April 2005 Archives

Kiss off into the air

Last night, after the Mahler dress rehearsal let out, I headed down to the Terrace to catch the end of the Violent Femmes show. That was great. I missed "Blister in the Sun" but I still got to rock out with quite a few familiar ones.

It was pretty cool out, but there were so many people there that the wind was cut and there was a collective body heat warmth in the crowd. Terrace shows are almost always great. If I've seen a bad one, I certainly don't remember it.

Side Effects

Yes, I'm still doing Film Fest reviews. Hey, it's only been a month...

Side Effects was a lot of fun, and not at all what I was expecting. I had gotten the idea that it was a soul-searching drama. Well, there was soul-searching and there was some drama, but mostly it was pretty funny.

I must admit, I did get a kick out of seeing something that had been filmed in and around Madison--especially when they were at a conference in some supposedly tropical location, but where actually walking around by the Terrace.

The story had a great narrative arc. Karly Hert (Katherine Heigl) starts the movie frustrated with her job, but unable to see a way out. She's pretty immediately likable, and we find ourselves caring about what happens to her. When she meets Zach (Lucian McAfee) and starts forming her plan to leave her job, we get to feel that excitement. We then watch as she actually starts to get good at her job, and be pulled in my the lure of success. I think that if she had started the movie in love with Big Pharma, her moment of conversion wouldn't have been as interesting.

I actually wouldn't mind seeing it again.

Today there was a box in the teachers' lounge labeled "free, take what you like" and filled with discarded books. There were a couple of gems; I managed to score slightly battered copies of Fox in Socks and There's a Wocket in my Pocket! by Dr. Seuss, which I promptly read aloud. However, most had a very good reason to have been tossed: they were awful.

One was so bad that I had to take it with me. Peter Gets the Chickenpox by Marguerite Rush Lerner, M.D. and illustrated by George Overlie. The three color illustrations were done in that style that just screams 1950's. The best worst part, however, was the text--a wonderful poem, parts of which I shall include here:

Dr. Babson said, "It's chickenpox for sure.
But I'll come over--we'll feel more secure.
The doctor cam and took one look.
"Peter, you have chickenpox from head to foot.

This illness is caused by a virus so small
you need a microscope to see it at all.
The virus invades the body's cells,
and for about one week there it dwells.

Yesterdat, before the rash came out,
th germ was already in you, waiting to sprout.
You're infectious one day before the rash is spied
and will continue to be so till the pox have dried.

If new spots come, that's nothing to fear.
It's customary for repeated crops to appear.
For three to five days you may keep getting pox.
While new blisters form,
the old ones crust their tops.

Stay in bed till the fever has gone
even though the time seems long.
When the pox dry and have crusts for covers,
you may go back to school and play with others."

And, of course, don't forget:

Dogs catch cats.
Cats catch mice.
Chickenpox catches you once
not twice!

Truly a classic of children's literature, that one.

Up the Mountain

I'm slowly working my way through my film fest reviews. I will have them all done by the end of the month.

Daughters of Everest was a documentary and (excluding the actual shorts) the shortest item on our list, at 56 minutes.

From a filmmaking standpoint, it didn't break any new boundaries or knock our socks off with its style. It would not have been out of place on the Travel Channel. That is not to say that it was boring or poorly done. It would not have been out of place on the Travel Channel.

The subject matter was quite compelling: a group of Sherpa women set out in 2000 to become the first Nepalese women to ever summit Mt. Everest. They only had a brief window of time and very little training, but they set out to do their best. It was rather like watching American reality TV at some points, as various team member vented their frustrations about others to the camera. At t he same time, it was about as far away from American reality TV as you can get. The philosophies of honor and responsility that they held are not the sort of thing that you hear on Survivor or Road Rules.

It being a documentary about events that I didn't already know, it did keep me guessing as to how it would turn out. In a movie, there are dramatic cues that let you know if someone will be injured or killed, or if someone is going to succeed in the end. Real life doesn't have those, so I was kept guessing the whole time.
I'm not going to give it away for you, in case you get a chance to see it yourself.

On the road again

Today I got my bike out to fill the tires and take the first ride of the year. It was beautiful. I "discovered" a stretch of bike path that I had never noticed in the three years I've lived here. It took me through some very pretty terrain and it gave me a nice route to a part of the city that I haven't biked in forever and had missed.

I used to live in the Starkweather Creek and Schenks-Atwood neighborhoods, and the Capitol City Trail gave me a convenient ride all the way through the Williamson-Marquette area and on downtown. In my current neighborhood, I have to cross East Washington to get to that trail, and that is not a fun thing. I'd pretty much been limiting my rides to Warner Park and the paths that run along Lake Mendota.

The path I found is a section of the Starkweather Creek path that takes me up and around to MATC Truax, where I can then take Wright St. up to Fair Oaks and Fair Oaks to the Capital City path. I still have to cross East Wash, but it is at a narrow section with a decent traffic signal.It's definitely the long way around, but it is pretty safe, and I appreciate safety when I'm on my bike.

The smells outside are heavenly. The prevailing scent makes me think of apples and honey. It is a mixture of green growing things and blossoming things. Every now and then I came across smells of things being cooked on charcoal grills, or of freshly sawn wood from spring maintenance projects. Gardeners were out doing their thing, as were plenty of other bikers, bladers, and walkers.

This is the time of year when I fall in love with this city all over again.

Jesus has a wicked fastball

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I'm sure most of us have heard the phrase "Christ on a bike" at least once or twice, but did you know he played team sports as well?

Corporate Hell


Anybody in the Madison area got any recommendations for DSL providers? I'm currently with TDS for my voice line and a dial-up connection, which together run about $50/mo. However, I only use the phone line for the computer these days, and would love to chuck it and get a faster connection. TDS only will give DSL to voice customers, so with them I'd still have to keep the unused phone line. I'm not that thrilled with the idea of going to Charter for a cable hook up. Any input on SBC?

My main concerns:

1. Staying in the neighborhood of $50/mo or less.
2. Fast service than 56k.
3. Able to ditch the landline.
4. Something that will work with a Mac and an Airport.
5. A company that isn't evil...or at least not too evil.



Death is My Co-Pilot was a (very amusing) video short by Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda that won a Kodak Opportunity Award at last year's festival. So this year it appeared re-made on 35 mm film. Having seen the two a year apart, I can't really do a decent compare and contrast for the versions, but I can say that I laughed my ass off both times.

I Am Ann by Ann Coppel was a total stitch. he whole theater continued to chuckle after the credits were finished and they were switching to the next movie. Raise your arms and shout it!

Negative Space by Shelby Floyd was a fairly neutral experience for me. I neither loved nor hated it. It didn't make me laugh or cry. It was just kind of there.

Spaceman Dan's 243rd Flight by John Mossman was the one that M and I discussed all the way down State St. after the show. It was strange and haunting. At the end, the film left you with just as many questions as clues as to what happened. Far from a perfect film, it was still a powerful one. It showed great filmmaking potential.

The Varieties of Romantic Experience, directed by Daniel Freed, made me distinctly uncomfortable. Therefore, I think it was doing its job. While watching it I felt about as squirmy as the students depicted at the psych lecture.

The Wishtaker was a very pretty film. The color and the cinematography were eye-pleasing. The story was a sweet little thing, but light as a feather. Even the sadder vignettes seemed to be floating along without much of an anchor. It was lovely and dreamlike, with a faint tinge of heartache. I was interested to note that the cast included Mike Metcalf ("The Master" from Buffy), my high school friend Michelle Grzanna, and her older sister Suzane. I guess it's a small world after all.

More to come

I'm slowly working my way through the film fest reviews. Next up are the shorts from the Wisconsin Narrative Shorts Program 1. However, since that one program has several films about which I will be writing, it will be a little while.

Where the heck does all of my time go?

NBT: Never Been Thawed

NBT: Never Been Thawed was extremely funny. "Documenting" a group of Arizona frozen food enthusiasts, it was a loving send-up of obsessive collecting: A Best in Show for the collectibles market. The showing was rather late at night after a full day of work, so I was pretty inclined to fall asleep. Yet the film kept me engaged and amused for the entire length.

True, there were a some over-the-top moments, but so much of it set just the right balance between real and ridiculous. For example, the radio morning show scenes had me completely in stitches because not only was it funny but I've seen just that dynamic. There were also some pretty poigniant moments for a mockumentary. The cast really had a handle on their parts, and it was excellent acting from a group of amatuers.

Very cool news is that so far it has been picked up by an Arizona theater chain for a regional run, so it may possibly go somewhere. Good luck to the filmmakers.

Down Home Cookin'

Down Home Cooking was a 5 minute short byBenson Gardner and Aaron Yonda. I believe it was a Wis-Kino film.

It played rather like a Comedy Sportz game (not surprising, since I know that Yonda has been involved in CSz). It was fun and amusing, but just the right length. Part of the gag was based on repetition, and they ended it just before we all got sick of it (well, at least just before *I* got sick of it). One more repetition would have killed it.

High School Record

High School Record was an high school mockumentary. However, while it was experimental and set in a high school, it did not annoy me like last year's Chaza Show Choir.

There were quite a few parts that did make me squirm, but I was squirming with recognition. They were "I've been there! I've seen that!" moments. Most of the cast are not actors but young musicians in punk bands. Occasionally the lack of polish hurt the scenes, but usually it made it all feel fresh and genuine.

The parts that I really could have done without were the drama class/drama teacher scenes. Her character was pretty one-note and over-the-top, and it tended to detract from the rest of the atmosphere.

Overall, it made me nostalgic for my geeky high school days, while at the same time keeping me extremely grateful that I will never have to do them over again.

Double Dare

Double Dare at the Monona Terrace lecture hall was very fun. Heck, even standing in line before the show was fun, as we struck up a conversation with one of our fellow line-standers.

The movie itself documented a couple years in the lives of two stunt women. One, Jeannie Epper is in her sixties, and has doubled for Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman, Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, and countless others. She comes from a stunt family, learning from her father and passing down her knowledge and passion to her daughter. As a woman in a male-dominated profession, and as a woman who is aging in the unforgiveing world of Hollywood, Jeannie really has to hustle to keep on working.

Zoe Bell, a young New Zealander, doubled for Lucy Lawless in the seriesXena: Warrior Princess. However, once the show ended, she was left unemployed. Brought the Los Angeles for a Xena fan-club convention, she hooks up with Jeannie and her family to attend the Taurus Awards (the world stunt awards). Eventually Zoe moves to the US from New Zealand, where her talent, determination, and the connections she has made through Jeannie help land her the job of Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill.

The film is very well done, combining comedy, excitement, and human drama. Along with the excitement and thrills of stunt work come frustration and pain. One wrong landing can lead to surgery after surgery. Additionally, for women there is often a greater risk, because the tight and/or revealing costumes leave little room for padding and impractical shoes make ankle injuries a real danger. Plus there is the pressure to stay thin and to stay young, in order to be acceptable for the directors.

The editing was pretty tight and the pace never lagged. I enjoyed every minute of it, and was happy to stay for the filmmaker Q&A with Amanda Micheli after the show. It was up for the Documentary Feature Audience Award, and I marked my ballot "Excellent". Good luck to it.


So far today, I have been going back and forth between gorgeous springtime sunlight and cozy movie theater darkness. Both have been wonderful. I also got my first brat of the year, which I ate on the sunny patio of State Street Brats.

The first thing I did this morning, however, was drop off a photograph that I am donating for the Artists for Peace Exhibit and Silent Auction, sponsored by the Madison Area Peace Coalition.

Art Exhibit begins on April 15th, and runs every day through April 22nd. Reception and silent auction takes place on April 22nd, from 7-10pm. Refreshments and entertainment. Winning bidders not present will be notified by phone. Fundraiser for the Madison Area Peace Coalition.

I'm going to start putting together reviews of the things I've seen so far, but its going to take a bit.

One Night of Film

I had a very good night last night at the Wisconsin Film Festival. We saw three films: Double Dare, High School Record, and NBT: Never Been Thawed (which was preceeded by Down Home Cookin'. Everything was clever and funny, and some of it even managed to be funny. I'll have more in-depth reviews later, but for now I have to head out the door to see the first of today's films.

Ladies and Gentlemen...

....It's Fred time!

(I really need to start remembering the fact that there is a camera in my phone.)

Not trying to be difficult

I always feel sad and frustrated when I am given a present and it is something that I can't use. It makes me feel as though I am being ungrateful if I don't keep it, but my life is already too cluttered to keep things that I can't use.

I've also discovered that people's feelings can be easily hurt when a gift isn't kept. I am always sincere when I say thank you for a gift sincerely given. I am thanking them for the thought, not just for the present. But when what was given goes back to the store or gets passed along to someone else or politely declined (like the really nice, really expensive, and really huge computer speakers somebody tried to give me a couple years ago) some people are offended. I always tread on eggshells when I have to do that.

Today I was given a late birthday present and I'm trying to decide what to do with it. I am a terrible person to purchase clothing for, even when I am the one doing the shopping. I am oddly sized, so it is nearly impossible to predict what will fit. I wear a small/medium/large, so any given item will have a 33.3% chance of fitting and a 66.6% of not. Even shoes, for which I do have one correct size, don't always feel right on my feet. Catalogue shopping is nothing more than a fond daydream in my life. For that reason, I try to discourage people from buying clothes for me.

So, when the sleeves are so long that they come halfway down my palms, when the store won't take and exchange because there is no receipt, no tags, and they no longer have the item in stock, and when I know that none of my friends would be interested, I'm kind of stuck. Ebay and charity are both options, but it always feels so wrong to send a new gift down those routes.

I swear I don't do this on purpose, but I've got a huge guilt thing going on right now. I really do like getting presents, but I'd rather get no present at all than a gift that I can't use. I'm an ungrateful wretch, aren't I.

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