Vol VII • Issue 2 • March 2008
WRITE ON II VITAL’s 2008 Short Fiction Contest CALL FOR ENTRIES Entry Deadline: APRIL 18, 2008 Submission Guidelines: Entrants may submit two original, unpublished pieces of short fiction (max. 3,000 words). Entries will be judged by professional editors and educators not affiliated with VITAL Source. Winner will have his or her entry published in the June print edition of VITAL Source Magazine and on our website at vitalsourcemag.com. Runners-up may have selected text from their story published in the print edition and up to their entire entry published on the VITAL Source website. Honorees will be asked to participate in a public reading event in June. Entries must be formatted as follows: • 8.5 x 11 page • 1” margins all the way around • Times New Roman 12 pt. type, single-spaced body text, 14 pt. title, left-justified • Double-return between paragraphs – no indents • Title and word count at top of page Include contact information (author name, address, phone number, email address) and a brief biography (100 words maximum) on a separate sheet. Submitted entries will not be returned.
Email electronic entries to: email@example.com Mail hard copy entries to: VITAL Source Magazine Attn: Fiction Contest 133 W. Pittsburgh Ave. #409 Milwaukee, WI 53204 No calls, please. Info available at:
2 | Vital Source
March, 2008 | vol. 7 issue 2 | vitalsourcemag.com
The new film coast?
Will bill set the stage for Milwaukee’s film scene to reach new heights?
>> words by matt levine >> photos by jeff kenney
VITAL CULTURE 12 the vital source interview John Vanderslice is practicing disable-ization >> by erin wolf 14 VITAL CINEMA Women Without Borders Film Festival >> russ bickerstaff 16 music reviews Destroyer, The Mountain Goats, The Mars Volta, These New Puritans, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks 18 record releases Flogging Molly, Van Morrison, Sarah Bettens, Counting Crows, We Are Scientists, and many more! 20 Stages Around the world in 31 days >> russ bickerstaff
this month’s cover Jeffrey Kenney is a sculptor, painter and photographer. His most recent photogs will appear in Urban Perspectives, an exhibition at the Katie Gingrass Gallery, from May 2 – June 28. IN APRIL: Faythe Levine
30 Subversions The scene is massive >> mat t wild
NEWS+VIEWS 4 The Editor’s Desk Then I looked up >> jon anne willow 10 at large (formerly commentary) Democracy: Yes we can >> ted bobrow 19 The Funny Page
New stuff all month long @ vitalsourcemag.com
stages Avenue Q, White Buffalo >> jill gilmer Sleeping Beauty >> peggy sue dunigan
art LAST CHANCE: The Powerful Hand of George Bellows @ The Milwaukee Art Museum >> judith ann moriart y
Blessed Assurance >> russ bickerstaff
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VITAL LIVING 29 Slightly Crunchy Parent Geek squad >> lucky tomaszek 24 Vital’s Picks Where VITAL will be in March >> amy elliot t and lindsey huster 28 Chow Baby! For the health of it >> catherine mcgarry
31 The Puzzle Page Plus January crossword answers
Vital Source | 3
Vital source The editor’s desk
>> by jon anne willow
Then I looked up
esterday I had an anti-epiphany. At least I think that’s what it It’s a model that can be extended across many parts of one’s life, and was; I’ve never had one before and I’m not sure about the correct to good purpose. (I’m sorry if you already know this, but since this term for what I experienced. Epiphanies are big realizations is my column I can only write from personal experience. Thanks for or sudden flashes of inspiration. What I experienced was more like your patience as I work to catch up.) Which comes back around to coming back around. It’s so easy to suddenly remembering something obvious I used to know and lose yourself when life becomes intense, but that loss weakens you shouldn’t have forgotten. I was driving to pick up my sister and then my oldest daughter to do over time. I didn’t realize how much I missed thinking about my a little shopping for my wedding in June. I was thinking about table kitchen colors, my favorite song and new recipes I want to try because decorations and desserts and dresses and what we would do for dinner I didn’t make it a priority to keep hold of small pleasures. I feel lucky to have figured this out now; I think it will serve later when it occurred to me that it’s been awhile since I’d driven down the street thinking about shopping and dinner – and nothing me well in the months and years to come. Even if I am (somehow) else. It felt great. Normal. To celebrate, I turned the radio from NPR simultaneously blessed with health, love and personal success, the world around me is headed for hard times. Oil has topped $100 to a Top 40 station and started singing. Loudly. Now I imagine everyone goes through similar periods in their lives. per barrel; the auction bond market has crashed, jeopardizing the One minute you’re routinely thinking about Saturday night or what financial stability of thousands of hospitals, schools and other noncolor you’d like to paint your kitchen; the next it’s all very serious. profits; Russia is pushing back against NATO; the war in Iraq rages Money. Health. Family crises. Career. Relationships. Sometimes on. No matter where you look, there’s little to indicate that things everything at once. And before you know it, a year has passed – or are going in a good direction. I predict that very few people will be maybe two – since you cared about your garden or what’s happening personally unaffected by what’s happening in the world right now; the days of burying one’s head in the sand of an all-inclusive resort in your neighborhood, let alone the world. At 41, this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve been absorbed by vacation paid for with a home equity loan are about over. So we take matters of personal gravity, but what I didn’t take note of in the control where we can – in our choices about how we use our personal past is the actual process of returning to normalcy after heavy times. thought space and free time. My kitchen will be a soft yellow. My yard flowers will be a colorful, Then again, maybe I didn’t used to need a formal process. Probably wild mix. My favorite song will probably always be Joe Cocker’s I’m less resilient now in some ways than when I was younger, and therefore more conscious of what I’d like to avoid re-experiencing “Feeling Alright.” I’ll keep laughing, and I hope you do, too. VS in the future. Remember how there was a time when you could fall in love easily, then have your heart broken and almost immediately do it all over Don’t you get too lost in all I say again with equal abandon? Yikes. I’m madly in love with my fiancé, But at the time you know I really felt that way but getting to know each other contained elements of a job interview But that was then and now you know it’s today that I would once have found deeply disturbing. While chemistry was I can’t escape, I guess I’m here to stay definitely a factor, neither of us dropped the reins until we were solid ‘Till someone comes along and take my place with each other’s personal resumes – from work ethic to parenting With a different name, oh, and a different face style. It was a first for both of us, and awkward in a few spots, but in the end we’re definitely better together for knowing and accepting Feeling Alright... each other up front. There are lots of things you can’t control – like, for example, who you meet – but you can control how much you engage with that person. Roman Polanski Mehrdad J. Dalamie firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Gilliam Russ Bickerstaff email@example.com
Orson Welles Jon Anne Willow firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Altman Lucky Tomaszek email@example.com
Sofia Coppola Amy C. Elliott firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Donner Matt Wild email@example.com
John Carpenter Tony Bobrov firstname.lastname@example.org
Lina Wertmuller Catherine Miller email@example.com
Baz Luhrmann Ryan Findley firstname.lastname@example.org
Wes Anderson Lindsey Huster email@example.com
John Ford Pete Hamill firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean-Pierre Jeunet Dwellephant email@example.com
4 | editor’s Desk | Vital Source
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Vital Source | 5
the new Film coast?
mMatt Levine tjeff kenney
will bill set the stage for milwaukee’s film scene to reach new heights ? with local film icons as disparate as experimental
luminary James Benning and the ubiquitous Mark Borchardt, Milwaukee’s cinematic offerings have always been eclectic and fruitful. But in the last several years, our film scene has seen rapid development — the onset, perhaps, of a new period of national exposure to compare favorably with that of New York or Los Angeles. Sound unlikely? Maybe not after the recent initiation of Senate Bill #563: the Film Wisconsin bill. Signed into law in May of 2006, the bill went into effect on January 1 of this year, granting Wisconsin some of the nation’s most film-friendly tax incentives. Filmmakers may claim an investment tax credit of 25% for Wisconsin-based productions, as well as a 0% tax for all film and television services contracted by out-of-state production companies, a 15% state income tax credit for media businesses that make a capital investment in Wisconsin, and other magnanimous boons. The bill is unofficially named after the non-profit organization that helped usher in its existence — Film Wisconsin, whose efforts are dedicated to sustaining Wisconsin’s film and media industry. Film Wisconsin was created to fill the void left by the Wisconsin Film Office, which, due to budget cuts, was forced to close in July 2005 after 18 years of service. In April of the same year, aware of the Wisconsin Film Office’s impending closure, a task force of filmmakers set out to create Film Wisconsin, touring the state and
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working closely with its production community. A grassroots effort began to grant competitive statewide tax incentives, an effort that gained surprising speed as its economic payoff became apparent to state legislators. Following the bill’s inauguration, Film Wisconsin has touted our state as the “new affordable, film-friendly third coast.” And why not? The bill’s economic, cultural and artistic returns are so obvious as to be practically inevitable. You’ve probably read about Public Enemies, the new Michael Mann/Johnny Depp film that has committed to shooting on location here in Wisconsin — an arrangement that has Wisconsin’s film industry salivating for the big-budget commerce yet to come. “You’ll see an increase in the number of independent films made in Wisconsin and in the number of commercial films that come here,” says Scott Robbe, head of Film Wisconsin, which is based in downtown Milwaukee in office space shared with Visit Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Cultural Alliance. “The logistics of making movies will be much easier, and you’ll have a much greater synergy with Chicago’s film scene.” Indeed, Robbe speaks with enthusiasm of a partnership with Chain Reaction Studios in Milwaukee and Fletcher Camera in Chicago, the “Midwest contingent” that recently spread the word at the Sundance Film Festival about Wisconsin’s plentiful filmmaking incentives.
CLASH OF THE INDIE TITANS
The benefits the bill brings to Wisconsin cannot be overstated. There are tangible gains: the direct and indirect sources of revenue, the jobs a new industry will create both on and off sets and soundstages, the profits for the video game manufacturing industry (which receives tax incentives equal to film or television) and the new film-related businesses a healthy film economy would support. But perhaps as significantly, there’s an invigorating sense of expectation, an electrifying atmosphere of impending action. How the vast scope of possibility will manifest is, of course, still unknown, but a look at the present film scene may offer a glimpse at its future. The demarcation between independent, mainstream and experimental films is usually hazy and arbitrary, peddled to us by marketers in the film industry, but the terms are useful at least in charting moviegoing and filmmaking trends. Trying to sort out a city’s film or arts scene is nearly impossible; an artistic community is by nature amorphous, made up of eclectic sensibilities. Yet any cinephile living in Milwaukee over the last 10 years has witnessed a film community in undeniable transformation. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s film department, which has a reputation for leaning towards the experimental, has provided Milwaukee with a varied and unpredictable selection of films through its programming of national avant-garde cinema as well as its own student filmmaking. Woodland Pattern Book Center’s film screenings rival UWM’s programming in terms of originality and breadth, which is hardly a surprise – the Riverwest establishment’s film screenings are programmed by Carl Bogner, who also works in the university’s film department and is responsible for bringing many of the best films to our city each year. For a time, the Times Cinema also presented some of the rarest and best in modern and classic world cinema (I have fond memories of taking the hour-long bus ride across Milwaukee to see something like Into Great Silence), but since they started showing Sweet Land every other week and projecting classics on dvd instead of 35mm, the options for seeing avant-garde or “art house” cinema (whatever that means) are now basically limited to UWM, occasionally the Landmark’s Oriental or Downer Theatre, or basement screenings primarily intended for friends and family. Does this suggest that Milwaukee’s film community is sliding from the experimental realm into the more general independent designation or even (gasp!) the mainstream? Bobby Ciraldo of Special Entertainment thinks so. “Four years ago, people were focusing more on experimental films and things like that, but now they’re becoming a little more accessible,” he says. “I think when I [moved to Milwaukee] there was a strong push to make something that only a small group of people would watch and like. It was so experimental and really cool.” What Ciraldo may have noticed is a marked increase in the number of local low-budget, independent narrative features floating around Milwaukee — one-night only screenings at area movie theatres, showings at area film festivals, or artists trying to peddle their wares over the Internet. Five years ago — when I first attended UW-Milwaukee’s Film Production program — the emphasis on the avant-garde was still largely in place, and many local independent endeavors were of the experimental variety. Whenever a one-shot film screening took place at a bar or in
someone’s basement, it often consisted of an inscrutable narrative, fly-onthe-wall 16mm aesthetic, formal play with light and movement, or other experimental motifs. Stonefly — back when it was still Onopa Brewing Company — showed a series of experimental films abstractly dealing with America’s current political climate (as the 2004 campaigns had just begun, it was an unsurprisingly heated program), a radical event that would have little chance of recurring today, at least at the same venue. The last five years have treated us to local indie pictures like the Oriental-screened The Thickness of Delirium, the cgi-laden features of Lightning Rod Studios (Carnivorous, Guardians, The Sleeper), the Delafield-shot Red Betsy (which was screened in select Marcus Theatres), Milwaukee International Film Festival favorites Chump Change, Milwaukee, Minnesota and The Godfather of Green Bay, and an influx of submissions to MIFF and other local festivals embracing a similar independent aesthetic. In UW-Milwaukee’s film department, in more student films embrace narratives instead of avant-garde techniques, or (perhaps more audaciously) attempt a fusion of the two. The Student Film Festival, which takes place every semester and provides undeniable proof that UWM offers some of the most invigorating filmmaking anywhere in the city, today showcases a balanced lineup of narrative, experimental and documentary works. Is it necessarily a bad thing if Milwaukee is indeed undergoing a push towards narrative (read: marketable) cinema? Drew Maxwell, founder of Lightning Rod Studios, thinks not. A production and visual effects company that works closely with reps and studios in Los Angeles, Maxwell and business partner Dan Kattman know the world of film marketing intimately. “The [film] atmosphere here in Milwaukee has been changing more to commercial films, less on small artsy films that are almost like student films,” says Maxwell. “I still have concerns about the marketability of those [art] films. But the production value is getting bigger in movies that are made here, and that’s what distributors want. They won’t even talk to you unless you have [quality production values] in your film.” He shows me a scene from an upcoming release in post-production; it couldn’t be further from the underground films I’m usually a sucker for, but its immersive visual world and its abstractly beautiful cgi backgrounds are astounding. All of this theorizing about change begs the question: is there a clash of cultures in Milwaukee’s film community, a tension between its experimental and narrative filmmakers? Robyn Braun, co-director of the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, says no. “The fact of the matter is that narrative sells, and independent narrative is very popular these days,” she says. “The best-known movie to come out of Milwaukee and from a UWM student is American Movie. There was nothing experimental about it. I would say that there is more tension surrounding the subject [of narrative versus experimental filmmaking] in UWM’s film department itself than in the actual community. I feel that the filmmaking community of Milwaukee is very supportive of its members creatively. I do not think this will change even if its genre does.” Indeed, discussions with many local filmmakers and programmers convey a similarly reassuring optimism. Andrew Swant – Bobby Ciraldo’s partner and co-creator at Special Entertainment – says Mil-
continued on page 8
Vital Source | the new film coast? | 7
grown, its programming has evolved to include an expanded slate of workshops and events, creating even greater opportunities for both filmmakers and film devotees.
waukee’s filmmaking scene is “a close community. Everybody has their own projects, but everybody’s willing to help each other out.” “It’s weirdly communal,” agrees Ciraldo. “There’s a hippie vibe to it.” Ross Bigley, director of the Milwaukee Short Film Festival, sees it differently. “The local filmmaking community is an isolated bunch. I’ve seen it getting better with each year that our festival has gone on, but we still have room for improvement. We are acknowledging one another now, but working together and giving this city another voice is only a few short steps away.”
One of those imperative steps, it seems, is greater communication between area exhibitors and the filmmakers themselves. One part of the film industry cannot exist without the other — a masterpiece that’s never shown to an audience has little contribution to make to society; a movie theatre, film festival or rental house does not have a place in its community if it does not embrace and promote the art made within that community. The regional film festival epitomizes the rapport between filmmakers and exhibitors. Most cities lack a distribution company with the ability to spread local filmmaking throughout the country or an exhibitor with the funds to regularly screen homegrown movies — which, of course, leaves the anticipatory atmosphere (what masterpiece will be discovered next?) and wider exposure of the film fest. It’s difficult today to find a city that doesn’t have a proliferation of do-it-yourself festivals, but even in this Milwaukee excels. With the Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival, Underground Film Festival, Short Film Festival, 48-Hour Film Project, UWM’s Student Film Festival and too many others to mention (see our story on page 14 about this month’s Women Without Borders film festival), there are nearly yearround opportunities to attend and participate. Around the region but still close to home are the excellent Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison, Beloit’s International Film Festival, Blackpoint in Lake Geneva, Wildwood in the Fox Valley and a host of others. Then of course there’s the venerable Milwaukee International Film Festival, now in its sixth year and an anticipated cultural event. As MIFF has
8 | the new film coast? |
Arguably, independent filmmakers now have more possibilities to distribute and exhibit their work than ever before. The number of artists and short films made famous (or infamous) through YouTube and personal websites has already established the Internet as the next great step in the film industry’s evolution, even if many mainstream studios and distribution companies have yet to take advantage of this capability. Milwaukee’s best example of overnight Internet success may be Swant and Ciraldo, whom you might know from their video for Samwell’s ‘What What In the Butt.’ For months they remained the anonymous creators of a million-hit world-famous video, overhearing random conversations about it while hiding behind the proverbial curtain. This is something that never could have happened before the digital age — a self-distributed video becoming widely, but anonymously, famous. “That’s totally new, as of the 2000s,” says Ciraldo. “Being able to promote this thing without ever knowing who did it or why.” The Internet has one drastic and obvious shortcoming: that pixilated box sitting on your desk (no matter how high the definition or how flat the screen) doesn’t compare to a darkened movie theatre, cinema’s natural habitat. For more than a century, film has been essentially an art of light: chemicals responding to light on celluloid, film images projected through a light beam flickering 24 times per second. The digital age offers a seemingly infinite number of possibilities, but it carries some drawbacks that negatively alter the way we experience movies. “As a filmmaker, the technology of the Internet is not where it needs to be yet in regard to video,” says local filmmaker Tate Bunker. “It’s horrible to think someone is watching my film on a pixilated 5” x 5” Internet box or on an iPhone; it’s just not the same as a movie theater. It’s not even close.” While I’d sooner watch Meet the Spartans in a movie theatre than any full-length movie on the Internet, one can’t deny the digital age has changed moviemaking (and movie watching). Add to these capabilities the remarkably strong festival circuit already established in Milwaukee and the passing of the Film Wisconsin bill and you have a cinematic atmosphere ripe with possibility. While it’s unlikely that New York and Los Angeles will ever lose their positions as America’s foremost film capitals, Wisconsin may earn its hoped-for due as “the new affordable, film-friendly third coast.” With projects already underway in our state — including an alreadyfilmed NBC pilot that may air in 2008, a new show for the Travel Channel, independent features including The Violinist, Blue World, and Feed the Fish starring Tony Shalhoub, a new film from Carlo Besasie and Mike Gillis (makers of The Cherry Tree) and many more sure to come thanks to the incredibly inexpensive location shooting offered by Film Wisconsin’s tax incentives—such great expectations for the future of our state’s cinema don’t seem impractical. And while none of this guarantees Milwaukee validation for its own filmmaking scene, so many lenses suddenly turned on our state undeniably creates the opportunity for the rest of the world to experience what Wisconsin cinema may be. VS
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Vital Source | 9
news + views at large Democracy: Yes we can
f there’s one thing we owe to George W. Bush and his disgraceful presidency, it is thanks for the fact that we have reached a point where voters, even traditionally apathetic young people, are tuning in and turning out, paying attention and voting. It’s way too early to predict what will happen in November but, at least in the primaries and caucuses so far, folks are voting in droves, especially Democrats. The stars may be aligned for a historic turnout this fall and that’s a good thing. Let’s face it: the 21st century hasn’t been so good to the American brand of democracy, and it sure could use a shot in the arm. Who can forget the debacle of 2000, when the Supreme Court decided who would reside in the White House in a dubious 5-4 vote? On 9/11, the nation withstood the most violent attack on its soil since Pearl Harbor and, for a short time, grew more unified internally and garnered near-universal support internationally. But it didn’t take our president long to squander that goodwill through an ill-advised preemptive war and a host of unconscionable policies and practices – authorized torture, spying on Americans without a court order, a prison camp for detainees never charged with a crime. This administration’s ends-justify-the-means decision making and with-us-or-against-us foreign policy has decimated our standing in the world. Its willingness to coddle dictators in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere while spilling blood in Iraq doesn’t pass the smell test, and the no-bid contracts of Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies profiting from the war call the entire enterprise into question. In office, Bush and Cheney consistently fashioned themselves as freedom-loving, nation-building democracy exporters – but the world didn’t buy it. History has witnessed its share of shifty-eyed snake oil salesmen and these two will be judged among them. If our nation can agree on one thing, it’s that Inauguration Day 2009 can’t come soon enough. But as the cliché goes, elections aren’t about the past, they’re about the future – and thank goodness for that. One of the remarkable things about a democracy is how restorative and energizing an election can be. The nation is hungry for change and all of the candidates have positioned themselves as the most worthy agent of it. But there is certainly plenty to be cynical about, and even true believers can be forgiven for throwing up their hands in frustration at times. Look at what still lies ahead and what could go wrong: Democratic Party leaders apparently want to see a conve-
10 | at large| Vital Source
>>by ted bobrow
nient deal worked out so that the party can unify behind a nominee before the August convention in Denver, lest the so-called superdelegates determine the victor and overrule, seemingly, the will of the people. I say, chill out. Give your Rules Committee and the process it created some credit. The idea was to empower voters with a majority of delegates assigned to candidates through the primaries. The uncommitted superdelegates would ensure that professional-class politicians would have some say in the decision. The existence of superdelegates strikes me as basically sound, only dangerous if they screw it up by overturning the will of the voters. It’s a yin yang relationship with the primary process, meant to bring balance to the election force. They’re there as a backstop to keep the primary process from nominating someone at complete odds with the party’s ideals and to keep the voters enthusiastic about the candidates by reducing the chances of a contested convention. Consistent with keeping everyone happy and ending early with a consensus candidate is frontloaded primaries – that is, holding many early primaries, including the Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday. But no one predicted that two candidates would remain as deadlocked as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Now it’s up to the party honchos to let the process play out without poking themselves in the eye. It’s understandable that some top Democrats are worried. After all, the superdelegate system was set up as a reform following the chaos in the late ‘60s and ‘70s when minorities, women and other segments of the party felt disenfranchised and fistfights nearly broke out on convention floors. But there’s a “stop us before we do something to harm our chances” flavor to this “let’s work something out” nonsense. Dudes, get through the primaries and see what the voters say before you begin to worry about subverting their will. Think about how the Democrats have painted themselves into a corner with their decision to disenfranchise the voters of Florida and Michigan. Those two large and important states were penalized for holding their primaries earlier than the party poobahs wanted with the DNC’s declaration that they would be stripped of their delegates at the convention. This would have been no big deal had the party coalesced behind one candidate early, but it promises no end of grief if not resolved before a contested convention. My advice is to figure out a way to seat delegations from Michigan and Florida and get it out of the way. I realize this is easier said than done, since Hillary Clinton won both
news + views
At large news + views states in primaries that the candidates were forbidden to contest. Do you allow the delegates in and automatically boost her chances? Do you hold costly new primaries or caucuses? No question about it, it’s a predicament, but of the DNC’s own making. In my view, the basic operating principle should be to let the voters vote and the chips fall where they may. If the last primary is held and no winner has been determined, then it’s on to Denver, and let the games begin. Besides, an open convention? How exciting is that? Francis Fukuyama argued in his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man that the end of the Cold War and the spread of democracy signaled the conclusion of the evolution of political ideologies. Our style of government would continue to spread like wildfire or a virus and we would indeed live in the best of all possible worlds. If only. The tragedy of 9/11 and the difficulties democracies face around the globe have thrown a whole bunch of cold water on Fukuyama’s thesis. But these obstacles should only encourage Americans to take pride in the enduring resilience of our democracy and to take seriously the effort it takes to maintain and strengthen it.
NEWS + VIEWS
It’s important to remember that elections do not guarantee that the best person is chosen, only that we get the government we deserve. Our nation’s history is full of scallywags, demagogues and assorted miscreants who managed to get themselves elected. Elections, however, provide a self-correcting mechanism for righting these wrongs – as long as we manage to survive the mischief they cause. So pull up a chair, boys and girls, or even better, roll up your sleeves and get involved. Our participatory democracy is the greatest spectator sport around. But don’t take my word for it. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the video Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas made, set to a speech by Barack Obama (it was his concession speech following his loss to Clinton in New Hampshire). It’s been nearly 50 years since John F. Kennedy inspired a generation with his call to public service. In 2008, there’s something about a video generating hit after hit on YouTube that seems to connect with the public in a similar way. When it comes to politics, there’s no substitute for the goose bump factor. Yes we can. VS
Vital Source | at large | 11
John Vanderslice is practicing disable-ization >>By Erin Wolf “i don’t even have a suitcase right now – i’ve gotta go out and buy one. The zipper is broken on my old one and it’s still got the tape on it.” John Vanderslice is one week shy of heading off on his European/ United States tour. First stop: Café Mono in Oslo. “‘Disable-izing’ is the perfect word for right now,” he says of the whirlwind of activity surrounding the creation, production and release of his new album – Emerald City – and his impending tour. The 40-year-old musician is also the owner of San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone, an indie-centric recording studio famous for its excellent but affordable production. The studio equipment is not playing nice today, but Vanderslice still manages to be conversational and good-natured despite his distractions. Emerald City (named for the Green Zone in Baghdad), his sixth album, combines the efforts of Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, Spoon) on production and band mates Ian Bjornstad, David Douglas and David Broecker. Emerald City is Vanderslice’s second album to address 9/11 and its aftermath; the first, Pixel Revolt, garnered mixed reviews, and while Emerald City follows the same themes, it is grittier, a bit more cut. A sonic “study
12 | INTERVIEW | Vital Source
in distortion,” Emerald City ditches the lush orchestral arrangements of Pixel Revolt and muddies things up. “I don’t know if we went far enough [on Pixel Revolt … so] we got rid of the strings,” he says. You can’t blame him. Vanderslice’s juxtaposition of big, bright Technicolor sounds with words born of intense, introspective paranoia played out as gorgeous but confusing. Emerald City settles into place so the dust and debris can register. Don’t expect Vanderslice to brush the orchestra away completely, though. He’s simply relocating it, keeping it just enough within earshot to be influential without dominating the sound. It’s not the only thing that’s changed this time ‘round. “On Emerald City I wanted to get away from the ballads that were so much a part of Pixel Revolt, and now all I want to do is write frenetic, electric guitar songs. I want to feel disable-ized … there are very few electric guitars on Pixel Revolt and none on Emerald City.” This constant urge for transformation is evident in Vanderslice’s jump from former band mk Ultra into his varied solo career, as well as his avid adoration
of other art forms: literature, film and especially photography, his counterpart addiction. Photography has lent a new depth to his songwriting of late, he says. His photographs are rich with perspective, showing Vanderslice’s love for architecture (he calls Milwaukee’s architecture “stunning” based on its “industrial powerhouse” roots) and the people he encounters in the studio and abroad. Spain holds a particular charm for the artist. “If I’m close to the Mediterranean, I’m happy,” he says. “The people have so much energy; the streets are so alive at night.” It fits with his overall sensibility regarding imagery and how it relates to the music he writes. “I think about photography, and photography can be all about mood. There’s a certain openness involving the people and figures in a photograph. There’s an open-endedness to it. I want to write more music like that,” he explains. “In the past, I’ve written about identifiable characters that have had a strong story, and I kind of want to step away from that now.” Indeed, most of Vanderslice’s lyrics are densely populated with a storied cast of characters ranging from Bill Gates to girlfriends, detectives, victims of war crimes and pop stars; his articulately-quavering yet calming voice ever at the nucleus of acoustic guitars, backbeats and electronic noodlings. Emerald City may signal a waning of the definite and identifiable, but its sparseness belies the artist’s breadth. The feeling of ‘disable-ization’ that Vanderslice keeps referring to seems to be a healthy growing point, so I ask the only question that seems appropriate for someone so prone to new directions. “If you woke up tomorrow with amnesia, and there was no ‘John Vanderslice, the Musician’, whom would you start over being?” I ask. His answer comes directly and with easy laughter. “Oh, I’d want to be a cinematographer! I’d like to work with the director … not be the director. That’s a very difficult job. But yes, I’d like to be a cinematographer.” If anyone could pull it off, it would be you, Mr. Vanderslice. VS John Vanderslice opens for Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks March 20 at The Pabst Theater. Call 414-286-3663 or visit pabsttheater.com for ticket information.
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Vital culture cinema Women Without Borders Film Festival UWM Union Theater March 11 – 15
n celebration of Women’s History Month, the fourth annual Women Without Borders Film Festival offers five nights of stories exploring the nature of feminine identity in diverse environments – some beautiful, some more brutal than imaginable. Screening at the UWM Union Theater from March 11 through 15, this year’s festival is more concise than last. It opens with an experimental splash on Tuesday, March 11 with the MadCat Women’s Touring Film Festival Program, a series of short documentaries by female filmmakers that peers into the definition of identity from divergent perspectives. Kylie Grey’s short documentary My Home — Your War screens on Wednesday; in it, Grey follows Layla Hassahn, a woman from Baghdad, showing the story of her life before, during and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This evocative and edifying film presents the complexity of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and captures a fascinating culture on an intimate level as Layla struggles for a sense of identity in her arranged marriage and in a world coming unhinged around her. Her family provides another keen perspective, especially Layla’s son, who personifies the lost generation of Iraqi youth. Before the invasion he idolizes the military machismo of Saddam Hussein as well as Western pop icons like Britney Spears; after the invasion he embodies the systemic dissatisfaction taking root, with a rifle under his arm and a deep resentment of the United States. The filmmaker was unable to return to Baghdad to visit her subjects, so the last footage we see is Layla’s own, taken on a camera Grey sent to her. It’s a powerful moment in a powerful film. March 13 brings Lisa F. Jackson’s The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, the eye-opening winner of the Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2008. Jackson’s unflinching look into the culturally accepted brutality of gang rape in Central Africa is relentless. Women speak of their experiences with weary listlessness as the overwhelming tragedy of their memories plays out in simple English subtitles. Raped by groups of men (usually Congolese military) and mutilated with sticks and guns, the barbarity of the violence is shown from the hospitals where the women are
14 | cinema| Vital Source
>>by russ bickerstaff treated. Jackson presents their plight with personal resonance; she was raped by a pair of men in America decades ago. The final two days of the festival are given over to Jennifer Fox’s exhaustive, six-episode epic Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman. From New York to Wyoming to places as diverse as South Africa, France, India, Germany, Pakistan and Cambodia, Flying documents the stories of individual women all over the world as they struggle to define their lives in an era of unprecedented autonomy. Fox’s filmmaking style cuts with the jagged edge of contemporary documentary filmmaking, resulting in a work that is far from perfect or polished, but not easily dismissed. Jennifer Fox will appear at the UWM Theater for both screenings. VS
Layla Hassahn in My Home - Your War
All screenings are free of admission. For more information, visit: www.aux.uwm.edu/Union/events/theatre/
Documenting autonomy in Flying
Vital Source | 15
Vital culture music reviews Destroyer • Trouble In Dreams Merge • mergerecords.com Destroyer’s Dan Bejar has always been the sort to overshadow his music through his verbosity and the sheer precociousness of his vocal inflection. Fortunately, with his 3-D attention to production and his knack for atmospheric, cabaret-style ballads populated by pianos, strings and jazzed-out guitars, he pulls it off. Like the love child of David Bowie and Bob Dylan and the sibling of Luna’s Dean Wareham, Bejar has attracted fans and critical praise for his bombastic used-bookstore brain, his affably indecipherable nasal croon and his penchant for drifting into reverb-y, shimmering space jams. Bejar’s eighth album under the moniker Destroyer (Bejar has also collaborated with the New Pornographers and Swan Lake), Trouble in Dreams was concocted with much of the same band behind his last release, Destroyer’s Rubies. Trouble in Dreams is a bit more restricted, more sonically dense, more sweet than crass, peppered with Bejar’s poetic sailor mouth and washed in the osmotic environs of fresh, vaporous Canada. Bejar sugars his usual dose of medicinal lyrics with delicacies such as “common scars brought us together” (“Introducing Angels”) and “blue flower, blue flames / a woman by another name is not a woman” (“Blue Flower / Blue Flames”), an obvious reference to his new beau Sydney Vermont and their duo Hello, Blue Roses. Trouble in Dreams is balanced by a more direct sound than Destroyer’s Rubies’ meandering one. Tracks such as “Dark Leaves Form a Thread,” “The State” (complete with a ghostly organ solo) and the shining “My Favourite Year” cut the meandering ‘Euro-blues’ to a minimum, adding percussion that is more characteristically drum-y than filler-y and vocals that are more spot-on than anything that Bejar has completed to date. It isn’t necessarily a pop album, but it has little pockets of silver lining peeking through that previously didn’t exist. — Erin Wolf The Mountain Goats • Heretic Pride 4AD Records • 4ad.com There’s something truly romantic about the soloartist-with-guitar archetype — the tor tured balladeer who can only express feelings through song. Of course, the inherent populism of that simple formula (anyone can pick up a guitar and learn three chords — you can too!) attracts scores of aspiring amateurs who lack the personality to
16 | music reviews | Vital Source
realize the conceit. All you’ve got is a guitar and your voice, pal; if you have nothing interesting to say, the coffee shop isn’t going to ask you back. Thank god for John Darnielle, the man who began the Mountain Goats with a guitar, a boom box and the most charming disquietude this side of Danny Torrance. The Goats’ latest, Heretic Pride, showcases everything that makes a great singer/ songwriter — driving guitar work, fictionalized lyrics that paradoxically, chillingly bare the artist’s soul — and everything that’s not-so-slowly turning Darnielle into a borderline cult hero. The lyrics are Darnielle’s real strength, as they expose him for the confidently awkward acoustic nerdsmith he is. Who else would drop lyrical references to H.P. Lovecraft and former NFL running back Marcus Allen into a song about suspicion and paranoia (“Lovecraft in Brooklyn”)? While nothing on the slickly-produced Heretic Pride quite achieves the sing-along triumph of early low-fi classics like “Cubs in Five,” the presence of a tremendous supporting cast – including Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster – makes up for it. Erik Friedlander’s cello resonates with a warmth that recalls the immediacy of those signature boom box recordings, if not the aesthetic. But production aside, Darnielle’s broken, optimistic personality is what sets the Mountain Goats apart from your everyday jerk-off at the open mic. For Pete’s sake, he cribbed the album title from a lyric by a black metal band. Don’t you wanna just pinch his cheeks and snuggle? — DJ Hostettler The Mars Volta • The Bedlam in Goliath GSL/Universal Records • themarsvolta.com Popular consensus holds that The Mars Volta reached their creative summit with their debut Deloused In The Comatorium. I would argue against this with the notion that creative masterminds Cedric Bixler-Zavala (vocals and melodies) and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitar and creative direction) aren’t reaching upward – they’re reaching outward. These gentlemen are essentially a protean entity, constantly moving and shapeshifting within their own limits (a term one must use loosely). And while The Bedlam in Goliath, their fourth full-length in five years, doesn’t quite have the impact of their debut, it’s still effective and highly praiseworthy. Their melodies in particular cover new terrain. Album centerpieces “Wax Simulacra,” “Goliath” and “Tourniquet Man” contain Cedric’s most streamlined phrasings, even taking on a pure pop-couplet form at times. The music is still rhythmically aggressive – poly-Latin with a hardcore lean – with signature emphatic punctuations. The instrumental interplay is dynamic and cohesive throughout. Bedlam might not be their definitive work, but I’m not sure that’s the goal. They’re still a “tight as a mosquito’s ass” group of confident and explorative musicians, songwriters and sonic sculptors. “Definitive” implies a destination, and I don’t think they want to have one.
music reviews Vital culture (Though I’ll probably lose cool points, I strongly urge you to pick up the Best Buy edition, as it comes with a live DVD that showcases their fiery initiative, muscular chops and their definitively brilliant cover of The Sugarcubes’ classic “Birthday.”) — Troy Butero These New Puritans • Beat Pyramid Domino Records • thesenewpuritans.com Beat Pyramid, the debut full-length release from UK dance-rock stylists These New Puritans, tows the line between brash post-punk and freak-out electronica. The record, which would sound as appropriate in a voguish pub as it would on a catwalk, brims with dance floor drums, noisy samples and artsy/obscure references sure to have the hippest of hip scratching their heads. After the creepy opening piece, “I Will Only Say This Twice,” “Numerology AKA Numbers” sets the mood with a skittering guitar line and Barnett’s dissection of the psychological significance of numbers. It’s a sign of things to come: great beats driving frantic, noisy compositions about everything from global climate change to the kidnapping of a BBC journalist. The entire record is an aural overload, cramming in enough sounds, samples, beats, melodies, layers, blips and beeps to induce epileptic seizure. This method at times culminates in devastating, white-noise virtue on tracks like “Infinitytinifni,” but proves distracting and even incoherent on tracks like “Swords of Truth” and “Colours.” While the disc’s talk-singing single, “Elvis,” proves a rewarding listen, perhaps the stand-out track is the instrumental “Doppelganger,” which springs with space and groove — an antithesis to the album as a whole. These New Puritans have crafted a heady record that, though a bit pretentious, warrants a good listen, even if it’s only born of curiosity. — Kyle Shaffer
ing it together” thoughts that we all do – though maybe he does have a more imaginative vocabulary. The instantly relatable “Gardenia,” a tidy pop song about the dissipation of a relationship’s honeymoon phase, actualizes how easy one can flip from doted-on (“I kinda like the way you dot your Js with giant circles of naiveté”) to damaged goods (“Are you just a present waiting to be opened up and parceled out again?”) and delivers some of the record’s best lines. Malkmus’ savvy lyrical poetry is recurrent with the former Pavement front man’s previous Jicks releases, as are his percussive vocals and gritty, southern-Calfornia guitar noodling. Composed of multiple movements that host peppery prog-rock interludes, the 10-minute title-track, which documents a trek through the southwest, and the single “Baltimore” are elaborate epics. The unfussy “We Can’t Help You” is accompanied by ragtime piano and a coy female harmony, while “Wicked Wanda” is curiously redolent of the “lemon drops” bridge of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It’s the clincher that brings Malkmus, “the Grace Kelly of indie rock,” and now a dad in his 40s, closer to the ground. All 10 tracks are indispensable and fully realized, making Real Emotional Trash a treasure.—A.L. Herzog VITAL Source welcomes Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks to Turner Hall on March 20 with John Vanderslice. For more information call 414-286-3663 or visit pabsttheater.com. Read Erin Wolf’s interview with John Vanderslice on page 12.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks • Real Emotional Trash Matador • matadorrecords.com Despite his reputation as a weirdo, Stephen Malkmus’s fourth solo record plays like the work of an average dude hashing out life’s universal kinks. That’s right — even beatniks like Malkmus struggle with the same “sometimes it feels the world’s stuffed with feathers, table-bottom gum just hold-
Vital Source | music reviews| 17
Vital culture record releases March 4 Bauhaus Going Away White Redeye The Black Crowes Warpaint Sony Red BMG Black 47 Iraq United For Opportunity Chatham County Line IV Yep Roc Kathleen Edwards Asking For Flowers Zoë/Rounder Flogging Molly Float SideOneDummy The Gutter Twins Saturnalia Sub Pop
>>by erin wolf
Kaki King Dreaming of Revenge Velour
Junkie XL Booming Back At You Nettwerk
Destroyer Trouble In Dreams Merge
The Kills Midnight Boom Domino
Sheek Louch Silverback Gorilla Koch
Van Morrison Keep It Simple Lost Highway
Daniel Lanois Here Is What Is Red Floor
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks Real Emotional Trash Matador
Nerf Herder Nerf Herder IV Oglio
DeVotchKa A Mad And Faithful Telling Anti-/Epitaph
Eric Matthews The Imagination Stage Empyrean Mark Pickerel Cody’s Dream Bloodshot M a r c h 11 Kevin Ayers The Unfairground Gigantic The Black Hollies Casting Shadows Ernest Jenning
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The Presidents of the United States of America These Are the Good Times People Fugitive Recordings Snoop Dogg Ego Trippin’ Doggystyle/Geffen M a rch 18 Sarah Bettens Shine Universal
The Dodos Visiter Frenchkiss Elbow The Seldom Seen Kid U.K. – Fiction Great Northern Sleepy Eepee Eenie Meenie Adam Green Sixes & Sevens Rough Trade Groove Armada Soundboy Rock Jive
Sitches Lay Down the Law Interscope Virginia Coalition Home This Year bluhammock music March 25 Ashanti The Declaration The Inc.
Counting Crows Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings Geffen Justin Townes Earl The Good Life Bloodshot Head of Femur Great Plains Greyday Panic! at the Disco Pretty.Odd Fueled By Ramen We Are Scientists Self Titled Virgin
The B-52’s Funplex Astralwerks Caribbean Jazz Project Afro Bop Alliance Heads Up
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Vital Source | 19
Vital culture stages
>>by russ bickerstaff
vijay iyer 03/8
arild remmereit 3/28-3/29
andreas delfs and the mso 3/7-3/9
AROUND THE WORLD IN 31 DAYS March blows into area stages on the winds of the world with an unusually international offering of performances. First Stage brings Spain to Hartford with Ferdinand The Bull for one performance only, while The Strollers Theatre in Madison tries for a comic Ireland in The Lieutenant of Inishmore. The Rep creates a liquid-dreamy Brazil with The Night is a Child on its big stage. Hearkening from a place more difficult to define, Mark Corkins returns to the role of Hamm in Becket’s Endgame at the Rep’s Stiemke
THEATRICAL PREVIEWS FERDINAND THE BULL First Stage Children’s Theatre presents a classic story about the importance of individuality. Based on The Story of Ferdinand, the play follows a peaceful beast as a bullfighter comes looking for a challenge. March 9 at the Schauer Center. 262-670-0560 or schauercenter.org THE NIGHT IS A CHILD A mother who loses her son to violence escapes to a dreamlike Brazil in a drama of fantasy and realism by Charles Randolph-Wright. March 12 – April 13 at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theatre. 414-224-9490 or milwaukeerep.com THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE Madison’s Strollers Theatre presents the Wisconsin premiere of a comedy by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. The leader of an Irish Liberation splinter group looks to avenge the death of his beloved cat. March 13 – April 5 at the Bartell Theatre. 608-661-9696 or madstage.com
20 | stages | vital source
Theatre. Music on local stages this month takes a cue from the abstract as well. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra offers music Prayers From the Heart with a concert featuring the music of Verdi, while The Concord Chamber Orchestra offers music from A New Place in a concert showcasing music from Grieg’s Peer Gynt. Dance goes to extremes when Kanopy in Madison presents choreography from a fanciful realm with Dark Knights.
SOUVENIR Linda Stephens plays’ 30s and ‘40s songstress Florence Foster Jenkins, who believed (wrongly) that she was a great concert soprano. Skylight Opera presents the musical dream March 14 – 30 at the Cabot Theatre. 414-291-7800 or skylightopera.com ENDGAME Mark Corkins reprises his role as Hamm in this Milwaukee Rep production of the surreal Samuel Beckett classic. (the first times was in an intimate production at UWM’s Studio Theatre.) March 21 – April 20 at the Stiemke Theatre. 414-224-9490 or milwaukeerep.com CYMBELINE Milwaukee Shakespeare closes its season with the rarely-produced story of a fictional king of England. Shakespeare’s tragicomic tale of politics, ambition, love and deception graces the stage at the Broadway Theatre Center Studio Theatre March 22 – April 20. 414-291-7800 or milwaukeeshakespeare.com
MASS APPEAL A priest and a priest-in-training negotiate the difficult intricacies of the modern church together in this comedy presented by In Tandem Theatre. March 27 – April 13 at the Tenth Street Theatre. 414-271-1371 or intandemtheatre.com
MUSIC OF NOTE VIDEO GAMES LIVE! The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra offers an evening of music written for video games. It’s a comprehensive journey though the history of video games, complete with a larger-than-life video projection featuring snippets from the games. March 1 at the Riverside. 414-286-3663 or riversidetheatre.org PRAYERS FROM THE HEART Andreas Delfs conducts the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in a concert featuring Verdi’s Requiem. The MSO is joined by guest singers Jennifer Check, Camella Jones and Eric Owens. March 7 – 9 at the Marcus Center. 414-291-7605 or mso.org continued on page 22
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Vital Source | 21
Vital culture stages continued from page 20 A NEW PLACE The Concord Chamber Orchestra performs a concert featuring selections from Grieg’s Peer Gynt March 8 at St. Mathew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa. 414-628-6018 or concordorchestra.org VIJAY IYER QUARTET Named by the Village Voice as “One of the most original and accomplished young pianists in years,” Iyer and his jazz/Euro/Afro/Asian fusion group comes to Alverno Presents March 8 at Alverno’s Pitman Theatre. 414-382-6044 or alverno.edu MUSIC OF THE CATHEDRALS The Bel Canto Chorus performs a concert of the works of Rautavaara, Benjamin Britten, Zdenek Lucas and Eric Whiteacre. March 8 at the Basilica of St. Josaphat. 414-481-8801 or belcanto.org DON’T GO RUSSIAN OFF While someone should probably be seriously reprimanded for coming up with the title of this concert, it looks promising. The Festival City Symphony presents an evening of music by Russian composers including Rachmaninoff’s legendary third piano concerto, Glinka’s Overture to Russlan and Ludmila and Tchaikovsky’s March Slav among others. March 9 at the Pabst Theatre. 414-963-9067 or festivalcitysymphony.org FOUR GUYZ IN DINNER JACKETS Still elegantly trapped in the ‘50s, the Guyz perform their ever popular crooning March 9 at The Waukesha Civic Theatre. 262-547-0708 or waukeshacivictheatre.org THE WORLD FESTIVAL OF HARPS Some of the world’s greatest harpists are on tour playing everything from classical, to world beat to jazz music. Consider it the Lollapalooza of vertical acoustic strings. Or not. The festival comes to Wisconsin Lutheran College March 11. 414-443-8702 or wlc.edu/arts HULA HOOP SHA-BOOP This classic tribute to the age of sock hops and poodle skirts was The Milwaukee Rep Cabaret’s biggest hit of all-time. The Rep returns to the Deckel, Liecht and Tanner hit for another run March
22 | stages | vital source
14 – May 11 at the Stackner Cabaret. 414-224-9490 or milwaukeerep.com RANDY NEWMAN The legendary singer/songwriter/recording artist joins the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Pops for a weekend. The award-winning musician has played with symphonies all over the country. March 14 – 16 at the Marcus Center. 414-291-7605 or mso.org COLCANNON Folk and classical music meet for one evening as the traditional Irish band joins the Kettle Moraine Symphony for a festive concert – just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. March 15 at the Schauer Center. 262-670-0560 or schauercenter.org AROUSAL, GRACE AND MELODY Guest Conductor Arild Remmereit joins the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in a concert featuring Corigliano’s Fantasia on an Ostinato, Dvorak’s seventh symphony and a trumpet concerto by Haydn featuring guest soloist Alison Balsom. March 28 – 29 at the Marcus Center. 414-291-7605 or mso.org DAVID OSBORNE TRIO The popular pianist and his group play classical, pop and more in concert at Wisconsin Lutheran College March 28 - 29. 414-443-8802 or wlc.edu/arts
the Midwest premiere of Kerry parker’s Fates and additional work by Lisa Thurrell and Kiro Kopulos. March 7 -8 at the Overture Center. 608-258-4141 or kanopydance.org
ONGOING Crime And Punishment, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre through March 8 at the Studio Theatre. 414-291-7800 or chamber-theatre.com Blessed Assurance, Acacia Theatre at Concordia through March 9. 414-744-5995 or acaciatheatre.com Enchanted April, Milwaukee Rep at the Stiemke Theatre through March 9. 414-224-9490 or milwaukeerep.com The Cemetery Club, Sunset Playhouse through March 15. 262-633-4218 or sunsetplayhouse.com The Gamester, Racine Theatre Guild through March 16. 262-633-4218 or racinethetre.org Sleeping Beauty, First Stage Children’s Theatre at the Marcus Center through March 22. 414-273-7206 or firststage.org
FOREVER PLAID Or for three days, anyway. Jim and I Productions presents the wacky ‘50s musical revue March 28 – 30 at the Schauer Center. 262-670-0560 or schauercenter.org ORCHESTR’ART - A COLOR SYMPHONY The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra presents a synesthetic children’s concert centering on a fictional painter by the name of Joe Green. March 30 at the Marcus Center. 414-291-7605 or mso.org
DANCE DARK NIGHTS: BABA YAGA & OTHER DREAMS Kanopy Dance Company in Madison presents a dreamlike evening as it welcomes Robert E. Cleary for a new work in collaboration with puppet artist Heidi Cooper. Also featured in the show is
funny page news + Views drawing from memory
get your war on
things that actually happen to me
>>by david rees
>>by TIM EDGAR
vital source | funny page | 23
Vital’s Picks >> By amy elliott and lindsey huster
Updated all month long at VITALsourcemag.com
17th Annual Winter Pow Wow March 1, 2 State Fair Park Milwaukee’s roots are closely woven with the history of Native Americans. The word Milwaukee (as most of us hopefully know by now) comes from the Pottawatomie word Mahnawaukee, which means “gathering place by the river.” Show your support for Wisconsin and our cultural heritage at the 17th Annual Winter Pow Wow. Hosted by the Indian Summer Festival, the event begins with a traditional Grand Entry, in which dancers enter the arena to the accompaniment of a drum group. Pow Wow Ambassadors will be on hand during the weekend’s festivities to answer questions about American Indian Culture. The event also features a marketplace that sells a wide selection of traditional foods, herbs, jewelry and books. Native American artist Michael Jacobs, who won the Native American Music Award for Best Independent Recoding, will be a featured entertainer. 414-604-1000 or indiansummer.org.
Black Lips March 2 – Turner Hall Ballroom The Black Lips are the quintessential garage band, known for their raucous, irresponsible shows that tend to get a little out of control. And by little, we mean a big leap off the deep end: pissing into mouths, vomiting, fireworks and (surprise, surprise) nudity. Asinine antics aside, the Black Lips put on a great show, and with cheeky songs – like the romantic ode to a girl named Katrina from New Orleans – their sense of humor shines as much as it muddies. Let’s hope the title of their latest album, Good Bad Not Evil, portends a little less rough housing – but just as much fun. 414-286-3663 or pabsttheater.com
Ghost Ships Festival 2008 March 7, 8 – The Wyndham Milwaukee Airport and Convention Center Some believe in extraterrestrial activity, others have a regard for psychic powers. And then there are those, namely in Milwaukee, with a fever for ghost ships. It’s no laughing matter for the hundreds of enthusiast who will attend the ninth annual Ghost Ship Festival at the Wyndham Milwaukee Airport and Convention Center. Hosted by the Great Lakes Shipwrecks Research Foundation, the weekend is sure to exhaust current research and speculation on the hundreds of ships that still lie beneath the big blue. Exhibits, workshops and presentations at the convention further plumb the depths of maritime historians and Great Lake authors; the keynote event will be a talk by renowned archaeologists Ralph Wilbanks and Harry Pecorelli on locating and raising a gem of a ghost ship: the Civil-War era submarine CSS H.L. Hunley. 414-481-8000 or ghost-ships.org
The Cosmic Spirit of Allen Ginsberg March 8 – UWM Union Ballroom On March 11, 1982, Allen Ginsberg gave a controversial reading to an overcapacity crowd at the UWM Ballroom, refusing to begin his reading until campus police admitted all who were waiting out-
24 | march picks | Vital Source
side and performing his work to the music of local punk outfit The Blackholes. Today, original participants in the event including several reunited members of The Blackholes and Professor James Liddy, MC of the 1982 event, as well as luminaries of Milwaukee’s literary community – Martin Jack Rosenblum, Antler, Jeff Poniewaz, Susan Firer, John Jeske and Bob Watt – are coming together to commemorate and perhaps commune with the spirit of the late, great poet/ mystic. A recording of the original events has finally been released on CD, and it will be presented to the first 500 people to attend this free celebration. 414-229-3111 or needabreak.uwm.edu
Bus Stop March 10 – Skylight Bar If you find a night at the theater to be too stuffy, consider perhaps a one-night only reading in a more casual atmosphere – the lovely dinner lounge at the Skylight. Rennaissance Theaterworks presents the classic Bus Stop, written by renowned American playwright William Inge. The story follows a journey of the heart rather than the road when a lovesick cowboy forces the apple of his eye, a café singer, to board a bus with him to his hometown. This pseudo-kidnapping, despite best intentions, goes awry when the journey halts completely, leaving the couple stuck in a Midwestern snowstorm. Once remade in the 1950s starring Marilyn Monroe, the feature now makes a one-night stop in the Third Ward this March. 414-291-7800 or r-t-w.com.
The Scarring Party March 15 – Turner Hall Ballroom Turner Hall, once cobwebby and home to at least a few creepy corridors, is in some ways the perfect space for Milwaukee’s own Scarring Party. With the release of their first album Come Away from the Light, this quartet rips all the old-fashioned frights and sights of Halloween and brings them along wherever (and whenever) they go. With a local following that has grown to a staggering gathering, the Scarring Party has shared the stage with major acts including Tilly & the Wall, the Ditty Bops and Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. With the help of an accordion, a tuba and banjo-driven beats, Turner Hall is sure to take us back to the better days of 1920’s music hall with the help of this spirited bunch. 414-286-3663 or pabsttheater.com
Insurgent Theatre Dance-Off Pledge Drive March 15 – Darling Hall Calling all starving supporters of starving artists! Want to show your approval and admiration for local Milwaukee theater but barely have two pennies to rub together for warmth? Insurgent Theatre, known for their avant-garde, at times absurd theatrics, takes DIY to the extreme with the Dance-Off Benefit. To award the efforts of these independent performers and writers alike, simply strap on your dancing shoes and show us your best moves at Darling Hall. Prizes will be awarded accordingly for the most
RE EL MILW PRESENTS
A MAJOR PARTY EVENT Ian Cheny and Kurt Ellis enjoy a serving of King Corn promising wanna-be Fred Astaires and Paula Abduls. If you can keep a beat and have some stamina, you may be rewarded handsomely, and if all goes as planned, pledges will come pouring in, PBS-production style, rewarding the Insurgent Theatre handsomely as well. insurgenttheatre.org
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks March 20 – The Pabst Theatre
LOCAL MILWAUKEE FILMMAKERS MARCUS DOUCETTE
@ 9 TO MIDNIGH+T c 21 NO COVER
Indie fans in Milwaukee can only relive the Jicks’ “Milwaukee Show” – a spontaneous performance of strictly chronological Pavement tracks, starting off with “Summer Babe” – in their daydreams. And while this March appearance at the Pabst is probably strictly business, with rock monarch Stephen Malkmus and his noble band touring in support of their new album, Real Emotional Trash, we’ll forgive you if you’re holding out for history. In Malkmus’ storied and highly inf luential career, he has proven over and over again that anything can happen. But don’t take our calendar-editing word for it; see A.L. Herzog’s review of the new album on page 17. 414-286-3663 or pabsttheater.com
King Corn March 20 – Discovery World In celebration of Milwaukee Public Television’s 50th anniversary, the monthly March Community Cinema film series continues with a screening of King Corn. Shown previously to Milwaukee audiences during last year’s Milwaukee International Film Festival, this highly localized Midwestern documentary answers the question that has continued to haunt America’s obesity problem: you are what you eat. Yale graduates Ian Cheny and Curt Ellis move to Iowa where they plant an acre of corn and literally follow its path to the food market. With each new step, Cheny and Ellis’ journey digs up troubling discoveries about America’s overprocessed, and not surprisingly, corn-fed food sources. 414-297-7512 or discoveryworld.org
170 S 1ST ST. MILWAUKEE
CUFA’s Meat-Out March 22 – North Shore Library Community Room Citizens of Milwaukee and across the country are asking people to pledge to kick a habit that affects millions of people (and animals) everyday – the consumption of meat. Celebrate the first day of spring this year by observing the world’s largest grassroots diet education campaign. Hosted by Citizens United for Animals, activists and animal lovers across the country gather to celebrate and
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March 28 – UWM Union Ballroom We’re closer to Easter than Mardi Gras, but those crazy kids at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee continue to celebrate Brazilian Carnaval with full samba force! Even if you’ve already said farewell to Earthly pleasures, enjoy them to their fullest tonight, without the beads and flashing tourists – instead, celebrate with Chicago music ensemble Swing Brasileiro as well as a few on-site samba professionals and all of the dancing you can handle. Calendars be damned – we’ll be there to party like it’s February in Rio all over again. 414-229-3728.
Second Annual Milwaukee Edible Book Show March 29 – Woodland Pattern Book Center
Read your pie and eat it too at Woodland Pattern’s Edible Book Show educate others of the ethical treatment of animals. With the “Choose Veg: It’s Good for Your Heart,” activities include street theater, lectures, public dinners and “steakout” information sessions. Celebrity supporters like Joaquin Phoenix, Alicia Silverstone and Mary TylerMoore have officially endorsed the lifestyle, so those of us easily swayed by public opinion should find it easier than ever to go veggie, making both a healthy and compassionate choice. cufa-wi.org.
Fans of books and cake join forces this month to bring together what could be the best of both worlds: a page turning novel that doubles as a delicious after-dinner treat. For the confectioneryfriendly artist who likes a treat that tells a tale, join Riverwest readers at the Second Annual Milwaukee Edible Book Show. Woodland Pattern Book Center is hosting an event for avid readers and big eaters, and with work that features the best of city’s gifted bakers and cake-decorators, we’ll bet you can’t think of a single excuse to pass on food that contributes to so much thought. Watch out, Ace of Cakes: here comes Milwaukee. 414-263-5001 or woodlandpattern.org
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Vital culture chow, baby!
>>words by catherine mcgarry miller + photos by erin gebhart
For the health of it
Outpost Natural Foods 205 W. Highland Avenue, Suite 501 414-431-3377 outpostnaturalfoods.coop
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eah, yeah, yeah. We all know we should eat healthier. We Americans are overfed and undernourished and we know it. Still, to most of us, the words “healthy” and “tasty” seem incompatible. It’s Judy Mayer’s job to bridge that gap. As Nutritionist for Outpost Natural Foods, Mayer guides clients toward healthier lifestyles. She is neither zealot nor evangelis t. Personally, she’s a meat minimalist but not pure vegetarian. Her husband is a hunter who prepares his venison alongside her in their kitchen whilst she prepares her vegetables. They come together over side dishes, proving that vegetarians and meat-atarians can successfully coexist. Mayer comes to her present position after many years in the retail grocery business. Her father died tragically young in a car accident when Mayer was just 12. It’s still tender ground. Her mother, an occupational therapist, did not remarry but raised her three children alone. From that young age, Mayer was impressed with her mother’s devotion to her children and her ability to keep food on the table, even with a very demanding schedule. “My mother was a good cook and that’s all I knew. At home we ate the same 10 meals over and over again.” The menu included good old Sunday pot roasts drenched in gravy, broccoli swimming in butter, the “best pork roast ever,” tuna casseroles, fabulous pies and the “best sugar cookies in the world.” Still, it was a limited palette. When she started a job at Red Owl at age 16, Mayer was amazed at the range of foods available. “My love of food came from that first job and working in retail groceries my whole life. I think I’ve worked for every chain. I love being around people and food. As a cashier you get to talk to a lot of people. You also see all the foods people are buying and all the foods they shouldn’t be buying. It really bothered me to see what parents were feeding their children and I experimented at home with recipes. Most people read magazines; I read cookbooks. I’ll take a good cookbook instead of a novel any day.” At home, Mayer experimented with healthful alternatives. “I started adding more fiber,
reducing fat and using whole grain instead of the white flour we all grew up with. We were always adding to our repertoire with recipes like cherry crisp with oatmeal crust with cherry pie filling – my kids still love it.” Mayer started in management at Outpost 13 years ago. “Outpost helped me through school and helped me create my own job and I love it. Every day is different – I get to share my passion for good food and my mission is to get everyone to eat a healthy diet one step at a time.” Her main duties are store tours, individual nutritional counseling, nutrition classes and cooking demonstrations at the store and in the community. For just $25 an hour, Mayer offers nutritional counseling sessions. Outpost members get one introductory session free. Teaching nutrition in a store, where the food is! What a concept! She helps nascent healthy eaters sort through the labyrinth of bulk foods and comes up with creative ways to use them. “That’s the luxury of being in the store. I let them taste products, give them recipes, sit down and do a menu so I know they’re getting ever ything they need. There is more time prepping vegetables [than meat] but you can buy vegetables cut up or use frozen vegetables. It’s a lot easier for people to eat healthy these days. Packaged things like hummus make a fabulous snack.” Her ser vices are ideal for people with specific health-related food issues like allergies, diabetes and that all-too-common propensity for junk food. “We need to eat healthy, not just for today but for tomorrow,” Mayer avers. Get her going and Mayer spouts terms like antioxidants, phyto-chemicals, lycopene and beta-carotene. Easy for her to say, you’re probably thinking. But Mayer’s machinations for her clients are really quite manageable. She recommends starting with two vegetarian entrees per week. That could be a veggie burger or a frozen vegetarian dinner. Easier than pie actually (which is not all that healthy). VS
wonder sometimes how my kids play off our family’s inherent nerdiness at school. After a full evening of fondue and folding origami, do they tell their friends what we did and how hard we laughed? Or do they stay quiet as their peers regale everyone with tales of playing the latest Wii game or watching a new release on the flat screen in hi-def? I feel certain that my youngest, Jeffrey, complains the way only a sevenyear old can about the fact we don’t have a game system in the house. He’s good at video games; I’ve seen him play at our friends’ houses. He’s quick, intuitive and very, very focused. But I’ve also seen the way his entire demeanor changes after about 30 minutes in front of a screen, and it’s not pretty. He grows surly and openly defiant with everyone around him. So instead of plugging in with a video game, he and I solve Sudoku puzzles together. He is just as good at those, using his focus differently and figuring out the answers quickly. We laugh while we do it, and really enjoy ourselves. I am not at all ashamed to say that he is better than I am at Sudoku. My middle child, Emma, may well invent stories about our life for her friends. She invents stories about everything and I have had to redefine the term “lying” in our house so that she can be openly creative without getting in trouble about it. When the kids were very young, I would call them out for little white lies by euphemistically saying to them, “Is that true, or are you telling me a story?” Now we know that Emma is often “telling a story” on purpose, working to make it as big and colorful as possible. I’m sure that if Emma decides to tell her classmates that we once spent an entire road trip making up a story about Martian squirrels with purple hands, she’s will invent a story around the story. She might talk about how her mom “made her” participate, and about how her part of the story was the best, “everyone said so.” Or maybe she’ll change the details. Maybe we weren’t simply driving to a friend’s house up in Oshkosh. Perhaps instead we were stuck in the car during a blizzard for two whole days with no food except half a box of Cheez-its and it was the only way to keep warm and stay awake until rescue workers could save us! The truth, of course, is that Emma loves to create all kinds of things, not just stories. She draws cubist seahorses, paints fairies in flight, colors her fingernails with markers and costumes herself daily in splashes of hot pink and day-glow red – at the same time.
My oldest, Lena, loves to spend free time on our home computer. She researches Harry Potter characters and builds huge files of information about them. She chats with friends, sends emails out from her very own email account and plays the internet version of Guitar Hero. Additionally, she loves music and loudly laments that her mp3 player is only a 512! How can she possibly store enough songs on there? But she willingly leaves the computer room in a rush if I yell, “Who wants to play MadLibs?” or someone opens the box for the deluxe Scrabble board (you know, the kind on the lazy Susan) and wants to get a game going. We turn the TV off and spend the evening trying to decide if we’re going to allow proper nouns. Sometimes, one kid will play Othello with me, while the other two play chess. Or we’ll cut up a mess of cheese to have with crackers and fill our time beading little doo-dads and key chains. It all seems sooo nerdy when any of us try to talk about it. Even my grownup friends will occasionally roll their eyes when I start a sentence with, “Last night Lena was reading out loud to the little kids from a new book…” because it seems so wildly unrealistic that we truly enjoy those things so much. But I don’t care; I am grateful that my ultimate geekiness was passed genetically on to my kids. Otherwise, I would have no one to play with! VS
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>> words by matt wild
The scene is massive Items discussed: early 90s raves, gay flash mobs, the hopeless sincerity of youth Items pointedly ignored: death, disease, the stalled film career of Rick Moranis
was never a raver [ra-ver, noun: one who attends large dance parties; see also: casualties of the 1990s], though my flirtation with the early Midwest rave scene provided me just enough experience with glow-sticks and awful music to make me more than a novice. After a certain point, however, common sense and a natural aversion to giant pants got the best of me, and I left the scene behind, though not without some lingering admiration; from the stupidly infectious (and often chemically enhanced) sense of unity to the ridiculous lengths one had to go just to figure out where the damn things were held (call a certain 800 number, drive to a certain gas station, find of set of directions under a certain pack of Gummi Worms), the early rave scene had its wonky charms. Unfortunately (or, in hindsight, fortunately), I simply didn’t fit in. Two decades later, I make my way through the ravenous mob of homosexuals invading Steny’s Tavern, all of us trying to make some sort of sense of the monthly Milwaukee Guerilla Gay Bar. For the uninitiated, MGGB is a loose collective of gay and trans-type folks who stage “friendly takeovers of traditionally straight bars” on the first Friday of every month. Like the raves of yesteryear, part of MGGB’s appeal is the element of surprise – the group’s organizers reveal the location of each month’s infiltration less than 24 hours beforehand. Of course, disseminating this crucial information is much easier than it was 15 years ago: cryptic gas station directions have given way to MySpace bulletins and abandoned warehouses have been replaced by unsuspecting south side sports bars. I’m accompanied on this night of gay revelry by the lovely Amy Elliott. Doing our worst to fit in,
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we spend most of the evening talking about the least gay things imaginable (marriage, babies, movies not starring Kevin Spacey). Further proof of our naiveté lies in our unspoken expectations of unbridled flamboyance: flocks of hot pink boas, crotchless leather chaps, Bette Midler karaoke. Instead, we find ourselves surrounded by a fairly normal cross-section of the gay/lesbian/ bi/trans-fat scene. In fact, if not for the three drag queens holding court near the bathrooms and one fellow’s insistence that Amy and I are actually a gay brother/sister duo, the scene could easily pass for any normal weekend bar crowd, albeit one with slightly more hair gel and collared shirts. Wondering how this sudden influx of hot queer action has affected the staff of the normally straight Steny’s, I sidle up next to the door guy: “So, is it always like this in here?” I ask. “Um, not really. Whatever.” Taking his indifference as a positive sign, I head back into the crowd and push my way towards the drag queens in hopes of a few quick questions. I’m too late, however, and they quickly disappear into the ladies room. I follow their lead and duck into the bathroom myself – the men’s room – unsure of exactly who I’ll find, all expectations gleefully thrown out the window and into the freezing night air. Twenty-four hours later, I’m back on the south side – this time at the Borg Ward – for an evening of mostly heterosexual rock & roll. The lineup is top-shelf: the incomparable Trusty Knife do what they do best, reminding the crowd that they’re still one of the best acts in town. Openers Crappy Dracula (official winners of best band name since the mid-80s metal outfit Fertile Crescent) quickly endear themselves to me in ways only a band that gives dramatic readings of Juvenile’s “Back That Ass Up” could. Their ramshackle Dead Milkmenflavored set renews my faith not only in my own musical endeavors, but in the entire Milwaukee
music scene as well (need I mention their complete lack of cellos/accordions/washboards?). Stepping out for a back-alley smoke break between sets, I bump into a young friend who just recently packed up ship and moved to Portland (Jesus, will Portland ever cease being the go-to destination for wayward indie-kids?). She’s home for a few weeks, she explains, visiting family and tying up some loose ends. The cold air quickly getting the best of us, we finish our cigarettes and head back indoors. She turns to me and sighs. With the utmost sincerity, she says: “It’s so hard coming back to your old scene.” My first instinct is to laugh. She’s only been away for a few weeks; how hard can coming back really be? But the more I think about it, the more I realize just how ridiculous her statement is, and how it betrays her age. Hopelessly optimistic, it’s a statement that assumes scenes really do exist, that they’re not simply artificial constructs tied to tenuous relationships and hokey gimmicks. While large groups of like minded people have certainly defined certain times and places throughout the years, the fact remains that the only scenes most of us will ever know are cursed to fits and starts, ill-defined ideals and dead ends. After a certain age, the illusion of a coherent and life-affirming scene is just another thing we inevitably leave behind. Right? Later that night, back at home and sick with stupid nostalgia, I dig up an ancient box of Massive, the long-ago bible of the Milwaukee rave scene. The cover of an early issue catches my eye: a silhouetted group of people dance in front of a giant bonfire, the words “The Scene Is Massive” emblazoned below them. I open it up and start flipping through, trying to remember everything I’ve forgotten. VS Matt Wild only now just realized that James Brown really is dead.
PUZZLE PAGE Vital source CryptoQuip Clues: Z = E S=F
The CryptoQuip below is a quote in substitution code, where A could equal R, H could equal P, etc. One way to break the code is to look for repeated letters. E, T, A, O, N and I are the most often used letters. A single letter is usually A or I; OF, IS and IT are common 2-letter words; and THE and AND are common 3-letter words. Good luck!
1 Fate 4 Spigot 7 ___ Pet (novelty item) 11 Metric weight 12 Mila 18 author Leon 14 Feed bag contents 15 Like a beach 16 Item forerunner 18 Bullfight cry 19 Norse god 20 Turkish capital 21 Citizen forerunner 24 Humane org. 25 Peacock network 26 Actress Barbara ___ Geddes 27 Baseball stats (Abbr.) 30 Wait on 33 Comb forerunner 36 Ribbon holder 37 Stomach muscles, for short 38 Golf aims 39 Too late forerunner 41 Embrace, as a cause 42 Comic Gilliam 43 Chowed down
44 Cobbler’s tool 45 Not one 47 Fly forerunner 51 Notes forerunner 54 Be musical, kind of 56 Ump’s call 57 Spears forerunner 59 Plant life 61 Aspersion 62 Anger 63 Rel. ceremony 64 Theater award 65 Herd of seals 66 Affirmative Down 1 White goods 2 Aged 3 Kind of poodle 4 Vats 5 Solo 6 Farm animal 7 Doo forerunner 8 Maori war dance 9 Roman road 10 Thin Man canine 11 Curly cabbage 13 Gun forerunner 15 Plea at sea
17 Business abbr. 19 ___ de Triomphe 22 Manslaughter forerunner 23 Manuscript daggers 24 Good judgment 26 Hotel room item 28 Marco ___ 29 Footfall 30 Retired flier 31 Heroic poem 32 Origin 33 Oleaginous 34 Melts 35 Old White House inits. 40 Sauce forerunner 44 Cash source 46 Tire filler 48 Honks 49 Positive 50 Gr. letter 51 Former 52 Norse capital 53 Rotated 54 French poet Victor 55 Employed 58 Breach 59 Sauté 60 Fish story
January Crossword Answers To solve the Sudoku puzzle, each row, column and box must contain the numbers 1-9.
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In our March issue you'll find our feature story about the Milwaukee filmmaking scene, Wisconsin's new film incentives and the exciting proj...
Published on Feb 29, 2008
In our March issue you'll find our feature story about the Milwaukee filmmaking scene, Wisconsin's new film incentives and the exciting proj...