Friday, December 31, 2010

listomania: top 10 albums of 2010

I will flesh this out (promise!), but my magical formula popped back with this list.

10. Robyn - BODY TALK
9. Broken Social Scene - FORGIVENESS ROCK RECORD
8. The National - HIGH VIOLET
7. Tallest Man on Earth - THE WILD HUNT
6. School of Seven Bells - DISCONNECT FROM DESIRE
5. Sleigh Bells - TREATS
4. Delta Spirit - HISTORY FROM BELOW
3. Junip - FIELDS
2. Sharon Van Etten - EPIC

and the number one album is...

1. LCD Soundsystem - THIS IS HAPPENING

I owe a list of concerts and tracks...but wanted to wait on the former since I'm going to The Hold Steady tonight, which could end up in the top 5!

(Books and movies are also forthcoming)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

listomania: top 10 fitness events of 2010

My Daily Mile goal at the beginning of 2010 was to participate in at least one community fitness event (organized race, run, or ride) each month of the year. I ended up doing far more than I'd imagined, but here's a countdown of my most memorable ones.


10. Fight For Air Stair Climb - This was a unique event and the first "non-run" I did in 2010. I was super nervous, but ended up being just fine. Plus it was the first medal I received!


9. Miller Park Sausage Run 5k (9:48 pace) - Not my best run, despite the great pace, but I'll never forget the awesomeness of running around the outside track inside the stadium. Super cool!

8. Flood Run (9:42 pace) - Such a great cause and so many wonderful people on this one.

7. Lakefront Discovery Run 15k (10:47 pace) - The race that gave me the confidence to know that I'd be fine at my half marathon.

Photo by Michael Litscher

6. Brown Deer Run 5k (9:09 pace) - Still my most awesome pace for a 5k, but this run is memorable because so many #FitMKE folks there and saw several individuals complete their first 5ks. It was a truly inspiring day.


5. Shamrock Shuffle 5k (10:16 pace) - My first "road trip" race. And awful, killer hills.


4. Harvest Hustle 10k (10:06 pace) - Another road trip race and my first 10k. Ended up building a wonderful northwoods weekend out of the experience and bonding with some good friends. Huge thanks still to the amazing Catherine Emmanuelle for her hospitality in Eau Claire!

3. Miller Lite Ride for the Arts (75 miles) - I managed to raise over $1500 for the United Performing Arts Fund and bike 75 miles without keeling over. Special thanks to all that supported me in this journey and especially to Joe @AJBombers who was gracious enough to allow me a guest bartending gig to fundraise.


2. Samson Stomp (aka My First 5k) (12:18 pace) - The race that started it all. Hard to believe, but I was more nervous for this than I was to run 13.1!



1. Tyranena Half Marathon (aka My First Half Marathon) (10:59 pace) - I tear up a little every time I think about it. Truly one of my greatest accomplishments in life.

Looking forward...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Milawesome Volume 4: Santa Cycle Rampage 2010

Wisconsin and I have had a tumultuous relationship as of late. Especially when it comes to issues of non-car-based transportation. Needless to say, I haven't been in the holiday spirit.

Well, anyone that reads this blog still or has Googled any iteration of "santa cycle milwaukee" could have predicted the inevitable -- Santa Cycle Rampage 2010 filled me with Christmas Joy just as much as the two other years I've participated.

Yes, the weather this year was atrocious and the free beer didn't flow quite as freely, but you can't ever change the absolute magic of seeing 300 Santas spread joy throughout the town by the simple act of banding together on bicycles.

The stops this year mirrored those of 2010, but my group continued to expand. My friend Laura from college biked over to my place, and then we scooped up Bart on Cass, after a quick stop at Walgreen's on Brady, we connected with Tony to get to Cafe Hollander. I kind of love the pre-ride, as the sight 3-4 Santas definitely confuses people more than 300. They do the double-take like "Is this part of something or are these people just freakshows?"

A little of column A, a little of column B.

My gang started to form at Hollander. Not only did my comrades, Ben and Becky, from last year join up, but Ben brought along his awesome friends Lisa and Scott. There was a bit of confusion regarding the availability of "Santa Specials," so we only managed to get one drink in -- for me it was a Lakefront White. This "pacing" likely paid off later.

Pushing 11, it was time to parade over to Lakefront Brewery. It seemed far more people were out and about on in that North/ Farwell / Brady stretch this year so the cheer began to spread. As I mentioned last year, I just love watching my friends as they experience such an incredible phenomenon for the first time. Laura, Tony, Bart, and I were a pack in this part and the three of them were just so excited about it. This part makes me believe that you could *almost* get rid of the drinking aspect and it'd still be amazing. But then it wouldn't be a Wisconsin event. Nor could you probably convince 300 people to ride around in the cold with costumes on for 6 hours. Scratch that. Alcohol is a critical factor in this joy spreading.


Learning from past year's mistakes, we grabbed an essential slice of pizza at Lakefront immediately upon arrival. I washed it down with an Organic Amber, and later sampled a Rendevous (which Monica accurately described as a "nasal" beer and I commented "just like the French accent!") and a Riverwest Stein, thanks to both the "Santa Sample" and rounds appearing. I was thrilled to have Monica round out our posse at this stop, since she was my partner in crime for Year 1.

Speaking of which, the Santa Cycle alumni community is pretty sweet. It's fantastic to chat with people you see year after year, to learn about bike geekery, to feel PART of something organic and cool. Even though the event continues to grow, the bike geeks are still at the core of it. I mean, look at the bike tree above -- there were probably 10 people surrounding it, staring in awe, and saying "that's my kind of Christmas tree." Especially with the weather being the worst I've encountered, as the day wore on, only the hardcores kept on.

Stop three was Great Lakes Distillery, of which I don't have many photos. Mainly because we were outside the bulk of this time and I didn't quite want to take off my gloves. Luckily Bart had overlayered and I got to hijack his extra warm down vest (I described as being as warm as the pelts of 10,000 bears).

A change up from years past was the routing my band of Santas took to get there. We missed the first wave out of Lakefront, so followed another group down Water St. Instead of turning on Wisconsin Ave., we rode through the Third Ward, bringing joy to the shoppers hitting the boutiques. While I missed the hustle and bustle of the Ave., since the stops didn't change, it was nice to add some variety. We then took this crazy shortcut through an industrial area and rode UNDER the Sixth Street Viaduct. The area was a bit sketch, but man, it's a handy shortcut to know. If I can ever find it again!

At Great Lakes I bought a Santa punch (no samples this year), and then connected with my co-worker and his buddy. Apparently his friend had googled the event and emailed my blog link to my co-worker...ah, small world. For this coincidence, and using my feminine wiles to get the bartender to look our way, I was rewarded with a boozy eggnog made with Roaring Dan's Rum. Actually, I'm not quite sure if there was eggnog in there. Groups left GLD in several waves, and the area down there is fairly tricky, so I got a bit turned around and almost followed some rogue Santas into Conejito's. Keeping my eyes on the prize of the impending shotski, I swung around the block and found Monica & Bart in a convoy heading up Bruce Street. I'm not 100% sure the route we took to Kochanski's Concertina Beer Hall, mainly as the pomp and circumstance of a ride down the main thoroughfares was pushed to the side for the purpose of getting there quickly as the icy rain was starting to set in.


Fairly chilled after our trek, the warmth of Kochanski's both in atmosphere and crowdedness was very welcome. The ever-present polka band provides that extra layer of awesomeness, and after filling up on some chili and tamales (yay for my decision to eat meat this year!), and being traumatized by a "peek-a-boo" incident with a Santa in hotpants, we set our eyes on the prize -- THE SHOTSKI.

Imagine my disappointment then when we were told that it was "too busy" to bring down that ski. I feel like if I ever write a Christmas episode of my life, this will be a major plot point. But in the end, after some persistence (I may have thrown some blog weight around -- I am a nerd and I'd had a few High Lifes), the bartender's heart grew three sizes that day and we were allowed our Rumpleminze off a ski.

Thank you Mr. Bartender. And I'm sorry if I annoyed you.

Anyway, Shotski #1 was where the trouble started. As I was closing out the tab for it, I ended up chatting with a really cute Santa at the bar. He told me he and his friend had done the shotski with Polish Blackberry Brandy, but it'd been on his list because of a blog he'd read about last year's event. They were actually Madison residents, heard about the event, Googled it, and then read a recap presenting how super fun it is. So, right, guess who's blog that turned out to be?

Well we had to do ANOTHER shotski to toast to that coincidence. And then somehow there were more. I kinda lost count. This is probably a good thing, as the ride to Cafe Centraal was really cold and wet.

The extra layers of liquid warmth were welcome. As it was last year, Centraal is a blur. It's sort of funny because the group encounters families at the start of the day, but then also after a day of drinking. I'm sure the kids who see us at 10 a.m. dream of sugar plums, whereas the kids who see us at 5 p.m. probably have the same dreams as one would if their unsuspecting parents accidentally rented them Bad Santa.

Despite walking out into the worst biking weather ever, I successfully guided wayward Santas back downtown, peddling faster than a road race to try to get out of the rain and into any sort of warm situation.

My post-ride Santa nap was well-earned.

And no, I did not make my friend's party AGAIN this year. It was too cold and I was way too cozy.

Another memorable year of Santa Cycle, and another way Wisconsin swoops in and re-steals my heart...I simply can't imagine missing this event.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

world AIDS day: keep your mocha local


Unless you've been living under a rock, you're probably aware that today is World AIDS Day.

Red ribbons are donned, celebrities are hopping off Twitter, and Starbucks is donating a whopping 5 cents to the global fight against AIDS. Yes, I may have a sardonic tone, but I do recognize the importance of these activities to raise awareness and funds to fight a horrible and preventable disease.

However, I have a something I'd to point out.

While it's undeniable that in developing nations, especially in Africa, AIDS is a terrifying issue, I guess I always have on my live local, think global hat and fear that people forget about those in their own community who are suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Maybe it's the impact of seeing pieces of the AIDS Quilt at the Milwaukee Art Museum last summer or having participated in AIDS Walk Wisconsin in the past, but I think its critical for folks to be aware that AIDS isn't a foreign disease, nor a gay disease, but something that can happen to anyone, in their own communities.

That's why today I kept my "mocha" money local and decided to donate $5 to a local organization contributing to the fight against AIDS. While I gave to AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, here is a list of a few Milwaukee-based organizations doing work with HIV/AIDS, considering donating what you would've spent on coffee today to them...instead of just 5 cents, your whole $5 will make an impact.
Know of others? Please leave them in the comments section. Will you keep your mocha local today?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Milawesome Volume 3: Shop Local All Weekend

This post obviously isn't going to hit the freakshows who were at Kohl's or Wal-Mart at 3 a.m. (Oh, and I realized Kohl's is technically shopping local here in Milwaukee, but stop trying to justify.) Instead, if you think "gee, maybe I have to run over to Target or Best Buy later today, or I may brave the mall..." don't do it, here are 10 alternatives for you:

10. The Our Milwaukee Local Business Alliance. They'll give you a great listing of places to hit up. After all, for every $100 you spend with local business, $68 is kept locally (versus $43 with a national chain)

9. Unleash your inner creativity! Bucketworks hosts a Holiday Make-A-Thon from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. TODAY.

8. While re-gifting for the holidays is a little tacky, giving recycled gifts is awesome! Buy a t-shirt from Teecycle.org for all the quirky loved ones in your life. Plus, $1 of every sale goes to the Milwaukee-based River Revitalization Foundation.

7. Explore Milwaukee! Start with the shops of Brady Street...continue on to the Historic Third Ward...
end down in Bay View's eclectic shopping district.

6. Need to stay suburban? I adore the cute little main streets in Tosa Village, Shorewood, and Whitefish Bay. And if you can make the trek, Cedarburg is always quaint.

5. Being a Material Girl is so 1985. Give the gift of helping the community and donate to local non-profits this year.

4. If pure donations are hard to grasp, consider a membership with some of the fantastic organizations providing outreach, education, and just generally cool stuff in Milwaukee -- like The Urban Ecology Center, The Milwaukee Art Museum, Discovery World, The Park People, and so many more.

3. Give the gift of the arts! Sometimes I think the United Performing Arts Fund needs a "randomize" button on their website so you can try tickets to all the new troupes that emerge. Prefer your performances on celluloid? Then throw a membership to Milwaukee Film in someone's stocking!

2. Patience is a virtue. Wait for upcoming events like the Easttown Holiday Market (December 3), HoverCraft (December 5),  and/or the Give Local, Buy Local Fair (December 5).

1. The mother of all local bazaars - Art V. Craft - takes place tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Humphrey Masonic Center. Right across from my apartment, I'll definitely be there!

What are you doing to keep money in the local economy this holiday season?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

thanksgiving

This was my facebook status today, but I feel it bears repeating in my blog:

I am thankful for all the crazy Thanksgiving adventures I've had throughout the years both at home and abroad, that I've lived to tell the tale, and that I have friends and family that support all of it.

I'm especially thankful to Becky and her family for adopting myself and another friend once again this year. Tonight's new traditions of Clue and watching Running Man were most excellent. Perhaps next year we can play Running Man (I totally want a jet pack) and watch Clue?

Then again, perhaps playing Running Man is not such a great idea.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Milawesome Volume 2: Stuff the Bus



Even though it means getting up at the literal crack of dawn, I'm very fortunate each year to be able to participate in the annual Stuff the Bus event for Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.

If you've never stopped down to the Pick 'N Save on 111th & Greenfield in 'Stallis on the day before Thanksgiving, I highly recommend it. Even though, I was formerly against Christmas music before Thanksgiving, I make the exception as the holiday cheer that 99.1 The Mix pumps into the parking lot all day is contagious. Said cheer is of course helped by the generosity of the community. People drive from homes and office parks from all over the metro region to donate. My workplace did a food drive this year and I have to say after collecting it today for tomorrow's delivery, I'm so proud of the selflessness of my co-workers!

Bus stuffers get an extra bonus treat tomorrow, as the Milwaukee County Transit System unveils its new community-created bus design at 7 a.m.

If you can't physically make it to the event you can donate online to help make a difference for area families this Thanksgiving.

If you want to pretend that you're there all day like me, you can follow these participants on Twitter:

I'll be there from 6 a.m. to about 3 p.m., stuffing away!

Monday, November 15, 2010

moved posts

For those of you looking for my recent political rants, I've moved them over to Red-fugee. I'll try and post there when I'm angered. This will go back to being a relatively (hopefully) happy blog. Thanks for your patience with me as I write out my frustrations!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Milawesome Volume 1: Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast Reboot

I wasn't lying! I'm on this upbeat posting thing.

This is a quickie, but something that made me very happy as a takeaway from the Michael Pollan (recap coming when I have some time) lecture at UWM tonight.

Before and after the event there was a display area for local food groups. Most I was familiar with, including Slow Food WISE, of which I've been a non-active member for a couple of years. The reason for my non-activity was because most of the events I would see from them were $75-$100 fundraisers. Intimidating much?

They've apparently had a shake up and the guy, Robert, there tonight is focused on making the organization more accessible. As Pollan said tonight, you have to "democratize" the food movement to make it work. I was thrilled to learn they'll be adding more socials and more volunteer opportunities to keep us poorer members engaged. I suggested maybe doing meet ups at Farmer's Markets in the spring. Regardless of what the events end up being, I'm thrilled to see more in the $10-$20 range, although I totally see the necessity of the fundraisers too.

Interested in checking them out? Here's a community calendar if you want to check out an event before you join.

new focus

I realize I've been on a negative streak lately. I still owe a lot of you emails and some of you answers. My future is uncertain, but exciting at the same time. The world is my oyster and I just have to suck it up and slide that slimy thing down my throat. (That's what she said).

While I try to figure out the next chapter for me, I've decided to stop focusing on how much things suck and or future-suck in Wisconsin in this blog and start writing about really great and oft unsung things going on in our community.

Basically, what I will miss about Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tyranena Half Marathon Recap

First, all I really have to say is "HOLY CRAP."

Second, "HOLY CRAP I am so glad that I know a billion and ten awesome, incredible people, that would stand outside on a chilly day and cheer all of us across the finish line."

Third, I thought I'd started Couch to 5k around this weekend last year. Turns out it was 11/20/09. So less than a year and I'm running a freaking half marathon. HELLS YEAH. And the really really weird thing -- I think I was more freaked out about my first 5k in January.

I don't have too many words to sum this one up. I cried. I laughed. I smiled, a lot. I cursed. I talked to myself, channeling the Little Blue Engine That Could during the evil mile 12. I have a newfound respect for those who do TWO OF THESE IN A ROW.

My best at a breakdown:

RACE EVE: Thanks to Becky and Tony for “carbing” with me at Via Downer. Delicious. I also stayed up until 10:30 PM creating the “perfect” soundtrack for my big run.

RACE DAY: The day started off great with running into two very wonderful people on my way over to meet the caravan at Tony’s. Especially wonderful to see one of my fellow original Weight Watchers at Work participants driving my bus. What day isn’t awesome when it starts out with a hug from your bus driver?

I’m not going to lie and say there weren’t nerves. I had a very cathartic scream in my apartment before I left. I started freaking out that we were “behind schedule.” I was ancy. I also had to pee. A lot. Properly hydrating is a nuisance.

The car ride (thanks Craig for driving!) up was really fun. Craig, Brooke, Tony, Becky and I saw some craziness (including a lady driving in a leopard print snuggie who also had a leopard print seat cover, as well as a car with the license plate: TOPLES5).

Lake Mills was pretty nutzo when we pulled in at 11 for my 11:30 race. The crew dropped Brooke (who was 4.37ing) and I off to get our packets. I of course had to pee (again) and the line was really really long. Brooke prepped everything while I was in the loo queue and I was in the “corral” with just minutes to spare.

MILEAGE BREAKDOWN (my time above is the official chip time, but I’m using my runmeter splits below)

Mile 01 - Average 9:43 /mile

Started off way too fast. For my next one (ACK!) I need to really work on the consistent pace in training and not get swept up in the excitement and start like it’s a 5k. I do however highly recommend starting a soundtrack with Patti Smith’s “Horses.” Man that really got me into the mindset quickly. Patti Smith is one badass lady and I know am too!

Most of this mile was through the stately Victorian area in Lake Mills. I honestly didn’t pay too much attention though, as I was just focused on the fact that I was here! I do remember thinking when I hit the .5 mile mark: “Okay, 1/26 there!” I also got a ton of encouraging tweets during this first mile, motivating me to keep pushing ahead, people were counting on me!

Moon Duo’s “Motorcycle, I Love You” came on and I sped into Mile 2...

Mile 02 - Average 9:50 /mile

Still keeping that above average pace, I started noticing my surroundings. The lake came into view and I began to appreciate that it truly was a gorgeous autumn day. I began to “pace” with other runners, especially as we moved into the shoulder of the road. As I recall, the first water stop was during this mile, so I allowed myself to “reset” by walking there. The super extended (Patrick Cowley) remix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” started during this one as well, so I began matching the beat in that to slow down a bit.

Mile 03 - Average 10:21 /mile

Donna carried me into mile three and I was glad to have a steady beat as some hills were added into the mix while we rounded one corner of the lake. I started to get nervous here as I hadn’t looked at the route map (novice mistake) and feared that we’d have to come back this way and we were running down hills nastier than we were heading up. This mile also included the worst hill on the route, just before mile 4. I hate that pit of your stomach feeling as you round a corner and there’s the behemoth staring at you. The good news was, this was the worst one! Yay! AND my song changed just at the base of it to “Rippin Kittin” (not exactly this mix) by Miss Kittin. Hooray for Berlin dance grooves pushing me up the hill.

Mile 04 - Average 10:42 /mile

A couple more inclines as Miss Kittin and the Scissor Sisters “Invisible Light” carried me through this hilly residential area. I believe it was along this stretch where I ran into my friend Rob too. It was cool to spot someone you haven’t seen in years and give them a shoutout and congrats while you’re both huffing and puffing along. I began to appreciate the beauty of the route and the lake along this stretch, getting a little philosophical as Underworld’s “Always Loved a Film” popped on and then laughing as I saw a resident placing our beer for the runners. I opted to pass since it was my first half, but some of my fellow athletes made the stop.

Mile 05 - Average 10:27 /mile

Appropriately Caribou’s “Sun” carried me onto the first “path” part of the route through an open field, bathed in autumn sunshine. I became really grateful that the temps were in the 40s and not the 60s at this point. As I approached the second water stop, I allowed myself to slow down and drink all my water and gatorade.

Mile 06 - Average 11:24 /mile

I started to drag on the country roads here, even with LCD Soundsystem’s “Beat Connection” giving me some push. I had a little heart attack thinking we were going to head up a massive hill, but luckily the route turned and we ended up on a tunnel underneath said hill and on a lovely stretch of bike path. I officially crossed the 10k marker with a 1:05:29. Unfortunately that pace wouldn’t keep up!

Mile 07 - Average 10:52 /mile

Picked up speed a bit here on the path. Shook things up with another psychedelic Moon Duo number, “In the Trees,” the funky jazz of “Unbroken, Unshaven” by The Budos Band and then getting back into the shoegazey dance “Pigeons” by Hundred in the Hands and "Fixed" by Stars. I had started to feel a little leaden before this mile, but was glad to push back on pace. The really cool part of mile 7 was that we ran across a little wooden bridge in the MIDDLE OF THE LAKE! It was breathtaking and cool, although really windy. Definitely a unique highlight of the race.

Mile 08 - Average 11:09 /mile

My slowdown here was not due to fatigue, but TRAFFIC. I was beginning to feel good again, and excited that I just had an easy 5 miles left. After a little warm up of Unkle’s “The Answer,” around 8.5 “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” by LCD Soundsystem came on and I charged past several runners, practically bouncing down the path, only to hit a traffic jam. I am not sure how long we were stopped, but I’d say about 90 seconds. On one hand, it could’ve been beneficial, as it let me recharge. However, I’m definitely wondering what would’ve happened had I kept pushing, especially since I was in “recharge” mode. I totally understand that they had to move traffic along the main street, but I wonder if there is a standard “stop time” for runners. There was probably a pack of 10-15 people held back.


Mile 09 - Average 10:33 /mile

The timing worked out okay for actual Daft Punk’s new song “Derezzed” (clever how I did that one!) to carry me into the start of mile 9 and keep up a fantastic pace and then Maserati’s “We Got the System to Fight the System” and another Budos Band song “The Rite of the Ancients” propelled me toward the last water stop and the last three miles. This worked out well because my shoe came untied right before the stop. I also took my first ever gel here. Raspberry Cream. It tasted like cough medicine.


Mile 10 - Average 10:35 /mile

I cannot tell you how excited I was to hit the Mile 10 marker. I was now at the FARTHEST DISTANCE EVER RUN BY MEGHAN ARNOLD. I wanted to scream and shout to the world. This was kind of a dead end street in an industrial area, but I imagined highfiving like a billion people at this point. Okay, maybe the gel caused hallucinations :). I also was smiling at my soundtrack decision here of Tom Tom Club’s “Wording Rappinghood.” For those unfamiliar with this classic proto-hip-hop jam, the repeat verbal beat is “don’t stop! don’t stop!” and that chorus did wonders for me mentally, especially as I kept up a great pace in this stretch. I felt great to conquer that last 5k. I laughed as “Hot Mess” by Chromeo came on, added after my friend Kara recommended putting that band on the list, and reminded me not to “poo myself.” I also think it was on this mile when I saw a road called “American Way” and laughed again.

Mile 11 - Average 10:56 /mile

Well unfortunately, the euphoria of crossing Mile 10 didn’t magically coast me through. Mile 11 started my descent into madness. The usually uplifting “Dust Devil” by School of Seven Bells failed to motivate, nor did a remix of Florence & The Machine’s “The Dog Days Are Over.” In fact, the last made me tear up a bit and wonder “is this damn race over?” Probably didn’t help that we were running through subdivisions and industrial parks at this point.

Mile 12 - Average 11:44 /mile

Mile 12 was an evil bitch. I hate Mile 12. Mile 12 can suck it and die. Florence gave way to Karen O. and a remix of “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I knew I was almost there, but I was crying and limping. My hip was killing. People around me were all walking. But I was determined to KEEP RUNNING. I started channeling The Little Engine That Could and out loud saying “I Think I Can, I Think I Can.” I kinda didn’t care if my fellow runners thought I was crazy or not. It worked. I kept running. I did it. I didn’t stop at all. And I was rewarded at mile 12.5. Lady Gaga and Beyonce pushed me forward with “Telephone.” And yes, after talking to myself already, I began to sing along. I also knew this was the section of my soundtrack that I’d purposely added cheesy pop music. I smiled, hope returned as Snoop said the magical words “Greetings loved ones, let’s take a journey.”

Mile 13 - Average 11:32 /mile


With Katy Perry’s horribly sugary and obnoxious “California Gurls” I rounded the corner toward the marker for mile 13. ALMOST THERE. And there they were! Becky, Tony, Craig and Brooke. And @sawaboof. All on the corner. They had a sign, AND IT HAD MY NAME ON IT!!!!!!!!! I felt so loved. My smile was HUGE. I was almost there and I had a posse. I was thrilled to see Brooke there too! She’d finished her 4.37 race already. Yay! She and Craig had both tweeted me in those later miles too. Brooke’s came through during evil mile 12 and said “Fuck yeah, Meghan! Can't wait to see you! So close!” I’d needed that push and now I got to see my friends. But still had that .1 to go! And it was a bit chaotic. People were milling about, so it wasn’t quite clear where to go, but I just moved forward. In a world of hurt, happiness, and bubblegum pop. And then I saw another group of people. Right by the finish line. Jumping up and down. “Oh, how nice!” I thought at the kind souls. Then I realized they were screaming MY NAME and yelling for ME. It was the #FitMKE / Daily Mile gang! Anne, Tracey, Amy, Sarah S., Rochelle, and Stacy S. I coasted across the finish line on a wave of love! So incredible.

(I also noted the irony that I’d started to Patti Smith and ended to Katy Perry.)

Post-Race

I got my food, water, solar blanket, and MEDAL. I hugged a lot of people. I cried. I got my photo taken. I cheered for Marty & Augie to finish. I sang “Don’t Stop Believing” with Brooke. I drank BEER. I ate tasty, meaty lasagna.

I tried to embed it all in my mind. I never want to forget it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

no politics tonight

Early to bed. Early to half marathon!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

happy birthday baby bro!

Once upon a time in the '80s

I can't believe my little brother turned 28 today. Even though I don't think of him as the little devil in the picture above, I moved out when he was in high school, so his "adultness" is hard to grasp. But he's turned into a great person, with awesome friends, super talents, and a wonderful girlfriend. I'm really proud of the dude he's grown into. Here's to a great year, Kevin M. Arnold!

UPDATED: ZOMG...realized that we're in a vehicle in the above photo. We don't appear to be wearing seatbelts, car seats, or helmets. We probably were eating peanut butter and I think I may have been able to choke on that Barbie. Amazing that we made it. {extreme sarcasm}

May 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

bullying irony

What? This child was BULLIED?! Shock!

I am glad that the popcultureverse is having a conversation about bullying lately. Kids, whether gay or straight, should not feel their only option is suicide.

I'm sure it's no surprise to those who know me that I was bullied as a kid. Not for being gay (I wish! That'd be an easy one to reflect upon. (Kidding, kidding)), but for being the new kid, the weird/creative kid, the smart kid, the nice kid, the pudgy girl (oh thank you puberty), the kid with bad teeth, the kid with braces, you name it. I was prey, rarely the predator.

As I read the stories about these youth bullied today, and then read the celebrity response, most of which involves celebrities reflecting upon their bullies, I am conflicted.

You see, the cruelest, most awful, most terrible, scarring bully of my childhood? She's now a celebrity.

At the risk of being an amateur gossip blogger, I'll leave this as a "blind item," but I'm sure you can narrow it down that I grew up in Portland in the late '90s and this woman constantly pops up in my universe since her cult basic cable show is apparently something I'd love since I'm a Lostie and appreciate morality tales in fantasy worlds. However, I will never watch an episode of what several of my dear friends refer to as the "best show ever," because of the trauma this girl put me through in junior high.

The thing is, I don't even know if I ever had a class with her (maybe gym), as I was usually sheltered with the other nerds in the advanced groups. She had been held back, I know this because in 9th grade she had her license and used it to park her Jeep Wrangler in front of my house one afternoon to harass me for hours. I did wind up on parks and rec volleyball with her in 8th grade, but I think the bullying started before that. Whatever the connection, for some reason I made the cut of her favorite victims.

She and her entourage made my life a living hell at Cedar Park Intermediate School. Take Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls and multiply it 1000x. One of her big focuses of torment was that her family was rich and mine was poor. Except, uh, we weren't. At all. Thrifty, yes. Poor, no. We're talking the difference between upper-middle class and middle-middle class. WTF. But to 14-year-old girls it apparently doesn't matter. Mean is mean. Bullies are bullies.

In the end, it did get better -- I became really good at volleyball after my coach taught me to pretend the ball with this girl's face. My parents decided to send me to a private high school to get away from the mean kids in my public school. Although there were some freshman year, my high school didn't tolerate bullying behavior. I met my best friends in high school, all of whom had been bullied in middle school. We're still best friends.

So yes, while most of the celebrity messages are in the vein of "I'm awesome now, and those bullies all live in a trailer park or whatever." I have to be honest and say "I'm stuck in middle management in Milwaukee, while my bully found success in Hollywood...," yet there's a glimmer of irony that makes me smile.

You see, having found her success on a cult, science-fiction hit, this woman is destined to spend the rest of her career attending conventions and making appearances for the super nerds, the scary fans, etc. She is dependent on the bullied to keep her in business. Thanks to capitalism, the acne-coated geeks have won.

Side note: in the file of "things I never thought I'd type"-- I must give kudos to Lance Bass who admits to being an asshole bully when he was a closeted teen. Now if more celebs would jump on the "I was a bully" train.

girl on film: #mff2 wrap up

Considering a week ago was the "last event of the 2010 Milwaukee Film Festival" a.k.a. "The Volunteer Party," I figure I should probably wrap up my blog of the second part of those crazy 11 days for me.

***

A quick wrap up of the films I saw:

Waste Land
Last minute decision to go see this, and I'm glad I did, thanks to a recommendation. Turned out to be one of my favorite documentaries of the festival. The marketing still for it was all wrong. It made it look like an ambient environmental documentary, but while it had some embedded "green" lessons it was really all about this amazing human experience. This film will renew your faith in the importance of the power of Art to create jarring social change. Plus, everything about it is simple beautiful.

Mark My Words
As I previously mentioned, I try and get out to support the local films. This being a film about a local movement (spoken word poetry) it sparked my interest to learn about something I'm not entirely familiar with. While the movie was interesting, I think it had the potential to be so much more. The subjects were the poets themselves, but all these juicy bits were waiting in the wings looking to be focused on to create something really powerful.

The footage was there and I think the film could've been re-edited to show why and how this poetry is a tool for social change. (Maybe I just had that on the brain after Waste Land). Without giving too much away, there was a scene with two of the poets going into a MPS classroom and doing a poetry exercise with the students. The teenager's poem that is highlighted was so gutwrenching, I felt it would've been the absolutely perfect closing scene to make you remember this film for a long, long time. Instead it was buried.


I also wish the audience for the film had been more diverse. The theatre was sold out, but it was mostly friends of the poets or those already in this "scene." Apparently it screened at one of the suburban theatres too, and I'd be curious to see how the attendance was. I wish this would be shown to snot-nosed suburban kids, who are unaware of the real problems facing their peers just a few miles away. I wish this would be shown to the a-hole commenters on JSOnline. People need some perspective.

A conversation I did end up having with folks at the party after the film, didn't need to be explicit in the documentary, but it would've been helpful in this segregated city. Even as an open-minded person, I guess that while my interest was sparked about this subject, I was not sure if I would be able to participate by going to a reading, since it seemed portrayed as culturally-exclusive. When I asked around later I was told I would be absolutely welcome, but I guess the lingering question I was left with, as with most issues on the Milwaukee segregation topic was -- how do we break that barrier?

A Somewhat Gentle Man
My favorite feature of the festival, this film was billed as a "dark comedy," but I think the majority of the people that went really thought it was going to be more dark than comedy. The still and description made it sound much more dramatic. Then how pleasantly surprised was I that it was a dark comedy, and actually one of the best I've seen. Seriously, this Norwegian film was HILARIOUS. I actually really want to go to Scandinavia now because those people have a pretty sick sense of humor. My top flick last year was the memorable Danish Terribly Happy, also in the same vein. I guess when the sun is hidden half the year, you come up with some fairly strange stuff. Stellan Skarsgård was absolutely fantastic in this movie and its worth seeing just for his subtle comedic acting. Hopefully you'll be like me, actually guffawing a couple of times during the screening.


The Red Chapel
I'm glad I laughed heartily at SWGM, because the "comedic" documentary I saw following ended up being much, much more disturbing. I mean, we all hear about how damn creepy North Korea is, but to see it captured on film...it just sends shivers. The premise of the documentary was a troupe of Danish comedians (again that sick humor) gained access to North Korea on a cultural exchange and decided to stealthily capture its evils while innocuously documenting their trip. The evils, however, turned out to be so pervasive that even in just a short filming cycle, they began breaking down the participants in ways unanticipated. They also break down the audience. While the director definitely took some Herzogian cues, and there were undeniably hilarious moments, there were certainly more WTF squirmy scenes, that make me wonder if I could watch it again. However, I highly recommend this film, as it does a better job at explaining the scariness of this "rogue nation," than any American argument I've heard. This may be the most frightening film of the festival.

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
I expected this one to be awesome. And it BLEW my mind on the excellent scale. Hilarious and surprisingly heartwarming. And did I mention, hilarious? If you like the funny and can handle buckets of fake blood, see Tucker & Dale.


The Milwaukee Show
I love this screening, as it highlights such a diversity of filmmaking in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. From the experimental (Kids In Trees), to the artsy (Mickey Burgermeister), to the short features (The Funeral, Honey-Colored Boy) , to the documentaries (The Death of Triforce, A King in Milwaukee) -- there's something for everybody.

Admittedly, my two favorites of the screening were not eligible for competition. The beautiful Spare Change, created thanks to the incredible Collaborative Cinema Project, and the quirktastic This is Umberto. from the strange mind of Milwaukee Film Shorts Programmer and Development Coordinator, Anna Krutzik.

Congrats are in order, however, to Tate Bunker, director of Mickey Burgermeister, who won the Milwaukee Show Jury Award and a massive prize package to go toward a future project. The audience was treated to a trailer of the forthcoming The Wheel, directed by last year's winner, John Roberts.

Blood Junkie
Locally made horror film. I went in with minimal expectations, only to have them massacred by the sheer kickassedness of this movie. It lives up its low budget to the max. I can't even begin to describe how completely bitchin' this flick is. It makes me want to have a slumber party, just to put it on at 3 a.m. Obviously the folks at Troma, which picked it up feel the same way. Easily now my second most favorite cheeseball horror movie after the untouchable Student Bodies.

A Brand New Life
Decided to see this on Sunday morning instead of About Elly, mainly so I could get coffee and place a birthday call to my Grandma, thanks to a later start time. I'm glad I did because it ended up winning the Best Feature Jury Award. While it wasn't my favorite film of the festival, this moving story about a Korean girl's experience in an orphanage was extremely engaging. Knowing a few Korean adoptees growing up, it was interesting to see what life was like on "the other side." I guess I never thought about it before that those kids came from somewhere, even if they came to the U.S. very young.

My Way Home (preceded by Wagah)

This excellent local documentary about a Hmong woman traveling to Laos to uncover her roots was absolutely fantastic. It emphasized what a treasure docUWM is to the community. I went into it hoping to learn a little more about the Hmong culture in Wisconsin, but instead watched an incredibly emotional journey of a woman's search for family and home. I think they need to put a little Kleenex box icon next to films in the program next year.

The short preceding the feature explored the Indian/Pakistani conflict through an annual ritual performed at a checkpoint between the two countries. It underscored the ridiculousness of borders and the fluidity of nations with shared cultural traditions.

***

Once again, it was just an incredible year. Attendance skyrocketed, as did the volunteering. Thanks to everyone that gave donating their time a shot this year. It truly is such a fun experience. Also a fun experience this year? The awesome parties that popped up during the course of the fest. The reopening of Alterra Prospect and the Blood Junkie party at Y-NOT III were two memorable evenings for me.

Of course there were plenty of films I missed that will be added to my Netflix queue or caught in the theater. My friend Mandi has some great reviews over at her blog (warning: they may make you mad for missing the films). I also suggest subscribing to the Milwaukee Film Blog, as they often highlight when these films will screen again in Milwaukee.

So even though the film festival is wrapped and done, you don't have to stop supporting independent film. Keep up with the parent organization, Milwaukee Film, year-round to see what kind of cinematic treats they'll be bringing to the community. I know membership is high up on my Christmas list this year!

Did you participate in the festival at all? What was your favorite film? Do you want the festival to improve next year? Fill out their attendee survey here!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

one year ago

Me and a Lifesize Cream Puff in August 2009. I had not yet learned about portion control.

One year ago I dedicated myself to becoming a happier and healthier human being. I joined several of my co-workers in attending Weight Watchers At Work. Now a year later, I sit here about 60 pounds less (I honestly don't know since my scale died-- it's fluctuated between 60-70), and with an entirely different outlook on life. My original goal was to lose 30 by my 30th birthday and I blew that out of the water. Here are six things (one for every 10 pounds) me a year ago would've called you a liar for even suggesting:

6. That I'd be training and registered for a half marathon, find 5ks to be a light jog, and have climbed the US Bank Building and not died.

5. That I'd have tossed out half my closet since I'm wearing half the size I once busted out of, and no longer have "skinny" clothes in a wistful pile in the back. That I'd request a "small" when ordering race t-shirts. That I could walk into a fancy-schmansy boutique and try on stuff from the rack.

4. That I'd be the rejector more often than the rejectee. That I would no longer be the funny fat friend (well, I'm still funny, thank goodness, er, I hope). That my mojo is back.

3. That I wouldn't untag photos of myself on Facebook for looking like a moose. That people would see me after several months and not recognize me.

2. That I'd be inspiring others!

1. That I could openly admit and blog about my struggles and accomplishments.

Happier to pose with a Goddess than a Cream Puff in August 2010.
I would be remiss if I didn't THANK the slough of people who helped me through the past year. Big ups to my training/race crew -- Becky, Brooke, Tony, and sometimes Jason, Larissa, and Pete. My friends Maggie, Christina, and Eileen who are always open to a running hang out versus dinner. All the incredible Fit Milwaukee / DailyMile cult members, especially Amy, Anne, Tracey, Rochelle, Marty, and The Santiagos (plus many many more) who are constantly cheering me on. Tim and his Beer Runner column for showing me that you don't have to be a total square to be healthy. The twitterati like @Sp0on, @StuNamiSays, and @MidwestPhoto who watch for my Runmeter tweet to go out so they can send me a robotic encouragement. My family for listening to me ramble about my lifestyle changes every week on he phone. My best friend, Kat, whose own accomplishments far outpace mine and continued to motivate me to push harder. My coworkers who went through this with me and our fearless leader Gayle (bummed it ended in May before I could hit lifetime). The many, many friends and family members who "came out" to me as having done or currently doing Weight Watchers and inspired me along the way. THANK YOU ALL.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

girl on film: #mff2 thursday-monday

One of the simultaneously challenging and exhilarating things about a film festival is that you have to have your flexibility hat ready to whip out at all times. Especially if you're volunteering to earn your keep (seriously, the most fun volunteer gig ever). Especially if your long-distance parent rolls through town the second night of the fest, other groups you have an affinity for schedule events during screenings, and if you're trying to keep some semblance of a workout regime going during those crazy 11 days. So sometimes movies run late, times get bumped, and you don't get to catch everything on your list. Sometimes you sacrifice a screening for some sleep.
 
However, I felt like the gauntlet was thrown yesterday when, after saying I'd caught eight screenings up until that point (it's ten now), I was met with a "that's all?" In fairness, at almost three hours, the Bollywood hit 3 Idiots should probably count for two screenings.
 
As for my original schedule? I've deviated greatly. I traded Breathless for Only When I Dance, which was a hard, hard decision, but a win-win either way. I traded the Irish crime-comedy Perrier's Bounty for the rant-worthy Who Is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talking About Him), and if you read my blog you know how that turned out (badly). Due to timing conflicts, I missed Gerrymandering (it started 30 minutes later) and Enemies of the People (ran up too closely to the sold out Waiting for 'Superman').
 
Although I'm took a break tonight to attend an incredible stage performance (review hopefully forthcoming), I plan to be back at it tomorrow. I'm also adding back in Wasteland, a run, or a nap, as I think it would be too ambitious of me to try and get over to the southside for the Banned: Taboo Books, Bites, & Libations event (sorry Burp! Friends).
 
Since I reviewed two films last night, here's my quick synopsis of the rest of my festival viewings thus far:
 
Thursday
I haven't heard anyone rave that they loved this film, I can't say I did, but nor did I hate it with the passion that some folks have expressed to me. It was pretty much what I expected -- a portrayal of a dissolution of a marriage with excellent acting from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams (if every movie could cast her or Samantha Morton as the heroine, I'd be happy). It was an uncomfortable film, but that didn't make it worthy of being trashed. I found it sort of ironic that I refuse to see the closing night film, Buried, because of my issues with claustrophobia, yet Valentine reached extremely claustrophobic levels of intimacy, emotions, and even cinematography. This was definitely a movie for the open-minded, the film lovers who don't mind squirming in their seats, and I suppose the voyeurs intrigued with the issues of others.
 
Am I being that big of a film snob by saying this movie isn't for mass public consumption? Probably not. Case in point, at the opening night party I was asked by a middle-aged couple what I thought of the film. While I was working on formulating an answer akin to the paragraph above, the man interrupted me, and said, in an accent/tone more appropriate for a South Milwaukee bar on Packer Sunday, than a gala at Discovery World, "Hows 'bout I tell ya what I tot of it, and then yous can give me your opinion and be honest?"
 
Me: "Ok, fair enough."
Him: "Well I hated it. It was probably one of the worst mooovies, I's ever seen."
Me: "Alright, why do you say that?"
Him (I couldn't make this up): "Well I ain't need to see no moooovie, with no guy, smokin', and drinkin', and havin' sexual relations the whole mooovie, then flashing back to when he was younger and doin' the same thing. Not that I gots anything against smokin', drinkin', or sex, I just don't need to see it in no movie."
Me: **jaw on floor** "Well, um, it is a film festival so the movies seem to be a little grittier than what you'd generally find at mainstream theaters."
Him: "Well everyone around us was complainin'...I don't know....I may have been confused because my wife here told me the movie was Blue Velvet, and I thought maybe it was a remake of the '80s movie with Dennis Hopper, y'know."
Me: "Ohhhh, well, uh, yeah, those are two very different movies. I suggest maybe flipping through the program book and hopefully you find something you like."
 
At this point I believe they realized how uncomfortable I was, and kindly let me exit the conversation.
 
Friday
Nope, not about the "film critic" above. This is apparently the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time, and unlike certain high-grossing American films, it actually earns the title with its great story, relevant themes, vibrant cinematography, and super fun musical numbers. Plus, it was freaking hilarious. Despite the fact that every time I watch a good Bollywood film, it makes me hate Slumdog Millionaire more and more, this movie made me want to go on a Bollywood marathon. Yes, it was cheesy and melodramatic in some parts, but those even seemed tongue-in-cheek, realizing that's just a requisite part of film structure, so why ignore it? Embrace it instead. I could probably watch this movie on a weekly basis (if I had 3 hours to spare a week) and be happy, I highly recommend viewing.
 
I really wanted to like this movie. Midnight screening, zombies, buddy comedy...what's not to love? I even had the privilege of chatting with the director beforehand, an affable fellow, who appreciated that at the Portland premiere, the audience turned up in full zombie costume (oh, Milwaukee, we could stand to get a little stranger). The film itself, unfortunately, just came up short for me. It tried to be both funny and scary and came up short on both. It delved into far too much pathos of the characters' relationships and the actors just didn't have the chops to pull that off, so it seemed too forced. I did like the "twist" at the end (won't give it away, but I coined the term "bombies" to describe it) and the homage to Boondock Saints, but this isn't one I'd recommend, nor rewatch. However, it was okay enough where I wouldn't deter someone from watching it.
 
Saturday
One of my personal goals for this year's festival is to take in more "short" films. As Netflix broadens its reach for distributing indie films on DVD/Streaming, viewing shorts outside of festivals (even though a small percentage show up on YouTube or Vimeo) is a harder task. While my brother is a comic artist, I've never been as into animation as he, so I scheduled this in to remedy that. Another bonus is this year Milwaukee Film received funding to bring in tech specialists with fancy projectors, so the shorts are screening in top quality resolution, which for animation makes all the difference. The colors on some of these were spectacular.
 
My favorites of this package were: "12 Years" (quirky and hilarious), "The Little Dragon" (visually and literally awesome), "Tussilago" (I don't know if I've ever seen an entirely animated documentary before, but this made me want to see more), and "Wisdom Teeth" (any movie that contains the line "that sick bastard is eating babies" automatically wins in my book).
 
As I mentioned above, I had the difficult decision of watching the restored Breathless or this doc. Realizing that I'm more likely to watch Breathless on my own time than an obscure documentary, I opted for this. Luckily it didn't disappoint. Focusing on two ballet students from the Rio favelas, trying to use ballet as the ticket out of abject poverty, the story was heartwrenching, suspenseful, beautiful, and well-constructed. It was a Brazilian, dance-centric Hoop Dreams. The characters were massively complex. (I am still conflicted about the woman who ran the dance school. While she challenged the system to an extent and made concessions for some of the impoverished families, she also had a bit of a savior complex and universally accepted some of the dark parts of the dance world -- putting education second, unrealistic weight expectations, etc.) And the dance, the dance was incredible. I'm actually intrigued to know where the subjects are now, and without giving anything away, I'll say that the male dancer featured in the film was one of the most gifted artists I've ever watched.
 
Rasmalai Dreams with opening short Something Theater
At yesterday's FUEL Milwaukee Q&A with Milwaukee Film Executive and Artistic Director Jonathan Jackson, I asked him to elaborate on the exposure that this film festival gives to local filmmakers. I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that we're a rarity amongst festivals, in highlighting our homegrown talent alongside international heavyweights. (GO MILWAUKEE!) Because of this unique attribute, I make a solid effort each year to see as much local filmmaking as possible. Even if it's totally not up my alley. Even it's a waaaaaaaay out there double-feature of low-budget experimental madness/performance art. I want to see what the guy up the street (obviously in Riverwest in this case) is doing. I want to see the technical talent, even if the creative vision is a little out of my grasp.
 
Luckily, since I read the program booklet, I knew this one was going to be, uh, "weird." However, after Something Theater warmed me up with extreme weirdness, Rasmalai Dreams could've been a Sandra Bullock vehicle. Not to take off my critical hat, but the most obvious question for the Q&A for ST would have been "What drugs are you on and are they required for viewing this piece?" Apparently, this short has aired late at night on our local CW affiliate, which would probably certainly surprise someone flipping on expecting reruns of Gossip Girl. Unless there's some episode with Chace Crawford with an axe sticking out of his head, drooling at an animated raccoon, while slamming a Miller High Life, that I'm unaware of. That said, I can't let my bias toward plot and characters cloud my vision of the technical achievements of a piece like this. The montage and animation showed promise, and filmmakers should have the freedom to experiment with the bizarre, just like I do as a writer (I just keep those ones out of the public eye).
 
I have conflicted thoughts about the feature, Rasmalai Dreams. I suppose you could call it a documentary, as it featured Indian thespians (and wannabe thespians) doing readings for a fake (but actually real in a way) audition of an American feature film. Visually, it was fairly enticing, showing that indie films can integrate 3D technology (although I have issues with 3D paper glasses fitting around/under my regular glasses). I appreciated how the director and editor chose to overlay the performances upon shots of city life in India (with some stills of dioramas from the Milwaukee Public Museum thrown in for good measure). My issues with it are more from a cultural perspective. Essentially these individuals were "tricked" into providing footage for the film. In the Q&A it was fairly evident that most of them aren't ever going to know the film exists. Their performances, whether intentionally or not, were presented in a comedic light. I guess to me, it made me uncomfortable to laugh with worries that I may just be laughing at their culture. I mean, I laugh (or used to until it got old) at those American Idol bad auditions, but it's okay when it's Americans directing other Americans, right? Not to be too overly PC, but do we laugh because this is actually funny or because it's different? Would we laugh if the same monologue was read in English and directed by an Indian? Would the Indians in the film laugh?
 
Criticisms aside, this film is a perfect example of the importance of cultivating a film community in Wisconsin. The only reason it was actually made because the director worked on the more traditional film The Pool (by the Milwaukee-grown, internationally-respected, filmmaker Chris Smith). I also hope my mixed review doesn't deter you from checking out any of the other excellent locally-made films the rest of the festival, there's plenty left to screen!
 
Sunday
Interesting fact, I learned yesterday, that director Davis Guggenheim is married to Elisabeth Shue. That's all I have to say about this film. Kidding.
 
Obviously like any documentary with loads of money and buzz behind it, taking on a highly-politicized topic, this is going to be both slammed and revered. I say watch it, but with a grain of salt. It definitely oversimplifies the issues at hand. It doesn't address poor parent involvement, nor does it profile (just brushes over them in statistics) good public schools and poor charter schools. As a product of both public and private schools, with a mother who has spent her career in suburban public schools (and recently just got screwed over by both her district and her union), I can understand the arguments from multiple sides of the aisle. At the end of the day, we do have to fix this mess we're in. Adults need to adopt change in the bureaucracy of the system. Bickering needs to be set aside. Good teachers need to be rewarded.
 
I did find the focus on the testing/tracking in the public education system interesting, especially since it was trumped up by the Bush Administration. I recall being in upper-elementary school during the waning days of the Cold War and being explicitly told how grateful I should be to attend American public schools where you can be anything you want to be and you aren't tested constantly and put on track when you're 7 years old that will determine if you're going to be a doctor or a carpenter. Apparently, that's not the case anymore, comrade. Oh, but this is Obama's fault right?
 
A movie like this reminded me why documentaries are so important. Not necessarily to tackle issues everyone knows exists (see above), but also to give a voice to those with a unique story. This was about a couple with Downs Syndrome that met in Adult Learning Class and got married. Luckily, the subject, Monica, in this film is lucky enough to have a talented filmmaker as a cousin, so the story of this extraordinary couple gets to be told. While my previously-viewed documentary showed me how a system has declined, this one showed what happens when a system succeeds. In the past few decades, the life-expectancy of people with Downs Syndrome has over doubled. That means these individuals are given a shot at living a life, one that you and I likely take for granted -- which includes falling in love, getting a job, traveling, living independently, etc. Monica & David wasn't just a film about the subjects and their relationship, but a focus on their whole family. It was funny, sweet, challenging. An excellent film. I wish I'd been able to stay for the Q&A, because one thing that wasn't really focused on in the film, just sort of accepted, was this family being Hispanic-American and bilingual. I was curious how that affected the family-dynamic and also if speaking two languages positively affects the cognitive development of people with intellectual disabilities.
 
I highly recommend this movie to all audiences. Locally, anyone who liked this film should check out the work of IndependenceFirst, a fantastic Milwaukee-based non-profit.
 
***
After writing up all my notes, I just have to say "hoo-boy"...WE ARE SO LUCKY TO HAVE THIS IN OUR TOWN. Thank you to the staff, board,volunteers, funders and sponsors for letting us enjoy.
 
What have you seen? What do you recommend? Do you feel differently about any of the above?

girl on film: baby boomer circle jerk & a pleasant surprise

This post will be brief, as I do not lead the excessive '70s LA soft-rockstar lifestyle as Harry Nilsson did and have no substances other than pure anger fueling my late night ranting.

But I had to counter the 90% Rotten Tomatoes ranking of the first sub-par documentary I've seen during this year's generally incredible Milwaukee Film Festival -- Who Is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talking About Him).

The first part of the title, I learned, over two hours. He was a talented, yet conflicted, musician who pissed away his life on drugs and alcohol and caroused with celebrities, some of whom lived to tell the tale. This is all well and good and would make a great Behind the Music episode.

The second part of the title, well, that's why I went to the film, and why I left seething. Why are we talking about him? And who is everybody? "Everybody" is apparently every LA music mogul over the age of 55. But if I really wanted to hear Mickey Dolenz reminisce about blow-filled nights in a "massage parlor in Phoenix," I'd buy a TV and turn on Celebrity Rehab.  And I never, ever, have I given a shit about what Randy Newman says. In fact, I would like someone to explain to me why he is/was important. Ever.

It's very unfortunate that this film had no relevance for anyone under 45, because clearly Nilsson's music does. Mariah Carey's cover of "Without You" plays a traumatic role in my memories of sitting awkwardly on the sidelines at 8th grade dances, Aimee Mann's interpretation of "One" is undeniably haunting, and did you know long, long before Cee-Lo Green, Harry Nilsson also had a hit cult song called "Fuck You" (well, actually, "You're Breaking My Heart")? I'd also completely forgotten about the awesomeness of the existence of "The Point" until tonight.

The interviews with Nilsson's family were very solid, but kept being overshadowed by the focus on '70s LA outdrugging Lindsay Lohan (there's another contemporary artist they could've pulled in). The most relevant celebrity "character" in the film -- John Lennon-- was deceased longer than Harry himself (although I suppose Yoko was there to represent in the interviews).

It's also no wonder that the audience of North Shore Viagra-poppers ignore their own kids' tragic drug problems, while they long for the good ol' days of tearing it up at parties where there's bottles of cognac and bags of heroin and coke (they actually cheered at one point in the film when this was explicitly described).

During the Q&A (where I was too chicken shit to challenge the "boomer jerk" of this film) the director mentioned how the tapes of Harry Nilsson's autobiography (one of the redeeming parts of the film) were found in his widow's garage. Unfortunately since the interview subjects in the film will all be dead within the next couple of decades, along with the target audience, I doubt the shelf life of this documentary will be much longer.

I guess I shouldn't expect anything but vitriol after seeing a film directed by a guy who also shot a Cubs documentary.

The "pleasant surprise" of my evening was film that wouldn't have been on my list if not for a FUEL Milwaukee event in conjunction with it -- Soundtrack for a Revolution. It did everything Nilsson didn't:
  • Integrated contemporary artists who reinterpreted the music of a particular moment in history (even though they weren't interviewed, their participation shows the lasting effects of the songs).
  • Had subjects reflecting on how they went about changing the world during those times (the subjects of the next decade were too busy snorting coke off hookers to bother with that).
  • Visited a subject the audience is somewhat familiar with, but left you with new knowledge and wanting to learn more. 
  • Catered to an multi-racial, multi-generational audience.
My two critiques for that film? Having Joss Stone participate (although I'd pick her over Randy Newman) and a fadeout to Barack Obama's inauguration at the end (I am beginning to loathe the over-simplification of the victories of the Civil Rights movement by using that loaded image).

Ironically, I did see the BIG controversial film of the festival Waiting for "Superman" and still need to write up my thoughts on that, but I guess a well-made film about a controversial subject is better to me than a severely lacking, critically overhyped one about a non-controversial subject. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

girl on film: #mff2 or 2010 milwaukee film festival preview

Okay, beloved readers, after a couple of weeks of grinding through the program, creating diverse algorithms and spreadsheets, turning down social invites and binge sleeping to store up for my 11 Day Cinematic Christmas/Hanukkah Combo, I've finally created my schedule for the 2010 Milwaukee Film Festival* (*subject to change based on how much sleep I've actually gotten)

All shows that I'm attending are at the Oriental, although there's a great variety at the Marcus North Shore and Marcus Ridge Cinemas, which are awesome places if you have a car. (And guess what kiddos, if you elect Scott Walker governor in November, you're NEVER EVER EVER getting to those places on public transportation. EVER. In fact, you probably won't even be able to get to the Oriental.)

Thursday, September 23
7P: Blue Valentine
9P: MFF Opening Night Party @ Discovery World

I'm very excited for this whole evening because I've worked Opening Night for the last several festivals and always showed up late to the ball, starving, and scraping up crumbles of cheese. Need to find a fabulous outfit in the recesses of my closet and get my party on. Also, the film itself is getting loads of awards buzz, so I'm ready to kick off 11 days of viewing with a good one.

Friday, September 24
3:30P: 3 Idiots
9:45P: Winnebago Man (maybe - because my dad is making a rare appearance in Milwaukee)
Midnight: The Revenant

Bollywood Comedy, Business Man turned Viral Video Celeb, Buddy-movie zombie flick.

Because of all that's going on, I have a single ticket to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's interpretation of Beethoven's 9th tonight that I need to sell. I paid $25, but will take best offer. I wish I could go because Beethoven and I bonded whilst I was in Bonn (bonn-ded?). I visited his birthplace, cried in his digital library (piano sonatas get me in the heartstrings), and may or may not have a small scar on my right elbow from the cobblestones underneath his statue in the Münsterplatz.

Saturday, September 25
3:30P: Let's Get Animated
5:15P: Breathless
7:45P: Rasmalai Dreams

Let's start here in reminding you all that I bust my arse volunteering as a Theatre Manager during the festival so that I can see all these great films. You too should volunteer! Maybe not as insanely as yours truly, but do it, it's fun! So my first shift is today also, from 10:15 PM to 2:30 AM. If you're going to the midnight show, shoot a wink and a smile to your friendly Theatre Manager.

The movies I'm seeing? Fun shorts, French restoration, Funky locally-made genre-bending insanity.

Sunday, September 26
12:30P: Enemies of the People
2:00P: Waiting for 'Superman'
4:45P: Monica & David
6:15P: Gerrymandering

A day of documentaries for this gal. I really want to see Monica & David, so I'll probably skip the talkback after Superman although if you have a stake or interest in education, definitely check that out. I'll also be working from 8:15P until close, so if you're coming to the awesome looking It's Kind of a Funny Story, say hello.

Monday, September 27
5:15P: Nora's Will

Catching a Mexican feature after work and I am then working from 7P-close this evening and will be completely avoiding the small screen drama of the Packers versus that Favre scoundrel.

Tuesday, September 28
7:15P: Soundtrack for a Revolution
9:45P: Perrier's Bounty

In a perfect world, I'd be in orchestra seating with my rich, classy, handsome, intelligentsia soulmate to see the restored Metropolis accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. Because honestly, this event sounds AMAZING. But in my penny-pinching efforts, I can't spend the extra cash to go and also feel obliged to go to the FUEL Milwaukee/Milwaukee Film joint event that night. Soundtrack to a Revolution looks interesting, but why they think young professionals prefer John Legend and Joss Stone to 1920s German sociopolitical silent films, well...hmm, I guess again I'm not like the "others." However, if YOU have $15-$50 to spare and have never seen Metropolis, GO TO THIS SCREENING. And if your schedule doesn't permit, gets your hands on a copy of Metropolis cuz it's awesome and you'll feel smarter afterward.

Wednesday, September 29
There's another screening of Metropolis tonight, but I'll be engaging in another Deutschy activity and seeing Cabaret at the Milwaukee Rep. I have several friends involved in the Entourage planning and I will try not to hold it against them that they planned this season's debut right smack in the middle of Film Fest season.

Thursday, September 30
7:15P: Mark My Words
9:15P: Ride, Rise, Roar

After seeing Howl at the UWM Union Theatre recently, I feel that it would be fitting to swing over to Great Lakes Distillery before film festing tonight to support the Banned: Taboo Books, Bites, & Libations event to raise money for public libraries. The good folks over at Burp! Blog are putting it on and it'll be a good way to fill up before a night of film appreciation. More documentaries on tap for me -- a locally made one on spoken word poets and a concert doc about the always awesome David Byrne.

Friday, October 1
5:15P: My Perestroika
7:00P: A Somewhat Gentle Man
9:15P: The Red Chapel
Midnight: Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil

I took today off to gain some sanity and will be working the afternoon at the Oriental, if you did the same, come say hi. My evening will be spent with two documentaries on Communist regimes, a Norwegian drama, and a horror-comedy...how can you not love the schizophrenia of an 11 day film festival?!

Saturday, October 2
5:00P: The Milwaukee Show
7:00P: Gravity
10:00P: Blood Junkie
Midnight: Best Damn F$#&ing Midnight Shorts Ever. Sh*t.

Working the early afternoon shift, then watching movies until my eyes bleed. Excited to see local talent highlighted, then (hopefully) a German dark comedy (I think that's redundant), more local talent in a homegrown horror flick, and crazyass midnight shorts.

Sunday, October 3
11:00A: About Elly
1:15P: My Way Home

I'm wrapping up my film fest experience in the early hours with an Iranian drama and a locally made Hmong documentary. I don't want to subject myself to Buried later on. Since being buried alive is one of my major freakout points (the only thing worse would be spontaneously human combusting whilst buried alive with a swarm of bees), I don't think I can handle a whole film based on that theme (I could barely deal with the 20 or so minutes in Kill Bill Vol. 2). So I'm working Closing Night instead.

See you at the movies!

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