If Werner Herzog were to make a horror film today, I suspect it would not be totally unlike Black Swan. Director Darren Aaronofsky likes to obsess over obsessive characters just like the legendary German auteur. In Pi Max Cohen was preoccupied with numbers, there were addicts and their drugs in Requiem for a Dream, Hugh Jackman's character in The Fountain was obsessed with making love eternal, and The Wrestler's Randy sacrificed his personal life at the altar of his job. And here in Black Swan we have Nina Sayers, as played by Natalie Portman, whose obsession is being the perfect ballerina.
The film begins will a rather menacing dream of Nina's in which she is dancing the lead in Swan Lake. Upon waking we learn more about her. She lives in a fairly cramped apartment with her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), whom she occasionally (and disturbingly) calls "Mommy". Erica is doting to the point of smothering as she treats Nina like a child. When not crying while painting self-portraits, mom acts on her conviction that she must do everything for Nina instead of letting her daughter assume some control over her own life. Nina is very shy – almost to the point of being afraid of her own shadow. And she is in the early stages of a psychotic break with reality.
She has developed an inexplicable rash on her back and she develops lesions on her fingers. In one scene Nina picks at one of them and pulls a lengthy piece of skin off only to blink and see that her hand is perfectly fine. In other scenes she sees her doppelgänger who has a preference for wearing black. The film does a nice job of escalating the creepiness by using various sounds, such as the wings of a bird flapping, when Nina brushes past this darker incarnation of herself.
As her dream indicates, Nina wants to land the lead role in a new production of Swan Lake. The ballet company's director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), recognizes Nina's talent and tells her that she'd make a fantastic White Swan. However he is casting the same dancer to be both the White and Black Swans and Nina is just not passionate enough to let herself go for the role of the latter which is more sensual and sexual. Our protagonist is all Apollo and no Dionysus.
Indeed, Nina is asexual. We are led to believe that she is still a virgin. When she gets the lead part, Thomas announces her homework assignment by saying, "Go home and touch you yourself. Live a little." She takes his advice to heart the next morning but her attempt at ecstasy is interrupted by the presence of her mother. But her divergence from this path doesn't last long. A new member of the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), tries to befriend her. Lily is the Black Swan. Whereas Nina is constantly seen with her hair up looking all prim and proper, Lily lets her beautiful mane free. She is very sensual and likes to indulge her Dionysian side as we see in a scene where Lily takes Nina out to a bar. After popping some ecstasy, Lily offers some to Nina but she refuses. A bit later, however, Nina spies Lily spiking her drink with the drug and decides to take the trip. Upon returning home with Lily, Nina bars her bedroom door and she and Lily have a Sapphic fling.
Having an orgasm helps Nina crawl out of her shell but when it is revealed that it was all done without Lily, who was not there, our dancer reaches her breaking point. She becomes paranoid that Lily is out to get the lead role. The final break with reality comes during the opening night of the performance in a wonderfully disturbing scene in which Nina is fully transformed into the Black Swan.
In addition to the use of non-diagetic sounds that I mentioned above, the dark mood of the film is established well with the grainy look achieved by cinematographer Matthew Libatique who utilized 16mm. Using this format allowed for the extensive handheld work here. The dance sequences are disorientating almost to the point of making me dizzy. Aaronofsky and Libatique also opt for a lot of close-ups. Portman's face often takes up the whole screen and I think she mostly pulls it off with her expressions of timidity and fear which morph into anger later in the movie.
One thing that annoyed me that that Aaronofsky and company overplayed the sudden jolt card. Black Swan worked really well when Nina's breakdown slowly unfolded. The sound of a wing here and the appearance of a doppelgänger there created true suspense. Unfortunately the writers felt compelled to build up the tension incrementally by splitting the progression of Nina's madness into sections most of which climax with someone suddenly thrust into the frame to scare us with appropriately jolting music on the soundtrack. I thought this was a cheesy ploy worthy of a Saw movie. Sure, one or two at the most of these would have been fine but they quickly got old and predictable. It is Nina's interior state that is most horrific here so we don't need a nurse to quietly walk behind her for a cheap thrill.
I purposefully avoided reading any reviews of the film until after I'd seen it. One that I read this morning said that the movie linked sex to madness which I found odd considering that there are other characters, Lily among them, who are sexual yet they don't go mad. What I gleaned from it was that sexuality was positively linked to creativity. It was Nina's frigidity that the film linked to her inability to dance the part of the Black Swan. To be sure, she completely loses it after discovering her sexuality, if you will, but it's too late for her sanity by that point. She's too far gone and no amount of masturbation can help.
Sexuality seems to be at the heart of Black Swan. For Lily it is something that drives her art and I think that the same could be said of Thomas. It's uncertain whether or not Nina's sexuality or lack thereof is at the heart of her mental problems but it is an exacerbating element at the least. I find the idea that pressure to succeed can sometimes cause things to go awry to be a wholly unsatisfactory theme. OK, I guess I can buy the notion that a helicopter parent trying to live a dream of success in a highly competitive field through her daughter can cause said daughter to lose her mind. I'll buy that. But I still find Nina's condition a bit of a mystery. Why is she so asexual? That she is that way makes for a contrast to other characters and allows the film to comment on the role of sexuality and passion in art. But I think there's more to be told to explain how a woman would get to that point.
That we never find out who Nina's father was and that most of the men in the film are after casual sex is interesting. Thomas is surely passionate about ballet but he also likes to fuck his leads. Nina meets an old man on the subway car grabbing his crotch and using his tongue salaciously. The two young men that Lily and Nina meet at the bar are presented to us as only wanting to get into the pants of the young ladies. In other words, male characters that are the focus of a scene essentially just want to get a piece of ass. While it may not be fair to see this state of affairs and then make assumptions about Nina's father, it is tempting to link her asexuality to him in some way. I just wish that we'd spent a little more time getting to know her and to know what drove her to a breakdown. I can accept the premise that it was her obsession with being a perfect ballerina and the pressure brought to bear by her mother that is responsible but I feel cheated and that there should be more to explain such a terrible fate. Perhaps Nina is a lesbian and the prospect of coming out of the closet contributed to her mental decline.
Or perhaps I just need to watch Black Swan again. And I would. Despite some misgivings it is a fun movie. I love the mood that it creates and Nina's descent into her own personal hell, for the most part, a thrilling ride.
Bill Rogers, owner of The Malt House and Belgian beer fanatic, must be in mourning today as a fire broke out at Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy yesterday. The monks at the abbey there brew Rochefort beers.
According to beernews.org "approximately 231 barrels were destroyed in the fire" although the brewery itself escaped mostly unscathed.
I just have this vision of Bill reading the news on the Web and doing one of those slow motion "Nooooooooooooooooo!" bits.
Over the weekend I was in Chicago spending time with family. "So what's new in Madison?" I was asked. Blah blah blah. A couple relatives were very dismayed that Feingold was booted out of office. And of course the news that the extension of Amtrak's Hiawatha line to Madison had been 86'd came up. My mother chimed in saying that she wasn't sure the train was such a good idea. "People in Wisconsin don't ride trains," was her opinion after having lived in west central Wisconsin for 3 years back in the 1980s. Here are two things to consider about this statement:
1) No most don't because the vast majority of people in Wisconsin live in an area not served by rail.
2) People in Wisconsin do ride trains, i.e. – those who have some rail service. The most current numbers I have from the WI DOT show things going well for the Hiawatha line.
Ridership totaled 67,900 – a record high for the month of October during the entire history of the service. Through the first 10 months of this year, 654,483 passengers have utilized the Hiawatha Service – an increase of over 7% compared to the same period last year. Hiawatha ridership for 2010 is on pace to set a new calendar year ridership record of around 800,000 passengers
Given a rail service that runs with some frequency and that maintains a nearly 90% on-time rating, people from southeastern Wisconsin quite unsurprisingly ride the train.
The other Amtrak route that serves Wisconsin is the Empire Builder. More people ride that route than any other of Amtrak's long distance runs.
So yes, mom, people in Wisconsin do ride trains.
On a train-related note, I saw a comment by "Bill Richardson" at one of David Blaska's recent blog posts. I presume this is the same Bill Richardson who has lobbied against rail here in Madison. Regarding the news that Jonathan Barry will not be running for Dane County Executive, Richardson wrote of Barry:
He, got the County a AAA bond rating during stagflation times, Falk screwed the pooch on that, dealt with the unions fairly when he was County Exec, He has been a UW Regent, runs a Fresh start program for troubled youth, Matc board member, has run many SUCCESSFUL biz as opposed to the above Quintet of Trough feeders.
Let me get this straight. A retired professor of music at the UW is labeling some politicos "trough feeders". As if he didn't have his gaping maw in the public trough during his tenure at a public university. Hey, didn't John Galt teach trombone too? This is the same guy who endorses using black people as the boogeyman when going after the RTA and rail. ("we don't want Cabrini Green!") He's a real class act.
Yesterday I went over to the brewhouse of Joe Walts (a.k.a. – his home) in order to fulfill my request for a schwarzbier. Walts nearly opened a brewpub and now works for a local brewery while contributing the geekiest material to Madison Beer Reivew.
The first thing to do when brewing beer is to get all of your equipment out of the basement. Here's the brew kettle, mash tun, lauter tun, and what have you.
I think the reason I love Grape Nuts cereal so much is because of its barley content. It smells just like it. Here's the grain bill.
And here I am running it through the mill.
We wanted lots of surface of the inside of the grain exposed. The husk, not so much.
Joe gave me the water hardness/pH lecture. His life on Easy Street in Michigan where the water was soft came to a screeching halt here in Madison where every gallon of tap water has the equivalent of about a stalagmite's worth of suspended solids. He treated the water prior to my arrival and so, when I drained one of those big Gatorade thingies, the bottom was covered in a thick layer of calcium that had dropped out of suspension. That's one of the reasons I love Joe. While I get all fired up about the use of long takes and wide angle lenses in movies, he gets all intense and excited about water hardness. I suspect that his wife would have abandoned him long ago were it not for his ability to satiate her beer desires.
As Joe said, brewing beer is simple. All you're doing is converting starch into sugars which yeast can eat and turn into alcohol. So yeah, when you step back far enough and look at the really big picture, brewing is pretty simple. But spend some time with him or read his posts at MBR and you won't think it simple. If you don't boil long enough your beer will taste like cream corn because the dimethyl sulfides remain. Did you fuck up the fermentation process? Well, that explains why your pale ale tastes like bananas instead of hops.
We let the mash steep in one of those Gatorade coolers. Mashing is when your malty enzymes break down starches into sugars and yeast loves itself some sugar. I used the special long plastic brewing spatula to give it a good stir. I presume this is to keep the temperature uniform. When the steeping was done, we separated our beer-to-be from the grain. I believe it was when the level of the liquid got to within an inch or so of the top of the grain that the cooler went from being a mash tun to a lauter tun. And so the sparging began.
Sparging is basically rinsing. You slowly add water to the mash so the sugars are set free to be eaten by the yeast later. Your pre-beer concoction is wort.
It was at this point that Joe introduced me to a drink that is unique the brewing arena – the Hot Scotchie. I'm not sure where it came from but the idea is that you take some of your wort freshly drawn from the kettle and add a bit of scotch. In our case it received bourbon so I guess it technically wasn’t a Hot Scotchie but who cares. It was very tasty. The way I tasted it was that the sweet malt came through first followed by the bourbon. Although the booze became the predominant flavor, the malt was always there in the background tempering its sharpness. Good stuff.
Joe then cleared a spot on his patio and busted out a propane tank and burner. The wort was then boiled.
This is Joe using his super-secret brewing tongs. (I hope he doesn't mind me revealing his secret here.) You put one on the volume gradations marked on the outside of the kettle and you can compare that to the liquid level inside.
After about 35 minutes or so, I added the hops on schedule.
First it was Magnum hops followed by a slightly lesser amount of Hallertau. I really love the aroma of Hallertau. (No offense, Magnum.) It's on the spicy/piney side of things as opposed to U.S. hops that begin with the letter "C" which tend to me more floral and grapefruity. Joe noted that hops thrown in at the beginning of the boil add to the flavor while hops towards the end of the boil contribute more to aroma.
Here's some of our wort being carefully tested by a hydrometer which measure the specific gravity.
Basically you're measuring how much sugar is in the liquid. Your reading is a ratio of the density of the wort to the density of water at a certain temperature which was 60 degrees Fahrenheit, if I recall correctly. We were shooting for 1.049 and we ended up with a SG of 1.051. I think that you take the SG again after the yeast has chowed down on those sugars and then you apply a formula with the two readings to determine how much alcohol your beer has.
With the boil done our precious was cooled and then siphoned off into a fermentation vessel which was brought back in the house where our rehydrated yeast was pitched into it.
We aerated the proto-beer the old fashioned way: by shaking it. Before the yeast start snacking on sugar, I guess they need oxygen to grow to full strength and reproduce. Then you have a full army ready to make your alcohol.
Lastly Joe checked the seal, got the overflow tube in place, and we bid our tank farewell. For a while. Until February, my precious…
"Schwarzbier" simply means "black beer" in German. I can't honestly say I've drank dozens of examples of the style but there are a couple versions I absolutely love. From Germany comes Köstritzer Schwarzbier. Just love the stuff. From these shores, a favorite is Sprecher Black Bavarian. BB is maltier than the Köstritzer and has more alcohol. When I'm in the mood for a bigger schwarzbier, I go with Sprecher. Köstritzer is a bit hoppier to my palate and has a cleaner taste. It's flavor is more of what you traditionally think of lagers as tasting like. (Anyone have any schwarzbier recommendations?)
At one point Joe asked, "Have you ever tasted wort before?" I don't think I had so he poured out a couple shots worth of the stuff. It was a bit lighter than we had anticipated but still a deep, dark brown. I was surprised at how little dark malt is required to make a dark beer. Look again at the photo of the grain above. It is mostly pale malt with a few specks of the dark stuff sprinkled in. For whatever reason I always thought that dark beers required a fairly hefty portion of the grain bill to be dark malts. Whodathunk?
Now, as for the taste of the wort. It was like…like…like an Old Scotchie without the liquor. Sweet water with malt flavor. It's amazing what those wee yeasties can do.
Lastly, since Joe's most recent blog post is about brewhouse efficiency, I want to note that we achieved a 92.9% rating. (I think that's what it was anyway.) BE is a measurement of how well you converted the starches into sugar. We were a bit above Joe's average and I attribute this to my professional stirring abilities and nascent sparging technique.
I got a kick out of Fake Criterions, a site with covers for fake Criterion DVD releases.
I wonder if this release would include the version dubbed into Spanish that I saw at Antojitos el Toril…?
Don't buy that 2001: A Space Odyssey Blu-Ray just yet.
Visual effects guru Douglas Trumbull has said "that the 17 minutes that Kubrick cut from 2001 shortly after the film’s release have been found by Warners in their vault in a salt mine in Kansas. These cut scenes are perfectly preserved in CMY component negatives. Trumbull has no idea of what Warners plans to do with them."
From IMDB, the footage consists of:
Some shots from the "Dawn of Man" sequence were removed and a new scene was inserted where an ape pauses with the bone it is about to use as a tool. The new scene was a low angle shot of the monolith, done in order to portray and clarify the connection between the ape using the tool and the monolith.
Some shots of Frank Poole jogging in the centrifuge were removed.
An entire sequence of several shots in which Dave Bowman searches for the replacement antenna part in storage was removed.
A scene where HAL severs radio communication between Discovery and Poole's pod before killing him was removed. This scene explains a line which stayed in the film in which Bowman addresses HAL on the subject.
Some shots of Poole's space walk before he is killed were removed.
Bummer about the documentary being 86'd, though.
A trailer for John Sayles' latest film, Amigo, has been released. It takes us back to 1900 and the Philippine–American War.
I never thought I'd live to see the day when a trailer for Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life was released but here it is.
The Sundance roadshow will stop in Madison again this year. We'll be getting Like Crazy on 27 January. Hopefully it'll be better than last year's entry, The Runaways. Jennifer Lawrence stars and she was fantastic in Winter's Bone.
Well, passenger rail service to Madison went from being immanent to a pipe dream. Perhaps in another 40 years we'll see this again.
One part of the article linked to above which I didn't understand was this:
Walker said he talked with LaHood on Thursday morning and was assured that Wisconsin would not have to repay money already spent.
Why not? Hopefully it's because the money was used to improve track for Canadian Pacific or Wisconsin & Southern freight trains or for track used by the Hiawatha line currently. But if it was just to get people to design stations, hell, we should give that money back so it can be used for its intended purpose…in California, Florida, Washington, Illinois, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Missouri, Oregon, North Carolina, Iowa, or Indiana.
It's a real shame. This past summer, a cousin of mine was in town for a conference. With him were a couple friends who are married and live in downstate Illinois. They were both of retirement age and have visited Madison frequently over the years. Indeed, they used to bring their daughter here every year and take her photo in front of the carousel at Ella's Deli. They love Madison and were looking forward to taking the train here instead of driving but, alas, it is not to be. My mother is now in her 70s and I'm sure that, as she gets older, she'll be driving less and a train to Madison would have been great.
And now I read that Talgo, the Spanish train manufacturer that recently setup shop in Milwaukee will be leaving town in about a year.
Nora Friend, a spokeswoman for the train manufacturing company Talgo, called the loss of funds “terrible news” for Wisconsin, for the company and its Milwaukee manufacturing plant, and for vendors and workers throughout the state.
“It sends a terrible message to businesses that are considering coming to Wisconsin,” Friend said.
She added Talgo will close its Milwaukee plant, probably in early 2012, and likely will lay off more than half of the 125 workers it expects to have on its payroll at that time. She said she doesn’t know where the plant will relocate.
Remember how Wisconsin has the most drunk drivers? Well, it's nice to know that police officers are doing their part and it's not just us normal citizens.
A Milwaukee police sergeant has been reassigned after his arrest on charges of drinking and driving.
A Fond Du Lac deputy said he pulled over John Corbett's truck after watching it drive erratically on a dark county road. Inside, she found a driver who appeared intoxicated, two men passed out in the back seat, covered in vomit and in the front passenger seat, Corbett's 13-year-old daughter.
What a class act. I mean, as long as you're going to drive drunk, bring your child along for the ride.
A bill to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was defeated in the Senate.
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked the legislation, which would have lifted the military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops. The measure was tucked into a broader defense policy bill and had passed the House last spring.
It failed in a 57-40 test vote, falling three votes short of the 60 needed to advance.
Check out Steve Chapman's "Up From Homophobia" up at Reason.com. It's a great piece about how he overcame his own homophobia by (gasp!) simply getting to know people who happen to be gay.
Familiarity, in this case, doesn't breed contempt. It breeds acceptance. Heterosexuals have always lived and worked with gays, but without knowing it. Once they find out, most learn they have more similarities than differences.
If the military's ban on open gays is repealed, a lot of people in uniform will soon come to the same realization. Many already have. The Pentagon's new report on "don't ask, don't tell" says that when it surveyed military personnel, two out of three said they've served alongside colleagues they believed to be gay.
Sofya up by Viroqua shows how to butcher a deer at home. And check out the rest of The Girl's Guide to Guns and Butter too. Sofya is from Azerbaijan so she throws in some recipes with a touch of her homeland in addition to more standard fare.
Here's a pretty amazing statistic that I'm sure I learned in class but forgot: "Through the 1950s, foreign films accounted for about 7 percent of total box office—a staggeringly high number that has never been duplicated." I'm sure that that percentage is downright minuscule these days but I wonder what percentage of total money spent on movies foreign films get. (Rentals and Netflix in addition to box office.) Anywhere near 7%?
Another former professor-related thing pertains to this guy:
That's Charles Anderson, one of my favorite profs from my time at the UW. That lone poli sci class I took with him left a profound impression on me. The UW Alumni Association has posted recordings of some of Anderson's lectures. They are from the 1980s and were broadcasted on the radio at the time but are now available at iTunes. These recordings are of Prof. Anderson's lectures for the Integrated Liberal Studies 205-206 classes. The topic is the history of Western thought as seen through political, social, and economic lenses.
I'm only on the third lecture (of 54) so I can't relate a whole lot on the substance other than to say that Greece is where it all started for us. I will note that A) it is weird to think a college lecture was ever put on the radio and B) it's funny to hear him say that listeners can write the station or the department for copies of the syllabus instead of going to a webpage.
Unfortunately she is not satisfied with merely sitting underneath our tannenbaum and feels the need to actually perch herself on its branches.
She's not toppled it over. Yet. When she does, the salt dough ornaments that Miles and The Dulcinea have made will surely crack into pieces. I'd hate to see that because they've put a lot of work into them - making the dough, cutting out the shapes, baking them, and painting them.
My contribution to decorating the tannenbaum consisted of taking advantage of the holiday sale at Wisconsin Historical Society Museum and buying myself an nice ornament cheap.
Head on over for some good deals. They've got the multi-volume History of Wisconsin set dirt cheap - $10/book, if memory serves - and cheese curd t-shirts are only $7 apiece.
This is some intensely psychedelic fractal work. From the author, Chris Korda:
This is an extremely deep dive into the Mandelbrot set, to 2^316 (binary). In decimal that's 1E+95, or 1 with 95 zeros after it. The coordinates are identical to a similar deep zoom movie posted to YouTube by user metafis, but my version has higher resolution (648x480), and was rendered with 2x antialiasing (four pixels computed for every output pixel). It also has an improved palette, similar to the one used by the Wikipedia Mandelbrot page. The uncompressed version looks better of course--fractals are close to the worst case for video compression--but H.264 does surprisingly well.
There is no audio but I highly recommend queuing up Ligti's Requiem as the soundtrack.
When Taste of Tibet first opened, either the menu or some sign in the restaurant apologized for the lack of yak meat. Well, a few days ago I walked by to discover a sign in the window indicating that this situation has been rectified. There were yak meatballs to be had as well as other dishes with the popular flesh of the Himalayas.
Their first two beers are an amber ale and a Kölsch-style beer. This prompts Jeff to write "But I have to ask, does Wisconsin really need another Kolsch and Amber?"
So who brews a Kölsch besides Sand Creek (Groovy Brew) and now Big Bay? And I mean breweries and not brewpubs. (E.g. - Vintage has a Kölsch called Sister Golden Ale.)
I see that the Capital Tap Haus now has Tett Dopplebock on tap. I thought this was going to be bottled...?
I was in Woodman's over the weekend and noticed some bottles from the Northwoods Brewpub in Eau Claire. Among the brews was the recreated Walter's. That night I saw a friend of mine who attended UW-Eau Claire and whose fraternity was sponsored by Walter's back in the day. I told him about how I'd seen the stuff at the store and he replied, "Some things are better left dead."
Has anyone been watching Brew Masters? Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head is the host and we watch as he scours the globe for exotic ingredients to put into beer.
I watched the first episode and it was OK. Calagione is a bit annoying in a frat boy kind of way but I can overlook that as he loves beer and loves to be creative with the brewing process. The problem I have with the show is the videography. Is there some rule that says your show can't be on the Discovery Channel or TLC if you use a tripod? In addition, no shot last for more than 2 seconds and every 5 minutes they just have to put something into fast motion. Hint: you don't need to pull out all the stops in order to try to make a meeting come across as exhilarating as an extreme sport.
My second gripe is the music. It is for shite. Did they hire Skid Row to do the soundtrack?
When you get a bunch of hotties with E cups in dirndls shaking their jugs around, go for it. Move that camera around, use canted angles, and play crappy metal music. But when you're simply showing beer in a tank for a couple weeks to ferment, there's no need to shoot it like a scene from The Bourne Ultimatum.
This past weekend The Dulcinea and I descended upon suburban Chicago for Chicago TARDIS. It was fun but I learned my lesson: I need a new camera. The batteries don't hold a charge very well any longer, it performs poorly in low light conditions, blah blah blah. And, honestly, I didn't really feel like taking snaps all the time anyway.
None of the actors who have played The Doctor were in attendance but we got Louise Jameson and Frazier Hines who played companions Leela and Jamie, respectively. Ian McNeice, who played Winston Churchill in DW last season was also there. Tommy Knight from The Sarah Jane Adventures was on-hand as were Kai Owen and Gareth David-Lloyd from Torchwood. The Big Finish gang were there as was Terrance Dicks who was script editor and producer of DW in the 1970s. Lots of great tales were told. And the Torchwood guys even did a rap. To wit:
Louise Jameson said that "The Sunmakers" was one of her favorite DW episodes as it parodied England's government and tax codes so well. Since she was in attendance, there were a few gals in Leela outfits. I managed to get a snap of this lovely young woman in costume.
I mean, what would a con be without pulchritudinous young women in skimpy outfits? This young lady took my rhetorical question to heart and dressed as the Cyberwoman from Torchwood.
I suppose if I have a gripe, it's that only 1 or 2 of the people who wore costumes actually did any posing after the masquerade show. Everyone else seemed to have headed back to their rooms to change into normal clothing right away.
Listening to Terrance Dicks talk was really great. He reminisced about writing "The War Games", the Second Doctor's final story, working with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, and hanging out at the BBC tavern. I wanted to get a book or something autographed by him but the line filled up right away and th ETA to meet him was well over an hour. His stories really brought back memories. Dicks also had high praise for David Tennant. He described him as being born for the part unlike some of the other actors who've played the role.
And so did a panel on DW fandom in the 1980s before the new series, pre-Big Finish, and pre-Internet. The panelists talked about how DW slowly gained fans starting in the late 1970s before it became a real cash cow for PBS in the 1980s. I started watching in 1981 or '82 on Chicago's PBS station. Almost 30 bloody years! My long standing fandom (i.e. – my aging) was thrown into sharp relief whilst waiting in the autograph line to get the Big Finish gang to sign a poster. Behind me was a young man dressed at the Seventh Doctor. We started chatting and I told him that I saw Sylvester McCoy back in 1987 in either Green Bay or La Crosse at a stop on his tour to promote his episodes which would begin airing on PBS stations shortly. So the kid (sorry!) says to me, "I was born in 1988 just as 'The Happiness Patrol' was airing." D'oh!
To be honest, I'm proud of myself. I think there are many older fans who grew up or got into the show back in the day and look down upon younger fans for whom David Tennant is their Doctor. Luckily I haven't fallen into that trap. It's all DW and I don't give a tinker's cuss how old you are or how you got into the show. Sure, we can argue whether or not "Timelash" is the single worst DW story ever or ever will be but we're all fans celebrating the show and our fandom. (However, that Colin Baker's outfit is the single coolest piece of haberdashery ever conceived by mankind is not up for debate.)
The gents in Mysterious Theatre 337 were there as well and they did Tom Baker's first episode "Robot", which was written by Terrance Dicks and, since he was on hand, he answered questions about it. The show was funny and I can't even recall the last time I watched that story.
The dealer room was full of DW goodies and, remarkably, I didn't buy a whole lot. Just one BF audio drama this time around. I grabbed a David Tennant action figure for a friend's daughter and some DW novels. Why I don't know but I found myself confronted with shelves full of the Virgin and BBC novels and suddenly decided to buy some under the impression that I needed to have them all for my collection. I walked away with only a couple but it was the first time I have ever really thought that I ought to have them on my shelf. They were all Sixth Doctor stories because I'm collecting every story with him. Now, I had a couple other BBC novels already but I bought them mainly to just see how they are and I've not yet read them. But now I am bound and determined to do so. I don't know how to explain it. Just one of those Road to Damascus moments where I went from being quite indifferent about the novels to being very enthusiastic.
Author Simon Guerrier was in attendance and he seemed to be a really nice and funny guy. I bought a copy of his DW novel The Pirate Loop and had him autograph it for Miles. I'd love to bring the kid to Chicago TARDIS but I think he'd be bored. He loves the new series but there isn't much new series-related stuff. To my knowledge, Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith can't actually do DW cons. Neither can new companions. (Is this correct? I can't recall where I heard this but I heard that their contracts forbid them from doing fan conventions until further notice.) Besides, Eccleston has said he would never to a con. (But, as was pointed out last weekend, Paul McGann once said the same thing.) Miles watched some classic series DW once but he didn't care for it. He doesn't listen to the audio dramas nor does he read the comic books. So I thought I'd try to get him into another DW realm with a novel. We'll see how my little experiment turns out.
Other cool things at the con were the K-9 unit buzzing around and some Mad Norwegian Press books which I now want to own. Plus the folks who run Mad Norwegian Press are really nice. Rob Shearman was very funny. The D bought a couple books of his and she had him sign them. On one he drew a Dalek. I discovered that Lisa Bowerman is a much bigger dork than I thought. And I mean that in a good way. I am angling to check out the Bernice Summerfield audios now. Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington were both really friendly. I guess cons tend to be self-selecting as far as guests go. If you're a big asshole who doesn't want to be bothered to deal with fans, you don't go to them. Hence the guests at Chicago TARDIS are always really friendly (and patient). And it's also great that most of the guests are simply fan geeks of the show. I mean, the people behind the new series and Big Finish all grew up watching it and now they help create it so, while they may be a guest up on stage, they're still all fanboys and fangirls geeking out to DW. Gary Russell was especially forthcoming about his fandom.
Ooh! And I can't forget Toby Hadoke doing his one-man routine "Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf". It was very funny and touching at the same time. I can only imagine how his kid is going to turn out.
The registration forms for next year said that writer Ben Aaronovitch was already confirmed. Since he wrote two stories for the Seventh Doctor ("Remembrance of the Daleks" and "Battlefield") I suspect the organizers are looking to get Sylvester McCoy to be a guest. Besides, he hasn't been there since 2006. Maybe I'll even bring my scarf.
While it doesn't look like Madison will be getting Amtrak service during my lifetime, plenty of people are riding the Hiawatha. According to the DOT:
The numbers for October are in and show ridership remains strong aboard Amtrak Hiawatha Service trains between Milwaukee and Chicago. Ridership totaled 67,900 – a record high for the month of October during the entire history of the service. Through the first 10 months of this year, 654,483 passengers have utilized the Hiawatha Service – an increase of over 7% compared to the same period last year. Hiawatha ridership for 2010 is on pace to set a new calendar year ridership record of around 800,000 passengers.
Here's a video which looks like it's from a local Milwaukee TV station about people who ride the train.
WIKILEAKS was last night accused of putting lives at risk after destroying an Afghan village with an unmanned drone.
Important secret experts said the attack by the online whistleblower was its most devastating since it killed tens of thousands of Iraqis in the search for weapons of mass destruction that it secretly knew were all made up.
The slaughter came just hours after the website, popular with paedophiles and smokers, published 250,000 secret documents that revealed, for only the 78 millionth time in human history, that governments are run by the sort of utter tosspots you wouldn't have in your house.
I see that the Capital Tap Haus opened last week. Right off of the Square on State Street, it serves food and carries Capital's brews. Unfortunately their webpage is pretty bare at the moment. No menu or tap list.