccentric, the lady with the ducks. Then I'll be profiled in some sort of psychology review, and the children will whisper to each other on Halloween. Finally, I'll end up Collier-style, and old woman crushed to death beneath a mountain of rubber duckies. They'll discover my body when the smell drifts out into the hall....

Or maybe not. But anyway, the fact is that I can totally see this snowballing. I love you all, and I thank you for your thoughtfullness, but unless you are showing up at 3 AM to Kipp my lawn, no more duckies. Okay?



Dong ma?

Watch Firefly? Wonder what they're saying when they break into Chinese? Well, wonder no more. (Tough I'm a wee bit disappointed to discover that they really aren't calling each other "duckliver".)



Making Scents

Last night, in a dream, I heard the best (or worst) scented candle scent ever: "Naive Whitebread". It makes sense, givent he way they name candles. Naive as in innocent (yes, I know that no one would actually name a scent naive, but bare with me here), white as in "white linen", "white blossoms", "white flower" etc., and bread as in fresh baked bread. These are the sorts of things they name candles after, so "Naive Whitebread" doesn't seem too far off.

I wonder if there wold be an "Ignorant Crack" scent to go along with it?

Momentary Envy

99.99% of the time, I am perfectly happy with my Movable Type blog as it is. But right now, at this very moment, there is one litte feature of Live Journal that I really wish I had.

The moment will pass, though.


I was just reminded of a dream I had a little over a week ago. In the dream, there was an explosion in a parking garage in Milwaukee, right along side I-94. It was a very realistic dream, though some of the details have been lost to me. I suppose it symbolizes something or another. I hope it does, because it would suck if it were prophetic instead. Just in case...I didn't do it.

The Prince & Me

Not quite The King and I. Julia Style and a Danish prince. No, not that Danish price, though it does seem that Ms. Styles cannot escape the Bard.

Anyway, it was a fairly standard cute romantic comedy. Set in "Manitowoc, WI" and "the University of Wisconsin". And Denmark. Of course, Wisconsin was all filmed in Canada, and while they got the feel right, that was totally *not* the UW. I mean, why name a specific place and then not even bother to make it resemble that place. They even go so far as to have them working in "the Rat", but that was very much not the Rathskellar. Why not just have it be some random bar, rather than an actual place that a good number of people would expect to recognize? Or a random university for that matter? Or why not shoot in Wisconsin. Also, there is a scene in "Manitowoc" at Thankgiving, and everyone is outside without coats, wearing light jackets or light shirts. Hello? Wis-con-sin. No-vem-ber. Accent on the brrrr. That looked more like late August. But they got enough little details right that it still work for me, in spite of the ETF moments.

What I really liked about it was that while it was still a high concept romantic comedy, the characters were believable and likable for the most part. They also managed to solve a damned if you do, damned if you don't, lose-lose plot point, and resolve it is a very graceful way.

See it with a girlfriend.



Speaking of books and movies...

Apparently they've made a movie based on the first part of John Irving's excellent novel, A Widow for One Year. Not the entire novel, mind you. Just the section that sets up the base on which the rest of the story is built. The backstory. That's like making a movie of Jane Eyre's horrible childhood and ending it with her hearing about a governess job somewhere. What's with that?

Ella Enchanted

The movie version of Gail Carson Levine's wonderful Ella Enchanted is not exactly enchanting. The movie is cute and fun, but a real disappointment is comparison to the book and to the film that could have been made. Instead of going the Harry Potter route of being faithful to the book, and only changing bits here and there to accomadate the adaptation to a cinematic format, the studio went the typical "Hollywood" route. They dumbed it down a great deal ((because kids can't handle complexity, ya see) added anachronisms, fart jokes, and kung fu fighting. Important characters are changed, eliminated or as good as (what a waste of Parminder K. Nagra!) while a slew of useless new characers are added (a talking snake? an evil uncle? a wannabe lawyer elf?).

Very young children may enjoy the movie, please be sure to then go home and read them the book. OK?



Eternal Sunshine

Yesterday I saw Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. Intensely strange, yet it all made total sense to me. It was quite dreamlike and surreal, but it didn't make my brain feel like it had been wrapped around a pole like other [Punch Drunk Love] movies have. I found it to be quite satisfying and actually even a bit restful. The acting was great all around, and Jim Carrey should really just stick to drama, because he doesn't annoy me the way he does in comedies. And, as always, Kate Winslet rules.

Go see it.


So Tired

CSS makes the baby Jesus cry.

Happy 35th Anniversary Sesame Street

Play the Sesame Street Trivia Game hosted by Oscar. It's a ton of fun, just be prepared for some abuse. (He is a grouch, after all.)

The Other Final

The final film in my film fest journey this years was, appropriately, The Other Final, a documentary by Johan Kramer about a soccer match he organized during the 2002 World Cup between Bhutan and Montserrat, the two lowest ranked teams in the FIFA. Truly a game of good will and good sportsmanship, the "Other Final" becomes a love note to the game itself.

Excellent cinematography and editing, a great soundtrack, and a clever visual devices (the traveling white soccer ball and the foosball game) work together with the compelling story and the cheerfully optimistic subjects to provide a strong piece of narrative cinema.

I hope that the sort of attitude displayed by the players and fans of these two countries could be shared by more people throughout the world. Maybe there will be other "other finals" with future World Cups. At the moment, it looks as though if that were to happen, One of the teams would be returning. Bhutan has moved up 14 places in the rankings, but poor Montserrat has actually dropped a place. It is still in last place, but last place is now 204, rather than 203 (Afghanistan has been added to FIFA since 2002).

Seriously, I would see this film again in a heartbeat, and I recommend it to anyone with even the faitnest of interest in soccer/football or sports in general. Or just a love of a good story. This certainly is one.




Freestyle, is a 26 minute documentary by Elena Elmoznino about "Musical Canine Freestyle"--that is to say, dancing with dogs. Apparently this "sport" is quite popular in Europe and Japan (I'm not surprised that it is big in Japan), but this film focuses on the members of The World Canine Freestyle Organization, a North American group of Freestylers who hope to have Freestyling recognized as an Olympic event someday. Yeah.

Truly a funny piece of film, the folks in it seem sweet and well-meaning, but all a bit kooky. I'd have to say that I'm glad I don't know them personally.



The first film of the last day for me was Jockey, by Kate Davis. It was thrilling and funny, and sad and disturbing. The audience as a whole seemed to react together to many parts, such as the collective gasp when Go For Wand stumbled, sending jockey Randy Romero flying and herself head over hoof, breaking a leg.

The documentary focused on three Kentucky jockeys: Chris Rosier, a young "bug boy" or apprentice jockey, Shane Sellers, an accomplished jockey who had injured his knee and had dropped out of racing to recuperate and was trying to decide whether to get back into the game, and Randy Romero, a retired jockey with serious health problems. It takes a close look at the grueling life of thoroughbred racing, including the punishing steps these atheletes take to meet the weight requirements.

I was a little disappointed that there were no female jockeys among the featured riders, but it did make sense to focus on this group of three men at the begining, middle, and ends of their careers, who also knew each other. Maybe the female riders will get their own documentary some day.



Chaza Show Choir

Late last night, I attended the second festival screening of Chaza Show Choir, by Milwaukee artist and playwrite Theresa Colummbus, and Didier Leplae. It was not at all what I expected. It was, so far, the strangest film I've seen in this year's festival.

It started off in a funny, so-bad-it's-good sort of way, then wandered into so-bad-it's-bad territory, and then kept on going till it circled right back to so-bad-it's-good.

I don't really know how to describe it. Think cheesy high school show choir meets bizarre avant garde improv-style flim meets...something else.


Stone Reader

I went to see Stone Reader with very few preconceptions. I knew that Ebert loved it, and that it was about the search for a book/author, and that I sort of remembered hearing about it on NPR sometime.

It was long...a little over two hours, but I rather enjoyed every minute of it. As someone who has been a vocarious reader ever since I learned how to read, it was great to see so many dedicated readers up on screen. Filmmaker Mark Moskowitz's bookshelves reminded me quite a bit of my dad's book shelves, and when Mark and his friend were exploring the shelves of the library going "remember when you read this?"--well, that was me.

After the film, Mark Moskowitz was on hand to take questions, and he admitted that his search for Dow Mossman, author of the out-of-print and forgotten The Stones of Summer was not in the least bit efficient, but he asked the audience, "Do you really think the movie was really about finding Dow?" Truthfully, no. It was about the relationships between readers and books, authors and books, and authors and readers.

Moskowitz also started and organization called The Lost Books Club, for people to try to get other books that are great but "lost" back into print. I think that is a wonderful idea. Dow Mossman isn't the only one who wrote one book, then dropped off the litereary map without publishing another.

I grew up across the street from The Constant Reader Bookshop, which had a big sign painted on the bricks of the side of the building that started off with the words "Out of Print". As a very early reader, I thought that it said "Out of Paint", and that confused me. If you were out of paint, how and why would you paint that on your sign? My mom or dad explained what it said and what that meant. I was saddedn to hear that books went out of print. I thought of books as something that were always around. Once it was published, you could always get one.

Maybe someday that will be true.


The Fight

Following the Wisconsin Shorts on Friday night, I raced across the Isthmus to see The Fight. The Fight is and American Experience documentary by Barak Goodman and John Maggio, which explores the historic 1938 fight between the black American Joe Louis and the German Max Scheling.

The fight was frought with symbolism: America vs. the Third Riech, Black vs. Aryan, etc. The film does an excellent job of providing ample background on the two men and the world in which they lived, but it captures a picture of how much was riding on this fight, especially in the hearts of black Americans. The photos of the celebrations in Harlem that night are simply amazing.


Funny Shorts

And no, we aren't talking about those plaid bermudas, either. The Wisconsin's Own (and Other) Shorts II: Comedy selections were certainly sources of high quality laughs.

The Vest by Paul Gutrecht got the show of to a good start. Skye McCole Bartusiak's performance was charmingly straightforward and believable. The comedy was bittersweet, but without becoming either maudlin or uncomfortable (the was *not* Welcome to the Dollhouse). I'm sure that I wasn't the only one in the audience that saw a little bit of my own childhood in the film.

Greeting Card Writer and Death, both by Aaron Yonda of Wis-Kino fame were less polished but full of joyful silliness. I thought that GCW could have been just a bit shorter (for a short) as a couple of the gags ran a little too long. However, Death had me in stitches. Matt Sloan's looming tag-a-long Grim Reaper was hysterical as he slyly pushed packages of chips into a shopping cart with his scythe.

Brain Dehler's The Glass Bottle was truly short and sweet...and made me thirsty. The above link includes a link to a quicktime file of the movie itself.

Gas 'N Fuel Employee Training Video 4-A Makin' It Happen cracked up the entire audience. I imagine that just about every person in the room had been required to watch a cheesy training video at some point, and this parody had them dead to rights. From the bad acting to the cheesy situations and "please pause the video review with your trainer" directions, we had seen it all before, just never in such a delightfully satiric manner as presented by Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett.

The Climactic Death of Dark Ninja by Peter Craig put my in mind of the "making of" stories told to me by assorted friends concerning high school filmmaking (a particular tale of Romeo and Juliet with ketchup blood springs immediately to mind). I really felt like I knew these kids. I can't give away the surprise ending, but...Bwah!

El Dorko, written by Tom Clark and Harrison Brown (directed by Brown, and starring Clark) had us laughing after the credits had rolled. Just as the laughter was fading to a close, someone in the room chuckled like th "villian" in the film and off we went again.

and The Fight. Both rocked. I will give a more extensive report tomorrow, when I am no longer so sleepy.

Festival Express

The Wisconsin Film Festival is off to a great start. Kicking things off in rockin' style was Festival Express. Woo boy, what a ride!

For those of you who have never heard of the Festival Express, and are too unmotivated to click the link, here's the scoop: In the summer of 1970 there was a series of three rock festivals across Canada--Toronto, Winnipeg, and then Calgary. Instead of the typical "fly in, fly out" method of getting everyone to the shows, the promoter arranged to have a train carry everyone from city to city. It became a non-stop party and jam session. (They actually had to make an "emergency" stop in Saskatoon, because they ran out of booze.)

There was some delightful modern-day interviews, as some of those involved reminisced and relayed anecdotes. However, most of the film was simply footage, with occasional voiceovers. The footage was full of jewels. From the joyful comradery of musicians giddily (and sometimes tipsily) jamming together on the train, to the skinny "children" of Canada dancing with abandon in the summer sun, to Janis Joplin flinging her body and soul into "Tell Mama".

I've been at movies where the audience applauded at the end. However, this was the first film that I've ever seen where the audience applauded after the musical numbers. We did, and it felt totally right. There was no way that you could hear The Band smoke their way through "The Weight" like that and *not* burst into cheers along with the original festival crowds. I think it would have felt unnatural to sit in silence after that.

The "cinematography" was that of a guy with a handheld camera in the 70's. Very much a home movie feel. However, the editing was great. There were some great split screen moments, allowing us to see close-ups of different angles at the same time, or near/far juxtapositions.

Some of the thoughts I had while watching:

*How priviledged the "music must be free" kids were that protested the $14 ticket charge. When you demand that you should be able to attend a concert for free, you have an extreme sense of entitlement, and very little idea of how the world works (are you prepared to feed and clothe the musicians and sound techs, since you are demanding their services for no compensation? It's their livelyhood, duded.) When you are ready to get violently up in arms about the price of a rock concert, there are probably not a whole lot of real problems in your little world.

*Janis Joplin was an amazing performer, and yet probably wouldn't have gotten very far in this day and age. Not a pretty face, not a pretty body, not a pretty voice. Given how shallow and obsessive the entertainment business is at the moment, it seems unlikely that a non-petite, husky-voiced woman, with a thick chin and acne would get very far. Which is crazy, because onstage she *was* sex and drugs and rock and roll.

*What was really great was that even with the close quarters, the lack of sleep, the sun, the chemical "additives", etc...there seemed to be very little negative energy. As far as what we were shown, at least, everyone seemed to be genuinely positive and at peace with themselves and each other. Now, it may be that they just left out an petty squabbles, hangovers, and other small upheavals to focus on the good, but even so it looks like it was an absolutely amazing trip.

It was certainly an amazing evening of film. My face started to ache from the grinning. Here's to tomorrow night.




I just made my very first monetary campaign contribution. I feel so grown up!

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