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Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night)

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Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night) was the second stop on our festival journey. It was also at Sundance Cinema, so we got to take a brief intermission at the Great Dane Hilldale.

(The trailer lack subtitles, but the subtitled version I found also featured a terrible American movie trailer voice over. Too awful to link.)

The festival write-up describes this as "a thriller with all the boring parts cut out" and they were not lying. My adrenaline was elevated from the first scene to the last, and even though it was very late when I left the movie, I was very keyed up.

There are some very important details that would be spoilers for the very first scene, but I can say that the majority of the film is a tense, high-stakes game of cat and mouse in a loud, crowded nightclub. They skip right over many of the usual cliches that make up the slow moments in action movies and keep you right in the midst of the actual action. I'm sure that they inevitable American remake will have some sort of goofy comic relief and a love interest. I'd recommend seeing this, and not bothering with any Hollywood follow-up.



"Wisconsin" and "We're Not Broke"

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Our Wisconsin Film Fest journey for 2012 began on Thursday night at Sundance Cinema in Hilldale and a sold out screening of the documentary We're Not Broke and a local short, Wisconsin.

I'd seen Wisconsin when it was first uploaded to YouTube in March of last year, but it was great to see it again. So much has happened since then. Cold, snow, crowds, mud, pizza... Show me what democracy looks like: petitions, boxes and boxes of petitions.

It isn't the best of the little films that came out of the protests (the uncertain focus and camera angles was a bit maddening) but it was great to see and hear a variety of faces and voices.

We're Not Broke was well made, and if there was a person in the theater who didn't find themselves getting furious while watching it, I think they might have been asleep. It detailed the lengths to which American multinational corporations will go to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. and the ways in which they do so. They are literally willing to spend millions of dollars on lobbyists, campaign contributions, lawyers, and accountants in order to reduce or eliminate their tax bills. The things they do *may* be legal at this time, but they are in no way right or ethical.

As is often the case in documentaries like this, there were occasional moments where the protesters came off looking a bit silly, but that was mostly due to the fact that they are not professionals. But it was corporate America that came off looking like jackasses at best.

I particularly enjoyed the interviews with Lee Shephard., who was incredibly droll with a dry and acerbic wit.

I ended up sitting next to two older women, whose sotte voce comments I could overhear during the course of the film. If I was seething internally at the nefarious practices of the corps, they were visibly (and audibly) bristling with indignation.

It was rather a good thing for me that it wasn't the last film of the night, because if it had been, I'd probably have seethed all night long. As it was, I had about an hour after the end to glower about corporate tax dodgers, after which I was plunged into French action sequences, and it was my adrenaline being raised, rather than my blood pressure. It has stayed with me, though, and I will definitely recommend it to other people, if they get the opportunity. This is something we should be made about.



Three Things Make a Post

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First off, if you ever have the opportunity to try the cheesy pub fries at Laz Bistro and Bar in Stoughton, WI, do not let the moment pass you by. Those are some amazing, tasty chips. However, unless you plan on making a meal of nothing but them, plan to split them with at least one friend. While it may be found in the "tapas" section of the menu, there was nothing "small" about this plate.

Secondly, the Stoughon Opera House is remarkable beautiful venue, both in terms of looks and in sound quality. Even though it was a bit of a drive to get there, I will gladly go again. (And now I am extra sad that the Carolina Chocolate Drops show there last fall sold out before I got tickets. It must have been an astonishing show in that space.)

Finally, even with a hint of laryngitis roughening up her voice, Dar Williams remains as luminous and buoyant as ever. It was an intimate show, just Dar with her guitar and a piano accompanist on some songs. The last few times I'd seen her she had a band along. As nice as the bands were, I definitely prefer her solo (or almost solo) sound. I have always been fond of the way she interacts with the audience and introduces the songs with little stories. It's that kind of thing that gets me to live shows.

She also looked fantastic, and gave me a great idea for what to do with my hair when it gets a bit longer. I think I've always had a tiny girl-crush on her unassuming hippy-goddess rockstar style. She never goes over to top in any direction, but nails it with confidence. Considering her severe stage fright in her early career, it really inspires me.

It was a great night.



This is what democracy looks like.



Fire Ball

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So, I need to talk about Dane 101's FireBall, especially since it happened at the end of January. It took a while to get all the photos together, and frankly, I'm still sifting. But I do have enough to share.

It was an amazing spectacle. So many beautiful costumes. So many dark and wonderful costumes. The performances on the stage were entrancing.

Since I am much better with images than with words, I will follow with three slideshows of my photos from that night. Enjoy!



So, it only took me most of a month to get my photos edited. Pretty soon I'll try to get a write-up of the event, but so much of it defied description. In the meantime, a picture is worth a thousand words...




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Use coupon code FBTW10 for 10% off any order at Irving Place Photography or The Floating Market, now through Monday!

Additionally, if you buy two or more prints from Irving Place Photography, shipping will be free, now through Christmas. (Etsy will still charge the shipping, but I will refund the charge.)



As is always the case, there was way more to see on Gallery Night than I could reasonably fit in the 5-9 time span. It's like a buffet banquet: you try to get in tiny samples of as many items as you can, but you'll still be stuffed before you can try it all.

This year most of my stops were also in/near studio spaces, which make me happy. Two of the stops involved glass blowing demos, which are always a treat for me.

I started out the night at Studio Paran on Winnebago, which included glass blowing demos by Richard Jones, and "Tables for Two" in the gallery space, a collaboration by Jones and furniture-maker Christopher Ueland. The artistic cafe tables they had built and set up throughout the room really did invite visitors to linger and talk, while examining the work close-up.

Next stop was across the street at the Winnebago Studios. It was still early in the night, and I know that some of the artists were also taking part in shows elsewhere, so some my usual studios were closed. But it was still wonderful to be surrounded not just by the art of art, but by the mess and material of art-making. Even a tidy studio has an energy to it that thrills me.

I have a quick stop at Tandem Press on Dickinson and then across the street to my old digs, Evolution Arts Collective. There was some great new work in the show, and the space was really alive. I you are looking for inexpensive, shared studio space in the Madison area, I high recommend contacting them at

Radiant Glass and reneéglass factory in the Madison Enterprise Center on Baldwin St was next on the list, where there was more wonderful glass blowing demonstrations, and some stunning works of glass on display by all the artists.

Just upstairs in the Common Wealth Gallery, artist Michele Kraft had a series of gorgeous and intriguing oil paintings, based on the tarot. Sadly, I did not get any photos at this stop, but there was one particular installation based on the Lovers that made me stop, look twice, and then smile.

We were running short on time at this point, and decided that looking for parking downtown would eat up too much of what was left, so we had to skip the likes of the UW, Overture, and MMoCA. Instead we hightailed it up Monroe street to the always delightful Macha Tea House and Gallery, for some wonderfully weird paintings on velvet.

The last stop of the night was the most traditional, as we spend the last 10 minutes before nine in the Grace Chosy Gallery. There was some nice work on display, but nothing that knocked my socks off. It was aesthetically and technically sound, but it was also pretty safe. Not a bad thing, but far less memorable than some of the things we'd seen earlier that night.

After 9 bells tolled, we headed up to jacs for a light meal (all that we really needed after a night of gallery reception snacks). I can recommend the spinach salad, and will note that the small is quite substantial.

So, here's to Fall Gallery Night 2010. Now, on to Spring 2011!



Gearing up for Gallery Night

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Wee! Tonight is Fall Gallery Night in Madison, and I am certainly excited for it.

I have well over a dozen venues that I'd like to visit, and only few hours in which to do so, which means I need to plan carefully. Fortunately, many of them are in clusters. Unfortunately, they are spread out from the near east side to the near west. Travel time is going to be a thing, as is parking.

Still, I know it is going to be a good time. I plan to bring my camera, and post some photos if I get some good ones.



I was obviously not the only photographer at the Floating Market. Here are some that were actually shot during the market. (And with better lighting, since she was working with more than just the pop-up flash.) It's a very nice set.

Also, here is another excellent write-up of the event, featuring some of those photos.



Something I really need to do

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I want to pass the word along on this, as well as making something of a bookmark/reminder for myself.

There is a call for artists for the Habitat Restore Annual Salvage Art Show and Auction in October of 2010.

The Salvage Art Show will be juried by professional artists. Interested artists will submit three examples of their work, which will be evaluated on such elements as originality, design, composition, subject matter, choice of materials, and skill of execution. Submissions to the jury will be due by May 22. Artists will be notified of their status during the week of June 1.

Worth a try, I think.



At the name of this post would indicate, our second stop on Saturday was another shorts program. This one made no promise as to whether we would be unsettled. What we got was an interesting mixed bag.

(I can't exactly remember the order, but that is not the important part.)

Duck Crossing was a charming little mocumentary. 13 or so minutes of clips and "interviews" on the "duck crossing" scene that appears so often in film. More often than I'd ever realized, that's for certain. My one criticism is that the subtitles were extremely hard to read: a small, white font. It gave me a bit of a headache.

The one minute long My Friend, Larry was extremely strange. However, the brevity helped it, for it was over before it could become annoying.

I'm not normally a fan of experimental, but You Will Like This worked. It was funny and peculiar and just this side of unsettling. The fact that it was 4 minutes also helped. Like My Friend, Larry, the joke would have worn very thin had it continued much longer. In fact, a minute less might have made it stronger.

I can honestly say that I barely remember seeing Floatin', a 1 minute stop-motion animation, beyond the fact that it was cute. It just didn't register in comparison. Perhaps if I'd taken notes, but I don't do that.

The two other animations, Subprime and Mariza were more memorable. Both were digital. Subprime was 3 minutes of ever evolving and collapsing houses; Legos meets the Sims meets something new. Mariza was 5 minutes of a fisherman, a dancing donkey, and a battle of wills.

Sinkhole actually was a little bit unsettling. Shot in Centralia, PA, the coal mining town that has be abandoned for years due to a long-burning coal fire in the seam below the town. To say too much would spoil it (if you ever get an opportunity to see it), but I can say that things don't go as expected for the coal company broker how has come to try to buy out the remaining landowner.

I was a little uncertain at the start of Sign of the Times. I didn't know how much of loud, jerky guy being loud and jerky I could handle, regardless of how funny it was. Fortunately, the tale of the stolen morning papers proved to have more going on than just that. It was funny and kind of sweet.

Chili & Cheese: A Condimental Rift was, to borrow a phrase Meg Hamel used to describe one of the other films, a hoot. Good acting, great cinematography. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, though I wasn't always sure of where it was going.

Carjacked was funny in a totally bizarre, barely making sense kind of way. For a project by high school students, it was very well done. The film blurb describes it as "over-the-top" and I have to agree. Kind of funny, very weird.

Only one film to go in my Film Fest Roundup.



Film Fest, Saturday: A Big Start

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For our first show on Saturday, our group was bigger (M, E, D and I) and the venue was bigger (Orpheum, Main Stage). All appropriate for A Matter of Size, a feature-length narrative about Israeli sumo wrestlers.

Our hero is Herzl (Itzik Cohen), who loses his job as a salad-bar chef because customers complain about his size. He had joined a diet group, but they don't tolerate his weight increases and boot him out. He finds work washing dishes at a Japanese restaurant, where they've tuned in the sumo wrestling match on their satellite TV behind the bar. In this competitive sport, being large brings honor and respect. It's what Herzl craves, and would be good for his buddies, too, for they are all generously sized and have too much free time. Herzl convinces the restaurant's owner, Kitano, to train them in the venerable sport of sumo.

The combination of gentle humor and real conflict made for a funny yet powerful story. It did not rely entirely on slapstick or mockery, as could so often be the case with a plot such as this. It also deals quite deftly with the relationships the men have with each other and with their loved ones. Herzl's mother and his new girlfriend are also characters instead of caricatures.

We all enjoyed the show quite a bit, and afterwards, 3 of us felt compelled to get gyros for lunch, thanks to Gidi's shawarma. (It was that or Japanese--right across the street--but we didn't have too much time before the next show.) Sitting patio in front of Parthenon and watching people walk by in the sunshine, we knew we were off to a good start.

Only two more shows to go.



Floating Evening

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And now, a brief break from Film Fest talk to write about how I spent my Sunday and Monday.

I've been following along with the pre-production of Lineline Theater's upcoming stage adaptation of Neverwhere. So, when I heard that they would be doing an actual Floating Market for their annual benefit event and where looking for volunteers to help *be* the market, I signed right up. How could I miss something like that? I've been missing the "Below" since the end of Boston Between the Cracks.

Sunday afternoon, I drove down to Crystal Lake, IL where I parked my car and hopped the Metra the rest of the way to Chicago. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love riding trains?) There was a rehearsal/costume parade for all the volunteers at Lifeline's space from 3:00 to about 6:00. While there, I got a rough preview of what the set is going to look like, and I must say, I'm impressed.

Following the rehearsal, I took the CTA towards Grant Park, to find the friend I was going to stay with for the night. I was already regretting that I decided that my combat boots were too bulky to carry and that I couldn't fit a spare pair of shoes in my pack. Ow.

One delicious Thai dinner later and both of us were pretty much ready to crash for the night.

I had to work on Monday, but had gotten clearance to do so remotely. (Have I mentioned how weird it is to use my PC desktop from a Mac? Always have to remember to avoid keyboard commands.) This made it a day of wi-fi surfing via three different coffeeshops. And more walking. Oh, the walking. (Did I mention those damn boots?)

The day was gorgeous, and many picturesque opportunities presented themselves, but I weighed the originality of any of the possible photos vs. the amount of stuff I was lugging around with me and decided that none of them were worth the effort. Sometime, I'll make a trip just for photos.

Evening came and it was time to ascend to the 4th floor of the Chicago Cultural Center and get ready for the event. Luckily, I did have time to run around and take some quick photos of some of the people and the place. There were a number of people and things that I never got a chance to capture on film, and the overall quality of what I shot was very snapshotty, but it did make bringing the Canon worthwhile.

The event ran from 6:30 to 10 PM, but it rather flew by. There were some scripted elements, including a bit of stage fighting ("bodyguard auditions"). There were performances by The Space/Movement Project, The Afterlife, Read My Hips, Pyrotechniq, The Tubeway Rats, and The Beat. A couple of fortune tellers, a storyteller, and a caricaturist plied their trades while "Captain Destiny" encouraged folks to spin the "Wheel of Destiny" to win prizes. Meanwhile, the denizens of the Floating Market interacted with the patrons and exhorted them to bid on silent auction items. Everyone ate, drank, and were quite merry.

And then the Market was over and it was time to go home. At which point I discovered that I'd lost my socks somewhere. This was a bummer, as they were a pair of a really nice wool overknees. Alas! Fortunately, I still had the socks I'd worn in character, so I didn't have to go sockless in my boots. (Did I mention those boots?) Unfortunately, looking for them took time I didn't have, and I suddenly had 14 minutes to walk about a least a 17 minute trek, according to Google maps. Fortunately, a couple of fellow Denizens were leaving as I was and offered me a ride to the station. Hurray! I made the train just in time.

The ride to Crystal Lake was pleasant. The drive to Madison was a little less so, given that it was after midnight by the time I started driving. I got through with McDonald's coffee and BBC World News on NPR, plus a lot of opening windows and sitting forward. Also, my "check engine" light came on, which could be meaningless but gave an edge of stress to the proceedings. I can haz Madison-Chicago trane, plz? Thx.

All in all, it was a tiring journey, but well worth it. I can hardly wait to see the actual show when it opens.



Film Fest: Friday Night Part II

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For our second selection on Friday night, M and I had to dash from the Memorial Union Play Circle all the way to the Monona Terrace. Thankfully, resisting the urge to dawdle got us there in time to find some excellent seats. Turns out, the filmmaker and his brother, the subject of the documentary, were sitting right in front of us.

The documentary we saw was Unforgettable, the story of a year in the life of Brad Williams, a La Crosse, WI man who is one of only three known people with hyperthymesia. Which is to say, he has "superior autobiographical memory."

This definitely was the winner for us this year, as far as documentaries went. It was funny and engaging, informative and narrative. There was a voice over giving commentary and explanation where and when it was needed, but it also knew when to show rather than tell.

It was nearing midnight when the film ended, and we had a long walk ahead of us (M was parked at Babcock Hall, at the far end of the UW campus) so we decided not to stay for the Q&A that followed the screening. Under other circumstances, I think we both would have wanted to, but it just wasn't in the cards this time.

Two days down, one to go...



2010 Film Fest Day 2

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Friday night at the film fest was a challenge at the beginning. Getting there and getting parked in the face of the overwhelming number of people that would be downtown and around campus was tough. Besides the film fest, there was also the UW Varsity Band Concert and the high school State Forensics meet. Lots of people, lots of cars, lots of buses. I biked, in spite of the evening chill. M had to drive, and so parked waaaaaaaaay across campus. But we both made it just it time to take our seats for the first selection.

For the Love of Movies: the Story of American Film Criticism seems like a very appropriate choice for our slate of films, and we liked what we saw. The documentary was a history of film criticism, as well as a love note to both film and film criticism and an examination of the place and direction of professional film criticism in the time of the internet.

It was interesting and fun to watch, though M described it as "lazy Sunday PBS" material, in other words, something she'd definitely be happy watch on television if it were to air on PBS, but not quite on the level of what she usually expects from the festival. I liked it well enough, but couldn't entirely disagree with that sentiment.

We would have liked to have stuck around for filmaker Gerald Peary's Q&A session, but we had to book it up to the Monona Terrace right away for our next film. (More on that one later...)



Happy Sunday!

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I'm quoted in Etsy's Storque blog.

Also, more Film Fest write-ups coming soon, but in the meantime, I'm off to Chicago for Lifeline Theater's Floating Market benefit.



Off to an interesting start

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The first set of films M and I took in last night was at the Monona Terrace. All hail the eyeball-assaulting carpet pattern!

It was not surprising that while this year's pre-film trailer was pretty in interesting, there was no way it could top last year's "We Like It Here!" intro.

Our first selection was a short-film program of 3 documentary films. At 2 minutes, National Anthem Tryouts was also the most interesting and endearing.

The 6 minute-long University of Wisconsin Marching Band was also fun, but the footage and editing was a bit choppy. As someone who had Mike Leckrone as a director (albeit for Concert Band rather than Marching Band) I found it amusing as hell. Still, it seemed more the thing to show at a Band-specific function. Very home-movie.

Ghost Player was the longest, at 54 minutes. It was also the most frustrating. Like University of Wisconsin Marching Band, it was edited in such a way that made it more appropriate to an audience that already knew the group. So many things were reference in passing but never explained. In fact, one item that sounded *extremely* interesting wasn't even mentioned until over the closing credits, and again, without actually telling the story. The most frequently repeated phrase in Ghost Player was something along the lines of "I can't explain it." Well obviously, but if that is the case, maybe find someone who can? I think every person who spoke on camera was one of the team. We hear nothing from their families, co-workers, fans... We just have to take their word that it was special and amazing. I think the topic could have been a great documentary, along the liine of Heart of an Empire. Instead, I kept checking my watch to see if it would be over soon.

Still, if that is our worst pick, it is going to be a great weekend.

For our second program, Slightly Unsettling Spanish Shorts, we were joined by E at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA). The selections lived up to the name. All three of us were definitely unsettled.

The first film, Ya no Puede Caminar (13 min) was also, to us, the most unsettling. I saw the ending coming about halfway through and though, "No, it can't be that. How would that happen?" And then it did, and it was *worse* than I'd thought (by which I mean far creepier). On top of that, the ending is both shockingly horrible *and* unresolved, leaving you with a feeling of "Oh my god, no! What happens next?!" M, E, and I found ourselves discussing the possibilities all the way home.

El Tren de la Bruja (19 min) was more immediately and viscerally disturbing, but carried less of a lasting feeling of unease. It felt much more like a standard modern horror film, of the "torture porn" variety. It did have an interesting twist at the end, and more-or-less resolved. The questions left unanswered did not feel as pressing. In fact, while I wondered was was really going on, I found myself wondering even more what would happen next in the world of the first film.

Tercero BB (19 min) was like Almodovar meets Hitchcock. The most interesting thing about it is the way it set you up with one POV and interpretation on the story and then, halfway through, it takes you back to the beginning and retells it all from a second POV which fills in some gaps and alters the interpretation in a very cool way. Once again, this is a film that goes to the closing credits on an unresolved note: what was that noise off-screen? What did they do to each other? Yet like El Tren de la Bruja, I didn't care quite as much about the ending as I had about Ya no Puede Caminar.

Tras Los Visillos (17 min) was far less unsettling. When pretty much of the characters are horrible people, it is hard to care. Definitely brutal and violent, but even the twist was kind of a shoulder shrug for me.

7:35 de la Mañana (8.5 min) made an excellent bookend with Ya no Puede Caminar, for it also left us scratching our heads and saying, "What just happened here? That was bizarre." In a way, the set-up was like something from an episode of Criminal Minds, if Criminal Minds were in Spanish. And a musical.

All in all, the program did just what it said on the label, leaving us slightly unsettled. Perfect.

On the schedule for tonight: For the Love of Movies: Film Criticism and Unforgettable. I'll write them up on Saturday if I have time.



It's that time again!

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The Wisconsin Film Festival started last night (I know! On a Wednesday this year!) and I am totally giddy. My first film isn't until tonight (though I did watch a movie last night while sorting clothes) and I can hardly wait.

My line-up for this year:

The Ghost Player

Slightly Unsettling Spanish Shorts

For the Love of Movies: Film Criticism


A Matter of Size

Shorts: Saturday Afternoon@ Monona Terrace


I shall be writing them up, though it usually takes a bit of time to get through all of them.

Also, on Sunday I will be travelling down to Chicago to take part in the Lifeline Theater benefit, which is to say, being a part of the Floating Market. Awesome, neh? I'll be reporting on that, too.



Wonderful Wonderland: Event Envy

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Looking at the photos of Dances of Vice: Wonderland in Spring Ball in New York, I am in awe of the costumes and in envy of Gabi Porter's fantastic event photography. It makes me wanna get my ass in gear and improve my skills...which is a good thing. Beautifully lit!



Mentioned elseweb...

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A pair of cufflinks from The Floating Market has received a favorable mention on Small talk about big things. Check it out!



Nominations for the 2010 Hugo Awards close next Sunday. As I am still eligible to nominate (having been to WorldCon last year), I have been giving it some thought. I can nominate up to five in each catagory.

Best Novel, current thoughts are:
The Mystery of Grace by Charles de Lint
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The City & The City by China Miéville
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Best Novella, Best Novelette...dunno. I don't think I read any new ones from 2009.

Best Short Story is also a dunno, as I can't quite remember which that I read where new in 2009. I'll have to look it up.
I'm liking K. Tempest Bradford's "Élan Vital"

Best Related Work is a category that I know very little about.

Best Graphic Story is going to require more thought, and I'd be happy to take recommendations. (Any science fiction or fantasy story told in graphic form appearing for the first time in 2009.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:
Star Trek

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
"Epitaph One," Dollhouse

Best Editor, Short Form; Best Editor, Long Form; Best Professional Artist...dunno. I'll have to think on it.

Best Semiprozine
I believe Shadow Unit qualifies.

Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, Best Fan Artist, John W. Campbell Award...dunno.

I'd welcome any thoughts and input on categories that are blank or incomplete.




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Just over two weeks until the schedule for this year's Wisconsin Film Fest is announced. I'm getting bouncy with anticipation.



Another note from EAC

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In my inbox, passing along to you Madison-area folk:

Hello All-
One of our very talented members, Taya Kuklina, is offering up her expertise to you. Beginning this Friday, she will be offering the following classes. There is no cost for the classes, but a suggested donation of $5.00 to help the collective keep going and the ability to offer these classes in the future. Interested parties should e-mail us right away as they will fill up very quickly. Here are the days and times of the classes:

Portrait drawing class
Fridays 1:30-3:30pm

Drawing fundamentals class
Saturdays 4:00-5:30pm
Sundays 4:00pm-5:30pm

Please, when responding, let me know what day and time you would like to come so that we can add you to the class roster.

Thanks again, and happy art making!
Kurt Rossbach
Evolution Arts Collective



Great news

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Today I got the heads up that I've been accepted to participate in the art show for this year's WisCon. Yay!



Yesterday afternoon, I dropped in to the High Noon Saloon to check out the The Valentine's Day Craftacular. It was the earliest in the day I have ever been there, that is for sure. From the moment I walked in, I looked around and thought, "This is pretty neat." The layout and the bustle of activity put me in mind of the actual Floating Market in the BBC version of Neverwhere (from which my shop draws it's name and inspiration).

I counted about nineteen vendors. Five of them were upstairs, which is where I started.

First up was Prettifications by Cynthia a store I'd actually stumbled across in the fall while looking for something to wear to a wedding with my little black dress. I didn't buy anything at the time, but it did add a piece of hers to my favorites list. (I still covet it...may buy it yet if no one snaps it up before me.)

Next was Haley Studio, who had some gorgeous handspun yarn and some truly lovely fabric pocketbook-type bags.

Gub Factory's cellphone holders and coffee cup cozies were neat, but the stuffed creatures were the highlight of their table.

At this point, the upstairs was getting crowded, so I went downstairs to look around for a little while.

Space Oddities had a set-up on the pool table. Very hip, very fun.

Picture Day, who also has some great shots of the day, was looking stylin' by the soundbooth.

Lulu's Stabby's Critters may be stabby, but they are also cute as hell.

Antique Basket Lady's bags were totally charming. I loved the bold fabric prints.

Mindy Kuen had little baby t-shirts with neckties. I am nothing if not all about the necktie fashions.

Glitter Workshop was the organizer of the whole shebang. Two words: button bracelets. Scrumptious! Two more words: crochet cupcakes.

The Bare Tree Apparel had a wide variety of belts, hoodies, and shirts, including these screen printed boneshakers.

Lula and Deedee's display table reminded me of a fireworks display, with funky beaded earrings bursting out in every direction.

Kim's Crafty Apple 'n The Apple was an explosion of bright fabrics and beads, plus tasty-looking jars of preserves.

Dainty Daisies, of Oshkosh had a rack of colorful fabric totes and a table overflowing with cheerful jewelry and hair accessories.

Fat Cat Beads' brick and mortar store is tucked away on Thierer Rd, but the Craftacular display was right at the corner of the bar. Tell me, do you not want one of these earring trees? Yeah, I thought so. Me, too.

orangyporangy was tucked in at the edge of stage right, just by the stairs. So, I am not allowed to buy myself any new skirts until spring, but my resolve wavered a bit at the sight of what have to be the happiest skirts in the world.

Stage left was Christina Ward Creatures and more rockin' plushies. Plush chupacabra? Check. No, seriously: hard rockin'. How about a plushGolem of Prague.

Bernie's Girl had skirts in the deconstructed/reconstructed/recycled style that I dig (but usually can only get away with wearing while LARPing), along with candylike "Word Drop" rings.

The last vendor I checked out before heading back upstairs was Whimsy House: "goodness fashioned from vintage buttons & felted wool." Picture a rainy afternoon spent rummaging around in your grandmother's attic and making crafts. (Well, someone's grandmother, at least.) Now picture those crafts done with exquisite taste and skill. Yup, it's kind of like that.

Back up to the balcony, where I was able to get a better look at Little Dandelion Studios' table. Honestly, I don't know what I'd do with pretty, handpainted clothespins, and yet I find myself wanting them.

Last, but certainly not least, was Sommer with an O who had beautiful photos, an interesting presentation, and great boots.

While I wasn't able to buy anything, it was great to see so many local crafters having a good day. The general consensus was that it was a fantastic turn out for a February, and that sales had been very good. I was happy to be there, and maybe someday will return as a vendor myself. For now, though, I've just stocked up my mental wish list.



My Head is Sweetly Buzzing

This afternoon I went to Intensely Chocolate: Chocolate Talk & Tasting at Olbrich Gardens, which was part of their Chocolate: The Bitter & The Sweet exhibit. James Nienhuis, a horticulture professor at the UW gave a (Powerpoint) presentation on chocolate and related anecodotes about a research project he conducted with the Mars chocolate company in Brazil. It was rather interesting and funny. (He declared that eggplant was not really a vegetable, but in fact a sponge. Chocolate, on the other hand, was a vegetable, except for white chocolate, which should be classified as an eggplant.) He discussed the history of chocolate, and the processes involved in making it. I was interested to discover how the cultivation process varies between Africa and South America. I'd heard about the horrifying labor practices used on cacao plantations in Africa. However, in South America cacao is grown by small farmers, and is growth within the rain forest, as it is traditionally a tree that grows best beneath the forest canopy. In that, cacao production is actually rather good from an environmental standpoint, in that it allows the forest to continue to grow, instead of being clearcut, as for the beef industry. Also, since the crop replies on insects for polination, pesticide is not is heavy use. Nurture the rainforest and you will have better cacao production.

Besides the talk, there was also a tasting. It began with our "tickets", which were small packages of M&Ms. He also passed around roasted cacao beans for us to look at during the lecture, as well as cacao "nibs" which we could taste if we chose to. I found it to be rather bitter with only a vague hint of chocolate, but I probably would have tasted more of the flavor if I didn't have a lingering stuffy nose. As another treat, he passed out Dove bars to the audience, though there wasn't enough for everyone. I was sitting at the back, so they ended just ahead of me. However, someone in my row was nice enough to break off a chunk of their bar, and then pass the rest down the row, each member breaking off another small chunk.

Finally, the "real" tasting began. At that point it was advantageous to be in the back, for faster access to the chocolate, which was provided by Orange Tree Imports. That was the best. There was a iced chocolate drink which was actually very refreshing. Then there was a long row of baskets filled to the brim with chunks of different varieties of chocolate, ranging from white to milk to an 87% cocoa dark. There were also little baskets of plain crackers to use as a palate cleanser. Each chocolate had a small printed description, and recommendations for how best to use or accompany the chocolate. It was delicious but rather overwhelming by the end.

Fortunately, I was able to sit in the Bolz Conservatory for an hour or so, to soak up the tropical atmosphere and chill out while I let the chocolate buzz wear off a bit. Needless to say, I'm still experiencing a bit of a sugar high. What a great way to spend a January afternoon!



Follow the bouncing ball.

Ok, there was no bouncing ball. In fact, the Sing-along Sound of Music was more Rocky Horror than Sing-along With Mitch. A PG13, less organized Rocky Horror. With accordians.

Charmaine Carr, who played Leisl in the movie, was present to co-host the event. (I'm pretty sure that the other host was Big Gay Al, from South Park.) As we entered the theater, everyone was handed a small plastic bag filled with props: a couple of picture cards, a square of "curtain" cloth, a sprig of artificial edelweiss, and a party popper. They told us to hold up our props at certain times, given a bit of hand gesture choreography for "Do-Re-Mi", and asked to do things like boo whenever the Nazi's appeared onscreen, and to bark "Rolf, Rolf" when he appeared. The crowd was quite mixed, with many small children, so we were asked to go no further than innuendo in any other comments.

From the beginning of the film, the audience was quite noisy. Unlike Rocky Horror, during which the audience participates with standard responses, many people shouted out whatever came to mind, whenever it came to mind. The 4 year-old girl sitting next to me kept shouting out the most random things. It was extremely difficult to hear dialogue over the collective "cleverness". We also discovered that the audience's idea of the tempo differed slightly than the actual tempo of the recorded music. We could have used the bouncing ball over the subtitles.

As the evening wore on, the crowd settled down a bit. There were still moments of hubbub, but as the novelty wore off, so did the urge to shout. Even when I couldn't hear the soundtrack, it was pretty amazing to see the film up there on the big screen. And, when all is said and done, singing along with a huge crowd of people is always a bit of a rush.

They kicked off the evening with a costume contest. I think, if I ever go to this event again, I may have to go in costume as well. The favorite costume of the evening was the big, bearded Mother Superior. But the "aaaaaaaaaaah" went to the tiny little girl dressed as Maria when she first arrived at the VonTrap villa.

Best audience participation moments:

Cries of "Free Bird!" and "Play Stairway!" everytime the guitar came out.

The waved lighter at the climax of "Climb Every Mountain".

During the escape, when the Captain relates a plan to walk up into the mountains and cross the border out of the country, someone yelled, "Those mountains border Germany!"



Bring on the Gluttony!

At this moment, I am completely saturated with grease, sugar, and sunshine. I feel so good. Today was day one of the two day Taste of Madison on the Capital Square.

I was up on the square at 11 this morning, to work the Planned Parenthood table at the Farmer's Market. Standing near our table were a couple of anti-choice activists (both men) with rather graphic signs. Closer to our table was Kay, a 76-year old pro-choice activist, and a favorite of the Planned Parenthood tablers. She comes down to the market with a simple, hand-made placard that says only "I'm pro-choice", and stands by our table so long as the protesters are there. Many people passing by greet her by name, and she happily enages them in pleasant conversation. She is also quite deft at handling those who would argue with her or put her down. On man came up to her and asked how old she was (a fairly rude question to begin with). This man, who was about half her age then started quizzing her on what she would be doing now if her mother had aborted her 76 years ago. Yeah. He closed his arguement by telling her that when she died (implying that it would be really soon) she was going to hell, but that he would most assuredly go to heaven, and that those were the only two options. I may be a Christian, but opinionated, in-your-face types really bug me. How unChristlike. Fortunately, Kay held her ground beautifully. When I'm 76, I want to be Kay.

We had another not quite a protestor. He first spent quite a bit of time speaking with the anti-choicers, but I didn't pay him much mind since we were busy. However, after a time he came over to our table and started asking us if our message was so important, would we be out there tabling at the same time on a Tuesday morning? When we said that we wouldn't since no one would be there and as volunteers we would be at work or school. Then he started harranging us about being leeches for using someone else's event to promote our cause. He said that he had no problem with our cause, but with our using the event. We really didn't understand what he wanted, and he wouldn't go away. He just stood there and kept being confrontational, which kept people away. I actually found myself feeling camraderie with the anti-choicers he'd been harranging just before.

No doubt he would have kept it up for quite awhile, and then moved on to the next table...the Tenant Resource Center. However, I had had quite enough. I thanked him for his opinion and asked him if her would please move on (he was directly in front of the table, blocking access to the petitions and freebies). I asked several times and he refused and continued to harrass. So, I did something I never thought I'd do. I went to find security. By the time I returned, he had disappeared, so the other people with info tables were spared his confrontational weirdness. Huzzah. What a jerk, though.

By the time we took down the table, all of the market had been packed up early, to clear the way for the ToM. I missed being able to score my discounted produce, but there will be other weeks.

I strolled across the Capital lawn and found a cozy spot to sit and read while the festival got set up. I also took time to get a copy of the guide and read through the list of restaurants and offerings. Sixty-nine different restaurants had booths, and everything was $1, 2 or 3. (There was a scant few $2.50 and one $1.50 items, but most everything was priced for ease of change-making.)

With so many choices, I knew I had to choose wisely. Not only could my pocketbook take a hit of more than ~$10, but one can only eat so much food in a short time. My gluttony must have its limits. So, eher we go:

I started out with a $1 eggroll from Bluefin. Just what I'd been craving for a while, and it was quite tasty. However, sweet and sour sauce sure does draw the bees.

I took a little time to read the paper and digest, then headed up the street to the Loose Juice booth (try saying that five times fast), where they had frozen fruit dipped in chocolate for $1. The choiced were strawberries, bananas, and pinapple. Strawberries seems awkward, since they weren't on a stick. I'm not the biggest fan of bananas, though they were certainly convenient. In the end, I went with a giant chunk of fresh frozen pineapple on a popsicle stick, dipped in chocolate before my very eyes. Ooooooooo, so yummy and not at all messy. The fruit was cool and sweet, but avoided the drip factor inherent in most frozen treats. I highly recommend this treat.

More reading, more wandering. It wa a great day for people watching, and the obnoxiousness factor of the crowd was super low. There were four stages around the square, and while none of the bands really drew me in, they made for great background noise.

Next stop: Buraka for the Chicken Peanut stew on injera. I was tempted to try the Dorowot or the Misirwot, since I've never had them, but I wasn't sure how spicy they'd be, and wanted to conserve water. Mmmmmm. One thing that makes me sad is that I wasn't eating this stuff years ago. How much of my life has been wasted on burgers, when I could have been having Chicken Peanut Stew with injera?

Catering by Mike Losse had deep-fried cheese curd for $2, best deal on the square for that cheesy manna from heaven. I think fried cheese curds are among my top reasons for staying in Wisconsin. (Though I hear that in some places they fry things like Oreos!)

At this point, I was starting to feel extremely sated, and it was approaching 6, at which point the Taste of Madison winds down for the day. Last stop was at Nutcracker Sweet for a cone of German Roasted Almonds. Heaven!

Drove home with the top down, feeling fat and happy. I am very tempted to take a nap, as I am off to a partay tonight.

Don't worry, I'll work off this gluttony soon enough. (Though I must mention that Brat Fest is also this weekend!!!)



Last night was Pat McCurdy's annual show at the Terrace. Unlike other years, where I'd take the day off, get there around noon and enjoy a day out in the sun, saving a table up in the front, I took it even easier. I meandered down to the Terrace after work, getting there a little after 6 with a falafel sandwich from Mediterranean Cafe. I ate down by the shore and read the Isthmus.No matter what is going on, it is fun to be at the Terrace on a nice day. West Side Andy and Glen Davis where playing for Jazz at Five. Love those guys.

I also wandered around the Union for a bit, and checked out the new exhibitions in the Gallery. Lucky me, I got there during the opening reception, so I scored some brownies, cranberry bars, and punch. Of the two exhibitions, one caught my interest and the other was kinda meh.

The Porter Butts Gallery was divided into two sections. In the front the gallery, dozens of small silver bells were suspended from wired pulled taut across the ceiling. Each wire was attached to a small stand which also held a small speaker. The speakers were projecting recorded thunderstorm sounds, and from time to time, the vibrations of the sounds would set all of the bells jinggling. Cool, if a little noisy at times.

The back of the gallery was seperated by a wall. In this back section, pieces of old wooden furniture--mostly chest of drawers--were hovering at odd angles, usually with only two legs touching the ground. Strong tensionwires were used to suspend and secure the furniture from the walls and ceiling. In each piece, one drawer had been removed and replaced with a facing of milk plexiglass, behind which glowed a flourescent light. I greatly admired the surreal quality of the grouping.

The Class of 1925 Gallery contained the work of a different artist. There was only one piece, standing on a low table at the center of the room. It was a intricately twisting tower of grey Legos, which stood about two feet high. It was certainly a splendid structure, yet as the one and only object in a show, it was underwhelming.

Back out on the Terrace, the sky was approaching dusk, and boats where moving towards the shore. Some where calling it a night, and others where just settling in to listen to the show. I grabbed a seat on a low wall behind the stage. I had a good view of things, albeit from the back. I was surrounded by families with goofily happy small children, who ran around and got themselves dizzy with joyful abandon.

Shortly before the show, an college-aged couple and an older couple (the young man's parents, it was revealed) sat down next to me on the wall. As luck would have it, they were a great bunch to be sitting near, as the parents had never seen Pat McCurdy before, and they totally loved it. I've discovered that most people either love him or hate him the first time they see him, and it is great fun to watch someone discover the joy of Pat for the first time. Listening to them laugh and being surprised at all the right places helped to make the show new again for me. Granted, I hadn't been to a show in about a year, but I've been to so many that I still know a lot of it by heart. At one point, while the son was off on a beer run with his girlfriend, the dad started asking me about the show...if I'd seen it before. When I told him that I had, he asked me if I knew where to get CDs (I pointed him to the merchandise table) and which one's I'd recommend (I said Pat in Person Vol 1 or 2 would be good choices). He hopped right over to the table and bought a couple of CDs.

After a while, my friends found me, and we all enjoyed the show together. We sang, we danced, we made funny gestures, we laughed and we chatted. We all agreed that we do need to make and effort to get back to the shows more. Maybe not every week, like in college, but at least one a month or so. I'd like that.

Followed up the night with a stroll up and down the length of State St., pretty sure that I might well have been the soberest person on the street (besides those who were working, like the police and the cab drivers).

Have I mentioned that I love summer?



The Fab Four Are in my Living Room

Last night I took in the festival screening of A Hard Day's Night, introduced by Roger Ebert. I've seen that film a number of times, both on the small screen and in the theater, and every time it has put a huge grin on my face. This time was no exception. The sheer energy and joy displayed in the film are contagious. The other Beatles can be fun and silly, but this one is simply a classic. Even forty years after it was made, it really doesn't feel dated. Seeing it with a theater full of people (the Orph was packed) added to the excitement, as did seeing it with a friend who had never seen it before.

Ebert spoke both before and after the film, and his remarks reminded me why I respect him so much as a critic. He was witty and intelligent. You could really tell that he'd given thought to what he was saying, and that he meant every word of it.

Following the movie and the talk, my friend and I attended a festival party in the Orpheum lobby, with an excellent food spread from their restaurant (We're not talking tiny hors d'oeuvres, either. It was an actual buffet with things like quiche, salmon, turkey, green beans, rolls, and chocolate dipped strawberries.) and music (mostly Beatles covers) by the Gomers. I ate way too much food, and stayed as long as the band played. There were cardboard fans on all of the tables, cutouts of the Beatles faces from the HDN photographs glued to colorful popsicle sticks. I managed to collect all four. Go me!



This town is a

This town is a carnival tonight.

I suppose it is the fact that spring is really and truly here. Maybe it is the warmth, maybe it is the pollen,doing funny things to our psyches. Maybe itis the fact that this town is relatively crazy even on a "normal"day. Who knows, but I am having fun.

I was downtown at the Richard Shindell concert. The show was great. Richard is one of those singer/songwriters that is a real storyteller, and he has something amusing to tell between each song. Long ago he was a seminary student, before he realized that he was an atheist, and therefore probably shouldn't be a minister. Nevertheless, many of his songs have a religious theme or feel, and his ancedotes are punctuated by occasional heavenward glances, as if to check on a different audience. There were two encores.

Leaving the show, I wandered out onto Library Mall, which was filled with colored lights. The UW Glass Department's outdoor neon and light exhibition was going in full swing. Pieces ranged from the lame to the amazing. I was mesmerized by a box on a podium containing a few tubes of neon that slowly changed colors. The box had a plexiglass window in the front, and all the other internal walls were mirrors, so the neon appeared to go on for etenity. I was also amused by a guy with a boombox and a huge box of kitchen matches. He would start a song on the boombox (always stadium rock), light a match, and holding it in the air screaming, "Queen! Yeah!" About five seconds of the song would play, then he would cue up a new song, light a new match, and start again."Deep Purple! Yeah!" There was an enormous pile of matches at his feet. There are people of all ages punking out to Irish rock at the student uinon (where I am blogging this now) and all up and down State Street, people in various stages of intoxication are singing and dancing to the street musicians that can usually be found busking there. One man plays flute, another steel guitar. A rather old, almost homeless looking man plays guitar for songs like "Margaritaville" and "Brown Eyed Girl", with the lyrics written in magic marker on large, laminated cards for drunken, happy sorority girls to wail. This isn't a holiday, it is just the town.

Times like this I can see why I haven't moved on yet.



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